Today, we are taking you into playing an exercise where we will review Google Algorithm evolution to explain and justify latest SEO best practices in hotel industry.
Google algorithm evolution
Google use more than 200 elements in its algorithm. To detect some of those elements, we used Moz.com excellent summary of Google algorithm updates to get some first clues. Reviewing those updates, we notice that nearly all of them can be grouped into 3 categories:
- Panda & Penguin updates
- Infrastructure & Semantic updates
- Search Engine Result Pages (or SERP) updates
1. The “Panda & Penguin” updates
They penalized ranking of low quality websites providing a bad user experience and abusing some SEO practices. The first Panda update took place in February 2011. Previously to 2011, these type of update took the name of “Negative reviews” in Dec 2010; “May Day” in May 2010, or Jagger in October 2005.
Penguin is an « over-optimization penalty ». Penguin adjusted a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing. Google claimed the Penguin 1.0 in april 2012, impacted 3.1% of queries and Penguin 2.0 in may 2013 about 2.3% of US/English queries. More details about Vertical/search categories most affected are available on MozCastData Temperatures.
2. The “Infrastructures & semantics” updates
For example, “Caffeine” (Jun 2010), not only boosted Google’s raw speed, but integrated crawling and indexation much more tightly, resulting in a 50% fresher index (according to Google). Last update “Hummingbird” (Aug-2013), focuses on conversational and semantic search to try and provide correct answers to broad meaning questions. I has been compared to Caffeine as semantic search is correlated to quantity of datas you can process.
Infrastructure updates increase the number of page, speed and quantity of content it can read and process. Google improvement in semantics (the study of meaning), help it analyse better, content on a website, synonyms and related terms. As a reminder, Semantics contrasts with syntax, the study of the combinatorics of units of a language (without reference to their meaning).
3. The “Search Engine Result Pages” updates
Freshness Update (Nov 2011), Google Maps/Google Places (April 2010), Real-time search in (Dec-2009), Google Suggest (Aug-2008) and one of the most important to my eyes “Universal Search” (May 2007) when Google integrated traditional search results with Video, Images, News, Local Business and other verticals.
Latest one are “Authorship shake-up” (Dec-2013), “In-depth Articles” (Aug-2013), Knowledge graph extension in Jul-2013.
We can notice that most algorithm updates, introduce new design elements or new ways Google is displaying results on its Search Engine Result pages (SERP).
To summarize, Google has worked on integrating even more :
- Verticals: retails, real estate, Sports & fitness, Travel & tourism…,
- Medias: video, images, news, music, TV
- Information, number and size of its Snippets: reviews, number products, breadcrumbs, maps…
In the same time, Google is also trying to get better and better at understanding meaning of a text thanks to semantic.
After studying the evolution of google algorithm, let have a look at implication on your SEO practices on your hotel website (On-page SEO) and on external websites (Off-page SEO).
Concerning optimisation of your website, Google published its official guidelines providing “Best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your site” on Google Webmaster Guidelines.
The two first chapter “Design and Content” and “Technical Guidelines” only cover technical aspects. Google share with you an extensive documentation. It mainly consists on explaining how to add extra lines of code on your webpages to help google understand and being able to fully index your webpages. The third and last chapter of Webmaster Guidelines is about “Quality guidelines” where it basically tells you what it doesn’t like on a website. Google Blog, Forum, or Webmaster Help Center provide similar type of informations.
Key On-page SEO settings for an hotel:
- Use a simple and not over complex information architecture
- Optimize content on a page-by-page basis, using natural and semantically rich language. This landing page centric strategy should be reflected by using unique Title Tags, meta description, url rewritten and a clear hierarchy of your headings (H1, H2 …) strategy on each page.
- Use Canonical to avoid duplicate content.
- Implement Schema.org , in particular for Hotels (http://schema.org/Hotel), Open Graph Meta (OG meta data http://ogp.me ) , semantic mark-up and Micro datas to index breadcrumbs
- Use Hreflang=”X” to notify equivalent of a page in another language
The rules of “On-Page SEO” are clear, 100% save. You can’t get it wrong. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that this aspect help you get a good score. it helps you not to get a bad score simply because Google doesn’t understand or can’t use information on your website.
For an established brick and mortar company, respecting this On-site SEO practice, usually get excellent results without any need for any off-page activities. However, if your website is in an competitive market (as hotel websites are), you will try to use some “Off-page Optimisation” techniques like content marketing and link building to rank high on your keywords.
In June 2010, Google shared on Google Webmaster Central what he defined as being a quality links. Here is an extract of Google main advises on link building
“a good marketing technique is to get involved in the community around your topic. Interact and contribute on forums and blogs. Just keep in mind to contribute in a positive way, rather than spamming or soliciting for your site. Just building a reputation can drive people to your site. And they will keep on visiting it and linking to it. If you offer long-lasting, unique and compelling content — something that lets your expertise shine — people will want to recommend it to others. Great content can serve this purpose as much as providing useful tools.”
Google insists on the fact that Content is the key, and from this content, link building will come naturally. This explain why we shift from speaking about « link building » technics to « Content Marketing »
“Directory entries are often mentioned as another way to promote young sites in the Google index. There are great, topical directories that add value to the Internet. But there are not many of them in proportion to those of lower quality….Mass submissions, which are sometimes offered as a quick work-around SEO method, are mostly useless and not likely to serve your purposes.”
“Finally, consider making linking to your site easier for less tech savvy users. Similar to the way we do it on YouTube, offering bookmarking services for social sites like Twitter or Facebook can help spread the word about the great content on your site and draw users’ attention.”
For the one, looking for quick results, Google reminds that: “It’s important to clarify that any legitimate link building strategy is a long-term effort.”
Following debate about Link Building and loss of weight from links « anchor texts » on google algorithm, we could even think that Google will stop taking into account this element in the future. However, it’s still need to make some work. Matt Cutts from Google confirmed in February 2014 that Google have tested an algorithm excluding Backlink but the results where worst than the actual. It confirms that Google is looking into eliminating this element of his algorithm but is not ready yet as it need to improve their semantic capacities.
Key Off-page SEO practices for an hotel:
- Use Google Products: Google Place and Google Business photos; Google Plus
- Write a Blog (e.g. Recipe from Head chef, Tips from Concierge, events in city…) for content freshness.
- Participate, interact, share, communicate with your clients on Social Media
- Integrate a sharing / bookmarking plugin on your website like sharethis.com
Point 2 and Blog could deserve a complete Post. For the time being, we advise you to read this article from Noah Kagan, sharing is methodology to find out topics to write about, on his Blog.
To conclude, after implementing all relevant extra coding on your hotel website to follow Google Guidelines, hotels should focus on producing fresh and rich content as well as participating on social media. As a rule of tongue about social media, we will refer to AJ Kohn who evaluates that 100 social shares net 1 natural backlink.