Artificial intelligence (AI) is an SEO technology that has been used by Google for years to power its search engine. Recently, companies like Google, Bing, Adobe, Meta, and Apple have recognized changing consumer behaviors and are embracing AI and machine learning (ML) as the focus of their product offerings.
With hospitality demand accelerating in 2023 and Google search travel trends back at 2019 levels and, hotels and hospitality businesses should plan their digital strategy to ensure they are discoverable in the new AI-powered search landscape. As more leisure and business travelers are planning trips this year, it is important to make sure your content is discoverable and well positioned in Google’s Search Generative Experience.
This article offers a step-by-step strategy for securing your hotel’s digital presence in the rapid evolution of our AI world.
50% of Americans are taking trips this summer and most will stay in a hotel.
Future-proofing Your Digital Assets to Engage with Customers
AI has revolutionized consumer to business interactions, providing a smoother experience and transforming how customers engage with companies. For hospitality marketers and hotel owners, the impact of generative AI like ChatGPT and Bard will revolutionize the industry.
As search engines evolve into answer engines, it becomes crucial to comprehend customer needs, journeys, and expected search behaviors across all channels. For hospitality marketers, AI will help to activate new layers of service customization and personalization by providing guests with immediate answers to inspire travel decisions.
To future-proof your hotel’s digital presence, you must deliver the experience your customers seek. From menus and maps to local itineraries, your website and digital channels should have consistent and meaningful content that Google knows users are looking for.
Here are some ways that we leverage AI in search marketing:
- Content creation using generative AI
- Keyword research
- Schema: Build webpages, SEO redirects, and structured data
- Conversational/voice search
- Local search, map search, and immersive view
- Video search
- Vision/image search
A Roadmap to Future-proofing Your Digital Presence
As we explore the evolving applications of AI, we must understand what it takes to future-proof your digital presence. A future-looking strategy involves knowing where large language models (LLMs) get their data and where we can populate relevant content and centralized assets to get you discovered.
Hotel brands and businesses need to think about what users want to know, rather than providing information about themselves. That means focusing on optimizing your digital presence with images, video, reviews, products, and Google Business Profile (GBP) categories, which are prioritized in local pack results. Similarly, helpful and relevant localized content with high authority can maintain your visibility on the evolving SERPs.
Google is prioritizing informational, navigational, local, and nearby search queries to create search generative experience (SGE) results across hospitality-related searches. This includes organic, local/maps, images, news, videos, events, and conversation/voice search like FAQs and how-to content.
SGE results quickly surface if informational content from the brand domain is easily discovered and has high engagement and relevancy to the query. The SERP results below show how easily discoverable, information-rich content performs well in the new AI landscape.
7 Steps to A Rock-solid Digital Marketing Plan
How do you future-proof your digital presence in the competitive hospitality market? Here are seven steps to creating a solid digital marketing plan with helpful, informational content that leverages AI.
1. Entity Search is your competitive advantage
Ensure your content is created and deployed with an entity-first strategy. Ensure all types of content, including images, videos, and FAQs, have proper schema architecture.
2. Content Must be Discoverable
Your CMS, technical infrastructure, server and website architecture, and hosting environment should allow for easy content discovery. The site structure should be relatively flat and connect similar topics and subtopics through navigation.
3. Saturate Google Assets with Helpful Content
FAQs, how-to content, images, videos, web stories, recipes, knowledge graphs, maps, and events surface in SERPs in SGE. Ensure your content strategy includes these assets and products, and that the relevant schemas are deployed for discovery.
4. Implement Mobile Search Best Practices
As Google prioritizes mobile indexing over desktop indexing, it is essential to have a strategy to saturate mobile SERPs. This includes using web stories, having a responsive mobile site that quickly loads on mobile devices, providing a seamless experience across various screen sizes and browsers, and delivering a secure and safe website.
5. Optimize for Visual Search
To optimize images for quality, relevancy, and experience, centralize all your assets (images, video, PDFs) using cloud storage and use AI/LLM models to rate the most critical metrics.
Ensure all your assets are surfaced from one central place. Put lifestyle graphics in noindex folders to avoid wasting the crawl budget. Only the most relevant qualitative image with entity data must be discoverable.
A data-driven approach for selecting your digital assets.
6. Enhance Clickability, Interaction and Engagement
As AI becomes front and center, it is about saturating SERPs, zero clicks, impressions, time on the site, and improved engagement rates.
Other qualitative metrics will be site speed, time spent on the site, clicks, and interactions with various assets and features on the website.
Leverage customer data and analytics to personalize the user experience. Personalization – by location, audience personas, and behavior/interests – enhances user engagement, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction.
Deploy a personalization product to increase EEAT – experience, engagement, authority, and trust. In the hospitality industry, if you want to reach and resonate with pet-friendly travelers, your content will prioritize pet amenities, packages, and images.
Milestone’s CMS and Personalization Product serves up content based on centralized user data.
Develop An AI Empowered Helpful Content Strategy
To better connect people to helpful information, Google Search launched the helpful content update to surface more original and people-first content in search results. This sitewide signal rewards satisfying, authentic, and original content that helps promote EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trust).
With generative AI search, Google has supercharged the discovery experience with opportunities to surface your website for helpful content, such as informational and local experiences, FAQs, images, videos, and events.
Customers want reliable and trustworthy answers to their queries across channels without the wait. Make sure your digital marketing plan aligns with helpful content signals and the AI Search Generative Experience.
The Pillars of Digital Experience across the User Journey
10 Steps to Creating and Adpating Hospitality Helpful Content
With search engines, like Google, in constant evolution here are the must-haves to safeguard and create AI-powered content.
- Discover what customers and audiences are looking for through data
- Use AI for topic ideation and outlines to develop content for the user journey
- Create useful content to surface for GSE, including local and informational content, FAQs, menus, event calendars, things to do, and images/videos
- Use AI to aggregate and output draft content and personalize for brand voice and accuracy
- Write well-organized, informative, and original content for EEAT
- Include FAQs and automation to aggregate information into conversations
- Include reviews and press rooms for trust and authority
- Optimize your images and videos with Vision API, alt tags, and captions
- Elevate your content discovery with visual Web Stories to increase page traffic
- Make sure your content is consistent and on brand across channels
What is the Impact of Generative AI like ChatGPT on Hospitality?
Hospitality marketers must embrace the new AI era to deliver experiences and immediate answers for what travelers are looking for. OTAs like Expedia, Trip, and Kayak, have implemented plug-ins to ChatGPT to provide pricing, booking, and chatbots with itinerary-building capabilities. This helps shortcut the digital customer journey and transport travelers from planning to booking.
“Generative AI will significantly impact the planning phase of the digital customer journey”, wrote Max Starkov, a Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant. “AI will help immensely in automation to serve up the stuff that guests need . . . and many companies may be left in the dust by AI-lubricated competitors.”
AI Won’t Take Your Job, but Someone Who Uses AI Will
Search marketers should not be afraid of AI, but rather pivot their skills to leverage the new landscape. While AI is changing how we do everything, the human element is essential for the final output for quality, accuracy, and personalization.
Future-proofing your digital presence means enabling your team with the right tools and skills— to understand the customer journey and channels, to create a strategic plan, incorporate AI, and leverage data to personalize the experience. AI enables people to work in a more creative and strategic way.
About Milestone Inc.
Milestone Inc. is a pioneer in digital marketing solutions, products, and services for the hospitality and travel industry. To learn more about how to future-proof your digital presence and Milestone’s Helpful Content solution, contact us at [email protected] or call 408-200-2211.