By nature, search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing field and predicting where it is headed is never easy. In this article, we will focus on all that has changed in the past year in the SEO world and highlight the trends that will continue to be popular in 2016 and influence hospitality businesses.
- Mobile is Here to Stay
As smartphones and wearable technology continued to gain prominence 2015, mobile searches firmly overtook desktop searches, both in the United States and globally. According to a Yahoo! advertising study, 87% of smartphone owners use a search engine at least once a day, and 51% of smartphone owners look for local information while on the go. Thus, it is vital that businesses have a 1:1 mobile friendly website that mirrors your desktop site, or an adaptive/responsive site to allow your site to work well on a smartphone. For a client in Hollywood, Florida, Milestone created a beautiful, yet simple, mobile design to make it easy for smartphone users to quickly access the information they needed. Results: After their responsive website went live, mobile traffic increased by more than 900%, from February-December 2015.
- Google’s Local 3-Pack
Google made numerous changes to all aspects of search, with location-based searches receiving the most prominent update. Google’s local 3-pack, a small map view which lists the three most relevant local businesses, now displays at the top of 93% of all location-based searches. This change is indeed a big one, as the 3-pack used to be a 7-pack, and would typically display below the first two organic search results. Milestone optimized a Portland, Oregon hotel website for local search and saw a 600% improvement in the number of keywords for which it ranked in the local 3-pack:
As there are only three precious slots at the top of search engine results, it is now more important than ever for a local business to optimize. Make sure your business is ranking for targeted searches in your city or region by doing the following:
• Ensure you have a clean, accurate UNAP (URL, name, address, phone number) profile across the internet
• Make sure your hours of operation and photos of your business are always up-to-date and accurate
• Claim your business listing on prominent local directories (Google My Business, Bing Places, Foursquare, Yelp, etc.)
• List your business on niche directories that are specific to your industry
More Tips to Saturate Organic SERPs
Mobile optimization and local optimization are two of the most important areas of emphasis for successful SEO. Here are three more factors that will set you up for success in 2016:
Content is still king. It helps drive users to your website and helps keep them there once they have arrived. A great user experience overall is perhaps the most important aspect of SEO, and unique content has been central to SEO and the user experience since day one. Additionally, fresh and relevant content via articles and blog posts will help your website gain additional traffic. After creating a FAQ page with rich content and proper schema markup for a San Francisco client they immediately saw a boost in relevant traffic, visitors averaged almost 3 minutes spent on that page:
Reviews are crucial to the success of any business, be it a mom-and-pop shop, a franchise restaurant, or one location of a multinational hotel chain. According to Search Engine Land, 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Local business owners should be mindful of their review profile, both on popular review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, but also on Google, where reviews will show up across Google products like Maps and the local 3-pack. Moz’s annual ranking factors survey revealed that review signals are one of the top ranking factors for 2015:
Managing reviews can no longer be ignored by local businesses building long-term success. While soliciting reviews is generally frowned upon, a successful business owner will respond to reviews that they receive. This should include responding to both positive reviews, thanking the reviewer for their kind words and support of your business, and negative reviews, which shows that you take feedback to heart and will work to address any concerns and less-than-perfect experiences of your patrons.
- Video Optimization
As technology and media become more and more advanced, so too do the relevant areas of search. Similar to how image search gained prominence in years past, video search has emerged as yet another way users engage in their quest for information. A well-optimized video with accurate title tags and a comprehensive, succinct description can populate in location-based search results. Additionally, many high-volume keywords may encounter a ton of competition in standard searches, but see much less competition in video search, providing your business with some low-hanging fruit ripe for the taking. Below, an optimized video posted to YouTube for a Florida hotel client landed at the top of a branded, location-specific search, and on the first page of a non-branded search, just two days after it was posted:
It is almost anyone’s guess as to the precise state of SEO a year from today, as trends fall off almost as quickly as new trends emerge. But, focusing on the areas above will lay a solid foundation for your business’s SEO now, and set you up for success in 2016. And, just like the real world, always keep the guest in mind. If you have additional questions regarding our article or SEO strategies please leave a comment below, visit our website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org directly.
Kanika Thakran, Senior SEO Manager
Aaron Horowitz, Digital Marketing Strategist
Sissi Gee, Account Manager