Tourism Industry News

How user-generated content can help your hotel climb higher in search results

12/02/2009 10:59

If you want your hotel website to rank high for important keywords, you need to invest in continuesly updated content - a time consuming and expensive undertaking. Not so if you use user-generated content on your site.


It is imperative for travel companies to assess how frequently they need to update official web content so that when consumers re-check the suppliers’ sites they get authentic information. This is gaining importance especially when the industry is using social media monitoring solutions to track and analyse all forms of social media, including blog sites, top video-sharing sites and opinion review forums.

Evaluating the same, Scott McNeely, Director of Consumer & Affiliate Web, Viator Inc., recommends that travel suppliers should constantly update content.

“Not just for the benefit of travel consumers - because even the most loyal travel customers are not logging on expecting daily or even weekly updates in most cases. Instead, it’s for the search engines,” said McNeely, who is scheduled to speak during Social Media Strategies for Travel USA 2009 Conference, scheduled to take place in San Francisco on March 10-11.

“If you want to rank for important keywords, you need to invest in fresh relevant content. This is an expensive undertaking. Which is why UGC (user-generated content) and social media play critical roles. Travel suppliers will have a hard time finding lower-cost or more relevant content channels than UGC and social media. I think most travel suppliers have been slow to embrace this thinking.”

On the best way to approach social search marketing: Travel suppliers typically have a massive, yet untapped asset in their existing customers. So they should start by focusing on developing a relationship with email, user reviews, user photos, video. If they don’t show current and future customers that they’re serious about being a social travel hub, it will be difficult to expand their new customer acquisition.

Success must be measured by whatever metrics already drive your business – e-comm sites should increase sales, media sites should increase page views, etc. Too often people assume ‘success’ in travel social media means something other than supporting your core business. It doesn’t.

On travel companies not reviewing Web 2.0/Social Media as part of a comprehensive Internet marketing and distribution strategy, together with website re-designs and optimisations, search marketing, email marketing, strategic linking, online sponsorships and display advertising: Many travel companies don’t have the resources or confidence to think holistically.

All too often they jump from one bolt-on quick-fix to the next. A successful social strategy needs to be built into the DNA of the business. This is hard to do, which is why many travel companies fail.

On ensuring social media choices generate significant - and valuable - incremental website traffic: Many travel companies assume they need a William Shatner-style campaign (a la Priceline) or a massively popular Facebook application. In other words, only a huge breakthrough has the potential to quickly scale website traffic. Yet this is not how it works for 99 percent of travel companies.

Instead, imagine increasing traffic to your top 500 keywords or top 50 landing pages by 15 - 25 percent. That’s what success actually looks like for the most of us. Which means, first, you need to understand what drives success in your business. The sounds like Business 101, but you’d be surprised how many companies use social media to accomplish dozens of goals except to support their underlying business. 

On how to feature rich online experiences so that photos and videos help a business climb higher in the search engine rankings: Personally I don’t think you can survive in the travel space for much longer without a UGC and social strategy. 

It’s no longer a question of “if” you go down this path, but a question of “what” and “how quickly”. Google has said that 2 of every 10 searches are for images, and that number is growing. Images have always been a fantastic tool for selling travel – that isn’t changing, in fact it’s becoming even more important to have a scalable image strategy for your website. It’s a similar story with video.



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