- Before You Start
- What is SEO?
- A word on the meta keyword tag
- Integrity, The Most Important Aspect Of SEO
- A blog
- Page titles
- Meta descriptions
- Open Graph elements
- Table of content
- Related content
- In conclusions
If at any stage you come across something you don’t understand, please ask in the comments. I’ll assist where possible.
Before You Start
Have you read the first article in this series? I touch on the tools needed to increase direct bookings.
If you don’t use the recommended tools, keep reading in any case. This article contains plenty of SEO pointers.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It involves making your site more attractive to search engines such as Google. It includes your website’s content and links to your website.
It’s one of the world’s greatest buzzwords. It’s a field of practice that’s spawned legions of Snake Oil salesmen.
Even so, still important.
Before I launch into this post, let me share a secret: it doesn’t matter if you bungle your SEO. All you need is compelling content.
What is compelling content?
We’ll discuss that in a future post. You might think it’s content that goes viral. It’s not.
Sign up for future posts to learn the open secret.
But, we want to optimise every online marketing effort, so we’ll spend time on SEO; at least nail the basics for each page.
Basics + Every Page = Awesome SEO.
Your site might be a natural beaut, so we’re adding only a little lipstick and some blush. Not too much though.
A word on the meta keyword tag
The meta keyword tag has not been in use for many years. Don’t bother with it.
But don’t get confused when I speak about keywords. Keywords are words (or strings of words) on your web page that align with words typed into search engines.
Keywords are what people use to search for your accommodation.
They’re found in titles, meta description tags, headings and text. They’re everywhere.
But don’t mistake my use of the term, keyword, for the keyword meta tag.
Integrity, The Most Important Aspect Of SEO
The main ingredient of a successful website is integrity. There’s integrity between all pages and all the elements on each page.
Inbound links say the same thing as the website as a whole says the same thing as each page says the same thing as the title says the same thing as the meta description says the same thing as the headings say the same thing as the paragraphs.
On the topic of inbound links (or internal links, for that matter): don’t deceive people with link text. Tell them exactly where a link will take them if they click on it.
People try to fool others into clicking on links that land on pages they’d never visit. It’s terrible.
There’s no integrity. Instead of a beautiful chorus, each element screams its own tune. This creates an unbearable cacophony.
If you create with integrity, you’re a long way towards having great SEO.
Consistent integrity is even better
Create a consistent experience.
Take this page, for example. It’s categorised under Accommodation Marketing Tips and tagged with Direct Bookings.
Click on the Accommodation Marketing Tips link at the top and you’ll go to that category. There you’re greeted with articles that speak the same language.
You won’t find a recipe in that category. If I felt an urge to share my wife’s chicken soup recipe, I’d create a category for recipes.
I tackle SEO from a blogging perspective. I want you to create a blog for your accommodation establishment. You must have some valuable info to share on a continual basis. (Surely???)
If you don’t want a blog, follow along. I’ll share SEO elements necessary for all web pages.
What’s your site about?
You offer accommodation. You give visitors a warm bed and something to eat, close to somewhere they want to go.
Organise your WordPress categories, tags and posts around that theme.
For instance, you run a B&B in Philadelphia. Philadelphia cheesesteaks are world-renowned (I dream of devouring a Philly cheesesteak there). It’s also known for water ice and soft pretzels.
Here’s a category for you to start with: “Philly Food”.
Now start adding tens or hundreds of posts about food in Philadelphia. Don’t steal other people’s work. Write your own stuff. Take your own pictures. Or pay someone to do it for you.
Create some tags. Post ten to ten thousand Philly Cheesesteak posts and tag them, “Philly Cheesesteak”.
Under that same category you can add “Water Ice” and “Soft Pretzel” tags too.
Can you think of other tags? How about “Philly Cheesesteak Joints” and “Philly Cheesesteak Recipes”.
Now you have tons of taxonomies crammed with content. You’re giving visitors and Google excellent, well organised content.
Philadelphia’s big on sport. Create a “Philly Sport” category. Write ten to ten thousand articles about the Eagles and tag them, “Philly Football”.
And so on, and so on…
That’s Philly, a large US city. What if your establishment is in the middle of the Karoo, South Africa?
Use only one category. Call it “News” or “Blog”.
You’re surrounded by cacti? Great. Market your establishment as the perfect place for cacti experts. Write articles touching on the types of cacti in your region.
Create a Cacti tag if you have enough posts about it.
Don’t pump your posts full of tags. I know people who do this. I facepalm when I see this type of thing. It’s stupid and wasteful.
I mean, by all means, do as you please. It’s your site. But it’s a bad idea to overload articles with categories and tags. You’re not helping visitors or Google.
There’s no point in having a million different tags for one article. You want taxonomies thick with content; like a cheesesteak oozing cheese, onions and sauce. (Good SEO makes one hungry.)
Make your URLs pretty.
Here’s an ugly URL: http://myaccommodationwebsite.com/default.asp?sid=9DF4BC0580DF11D3ACB60090271E26A8 &command=free
Here’s another one: http://myaccommodationwebsite.com:10039/wps/portal/!ut/p/a0/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfIj83Kt8jNTrMoLivV88tMz8_QLsh0VAVTAxWw!/
Here’s a pretty URL: http://blog.booksure.com/direct-bookings-seo/
One is indecipherable, the other downright gorgeous. Doesn’t even need eyeliner.
Why is this important? Can Google not work with ugly URLs?
Of course they can. People can’t.
What’s easier, http://blog.booksure.com/contact/
WordPress makes pretty URLs easy. You have no excuse to not use it.
Said to be the most important SEO aspect. Not by all, mind you. But by many.
Where do they show up?
This is the first thing a searcher sees in Google’s search results. Both natural search results and paid search results contain titles. It must grab the reader’s attention, else they click elsewhere.
You’ll notice that our article isn’t at the top of the natural rankings yet. That should change soon. We’re committed to kicking ass.
Clarity over cleverness
Don’t get clever with titles. Clarity ALWAYS trumps cleverness.
In fact, the word trump brings to mind the Clinton presidential campaign.
One of her slogans was, “Love Trumps Hate”.
Such a clever saying! Must have been a know-it-all college kid who came up with that sliver of genius.
This is a textbook example of people trying to be clever at the cost of clarity.
It’s stupid on 500 different levels. It should never have made it into a political campaign.
With regards to titles, be Trump, not Clinton. (With regards to emails, don’t use your personal address for government communications.)
Here’s a clever title: Your Home Away From Home.
Here’s a clear title: 3 Ensuite Bedrooms On The Beach In Jeffreys Bay.
I’d click the second one.
The first title is cliched. It tells me nothing.
The second title is loaded. I can tell it’s not cheap, I know it’s on the beach and I know which town the establishment’s in.
As long as is needed, but no longer than…
Google truncates long titles, so place important info first.
The Yoast SEO plugin indicates when a title is too long.
The meta description inflates the title.
The Yoast SEO plugin indicates when a meta description is too long.
Where do they show up?
A meta description shows up below the URL in a search result page.
Use keywords, but don’t spam
Use keywords — in your description — related to the content on your web page.
But, don’t spam.
Bad meta description: Free accommodation free food free free beer girls girls girls accommodation hotel.
Good meta description: Award-winning 5 star Karoo hotel with magnificent views. Great rates.
The first one is a lie. Use that sort of meta description to look like an idiot. Get noticed for all the wrong reasons.
Open Graph elements
The Open Graph Protocol allows you to customise content shared to Facebook.
Paste a URL to your Facebook update box. Facebook automagically adds a picture, title and description. That is, if you’ve provided the necessary info.
The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to control the picture, title and description you want to share.
I’ll cover the Open Graph Protocol in a future post. It deserves its own post.
Table of content
At the top of ALL my posts you’ll see a table of content.
I didn’t want to share this one. It’s one of those plugins I’d rather people don’t install. The more people make use of a TOC plugin, the harder it is for me to outrank them.
This plugin takes care of long-tail keywords like it’s nobody’s bidniz.
Let’s take an example. In my previous post I insist on using WordPress.Org for online marketing.
Here’s the thing…
When I search “direct bookings wordpress” in Google, the “How To Attract Direct Bookings Like A Magnet, Part 1: Website Foundations.” article shows up in search.
What’s even better, is HOW google displays the search result.
The TOC plugin creates an anchor for each heading in your web page. Google uses them as links in search results.
Look at this…
This is a test. It’s not to show you what to rank for. It’s to show you how well the TOC plugin works.
Why is a TOC important?
That specific keyword isn’t special. But there are keywords that’ll do well in driving long-tail traffic.
Long-tail keywords are long phrases people google.
Example of a standard keyword: house.
Example of a long-tail keyword: 3 bedroom house in karoo district.
Both are important, but long-tail keywords are easier and cheaper to market.
Headings function the same as titles, but they’re not of priimary importance for off-page optimisation. Titles are there for that.
Headings must be phenomenal. A good heading draws people in. That’s it’s job. Joe Sugarman says that the job of a heading is to get the reader to read the first paragraph of your body copy. That’s a grand calling.
The title does that for people scanning Google search result pages. The heading of a web page performs that function once the visitor is on your site.
Clear, not clever
As with titles, clarity beats clever. Tell the visitor what a post is about. Think about how the person benefits from visiting that specific page.
I’ll go into more detail about headings in a future post.
Shorter is not better
Don’t fall for the “shorter is better mentality”. Be concise, yes, but don’t sacrifice clarity for brevity.
We’ll dig into content creation in a future post. It’s a topic all on its own. It’s FAR more important than getting your SEO sorted. We’ll leave it for later.
You haven’t subscribed yet? Now’s your chance.
The Jetpack plugin allows you to display related posts at the bottom of an article.
It’s abortive if there’s only one page on your website. But it’s great once you have plenty of blog posts.
Why it’s important
Related content sucks people into other articles. Increase a visitor’s time on your website and your chance to land a sale increases.
We’ve looked at crucial SEO elements. These include:
- Categories and tags,
- Related content.
I’ll expand on some or all of these elements in future posts.
Put not thine trust in SEO. That’s foolish. SEO is BY FAR not the only important online marketing element.
But get your SEO ducks in a row. It’s a part of the puzzle.
This is it, folks. We’re on our way to increasing direct bookings and slashing OTA commission. Exciting, eh?