Many hoteliers see maintaining a blog as critical to their hotel marketing strategy, without necessarily understanding its true value. The reason for persisting? A misplaced view that having a blog is better than not having one at all.
But here’s the reality: blogging for the sake of blogging doesn’t have any effect.
Yes, a hotel blog can be beneficial. But too often, volume of content is seen as more important than quality of content, with little regard to how well that content ends up being distributed.
Too frequently blogging is viewed as a necessity because, regardless of quality, it’s seen as at least being “good for SEO.” But that logic doesn’t necessarily stack up, either.
The SEO myth
In 2011, Google announced that its latest algorithm would give priority to freshly produced content. This “freshness algorithm” caused something of a stir among marketers, and many hotels started churning out SEO-driven content via their blogs to gain search engine favorability.
Now several years later, the perceived value of constantly pumping out fresh content persists. But it’s an approach that can do more harm than good, especially when topics are hurriedly chosen, or writing quality is neglected.
The danger is that a blog ends up being written to try and satisfy search engines rather than people—hardly a winning formula for producing valuable content that people want to read, share and promote.
So when is blogging good for SEO purposes? Only when the articles are engaging enough that people are reading, sharing, and most importantly—linking to it. If your website isn’t receiving backlinks from respected sites, the content you’re creating isn’t doing much for your SEO.
Content marketing that actually works
Hotels have plenty of choices when it comes to boosting traffic, web traffic and conversions. Running a traditional blog is an option. But it’s far from the only option.
When adventure travel startup Inspired Escapes wanted to announce their launch, they took a “less is more” approach. Rather than instantly pumping out SEO-laden content to boost their search engine ranking, they decided to create a digital guide within their niche to an exceptionally high standard.
Working with i&i Travel Media, Inspired Escapes created a 107-page publication on travel philanthropy and volunteering abroad. At launch, the team promoted the content through various media channels, then followed up with post-campaign ads aimed to retarget interested users who might be further along in the travel planning stage.
This single piece of content, along with the smart content distribution strategy that accompanied it, resulted in a 31% increase in website visits, 33% boost in email subscriptions, and assisted in 28% of all new conversions—actual booked business with the company.
It’s fair to say that a series of hurriedly written blog posts wouldn’t have delivered this level of impact.
But does that mean running a regular blog isn’t worth the effort?
One look at Morgan Hotel Group’s well established Back of House blog proves otherwise.
This lifestyle blog aims to provide a “global platform for creators,” featuring interviews with artists, chefs, musicians, entrepreneurs, and more. Mixed in with this original content are updates on interesting events and travel ideas.
It’s a two-fold content strategy: the influencer profiles are highly social content, garnering lots of shares across social media, while the event and travel write-ups are promoted to other media for quality backlinks. Sites with high domain authority, such as Eater, Thrillist, Harpers Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan, have all linked to Back of House content.
So you want to start a hotel blog
For hotels that want to start a blog, it’s important to be specific about the intention. If SEO is the goal, then it’s important to ensure that you’re following all best practices and not attempting to try frowned-upon tactics such as keyword stuffing, optimized anchors, and buying linkbacks.
But there are other reasons for having a blog that are also important:
- Directly increasing bookings
- Instigating a call to action, such as having guests sign up for your mailing list
- Generating brand loyalty and a dedicated following from current guests and fans
- Providing unique content that other major publications will want to link to
- Answering common guest questions about the property or neighborhood
Fundamentally, hotels should approach blogging the way they approach any other marketing campaign—with a clear, measurable objective and a well-rounded marketing strategy that not only includes smart content creation but also a plan for content distribution.
Content creation tips for hotel blogs
When it comes to creating content, the key is originality and interestingness. Think about it from this perspective: What information can you provide that no one can provide better? What stories can you tell that no one else has told?
Instead of writing about whatever comes to mind, actually map out an editorial plan for the blog.
Think like a publisher. Decide on an overarching editorial direction for the blog so you can set a long-term strategy. Why would someone want to come back to read it day after day? Just as your hotel has a brand identity, so too must your blog. Like any other media publication, it should have a distinct look and editorial style.
Inject your personal expertise. Although neighborhood guides are great, hotels tend to repeat information that is readily available elsewhere. Take the time to put your own spin on the content and target it to your audience so it’s more useful. For example, instead of a post like “Best Cheap Eats in New York,” go for something that only your hotel could be an expert in: “15 Foodie-Approved Meals under $15 within 15 Minutes of Our Hotel.”
Find interesting people. Back of House has found great success in profiling creative influencers. This strategy not only allows them to develop original content, but it also gives them an easy channel to share the content when it’s posted. Find those people that fit your own brand, and start telling their story!
Answer questions about your destination. But don’t make up questions, actually research what people are asking. One place to look is Quora, a community-based Q&A site that offers a potential goldmine of inspiration. Type in your destination and you’ll see a list of questions being discussed and shared. Go for questions with few answers; this gives you the opportunity to create content that fills a need. For example, in response to the question “What is London’s version of the Hamptons?” you could create a post around posh day trips and getaways from London.
Dive in-depth. With blog content, remember that quality trumps quantity (unlike hotel reviews, where quantity is more important). In-depth articles with plenty of graphics and photos tend to perform better from an SEO perspective—not because they’re longer but because they tend to be well-researched and thoughtful, which makes people tend to share and link to it.
Getting your hotel blog noticed
This is the second piece of the puzzle that people tend to ignore. So much energy is spent creating content, but then no one tells people that it exists. To make your hotel’s blog worthwhile, and to ensure that it gets its SEO value, you will need to put in efforts to promote the articles within.
Share on social media. This goes beyond just posting it to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Are you tapping into all of the other relevant social channels as well? And don’t discount paid posts as well; running social ad campaigns can be an effective way to get your content to your relevant audience.
Send out a newsletter. Remember, people who have opted in to your mailing list want to hear from you. So if you’ve got a great blog post to share, send it directly to them and encourage them to share it. To make your campaign more effective, you can even tie in the blog post with a call-to-action, such as signing up for a special offer from your hotel.
Ask influencers to share your content. Target people that you think would actually enjoy reading the article and explain why they would like it; don’t try to spam influencers in the hopes of getting your content shared. Of course, if you’ve profiled these individuals or businesses in your article, this is good jumping off point to connect.
Ask publications to write about your content. Have a fabulous piece of content or interesting news that deserves its own press? Reach out to relevant media and ask them if they would be interested in writing about your content. This is particularly useful if you are promoting special events at your hotel or have a rich, multimedia story to tell (such as a photo series, long-form e-book, interactive map, or infographic).
The best blog content in the world is only as valuable as the amount of people it reaches. And if it isn’t being promoted, you can assume it isn’t being read. Do the legwork to ensure that you’re getting your hotel’s blog out there.
To blog or not to blog?
As a hotel that needs to consider its total marketing budget, answering this question isn’t easy. Ultimately, a blog should help fulfill a clear marketing objective. If the blog is solely there for SEO reasons, remember that there are simpler, less expensive ways to boost hotel SEO—so evaluate the return on investment and consider other marketing goals you can accomplish with a blog, such as increasing bookings or capturing subscribers to your mailing list.
In the end, hoteliers need to set the terms that justify the marketing spend. Just remember that with blogging, it’s an all-in strategy—either invest the resources to do it right, or don’t do it at all.