Welcome to the Hotel SEO Strategy series in which our expert shares the best SEO practices with hotel marketers! This is part 1 of the blog series.
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Thinking of updating your hotel website? Carrying out a redesign is a great way to freshen up your online presence, upgrade your user experience, and implement new conversion-focused tools to boost bookings.
But did you know that a website redesign can potentially harm your SEO? In turn, that can lead to a drop in traffic and lost bookings. The following post is intended to help you prevent that from happening.
Read on to discover how to avoid some of the common SEO mistakes when redesigning your hotel website.
Why would a website redesign lose traffic?
First of all, it’s normal that your website might see a slight drop in traffic for a few days after a redesign. That’s because Google needs time to crawl and index all of your new pages. However, there are certain instances when a drop in traffic indicates a longer-term problem that requires immediate attention.
Here are three of the most common causes for a drop in traffic following a redesign:
- Problems with redirects
- Changes to your website content
- Changes to your sitemap
Below, we will look at each of these problems in detail and provide a solution for each.
1. 301 redirects
When redesigning a site, you ideally want to keep content on the same URLs. But this isn’t always possible. Perhaps you’re rebranding your hotel, or consolidating information from several pages into one page. Sometimes, you might want to change URLS if they’re not SEO friendly.
In cases like these, you’ll need to redirect old URLs to new ones. By creating 301 redirects, you’ll help Google and other search engines understand that what was once found [here] is now found [in this new place].
Let’s say you redesign your website and give the homepage a new URL.
When users type the old URL: www.oldhotelwebsite.com
A 301 redirect will ensure they’re automatically taken to your new website: www.newhotelwebsite.com
If you don’t set up an appropriate 301 direct, any customers that attempt to visit a page that no longer exists will see a 404 Not Found Error — creating a less than optimal user experience.
Your webmaster will need to create a 301 direct by taking your old URL and redirecting it to your new one. To be most effective, this must be a permanent 301 redirect. We suggest a “1:1 method,” which means that you match the old website page with the most relevant new website page.
Examples of this approach include:
- /lodging could redirect to /rooms
- /specials could redirect to /offers
- /packages could redirect to /offers
You can also have all of the old URLs redirected to the new homepage, but we recommend striving for the most relevant content first.
Additional 301 redirect tips to consider:
- Move old blog pages to the new site as well, and use 301 redirects if needed.
- All old pages do not need to be redirected, just pages that have a higher volume of traffic and/or will be relevant to the new website. For example, if your property decided to permanently get rid of an amenity (such as the pool) you wouldn’t need to redirect the pool pages or pool content.
- You can also create custom 404 error pages to direct users to a special package or some other intended action for your property.
2. Content changes
A website redesign often involves rewriting sections of content. For instance, you might want to reword your homepage copy, or change your room descriptions to feature more up-to-date information. In principle, this is a good thing. The search engines love fresh and original content, especially when it’s relevant to the current searches taking place in your industry.
However, problems can arise if you remove pages and keywords that were driving a lot of traffic to your old site. As a general rule, it’s best to keep any content the same if it’s already ranking highly—don’t make changes just for the sake of it.
Before you get started on your new site, look at the keywords that your current website is ranking for. Moz offers a handy tool for doing this called Keyword Explorer. Make sure that any of your keywords are carefully weaved into the redesign, otherwise your relevancy scores may dip and your traffic levels will inevitably drop.
Before moving over your high-ranking content, it’s also worth carrying out additional SEO research. Take the opportunity to look for other important keywords that might boost your ranking.
In addition to your main website content, be sure to carry over SEO elements contained within headlines and images. Areas that often get forgotten include H1, H2, and H3 headings, meta descriptions, alt tags, internal links, and image titles.
Just remember, it’s important to take a balanced approach with your on-site SEO. Take a look at our dedicated post to learn more about using the right keywords on your hotel website to optimize your SEO.
3. Outdated sitemap
A sitemap (sometimes referred to as an XML sitemap) is vital for SEO. Don’t be afraid by the technical sounding name. In simple terms, a sitemap is just a blueprint for your website. It allows search engine crawlers to read and index the content on your site, telling them how your website is structured and what it includes.
A well-structured sitemap will help boost your SEO, thus getting more eyeballs on your site. However, after a website redesign, the sitemap also changes. And if you don’t update the sitemap for your redesigned website, the likes of Google won’t be able to properly crawl all of the pages. The result? Your SEO will take a hit.
Before you launch your redesigned website, create a new sitemap that features all of the most important pages on your website. We also suggest maintaining as much of the original sitemap structure as possible, both in terms of the overall linking structure and the top level hierarchy.
Your new sitemap will then need to be submitted to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. This will help speed up the crawling and indexing process, ensuring that your new site doesn’t receive an unnecessary drop in traffic.
Final checks after a redesign
Once your new site is live, it’s time to test for SEO issues. This includes looking for broken links, problems with your XML sitemap, and tracking your 301s and 404s. Tools such as DeepCrawl and Google Search Console can help identify potential issues.
It’s also worth benchmarking your old website’s performance to compare with your redesign. Use your Google Analytics account to get a baseline of analytics from your old site. These metrics should include:
- Bounce rates
- Pages per session
- Number of sessions per user
- Average session duration
While you want bounce rates to go down, the other three metrics should ideally go up.
There’s huge competition within the online travel booking space. Using the tips above, a website redesign can play a vital role in attracting and converting new customers, while ensuring you maintain any valuable SEO benefits you’ve worked so hard to acquire.