Welcome to the Hotel SEO Strategy series in which our expert shares the best SEO practices with hotel marketers! This is part 3 of the blog series.
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It’s the million-dollar question that every marketer wants the answer to. After implementing a series of SEO changes, how fast will you see an impact? The answer is: it depends.
In truth, a whole set of factors come into play, including what type of SEO changes you’re making and how you implement them. Even if you get quick results (which is pretty rare), SEO is never done. It’s an ongoing process that requires constant attention to everything from keyword trends to the fluctuations within your own marketplace and the wider travel industry.
Short-term vs long-term goals
First, it’s important to state that SEO is a long-term game. The changes you make today won’t necessarily have an impact tomorrow. Or the next day, for that matter. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for some SEO changes to not have a true impact for 3-6 months.
This shouldn’t be disheartening.
When you invest in SEO, you sow the seeds for long-term growth. The results are rarely immediate, but they can pay dividends over the ensuing months and years. In contrast, a paid search campaign can deliver fast results, but the benefits are often limited. For instance, a summer promotion may drive bookings over a few weeks, but the increase in bookings will be largely limited to the length of the promotion.
Ultimately, patience is crucial. After you implement any changes to your SEO, expect to see a gradual increase in traffic (as long as the right strategy is in place) over several months.
Consider the types of changes you’re making
How fast you see results will largely depend on the types of changes you make, and the strategy behind those changes.
Technical updates and changes will have an impact, but usually not right away. You can also make changes to improve site speed, for example, but it may not have a positive impact for a month or more. It depends on how crucial that change was needed.
If you’re building SEO backlinks, you can expect both a short and long-term boost, as well as an increase in authority for your site. However, this very much depends on the quality of those backlinks. As more authoritative links generate traffic and authority for your site over time, you’ll start to see the impact, and even a small link-building campaign can be effective.
Submit your changes to the search engines
After making any SEO changes, make sure you update your sitemap (sometimes referred to as an XML sitemap). This will ensure that search engines such as Bing and Google can crawl and index the new version of your site immediately.
As we discussed in a recent post on this topic, submitting your sitemap will help boost your SEO and ensure any changes to your site don’t lead to an unnecessary drop in website traffic.
Track your changes
The dynamic nature of SEO means you can’t rely on a “set and forget” mindset. It’s a process that requires ongoing attention and plenty of patience.
Regular tracking will help you fix potential issues and constantly improve your results. But even if you see a noticeable improvement after an SEO update, don’t rest on your laurels. Your current efforts might only provide half the potential traffic you could achieve with a more concerted effort.
We highly recommend Google Analytics and Google Search Console for SEO monitoring and management. However, platforms such as Ahrefs, AccuRanker, Mangools, SEMrush, and Buzzsumo are also great options.
Choose the right metrics
After choosing what tracking tool to use, you need to decide how you’ll track your results. Just be wary of vanity metrics. If you’re tracking changes on your own, you need to be careful which metrics you choose. Bear in mind that unscrupulous SEO agencies often supply clients with metrics that look good on paper but don’t actually result in tangible benefits.
So where to begin? A top tip is to keep things simple. While there’s a huge array of metrics you can use to track online performance, analyzing too many can be confusing and counterproductive. It’s much better to focus on a handful of measurements that you can realistically monitor and respond to if needed.
With that in mind, here are five important metrics for SEO tracking:
1. Organic search sessions
Instead of looking at how you rank for organic keywords, focus on your organic search sessions. This metric is more helpful because it shows you how many people are actually visiting your website based on your organic search engine position.
2. Click-through rate
Your click-through rate (CTR) is the average percentage of people who click on one of your links after seeing it in the search results. This stat not only tells you how well your pages rank in the SERPs, it lets you know how appealing your content is. If people like the look of your content in the search results, they’ll click the link. If not, they’ll quickly move on to another result.
3. Bounce rates
Bounce rates tell you the percentage of people that landed on your website but left after the first page. However, a high bounce rate isn’t always bad. For instance, the first page a person visited may have given them all the information they wanted. To make this metric more useful, always compare similar types of pages (e.g. blog post to blog post, location page to location page).
4. Page speed
If the pages on your website load faster, you’ll create a better experience for your users. In addition, Google gives preference to websites that load quickly. To check if your changes have had an impact on load times, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
A backlink is a hyperlink that comes to your website from another website. Google consider backlinks another important ranking factor, making this a valuable metric to track. However, the domain authority (a measure of how popular or powerful a site is) impacts how valuable your backlinks are, so your goal should be to gain as many high-quality backlinks as possible. Track your new backlinks using free tools such as Ahrefs.
Focus on quality
In the era of keyword stuffing, some hotel marketers sought quick results using questionable black hat techniques. This outdated strategy can now be harmful to your search rank position, and it provides little value to your audience.
Rather than cherry-picking the best keywords, modern SEO is about creating great content that answers the questions and needs of your target guests. The search engines still care about keywords, but they care more about the quality and relevancy of the content you produce.
When you make SEO changes, those changes should be informed by a simple question: are these changes providing value to my audience? If your only intention is to capture the attention of the search engines, your efforts will likely fall short. Make your overarching goal to help and engage your audience, and your SEO changes will far more likely lead to positive results.
SEO requires a long-term mindset
SEO is a long-term game that requires patience. Whether you’re making minor tweaks or wholesale changes, keep in mind that you’re investing in the future. The changes may not materialize for months, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually pay off.
For short-term results, you can always invest in a paid search campaign. But of course a complete strategy that encompasses both paid and organic search will always deliver the best all-round results.
Ultimately, if you’re clear on your SEO goals, use the right metrics to track changes, and continually seek to optimize your results, you should be rewarded with steady improvement over time.