Hotels have priorities when it comes to maintaining their websites - but there are many, less obvious tactics they should all doing as well.
NB: This is an analysis by Kelsey Nupnau, interactive marketing manager at Blue Magnet Interactive.
Here is a summary of seven extremely important, but lesser-known, elements that go into improving the performance of a brand.
1. Site speed optimization
Google has explicitly stated that improving your website's speed improves how you rank in search engines and that a quicker site can improve overall user experience.
Think about it: how many times have you left a site because you can't spend another second waiting for it to load?
2. Link profile cleanup
Link-building has proven to be valuable for improving the credibility and ranking of a website. In addition to making sure you seek out relevant, quality links to support (link to) a hotel's website, you should also audit the current inbound link profile and flag spammy sites or poor links pointing to the site.
Then, consolidate all poor, low-quality links (especially those that come from link directories) and submit them to Google through a link disavowal request.
Ultimately, a hotel with a strong link profile full of links from sites that are relevant to the hotel can generate more traffic and a better conversion rate.
If your robots.txt file is not properly configured to only allow crawling of the most important pages on your site, you're going to have a hard time getting people to find your hotel website in the first place (and make search bots pretty frustrated).
Likewise, if you allow crawling of too many files (particularly the technical ones that are often part of the structure of your site), you could end up having files you don't want indexed and make it even harder for search engines to piece together the important content of your site.
For example, most robots.txt files will block the page that contains the administrator login from appearing in search engines (see below).
While this page must exist so the webmaster can login to the backend of the site, search engines don't need to index that page and show it in the search results.
4. Sitemap creation AND maintenance
It is essential that you create a sitemap for your hotel's website which lists all relevant pages on your website that you want searchers to access.
It is also extremely important to update the sitemap on a regular basis since you are likely adding new pages and PDFs or removing old pages and PDFs on a regular basis. You should keep track of new landing pages added to your website, update your hotel's sitemap and re-submit it to both Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools to make sure they index new pages right away.
Also, ensure that a link to your sitemap is provided at the end of your robots.txt file to further help search bots understand the content and structure of your website.
5. Site backups
If your site crashes or goes down, your hotel risks losing potential online bookings, so it is imperative that you proactively back up your website on a regular basis.
Consider pulling back-ups of the website database and server files on a weekly and monthly basis, just in case we need to revive your website or pull old files from previous versions.
6. Crawl errors
Your website could be pegged as being lower quality by search engines due to the number of crawl errors your website generates.
Users visiting your website can run into "dead ends" when one of your pages doesn't work or if you link to a page that no longer exists. You should regularly check for broken links on your website, in addition to broken links on other sites pointing to your hotel's website.
Aside from causing SEO issues, crawl errors negatively impact the visitor's user experience, so we strive to find and fix these errors before others run into them.
If a link on your website breaks or if someone links to a page on your website that no longer exists, we can work on the backend of your website to redirect old pages to newer, relevant pages.
Also, reach out to webmasters from other sites and ask them to update their websites to point to the correct URL for your hotel.
7. Responsive testing
Many brands are still lagging behind this current trend, but responsive website design is imperative, meaning it will adapt to the size of a user's device screen, whether it's a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile device.
Since responsive website design uses the same page for all devices, it's necessary to perform regular testing to make sure that a visitor has a flawless user experiencewhen using any version of any browser type (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc.) on any type of device (iPhone, Android, iPad, Kindle Fire).
Additional testing should also be conducted to make sure forms (contact, request for proposal, email sign-ups, etc.) can be submitted on any screen size and that all elements of the website (font styles, copy, images, etc.) automatically adjust to the user's screen size.
While on-page SEO efforts are often easy to explain since you can see the physical changes being made, off-page and technical SEO and user experience efforts are often just as (if not more) time-consuming and important as more visible updates.
I challenge you, hotelier, to ask your team what they are doing behind-the-scenes to improve the performance of your website.
What types of updates and reporting are they providing you to show these under-the-radar efforts? Are you seeing an increase in overall traffic to your hotel website and booked revenue because of these updates and maintenance?
Hopefully they are...
NB: This is an analysis by Kelsey Nupnau, interactive marketing manager at Blue Magnet Interactive. The original post appeared here.
NB2:Website maintenance image via Shutterstock.