SEO: Search Engine Optimization. Everyone has heard of it, everyone knows it’s important, but few people know how to really do it. And with reason: it’s an imperfect science.
"Over 60% of users click on one of the top 3 results on Google Search Results.
How can you optimize your website for Google and other Search Engines? Well, you need to start today to get ahead of everyone else! But don’t think your hostel’s search ranking will go up overnight, it takes time. We’ve put together this short list to get you started:
1) Flash Ban
Sure, flash can do some pretty cool stuff, but NEVER, under any circumstance, use a website completely built on flash. Why? 2 reasons:
Because Google and other Search Engines can’t read your website and therefore they have no idea what it’s about! That means it’s gonna be very very hard to get good positioning.
You can’t even open flash from iPhones and iPads! So you're losing half (or more!) of your mobile audience right there.
Ask your webmaster if you’re not sure whether your site is built on flash.
2) Keyword List
In order to optimize your site for Search Engines, the copy on your hostel’s site needs to be relevant to what you want to be ranked for. Makes sense right? So, to stay focused when copywriting, you’ll need a keyword list. A keyword list is a list of words that backpackers search for on Google to get to your website, or to your competitors sites. Once you come up with that list, it will also help guide your marketing efforts in PPC (Pay-per-click, like AdWords) campaigns. Use some of these free tools to do the research in coming up with your keyword list: Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Google Trends, and the Bing Keyword Research Tool.
3) Update Copy on Your Website
Now that you’ve come up with your hostel’s keyword list, it’s time to actually use it… On your website, make sure your copy reflects your keyword list. That means talking about stuff that is relevant to what you want to be searched for. The most important places to make sure you’re using your keywords is in your: URL, Page Title, Headings and in your Paragraphs.
Note: All this being said, remember your hostel’s website is for humans, not for Google’s robots ;) If you try to overload your page with keywords, people will think it’s Spam and will leave your website and Google will also probably notice and you will get penalized for keyword spamming. Not fun.
4) Never Duplicate Content
Never repeat exactly anything you have written on the internet. A big mistake some hostels make is creating an About Us text and then just copying and pasting it all over the internet. Why is that bad you ask? Because Search Engines find original content only and index that original stuff. But when the same text is pasted on many different pages (all the ones you pasted that text on!) Search Engines don’t know which one is the original, so they pick one and also apply a penalty. Not fun. The best practice here is to ensure you are slightly rewording yourself and making each text you publish on the internet unique.
What’s a blog? A blog is just an informational site that gets updated by posts regularly. Create a blog and keep it alive. If you don’t know how to do it, ask your webmaster to help you. If you want to do it for free, you can use Tumblr, Wordpress, or Blogspot very easily. Having a hostel blog thats updated regularly with relevant and useful info is important because:
it helps your SEO ranking! Every new post you publish creates a new indexed page and more (relevant) pages on your hostel’s site helps your search rankings!
it helps you become the cool hostel ppl want to stay at. Just think about it: If I am traveling to Munich for Oktoberfest and in my research of where to stay I find that one hostel’s website offers a ton of information with an online guide and more on Oktoberfest, I probably won’t even look for another hostel to stay at…
Did I mention it really helps your hostel’s SEO!?
If you haven’t started working on your hostel’s SEO, today is the time to start! Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, or if you think we missed something on this post.
JD Hancock, "Compact Flash" January 25, 2010 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.