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How hoteliers can recognice a 'black sheep' among SEO agencies.
Monday, 11th March 2013
Source : Roland Wildberg ~ Exclusive from ITB Berlin 2013
Search engine optimization is the keyword in the double meaning, and usually it is almost anywhere in the world equivalent to Google optimization.

4Hoteliers Image LibraryWeb analyst of Andreas Kaufmann at ITB Berlin presented the the main issues one must answer oneself before optimizing a hotel website.

At the same time he warned of "black sheep" of the SEO industry. According to Kaufmann, there are many self-proclaimed experts who sell bad service to bona fide hoteliers and other clients in the tourism SEO. Kaufmann also explained how these scammers generally operate. Cold calling with slogans such as "we guarantee to bring your hotel on search rank 1" or "You get guaranteed 10,000 visitors per month" or "Manual entry to 200 search engines" is typical. "Guarantee is always suspect", Kaufmann says.

Most of these deals try to push tourism vis-a-vis' to get started without consulting. Meanwhile they leave their clients on important aspects of SEO mostly in the wrong.

Because for much of what Google rewards, you need not any professional Web Designer! These include not only the identification and definition of important keywords, but especially good content. And this to produce is hoteliers' job the first and foremost, because you know your home and know what qualities you have.

The danger of guaranteed search results of the "black sheep" lies that they usually break rules. Then the only guarantee you have is Google will punish your website through temporary delist for example. The trick: When comes the response from Google, your consultants may be miles away already and claim to be no longer responsible for the often disastrous result! However, there are a set of rules that everyone in the business must keep: the "Google guidelines for webmasters".

As so often in life, also sustainable SEO is not a matter of a few hours of work: Success you will have only through persistent, patient, and true effort. And the SEO needs to range over the whole website, not only one page. According to Kaufmann, optimizing a site is done in three stages:

  • Analysis of the site, its potentials and visible obstacles
  • OnPage optimization: Keywords, landing pages, content, usability
  • Offpage optimization: Linking, social media
Another trick of the black sheep of SEO: They promise tourism clients a rank # 1 in Google search results list. But to achieve this is not as difficult as you think: it just depends on the keyword combination. However, as for example with the keyword "harbourage" hardly hotels are searched, it definitely benefits you little, if you are here at # 1. So always ask exactly on what keywords to optimize and test yourself what search words on Google are the most popular.

On Google, competition is good as well: If a keyword is in little demand, it may have no potential. Use only keyword combinations which are expressing an intention to use, for example, the name of your city in conjunction with "stay" or "hotel" or "accommodation".

Customer reviews are an important aspect of SEO. Note: The more frequently customer reviews are left on your page, the better. And the longer these comments, the even better. Of course, the ratings should be as positive as possible. But also negative feed-back to you supplemented by your promptly respond including a satisfactory answer or if necessary expressing an apology is good SEO.

A particularly unpleasant trick is hidden in the GTC by "black sheep" SEO agencies: It is very common that an essential part of SEO takes place on extra landing pages which are optimized clones of your site. So far so good - this will provide better results and facilitates also the tracking to verify the results. However, the "black sheep" safeguard the right of all contents on these landing pages in the treaty.

This means: A hotel that works with these agencies, is automatically forced to further cooperation, if they don't want to suddenly again lose the earned position on Google throught the landing pages' switch off after finishing the contract.

Some tips on how to find the right partner to improve your hotel's website:
  • Consult agency in detail prior to conclusion of contract
  • Take the precise SEO promise in the contract
  • Insist on regular reportings during SEO operations
This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing ľ work-live-balance as its best.

Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams for the 5th consecutive years.

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