April 08, 2013

How to create engaging copy for hotel websites


The look and feel of a hotel website may initially grab the user’s attention, while the copy contains the core information about the hotel that will convince that visitor to make a booking. Accurate, engaging, and relevant content - all written with the brand’s voice in mind - is what gives users that final push to click “Book Now.”

By Erica Garza, HeBS Digital

The property website continues to be the hotelier’s most important distribution and marketing channel. The main goal of any hotel website is to turn lookers into bookers. A number of factors help to achieve this goal, including eye-catching design and a user-friendly layout. The look and feel of a website may initially grab the user’s attention, while the copy contains the core information about the hotel that will convince that visitor to make a booking. Accurate, engaging, and relevant content – all written with the brand’s voice in mind – is what gives users that final push to click “Book Now.”

The copy of a hotel website serves two purposes. One is quite obvious: to provide the most accurate description of the hotel product and inform prospective guests about the hotel’s accommodations, amenities, business services, event space and location. The second is to provide content for search engine bots to crawl, index, and serve in their results pages. Thanks to the intricacies of search engine optimization (SEO), website copy can be manipulated to attract prospective guests based on their searches. The trick is to find the right balance in creating informative copy that is tailored to serve both guests and search engines.

Many web development shops or self-proclaimed hospitality digital marketing agencies downplay the importance of original copywriting for the hotel website, tailored specifically for each customer segment and each page of the site. However, the ongoing Google Panda updates have raised the bar as far as the quality and originality of the textual content on the hotel website is concerned. Many hotel websites with stale and bland content became obsolete and saw a decrease in their organic performance. As discussed in our recent article “Is Hotel SEO Dead? Not By A Long Shot – More Than Half of Your Website’s Revenue Depends on It,” 32.7% of website revenues for HeBS Digital’s client portfolio come from organic search (SEO) – too significant a portion to disregard. To get the best results, the content on the site must be carefully crafted, taking a number of factors into account.

Website Copy Don’ts

There are many pitfalls to creating quality content. Here are two of the most common mistakes hoteliers make:

1. Duplicate website content: The search engines hate duplicate content. Why? Search engines work very hard to index and display pages with distinct information. For them, duplicate information is not beneficial to search engine users and inhibits the user experience; duplicate content is “spam.” When two or more web pages are identified as “too similar,” one or more of those web pages usually disappears from the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Hoteliers cannot avoid sharing content descriptions about their hotel with other sites such as OTAs, GDSs, booking engine vendors, etc., but hoteliers must be smart about it and avoid providing duplicate content to any third-party sites. Unfortunately, this has been a serious problem in the industry for many years because it is much easier to copy and paste existing content than to write significantly different descriptions. The inevitable result is that many of these third-party sites rank higher than the hotels’ sites because they have larger domains and practice SEO techniques far better than the hotels do.

2. Gap between official and unofficial content: Users today have more access than ever to both official and unofficial content. Official content is content created and sanctioned by the property – the hotel website, social media accounts, brand blog, etc. Unofficial content is user-generated content such as reviews on TripAdvisor or posts to a property’s Facebook page. The bigger the discrepancy between official content and unofficial content, the less credible the property website. Less credibility results in less bookings and revenue.

This content alignment could be as simple as removing “luxury” from the description of your rooms if users are openly questioning the luxury aspect of your accommodations, or removing “award-winning” from the description of your restaurant if it has generated a lot of negative reviews on Yelp.

Website Copy Do’s

What type of content does the hotel website need in order to drive direct bookings? Search engines and travel consumers alike require deep, relevant, and unique content. Any hotel website without engaging content intuitively structured across a user-friendly site will have a hard time communicating the hotel product to the travel consumer and achieve meaningful search engine rankings.

Read on for an in-depth look into our process of creating professional copy for the hotel website that is optimized for the search engines, provided by HeBS Digital’s in-house Copy + SEO Department.

1. Brand discovery: It all starts with finding the right voice. As soon as a client is brought on board, the assigned copy + SEO specialist has a discovery call with the client to discuss brand voice, tone, preferences, and approved language. This discussion sets the stage for perfectly-tailored website content as well as any copy-related initiatives in the future.

2. Hotel questionnaire: The client is asked to fill out a hotel questionnaire that covers their primary business needs and objectives, customer segments, occupancies, competitive set and more. The questionnaire asks the client to submit room types, hotel amenities, area businesses, attractions and any other unique details that differentiate the client from its competitors.

3. Keyword research: The marriage between editorial content and SEO begins with keyword research. How are prospective guests searching? Hotel searches are made based on geographical keywords. HeBS Digital conducts thorough research into a hotel’s specific location to find out what keywords users are plugging into their search engines to plan travel. These keywords are narrowed down to the ones with the highest search volume, determined by advanced technology in keyword research.

4. Review official & professional content: Consistency is key. The copy + SEO specialist will review the hotel’s official content to maintain a voice that is consistent online and offline. This includes brochures, pamphlets, videos and any other marketing materials the client has been using to promote their property. Our team will also review the client’s professional copy, which includes press releases and news coverage in print and online media.

5. Review unofficial content: Unofficial content is just as important as official and professional content. Whereas the latter portrays the property in the way in which its marketers intended, the unofficial content portrays the property the way it is experienced by real guests. The copy + SEO specialist will carefully comb through real reviews on TripAdvisor, Google Zagat reviews, blogs and other social media sources to understand the hotel from a guest perspective.

6. Write SEO-enhanced copy: When the research phase is complete, the copy + SEO specialist begins the writing process, producing copy that is simultaneously engaging and search engine optimized. This involves using the information gathered in the discovery call, the insight gained through unofficial content, and the facts from the questionnaire. On top of that, we then include the researched keywords in an unobtrusive manner. This process requires a high level of skill and attention to detail.

7. Client review of copy: Once the website copy is complete, a draft is sent over to the client for review. Although significant research is done in advance, there are sometimes fine points that the hotelier wants to include that were missed in the initial information gathering phase. These edits are incorporated by the copy + SEO specialist, ensuring that the edits did not affect any optimization efforts, and then a final draft is prepared for implementation.

8. Copy & SEO integration into the website: With the CMS Premium, copy implementation is a rather quick and simple process. A member of the Copy + SEO Department is responsible for entering the content into the website, giving it one final read-through while also ensuring the formatting stays intact and implementing all the internal links. Once the content is implemented, HeBS Digital monitors search engine performance, revenue, and a variety of other key performance indicators to judge the success of our work and make any strategic tweaks necessary to keep SEO up to par.

Erica Garza is Senior Copy + SEO Specialist at HeBS Digital

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