May 16, 2013

Preparing for Google Penguin 2.0: How to protect your hotel website


It is much easier to be proactive than reactive when it comes to SEO - rebuilding lost rankings can take a considerable amount of time and effort. Work with a digital marketing partner that can recommend proper preparations for important algorithm updates to keep your site from being penalized.

By Asher Fusco, HeBS Digital

When Google rolled out its Panda algorithm update in February 2011, it upended search engine results pages (SERPs) in a major way, affecting 12 percent of all results. The algorithm adjustment essentially penalized low-quality sites and rewarded sites with engaging, high-quality content. Since the initial rollout of Panda, the search engine giant has introduced a number of updates and changes – as of late April 2013, the company has produced 25 Panda updates and a host of other updates, dubbed Penguin.

Because Google is always changing its algorithms in minor ways, the threat of another Penguin or Panda update might not seem like much to worry about. But Google is currently busy preparing a major Penguin update that will have a major impact on SERPs, according to SearchEngineWatch.

The Impending Penguin Update: What is It?

The second coming of Google Penguin – Penguin 2.0 – will address bad link-building and linking practices, penalizing sites that use unsavory techniques to help improve visibility within the SERPs. Google's team will evaluate a huge amount of data to learn more about "bad" – or non-organic – links, combing through the mountains of data on the Internet to locate the spots where bad links live.

Once Google locates these suspicious links, it will devalue them and remove their PageRank, thus negating whatever positive impact they had on search results. The links that stand out to Google as bad either come from locations on the Internet that Google deems untrustworthy or in places with high "link velocity" – the rate at which a site acquires inbound links.

What Does This Mean for Hoteliers?

Hoteliers should exercise caution in their link acquisition strategies and adopt a policy of quality over quantity. In the pre-Penguin landscape, search engines rewarded the pursuit of large quantities of less-than-relevant links. Post-Penguin 1.0 – and especially in the lead-up to Penguin 2.0 – it behooves hoteliers and digital marketers to be more selective about the inbound links they choose to pursue.

The days of search engine optimization (SEO) as the Wild West are long gone. Google values websites that provide relevant information about in-demand topics and provide added value for Internet users. Conversely, search engines punish sites that chase after large numbers of links with little regard for quality or context. Given these facts, it is important that hoteliers take care in assembling a link building action plan.

What Should Hoteliers Do?

The best thing hoteliers can do to prepare for Google Penguin 2.0 is to construct a quality inbound linking strategy. Adopting link building best practices will not only safeguard the hotel website from being punished by Google's algorithm updates, it will strengthen the site's link portfolio and boost its SEO value.

The best way to attract quality inbound links is through the creation of quality content. Ideally, the hotel website is a collection of linkable assets. A linkable asset is defined as a piece of content that will generate inbound links through its uniqueness, relevance and informative nature. This doesn't mean hoteliers must resort to gimmicks such as viral content creation to stand out online. In fact, several rather straightforward ways to attract links exist:

- Perform a Link Audit: It's crucial to know where your links are coming from, which of those links are beneficial, and which could be dragging your site's SEO performance down. Enlisting a hotel digital marketing firm to perform a full link audit can give you a great idea of your site's strengths and weaknesses in regards to its inbound link portfolio.

- Manage Links Through Webmaster Tools: The easiest way to ensure your link portfolio remains clear of any low-quality links is to use Google's Webmaster Tools. Through this interface, you can view all the links pointing to your site, sorting the quality links you attained through targeted strategy and the less valuable or negative links that latched onto your site without your knowledge. Partnering with a full-service digital marketing agency is the best way to harness the power of Google Webmaster Tools.

- Maintain a Blog on the Hotel Website: Building and maintaining a blog on the hotel website is an efficient and easy way to provide a unique value proposition to website visitors, potential guests and prospective linking websites. The key to utilizing a hotel blog as a potent inbound marketing tool is to post regular updates on upcoming events, happenings on-property, renovation updates and anything else that might attract the interest of other blogs or online publications.

- Build (Relevant) Links: Executing a robust linking strategy is the best way to build a strong support system of links. Effective link-building starts small and branches outward. Engage local sites that produce quality content and are of exceptional relevance to your site first to build a solid base of trustworthy links, while at the same time ensuring the hotel website is listed by and linked to from a variety of online directories and local listings services.

- Create Quality Website Content: Working proactively to stock your site with quality content is the easiest way to attract links from veritable sources. Regularly publishing pages written by professional copywriters can work wonders, attracting the attention of influential sites that have the power to boost SEO through inbound linking.

Conclusion

It is much easier to be proactive than reactive when it comes to SEO – rebuilding lost rankings can take a considerable amount of time and effort. Work with a digital marketing partner that can recommend proper preparations for important algorithm updates to keep your site from being penalized.

Asher Fusco is a Senior Copy + SEO Specialist at HeBS Digital, the hospitality industry's leading full-service digital technology and marketing firm, based in New York City.