As the Head of Global SEO, Valentine is responsible for driving organic growth at HomeAdvisor, the largest online local home services marketplace to match homeowners and pre-screened service professionals. He also consults and advises businesses to help them drive sustainable and profitable growth.
In this interview, Valentine provides insight and tips into how hotels can find success when it comes to building and maintaining a digital audience.
What are some of the hot, up-and-coming SEO trends?
On one hand, the basic principles of SEO have not changed much over the years. On the other hand, some aspects of SEO change so frequently that keeping up with those trends and staying ahead of the curve is a job in and of itself. For example, Google averages about 1-2 changes per day and are constantly testing many other changes. If you’re using Google, you’re almost certainly participating in one or more of their tests.
SEO is the art and science of being found where potential customers are looking.
That said, here is a summary of some recent SEO trends with links for more in-depth information:
1. Google continues to find new ways to eat its own search results, with sub-par products causing valuable search real estate to either disappear or be monetized by Google. This has been particularly noticeable in the travel industry (eg hotels and flights).
2. Google has made more algorithm changes than ever, resulting in Algo Sandwiches that make it more difficult for innocent webmasters to troubleshoot drops in traffic.
3. Google continues to expand the visibility of their own products, like featured snippets, which effectively scrapes content from other websites and re-packages it to keep users on Google longer.
4. Another obvious, but a recent trend is mobile. We live in a multi-device world and it’s becoming more critical to have a consistent and quality experience suited to various devices. Google even has a specific penalty dedicated to mobile-friendly (or unfriendly) websites.
What would you recommend to hotels looking to apply these trends?
To put it simply, make sure you have a presence on any popular sites where people might be searching for you. This is the essence of SEO, which I define as Search Experience Optimization. While you shouldn’t ignore the major search engines, SEO is the art and science of being found where potential customers are looking.
For example, many people skip the search engine altogether and go directly to their favorite travel website. If you’re not sure about the best way to approach this, you should work with a quality SEO consultant.
I recently read that some hoteliers have difficulty getting conversions through mobile websites, although many travelers use mobile for pre-travel planning and research. Do you have any recommendations for ways to improve in this area?
One of the best things you can do is test this process for yourself on popular mobile devices. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and try to book a hotel room through your mobile website or app and pay close attention to your experience. Make note of any pain points. Improve the experience by reducing these pain points. Rinse and repeat.
The more friction, the less likely a conversion will result.
The process should be as smooth and quick as possible. Generally speaking, the more friction you have the less likely someone is to convert. Test, test, test! You can also implement user testing where you can get feedback from actual users.
What are some of your personal favorite technologies to use when you travel? Does that differ when your reason for travel is leisure vs. business?
I always travel with my phone and almost always with my tablet and laptop. And I generally won’t stay anywhere that doesn’t offer WiFi.
Could you share an experience you had where technology played a big role in a hotel stay of yours?
If I’m traveling for leisure, I almost always research potential hotels via TripAdvisor or other online sites that provide ratings and reviews.
What’s some advice you would offer to hotels trying to figure out how to prioritize their cross-channel marketing efforts or where to focus in 2016?
I always start with what I call the PEG Framework, which identifies three core areas of focus that apply to almost every type of business or team. Generally speaking, focusing one-third of your time in each of these areas is a good rule of thumb, but how much you invest in each area will differ depending on the needs of the business, and in this case, the marketing department.
As you can see, there are lots of applications for this framework. How you prioritize each area should be driven by an analysis of potential marketing opportunities (enhancements and growth) and risks (preservation and maintenance).