Setting up a holiday lettings website puts your properties into the public domain, ready for receiving those essential bookings. But getting people to your site takes time and effort. This is the first in a series of articles which looks at how you can tell the Search Engines like Google to direct holiday searchers to your website.
So ask a friend to read your page. They will certainly have some advice (everyone always does!).
In our recent training sessions we’ve spent a lot of time discussing Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO for short). This is basically how you tell Google (and to a less degree, Bing) that your holiday property web is the best place for web visitors looking for information on the type of vacation properties that you offer.
We've compiled a check list of the most important actions that you should undertake to ensure you get the maximum number of suitable visitors to your site and keep it SEO friendly. Then your Bookster website can do what it does best, convert those visitors into vacation guests. We’ll be going into these in more details in future blog posts.
This first article focuses on keywords which you need to tell Google that your site is perfect, and to tell visitors that you have what they are looking for. It will take time so be prepared to do a bit of research over a few days. So let’s begin.
You need to have a good idea of what people type into Google when they want to look for your type of holiday rental properties. These will be your 'keywords'. Keywords can be short and snappy such as: “holiday apartments”, medium length such as “holiday flats in Carlisle” and extend up to whole phrases (called Long-tail keywords) like: “Holiday homes in Carlisle near the cathedral”.
You can find this list using a number of different methods and depending on your technical confidence you may try just one or all of these methods.
Consider what you may type in yourself.
Ask your friends what they would type.
If you have access to your Google Analytics console, check to see what your current visitors are typing (although this information is often hidden by Google so don’t expect a lot here). For your keywords in Google Analytics, visit ‘Acquisition’, ‘All Traffic’, ‘Channels’, and click in the table for ‘Organic Search’.
There are a number of Keyword finder tools to help you, some of which have a cost such as ahrefs.com and some of which are free, such as Google trends and LSI graph. And there are some very cool long-tail keyword question finders like Answer the public.
Once you have done this, you’ll have a list of short, medium and long-tail keywords which are the start of your journey.
Competitor research (time to spy!)
Now you have your list, search for these words in your search engine (like Google), and see what websites are shown. Perhaps you’ll see your site. Great! Some of these companies will be your competitors. Spend some time on their sites to see how they used their keywords in their text and why Google has chosen to show their pages.
There are different ways to check this. Firstly, read the pages that Google recommends, and read the title and the description to see what keywords have been included here. Then click on the link and read their home page: what words are they using?
For example, we did a search on Holiday homes in Carlisle. In the images at the top of the page, look at the keywords that we can see in the Metatag and Metadescription.
List your pages and their preferred keywords
Now is the time to look at your holiday let website. Each page should be allocated with the keywords you want that page to appear in Google for so make a list for each page, starting with your homepage.
For my holiday let in Carlisle I have chosen:
- Short keywords: Holiday rentals, Apartments, luxury, Wifi and Cumbria
- Medium length keywords: Holiday flats Carlisle
My property near the castle:
- Short keywords: Holiday home, luxury flat, castle turrets
- Long-tail keyword: Holiday flat with view of Carlisle castle.
Write your Metatag (It’s not that scary, promise!)
You’ve done the hard bit now. The rest is much less research, and more thinking about how to write your keywords into your property descriptions.
So looking back at the image above, you can see a Metatag, which shows in the Google results. Your pages have these too and every page is different. You want to check that the keywords you want for each page are also in your Metatag. Google recommends that you don’t write more than 60 characters. To start with, do your homepage metatag.Here’s an example for our home page:
Metatag: 'Beautiful holiday homes in Carlisle'
Write your Metadescription as above
This is the same as above, for a reminder look where the Metadescription shows in Google. You need something here which is appealing to both Google and the web visitors so you attract the highest amount of people to your site. Google recently changed the algorithm here, and the current recommendation is to write between 280 and 300 characters for your Metadescription. Here’s ours:
Simpsons holiday homes in Carlisle are a family run business with more than 20 years providing beautiful self-catering holiday homes in the stunning county of Cumbria. We offer five apartments near the lake and two 3-bedroom cottages providing luxury and family short let breaks.
You’ll need to check your Metatags and Descriptions for every page, but the home page is a good place to start.
The next step is to check what you have written on each page. If you have allocated space for text on each page, then you should attractively write to impress your web visitors, including your well researched keywords. Try to put them at least once in the first paragraph, and then lightly scatter them through the rest of the text. Try to write naturally for your visitors and don’t focus on Google (although it won’t feel so natural the first time you try). Remember that neither readers nor Google will like sentences stuffed with keywords, so think about your main keywords, but use your alternatives through the page.
Make some great titles
Back to the technical element. On your website you can see titles and subtitles through your pages. Because they are bold and big we often think that they’re written to help the reader.It’s not true.
In fact, Google also looks at these titles to understand the content on the page (it calls Titles H1 and subtitles H2, H3 etc). Now you’re an expert on keywords this may come easier to you. Consider carefully what you want to write as your title and subtitles, remembering to include your keywords for that particular page.We wrote:
- Title (h1): Simpsons holiday homes in Carlisle
- Subtitle (h2): Luxury holiday apartments in Cumbria
- Subtitle (h2): Holiday flats for family trips
- Subtitle (h2): Places to visit in Carlisle
Don’t feel alone
So now you have some great content on your website, which speaks to both Google and your visitors. Well done! But does it read nicely? It’s often hard to tell if you’ve just spent time working out how many keywords to include, and how many not to include, and really you don’t know if it’s natural now or not. So ask a friend to read your page. They will certainly have some advice (everyone always does!).
Got photos? Use them!
So you have all those beautiful photos of your holiday rental property, the local area, local events on your site, but they’re not just there to look pretty. They’re also speaking to your Search engines. They’re saying, this is a page that has photos of properties in your area. It’s a page that’s important to people looking for a property in your area. But the only way Google can know this, is if you tell it.
The common situation is that people upload their photos but don’t change the name, so it’s left with whatever your camera calls it eg: DSC4116.jpg which tells google nothing.
So you need to name your photos. All of them. But it’s not only Google that reads photos. For those who view websites with no images or have disabilities, an Alternative text (Alt text) describes the photo. And finally some of your photos would benefit from text underneath it. Why? Because sometimes people read captions. So include Captions under some of your photos for extra impact (and don’t forget those keywords!).Here’s the name we gave our homepage image:
- Name: Simpsons-Luxury-Holiday-rentals-Carlisle
- Alt text: Beautiful holiday flat overlooking the castle with wifi and breakfast included by Simpsons holiday homes.
- Caption: Enjoy breakfast and views of Carlisle Castle during your luxury holiday at the Simpsons flats.
Take a breather
You’ve got this far? You’ve done amazing. The keyword process is time-consuming but absolutely essential to get people to your website via the Search Engines. This is a moment to pat yourself on the back, before you make a start on the next stages.
The next article will be available shortly, for what you should do next, to get your holiday rental site in action.