(Note: The information in this blog post is also available in the video above. Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel?)
Is your hostel not showing up as high as you would like in Google search results?
Do you want more direct bookings, but realize that travelers would have to click through page after page of Google search results, just to find your hostel website?
Well, this might be because your hostel website is great at accepting reservations, but it sucks at getting people to actually camp out and spend time with your website.
In the above video, I'll introduce you to the world of content marketing for hostels. So your hostel can rank higher in search
The secret to how Google works
Let's face it, Google the modern-day librarian for all knowledge on the web. In the same way real-world librarians can help you find the book you need. Google can help you find the website. Most of the time.
To understand the way Google works or in other words, how it makes recommendations to its users. Let's say you're visiting a real-world library, you know, with books. You're doing a report for school and you need to find out as much information as possible about tennis, and there is a ton of books in the library. So you asked the human librarian to recommend a book.
Now most librarians will make their recommendations based on things like:
- How big is the book? How much quality information is in there?
- How often do people take it off the shelf?
- How long do they spend with it? Or, how often do they check it out?
- How often is the book updated and how many other books reference this book in their writing?
Now, Google is very much the same as a real-world librarian. When someone searches a website on tennis, it will recommend a website based on:
- How big is the website? How many pages of quality information are in it?
- How often do people click a search result to look at the website?
- How often do people spend on the website?
- How often is the book updated? In other words, how well is the website maintained?
- And perhaps most importantly, how many other websites reference this website by putting a link to it?
Now, the only difference between our human librarian and a Google librarian is Google sees nearly every interaction with every website on the planet.
It's pretty scary. When you think about it!
So the problem for hostels (and hotels) is that Google tends to look at websites as if they were books, containing information and knowledge. The more quality information and knowledge that a website has and the more other websites link to it, the more likely Google will recommend that website in a search to users.
So the question is, what kind of book does your hostel website look like to Google? Is it a sales brochure or an encyclopedia containing all the information about your destination?
The cruel irony for hostels (and hotels) is that the ideal website visitor for you is somebody who comes to your website and immediately clicks on BOOK NOW and makes a reservation. But this looks like a dissatisfied website visitor to Google. As far as Google sees the visitor clicked on your page and immediately clicked off.
Hopefully, this click was to your direct booking engine. Even though your website visitor may have made a booking, you don't get credit for that in the eyes of Google, as far as SEO goes. This is called a bounced website visitor.
Now, would you like to know how to get website visitors to spend more time on your website? Keep reading...
For the moment, I'm going to tell you how you can immediately and simply extend the amount of time that Google sees visitors on your website.
Google Analytics Tags
Now for this to work, you will need to have Google analytics tags installed on your hostel website and on your direct booking engine. Now, if you don't have Google analytics tags installed on your website, you really need to get them. Because, in addition to all the valuable data that Google Analytics will provide you about how visitors are interacting with your website (like where they are from, what pages on your site are the most popular, what websites they were on immediately before they arrived on your website and how long they spent on your website), the tags all allow Google to see this data also.
Now, if your website visitor has Google Chrome, that could presumably give Google additional insight into the actions of your website visitor, but this depends on their privacy settings. And a lot of other factors that very few people understand.
The main point I'm trying to make here is, is that given the fact that Google is the monster search engine on the planet, you should do everything possible to encourage that monster, to recommend your hostile website.
So now that you have Google analytics tags installed on your website, you should set up cross-domain tracking (or cross-domain measurement as they're starting to call it) between your hostel website and your direct booking engine. This way, Google will start to understand that your website and your direct booking engine are really the same.
Think about it, your ideal website visitor, (the one that immediately clicks on your book now button) will spend most of their time on your direct booking engine. After all, they have to choose dates, select room types, decide what and how they want to book, enter in all of their details and credit card information. If you don't have cross-domain tracking set up. Google will attribute all of that time spent on your direct booking engine as time not spent on your hostel website!
To be honest, I don't know if other direct booking engines support cross-domain tracking, but we do support it with HostelSnap. And, we are continually working on this to improve the trackability of your website visitors all the way through to the point where the reservation is complete.
Let's face it, even though you love everything about your hostel. There are only so many ways that you can describe it in words, and only so many pictures you can take. Even then, it's very doubtful that a traveler wants to spend much time reading how great your hostel is. So what else can you do to make your hostel website sticky?
Welcome to regional content marketing. My friend. Think about it. You are literally a destination expert in the region where your hostel is located. Day after day, you help guests by answering answer questions about what to do, what to see, and where to eat. It's what you do! The customer service that you provide that makes your hostel so much better than other accommodation providers in your area.
It's time to start writing down all of that knowledge. To make your website really shine and have Google see it as a quality provider of knowledge, you need a blog. Now, before you click away thinking that I'm about to assign a whole lot of homework to you. I encourage you to keep reading, and I will show you a super-easy way to create this content for your website with practically no writing at all!
If you're saying I can't even get my guests to read the reservation cancellation policy. They certainly aren't going to spend time reading my website. Well, the magic of content marketing is, is it doesn't have to be your guests that are doing the reading, Google doesn't care who does the reading and spends time on your website. Google only cares that your website is providing quality information to people who are looking for that information about your destination.
Now, perhaps you're saying my hostel is located in a very popular destination and I'll never compete with all of the professional writers that have written about this destination. I know, I know we had that problem at my hostel in San Francisco. But because San Francisco is a super expensive destination, most tourist writing is literally useless to backpackers. So we wrote blog posts that feature the absolute cheapest and "free-est" things to do in San Francisco. The back alley secrets that would only be shared in hostels. This was the type of knowledge that budget travelers and adventure travelers wanted to know about San Francisco.
Here are just a few of the searches that landed us a spot on the first page of Google search results.
Our hostel website can even help when you do a search for... I know some of you will think that this is really crazy... 😜
Yes. We even posted about our competitors on our website because we think that that's the kind of information budget travelers coming to San Francisco we're looking for. By the way, to be fair, we list them in the order of highest rating to lowest so it just so happens that we're on top. But you can rank the hostels on your website any way you want. 😜
The point is is that when Google sees your website providing quality information, it will start to show your website higher and higher in search results.
And this means more visitors to your website, and this means more direct bookings for your hostel.
Content Management System Software
Now, let me give you a little insight and how to make this work for your hostel website. First, if your hostel website is currently one of those super simple websites with a handful of pages (you know, like a brochure) it is time to upgrade to a CMS-based website. CMS stands for content management system. And it is what will allow you to easily publish all that destination knowledge on your site. Once this is all set up, all you would need to do is enter the text and the pictures and you just click publish!
Now you'll still want to have a nicely designed website with a homepage that is very easy for visitors to find and click BOOK NOW. But you'll also want to start filling all of those underlying pages of your website with rich travel information that only you know, as a hostel owner in your destination. Let us know if you need to find somebody to help you upgrade your hostel website to one with a content management system built-in.
Okay. So I promised no homework if you kept reading and here you are.
The software that I'm starting to use and make videos with and write the associated blog post is called Descript. This thing's amazing.
All you have to do is use your phone to record yourself telling one of your guests, some of the juicy knowledge about the awesome things to do and the places to see near your hostel. Then you take this video (or audio works too) and load it into the descript software. Descript will transcribe the audio and make a text document that you can simply proofread and do edits on. (Yes. As you guessed, it will frequently confuse the word hostel for hostile, like every other voice to text out there. 🤷♂️ )
Anyway, all you need to do after proofreading is copy and paste this text to your new CMS website.
See, I told you you wouldn't need to do a bunch of writing!
Oh, yeah. The mind-blowing part about Descript is that now that you've edited the text document the video (or audio) is now a nicely edited video and all the "ums", "ahs" and filler words taken out. If you want, you can now post that video to YouTube and then embed the video in your blog post.
Seriously. I love this software. And as of the writing, I am not an affiliate, so I'm not making any money by recommending Descript, but I have applied to be an affiliate. So if I'm approved, I'll update this post and disclose my affiliate partnership here.
Thanks for reading!