As we enter the last quarter of 2021, those of us in the hospitality industry are left thinking about what the future holds for travel and tourism.

Travel took a significant plunge during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s still feeling heavy repercussions. Fortunately, Fifty Grande’s 2021 Travel Survey revealed that 77 percent of Americans are planning to travel this year or would travel right now. Another 14 percent plan to travel in 2022. 

In other words, travel is rockin’ and now’s the time to really start optimizing and marketing for maximum ROI.

That brings us to today’s blog topic: search engine optimization in the coming year. 2022 is going to hold some big changes, and if hospitality businesses want to recoup their losses and thrive in this post-pandemic world, they’ll need to pay close attention.

In our opinion, these are the five big SEO trends to watch for next year – plus tips for using them to your benefit.

1. Voice Search on a New Level 

The first important trend is already here and has been for years: voice search. However, the Google I/O conference unveiled a new element called “LaMDA.” This is bringing even more emphasis to voice search.

This new language model addition is designed to carry on open-ended conversations with human users – without repeating information. It can be trained to read words, understand the relationships between words in sentences, and predict what would come next organically.

Image Source: Google

In other words, this is a voice search feature that was trained on dialogue. It’s smart, and it’ll expand beyond repetitive phrases and generic replies.

So what does this mean for businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry?

It means making your language more natural and conversational than ever before. Long gone are the days of short, choppy keywords. Look for long-form answers, keywords, and content that will fit neatly into real conversations in voice search. 

If your current website is keyword-heavy but not natural sounding, it will be difficult for your hospitality business to rank in this increasingly conversational world.

2. The Chance for Passage Ranking

Next, we need to talk about passage ranking.

Have you ever wanted a specific answer from Google, but struggled to find it right away? Well, the search engine is upping its game when it comes to delivering nuanced answers to niche queries.

Image Source: Google

Passage ranking will, as Google says, help the search engine “find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.” It’s estimated that this new ability to better read and understand specific passages will affect up to 7 percent of search queries – and that’s substantial.  

Think about this in terms of travel searches. If you’re searching for “the best place to stay in Rome” on Google while you’re on the go, do you want to be given dozens of links to lengthy articles? Or do you want to get a quick result with a highlighted excerpt, clearly answering your question?

Although there’s not much you can do to get your specific passages to rank, your hospitality business can focus on creating high-quality content that answers important traveler questions concisely and accurately.

Google isn’t just ranking web pages – it’s ranking passages, so every paragraph your content team writes counts. Fluffing, keyword-stuffing, and writing content “for the sake of writing content” won’t work.

3. Increased Use of Artificial Intelligence 

Third on our list is artificial intelligence – and no, we’re not talking about robots. We’re talking about the AI that influences how Google (and other search engines) rank websites and excerpts.

Over the years, artificial intelligence has come to play a significant role in SEO. We particularly want to highlight Google’s AI algorithm, RankBrain, which is predicted to become even more influential in 2022.

RankBrain learns and analyzes content in a whole new (intelligent) way by assessing how searchers behave and interact with content. For instance, it will take into account things like the time users spend on a page and click-through rates. 

Most importantly, RankBrain uses UX signals to understand:

 1)      What keyword the user types into Google

2)      How that keyword translates into a concept

3)      What results are pertinent to that concept

We could spend a lot more time diving into RankBrain’s intricacies, but the key thing to remember is that this AI algorithm is smarter than before. It will understand when your content is well-organized, useful, and satisfying to readers – and when it’s not.

4. An Emphasis on “Page Experience” 

Another thing that 2022 will bring more attention to is your website’s “page experience.”

We’re talking about the signals that measure/indicate how users perceive your web page – beyond the information it provides. These include your Core Web Vitals, which we’ll talk about in our next point.

Although Google has repeatedly stated that it wants to rank sites with the best information overall, we cannot ignore page experience. The search engine wants to rank accurate and helpful websites, but also sites that are user-friendly and enjoyable to visit. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a boutique hotelier or a massive hospitality chain. If your hotel’s website is slow to load and clunky, but it offers the same level of information to searchers as a competitor’s sleek site, guess which one Google’s going to prioritize? 

There are more than 700,000 hotels and resorts in the world. It doesn’t matter where your hospitality business is – you have competitors, and to outrank them, your website doesn’t just need to have the right content. It also needs to provide an exemplary user experience.

This brings us to our next 2022 SEO trend…

5. Optimizing for Core Web Vitals 

Introduced recently, Core Web Vitals are the metrics that will help you understand how users experience a web page. Not only will it show you what users think of your page, but it will show Google. In fact, your Core Web Vitals score will soon play a role in your SERP rankings. 

In June of 2021, Google stated that these web vitals will account for three key measurements: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Let’s take a look.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This is a metric that reports the render time of your largest images or text blocks. In other words, the LCP indicates how long it takes for the bulk of your page (or its most visible element) to fully render.

Why does Google care about this? Because it’s the first thing a user sees. If that pristine, large photo of your hotel’s exterior takes more than a couple of seconds to load, users (and Google) won’t be inclined to put much stock in your website. 

In fact, Google has confirmed that this score will have an impact on SEO rankings in the future – even if it will be relatively small.

So what can your hospitality business do if you have a low LCP score? Ensure images aren’t too big to load quickly. Preload graphics for the correct screen width. Compress images to the right size, and if necessary, switch out heavy images for something faster and sleeker.

First Input Delay (FID) 

This metric assesses the interactivity of your page and how quickly it responds to users’ actions. If a user clicks “book now” and it takes too long to load, they’ll leave – and Google will notice. 

The king of search engines wants to rank sites that please users, and input delays are a huge detriment. If you have a low FID score, you’ll need to work on optimizing load speeds by:

          Using modern JavaScript

          Minifying your scripts

          Removing non-critical third-party scripts

          Optimizing scripts for better performance

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

 

The third Core Web Vital, CLS, refers to the stability of a user’s visual experience on a page. A low score reflects shifts in the website’s performance and will translate to a negatively impacted rank in Google search results.

You’ve probably had a page shift on you before as you read. It causes you to lose your place or sometimes click on the wrong thing. A frustrated user is a lost client, and now, your CLS score will tell you if your page is shifting. 

How can you fix this? It’s a bit too complicated to tackle in-depth in this blog post, but you can start by:

          Setting width and heights on images and iFrames

          Checking your fallback elements

          Using downloaded, consistent web fonts

For more information, refer to this great resource from Smashing Magazine.

Long story not-so-short, Core Web Vitals are new and important to your SEO plan in 2022 and beyond. If your scores are low, they will have at least some impact on your hospitality business’s ranking capabilities – and that’s something you should take seriously.

To Wrap It Up

We know it can feel overwhelming to think about all the SEO strategies and tactics your hospitality team needs to use, but trust us: every bit of effort will contribute to a more successful 2022. Travel is about to pick up again, and your company needs to be ready to snag online bookers and researchers. 

Not sure how to handle some of the trends we listed above?

Contact LURE Agency to talk about your hospitality marketing strategies. We’re at the forefront of all SEO-related news, and we’ll help you prepare for next year’s online expectations and beyond.

To get started, call 619-273-5100 or send us a message online. It’s never too late to optimize your hotel’s website for the future.