Does your hotel generate love-at-first-site booking conversions? When consumers search for places to stay, besides the name of your hotel the first thing they see is your photo. It influences clicking behavior on OTAs and hotel meta-search (comparison booking) engines. One more place that your property photos appear is in the Google Image Search results. That is why image search optimization is an important hotel SEO technique to bring more consumers to your website to book now or later.
Hotel Web Search Versus Image Search
Searching for hotels by keyword on Google returns a search results page containing link to web content (page matches). To search for images instead of web pages, visit images.google.com (or your local country equivalent) and submit the same travel search keywords. The more common way after conducting a web page search is to click the Images link that appears at the top of the search results page (in the black header bar). The search results will change from a list of pages and descriptions to an array of images that match your search query.
Note: The same type of image search can be selected on Bing and Yahoo! as well, so remember there are other popular search engines.
So how does Google know how to index photos of your hotel both inside and out? Google uses its CPU smarts to process images and determine which keywords apply as well as where to rank your hotel photos. Some are clearly more important than others including:
- Alt tag text for the Html image element which is supposed to describe the picture when not visible
- Filename for the image which oftentimes contains keywords about the photo
- The text that appears around the image, like in a table or div element, for context cues
- Links to that image whether on page (anchor text) or from another location
- General information known about the site and page such as included in the title tag
- Computer vision to recognize known people, places, and things (pretty amazing technology!)
- Text tag for an Html image element which is typically used for displaying hover tooltips
- A caption that sometimes appears below an image (including the new HTML 5 figure tag)
Here is an insightful Google Webmaster Central article on image indexing for all sites, not just hotels and tour booking websites.
Image Search Travel Marketing
So how can you leverage the power of image search to get more visitors to your hotel site? When a consumer searches for hotels or B&Bs in your area, what will they find? By optimizing your hotel photos for image search you can accomplish three important goals. When people search for places to stay in your area and click to view images you want Google Image Search to:
- Include a photo or two of your hotel in the gallery of best matches
- Show a welcoming picture of your hotel that is clickable
- Display the name of your hotel or B&B to promote your brand
Here is an example of the photo results from the hotel search shown above. Note that two of the photos have the name of the property embedded in the image. Which image are you more likely to click first to learn more?
Hotel Image Search Optimization
So to optimize your hotel photos for search follow these best practices. Since the Google algorithm is a secret, I can only offer this advice based on the advice published by Google and the best practices for SEO.
1. Hotel Information Alt Text
- Add image element “alt” text tags on every picture that showcases your lodging
- When describing shots of your hotel, include the full name plus the city or destination
- Add the terms “hotel”, “B&B”, “boutique hotel”, or property type if not already part of your hotel name
- Include an often searched keyword that is highlighted in a photo of your rooms, services, and amenities
2. Clean Up Hotel Image Filenames
- Rename your image files to a short but useful description, similar to the alt tag text
- Use dashes (hyphens) to separate words in the filename for SEO readability
- Verify none of your images are missing after renaming by using a site checker service
3. Embed Text Labels within Hotel Images
- Embed the name of your hotel in one or more important photos (using a graphics editor like Photoshop or PowerPoint)
- Include the city or destination name in the hotel photo to make your location instantly visible
- Consider adding a slogan about your hotel in one or more photos to make your advantage stand out
- For added hotel search optimization benefits without retouching your existing photos, add new ones to a sub-page
4. Review Marketing Content Around Travel Photos
- Look for pages on your site that have photos and minimal text to add more content which reinforces what is advertised in each image
- Rearrange photos to match alongside the descriptions and bullet points that sells your hotel to website visitors
- Add new photos to text heavy but keyword-rich pages to benefit from hotel image search opportunities
Image Search Optimization for Tours and Travel Agencies
While this article talks about hotel image SEO, everything applies to tour operators, travel agencies, restaurants, and vacation activity companies as well. Follow the four rules above to optimize your travel booking website for image search. The only differences are the types of keywords to include in alt text, filenames, and embedded in photos of your travel experience or destination.
For tour operators it is also helpful to get your happy customer photos and maps of your route indexed for image search. Also remember to include your tour company brand name in stock-looking imagery so it stands out among other similar iconic travel photos (like another picture of the Eiffel Tower).
For travel agencies that sell package tours, embedding special offer details in the photos (make sure pricing is kept up to date) can also lead to more travel image search result clicks.
Travel Image Search Testing
Trying out image search to see how your hotel, tour company or travel business ranks is fast and easy. First conduct a search for your tourism business name. If your hotel is web search optimized, your website listing should appear first. Now switch to the image results page. Photos from your website should appear above the fold (without scrolling down). Is that not the case?
Your first hotel image optimization goal is to ensure photos from your site appear front and center when someone searches for your business. This is the same goal as you have for capturing search traffic naturally. It should not be necessary to pay for ad clicks when someone wants to reach your site and searches for it by name on Google.
Next determine your top 4-5 search keywords that prospects use to find your type of tourism business? Conduct the same search and click on the images tab to change the results page from text to travel photo display. Which images stand out and how do they compare with the photos that sell your tourism products and services? Refer to the optimization rules above to tweak what is necessary to improve your hotel image search ranking and get more inbound visitors.
Finally once you have image search optimized your hotel and travel selling photos by brand and keyword on Google, do the same tests on Bing and Yahoo! as well. If you have followed best practices and avoided tricks, your hotel (tour and travel agency too!) will be worth a thousand words on the image search results page.