There’s been a long debate about Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) in online marketing and whether they are beneficial or damaging to the hospitality industry. One of the main arguments regarding if OTAs are a positive or negative asset is if they are “stealing traffic” from a hotel or B&Bs website. Due to the amount of information OTAs provide users, such as reviews, ratings, and price reassurance, small independent hotels are concerned that OTAs allow visitors to avoid their own website. In a way, OTAs have become somewhat of a competitor to the independent hospitality industry looking to increase traffic to their sites. They also play a large role competing in paid search. But it’s time small hotel businesses realize, if you can’t beat them, join them.
Bed and breakfasts and vacation rental companies should be using these third-party travel agencies to their best advantage. Small to mid-size businesses often face the decision whether or not to partner with a travel agency and it can take a lot of digging around to find the right OTA that is both cost-effective and dependable to participate in. While it might seem like there are a lot of cons with partnering in OTAs, independent hotels and B&Bs can use them to their advantage. Here’s how partnering with an OTA can benefit your website’s SEO:
Increased Market Exposure
OTAs already have an existing market reach, and exposure on these sites is a lot more beneficial than we might think. With OTAs, businesses can provide unique keyword-rich descriptions, include categories, list price, gain reviews, and link directly to their website. Reviews have long been a beneficial factor in local SEO, and OTAs are simply another way to gain them. Reviews can help point users in the direction of your site and help consumers make decisions on future purchases and bookings.
Small hotels often worry that OTAs might affect direct bookings, therefore driving traffic away from their site and losing revenue. After all, OTAs do require a fee in order to participate and users have the option to book through a travel agency rather than on the B&B website itself. Contrary to this belief, OTAs in SEO can actually increase direct bookings.
Users often use OTAs for initial research and then click-through to your website. The ability to compare and contrast hotels is easy in an OTA, but once a decision has been made, it is common for customers to take a final look at a businesses website. According to Google, 52% of travelers visit a hotel website after observing it on an OTA. B&Bs can take additional steps to ensure users book directly:
- Offer incentives for booking directly without straying from the OTA price (think: upgrades, inclusive breakfast, etc.)
- Build awareness and engagement through tactics like email marketing and newsletters
Lastly, OTAs are simply another way to build citations for your local business. Citations are key players in local SEO, and a listing or profile on an OTA acts as another listing for your website. Like any business listing, make sure the information presented on your OTA is consistent and accurate with what’s on your website to avoid confusion and harming your SEO. Citations ultimately ties back into click-through rates, meaning it gives users a display of your business information, linking back directly to your B&B or rental website.
Convinced OTAs are positive for SEO? Here are few to consider using for your B&B or vacation rental company:
Booking.com is probably one of the more popular OTAs; largely because it is cost-effective, meaning independent hotels and inns often turn here. To make Booking.com a more affordable option, they decided to only charge properties and hotels per booking, rather than a flat monthly fee. Booking.com also partnered with The Priceline Group, making them a more reputable company, another plus when potential visitors are looking for a place to stay.
Easily one of the most popular booking sites in the hospitality industry is TripAdvisor, and it allows small hotels and B&Bs to display thorough, detailed information about their business. Small businesses can take advantage of free listings on TripAdvisor.
HomeAway.com and VRBO.com
Both of these sites are partnered and are reputable sites for vacation rental companies. There are various pricing options for property owners, including an annual fee or pay-per-booking.