What once began as a “minor ranking factor” is today being given an increasing amount of weight. Hotels with websites that work perfectly across devices are ranking higher in Google than ever.
During 2016, half of online travel bookings were made on mobile devices, expected to increase to 70% by 2019.
Put these two facts together and you have a competitive edge. While hotel websites not optimised for mobile devices are pushing prospective guests away, your mobile-friendly website works harder and Google will give you a larger piece of the pie.
Google Is Helping Businesses That Cater to Mobile Users
Many savvy hotel marketers rushed to improve their website to be mobile-friendly after the initial algorithm update. When a larger boost was given to those making Google happy, early adopters reaped the rewards, receiving a much larger portion of search traffic for users on mobile devices.
Late 2016 was the game changer, as Google introduced “mobile-first indexing“; regardless of what device the user was on, mobile-friendly websites came first. Bing followed suit.
So while your hotel’s website may look incredible on a desktop computer, if it looks bad on mobile, it’s unlikely Google will show it on page one (or three).
Responsive Website Design
Responsive website design allows web pages to be viewed in response to the size of the device the user is browsing your website with, whether it’s mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop and even larger screens.
This ensures all users have an equally enjoyable experience on your website and are far more likely to make a booking. That and, it’s Google’s preferred method.
Chances are your hotel website isn’t mobile-friendly if it:
- is hard to scroll up and down each page
- doesn’t correctly display the menu
- is hard or impossible to read the text
- makes it hard or impossible to click on links (or links are too close to each other, sending you to the wrong page
- displays ads or images over other elements of the page making it impossible to see all of the information on the page
- requires files that can’t be loaded on certain devices
So We Did Some Testing…
We’ve done plenty of responsive design since the first algorithm update, but we couldn’t find any useful statistics on how the industry is adopting responsive design, and more importantly, how many websites (and it’s underlying business) are being penalised by search engines for refusing to adapt.
Using the same method as we did in our post on Hotel Website Security, we created a list of small, independent and boutique hotels. With over 1,000 websites to review, we set about testing them using Google’s mobile-friendly test API in bulk.
Only 17% of Websites Passed with Flying Colors!
Of the hotel websites that we tested for mobile-friendliness, only 17% scored perfect marks. I can’t say how it is affecting their bottom line, but I know for sure that they have a competitive edge when it comes to SEO.
Some 14% of hotel websites completely failed Google’s mobile-friendly test.
Unseen in search engines by users on both mobile and desktop devices, these hotels are no doubt seeing direct bookings decline rapidly. Ouch!
Between these extremes, 69% aren’t making the experience as easy as they should for mobile users. Getting direct bookings is tough enough as it is in 2017 – don’t make your guests work hard to book at your hotel!
While they aren’t technically failing the test, (today a score of 80 or above is technically a pass) you can be certain that this will come under heavy scrutiny in the coming months and years.
Ask yourself, should it be as easy as possible for guests to book over the phone? So why treat guests online differently?
The Opportunity Is Fading Fast
Smartphones and tablets are fast becoming the device of choice for travel bookings. I see a divide between hotels actively pursuing direct bookings, reclaiming revenue from OTAs, and hotel management that has given up in defeat.
While some are exceptional hotels in person, it appears some hoteliers have abandoned their internet presence, paying the price in commission and a lack of brand loyalty.
Hoteliers put enormous amount of effort into the guest experience. If you lack a mobile-friendly website, the first opportunity for you to control a guest’s experience with your hotel is, at best, a bad experience.
More likely, it’s with a competing hotel or OTA!
Competing hotels and OTAs are getting a stronger foothold each day your site isn’t responsive, and this will only continue as search engines tighten their standards.
Updating your hotel website doesn’t need to be painful – but the opportunity is diminishing the longer you leave it.
Want to learn more? “Boutiques Are Failing Google’s Mobile Hotel Website Tests” gives you the full details.