Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics for B&B's

Maybe you have gotten this call or email already: "You have a great website but we think we can get you more traffic.” There is a lot of buzz around organic search ranking (the order in which your site shows up on the Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. unpaid list). An actual innkeeper whose identity we will change, let’s call her Pam from Sonoma CA, recently explained to me that a Search Engine Optimization or SEO firm promised to put her bed and breakfast Website on the first page of Google and keep it there for a mere $700 per year. “Really”, I said, “what search terms do they plan to include?” “Well”, she said, “I’m not sure but I think it was ‘Sonoma bed and breakfast’".

Nobody's Home

Since I had just completed a large keyword study of her area, I knew that almost no one (only 18 people) searched in the past year for the keyword term “Sonoma bed and breakfast”. Many more were searching for related terms like “Sonoma County”, “California wine tasting”, “CA lodges” and even “wine country maps”. It would be pretty costly (several guest night stays worth) to optimize to the top of a list that almost no one will see.

The Web is full of SEO firms trying to entice you to spend marketing dollars on optimization and marketing for your B&B Website. Some SEO firms will legitimately help you to determine the best marketing strategy for your property but there are also firms that simply promise increased rankings. Showing up on the top of a Google list can be effective if many of your qualified prospects are querying Google for the keyword term for which you optimized. SEO for the wrong terms just costs money and will not increase “conversion” (SEO lingo for purchased guest stays resulting from your Website).

Attracting Targeted Guest Traffic

Until recently, proper search engine optimization (SEO) was done by selecting popular search terms and then manipulating the site’s content to help the search engine index it (order its content) to show up within the first 3 non-paid positions of most search engines queries for that term. If the new “personalization” being implemented by Google and other web companies is successful, future search results will become more fragmented and targeted by individual searcher. See the next blog post “Personalized Search Impact on B&B Websites” for more information.

The Right Question

When you hire an SEO firm, the most important question is not “will my site show up on the first page of Google?” Ask the SEO firm how many additional brand new or “absolute unique visitors" can they deliver to your bed and breakfast Website. From the pool of new visitors, you should expect between 1% and 5% to book guest nights depending on how attractive your Website and property are. To determine the cost per conversion, simply do this calculation:

Total projected cost of SEO X Projected Conversion Rate = SEO Cost Per New Guest.
Absolute Unique Visitors

So, let us assume the SEO firm wants to charge you $700 per year. They promise to attract 30 new visitors per month or 360 (Absolute Unique Visitors) to your website per year. Let's also assume that 3% or almost 11 of those new visitors will actually book at least one room night at your B&B. In this case your cost per new guest is $65 ($700 / 360 visitors X 0.03 Booking Conversion). For SEO to make sense, you would need sufficient capacity to book the resulting additional room nights or the option to raise your room rates.