Portfolio‎ > ‎

How to gain backlinks strategy

This is an excerpt from a content marketing / backlinks building strategy prepared for a leading Africa's 3rd party booking site. The structure of report may differ from the original one. This piece of content is featured through a license of a respective rights owner FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES only. All names have been changed to keep the involved parties privacy.


Introduction


For OTA (Online Travel Agency or 3rd party booking) like aclientsite the property owners’ sites are a natural source of links. Though much has been said about OTAs and hotels relations, OTAs bring in distribution and reach, which is especially true for guest houses, self catering accommodations and small hotels, because not all of them have the budget for marketing and branding.

Obviously, the whole structure of relations of OTAs and property owners has been changing very swiftly. For example, the OTAs like acompetitorsite have prospered though years from links coming from the hotels sites. This practice is being a rudimental now as hotels prefer to feature only the content that’s most instrumental to their goal.

Arguably, hotel sites (if taken generally) understood that links exchange won't do them any good. OTAs, like acompetitorsite, are no longer supplementing occupancy, but rather, competing directly against a hotel’s own promotional efforts in their primary feeder markets and cannibalizing the direct business

So, when it comes to posting a backlink, hotel sites will only do that IF it brings them a bonus, for example, demonstrate their site’s credibility to a prospective client. Paradoxically enough, hotels are now willing to link 3rd party booking providers in order to enhance their own direct booking capacity. Arguably, even an image link to OTAs is used by hotels to, foremost, demonstrate their own credibility, and not prompt booking through an OTA. Yet, as property owners experience has changed, aclientsite gained additional edge to compete with the old-school OTAs using its own online marketing, SEO and Google Adwords strategies.

Leisure facilitators (‘what to do’ sites) are another element of the content consumption chain created by OTAs and property owners. These are news selling sites, travelers’ hubs and Waymarking blogs. They usually monetize on traffic or may even be a part of OTAs affiliate network (for example, Drakensberg Tourism). Leisure facilitators produce quality content on they own but need some relevant data on places to stay. As the cost of producing this content is high enough, they are willing to ‘outsource’ that to OTAs if they can - see for example, GoAfrica.

A customer is the upper link in the content consumption chain. H/she searches for information online and is commonly regarded as an aim of online marketing efforts. In reality, customers are most important rainmakers influencing peers through online Reviews and Social Networks. This is how they keep the content pyramid in balanced. According to TMOZ reviews signals has been a most powerful predictor of a purchase in the tourism industry over the recent years. Accordingly, customer links are counted as very important signals by search engines too. Search engines, like Google, have been increasingly active introducing, for example, Google Search Carousel for hotels.

Therefore, a success of aclientsite content marketing and backlinks strategy is measured by how effectively it fits with the needs of participants to the content consumption chain above. 


Premise owners experience


Premise owners have been using OTAs to effectively distribute its services. They are interested in getting the highest position within a listing; still even more they are interested in direct booking. Historically, premise owners have been posting a bunch of backlinks to OTAs to finally find themselves on slippery slopes of backlinking – incremental value of another external link has been approaching zero. That’s why, adding up another list of links to links (i.e. OTA site) is definitely their NON-GOAL. 

Please see how the OTA links used to look on a hotel site below.

The green tree guest cottages

Here is another example – Guest House Michelitsch. It has come through an evolution and has stripped itself from the unnecessary links that it used to have - all pages with links to acompetitorsite has been removed – 404 error.

So, Guest House Michelitsch clearly demonstrates that Premise owners are potentially inclined to switch to useful content and widgets instead of linking OTAs indiscriminately. These, for example, are Reviews & Weather widgets as well as Currency Exchange Rates.

So, I recommend adopting a strategy of producing the most instrumental content that will catch property owners’ attention and earn you some backlinks.  

Let’s take a closer look at the site's Tools bar that a typical property owner may need. 


Visitors’ reviews

Visitors’ reviews are regarded by customers as most useful source of information on the accommodation. They are unwilling to trust hotels but would rather see what other customers think. Despite almost all hotel sites feature some visitors’ reviews on a page; their perceived credibility is obviously low. 

That’s why hotel sites love to link TripAdvisor reviews. Yet, the more reviews the better – so make them link aclientsite reviews too. I suggest making a simple widget that will feature number of aclientsite users’ reviews and their overall score for a particular accommodation. 

This is a small piece of code that can be embedded on a page and contain a link to a listing on https://www.aclientsite.com so that a customer may read full text of reviews.        

Learn on the others experience with creating a review widget: 

Alternatively, you can go for it with Google Reviews. It’s easier and can be even much fan. So you may educate a hotel site owner on Google Reviews. To that end, create a blog post with instruction how to mark up the content to make Google them on the search results page. You r folks will definitely love it!  Propose them to add a link to your site too, beside their own reviews. Once you give them a free useful tip, they will be grateful enough to link your page especially if it’s all about them. 

For a more detailed discussion how to use a blog to gain a backlink see below.


A hotel street view

Google Street View is an application a site owner can easily embed from Google. But also, it’s a nice tool for creating extra backlinks. Obviously, hotels are willing to enhance their user experience. That’s why they'll be willing to link a listing page section that features a hotel street view. Take a look at the example above – River Side Estates GuestHouse – a property owner is trying hard to be relevant and instrumental for a potential customer. Isn’t a link to a Street view of his location a great idea for him? Does he / she even know about this feature? 

Google Street View


After all, a mere fact that a property is listed on aclientsite is another sign of trustworthiness. 
To make it handier for users, I suggest that you made the Street View section a link’s anchor (for example, https://www.aclientsite.com/listing/3779#streetview) by contrast to JavaScript function that you presently use. This way, a link will get user directly to the Street View section, which more comfortable.
 
Learn more information on links anchors
To attract backlinks you only need to send out an invitation line to hotels that have a working street view widget on their listing’s page.

Currency Converter

Currency converter is a popular link with hotel sites. One of the most linked currency converters is XE.com. So, why not embed a 3rd party a currency converter on aclientsite and make hotel sites link to you, not XE.com?

I recommend embedding DailyFX widget. It's nice and can easily be customized. Left alone the fact that it's my another client.       

See how it may look: 

DailyFX Currency Converter Widget


A list of things to do near a site

A property owner is ultimately interested in showing off his/her accommodation. To do that h/she needs to teach a potential customer on possible activities near a site. That’s when you invite them to link Activities section on your site. Alternatively, you can create a basic widget featuring Top 10 activities nearby that can be embedded into a hotels site. 

   

To do that you shall need to create an Activities RSS newsfeed first. I suggest using Feed43.com to turn any page into a an RSS feed. Learn more on how it works

Secondly, you need create an embeddable news feed widget. It can be custom made or you can use free proprietary widgets like FeedWind, FeedZilla or Feedgrabbr.


Destination travel guide

I suggest that you streamlined your destination, activities and accommodation data to produce a concise ‘2 minute summary’ (this is how long a user wants to stay on a page). For example, see Responsible Travel Guide to South Africa

Other examples of travel guides:

Travel guide shall be fun and compelling. It shall not be an original piece of content written from scratch. Instead, it has to be a straight to the point one. That’s what will earn you backlinks. 

To market a destination travel guide you would want to bring to the attention of property owners as well as travel directories and even put on Wikipedia. 

For example, see how a Dautch travel directory links Cape Town Travel Guide below.

 

Smaller towns travel guides have a good chance to get right in top of SERP simply because they’ll benefit from your site’s PageRank. Importantly, you shall need to make a destination travel guide accessible from each listing page.   

To facilitate communication with the property owners, you may use a Blog. This way not only you can have lots of new backlinks but also win brand new customers. 

As I was saying earlier, blogging is an effective way for exchanging useful tips. Be assured that you property owners will like that and link to it, Especially, the most active ones that use blog weekly. 


So, what a ‘blogging hotel’ wants?

Typically, hotel sites use a blog to enhance their search engine ranking positions as well as keep continued relations with a customer. Please see below an example of structure of a hotel blog

A typical blogs structure of a hotel blog

Still, production of high quality content is not for them. And they are always looking for a good piece of content to put on a blog. So, that’s when you need your content marketing. 

There are two basic things that most bloggers want: 1) some fun stuff, 2) something about them. 

For example, Top-10 things the tourist has left behind in the Cape Town accommodation is a fun thing to now, isn't it?For some inspiration, see Nine things most often left behind at hotels or 10 weird things left behind by tourists.

This is something most blogging hotels (and not only) would like to re-post – see the whole SERP. And sure there are plenty of ways to make people buzz about it on the web – stating from Reddit to Twitter.  

Hotels sites and blog are often willing to link the sites that wrote about them. After all, this is a sign of credibility. For example, see how a restaurant mentions acompetitorsite below.

 

Obviously, to deserve a mention this has to be an accommodation’s review or a rank up.

That’s why I suggest creating a succinct guide to hotels that share something in common. Unlike sa-venues.com blog,  I don't recommend creating a guide on a certain destination. Instead, I recommend reviewing hotels that share the same niche, for example, safari lodges. This is when a blog owner will say ‘They wrote about me!’ and mentions it in his/ her blog and site too. In order to facilitate backlinking, it’s useful to ping back the blogs you mention or even drop them a line saying ‘Hey, we wrote about you’. 

Notably, blog is a two way communication tool, so you can use you blog to not only constantly build your backlinks and but also receive you customers feedback. And even engage them in a discussion or networking. Unlike many other OTAs, your revenue model allows for rather straightforward relations with property owners, which informs trust and respect. 

So, it is will be rather natural if you come up an idea to educate premise owners through your blog / e-newsletter. Or even Google + social media account. You can advice them how to improve their Online marketing / Online Reputation. Not only will this set you apart from other OTAs, but also warrant a bulk a backlinks.

Predictably, 1 post per week how to Enhance User Experience will put you on the top of the hotel owners list. It’s useful to help readers share your post via Social Networks or even comment and discuss it. Importantly, some of your best online marketing ideas for small site owners will directly relate your site too as you essentially are partners. 

See Factors influencing ones position with acompetitorsite Search Ranking or Tips to add value a website using acompetitorsite widgets for an example. Obviously, acompetitorsite have approached this idea but without any actual efforts to follow through. Here’s another example that has been implemented more consistently - a NightsBridge blog.  

As a summary, you shall remember, you have a source of potential backlinks right in front of you – these are property owners that have already signed up and, at least occasionally, use your site. You can teach them to make backlinks to you right from the back end of your site.


Again, what a property owner wants from OTA?

Obviously, property owners are interested in getting a higher position for their listing with aclientsite. So, you can use an On-page content quality grader as major predicting factor of a listing’s position within your rank-up. This is something Google uses to grade a quality of content. 

So, your index may grade how informative and relevant a hotel page is using several basic criteria. Obviously, adding links to a useful and relevant content is something that creates a better user experience and thus shall be awarded with higher position with aclientsite rank-up. 


Travel blog experience

Editorial links are most valuable. That’s why you may want to go an extra mile to earn some of backlinks from travel blogs / sites.


What a travel blogger wants?

Professional travel blogs want a content that’s scaled down to a certain audiences’ needs. It’s always fun. And it tells that a blogger is an expert in the field. 

I suggest creating lists of accommodation friendly for birders / fishers / pet lovers, etc. You can use a link to Google Docs online form to collect the data from your listed property owners. The data can be exported in different formats and fed directly into your site’s database. Learn more more on using Google Docs for online forms building and see a Youtube video.

Once done, you have your content repacked to target specific audience. Obviously, it will increase your outreach to leisure facilitators, news sites, etc. Make, for example, Deals on safari lodges and guesthouses in South Africa to promote a Safari lodges’ compilation from your listing.
 
See some examples of backlink opportunities below:
Needless to say, you can create a separate lists of properties OR /AND specifically mark them [with an icon] on a destination listing page. This will increase a chance of linking your destination pages too.
Importantly, down-to-the-audience content can attract backlinks not only from specific audience-borne blogs but also large and well established travel sites. 

These are some sites that have featured the like content in the past.

Travelers’ sites 


Travelers’ blogs


Cuisine blogs


Additionally, the data collected to create a list can be used to easily produce smart guides to hotels within the same niche. For example, see blog.sa-venues.com.

Importantly, with travel blogs & sites it’s useful to actively seek their attention and make the first step. To further excel in this, it’s useful to write to them directly in addition to pinging them back. This way they’ll surely know that you have written about them, which increase your chances of being mentioned and receive a backlink.

Wiki

In addition to using Wikipedia Links for promoting travel guides (see discussion above), I can recommend using Wikitravel (a Wikipedia project) to link individual listings. However, it shall be done responsibly – in case the property owner does not have a site, or the site does not function properly. See below an example how acompetitorsite does the same. 



Spamming Wiki Travel is no good by any means. Notably, at least one user presumably related to acompetitorsite was found to be spamming Wiki travel with the like things. 
  
Besides, I can also recommend using Wiki travel API to embed useful content (travel guides) on your page.


Horizontal marketing

Reseller / Affiliate programs. Sites featuring a content related to specific location may want to feature accommodation info too. This may be nice for their users AND earn them extra dollars. Reseller option can be especially interesting for community or location related sites
Below is an example of a site that takes use of acompetitorsite reseller program.



For more information on affiliate marketing programs with South Africa OTAs see travelpr.co.za.


Google Reviews

Small business marketing is more about reputation than SEO. That’s why Google maps, Google reviews and Google My business is three cornerstones of effective small business marketing. See below how acompetitorsite has been using Google Reviews to get three quality backlinks where other would have none.


See the mark up of Reviews on the source page: view-source:http://www.acompetitorsite.com/destinations/kenilworth/Restaurants/Banana-Jam-Cafe.aspx


 
Here’s the first link – from Google Knowledge Graph Panel – Knowledge Snippet next to SERP (see below). 


The second link – from the ‘They wrote about us’ section of the restaurant’s page (see below).


 
And the third link is actually a TOP 10 position on Google SERP for a review page.



Not bad, isn’t it?

So, I recommend using Structured Data to mark up Reviews on the accommodation listings page. 
Here is how to add mark up for a property and more on Schema.org mark up product vocabulary.


Google knowledge graphs

Google knowledge graphs are a knowledge base used to enhance a semantic search on the web. Specific properties of knowledge are showcased with various Google snippets that are being continuously introduced into the look & feel of SERP. As was showcased with Banana Jam Café example, creation of knowledge attributes for a certain entity comes from a variety of sources – itself, reviewers, Wikipedia, etc. 

Undoubtedly, OTAs potentially are massive contributors of structured knowledge data for accommodation entities, which helps them win a greater web reputation and even greater search results. Still, OTAs can also greatly benefit from this job – once traced down to every instance of structured data creation OTA can becomes a grand knowledge contributor, which makes it a great authority in the eyes of Google. How to take avail of it? First, become an Knowledge Entity itself. Second, do your daily job of excelling structured mark up.  

As discussed in the Official Google blog, a recently introduced extension to the Google search results shows that only TripAdvisor has a Knowledge graph of its own. See how it looks on the SERP below.

So, I recommend creating a knowledge graph for aclientsite using Free base and Wiki Data.

Learn on the general experience of Knowledge graph creation in Moz article. And see Trip Advisor Freebase entity for some inspiration.



Comments