Can a Vanity Website Negatively Impact your Search Rankings?

Google’s visibility penalty and doorway pages explained.

With an average of three billion web queries every day, Internet search is critical to gaining an edge over your competition; it also puts pressure on you to optimize your website, its content and your online presence and activity to make your website more discoverable by search engines.

For branded hotels, though, the question may arise: can having a vanity (independent, local hotel) website negatively impact your search rankings?

Hotel vanity sites are not doorway pages

About two months ago, Google announced a “visibility penalty” aimed at websites that use “doorway pages” – pages with low-quality, thin content and unnatural keyword usage (i.e. more than 2-3% per page). The purpose of the penalty is to improve the search experience and make it as useful as possible for the searcher to access the most relevant results they’re looking for.

This has raised a number of questions from branded hotels who are concerned that their hotel’s vanity website may be considered doorway pages.One global hotel chain thinks so and sent a memo to some of its properties arguing that Google’s recent update will penalize the entire brand. The memo claims that hotel vanity websites fit Google’s criteria of “doorway pages” and properties who keep or create vanity websites may cause Google to penalize the brand website.

Before we go any further, let me calm everyone’s fears – hotel vanity websites are not doorway pages.  Here’s why.

Although vanity websites may contain similar or some of the content that appears on a hotel corporate website, they are not considered doorway pages, according to Google. If that was the case, then all OTAs would be considered doorway pages and in violation of Google’s terms and conditions (yet they continue to rank highly in search engine results pages).

Doorway pages, unlike hotel vanity websites, have low-quality content that does not provide added value for the user – which is something that hotel vanity websites absolutely do. They provide in-depth content on the uniqueness of your hotel and its local story, features, amenities, and reputation.

If your vanity website only displayed the same information as the brand website and is essentially just a booking engine, then there’s no SEO merit in having two similar and almost duplicate pages (although this still wouldn’t be considered a doorway page, it doesn’t provide SEO value).

3 Reasons Why Vanity Websites Benefit Hotels

Google has long penalized websites that are created solely for search engines and may harm a user’s search engine experience – so long as vanity websites are created to provide added value to the user and enhance rather than restrict the search experience, they will not be negatively affected by Google’s latest update. Here are three reasons why vanity websites benefit your hotel:

  1. Tell your unique hotel story: Travel shoppers want to know what sets your hotel apart from the competition and a vanity website allows you to showcase that. Additionally, if your vanity website is used to tell the whole story of your hotel through engaging content complete with its local personality and uniqueness, then it’ll provide value for the user and your search engine rankings as well.
  2. Richer, multi-media content: Your vanity website can provide visitors with richer and deeper visual content including virtual tours and videos that give travel shoppers an idea of the experience they can expect at your property and what sets your property apart from the competition (your unique features, proximity to local attractions and businesses and more). Many hotels have features, amenities and local attributes that cannot always be presented fully on a brand website. As well, most brand websites do not fully support on-page rich media presentations and/or the ability to easily post or change content.
  3. Enhanced targeted: Your vanity website can share relevant content targeting your core demographics such as meeting planners, group planners, SMERF (social, military, educational, religious, fraternal), weddings, special events, MICE (meetings, incentive, conference/conventions and events/exhibition) along with all the local information that is not presented on a brand website.

If done correctly, vanity websites can work in tandem with the brand site by having unique content and linking to it.

Use your vanity website to create and share that engaging content and you won’t be penalized by Google’s latest update.

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