If the term “search engine optimization,” or “SEO” for short, confuses you or evokes the practice of packing keywords into your website, you’re not alone. For years, using SEO in online marketing has been a confusing game of tricks to rank higher in search engines.

For those completely unfamiliar, the Oxford English Dictionary defines search engine optimization as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”

Put more succinctly: Will people looking for hotels in your area or for hotels with your amenities find you?

It seems simple, and it’s one of the most important questions facing hotel marketers.

It’s also one of the most challenging. Continual tweaks and changes to search engine algorithms—Google, in particular—make SEO success a moving target.

“SEO is really the beginning of everything in the digital world, which is always in a state of flux. Google updates algorithms hundreds of times per year,” said Layne Matthews, director of marketing and e-commerce of Peachtree Hotel Group.

What worked in years past is now obsolete, sources said.

“The big issue is that for years, webmasters could game the SEO system,” said Zachary Weiner, CEO of Chicago-based Internet marketing firm Emerging Insider.

“In the past, the No.1 thing Google looked for was the number of backlinks,” said Adam Deflorian, CEO of Denver-based AZDS Interactive Group, which has worked to promote the Heavenly Spa by Westin, Montage Hotels & Resorts, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and the Edward Thomas Collection of Hotels, among others.

“People would try to get some sort of website publisher to list a hotel with a link on its website,” Deflorian said. “Google noted this and things began to change; they no longer put so much weight on lots of links. They began going after Web spam and began to penalize websites by dropping rankings.”

Deflorian said that Google now looks at the website and content as a whole.

These changes are a good thing, sources said, but you must know how to use them to your advantage.

Here are some tips to rank your hotel website higher in search engines:

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