Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 113 – Hotel Marketing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to SEO

by Stuart Butler

This is the second episode in our hotel marketing 101 series. In this show, we dig into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and give practical advice about how hotels can drive more direct revenue from organic search.

Stat Of The Week:
As a percentage of traffic, we see anywhere from 30%-45% from natural search. Varies by property depending on how much PPC they are doing, email marketing, etc. This percentages have remained about the same over the years.

What Is SEO?

In short, SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of driving a higher quantity and a higher quality of natural search traffic to your website.
You try to achieve higher quality traffic by targeting keywords that people typically search before booking a hotel. You achieve a higher quantity of that traffic by improving your rank for those target keywords.

I thought that SEO was dead. Why should I care about SEO?

Google is always changing and every time an update is announced the industry will cry that SEO is dead. It’s not dead. It likely will never die. But tactics will inevitably change.
Why should you care about SEO? Because if you become complacent, your competition will surpass you in rankings because they will be paying attention to the new tactics and ever changing ranking factors.

How has Google improved their algorithm over the past 5 years, and how has the SERP changed?

As we mentioned, Google is constantly tweaking the algorithm to provide what they consider to be more relevant results to searchers. They are also constantly changing how they display search results to searchers. Over the past 5 years Google has:

  • Taken a mobile first approach:
    • Values fast sites that are easy to use on mobile devices.
    • They’re devaluing sites that include intrusive interstitials on mobile devices
  • They have put an emphasis on security by giving secure sites higher value.
  • They have become better at evaluating content and give more value to unique, high quality content
  • They have cleaned up local search packs and map results by removing spammy and duplicate listings and giving value to high quality, accurate listings.
  • They devalue sites that are trying to game their algorithm by using blackhat tactics such as keyword stuffing and backlink schemes
  • Google will never tell us exactly what they’re changing in their algorithm because they don’t want to give away their secret sauce, but we do know that both major and minor updates happen on a regular basis.

The SERP, or Search Engine Results Page, is also an ever-changing landscape. This is especially true in the hotel space.

  • Years ago, Google removed Ads from the right rail of the SERP and shifted from 3 ads to 4 on the top of the SERP, pushing organic listings further down.
  • They increased the number of headlines, descriptions and extensions which make ads much more prominent
  • They have increased the size and functionality of maps and hotel listings which also pushed organic listings down further.
  • They have added featured snippets which answer commonly asked questions within an answer box at the top of the page so users don’t even need to visit a site to get the information they’re looking for
  • If you pogo-stick back to SERP the listing you just clicked on will have a “related searches” box below it
  • They have increased the amount of “related searches” at the bottom of SERPs
  • They’ve added aggregate rating next to organic hotel listings
  • We’re now seeing Google test out a box that shows rates by night for hotels
  • And per our newsaroo… favicons are showing next to organic listings on mobile

What’s Next For SEO?

  • Mobile experience will likely become an increasingly important ranking factor
  • We should expect Google to continue testing new SERP features that will make their ads more prominent and push organic listings further down the SERP
  • Google will be keeping more searchers within their funnel (like GHA) and organic traffic will likely continue to decline
  • More SERP features and results will be driven by schema markup, including voice searches
  • We will see an increase in question based queries due to voice search.
  • Page speed will continue to be an important ranking factor
  • Quality, relevant links will continue to be an important ranking factor

Hotel SEO – Beginner’s Guide

Crawling & Indexing

  • Crawlers are used by search engines to comb through the code and content on websites and understand what kind of information the site is providing.
  • They visit new pages via internal links. For instance they will hit the homepage, they will see the links in the main nav, they will visit those pages linked to from the homepage. Once on the main nav pages they will visit and crawl pages linked to from those main nav pages, etc.
  • Once the search engines understand the content, they may add it to their index. Once a page is indexed it has the ability to rank for queries. The more relevant your content is to the query, the more likely you are to rank.

The Algorithm

  • Google constantly runs tests on the algorithm.
  • They also personalize results to individuals
  • The big 3: Content, Links, RankBrain
  • Hundreds of other factors.
  • Hotels should not chase the algorithm, they should focus on providing the best online experience.

On-Page SEO

  • Title tags & meta descriptions
  • Header hierarchy
  • 10x content
  • Content freshness

XML Sitemap

  • An xml sitemap is a map of all the important pages on your website.
  • This is not necessarily available to the average site visitor. Instead it is a list of pages you submit to search engines that you want to be crawled.
  • Another way to guide crawlers through your site is through robots.txt. You can use your robots.txt file to tell crawlers which pages they should crawl and which pages they should skip.

Keyword Research

  • One of the most important pieces of SEO is knowing what terms you’re trying to rank for
  • Your brand is obvious, but think of other differentiators your hotel offers that you could include in your content
    • Things like pet friendly, glamping, indoor pools, weddings, proximity to sports/concert venue, etc
  • Once you have a list of keywords you want to rank for you should look at the other sites competing in search results for those keywords. Find other variations of your target keyword they are using so you know what you need to include in your content. Find out if many of them are including lots of images or videos that you should also have. Basically you’re trying to understand how to make your content better than theirs. Make sure your content is answering the query you want to answer to the best of your ability.
  • You should be including those keywords from your research in you page title, meta description, header tags, on page content, alt tags (if it makes sense), URL (if possible)
    • It is important not to go overboard with this. If it feels like you’re including your target keyword too many times, you probably are

Schema Markup

  • Schema markup is a way to structure the data about your hotel so it’s easy for search engines to understand
  • This is not visitor facing so users will not see it directly but it’s extremely helpful in letting crawlers get the most out your site.
  • You can provide basically all of the information about your property through the hotel schema from the name of the business, address, checkin/out times, handicap accessibility, amenities, affiliations, and the list goes on and on.
  • If your hotel has an on-site restaurant, you can also use the restaurant schema to give more info about the restaurant and draw an association between the two businesses.
  • If you have a blog you can mark that up with blog and blog post schema to give more detailed information about that additional site content
  • Another benefit to fully utilizing schema markup is to show your hotel’s aggregate rating and use review stars within Google search results
  • It also allows voice assistants to answer questions quickly for queries like “Hey Google, What is the checkout time for X-Hotel”

Local Citations

  • This is the process of getting your business name, address, phone number and URL consistent across the authoritative listing sites on the web.
    • Your website should match what you see on Google My Business, Bing places, Yelp, TripAdvisor, OTAs, Acxiom, Infogroup, Localeze, Best Of The Web, Superpages, HotFrog


  • We mentioned above that internal links are important for crawlers to navigate through your site, but they’re also important for users to click around and absorb all of the relevant information they may need to complete a booking.
  • While internal links are important, Backlinks are even more important.
  • Search Engines view links pointing to your site as another site giving you a virtual vote. If site A is linking to Site B, Site A is essentially saying “here. This site can solve your problem.”
  • The more links/votes your site is getting from outside sources, the more authoritative your site is in the eyes of search engines and therefore more likely to rank


In The Newsaroos:     

Submit your questions and topic ideas on Twitter to @_travelboom or info@travelboommarketing.com.

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