Keyword Research for Hotels

by Jeremy Razook

Keyword research for hotels is the backbone of any hotel SEO strategy. Ranking for the right keywords can greatly impact a hotel’s success, but choosing the right keywords to target can be tricky.

Here are some keyword research tips to help you identify the right keywords to use on your hotel website:

1. Identify Keyword Opportunities

There are plenty of tools out there to help with keyword research. Here at TravelBoom we like to use multiple keyword research tools when we begin the research phase. Some of the tools we use are:

Search Volume and Competitor Data:

Free Search Volume Tools:

Google SERPs:

  • Related searches (variations of keywords in Google’s search bar)
  • People also ask (questions people are searching pertaining to a particular topic)
  • Featured snippets (answer boxes at the top of the search results page)
  • People also search for (similar to related searches)

Other Free Helpful Tools:

  • AnswerThePublic (for brainstorming and questions people may be asking pertaining to a particular topic)
  • Google Trends (trends for keywords over time)

To begin your keyword research it helps to start with broad terms like “[city name] hotels” or “hotels in [city name]”.

Then find major venues, attractions and events that happen near your hotel, such as “hotels near [venue]” or “hotels near [event name]”.

You also want to determine what your hotel’s differentiators are. For example, if your hotel offers 2 bedroom suites, or pet friendly accommodations you can choose “2 bedroom suites in [city name]”, or “pet friendly hotels in [city name]”. You should also identify keywords with amenities that your hotel offers, like “hotels with [amenity]”.

This should give you a pretty solid list of hotel keywords to start with. Begin by plugging those variations into tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Moz Keyword Explorer to determine keyword competition and search volume, as well as keyword variants you may not have thought about.

Moz keyword explorer tool
Moz Keyword Explorer details monthly keyword volume and related keywords upon an initial search for a particular keyword.

If you’re optimizing an older hotel website, it helps to review the website’s Google Search Console account. Here, you’ll be able to identify keywords that your website already ranks for organically, and drives organic traffic and impressions. That way you quickly have a basis of what is already working for your website and can make a plan to optimize further.

2. Searcher Intent

Looking at your hotel keywords list, envision what type of content you would create to rank for that keyword. If you can’t fulfill searcher intent you probably shouldn’t target that keyword.

Someone typing “[city name] hotels” into a Google search is likely in the beginning stages of the conversion funnel. They are comparing prices, reading reviews, seeing what’s nearby, etc., and may not be ready to book their room just yet. Those broader terms make more sense for an OTA or Portal site that creates content to compare multiple properties.

However, someone typing in “2 bedroom suite in [city name]” is closer to the end of the conversion funnel. They have identified a differentiator and would like more information about hotels that have 2 bedroom suites. This is where your hotel can create killer content (text, images, and video) around your 2 bedroom suites to draw that traffic to your site.

Place yourself in the searcher’s shoes. At what stages of the conversion funnel do your keywords fall under? It’s critical to understand the conversion funnel—from the awareness phase to the purchase phase—of a hotel guest as this will be a determining factor for the keywords you select and how you present your content.

“Place yourself in the searcher’s shoes. At what stages of the conversion funnel do your keywords fall under?”

3. Keyword Competition

Understanding the competition for a certain keyword will also help you make a decision on whether you have a chance to rank. Typically, broad terms like “hotels in new york” are going to have much more competition. Just doing a Google search shows the sites competing for that keyword are huge, authoritative websites with lots of links pointing to them.

An independent hotel will likely not be able to compete since they don’t have the reputation, authority, links, etc. Also, as mentioned above, the independent hotel doesn’t have the price comparison and options that these hotel metasearch and OTAs have that fulfill searcher intent.

That’s why independent hotels have more success targeting long-tail terms with less competition, and can absolutely fulfill searcher intent.

Think of independent hotel websites as David, and OTA websites as Goliath. Long-tail keywords are the independent hotel’s slingshot. Long-tail might be the only chance your independent hotel website has to steal bookings back from the big guys.

“Think of independent hotel websites as David, and OTA websites as Goliath. Long-tail keywords are the independent hotel’s slingshot.”

Did you know: Moz offers a free browser extension called MozBar that can further assist in identifying domain authority and give you a better indication of what the competition looks like for websites that rank for a particular keyword. 

Simply search for your desired keyword in Google. After the results load, select the MozBar icon in your browser. From there, MozBar will spit out authority metrics that you can use to compare to your site. 

If you’re uncertain of your website’s own authority metrics, active MozBar and make a search for your hotel. Or enter your website’s domain into the Moz Link Explorer Overview tool.

4. Keyword Selection & Mapping

You finally have your massive list of hotel keywords and their competition. Ideally, you would like your target keywords to have high search volume and low competition. This is fairly rare, but when you find those they can be goldmines.

You’ll want to get as close as you can to high volume and low competition, but still know you’ll be able to fulfill searcher intent. You will want to choose one primary keyword, then one or two additional variations of that primary keyword. More than that can dilute the focus of the page.

Use the selected keyword as well as its close variants in the page’s title tag, meta description, headers, image alt text, and page copy.

It helps to look at the pages that are already ranking for that keyword. Find common keywords/phrases that all of those pages use and be sure to use those in your content also. A browser tool like SEO Minion or MozBar can help you identify common keywords found in a page’s header tags and page copy.

5. Content Creation

When you find those hotel-related keywords that have low competition and high search volume, but you don’t have an existing page that fits that query topic, you need to create content to fulfill that searcher’s intent.

For example, if you see that “hotels near [venue name]” has low competition, you should create a page focused on your proximity to that venue, directions from your hotel to the venue, upcoming events at the venue, etc.

Another aspect to consider before creating your content is whether a featured snippet appears in the SERPs for the keyword you’ve selected. If so, you’ll want to be strategic in the way you present your content.

For example, when you search for “things to do in myrtle beach for couples” in Google, the first result is a featured snippet in a list format. Because of this, we’d want to present our content in a list format and separated with headers for a chance to rank for the featured snippet for that keyword.

6. Keyword Testing

SEO can be a slow process and gaining rank for particular keywords doesn’t happen overnight. 

If you want to really determine if a keyword is worth optimizing for you can start by testing it out in Google Ads. Test your selected keywords in a campaign as exact match types. Send those ads to the page you have optimized for that particular term. If you see profitable performance in Google Ads, you’ll know that reaching a high organic position for that keyword will likely be profitable also.

If you don’t have the budget for a Google Ads campaign, you can also use Google Ads’ cost-per-click (CPC) data within Keyword Planner to identify the profitability of a keyword. Typically, the higher the CPC for a keyword, the more likely that the keyword is more profitable and worth optimizing for.

Google keyword planner keyword results
After plugging in your preferred keywords, Google Keyword Planner provides historical CPCs to help you determine the right keyword to target.

Keyword Research for Hotels: A Summary

  • The keywords you choose to optimize for can impact the amount of traffic your site gets, which ultimately impacts your number of bookings.
  • Be aware of your competition for any given keyword, and set your ranking expectations accordingly. If you are trying to rank for a very competitive term, don’t expect to see your site on the first page overnight.
  • Keep in mind the searcher’s intent. You need to be able to provide enough information to fulfill what the searcher is looking for.
  • No need for guesswork. Take advantage of free keyword research tools and SERP features to help you decide which keywords to target and optimize for.

Keyword research for hotels can be a daunting task. If you need help selecting the right keywords for your hotel’s website, contact TravelBoom today for a free evaluation.

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