August 3, 2023 · Jeremy Razook

Why Hotels MUST Optimize for (Organic, Paid, Meta) Search or Risk Getting Left Behind

The way consumers research products online is always evolving. We’ve highlighted how Google’s hotel search experience has advanced over the years and Google SGE’s potential impacts on searcher behavior.

But one thing remains the same. People use search engines. A lot.

Per TravelBoom’s 2023 Leisure Travel Study, 48% of leisure travelers begin their vacation planning process by using a search engine. In fact, most people use search engines as a source of information about products.

TravelBoom 2023 Leisure Study how people start their vacation planning process data.

OTAs and vacation rental sites round out the top three, though, very far behind search engines. And unfortunately, hoteliers can’t just sit back and expect travelers to start their vacation planning by first visiting a hotel’s website (9.8% was actually an 8% decrease in usage compared to our 2022 leisure study).

Knowing that nearly half of all travelers start their vacation planning on a search engine, it’s very apparent that hotels need to be front and center from the start of the vacation planning process all the way to purchase. To accomplish that, hotels must be familiar with the search channel trifecta of paid search, organic search, and metasearch.

Google search engine results page for a hotel.

These spaces are where your competitors and OTAs are gaining traction in an attempt to take over the SERP ecosystem. But there are ways you can use each of these channels to strategically position your hotel marketing to get ahead of the crowd.

How to use paid search to boost your hotel’s search presence

Hotel PPC has long been used as a tool for brand protection and finding new guests through non-brand search strategies. If you’re looking to beef up your search presence now, this is a good place to start.

  • Build campaigns that target searchers at the top of the funnel (non-brand) and the bottom of the funnel (brand).
  • To see just how effective your non-brand campaigns are performing, use an attribution model, such as Google Ads’ data-driven attribution model, that gives credit to campaigns throughout the purchasing cycle.
  • Match your ad copy with your keywords to improve ad relevance and ultimately click-through rate.
  • Test, test, and test some more to identify ad copy that resonates most with searchers.
  • Use a landing page for your ads that matches the intent of your ad copy and keywords. Your landing page should not be a dead end.
  • Incorporate ad assets like sitelinks, callouts, structured snippets, promotions, location, and images.
  • Use bid adjustments to push your ads to your top-performing targeting segments, such as device type, location, audience, time of day, etc.

How to use organic search to boost your hotel’s search presence

Hotel SEO is the marathon to paid search’s sprint. When done right over time, the results can really pay off. Not sure where to start? Check the list below for where to begin:

  • Make your title tags and meta descriptions eye-catching. Test the copy in your title tags and meta descriptions to find what resonates best with searchers.
  • Add schema markup to your website, including Hotel, HotelRoom, and FAQ.
  • Make sure your page H1s are optimized, as Google is known to replace title tag text with H1 text.
  • Select content topics that travelers are likely searching for throughout the vacation planning process. Think ‘best time to visit *destination*’ and ‘beachfront hotels with balconies in *destination’ type searches that can improve local search for hotels.
  • When choosing your content topics, elect for long-tail searches. These types of keywords are typically much easier for independent hotel websites to rank for and in many cases capture searchers further down the purchase funnel.
  • Get more positive Google reviews to enhance your chances of appearing in Google’s hotel pack.
  • Make sure your hotel’s Google Business Profile is updated and is optimized to its fullest, from Q&As to imagery and services to amenities.

How to use metasearch to boost your hotel’s search presence

Hotel metasearch has gained a lot of ground in recent years. When done right, hotels have seen upwards of a 126% YoY increase in ROAS. Follow our list of

  • Even if you don’t have the funds to participate in Google’s GHA space, have a discussion with your rate provider to connect a direct rate feed with Google hotel center to capture the free organic link.
  • Always push the lowest rate to your direct feed.
  • Use hotel extensions to highlight unique aspects of your property.
  • Use bid adjustments to push your ads to your top-performing targeting segments, such as device type, location, booking window, length of stay, etc.
  • Be present EVERYWHERE. GHA isn’t the only metasearch space for hotels. Tripadvisor, Microsoft Bing, Kayak, and Trivago also have their own metasearch spaces that are worth optimizing for.

Download TravelBoom’s 2023 Leisure Travel Study to get even more detailed insights, observations, and opportunities to help position your hotel as the top choice among travelers.

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