Here's How To Find The Right SEO Keywords For Your Hotel (+ A Free Checklist)
Keywords are (sorry) key to your hotel marketing strategy. That’s because content marketing and Search Engine Optimization, aka SEO, go hand-in-hand. If you want to know how to find the right keywords for your hotel, you’re in the right place.
Also included in this post is a FREE on-page hotel SEO checklist. Pin it, print it, save it, or share it. Use it as a handy reference the next time you need to create content for your hotel website.
The SEO landscape is always evolving. Updated algorithms, AI, semantic search, structured snippets… Not going to lie, it’s a lot to keep up with.
That’s why all hoteliers can benefit from learning the basics of hotel SEO. So let’s start today with understanding keywords: What they are, how to find them, which ones to target, and how to implement them correctly on your website.
Note: Google is not the only search engine in the world. (Shocking, right?) Certain geographic areas do favor other sites like Bing, Yandex, and Baidu. Since Google is the undisputed behemoth, I’m going to refer to them for the purposes of this article.
All hotel SEO starts with keyword research
Before jumping headfirst into the wild world of SEO for your hotel, you need to identify the best keywords to go after.
A keyword can be defined in a couple of ways. A keyword is a word or phrase that describes the subject or topic of your page. It’s also defined as any term or query that people search for on Google or other search engines.
Ranking #1 for a super-specific, high-volume keyword like “Boston hotel” sounds tempting. Do you know who else thinks so? Every other hotel in the Greater Boston metro area AND sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Booking.com.
These juggernaut websites dominate search rankings. They claim even more of the top spots through paid ads. Your hotel could try to outbid them—if you’re willing and able to spend some serious cash.
Generally speaking, it’s still a best practice to optimize your homepage for that coveted “[Your Location] + hotel” keyword. In less competitive markets, your hotel website could still rank organically and reap the benefits.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Keywords and the customer path to booking
Consider the booking journey as a funnel. At the top is your largest ‘bucket’ of potential customers. Maybe they’ve recently been inspired to travel and have just started to research their options.
These are the customers who are most likely to be searching for broad keywords. They’ve decided to go to Boston and they know they’ll need a hotel, but they’re far from ready to book.
This is why hotel aggregators like TripAdvisor and OTAs will continue owning these broad search results—they don’t care what hotel you book, as long as you book it on their site.
So what keywords should hotels be going after?
Consider aligning your internal pages to “long tail keywords” instead.
What’s a long tail keyword? They’re more specific search terms consisting of three or more words. Long tail keywords tend to have lower monthly traffic but a higher potential for conversion.
Take, for example, someone searching for “Boston hotels near Fenway Park.” Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment. They aren’t looking for just any Boston hotel. They’ve decided that being close to Fenway is important to them. They could have tickets to a Red Sox game or want to tour the iconic stadium.
Let’s say your hotel is right down the road from Fenway Park and has relevant content ranking on Page 1. Congrats! You’ve instantly become more attractive to that customer and more likely to win the booking.
The below graph by SEO pro Neil Patel puts this into a visual context.
How to find the right keywords for your hotel
Now that you have an idea of what keywords to look for, it’s time to find some that will work for your hotel. There are lots of keyword tools available that make this easy to do. To get started, here are a few of the best free keyword tools:
Google’s built-in search suggestions (scroll to the bottom of the results page to see similar queries under “Searches related to…”)
Wordtracker Scout (Chrome browser plug-in)
Moz Keyword Planner (limited free searches, get more with a paid plan)
Google Keyword Planner is a particularly useful keyword tool as it shows the average search volume, bid, and competition for each term. Start by plugging in a few keyword ideas you think customers might be using.
For instance, start with simple city or destination searches like “Boston hotel” and “best hotel Boston.” Keyword Planner will suggest pages and pages of related search terms.
Look through the list and pull any long tail keywords that could be relevant to your property’s features, location, or style. Choose keywords that specifically align with your ideal audience personas. Use the keyword tool to look for search terms that may resonate with your hotel’s target customer, based on their interests or travel needs.
Make note of each keyword’s average monthly search volume. If you find a highly relevant term but it has a low amount of traffic, don’t chuck it out just yet. The effort required to rank for that keyword could still yield a big return. Remember, more specific search terms tend to result in higher conversion rates.
Here are a few examples:
Boston hotel near aquarium or Boston hotel in Beacon Hill - Find points of interest like a museum, attraction, or well-known district.
Boston hotel with pool or Hotel in Boston with roof deck - Capitalize on the unique features or amenities that help your hotel stand out from the crowd.
Romantic hotels in Boston or Best hotel in Boston for families - Remember your audience personas. Does your property suit a particular occasion or lifestyle?
Boston convention center hotels or Boston hotel near TD Garden - Proximity to conferences, concerts, or sports games could be a deciding factor for your guests.
So you’ve found the right keywords… now what?
Once you have a good idea of where the opportunity lies, you need to take action. Start by grouping similar keywords together.
For example, any terms related to a point of interest could be organized under a “Destination Guide” category. Create a landing page for each keyword and start writing content relevant to that point of interest.
Now, what information might your potential guest need about that point of interest?
How close is your property?
Do you have any unique connections to the place? Keep in mind, this could be a special offer, exclusive access, or even an interesting historical tie.
Why should a guest looking to be near this attraction or neighborhood choose your property?
Now that you’ve started publishing relevant, quality content, how soon can you expect to see results? The short answer: it depends.
Google doesn’t “crawl” every website on the same fixed schedule. Some websites are crawled multiple times a day and some only once every six months. If you have access to your site in Google Search Console, you can speed up this process by submitting your new or updated pages directly.
Check your site’s analytics at least once a month, to see how your organic search channel is performing: Which keywords are ranking well? Which keywords aren’t making an impact yet?
You might notice some of your landing pages have a high “bounce rate.” That means visitors are exiting your site instead of continuing to browse or book.
Remember that the purpose of your website content is to make a compelling case for that guest to choose your business over another property.
To keep valuable visitors on your site, your landing pages need to have a clear call-to-action that seamlessly takes them to the next step along their path to purchase. If potential bookers are exiting instead of exploring other pages, you need to revisit your copy. (This on-page hotel SEO checklist will help.)
Generally speaking, SEO is not a quick fix. It’s not a hotel marketing strategy that generates instant or last-minute bookings. Hotel SEO is a long game, but if you play it right, you can make an enormous impact on the bottom line. Finding the right keywords for your hotel is only the beginning.
Psst… here’s that free checklist again!