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What's the Problem? and The Solution Is™ Addresses SEO for Hotels

publication date: Jan 25, 2015
author/source: David Backes, technical account executive at Anvil Media.

What's the ProblemTM?           Knowing where to look and what to do in order to maximize Search Engine Optimization.

The Solution IsTM           More than 100 specific answers for today's hoteliers to tackle this must-know issue.

101 search marketing tips for hotels

 This is a guest article by David Backes, technical account executive at Anvil Media Inc.

That's right folks, 101 PPC tips. These tips, tricks, and quick How Tos range from beginner to intermediate to advanced players in the hotel sector.

With these these pointers, property owners can can use search engine marketing to glean searches away from OTAs and their high commissions.

We have divided the sections of the PPC 101 as follows:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Terminology - Best Know your Acronyms
  3. Terminology 2.0 - Best Know your Words
  4. Keywords & Match Types
  5. Text Ads Testing & Settings
  6. Dynamic Keyword Insertion
  7. PPC Management Tools (Free)
  8. PPC Management Tools (Paid)
  9. Research Tools
  10. Display Ads & Retargeting
  11. Non-Google PPC
  12. Landing Pages
  13. Mobile
  14. Localized PPC
Getting started

1. Before beginning any PPC campaign, ensure that your analytics setup is correctly collecting data (Google Analytics is free and easy!)

2. Work with your booking engine to get conversion and revenue tracking installed

3. Being able to attribute revenue data to all online campaigns is essential to gain insight into how ad dollars are contributing to the bottom line.

4. Managing multiple Google AdWords accounts? Consider using Google's My Client Manager (MCC) as an umbrella account to house each property's account beneath allowing single sign on and easier management

5. Begin by thinking about the audience you're trying to target and frame your online initiatives based on the people

6. If you're a luxury hotel brand, avoid framing all of your PPC ads around discounts and special deals-test ads focusing on luxury against ads that might be promotional and see how your audience responds

Terminology - Best know your acronyms

7. PPC: pay per click

8. CPC: cost per click

9. CPM: cost per thousand impressions (the M is Latin for thousand)

10. CPA: cost per acquisition (or action)

11. ROI: return on investment

12. ROAS: return on ad spend

13. CTA: Call to action, eg: "Book Today"

Terminology 2.0 - Best know your words

14. AdCenter: Microsoft's ad network

15. Search Alliance: The name given to the Microsoft (Bing)/Yahoo ad network merger

16. AdWords: Google's ad network

17. A/B Testing: Testing 1 element against another, using data to pick a winner

18. Algorithm: A set of rules and calculations used to determine results, eg. which website to display first on Google

19. Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who hit a website and leave without continuing deeper into the site-they hit the site and bounce off

20. Click Fraud: A type of cyber crime where a person or bot clicks on ads to run up costs without the intent of taking action after clicking the ad

21. Conversion: When a target user completes the action that the advertiser is pushing, such as booking a hotel room or filling out an RFQ for an event space

22. Local Search: The term given to any search queries that trigger maps to be displayed in the search engines, including maps specific searches (maps.google.com)

23. Organic Listings: The non-paid search listings that occur below ads on search engines

24. Retargeting/Remarketing: The practice of serving ads to people based on actions they took on your website (eg. visited your website but didn't book a hotel room)

Keywords & Match Types

25. Never stop refining your negative keyword list

26. Specific is terrific! While "hotels" might be too general, "boutique hotels in Portland" could do the trick

27. Research keyword matching (broad, phrase, exact) before launching your first campaign:

28. Broad match allows your ad to be shown on keywords that are similar to the user's search query

29. "phrase match" shows up in quotes, and must include the phrase in the search query

30. [exact match] keywords use brackets, and must exactly match the searcher's query to trigger an ad

31. Consider putting different keyword match types in their own adgroups

32. Base adgroups on both semantics and user intent-know which keywords are being search on for purely research purposes, and which ones are used when customers are ready to buy

Text ads testing and settings

33. Always use calls to action in your ads

34. A/B test your ads on an ongoing basis-never have just 1 ad in an adgroup

35. Get granular with your testing-rather than having 2 completely different ads, see if tweaking just a headline or destination URL makes a difference

36. Look beyond just click through rate changes during ad testing-did 1 ad actually increase conversion rates?

37. Use Google Analytics to check times of day that conversion rates are the highest and increase bids using Ad Scheduling

38. Microsoft AdCenter only lets you bid down, so look for low conversion times and adjust accordingly

Dynamic keyword insertion

39. Test dynamic keyword insertion to give your ads higher click through rates

40. Dynamic keyword insertion uses the searcher's actually query in the ad text.

41. To do this, add in a variation of "keyword" (see below) along with your fall back text in case the searcher's query is too long to stuff into your add. Like this: {keyword:Portland Hotels}

42. {keyword} - No capitalization, all word(s) are in lower case

43. {Keyword} - The first word is capitalized

44. {KeyWord} - Every Word Is Capitalized

45. {KEYword} - EVERY letter in first word is capitalized

46. {KEYWord} - EVERY Letter in the first word and the first letter of the second


PPC Management Tools (free)

48. AdWords Editor - Google's tool

49. AdCenter Desktop - Microsoft's tool (caution: it's buggy!)

50. Google URL Builder - Use this to quickly and easily add UTM tracking parameters to non-Google ad campaigns so data gets pulled into Google Analytics correctly

PPC management tools (paid)

51. Searchforce

52. Acquisio

53. Marin Software

54. Channel Advisor

55. Kenshoo

Research tools

56. SEMrush - Keyword research

57. SEO Moz - Multiple keyword research & SEO tools

58. Keyword Spy - See what your competitors are targeting

59. SpyFu - See what your competitors are targeting (recommended)

60. Google Traffic Estimator - See if the keywords you're targeting have potential for traffic

61. AdBeat - See what kinds of display ads your competitors are running

Display ads and retargeting

62. Similar to text ads, display ads should have a clear call to action

63. Display ads can be used to test user response to specific promotions-is a "20% Off" or "Free Valet Parking" a better incentive to get people to book?

64. Use Google AdWords to create specific audiences (buckets of people based on actions you define)

65. Ads can be served to these audiences in very specific ways-an ad highlighting a promotion on your site could be served to somebody who views that promotion page but doesn't book a room

66. Be careful though! Serving ads that are too specific can begin to creep out potential customers

67. As a precaution, add the retargeting privacy policy that Google provides to your website's privacy policy

68. Check performance of retargeting ads by factoring in both click conversions and view through conversions

69. View through conversions are counted when a user is exposed to an ad, doesn't click on it, and then returns to the website to convert

Non-Google PPC

70. Facebook ads are a great way to mine demographic information by analyzing who responds to your ads

71. Images are important: use close-up shots of people's faces whenever possible

72. Facebook ads get stale fast: swap out images and creative as soon as you notice even the smallest drop in CTR

73. Sponsored stories are a great way to get started with Facebook ads-instead of writing creative, Facebook will auto generate ads based on actions that users take (eg. "liking" your page)

74. Although Linkedin ads are generally thought of as specific to B2B companies, hotels can target specific conferences and businesses to attract large groups

75. Depending on the market, CitySearch ads can help drive revenue back to your site-make sure to tag links though to properly attribute revenue coming from CitySearch

Landing pages

76. Whatever you say/promise in your ad copy must be seen immediately when people arrive on the landing page

77. Strip down navigation (leave a link to the home page but cut out everything else)

78. Make sure to demonstrate that you're a trustworthy company, either through reviews or awards

79. Include perks and specials

80. For PPC, include keyword that you're bidding on in the page title or sub-title for good quality score

81. No more than two calls to action

82. Streamline the booking process so users don't get frustrated

83. Give users a reason to book NOW

84. Ensure an uncluttered layout with plenty of white space so that it looks like booking won't be too much work

85. Always have links to privacy policy, terms, and the about us and contact page in the footer of the page to ensure compliance with PPC networks


86. Set up dedicated mobile PPC campaigns separate from campaigns targeting computers or tablets.

87. Take your existing keywords list and plug it into the Google keyword tool for mobile only to get additional keyword ideas specific to mobile users.

88. Take advantage of click-to-call extensions to make it easy for users to call you.

89. Use location extensions to give your ad more mobile screen real estate and to make it easier for users to find your physical locations.

90. Adjust bid levels to place your ad in the top 2 positions; mobile search results screens will usually only show the top 2 ads on the first page.

91. Break up display and search mobile campaigns; makes it easier to control budget and targeting.

92. Make sure your sending users to a mobile-optimized landing page.

93. Is your booking engine mobile friendly? Test the checkout process on a smart phone before beginning mobile PPC.

94. Ensure your entire conversion funnel has been simplified and streamlined for mobile users.

95. Treat mobile and tablet users as separate campaigns; tablets tend to show full search results screens instead of mobile phone type results.

96. Use a mobile display network that is cross-platform; Apple and Android users now split the mobile market.

Localized PPC

97. Use Google Analytics to figure out pockets of the world (specific cities or even countries) that convert best on your site

98. Find a place that has great conversion rates? Target an entire PPC campaign and set the location to only target that area.

99. Close the loop with a location specific landing page (potentially calling out a specific offer for the region you're targeting)

100. Newer advertisers with claimed Google Place pages should consider testing AdWords Express.

101. AdWords Express serves text ads for local queries based on your place's location and categories-setup is simple and management is minimal.

NB: This is a guest article by David Backes, technical account executive at Anvil Media.

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