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The Painful Truth About Hotel SEO (Part 2)

April 4, 2016

This is the second and final installment in our two-part series on the massive upheaval in hotel SEO best practices. See Part 1 here:


Problem 3: SEO Has Become Even More Technical and Code Heavy Than Ever Before!

The days of hiring a website vendor and an SEO vendor to work separately are over because there’s no accountability. The best SEO practices in 2016 are less focused on pumping out high volume, keyword stuffed content distributed to link wheels or article distribution services for backlinks and more focused on collaborating with the development and analytics teams to monitor the website user experience and SPEED!

Large images and other technical bolt-ons can slow a website down and prevent Google from crawling a page, causing low Google PageSpeed Insights scores that can harm rankings.  Sharing plug-ins can also leave a site vulnerable to spammy bot traffic, which can pollute referral and organic keyword reporting in tools like Google Analytics or Webmaster tools if not filtered properly. 

Ex: Google shows your page speed load time:



    Keep your code lean. Audit the hotel’s website every six months to remove any outdated scripts or pieces of code that is no longer necessary

    Run speed tests. You typically want to get a score of 80 or higher. The Varvy Mobile Testing tool is really helpful too (See screenshot below)

    Google often overwrites meta descriptions in the results if they are too long. Put more emphasis on tags like titles, alt image tags and headers. Never use multiple H1 tags as that will only confuse the search engines.

    Implement canonical tags and language preference tags to ensure that you are not penalized for duplicate content between the desktop and mobile sites.

    Place no robots.txt on pages that you do not want indexed.

    Redirect URLs of outdated hotel offer pages.

    Don’t allow multiple versions of a page with various extensions like .html, .asp. cf. or .php to be created. This will only create a redirect nightmare if you ever rebuild the website.


Problem 4: Ranking Reports Are Useless

Ranking well for high volume keywords doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue, and Google doesn’t always disclose which organic keywords lead to a hotel booking. With mobile and personalized local results gaining share, ranking software will show different position results to a user based on their device, location and even previous search history.  That’s too many variables for an SEO professional to control and consolidate in a single report.

Instead of requesting ranking reports from your hotel web design or SEO  provider, redefine your organization’s metrics for success.

Hotel SEO success should be gauged on the following Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

    Increase in engaged organic website traffic.

    Improved website conversion rate for traffic coming from organic sources.

    Total direct website revenue or phone revenue generated from organic

    Higher impression to click-through rates (CTR) from queries (use Webmaster tools to see this ratio).

SEO and Paid (PPC) search will remain a rapidly evolving space as Google continues to adapt to mobile and more personalized solutions for its users. Hotel marketing teams and SEO professionals will have to keep an open mind about ever changing roles, strategy, testing and analysis to keep up. 

Want to see how your technical SEO knowledge stacks up against the pros?  Try taking this quiz.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit:

The Painful Truth About Hotel Website SEO

March 28, 2016


You are a director of sales and marketing overseeing all day-to-day activities for your property, maybe several properties, from meeting/group sales to Trip Advisor reviews and website promos. It all falls on you.

Then one day, your GM calls and says, “I just did a Google search for ‘Miami Hotels’ and we don’t come up anywhere. What are we paying that hotel website company for?”

You immediately go online to do more searches and panic ensues. You start to think, what ARE you paying them for? Aren’t they supposed to be handling all of that Google stuff? Why isn’t your hotel on the first results page for all of those non-branded keywords?  Why is everything so different on Mobile?

The answer is that everything you’ve expected or known about search engine optimization for hotels up until the last year is now obsolete. Even if you’ve invested thousands of dollars into your SEO efforts to have your website successfully rank on page one of Google for “Miami Hotels,” you may never see your website show up on page one, let alone see a measurable ROI.

So how do you answer your GM and hold your Hotel SEO firm accountable? It’s time to redefine your KPIs when it comes to search, and face some of the harsh realities of SEO for the hotel industry.

Problem 1: Google Has Commercialized Its Results Pages


Summary: In 2015, Google reduced its Google Maps and Google Places results from displaying a “7-Pack” to a “3-Pack”, only showing three Hotels with a thumbnail image and Google’s own commercialized meta-tool. Hotel Ads may lead a consumer to book via Google or with one of their OTA advertising partners.

And recently, Google made further, MAJOR layout changes to its SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), especially for broad search queries like “Miami Hotels” or “Hotels in Times Square.”  As a result, natural/organic search listings have now been pushed further down the pages and are seeing a reduction in organic click-throughs, and even less traffic on mobile devices.

Solutions: While you cannot control the search engine’s giant layout or where your listing is displayed in the SERPs, you do have some control on what information is being populated:

Claim your property’s Name and Place (NAP) and make it consistent across all platforms from Google Plus to Yelp. Make sure your Google Plus page is verified and links directly back to your hotel’s website. Services like Yext or Moz Local can help you manage all of these in one simple platform. Other services like Whitespark can assist with citation cleanup or updating any listing on the web that has your property’s business name, physical address and phone number, in addition to helping build safe, credible backlinks.

  Control the images you display across the online universe with image parity software like ICE Portal or VFM Leonardo. This will help clean up images of your hotel across the web, including the OTAs.

Target answers not keywords. A recent study revealed that 15 percent of Google’s 3.5 Billion daily searches were questions or queries that the search engine has never seen before! Hotel websites need to target “long tail” search queries by adding content that answers a traveler’s questions and provides information about the destination or the experience guests will have. Don’t be afraid to promote local businesses or restaurants; not everything on the site can be self-serving. A hotel site is more likely to rank for long tail queries that have less competition and will see a rise in user engagement.  Quality website traffic over quantity!

Utilize a content mapping and interlinking strategy. What page does your website user visit most before they book?  Is there a pattern in the sequence of the pages they visit before entering the booking engine? Once you identify the most relevant pages on your hotel’s website, analyze the typical user’s journey to complete a booking. This “path” report can be pulled from Google Analytics.  Content mapping ensures that the content on those pages, and the text links within the site copy, are interlinked properly, making it easier for the user to find the information they are looking for in addition to passing signals to Google about what content is most related and important.

Problem 2: Increased Competition for Your Own Hotel Name

Summary: Google’s Hotel Ads and Book on Google products have made it harder than ever for hotels to get traffic from their own brand name. TripAdvisor, big brands and the OTAs have always out-muscled individual hotel websites for popular non-branded keyword searches (ie: “Miami hotels”). But in 2015, new paid advertising products emerged, making the search engine marketing space even more competitive for individual properties.

Last year, Google introduced its Book on Google model alongside its Hotel Ads module. Online users now have the option to view rates from all OTAs or book with Google directly from the SERP page, without ever having to actually visit a hotel or OTA website! Properties connecting via a CRS are paying approximately 10-12 percent commission to Google for the Book on Google feature, and anywhere from $1.00-$4.00 cost per click (CPC) to have their rate listed alongside the OTAs on Google’s Hotel Ads module.

You can read more about how Google’s products work on their official websearch blogBut here is a simple visual breakdown of Google’s new page structure:



  Dominate the SERP by combining PAID and Organic Search Efforts. Consider having your PPC and SEO teams working side by side to implement tactics like Review or Ad Extensions and Event Schemas to take up as much real estate as possible on a page for brand related search queries.

  If budget permits, participate in Meta Search Advertising or Hotel Ads, but be sure that the hotel rates are in parity!

    Add alternative tags to all of the property’s images and with the hotel’s name to influence branded image results.

    Invest in having unique content in other places that have direct links back to your website from authoritative places like Wikipedia, Youtube, etc.

• Refresh the website’s title tags and header tags if you notice click-through rates on your organic results are decreasing. Use strong language in your site’s title tags and meta descriptions like “book direct” or “official hotel website.”

Check back next week for Part 2 of Painful Truths about Hotel SEO

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit:

Real SEO and the Responsibility of Travel Search Engine Strategists

October 11, 2012

Real SEO is about generating quality content that is unique. You’ve probably heard this before. But allow me to break it down for you. Search engine strategists have a responsibility to optimally utilize digital assets such as blogs, website copy, videos, pictures and other digital content that is created specifically for clients and spread it out over relevant websites, indexes and social media platforms so that people SEE IT, and they do this for two reasons:

To drive online traffic.
To acquire rankings.

The constant flow of creative oozing out of travel, destination, and hotel marketing agencies is one of the biggest weapons that can be used in the war to acquire organic rankings. And it is a war. The majority of SEO companies in the industry promise rankings for $75 based on “black hat tactics” such as link farming. Link farming is bad. This is when a group of websites come together and each website links to all the other websites in the group. Google is on to this which makes link farming a short term game. And no SEO strategist worth his salt supports them. The only reason those SEO companies can offer SEO service on the cheap is because they aren’t creating original content, and if they are, it certainly isn’t quality content. What they are doing is generating garbage content, Content that has no real value, content that won’t be used, cataloged or read EVER.

Travel marketers and digital agencies are in a unique position to generate high quality, original work that could only be attained because of the relationship with the client. They do this through the creation of website content, pictures, video, and social media media content, and informative blogs. If the travel agency is doing a good job, this should translate to tangible, useful, compelling online content that cannot be produced anywhere else, with an end result of driving organic traffic.

Bottom line is that all content created is more ammunition to engage with past and potential customers to drive rankings and traffic. SEO is really just traditional marketing tactics. Identifying a target market, creating compelling content for that market, and ensuring an awesome customer experience once they learn and use your product.  Sure there is a high degree of technical tactics that go in to describe the contents of webpages to search engines, but at the core it is identifying target markets and creating experiences that turn visitors into customers.

About Tambourine

Tambourine is an ROI-obsessed marketing agency driving demand, revenue and brand awareness for travel and leisure clients since 1986. The Company creates inspiring digital experiences and engaging campaigns that produce measurable results. Based in South Florida and New York City, Tambourine recently received Gold and Platinum Adrian and Magellan awards, the largest and most prestigious travel marketing competitions, representing this year’s top marketing campaigns from across the global hospitality industry.

We are the instrument many of the world’s most advanced marketers use to create a steady beat of traffic and revenue growth. We provide a 360º integrated marketing program that delivers predictable ROI and a sustainable sales and marketing rhythm for your brand.

Learn more at

Fort Lauderdale
New York