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Free Tools for Hotel SEO

After publishing our post on choosing the top keywords for your hotel we received questions regarding the best tools to use to help choose the right keywords and more generally for use in hotel SEO projects.

SEO tools for hotels (and for any business really) need to cover a number of main uses. You need a tool to help you with keyword research and planning. You will ideally need a tool that helps track your rankings for specific keywords in order to judge the success of your SEO efforts. You may want to have a tool that gives you information on your competitors or on the competitive landscape in which your are working.

There are (quite literally) hundreds of tools available to help with your SEO planning. Some are free, some are paid, some are better than others at different things. We have used both the Moz and Ahrefs toolsets which cover all three main uses above, but that does not mean they are the best tool for you. Our advice is to do your own research, do a trial of the tools that you think look the best fit for your needs and see which one works best for you. If in doubt, feel free to reach out to us, we love doing SEO for hotels and are happy to have a no obligation chat and give our opinion!

For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on free tools that you can use for researching your initial keyword list, the most important first step to ensure your hotel’s SEO plan gets off on the right foot!

Tools for your hotel keyword research

There are so many SEO and keyword tools on the web now, how can you decide which one has the ‘best’ data? The short answer is you probably cannot. If you are already using an SEO tool and you are happy with it, then keep using it! If you have tried some of the free tools that are available and are happy with them, keep using them!

Many of the online SEO tools get their search volume data from the same source, Google. And since most of you are going to be mainly looking at Google when it comes to your SEO strategy lets just go straight to the horse’s mouth and see what tools Google offers to us to make informed choices in our keyword selection.

There are four main Google tools/reports we can use, each of them are useful for different reasons, they are:

  • Google Ads – Search Terms Report
  • Google Ads – Keyword Planner
  • Google Search Console
  • Google Trends

Google Ads Search Terms Report

If you or your agency are already running Google Ads then you have a head start! Head into your campaigns, go to the search terms report and open up your dates to get as much data as possible.

If you are already running branded campaigns then you will likely have all the data you need already to find your branded and branded + location keywords. If you are not running branded ads yet then you should start!

Export the results to a csv or excel file and sort them by number of impressions. An impression is how many times your ad was shown for a specific search and is a good indicator of real search volume over the specific time your ad campaign was running.

You will quickly see the main combinations of your hotel brand plus location and also likely some brand plus amenity keywords. Make note of the volumes so that you focus on the main phrases guests already use in searches for your hotel – put them into your list.

Google Ads Search Keyword Planner

Not running ads yet or have only run them for a short time? Not to worry, you can create a Google Ads account but do not have to start spending any money to use the keyword planner tools. Sign up or sign in to Google Ads and head over to the Keyword Planner in the tools section.

With keyword planner you can start with either a seed search term or your website and then run the tool to get a list of keywords with search volume and advertiser competition. Advertiser competition is not the same as keyword difficulty in SEO terms, but it can be used as a quick yardstick.

Screenshot of keyword ideasTo be honest, most travel and tourism related keywords are at the very least medium difficulty, there are very few untouched beaches left in the hotel SEO keyword space!

The keyword planner can be a bit tricky to use and the data can sometimes either be overwhelming or non existent. Here are a few tips to get as much useful data as you can:

1. Start general and drill down. Start with “hotels in [your city]”. You are not going to target this keyword, but you will use it to help surface longer phrases and related keywords for further research.

2. Once you find good candidates for further research put them individually into the keyword tool, rinse and repeat.

3. If you find that the keyword tool is not returning any results you have gone too specific, either in the keyword you have selected or the location/language combination you have chosen. Play around with different locations and/or languages as relevant to your hotel and market to see what keywords show up.

4. Do not forget to put in your hotel name to see if you can get any data for branded searches. Small or new hotels might not have much luck but if you have been in business for a year or more you should get some sort of data.

Keyword planner will take up an hour or two of your time if you are new to it. Don’t be intimidated! Be methodical and you will soon get the hang of it and will begin to see patterns in the keyword data. Once you have your initial keywords – put them in your list!

Google Search Console

If your website has been live for some time and you have connected with Google Search Console then you are in luck! If you haven’t connected with it yet go do it now!

Head to the performance section, open up the timeframe to a year or more in the first instance and make sure you show clicks, impressions, click through rate and position data in the table.

You will now see data for the number of impressions, the number of clicks to your site, the click through rate for each term (simply the number of impressions divided by the number of clicks) and the average position of your site for that term.

Now be careful!

Firstly, if you are looking at a years worth of data then the average position is averaged over the year. You might be significantly above or below that average number right now. You can use the compare dates functionality to get an idea if you are trending up, or down.

Secondly, if you have not filtered by a specific country then your average position is for all countries of the world. We all know that google results can vary pretty widely depending on what country you are in right? So if you want to choose a specific country to be more granular in you data then go ahead and do it with the available filters.

Regardless of your timeframe or country filter, you want to keep an eye on two specific things when it comes to using the Google Search Console for keyword research, and this harks back to our initial notes on volume versus competition.

Google Search console will give you useful data on both volume (how many impressions a search has) but even more crucially the difficulty of this keyword.

What you say, the difficulty?

Yes! The difficulty in this case can be extrapolated from your average position. If your website is already in high positions for any given search then you have won half the battle before you have even lifted a finger in your upcoming SEO activities! The keyword is therefore comparatively less difficult to rank well for because you are already ranking for it.

It goes without saying that the first thing we will look at in this data are your branded keywords and your brand plus location keywords.

You should see most of the misspellings and various other ways people search for your hotel here. If all is good on your website you should see a high average position – ie a number like 5 or higher and a high click through rate of at least 10%.

Beyond branded queries Google Search Console can help us find the low hanging fruit, those keywords in the sweet spot between volume and difficulty. Here we concentrate on non branded phrases in which we already appear in good positions which with a bit of help we might be able to improve into great positions!

You can filter out keywords containing your brand name and then order the results by either impressions or average position. You can also export the data for further investigation.

We usually recommend focusing firstly on impression data to grab the major keywords and then have a better look to see which keywords you rank in the top 20 or 30 positions for. This combination is likely going to give you the best bang for your buck in your research. If you find some relevant keywords here that you have decent rankings for (lets say average position anywhere between 5 and 15 or so) then you might well be able to boost these easily by going through our SEO quick win tips, keep it in mind!

Last but not least we have Google Trends.

Google Trends

Google trends is not a keyword tool in the traditional sense. It is not really going to show you actually volume and it is not going to tell you anything about keyword difficulty. Head over to Google Trends, put in a search term and pick a country (or set it at worldwide) we usually set the timeframe to be one year for a first look. Have a look here for an example for hotels in Athens. Google Trends is useful to hotel owners in two main ways.

Screenshot of keywords from Google TrendsFirstly it can show you historical trends related to travel to your city or region. It will give you an insight into both the popularity and the seasonality of your destination. Keep in mind that the seasonality that we see here is when people are PLANNING their trip to your destination, not when they are actually visiting. It is a subtle but important difference.

You can also see where in the world (or from what regions of your country) users are making these searches from. So in many ways Google Trends is not a keyword research tool at all but really a market insights tool.

This can help surface extremely interesting data about seasonal trends, and within that data you will have references to the top keywords around your target phrase. Maybe these are already in your list, maybe you have considered and rejected some due to competition, either way – note them down where relevant!

Secondly, we like to look at the trending queries tab. This data shows keywords related to your initial search term that are trending up NOW! We use Google Trends a lot to monitor trends and to source new trending keywords for use in blog posts and content pieces.

Keywords related to experiences or time specific events are often first identified with Google Trends. Oh what you say, keyword research is an ongoing process? Yes indeed it is! But don’t worry, if you have reached this point you are on the right path!

This article was originally written in 2020 during the start of the coronavirus pandemic and one can clearly see the difference this made in hotel related search trends during March and April of 2020. The hotel sector continues to be in a constant state of flux with the pandemic restrictions being imposed and lifted at various times in various countries. It is a tough time to be a hotel marketer! We have written a separate post on the popular and trending hotel keywords using recent data from Google Trends in an attempt to identify useful data during this period. It is updated monthly, have a look!

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