Get to Number 1 in Google – Using Keyword Research

Author: Dr. Manus Ward │Head of Digital Strategy and Data Protection │ is a qualified and experienced former hotel manager, culinary Olympic team manager and hospitality Head of School who is passionate about passing on the knowledge he gained from one of the few hotel digital strategy doctorates in the world to you the hotelier. Bonus: If you have any problems with this contact me (100% free) at or 086 8185829 on this or any aspect of your hotel’s digital strategy.

Why is this important: If you select the right keywords and optomise your page for the Google Algorithm you can easily get to number 1 in Google for what your potential guests are actually searching for.

Here is the difference between being number 1 at the top of a Google search results page and being number 10 at the bottom of the same page.

Now convert this to bookings and revenue and you know why you want to be number 1 in Google.

Why would I do this when I can pay for online ads or pay 15 – 20% commission to sell my rooms: If you can afford this, lucky you but none of the hotels I worked for had that kind of money to throw around. Read on if you would like 100% free traffic.

Why do keyword research: A hotel search takes on average 6 hours in total and is spread over 29 days. This search starts off with the location and the word hotels. Most hoteliers target these words e.g. “Galway hotels”. This term is only searched for at the start of the search so potential guests have 29 days to forget about the hotel they found on day one. If you look at the diagram below for example you will see the words “Galway hotels” are searched for only about one third of time they were back in 2004 despite the internet explosion since then. Look where the trend is going i.e. the red line. This is because guest are looking for the activities and all the experiences they want as part of their break.

What do we do then: Your hotel needs to be on as many pages as possible that your potential guests will search for but especially near the end when they are about to book. We do this by:

  1. Figuring out what segment we are targeting.
  2. Figuring out the words they are searching for.
  3. Checking Google Keyword Planner to be sure the search numbers are worth our while creating pages for our guests.
  4. Creating pages that offer useful and helpful information to our potential guests when they search for these keywords.

So what are they searching for: While carrying out the research for my doctorate I was startled when my calculations showed that only 2.25% of the hotel search is carried out on the hotel’s website itself. In fact searchers will spend longer on looking at your hotel then they will on your hotel site looking at your hotel.

Hoteliers have to realise they are a tiny part of the online experience. In fact the thing that amazed me was that searchers spent the majority of the hotel search time searching local information activities, attractions, restaurants and things to do etc. The proximity or seamless interaction between the hotel and these activities was found to be the key hotel booking decision maker.

The move to mobile also means that users are searching much more often for shorter periods of time and for a few key points on individual items. For example a potential hotel guest as part of their hotel search may search for the local castle (opening times, history, pictures, entry costs and directions etc.) as part of the hotel selection process but may never look up the hotel during that online search. This is part of the hotel search and influences the hotel chosen but the hotel is never mentioned or viewed during the visit.

1. Figure out what segment we are targeting.

So what do I do: Firstly your guests want the absolute ideal experience to suit their specific segment and are not interested in anybody else’s experience. Families want kids clubs or activities suitable for their kids. Couples may want gourmet meals, cosy bars, spa treatments or nightly entertainment etc. and indeed no kids. A girl’s weekend away will have their specific requirements and I have a diagram as an example below.

2. Figure out the words they are searching for.

You need to construct pages specific to each of your segments and use your Google keyword strategy to channel the searcher to their specific page. Also remember Google does not rank sites, it ranks pages. What this means is if the searcher looks for “Galway restaurants” and they find your hotel’s main page they will immediately leave unless they land on your restaurant page directly.

Where do I find all these keywords: Luckily all these activities, attractions, restaurants and things to do etc. are all on one site TripAdvisor which saves loads of searching.

How do I find out all of these local activities: Click on and do the following:

Then click here.

You can also look for activity specific information. The girls weekend away may want shopping information.

You can also search Google and do the following:

Also remember that Google tells you at the bottom of each search results page the top eight related search words that people have looked for. See below the related searches for “Galway things to do”. In your “Galway things to do” page it would be very wise to use these exact sentences with the exact word order throughout the article as Google rewards keywords in the exact order.

And also Wikipedia is a good source of local information. Click on and do the following:

Scroll down, some pages will be more appropriate to tourism then others. An interesting page is the “Events and Festivals” page where you can use many of the facts on the page to fill each of your pages with useful and interesting content.

3. Check Google Keyword Planner to be sure the search numbers are worth our while creating pages for our guests.

Do users actually search for these keywords: Before you go to the trouble of creating text for your pages, search Google Keyword Planner to confirm that users are actually searching for these terms. The best thing is to identify the keywords after the searches above and one by one insert them into Google Keyword Planner. If there are very little results dismiss the words and move to the next words on your list.

How do I do this: Click on and do the following:

Then do the following.

You will then get this page which as you can see is generally off the topic and unrelated search results can come up. Clicking on number 2 orders the results with the most viewed at the top. I only explain the free version of free software on this site so exact numbers are not displayed by Google.

You will then get this page.

Then you get this page.

As you can see these two identical searches one with the word “in” in it and the other one without have dramatically different search numbers. While we will always attempt to have the highest search term mentioned a number of times throughout our page we will also include other keywords in the exact order to rank in Google for those terms too.

Keep inserting the search terms you found in your TripAdvisor, Wikipedia etc. searches. Dismiss the ones with very little traffic and create pages where the traffic warrants it. Note: Searches closer to the booking day at the end of the process can warrant lower numbers. E.g. a person who is looking for “Galway horse riding” is much closer to the purchase stage then “Galway hotels” who obviously are at the very start of their search.

4. Create pages that offer useful and helpful information to our potential guests when they search for these keywords.

What do I do: This will come as no surprise but if you want to find out what exactly your guests want you will need to actually ask them. Asking them when they are in the hotel can be intrusive but holiday fairs and other locations where your potential guests are can be a great place to ask without intruding on their break. Your TripAdvisor comments page are also a great source of information. Guests always write about the things or lack of things they noticed. Look at all the local things to do TripAdvisor pages as well for ideas.

So now I know exactly what keywords to use, what else should I take into account:

I have created this page to show you how to do keyword research, please leave a comment if I can help in any way.


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