Keyword research is the SEO process that lays the foundation not only for good rankings but also for successful digital marketing campaigns that may include advertising and link building. Done right, it can do much more than help boosting traffic and leads to your website.
When researching keywords for a hotel website, you are performing what SEOs call “niche keyword research,” which is a refined, time-consuming process. Only keyword research can help you fine-tune your website’s content enough to satisfy both visitors and search engines.
Keyword research benefits
- Understand your target demographics: what are search engine users looking for to find your hotel or your destination?
- Find out how many people are searching for your destination or for a hotel in your area;
- Determine how search engine users access the information they are looking for;
- Figure out why people are searching for information at your destination and determine popular search terms;
- Understand your competitors: which hotel is ranking for popular search terms and why?
- Identify the most relevant keywords to plan your long-term SEO strategy;
- Keep up with keyword trends (which keywords gain or lose popularity) for short-term SEO strategies – like seasonal SEO, blog posts, promotional campaigns.
What to do before you start researching keywords
The most important step before starting to perform keyword research is brainstorming. Identify the main terms you want to target – often called seed keywords. These are typically broad, generic terms that are relevant to your business and destination. Naturally, a hotel in Lyon, France would start with seed keywords like Lyon hotels and Lyon France.
Both these terms are too broad and hard to rank for, but you will find more specific terms as you advance in your keyword research process.
Think of subtopics that are more relevant to your business. Obviously, you want to attract as many guests as possible. But, by now you know that people may prefer to book a hotel close to the airport, in a business area, a hotel with a pool, a central hotel, and so on.
Ask the right questions:
- What types of accommodation are people likely to stay in your hotel searching for?
- When are people searching for hotels in your area? Seasonally, when certain events occur, year-round, and so on.
- What are they looking for? Last-minute deals, long stays, family staycations, coworking hotels, free breakfast, direct booking perks, and the list goes on.
- What words do they use to find hotels at your destination? Do they ask questions, or they simply type into the search engines generic keyword phrases?
- Why are they looking for a hotel? Is it a seasonal opportunity, do they travel for business, are there events in your area?
- Where are the searchers located? Are they locals or foreigners?
- How often are people searching for a particular keyword or keyword phrase?
Questions like these help you identify both short-term and long-term keyword phrases. Once you finish brainstorming, you move on to the next step in your keyword research process: identify the best ones for your digital marketing strategy. Using one – but preferably more keyword research tools, find out what terms are people searching for and see which fit your business needs best. You can download our SEO eBook for 2019 to find some great keyword research tools, or keep on reading – there’s a list at the end of this article.
How to refine the keyword research process
To further refine the process, continue thinking:
- Are the keywords you found truly relevant for your hotel?
- Are you able to address the needs and wishes of the people using those keywords?
- Are these keywords competitive?
- What is the purpose of the keywords? Different keywords deliver different results: some are meant for traffic, others aim at boosting leads and sales, and some are used for brand awareness.
Besides answering these questions, understand search intent to choose keywords that deliver results.
Usually, when an automated keyword research tool ranks terms, search volume is the main metric used to determine popularity and relevance. However, it may not be useful for what you need. Search volume is just a measure of popularity and not an indicator of the potential for traffic and leads. Figure out the search intent behind a keyword phrase to achieve the best results.
Search intent shows you what people need and want to find whereas search volume may not always translate in traffic – because Google delivers answers in snippets, carousels, and similar rich features and the searchers no longer need to click on a link for further information. In such situations, search intent may drive more traffic to your hotel website. Here are some simple ways to identify search intent:
- What information is the user searching for? Where to go with children, when is the best time to visit your destination, etc.
- What are the immediate needs and desires of the searchers? Last minute bookings, hotel deals, direct booking guarantees, perks…
- Branded queries: usually customers familiar with your brand using the search engines to access your hotel site or social media profiles, as well as information about your hotel in the media (online magazines and news sites).
- Comparisons: people comparing accommodation fees between your hotel and competitor hotels at the same destination.
These are just a few examples. You can further refine the quest for search intent based on destination, season, events, and so on.
Search intent can help you identify the long-tail topics that push your site higher up in the SERPs.
So, to refine your keyword research process:
- Look at the search volume to determine keyword popularity and traffic potential;
- Identify your main competitors and study their pages to see what makes them rank and to determine possible methods to outrank them;
- Search intent matters: use tools like Google Suggest or autocomplete and study the top 10 ranking sites to understand search intent;
- Determine how you can satisfy search intent;
- Assess ranking difficulty – there are tools, like Ubersuggest that provide a fair glimpse into the techniques used by the top-ranking sites and SEO difficulty;
What to do next
Once you refine your keyword research process, create a keyword research template – a free spreadsheet tool is fine, and Alexa even offers a free, customizable template. The template helps as you can add keywords as you go along, keeping in mind that keyword research is an ongoing process.
Armed with this template, fill in all the relevant details and plan your content strategy around them. Optimize your on-page content without disregarding technical SEO issues that can harm your rankings even when your texts are spot on.
Top keyword research tools
Here are some of the tools that can help refine your keyword research efforts:
- Google Trends – an exceptional research tool for finding seasonal search terms or terms related to special events.
- Google Correlate – it helps you identify search patterns which correspond with real-world trends. For example, which terms are more popular in winter or other seasons, and you can refine your search by country.
- Google Keyword Planner – a free tool with a Google Ads account. Great for PPC campaigns but also for competitive research.
- Ubersuggest – it’s free and pulls keyword data from both Google Keyword Planner and Google Suggest showing cost per click (CPC) and paid difficulty (PD) too. SEO difficulty is another metric that helps you estimate your chances of ranking for that particular keyword.
- WordStream Keyword Tool – it’s free and very useful for keyword research for PPC. It shows related keyword suggestions, including long-tail keyword variations, as well as their Google search volume.
- Answer the Public – brilliant to determine search intent.
- SEMRush PPC Keyword Tool – excellent when you plan to create a search engine advertising campaign.
There are also a variety of paid tools you could try but the best way to approach the process is to employ a seasoned SEO professional who already knows how to use the tools and how to apply the data.