Search Engine Marketing For Hotels

How Search Engine Marketing Can Jumpstart Your Hotel’s Direct Bookings - By Scott McLin

With 89% of travelers using search engines for purchase decisions, a strong Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy is imperative for hoteliers. Last year alone, the US travel industry spent $5.7 billion on digital advertising with 55% of that spend going to Search.
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How Search Engine Marketing Can Jumpstart Your Hotels Direct Bookings


With 89% of travelers using search engines for purchase decisions, a strong Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy is imperative for hoteliers. Last year alone, the US travel industry spent $5.7 billion on digital advertising with 55% of that spend going to Search. 

Sojern’s latest webinar, Search Engine Marketing for Hotels, dives into what SEM is and how to create an effective search strategy for your hotel to drive more direct bookings. Here, we answer some of the top SEM-related questions:

What is SEM?

Simply put, SEM refers to paid ads on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) generally found above organic listings. Most SEM campaigns are set up through Google AdWords or Bing Ads, where you can choose to bid on certain keywords or keyword phrases that you believe customers may use when searching for your hotel. Most SEM campaigns are offered on the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) model, which means you pay every time someone clicks your ad, regardless if the end result was a booking or not.

For example, if you search “The Rimrock Resort Hotel” on Google, the top four results are examples of SEM. You can tell they are SEM because the top four results have “Ad” in a green box on the left side.

Screenshot - Google search result

Why Should Hoteliers Use SEM?

SEM allows you to protect your brand against third parties. Chances are, these third parties are bidding on your property’s branded keywords and phrases to drive potential bookers to their site, rather than yours, to book. 

In fact, a hotel who recently partnered with Sojern on their SEM efforts experienced just that. Prior to partnering with Sojern, third party ads were appearing in the SERP 86% of the time when a traveler searched for their hotel. Without a strong strategy, travelers looking for your brand could easily wind up booking on third-party sites. This limits your opportunity to get direct bookings and own the guest relationship.

And, unlike Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which has its own advantages, SEM can be up and running in a few hours, allowing you to see immediate results on the SERP. Check out this case study of one property who partnered with Sojern and drove over 300 direct bookings with SEM in just three months.

How Do I Set a Strong SEM Strategy?

First, don’t focus your efforts solely on Google. Sure, they have the biggest share in the search market, but you will miss out on 22% of people searching on Bing. While many agencies run SEM on Google only, Sojern runs on both. We highly recommend this strategy in order to get the greatest reach.

Second, with SEM, you can’t set it and forget it. Search engines constantly refine their search results algorithms, so you need to constantly test and learn from your SEM strategy.

Third, don’t forget about mobile! More than half of SEM traffic could be coming from mobile. It’s important that you have strategies in place for your bids and ad copy specifically for mobile.

If you aren’t sure how to make the best of your SEM strategy or just don’t have the time, partner with someone who does. Sojern’s RevDirect™ clients have a dedicated team running their SEM campaign alongside programmatic display on a pay-for-performance model, which means no risk and no hassle. Get in touch now.

About Scott McLin

Scott McLin is Sojern’s Product Manager. With a BS and MS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford, Scott brings to Sojern 10 years experience in digital marketing, including SEM, display, remarketing Facebook, Twitter, and more. He honed his SEM skills at StubHub and eBay in 2007 and further refined them as an SEM consultant from 2009 to 2016 for companies like Virgin America, Dropbox, and Chevron. Scott is born and raised in the Bay Area and is a proud Warriors fan.


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