Search Engine Marketing For Hotels

Back to Basics: Search Engine Marketing

A woman using a laptop computer
Back to Basics: Search Engine Marketing


Search engine marketing (SEM), or buying traffic through paid search listings, is a relatively easy way to drive qualified traffic and more direct bookings to your hotel website. It is used to improve the visibility of your website in search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM is a key advertising initiative, so we’re diving into the basics of everything you need to know.

What is it?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of increasing your website’s visibility on search engine results pages. SEM refers specifically to the paid promotion of your website via pay per click (PPC) listings. Appearing above organic content, the goal of SEM campaigns is to drive traffic and bookings. Google Ads is the most popular paid search platform used by hotel digital marketers.

Why is it important?

Google processes more than 40,000 search queries every second on average, or 3.5 billion searches per day. Effective SEM campaigns can help your website listing stand out on a SERP by leveraging search trends data to uncover insights into which keywords users are searching for on the path to booking with your hotel. You can then bid on keyword phrases that are likely to be of interest to your target audience, creating effective listings that generate quality traffic.

Accounting for 10-15% of a hotel’s overall website revenue, SEM is also one of the most effective digital marketing initiatives. The simple text ads appear at the top of SERPs and place your hotel front and center with travelers who are searching for your brand and related destination terms. Ad extensions appear directly below with additional information presented differently to each user based on the search algorithm.

How can I get started?

While launching an SEM campaign is fairly straightforward, it’s important to have a strategy based solidly in keyword research to ensure standout ads that generate traffic to your website. Selecting the right keywords and phrases is the core of any SEM campaign and determine where and when an ad will appear. While you can launch ads on your own, working with an experienced hotel marketing agency will ensure your SEM and SEO initiatives are aligned with a comprehensive strategy to achieve a higher ROAS.

How do I measure success?

You should be running campaigns that effectively target people in different phases of the travel planning journey. This will determine how to measure success.

For awareness and consideration campaigns, which generally focus on upper-funnel destination keywords and niche destination keywords, you should be looking at impressions and clicks. Measuring impressions and click-through rates can show whether or not your ads are relevant to users searching for the keyword phrases you’re bidding on. If these numbers are low, you will need to make adjustments accordingly to ensure your ads are being shown and that users are clicking them.

For direct response campaigns, which focus on branded keywords to drive bookings, you should look at bookings, leads completed, and click-to-calls. These KPIs have a monetary value associated, which will determine exactly how well the campaigns performed.


Founded in 2001, the firm is headquartered in New York City and has global offices in Las Vegas, Tallinn, Munich, and Asia-Pacific. Through its Smart Guest Acquisition Suite, including the smartCMS®, Smart Personalization Engine, Smart Data Marketing, and full-service digital consulting and marketing solutions, HEBS Digital helps hoteliers drastically boost direct bookings, lower distribution costs, and increase the lifetime value of guests. Its diverse client portfolio consists of top-tier luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts and casinos, franchised properties and hotel management companies, convention centers, spas, restaurants, DMO and tourist offices.

Part of NextGuest Technologies, HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM, the most comprehensive Hotel CRM Suite today, are the creators of the hospitality industry’s first Fully-Integrated Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform.

Contact HEBS Digital’s consultants at 1 (800) 649-5076 (North America), +64 (0) 9 889 8489 (Asia Pacific) or



Kerryn Gower
Associate Brand Content Manager, HEBS Digital
Phone: (212) 782-3779

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