It's the end of SEO as we know it (and I feel fine)

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Everything you’ve expected or known about search engine optimization for hotels up until the last year is now obsolete. 
Even if you’ve invested thousands of dollars into your SEO efforts to have your website successfully rank on page one of Google for “Paris Hotels,” you may never see your website show up on page one, let alone see a measurable ROI.

It’s time to redefine your KPIs when it comes to search, and face some of the harsh realities of SEO for the hotel industry.

Problem 1: Google Has Commercialized Its Results Pages

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In 2015, Google reduced its Google Maps and Google Places results from displaying a “7-Pack” to a “3-Pack”, only showing three Hotels with a thumbnail image and Google’s own commercialized meta-tool. 
Hotel Ads may lead a consumer to book via Google or with one of their OTA advertising partners.

And recently, Google made further, MAJOR layout changes to its SERPS, especially for broad search queries like “Paris Hotels” or “Hotels in Saint-Germain.”  
As a result, natural/organic search listings have now been pushed further down the pages and are seeing a reduction in organic click-throughs, and even less traffic on mobile devices.

Solutions: While you cannot control the search engine’s giant layout or where your listing is displayed in the SERPs, you do have some control on what information is being populated:
• Claim your property’s Name and Place (NAP) and make it consistent across all platforms from Google Plus to Yelp;

•  Control the images you display across the online universe and clean up images of your hotel across the web, including the OTAs;

• Target answers not keywords. 
A recent study revealed that 15 percent of Google’s 3.5 Billion daily searches were questions or queries that the search engine has never seen before. 
Hotel websites need to target “long tail” search queries by adding content that answers a traveler’s questions and provides information about the destination or the experience guests will have.

• Utilize a content mapping and interlinking strategy. 
What page does your website user visit most before they book?  Is there a pattern in the sequence of the pages they visit before entering the booking engine? Once you identify the most relevant pages on your hotel’s website, analyze the typical user’s journey to complete a booking. This “path” report can be pulled from Google Analytics.  

Problem 2: Increased Competition for Your Own Hotel Name

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Google’s Hotel Ads and Book on Google products have made it harder than ever for hotels to get traffic from their own brand name. TripAdvisor, big brands and the OTAs have always out-muscled individual hotel websites for popular non-branded keyword searches (ie: “Paris hotels”).
But in 2015, new paid advertising products emerged, making the search engine marketing space even more competitive for individual properties.
Last year, Google introduced its Book on Google model alongside its Hotel Ads module.
Online users now have the option to view rates from all OTAs or book with Google directly from the SERP page, without ever having to actually visit a hotel or OTA website. 
Properties connecting via a CRS are paying approximately 10-12 percent commission to Google for the Book on Google feature, and anywhere from $1.00-$4.00 cost per click (CPC) to have their rate listed alongside the OTAs on Google’s Hotel Ads module.

Solutions:
•  Dominate the SERP by combining PAID and Organic Search Efforts;

•   Participate in Meta Search Advertising or Hotel Ads;

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•    Add alternative tags to all of the property’s images and with the hotel’s name to influence branded image results;

•    Invest in having unique content in other places that have direct links back to your website from authoritative places like Wikipedia, Youtube, etc;

• Refresh the website’s title tags and header tags if you notice click-through rates on your organic results are decreasing. 
Use strong language in your site’s title tags and meta descriptions like “book direct” or “official hotel website.”