SEO in the hotel sector

SEO Team Leader Gareth Evans looks at how layout changes have made organic search more competitive than ever

SEO Team Leader Gareth Evans looks at how layout changes have made organic search more competitive than ever, especially within the hotel and travel sector.

The search landscape has changed. There has been quite a dramatic shift in the way search engines display information within their results pages. One thing that’s clear is that the shift gives an increasing prominence to paid search ads and in many cases, organic search results are below the fold.

One of the verticals most impacted by these changes is the hotel and travel industry. It’s something we’ve been talking about regularly as a company, looking at ways in which we can maximise the opportunities these changes have created to get the greatest return for our clients. But first it makes sense to have a bit of a look at some of the most important factors we’ve seen impacting the hotel sector.

Local Pack Results

Historically the Local Pack/Map Pack/Snack Pack (whatever you want to call it) has been a real opportunity for brands to leap ahead of the competition – by appearing here and enticing users to click through to the site based on where they appear within the map results. However, several recent developments have shown that appearing within the Local Pack is even more competitive.

In August 2015, Google moved from showing 7 results as standard, to 3. It goes without saying that with only 3 results now in this space, ranking within the default map listings is more challenging than before. Further to this, in June of this year, Google started rolling out paid ads within the Local Pack so only two organic listings may appear for some search queries.

The value of local results and user interaction with geo-specific queries are integral to Google’s user experience – and the company has released a number of fairly substantial algorithm updates specific to how local results are handled. In 2014, its Pigeon update was released to tie local results more closely to traditional ranking signals. The biggest change was how distance and location parameters were handled to present results to the user with improved relevance. September 2016 saw the release of Possum, which mainly focussed on filtering results and the way it managed local results outside of city limits.

PPC Layouts

Google regularly makes changes to the layout of its ranking pages, however earlier in the year there was a dramatic change that resulted in the removal of the right hand side paid ads. This an area we’ve talked about historically but the main takeaway from an organic perspective is that the increase in paid ads at the top of the page means that organic results are being pushed further down the page and below the fold. This throws out previous assumptions around organic ranking Click Through Rate (CTR) modelling, making it even harder to gauge expected traffic for keyword rankings at specific positions.

Knowledge Graph and Schema Markup

Again, this is another area of focus for those in SEO looking to strengthen their clients’ presence across organic search. Having a well optimised Knowledge Graph result across brand terms helps to strengthen brand awareness and encourages improvements in CTR across both brand and non-brand search queries.

Enter Hotel Price Ads (HPAs). All that hard work you’ve put into ensuring that your clients’ Knowledge Graph results are detailed and informative in the hope that users use the big ‘website’ button to enter their site. You’ve now got this appearing alongside it: