Search Engine Marketing for Hotels in 2021

As one of the most reliable advertising initiatives, SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is a must for hotels and the hospitality industry in general. A tried-and-true initiative, it is integral in the hotel digital marketing mix and one of, if not the best, ways to gain visibility on search engine results pages (think Google & Bing). With Google consistently rolling out new updates, it’s crucial for SEM to be one of the mainstays in any digital marketing strategy, with enough budget to pivot and test as these updates or brand new advertising opportunities arise.

Core SEM Initiatives

Paid Search

SEM is a pay-per-click (PPC) initiative involving buying keywords and optimizing ads on search engines with an end goal in mind. It’s important to cover 100% of branded search terms and focus on long-tailed keywords, with specific targeting and personalized based on each campaign’s specific goals. In 2021, ensure your SEM messaging is highly relevant to the destination landing page to ensure a high Quality Score and lower CPCs (cost per clicks). You can also get creative with your sitelink extensions to highlight new and ongoing safety protocols, flexible cancellation policies, and other FAQs people tend to ask. Doing this allows your audience to be more informed as they make their decision, thus helping move them further down in the sales funnel.

  • As things shift with the ongoing rules and regulations, it’s also important to:
    • Prioritize A/B testing because of the volatility of travel demand and the shifting needs of travel consumers.
    • Reevaluate any campaigns directly tied to annual events, and reallocate those funds for any that are no longer occurring.
    • In RLSA (remarketing for SEM) campaigns, make sure to personalize the messaging to those who have already visited your website to further emphasize any compelling offers or promotions you may be running.

YouTube & Gmail Ads

Gmail Ads allow you to target audiences specifically within their Gmail account inbox with a mix of teaser and email-like ads, which fit seamlessly into your inbox tabs. For YouTube, TrueView allows you to create campaigns using various video ad formats to engage with audiences while they are searching on YouTube.

  • In 2021, it’s important to prioritize leveraging unique targeting strategies on these channels.
    • Leverage lookalike audiences, or customer match, to target users similar to the customers you already have with personalized messaging.
    • Utilize life event targeting, which allows you to target people who are moving, graduating from college, etc. For example, suppose people move to your destination due to the pandemic. In that case, a campaign targeting those people can help drive hotel occupancy because they may be in need of interim accommodations.

Google Display Network

The Google Display Network (GDN) is a series of more than 2 million placements across websites, videos, and apps where ads are served. The GDN provides robust targeting capabilities that enable you to reach your target audience at the right place and the right time. In 2021, it’s especially important to leverage all your targeting options strategically. Using Affinity Audiences is a great upper-funnel targeting strategy to help you reach new, relevant users who are likely to be interested in your hotel. Targeting strategies utilizing  In-Market Audiences and Similar Users allow you to reach users who have already displayed travel intent.

  • As things shift and change with the ongoing rules and regulations, it’s also important to be flexible:
    • Evaluate the performance of previously-used display creative and create new campaign creative that utilizes high-performing creative elements.
    • Create unique creative for remarketing campaigns with lower-funnel messaging.