27 Nov 2023

SEO and SEM for Hospitality Marketing

SEO and SEM can work together in every industry, including hospitality marketing. However, before using them, it’s essential to know how they can work together and how they differ.

In a nutshell: SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) encompass different approaches to advertising.

SEO is often an umbrella term that encompasses SEM, but SEO is organic, while SEM pertains strictly to paid marketing tactics.

SEM heavily focuses on how to bring business in through paid advertisements across various channels. Whereas, SEO is more about acquiring, monitoring, and analyzing the information from unpaid, natural website traffic.

We’ll start by addressing that you want to have strategies for SEO and SEM regarding your hotel marketing plan. It’s standard for marketing teams to group SEM under SEO, so if you work with a hired team, don’t be surprised if they intertwine, as they can refer to similar activities.

Any digital marketing professional should have a firm grasp of these two concepts. Hospitality marketing can benefit significantly from using each method.

Let’s start with SEO. 

The Basics of Solid SEO

SEO is a critical component of any digital marketing strategy, which makes SEO knowledge crucial, regardless of industry. Google takes on the bulk of online searches, so you’ll likely notice that it’s the main focus when we discuss SEO.

Since Google runs over 8.5 billion search queries daily, there’s quite a lot of activity and competition, which is why a solid SEO strategy is so important.

SEO is the process in which search engine bots crawl your website content for relevancy and efficiency and categorize where your content fits.

Search engine bots use various aspects to assess website content, including keywords, link titles, and tags. From there, the search engine, typically Google, will rank your site for its ability to attract organic traffic. Before establishing an SEO strategy, which will likely evolve, you should have a good idea of what search engine bots (or crawlers) consider.


The Quality of Your Content

Content is king, and the fact that high-quality, readable, relevant content is crucial to high SEO rankings is only one of the reasons artificial intelligence continues to fail to replace human copy and content writers. Great content tells search engine bots that your website, products, and services are legitimate, and part of that assessment comes from link building and utilizing the correct keywords.

The User Experience

Your website design will have a tangible impact on where your hotel appears in Google search results. While no website is perfect, ensuring users have a good experience is important.

The website should load quickly and provide straightforward navigation options. Booking and purchasing should be simple, allowing consumers to meet their end goals easily.


The Link Patterns

Link patterns won’t matter to anyone who lands on your site, but they matter to SEO bots and web crawlers. When you include backlinks in your SEO strategy, you’ll want to ensure that you backlink to authority sites and know where your inbound links originate.

Learning SEO basics and incorporating them into your content marketing strategies is relatively simple but requires time and technical knowledge. It helps to hire an SEO professional, but there are some initiatives you can take on your own or with the in-house team if you have one. You’ll see an uptick in organic traffic when your SEO executes well.

Also, you will only see organic results after a period of time. SEO takes time to get its footing, so patience is essential, primarily if your site is brand new. It will take at least thirty days for Google to crawl or “notice” your website.


All About SEM

SEM, or search engine marketing, incorporates different variations of paid search advertising. SEM often comes in the form of Google Ads. You’ve likely noticed the hotels at the top of a Google search have an ad indicator next to them. These hotels are using SEM.

Though you pay for SEM and ad placement, it’s still essential to implement strategy, primarily regarding keyword placement. Here are a few examples of advertising activities based on the utilization of SEM:

  • Writing ad copy around selected and targeted keywords;
  • Paid, targeted ad campaigns via search engines or social platforms;
  • The application and monitoring of KPIs (key performance indicators), such as CTRs (click-through-rates) and the CPC (cost-per-click)
  • Ensuring all advertising activities fall within a specific advertising budget.


Your SEM strategy must have structure. While you can execute it poorly, it will get your business straight to the top when it’s laid out correctly. Hiring a professional to design and target your ads is your best bet when working on an SEM strategy.

SEM is a fantastic tool for establishing brand recognition and getting your hotel to the top of the SERP (search engine results page) every time someone searches your targeted keywords. It’s a fantastic way to bring targeted traffic to your website while establishing a way to use paid ads, monitor the traffic on those ads, and create future campaigns based on the analytics information you receive.

Of course, SEM has drawbacks, requiring knowledge and tools like Google AdSense and SEMRush. If you need to be better-versed in these tools, you’ll want to hire someone with vast experience in digital marketing and advertising campaigns. The money you spend in that respect will be well worth it.


SEO or SEM: Which to Use for Hotel Marketing

When choosing SEO or SEM for your hotel marketing strategy, the truth is that it makes sense to utilize both. SEO and SEM rely heavily on driving traffic to websites and pages via keywords. The marketing techniques for SEM and SEO are different, but they focus on the flow of consumer traffic and how that traffic relates to marketing activities.

Consumers use search engines to find what they’re looking for, whether that be products or services. The results come to them via both organic and paid results. Because most people do an online search before they commit to a purchase, a solid online presence through SEO and SEM can boost long-term visibility.


SEO Before Everything

It’s clear that it makes sense to use SEO and SEM for hotel marketing, and while they do play off each other well, you can only use SEM if your website is SEO-friendly. If you want to use both methods to advertise your hotel, you’ll want to begin with SEO.

Optimizing the pages, tags, images, and titles on your website will raise your chances of a successful SEM strategy. In short, search engine optimization is the foundation for well-executed search engine marketing. Once your site is SEO-friendly, you can run sponsored ads using your target keywords and show up at the top of paid searches.

However, Google will only see your website as credible if you’ve got your on and off-site SEO laid out well, which can take time. If you don’t want to wait for SEO rankings to kick in, you can start running your SEM plan and paid ads first, as long as you don’t ignore SEO in the process.


The Benefits of Using SEO and SEM Simultaneously

Any marketing professional will tell you that you should use SEO and SEM together if you want your business to grow. SEO and SEM bring together organic and paid avenues of consumer traffic, improving the quality and quantity of online visitors while raising conversion and booking rates.

Combining the knowledge and efforts of your SEO and SEM strategies can be beneficial in many ways, including the following:


Combined Tactics Strengthen Business

A well-written, targeted ad set and a correctly optimized website can improve your brand image and increase consumer awareness. Because SEO and SEM heavily affect where you appear in search results, they’re essential to a good first impression, encouraging consumers to click through and learn more.


Better Results, Less Time

Everybody wants overnight SEO results, but unfortunately, SEO doesn’t work that way. However, if your on-site SEO strategy is solid, you can use SEM (paid ads) to bring traffic to your site while you wait for Google to index your website based on the high-quality content and keywords you provide.

Don’t get us wrong, SEO is quick compared to the way businesses used to advertise (think flyers and newspaper ads), but it still takes time. SEM can take the edge off of waiting, primarily if you’re rushing to start booking guests.

Populate the SERP

With solid SEO and SEM strategies in place, your hotel can show up all over SERPs by populating the ad and organic sections. Popping up in both areas gives your hotel a much higher chance of seeing clicks and new customers.


Insights to Enhance SEO

SEM results and analytics can provide a wealth of information, including keyword performance and conversion rates. You can easily use the results from your search engine marketing strategy to supplement your on- and off-site SEO, improving your website’s organic performance.


Bringing SEO and SEM Together

SEO and SEM are very different marketing tactics, but at their core, they focus heavily on bringing in traffic via targeted keywords. You can choose to use one or the other, but bringing them together, with the assistance of a marketing professional, is the best way to benefit from the perks each method offers. Let’s get you started today!