How hotels should adapt to Google Travel and intent-based search

Google is continually updating its algorithm to offer the best possible experience to its users. This has implications for hotel marketers; when you know the kind of content Google deems as valuable, you can tailor your SEO and marketing accordingly.

It wasn’t long ago that SEO was all about keywords. But the SEO environment has changed. Today, Google’s machine learning algorithm is designed to make recommendations based on a user’s intent, instead of providing an exact keyword match. This is an important evolution. And it has major ramifications for hotel marketers.

In this post, we’ll explain how hotels should adapt to intent-based search, specifically to gain exposure on the ever-expanding Google Travel. But first, let’s briefly describe what intent-based search is and why Google thinks that it’s so important.

Why does Google now prioritize intent-based search?

In the past, Google prioritized websites full of relevant keywords—even if those websites didn’t contain quality and helpful content. But of course, Google wants to offer its users a great search experience. Hence the move towards intent-based search.

Today, if you want your hotel website to move up through the search results, you need to give travelers what they’re really looking for. You need to match their intent. And that means producing high-quality, informative, and valuable content built around their needs.

There’s another reason why Google has stopped rewarding keyword-focused content. PPC and display ads convert at a higher rate when they match a person’s intent (a win-win for Google and its advertisers). In contrast, keyword-focused ads can gain a lot of clicks but don’t attract such highly qualified leads.

Turning our attention to Google Travel, the information above has important implications. As we’ll learn, Google Travel uses an algorithm that is also designed to direct users toward the best experience, and this includes showcasing the hotels that most closely align with their preferences and needs.

What is Google Travel?

Google Travel is the company’s ever-expanding trip planning tool. As reported by Skift, Google Travel recently took a huge step by launching a Google Travel desktop website. On the same website, users can now shop for flights, hotels, and vacation packages, access travel guides, video content, recommendations, and utilize trip-planning tools.

With this expansion, a prominent position on Google Travel is more valuable than ever.

So how to get ahead? As you might expect, it’s all about giving users what they want. The interface on Google Travel is clean and simple — something that’s evident in the Google Hotel Search section. There’s no fluff or unnecessary content. Only the most relevant and important information is presented as users browse and book.

You can filter properties by check-in/check-out dates and a nightly room rate slider. Additional filters let you narrow results further, including guest rating, hotel class, deals, and a short list of amenities.

Google Hotel Search Amenities Filter

When you click on a hotel listing, Google serves up a more in-depth page with a prominently displayed link to the hotel website. To the right, a blue “Book a room” button also lets you check and book rooms with the OTAs.

Google Hotel Search results page

In order to increase your hotel’s visibility on Google Travel, you have to optimize your profile in Google My Business(GMB). Populate all available information and keep your listing up-to-date, which includes verifying that all amenities at your property match the options listed within GMB.

Place guest intent at the heart of your online experiences

Young travelers standing in front of Manhattan skyline

Just like it’s standard search tool, Google Travel is designed to provide an optimal experience for its users based on their intent. As a hotel, you can use this knowledge to create a far more effective listing. The key is to provide all the essential information a guest might need to book with your property.

Here are just some of the typical intent-based queries a guest might have:

  • “I want to book a room”
  • “I want to see special offers”
  • “Does this hotel have a continental breakfast?”
  • “How much is valet parking?”
  • “Does this hotel have accessible rooms?”
  • “What are the rates for this hotel?”

Naturally, you can drill down into your own guest data to determine more specific needs.

Practical tips: turn intent into direct bookings

To increase your exposure and booking potential on Google Travel, your hotel website needs to address and answer the most essential questions a guest might have. With that in mind, let’s look at how that can be achieved.

Show rates and availability

Within Google Travel, the hotel search interface allows users to look for hotels by room rates and check-in/check out dates. So if your hotel website doesn’t show its latest rates and availability up front, it won’t be visible in these search results. Using Travel Tripper’s Rate Match tool, your real-time rates are automatically displayed on your hotel website. This tool can also automatically match and beat the prices of the major OTAs, so you’re never out of parity.

Feature essential information

To help users find the perfect hotel, Google Travel showcases all the most important property information in an easy-to-digest format. Make sure your hotel website does the same. Does your website let guests know your pool opening hours? Whether you’re pet-friendly? Your proximity to public transport? If you serve a free breakfast? To increase your visibility on Google Travel, look carefully at its hotel interface and check that your website isn’t missing necessary information.

Answer intent-based questions throughout your website

There are numerous ways to design content around intent-based search. Obvious places include your hotel website homepage, Rooms page, and Location page. Additionally, you could create themed blog posts around topics that your audience will find valuable and inspiring. Or produce a FAQ page that answers common queries. Your content can still target keywords, but make sure that it provides genuine value to your visitors. Always choose quality over quantity.

Remember to focus on your guests

Design your website to offer an empathy-first experience. Ask yourself, are you creating a website for your guests or for the search engines? Aim to educate, entertain, and help your customers. Your website should answer the queries that motivated their original search. Keep this thought in mind and make it central to your SEO efforts.

Hotels need to embrace intent-based search

Too many hotel marketeers still base their SEO strategy on how Google used to prioritize search results. Focusing far too much on keywords. To gain a prominent place on Google Travel, a more nuanced approach is required.

In simple terms, it really comes down to being helpful. Think guest-focused, not keyword-focused. Is the content on your hotel website designed around the needs of your customers? Does it answer their most pressing questions and concerns? When you build high-quality content around the subjects that truly matter to your customers, you’ll naturally give your SEO a major boost.

As it continues to expand, Google Travel is being seen as a threat and cause of uncertainty across the industry. But if you know how to leverage it to your advantage, you can turn a potential disruption into a golden opportunity.

Nate Lane

Nate Lane

Nate Lane is a senior global director of business development, product development, and agency operations with 10+ years of experience driving growth and innovation as an "intrapreneur". He's an avid mountain biker, a coffee and craft beer enthusiast, and a proud family man. Contact him at nate@traveltripper.com

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