5 SEO tips for independent hotels to beat the OTA in France

What is the keyword “hotel” worth in France? What place do OTA occupy in the online tourist accommodation market? In France, who has the No.1 spot – Booking.com, Hotels.com, Trivago or Tripadvisor? Read on find all the answers, as well as 5 top tips for independent hotels to ace their SEO.

We often accuse online reservation sites of bullying independent hotels by invading Google search results (AdWords and SEO) and taking ever higher commissions on hotel reservations.

When we look at the results for “hotel”on Google.fr, we see that OTA (Online Travel Agent) dominate the SERP, in particular, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Trivago and TripAdvisor.

SERP hotels france
“Hotel” results page

The tourist accommodation market, worth €25 billion a year in France, is very enticing. With a 20% commission, we’re talking about €5 billion excluding reservations abroad.

In this article, we’re going to look more closely at the sector’s Google rankings in France – the value of keywords related to the hotel industry, the notoriety of different European players, the ranking of these brands for top keywords, and 5 tips for independent hotels to get in Google’s good books.

Search volumes for keyword “hotel”

In France, there are more than 1 million monthly searches for the word “hotel” (plural & singular), making it one of the hottest holiday search terms.

Keyword Searches
restaurants 1 830 000
hotels 1 223 000
location voiture 301 000
vol pas cher 301 000
billet d avion 246 000
comparateur de vol 246 000

Online Travel Agents: advertising and notoriety

To rank well for these keywords, online travel agents spend a considerable amount of money boosting their notoriety and traffic (TV ads & AdWords). According to SEMrush, Booking.com spends at least 3 million euros per month in AdWords and up to €4.7M in the summer; while its competitors only spend €150-€700k (Trivago), €100 – €370k (Tripadvisor), €100k (Hotels.com), and €20 – €50k (Expedia).

Priceline, owned by Booking and Kayak could even be Google’s No.1 client in the world.

Booking.com clearly invests heavily in France (remember the big-budget booking.yeah campaign), as does Trivago which is also strong on TV & AdWords. Let’s not forget TripAdvisor, which has just launched a new TV ad starring an animated owl and has a €70M advertising budget for 2017!

Take a peek at their brand notoriety at an international level:

Keyword ALL Searches
booking 24 900 000
trivago 16 600 000
expedia 13 600 000
tripadvisor 13 600 000
booking com 6 120 000
hotels com 2 240 000

OTA notoriety in Europe (France, UK and Germany)

At a European level, Booking.com has developed most notoriety in France, even if the keywords booking and booking.com together get more than 2 million monthly searches in the UK.

Booking.com and Last Minute are better known in France than in Germany and the UK.

Monthly searches OTA
Monthly searches for OTA – Europe

 Brits make more monthly searches for all the other brands, reflecting that they are more inclined to travel than their French or German counterparts.

Out of curiosity, we also looked at the keyword “booking.yeah” from the TV campaign, which seemed to have more impact in France (2900 searches) than the UK (1900 searches) and Germany (1600 searches).

OTA: current ranking for keywords in France

The website Hotels.com takes the No.1 spot for the word “hotel”, largely thanks its astute domain name. TripAdvisor leads the way for “hotel paris” with 74,000 monthly searches, followed by Booking.com in second place.

Expedia lags behind along with Booking.com, which seems to be better at creating brand notoriety than SEO. TripAdvisor and Trivago, on the other hand, are aces at SEO and rank well for searches based on “hotel + destination”.

Interestingly, Booking.com is way behind for the keyword “cheap hotel” (No.61)

Ranking keywords hotels OTA
OTA ranking for keywords – SEMRush

 SEO tips for independent hotels

It is difficult for independent hotels to rank for high-volume generic keywords. However, they can target longtail keyword combinations e.g. hotel + spa/boutique/cheap/ romantic/ swimming pool /number of stars /destination.

By testing different combinations, you can find effective, less competitive alternatives.

Here are a few examples of  longtail keywords:

Keyword Searches
boutique hotel toulouse 50
hotel 3 etoiles deauville 50
hotel 3 etoiles amsterdam 50
2 etoiles paris 50
hotel pas cher avec jacuzzi 50
hotel 4 etoiles provence 50
hotel 5 etoiles berlin 50
hotel chateau paris 40
hotel 3 étoiles new york 40
hotel 2 etoiles amsterdam 40
hotel spa berlin 40

To get in Google’s good books, we recommend:

  1. Find longtail keywords related to the specific features of your hotel
  2. Create great content around these expressions, your region (events & activities) and the advantages of your hotel
  3. Make sure your website is accessible to an international audience
  4. Ensure your site is technically in tune with Google, make sure you optimize pages & get backlinks
  5. Complement SEO with other digital channels e.g. social media, online PR & email

If you need help and guidance, don’t hesitate to contact an SEO consultant (like me!) for customized advice.

In the meantime, take a look at 2 articles offering in-depth insights on the topic:

https://moz.com/ugc/think-the-opposite-when-picking-travel-related-keywords

https://ideasmade.com/blog/killing-giants-how-to-beat-big-brands-in-the-google

I’d love to hear from your hotel SEO experience in the comments below – any luck in ranking on long tail keywords ? Who knows, maybe your feedback could be the basis of a fresh, new article with links to your hotel!

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