The basics of paid search (SEA) for hotels

Advertising October 22nd, 2021

Hotel advertising campaigns are a powerful tool to increase the online visibility of hotels. It’s used to make the hotel appear at the top of the results list on search engines. You’re targeting a highly qualified audience, so this maximizes your chances of converting these visitors into customers.

What is Search Engine Advertising (SEA) for hotels?

Paid referencing SEA (Search Engine Advertising) allows hotels to appear in the form of an ad when a user performs a search on a search engine (Google, Bing etc.). For the ad to appear, the hotel must be positioned on relevant keywords. It is the user’s search engine query that triggers the ad. 

Keywords can be composed of queries such as hotel + city, hotel + region, hotel + country or city + hotel name.

What makes an advertising campaign worthwhile for hotels? 

It’s important to be visible when a user searches for a keyword. There are 2 types of searches:


This is when the Internet user searches for the name of a hotel, for example. When performing this search, the Internet user is likely to see what are known as OTAs (Online Tourism Agencies),  travel agencies, appear in 1st position. For example, Trivago, Booking or Kayak. 

By opting for a brand protection strategy, the hotelier aims to appear above these OTAs and thus increase their chances of benefiting from direct bookings. 


The generic search is a broader search. The Internet user doesn’t already know of your hotel or does not know where to book. They’ll usually search for “hotel + city”. For example, “hotel in Manchester.” In this case, the hotelier aims to raise awareness of their hotel. This is pure acquisition.

How does paid search work? 

To appear in the form of an ad, you must position yourself on keywords. In other words, you have to choose the keywords you want your ad to appear for. Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes and ask yourself what they are looking for. Then you have to create an ad. The ad is what the user sees once they have entered their search. 

Several companies may be positioned on the same keywords. The ads will be classified according to different criteria. The Internet user will then see different ads. 

Google Ads works on a bidding system, there are 2 major ones: 

  • Smart bidding: the amount of the bids is chosen according to signals emitted by the Internet user, such as geographic location, time of the request, browsing history, etc.
  • Manual bidding: these are bids defined by the advertiser, the limitations of these bids are the fact that they are less personalized to the user. 

You should note that today, Google generally advises using smart bidding to show your ad to the user at the best possible time. 

Do you have to have the highest bid to be the best referenced? 

Having the highest bid is not enough for good referencing on Google: your ranking also depends on your ad quality.  

The ranking is calculated based on several factors: the bids, the expected CTR at the time of bidding, the ad’s relevance and the usability of your landing page. 

An ad with the highest bid will not necessarily be ranked in 1st position. So you have to take time to get your ad right. 

How do I set up advertising campaigns for hotels? 

A SEA campaign is pretty quick to set up. The first thing you need to do is determine the strategy. 

SEA acquisition campaigns are structural layers that reach the Internet user at different moments while they are online. 

traveller's conversion path

Each type of campaign has specific objectives: generating targeted traffic, increasing visibility, building awareness or making sales. 

Search engines offer different types of advertising campaign strategies (SEA), brand protection and generic campaigns. 

Before you choose your hotel’s SEA campaign strategy, you need to be aware that these campaigns work together. Generic SEA campaigns feed into brand protection campaigns. 

To ensure that you cover the majority of demand, we advise you to protect your brand name and then run generic campaigns. 

What budget do I need for a hotel advertising campaign? 

The budget is determined according to the chosen strategy, the hotel’s reputation and also the competition.

It’s difficult to determine a budget before launching campaigns. This is why we recommend you set a flexible budget. The amount needed will vary according to your hotel’s popularity. 

The cost of OTA distribution varies between 15 and 25%, the efforts made by your teams should focus on the cost of sales to make your hotel’s SEA campaigns profitable. A campaign can be considered profitable when the cost of sales is less than 10%.


SEA campaigns for hotels help hotels promote their name and services to Internet users. 

You advertise your hotel directly to people who are interested in staying in your city or region around the world. The more visible you are, the more likely you are to generate direct bookings without third parties. 

Do you want to set up SEA campaigns for your hotel? Our team is here to help you win direct bookings.

Ludovic Maréchal - Traffic Manager