Hotel SEO FAQ #1: What is the best name for my hotel?



As you might have guessed from the title of this post, “What is the best name for my hotel?” is one of the most common questions that current and potential clients ask us. On top of that, a past post on this topic by my dearly departed colleague Ashley Boss (she’s not dead, she just doesn’t work for Blue Magnet anymore – the same thing in my book) is one of our most viewed posts. Add up these two facts, and it becomes pretty clear that hotel names are pretty important to hoteliers (hotel names, and ya know, money), and with good reason – a hotel’s name greatly affects the way current and potential guests perceive the hotel and can have a huge impact on the hotel’s performance. With all of this as well as the many big changes in the online marketing game over the past two years in mind, I figured the world was ready (perhaps even desperate) for an updated guide on how to best name a hotel. Giddy-up!

Rule #1 Do Pick a Name That is Relevant to Your Hotel

The first rule is the simplest and most obvious, but for that reason, often the most difficult to follow. There should be nothing easier than choosing a relevant name for your hotel. Just think about the essence of your hotel and then follow the simple formula: Brand Name/Independent Hotel Name + City + Relevant Descriptor = Hotel Name. Right? Unfortunately, in many cases, it is not so easy.

It is a simple fact that location plays a huge part in a hotel’s success, both on and off-line; and in the online world, the importance of location often manifests itself in ways that can appear unfair. For instance, you could have two hotels across the street from each other but with postal addresses in two different cities, and because one of them has a bigger city in their name that hotel has the potential to rank better than the other for keywords related to the big city. In a case like this, a matter of 50 feet can seem like a million miles when viewed from a certain perspective, and it is just such a perspective that causes hoteliers to start stretching the truth in hotel name descriptors and ultimately give their hotels irrelevant names.

In the long run, giving your hotel an irrelevant name (e.g. including the word “Downtown” in the name of a hotel that is 20 miles outside of the city center) will produce two results. First, not only will your hotel never rank well for the irrelevant keyword included in the hotel name (see Rule #2 for more details), but also it is likely that your hotel will never rank as well as it should for the keywords that it is relevant for. Second, guests who didn’t check your actual location before booking will feel misled when they arrive at the hotel, leading them to leave negative reviews which will hurt your rankings and online performance even more.

To put it simply, give your hotel a name that accurately describes its location and includes one descriptor that reflects the most important characteristic of your hotel. Possible descriptors include directions, neighborhoods, nearby attractions, etc., just as long as they are relevant.

Rule #1 for appropriately naming your hotel is best applied to hotels before they open, so if your hotel is already open and you find yourself thinking, “If I change my hotel name to include [insert descriptor that is somewhat close to your hotel but that 20 other hotels are much more relevant for], I could probably rank better for X keyword”, then, my friend, Rule #2 is just for you!

Rule #2 Do Not Change Hotel Name Just for SEO Reasons

There are plenty of good reasons for changing a hotel’s name – rebranding your hotel, adapting to changes in the surrounding area, and fixing an irrelevant name are just a few of them; however, changing a hotel’s name just to try to perform better in search engine rankings is not only not a good reason, it is a downright bad reason. Allow me to explain.

A few years ago, changing your name for SEO was not a bad idea at all. Depending on your hotel and your market, changing your name to exactly include a valuable keyword phrase (e.g. “Downtown Chicago hotel”) could give you the competitive edge over similar hotels in your area or help you rank for location based terms that weren’t 100% relevant to your hotel. Over the years, I have seen many hotels benefit from having such phrases in their names. For instance many Embassy Suites hotels have ranked very well for Suites keywords because it is right there in the name. However for a few reasons, this is just not the case anymore.

First, exact keyword phrases are becoming less and less important as search engines (particularly Google) become more adept at understanding that searches for “Chicago hotels” and “hotels Chicago” are pretty much the same thing. In fact, over-use of exact phrases can actually harm your search engine performance.

Second, search engines have become much smarter at understanding where your hotel is located and are much less likely to believe you when you include an irrelevant location-based descriptor in your name. A disconnect between what your site tells search engines about your hotel and what search engines learn about your hotel from other sources can create issues with search engines properly understanding your hotel and site which can harm the trustworthiness of your site.

Third, Local SEO, something that barely existed a few years ago, has become of paramount importance to hotels, and one of the key elements in Local SEO is consistency of Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) in citations across the web. And as your embarrassed Auntie Milicent found out during the infamous “Cancun Debacle”, once something is on the Internet, it is almost impossible to remove it. So every time a hotel changes its name (or flag – something else to consider), it becomes more and more difficult to maintain consistency in local citations.

So please, do not change your hotel name just for SEO, but if for whatever reason, you are going to change your hotel name, don’t do it without understanding Rule #3

Rule #3 Do Not Choose a Name that is Too Long

Before I go any further, I would like to make one thing clear – Just because I advise against choosing a certain hotel name only for its perceived SEO value does not mean that you should totally disregard SEO considerations when selecting a hotel name. If you have a pre-open hotel and you haven’t precisely figured out your hotel’s niche, looking into which terms internet users are searching for most can help you find the best way to brand your hotel. Or if you decide that you need to rebrand your hotel, it can be very useful to do keyword research to help choose between equally relevant descriptors or to determine the hotel name that will best fit the overall rebranding strategy. As long as you are not changing your hotel name just for SEO, there is nothing wrong with looking into keyword phrase search volumes when deciding on a name, just don’t make search volume the only or final consideration in your name changing process.

Now, you are probably asking, “What does the above paragraph have to do with Rule #3?” Given dispensation to take SEO into consideration when choosing a hotel name, some hoteliers might be tempted to stuff their hotel name with all sorts of relevant descriptors that have high search volume. I completely understand the impulse. “As long as the descriptors are relevant,” misguided, but good-intentioned hoteliers conjecture, “what is the harm in putting a bunch of them in my hotel name?” The harm is that it violates Rule #3 – Do Not Choose a Name that is Too Long. What is wrong with a long name, you ask? Let me count the ways.

First, as mentioned above, NAP consistency is an extremely important factor in Local SEO success, and every additional word in a hotel’s name increases the difficulty of maintaining that consistency. Some local listing sites and data aggregators have character limits for business names, which means that for some of these sites you will not be able to input all of a long name, which will automatically introduce inconsistency into your citations; not to mention that the local search universe is interconnected so a truncated name on one site can spread to other sites like malaria in a jungle. In addition, the longer your hotel name is the more likely it is that the name will be inputted incorrectly somewhere along the line, again adding to inconsistency.

Second, along with getting better at knowing exactly where your hotel is located, search engines are also getting better at knowing where everything else (attractions, businesses, neighborhoods, etc.) is located. Therefore, adding all sorts of descriptors to your name does nothing to help the search engines because they already know that you are close to those things, but it does makes your hotel name appear over-optimized and unnatural. This is what we in the business call the “Double Whammy”. If you want to rank well for all of the descriptors relevant to your hotel, don’t stuff them all in your hotel name. Instead, choose the most important one (1) to include in the hotel name, and then create pages on your hotel site with useful content about the additional descriptors. Search engines already largely know what is relevant to your hotel; your job is to prove to them that you are an authoritative and trustworthy source of information regarding those relevant topics, and stuffing your hotel name full of valuable descriptors is decidedly not the way to prove it.

Blue Magnet Golden Rule: Common Sense

Despite the beliefs of our respected colleague T.W. Adorno, common sense does not always reflect the hegemony of the consumer culture. Sometimes common sense is downright good sense, and in our fight to provide above-board strategies for great hotels, Blue Magnet has found that good old fashioned common sense is the often the best guide for creating successful, long-term strategies. If you look at potential hotel name and there is something awkward or off about it, it is probably violating one of the 3 Rules of Naming a Hotel and is certainly violating the rule of common sense. So remember – when choosing a hotel name, follow your heart and you shall prevail (or follow this handy formula:

Perfect Hotel Name = Brand Name (or Hotel Name for Independents) + City + One Relevant Descriptor