What is Structured Data? A Guide for Hotels


Definition of Structured Data

"refers to information with a high degree of organization, such that inclusion in a relational database is seamless and readily searchable by simple, straightforward search engine algorithms or other search operations."

But what exactly does that mean and how does it apply to hotels? In order to best describe Structured Data, it is probably easiest to start with examples.

Structured Data Examples

If we do a Google Search for "spinach and artichoke dip", the first thing on the result page is a list of ingredients and instructions on how to make it:


That formatted list of ingredients and instructions is a pretty straightforward example, but what about more complex, personal details to your gmail account? If you do a Google Search for "my previous flights" - so long as you have flight info in an @gmail.com account and you are logged in, you should see every flight and details that are in your gmail account displayed in the search result page for Google:

We can also click into those details and see specific information about the flight that is listed:


We can see the same information on hotels if we do a "my previous hotels" search in Google:


The question then becomes, how does Google take recipe information from a website or flight and hotel data from your gmail account and display those details in a clean table in the search results? The answer is that the data is organized in a way that inclusion in a relational database is seamless. In other words, it is Structured Data.

We can markup data on a hotel's website in a similar fashion so that necessary elements for a hotel are present so that inclusion in relational database is seamless. An example of how this is done can be seen on this page here.

On the right side of that page, we can see that there are different types of data marked up. Website, Hotel, Hotel Room, and Organization. We can click into each of those sections and Google will display all of the data that is marked up for us to view:


However, this is how it looks within the code of your website:


What is important to note here is that the Structured Data markup is not actually meant for the audience of your website, it is meant for bots and spiders that crawl the internet to aggregate information for users in other platforms (Google, Bing, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)

How Does Structured Data Impact Organic Performance

While Google has said that Structured Data is not a ranking factor, they have stated that it helps the engine better understand the content on your pages and there is evidence that it helps provide additional information to the end user, which can increase CTR. CTR is correlated with higher rankings in search engines and a higher CTR can help move rankings up in Organic Results, which would lead to a higher CTR, higher rankings, and so on.

Our goal here is to create a positive feedback loop that starts by providing more information to the end user and contributes to higher rankings with higher CTRs.

Get Ahead of Competition

From the limited tests that we have run, we see that the vast majority of hotels are not currently utilizing Structured Data. As Google has confirmed benefits of having it on a website, this is a great opportunity to get in front of competitors.

Impact Positive Performance On Your Site

So far, clients that have implemented structured data have seen some positive improvements to organic search traffic and we encourage our clients to implement Structured Data for improved website performance.

Contact GCommerce today for more information on implementing structured data to your hotel’s website.

What's The Single Most Important Thing You Can do for SEO in 2018?


Now that you’ve completed all necessary steps to ensure your hotel’s website is well optimized for the shift to mobile-first indexing and you’ve made the upgrade to HTTPS, where should you focus your energy next?

Structured Data.

Gary Illyes, Google’s webmaster trends analyst and one of the most respected voices in the SEO world, spent lots of time focused on structured data during his talks at Pubcon in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. Here’s a direct quote:

“Structured data. This is one of those things that I want you to pay lots of attention to this year.

We launched a bunch of search features that are based on structured data. It was badges on image search, jobs was another thing, job search, recipes, movies, local restaurants, courses and a bunch of other things that rely solely on structure data, schema.org annotations.

It is almost like we started building lots of new features that rely on structured data, kind of like we started caring more and more and more about structured data. That is an important hint for you if you want your sites to appear in search features, implement structured data.” (Reported by The SEM Post)

The SEM Post also reported that Illyes stated “But more importantly, add structure data to your pages because during indexing, we will be able to better understand what your site is about.”

That means Google’s using structured data for ranking and indexing purposes. Right now very few websites are using structured data. By implementing structured data now, your website will get ahead of your competition and it can help boost your rankings and organic traffic results. Don’t believe us? Looking for more answers on what structured data is and how to implement it?  Check out this case study for the impact of structured data. Then contact us to help you implement it before your competition does.

Do your own test with Structured Data:

If you are logged into a Gmail account that you have used for hotel reservations or flights, simply search:

“My Previous Flights” to see all flight reservations in your Gmail:

“My Previous Hotels” to see all hotel reservations in your Gmail:

10 Search Engine Marketing Trends Hotels Need to Know in 2017


The top search engine marketers in the world met over 3 days in Seattle to discuss and present current and future trends within the industry, covering everything from how to obtain position 0 in the SERP to the exciting future of Voice Search and everything in between. Here’s a breakdown of what all hoteliers need to know about the present and future of search engine marketing for hotels.

  1. ROBOTS ARE TAKING OVER! EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY AND START USING CHATBOTS. It’s been proven for many years that live chat on your website boosts conversion rate but many hotels run into operational limitations. Independent hotels are stretched thin on operational staff and typically don’t have someone available to monitor and respond on their website’s live chat. There’s a solution and it’s called CHATBOTS. It’s not a new concept but platforms such as Bing are making it easier than ever to build your own. Just take a visit to The North Face or Skyscanner websites. These two sites are actively using chatbots to interact with visitors – helping them shop, find content and products as well as make purchases.
  2. START USING ADWORDS NEXT AS SOON AS YOUR ACCOUNT IS ELIGIBLE. Google Adwords is slowly rolling out access to their new version of Adwords called Adwords Next. It features a completely new user interface. While it does take a bit to get acquainted with the new layout, using the new version gives you access to important new features you can’t access in the old Adwords UI, such as promotion extensions & call bid adjustments.
  3. THE FUTURE OF SEARCH IS VOICE, BUT MOBILE IS NOW. The question on everyone’s mind and a breakout topic at this year’s SMX Advanced was “how do I optimize for voice search?” Alexa, Siri, Cortona, Google Home; there’s a smattering of new technology built upon voice search commands. The fact remains that this technology is still in its infancy and has many limitations. In an industry such as hotels where consumers rely so heavily on visual results to assist them in their research and purchase funnel, other devices continue to be more important for hotels. While voice search is something to be considered in search strategies for hotels moving forward (and there are a few tactics to help you now), hotels should be more focused on optimizing their mobile and desktop experiences before focusing on voice.
  4. LOCAL SEARCH WILL MOVE TOWARDS ADS – YOU’LL NEED TO PAY TO PLAY TO BE VISIBLE. Google reported a 53% increase in paid clicks YOY on their Q1 2017 earnings report. It’s no secret that they’re in this business for the money, they have to answer to shareholders and the majority of their income comes from advertising dollars. They’re constantly looking for ways to monetize the search results, which is evident from the evolution of the SERPs page year after year. One thing that was agreed on by every member of the Local Search Braintrust of experts at SMX Advanced was that Local Search results are going to become pay-to-play. This is apparent from the changes to the knowledge panel with Google’s Hotel CPC program that allows OTAs and hotels to present sponsored ads showing current rates, the launch of local ads on Google Maps, and their recent tests that show rates directly on map results.
  5. THE MOST EXCITING, NEW FEATURE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RIGHT NOW FOR PAID SEARCH IS AUDIENCE TARGETING. On the last day, during the last session of SMX Advanced, a panel of SEM experts sat down for a Q & A session with the audience. One of the best questions to round out the series was “what is one thing you want to do to your paid search campaigns but haven’t had time to yet”. All of the experts voiced their excitement and goals for their paid search campaigns focused on better use of audience targeting. This includes:
    1. In-market (coming soon to Google & Bing)
    2. RLSA
    3. Customer match

Enhancements to audience targeting have been a focus of Google for a while now, most likely to compete with the incredible targeting options available within Facebook advertising. If you haven’t started testing different audiences in Google and Bing don’t wait. Options like RLSA and customer match are already proving successful for many advertisers. We can’t wait to test the new in-market audiences Google and Bing will be launching this year.

  1. YOU SHOULD ALREADY BE USING SCHEMA/STRUCTURED DATA. A common theme across many SEO sessions was the use of Schema structured data markup to improve your presence within search results. From local search to voice search, all SEO experts agree – if you’re not using schema structured data throughout your site, you’re missing out on having the best-optimized pages for search engines. With such a low adoption rate by hotels so far, now is the time to implement schema structured data on your website and get ahead of the competition.
  2. GOOGLE IS NOT QUITE READY TO MOVE TO A MOBILE-FIRST INDEX. The two sessions where Google’s Gary Illyes stood up to speak were both packed to the brim, standing room only. Since what Google says is considered the holy grail of the search marketing world, a room full of SEOs waited with baited breath as he delivered cryptic statements about Google’s stance on a variety of questions. The biggest topic being the recently announced Mobile-first Index. If anything was apparent from the bits and pieces of information Gary would give up, it was that Google isn’t close to being ready to transition to a solely mobile-first index. If they made the switch now, it would risk poor results – considering many websites are still not providing a mobile-friendly experience. Gary also stated that Google may smear over desktop signals to mobile to fill in gaps of knowledge for the index. All of that being said, Google is still a ways out from transitioning to a mobile-first index and it probably won’t happen until 2018 at the soonest. So if you don’t have a mobile-friendly experience for your consumers – fix it now.
  3. SEM’S ACROSS ALL INDUSTRIES ARE SEEING INCREASES IN CPCS. It’s an unfortunate trend we’ve been seeing for clients over the past year and we’re not alone. CPCs keep going up. This was a concern voiced throughout the conference; SEMs across all industries are continuing to see a rise in CPC, most alarmingly for exact match branded keywords. These are supposed to be your most qualified, lowest cost-per-click keywords but they keep rising. One thought was that it came from a recent algorithm update in May but no one has an exact answer. It remains to be seen how CPCs will continue to rise and how much of an impact that might have on hoteliers.
  4. YOU NEED TO BE WORRIED ABOUT PAGE SPEED. There is a reason Google is pushing AMPs so much, they are worried about page speed – specifically for users on mobile devices, but it’s a true concern across devices. Any page taking longer than 5 seconds to load is too slow. Do what you can to minimize scripts, compress images and more to improve your page load time. Even minimal improvements in speed can make big differences in bounce rate and conversion rate of your website. Users’ expectations are getting even tougher; if your page doesn’t load fast enough, users are going to leave. According to a study by Kissmetrics, a 1-second delay in page response time can result in a 7% reduction in conversions (Kissmetrics Blog). Do you want to risk losing that revenue?
  5. CONTENT MARKETING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER. Content has always been important for SEO. The recent buzz word for content marketing is just a new packaging for something that SEO’s have been pushing for years. Google even came out and confirmed last year that content remains one of the top 3 ranking signals. It remains extremely important to have substantial, relevant content on your website that is valuable to your consumers. But, it’s important to remember there are no one-size/one-kind-fits-all solutions. The type of content that’s important for success differs by industry. Word content remains an important factor, with pages that rank in the top 10 consistently having at least 1,900 words (Search Metrics – Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors 2017). But it’s not just size that matters; the content and messaging also need to be relevant to the user’s intent. According to Search Metric’s 2017 ranking signals for hotel and travel websites, success is found with more image content. For hotel websites, success is more closely tied to having great visual content and great word content. Are there ways for your hotel to have more compelling visual and word content that better speak to your audience? If so, now is the time to implement it!

Improving Organic Search Performance with Structured Data



Many hoteliers have experienced a similar trend with their organic traffic from Google: it is decreasing. Over the last several years, Google has drastically changed the way they present websites on their result pages. Here, we will walk through some of the recent changes from Google’s Result Pages, how they might be impacting organic search experience and a possible solution to help mitigate some of the negative impacts that websites might be experiencing.

Around 2012 – Back in the glory days of search engines, the organic search results were displayed right up at the top, very easy for the searcher to find. Google had ads above those, and some on the sidebar, but they were more easily distinguished from the Organic Search Results and the top organic result could rely on as much as 33% of the overall clicks on the page.


2015 – By this year, Google had made some serious changes to their result pages. You can see the local map pack becomes more prominent, ads now take up multiple lines with several links available to click on and you cannot even see the 1st organic results unless you scroll further down, they are “below the fold”. The difference between this result page and the one from 2012 illustrate how much Google’s page has changed in those years. There seems to be no priority to display organic results at the top and the page seems very ad heavy.


2017 – The biggest difference between here and 2015 is that there are no longer ads being displayed on the sidebar. However, we have increased the number of ads above the local pack to a total of 4. As we scroll down, we see 2 organic search results, news results, and then more organic. As of today, most of what is being displayed on the first page are not organic results, but either ads or information that Google has deemed relevant to the searcher are shown instead. While the first organic search result still receives a vast majority of the clicks on the page, the rest of the organic results listed get a markedly lower number of clicks in comparison to the past.

Changes in Google’s Search Result Page have resulted in some drastic changes to the way people interact with Search Engines. As we mentioned above, interaction and CTRs with organic results outside of the first position have declined. With the reduction in the number of ads on the front-page, the demand for that ad space has increased significantly, which results in an increase of as much as 60% in Brand CPCs.

It’s also no surprise that Google continues to make more money off of ads year-over-year, with the largest increase in revenue coming from mobile searches. With the increase in mobile, the fact that the organic search results are being pushed further down the page is an even larger problem; with smaller screens, people have to view more of the page in order to see the full list of organic results. Evaluations from these changes show that the biggest losers for impressions and traffic with the new layout are in Google’s organic search results.



Unfortunately, Google doesn’t seem to be making any changes or indications that they are going to go back to an older model with more prominent visibility for organic results. The majority of the websites that we work with are seeing an increase to their CPCs through paid traffic and a decline in their organic traffic from Google. While we don’t believe that we can combat this trend and effectively give our partner websites the same visibility they once enjoyed through Google’s organic results, we wanted to explore any possible way that we might be able to provide an additional benefit above what our client’s competitors were doing. If we are not able to completely reverse the trend of declining search traffic, can we at least slow it down? One area we saw a great opportunity in was with structured data.


Structured Data is not anything new to the Internet; it is simply a way for very specific data to be conveyed with a high level of organization. This allows information to be easily read by spiders and bots on the Internet in order to aggregate that information in an automated fashion for relational databases. Whether or not you have heard the term structured data, you are probably familiar with the results if you have ever searched for a recipe online:


Everything within this search result is populated through structured data to be shown as a “featured snippet” from Google, which is able to show this information automatically. The screenshot below from Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool shows the amount and type of information that can be shown through Schema. Other sites on the Internet can then utilize that information automatically, as within the example above with Google’s display of the artichoke dip ingredients.


Recently, Google announced that they would be showing featured snippets for hotels through rich cards. Rich cards from Google allow hotels to display more accurate information and highlight specific amenities or aspects of their website to the searcher. Google has explicitly stated that they do not take structured data into account as a ranking factor. However, there is a lot of evidence to show that organic CTR for websites is a ranking factor. If structured data provides more information to the user, which should help improve CTR, which should improve rankings, which would improve CTR and so on. We also have a lot of evidence to show that structured data is a marker for showing information within local search results as well. So structured data could be a strategy to help improve organic rankings and traffic from Google, especially considering most independent hotels do not currently utilize structured data on their websites. We decided it would be a great idea to test this with one of our clients.


GCommerce works with a hotel in a major metropolitan area. They get a significant percentage of their traffic and revenue from Google’s organic search results. As a result of changes within Google’s display of their search result page, along with changes in rankings, this hotel’s website has seen a significant decrease in traffic and revenue from Google. Year-over-year, this hotel saw an average decrease in sessions, users, revenue, transactions, and conversion rate of about 14%, comparing January-May, 2015 with the same time period in 2016. In late January of 2017, we implemented structured data markup to this website. When we look at the same comparison of data, but with 2017 and 2016 data, we see an average decline of less than 6.5%. The number of users is nearly equal to 2016 data and the number of transactions actually eclipsed 2016 numbers in March:



Here at GCommerce, we are wise enough to know that we cannot completely reverse trends within Google’s result pages. Industry-wide, organic traffic is declining and it will likely continue to decline as Google continues to monetize their result pages. With increased costs in advertising, hotels are going to have to utilize new technologies in the ways that they bring traffic to their website and how users interact with their site in order to get more bookings with similar marketing dollars. One of the ways that GCommerce has proven to help impact organic traffic and rankings is with structured data markup. For help in adding structured data to your website, contact us today.

The Key to Effective Digital Marketing: Delivering Great Content


“Content” is the trendy new word that’s been sweeping the digital marketing space for the last few years. Hundreds of webinars and thousands of blog posts have mentioned the topic, continually hitting home on how important it is to not only deliver good content but deliver great content. But to understand how to deliver great content, it’s important to understand what “content” is.

Content is every post, picture, piece of copy, or story you are trying to tell through your marketing efforts, it is everything you share with your audience. Rebecca Lieb likened content to the “atomic particle of marketing.” There is no marketing without content, regardless of channel. Creating effective and engaging content is the best digital marketing strategy you can adopt and is the foundation for digital marketing success.


Perhaps the first and most important thing to understand about delivering great content is this: it’s not about you. Content marketing is about your audience. In another post, we talked about boosting engagement with email marketing campaigns. One of the suggested steps is to ask yourself “Who am I targeting and what interests them?” This applies to any form of content marketing. If you aren’t considering who you are trying to market to and what they want, your content is going to fall flat. That being said, it’s still important to maintain your voice.

In a webinar from Skyword, one of their first steps to good content marketing is understanding your “why?” When we say “why”, we are referring to why you’re creating content in the first place. What do you want to give people? What do you want them to know about you? Why do you want them to read your content? One of the best content marketing campaigns of 2016 belonged to Deadpool. Everything from pre-release to post-release was crafted with the singular purpose of conveying to the reader that Deadpool was in no way, shape, or form, your regular superhero movie experience. Below is one of the many movie posters created for the box office hit.

Deadpool was, at its core, a satirical superhero movie with heart. In a world inundated with superhero after superhero, audiences were clamoring for something different and that’s exactly what Marvel gave them with Deadpool and it was their “why” for their content marketing strategy. Understanding your why is key to developing good, actionable content because it serves as a constant reminder of what you want your audience to know about and learn from you while still keeping them at the heart of your campaign.



So now that you know why you’re delivering content, how do you create or find it? There is a multitude of ways to create engaging content, but perhaps one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is through leveraging your environment, both digital and physical. The 1888 Hotel in Sydney, Australia rebranded itself as an “Instagram hotel” using its creative and eye-catching interior to develop Instagram devoted spaces and using the Instagram photos and experiences of its guests to adorn its walls, website and social media feeds. Here is one of its website homepage modules promoting Instagram-worthy interiors:


Utilizing hashtags, trending topics or even local and world news and events are all fair game for delivering great content. Find out what your audience is talking about and join the discussion. But remember that content isn’t just external, your guests, employees, and property-at-large are having unique experiences every day.

In 2014, The Lenox Hotel in Boston welcomed 120,000 new tenants to their property: bees. Yes, you read that correctly, they welcomed a colony of bees. The bees were brought in to produce honey that would be used for signature drinks and dishes created at The Lenox’s restaurant and lounge. Rather than just put up notices, GCommerce and The Lenox teamed up to rally behind the bees, creating bee-themed stay packages and content campaigns to generate buzz about the hotel’s unique news. This not only won them a Silver Award at the 2014 Adrian Awards but significantly increased their following and engagement for their email and social channels.


This goes to show that great content is located all around you, both digitally and physically. To hear more about what’s going on around you, think about installing a suggestion box, creating an email account, or reminding guests and employees to share their stories as they interact with your brand.


People definitely judge books by their cover, at least when it comes to content marketing. We’ve talked before about how important email subject lines are to email marketing campaigns and that extends to just about every piece of content marketing you do. Copyblogger released the following statistics about content headlines and what they mean for engagement:

  • 80% of people will read your headline
  • 20% of these people will read the rest of your content

With statistics like that, it’s clear that your headlines matter. So what can you do to make sure that you are creating strong headlines? Studies showthat headlines should stay in the 8-12 word range and be specific without being too gimmicky or sensational. In a world where clickbait is becoming increasingly popular and infamous, don’t deceive the reader with your headline, but don’t give it all away either. Try and utilize keywords as well, optimizing for SEO and social.


Digital marketing is all about generating actionable data and this should be no different in your content marketing strategy. One of the ways to do this is through conducting a content audit. This audit can be everything from metrics across content marketing campaigns to the quality of individual posts. Which campaigns or posts are seeing the most engagement and why? Is your content accurate and trustworthy? Is it linking to authoritative sources? Is it fresh? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself about your content. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” So remember your content, why it did or did not perform, and understand how you can use that data in the future.


Effective content marketing is the key to digital marketing success. Content affects everything from your search rankings and engagement to brand awareness and repeat conversions. Understanding your “why” and your audience sets the stage while leveraging your environment can provide fun, informative and engaging content for those following your brand. Just be sure to audit your content to obtain actionable data about the health of your content marketing program.