Keyword Research: Did You Dive Deep Enough?

Filed in Featured, MY BEST POSTS, SEO by Matt McGee on June 14, 2011 12 Comments

My personal blog, is ranking in the Top Ten of Google’s search results for at least one keyword related to a major hotel resort on Maui. It’s not because my blog is some SEO powerhouse; it’s because the hotel committed a common SEO mistake: It didn’t dive deep enough with its keyword research and on-site optimization. Come along with me to the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, won’t you?

When you stay at the Sheraton Maui, you have six buildings to choose from and from looking at the property map, you can tell that the experience can be dramatically different from one building to the next.


The buildings point in all different directions. Some are close to the pools and restaurants on the property, while others are further away from the crowds and offer more privacy. And obviously, the views are different; someone staying in a room with a view of trees and the pool is going to have a different experience than someone staying in a room where dolphins go swimming by your lanai.

In other words: For some visitors, it’s not just about the choice of hotel; it’s also about the choice of building at the hotel.

When Cari and I got back from our first Hawaii visit last month, I wrote a series of blog posts recapping our adventures. In the very first one, I wrote about our arrival at the Sheraton Maui and mentioned some of the different building options:

I had called a couple weeks earlier to let them know this was our first visit to Hawaii, a celebration of our 20th anniversary, etc., and that we really wanted to be placed in building 4 out as close to the beach as possible. If that wasn’t possible, Cari and I were planning to pay for an upgrade to a deluxe oceanfront room in either building 5 or 6.

That’s the only place in the entire post that mentions “building 5,” but have a look at Google’s search results for “sheraton maui building 5.”


As you can see, mixed in with,, Yelp and TripAdvisor is my humble little blog. Fortunately, my blog post is flattering overall to the Sheraton Maui … but the next blog post that someone writes about a specific building may not be.

The SEO Lessons

Obviously, this is a long-tail search term and probably not very high-volume. But, it’s probably safe to say that the only people searching for this term are highly interested potential customers who are deep in the decision-making process. I think there are a few lessons here:

1. The hotel didn’t dive deep enough in its original keyword research and/or its on-page optimization.

Like every hotel site, you’ll find plenty of information about the different room types at the Sheraton Maui. But there’s no information about the different buildings. A page for each building, with photos showing the rooms and views and other details, would be a nice addition to the hotel website.

2. The hotel hasn’t been using its internal analytics for keyword research.

Surely some searchers are finding the official site on search terms like this. (On Bing, the official site ranks #2 for this same search phrase.) Monitoring the keywords that drive traffic often opens up new opportunities for improving content.

3. Depending on where they are in the decision-making process, people have different search habits.

It’s doubtful that anyone would search for “sheraton maui building 5” without being this close to making a reservation, or having already made a reservation. The hotel should want to have its own website showing up for a term like that because, either way, those are important searchers.

So for small business owners, the takeaway from all of this is pretty simple:

Think about the different types of phrases people might use depending on where they are in the buying process for your products/services. Then dive deeply enough into your keyword research and on-site SEO to make sure you’ve covered all the terms where you should be showing up in the search results.

Need to learn on-page SEO? If you’re looking for a starter guide that covers everything you need to know about on-page SEO, try my highly-rated e-book, How to SEO Your Site in 60 Minutes.

Comments (12)

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  1. SearchCap: The Day In Search, June 14, 2011 | June 14, 2011
  1. Vijay says:

    Thanks to this article, now this page also ranks for the term “sheraton maui building 5” 🙂

    I found it always interesting to see how some non relative page ranks for the business terms because someone forgot to dig deep.

    Nice article.

  2. Patrick says:

    I stayed there last month, actually, and yeah- I noticed your blog in the search results!

    This is a good wake up call for any business, and I know we’ll spend a bit of time making sure this doesn’t happen to us.

  3. Eric Munley says:

    A little off topic, but from a traditional marketing perspective you have to wonder why they would name their buildings “Building 1”, “Building 2” etc. Sheraton should give each building a unique name for further branding.

  4. Eric Munley says:

    Matt, I guess you’re going to have to spend some more time there…get used to the Hawaiian language!

  5. I love this article. Looking at my analytics for keywords that are bringing in just a little bit of traffic to my site is one of my favorite ways to spot an opportunity. If you are already ranking for a term that you don’t have great content for and have not optimized for, it can be a real easy win to get to the top of the SERPS.

    Obviously this keyword is not important to you, but if it was, imagine the easy gain you could get by optimizing the content even the slightest for that keyword.

    Finding the long tail keywords that are bringing in a bit of traffic to your site and optimizing your content for them is a great strategy. Like you said, long tail searches are usually from people who know what they want and are ready to convert.

  6. PeteS_UK says:

    Thanks for this Matt, I would have disregarded longtail that did not show a degree of search volume, but your analysis of why this term is being used (close to the end of the buying cycle) has made me think again. Thanks.

  7. Michael says:

    This is also a good point to make for Reputation Management. If you had written a negative review on your blog it would have shown up on Page 1 of Google. No good on their part. They should definitely be monitoring all keywords related to their property.

  8. Lynie says:

    Thanks for this advice Matt this information really help me as a novice in SEO

  9. Hi Matt, what a great article. This is a subject area that I regularly bring up with clients and prospects alike because of the long term impact. Understanding the concept of the long tail and how it builds over time is one of the keys to establishing a successful online presence. I hope you don’t mind, I may reference your post in our news section.

    Stay well!

  10. Tracey Renzullo says:

    Hi Matt – great article. I teach intro SEO as part of an internet marketing course at I talk about long-tail in the context of the buying process, and the more examples I can show, the more my students “get it”. This is an excellent example that I’d love to use in my class. Thank you.

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