The Tourism Company
Tips for using keywords to achieve a prominent position for your tourism destination website on Google

Which keywords are most likely to be used by people using Google to look for accommodation in a particular destination? When looking for things to do, are people more likely to use the search term ‘events’ or ‘what’s on’?

Knowing the answers to these questions is an important step because using these popular keywords within the text of your web-pages can help ensure that they appear prominently within the results returned by search engines such as Google.

This article aims to help by using results from Google’s freely available Keyword Tool to look at the relative popularity of various tourism destination-related search terms. We wanted to use destination specific terms rather than just generic ones because competition for top placement in the results for generic terms is just so fierce.

We have split the results into three sections, each dealing with a different subject that is commonly searched for in relation to destinations:

  • General: Search terms used by people looking for holiday or break information about a particular destination
  • Accommodation
  • Events

Under each section we present a table showing a selection of keywords related to that particular subject. The keywords are accompanied by a base score which represents the relative volume of searches undertaken for that particular string of keywords.

The most used keyword or string of keywords in each table is given a score of 100. Keywords below this will have a lower base score. For instance, a term with a base score of 92 indicates that the keyword has 8% fewer people using it than the top term.

The idea is to present the popularity of a group of search terms relative to the most popular keyword in that group. (Note that the order of the keywords appears to make no difference to the search volume, for instance ‘hotels oxford’ has the same search volume as ‘oxford hotels’)

General tourist information / holiday searches

Are people more likely to search for a destination using the keywords ‘weekend break’, ‘short break’ or something else? The table below presents the results:

Keywords usedExampleBase score
holiday [destination] e.g. holiday oxford100
visit [destination]e.g. visit birmingham16
vacation [destination]e.g vacation cambridge10
[destination] breakse.g. oxford breaks8
trip [destination]e.g. trip birmingham7
[destination] breake.g.cambridge break4
weekend breaks [destination]e.g. weekend breaks oxford2
[destination] short breakse.g. birmingham short breaks1
weekend breaks in [destination]e.g. weekend breaks in cambridge1

The table above shows that:

  • The term ‘holiday’ is over six times more commonly used in destination-specific searches than the next most commonly used keyword ‘visit’
  • ‘Vacation’ is the third most popular term in our research
  • Destination-specific searches using the terms ‘break’, ‘weekend break’ and ‘short breaks’ attract less than a twentieth of the search volumes of the term ‘holiday’ (By comparison, search volumes for ‘short breaks’ and ‘weekend breaks’, without a particular destination attached, are very high. This suggests that most people haven’t got specific destinations in mind when they are searching for breaks information)
What does this mean for your website?
  • You should use the term ‘holiday’ where you can on your tourism destination website
  • Our research suggests search volumes for destination-specific terms that include the word ‘break’ are low, so although these terms should be included, they are unlikely to drive much traffic to your site
  • If driving traffic to your site is a priority, the best approach may be to refer to particular types of breaks that are available in your destination, such as golf breaks, outdoor breaks, cycling breaks etc.


Which search terms are the most commonly-used by people looking for accommodation in particular destinations– hotel, guest house or bed and breakfast? The table below presents the results.

Keywords usedExampleBase score
[destination] hotele.g. oxford hotel100
[destination] hotelse.g. cambridge hotels88
hotels [destination] e.g. hotels Birmingham21
[destination] accommodatione.g oxford accommodation14
guest house [destination]e.g guest house birmingham6
bed and breakfast  [destination]e.g. bed and breakfast cambridge5
B&B [destination]e.g b&b birmingham4
guest house [destination]e.g. guest houses in Oxford1
b&b in [destination]e.g. b&b in birmingham1

From the table above we can see:

  • In general, ‘hotel’ is the most used accommodation-based term
  • Using the term ‘hotel’ in conjunction with a destination is more popular than using the plural of the word (i.e. hotels). However, both terms are far more popular than other accommodation-themed keywords
  • Aside from hotel queries, searches using the term ‘accommodation’ are the next most popular
  • The term ‘hotel’ is around twenty times more popular as a search term than ‘bed and breakfast’ and ‘guest house’
  • ‘Bed and breakfast’ is slightly more likely to be used in a search than the abbreviated form of ‘B&B’
What does this mean for your website?
  • When talking about accommodation, make sure that you use the term ‘hotel’ in your copy at least a few times
  • If talking about other forms of serviced accommodation, you can either use the term bed and breakfast or guest house
  • Use the term ‘bed and breakfast’ in full, rather than the abbreviation ‘B&B’.


When looking for things to do in a particular destination, are people more likely to type the phrase ‘what’s on’ into Google’s search engine or ‘things to do? The table below provides the answers.

Keywords usedExampleBase score
[destination] eventse.g. oxford events100
What's on [destination] e.g. what's on cambridge33
Things to do [detination]e.g. things to do in birmingham26
What's on in [destination]e.g. what's on in cambridge21
Events in [destination]e.g events in oxford12
Whats on in [destination]e.g. whats on in birmingham11
Days out [destination]e.g. days out cambridge6

The table above shows that:

  • ‘events’ as a term is used at least three times as often as other destination-specific search terms such as ‘what’s on’, ‘things to do’ or ‘days out’
  • ‘What’s On’ is the second most popular term, with ‘things to do’ in third place
  • Grammar can make a difference. For instance, the apostrophe version of ‘what’s On’ is a more popular search term that ‘whats on’
What does this mean for your website?
  • Use the term ‘events’ on the relevant pages of your website, rather than ‘what’s on’ or ‘things to do’
  • If you do choose to use the term ‘what’s on’, make sure you insert an apostrophe

Why and how we conducted the keyword research

We are not a search engine optimisation company but we are increasingly being asked by our clients to benchmark the performance of destination websites as part of a broader evaluation of a destination’s tourism marketing.

When we started benchmarking website performance, we kept coming up against the question of what should we benchmark performance against. An obvious answer was to look at where a particular destination website appears in Google’s results. However, the question arose as to what keywords we should use in our testing.

So we decided to use Google’s freely available Keyword Tool to look at the relative popularity of various destination-related search terms. We wanted to use destination specific terms rather than just generic searches (e.g. hotels) so we used particular keywords and added three different destinations to these keyword searches (Birmingham, Cambridge and Oxford). We then averaged out the search volume across these three destinations to arrive at our results.

Our analysis of keyword volumes was conducted on September 11th 2008 although the results for some of the sections were compiled on the 18 Jan 2009. The results were tailored to the UK’s version of Google – Broad matching of keywords was applied to our keyword volume searches.

We hope that the results are useful but please only consider them a rough and ready guide rather than highly scientific analysis. Why not use Google’s Keyword Tool yourself to look at what keyword searches are popular for your particular destination?