Digital Marketing Tools For Hotels

Unbranded Booking Experience

How many hotel websites have you visited that have a beautiful website with all the bells and whistles, but then you went to the reservations page and it simply did not even come close to matching that experience. This is not a search marketing issue – it’s a conversion and branding issue. I’ve worked with hotel clients in the past 12 years that have a conversion problem when they send visitors to 3rd party sites, like booking engines. When fixed and that experience is seamless, conversion rates can go up 40-60%. If you’re working with one of the larger booking engines, they tend to do a good job of giving you the tools for a branded booking experience, so you should take full advantage. If you’re working with a one-off booking solution that doesn’t offer these tools, it might be time switch.

Solution

Perform your own usability test by using Google Website OptimizerMorea, or Neil Patel’s Crazy Egg. Also, ask your booking engine if they can help you brand the booking page to better match your site. Typically this can be done with a header image and matching CSS code.

Analytics Strategies

Google Analytics is free. It’s simple to install and simple to use. You can even set up dashboards that pull all of the complex metrics together into one spot for ease of use. Not using Google Analytics or another analytics program to understand how visitors are reaching your website is a big mistake. In most cases Hotels receive 80-90% of their ‘new visitors’ from search engines.

That means that you should know exactly which keywords are being searched when customers arrive to your website. Furthermore, you should know which pages they arrive to and, you should also know if visitors are spending time on the site or bouncing off. These are all important factors because they can help you understand if your site is optimized for the right keywords and, more importantly, if the content and experience meets their needs as customers.

Solution
Spend a few days reading through Avinash Kaushik’s website, he is Google’s Analytics evangelist. He has excellent posts about basic analytics, but also includes some pretty technical tricks to get the right data that you’re looking for out of Google Analytics. Once you’ve done that and have a good understanding of the type of metrics that you can get in Google Analytics – back out your priorities. If you care about the amount of money being generated through non-branded organic traffic, you can create a custom report in Google Analytics to show you this information on a monthly or weekly basis.

Success Using Hotel Reviews

First hand accounts of a stay at a hotel are gold. They can tell consumers exactly what they can expect if they were to stay at your hotel. Now, that’s if they’re good reviews. Bad reviews can have a huge negative effect, especially if they’re in popular review website locations such as TripAdvisor and Google. My final mistake is last for a reason – its probably the last thing that people want to think about or deal with. Who wants to deal with a bad review? Especially, when there’s really not much that you CAN do to deal with it online.

Well, there is something that you can do. Each review is like a personalized note to each employee at the hotel telling them about the things that they’re doing well, or not doing so well. Online hotel reviews should be made visible to hotel employees and not hidden or ignored. They’re a great opportunity to share positive stories and to discover areas of improvement. Not to mention that better reviews DO affect search engine and website rankings, and I see this continuing for the foreseeable future, especially with local and mobile search becoming even more prevalent.

Solution
Making reviews part of everyone’s business. Reviews are such an essential part of business in today’s hotel marketing arena that they need to be brought to the forefront. Monthly meetings should include highlights and lowlights with written and online reviews. Make reviews so essential that people are held accountable for reviews.

Using Paid Search to Capture Branded Visitors

This concept is sure to spur debate among anyone that is savvy – but its worth discussing. Often times hotels feel that they have such a strong brand that they do not need to bid on their own brand keywords in Google AdWords or other paid search markets. I agree that in some cases a brand may be so strong or so small that a branded paid search campaign is not needed. However, consider this: If a 3rd party site, such as an OTA is making 10% on a $300 booking, is it worth spending $.15 to potentially capture that visitor and not have to pay commissions?

In many cases, the answer is yes, and in fact, the Return on Ad Spend for many branded hotel campaigns can be in the hundreds if not thousands of a percent. You don’t have to spend a lot to earn a lot, and the potential payout to 3rd party sites is the opportunity cost of not running a branded paid search campaign. Another positive feature is that you can control the booking and conversion experience and send visitors directly to a page that fits their needs.

Solution
Starting a branded campaign. Send visitors as far along the booking funnel as possible. They searching for your hotel by name, so likely they’re further along the booking process. You can test running and not running a campaign and see if your organic search gets an up-tick, but there’s proven statistics that an organic and a paid listing equates to higher combined click through rates. This means consumers are not going to 3rd party OTA sites, which means higher margins on booked rooms for you.

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Scott Fish