On the one hand, we want to sell our rooms to a wide audience, so using an online travel agency (like Booking.com or Expedia) seems like the best idea. Like today, they dominate the online travel market and have access to a large customer base, which we hope to attract to our property with their “billboard advertising”. This is a great way to liquidate unsold inventory.
Today, making a hotel reservation online via a travel agency, has become very popular. Unfortunately, consumers have developed a certain behavior and avoid booking on the site of the hotel itself. Most confide in an online travel agency, thinking they offer better prices than on the website www.marque.com of the same hotel.
So why would not hoteliers want to cooperate with these online travel agencies?
But then there is the other side of the story. Do we really want this ‘help’? Do we want to pay high commissions or give big discounts to wholesalers, and end up, slowly but surely, in a position to be (excessively) dependent on the conditions that the travel agency dictates (yes they try!)?
With the high fees that hotels have to pay to third-party sites for the sale of their OWN rooms, they are left with substantially reduced profit margins. On top of that, hotels are often forced to sign agreements with the agency stating that they can not offer lower prices on their own website (under any circumstances). Independent hotels, which do not always have the same marketing budgets as the (larger) hotel chains, are tempted to dive into a state of dependence on the agencies that attract them with their huge sales potential.
However … there is hope!
More and more, travelers are aware (also caused by the buzz created by the big chain hotel marketing campaigns) of the many benefits that the hotel offers when they book directly on their site. Travelers often search for the lowest priced rooms that are not always available through the online travel agency. The game of reducing bookings by the agency by converting more on its own website has started. The big chains have started a determined counter-offensive against the agencies, to make sure they get their fair share of the distribution cake.
Hilton has launched a program called ‘Stop clicking around’ or ‘Stop clicking anywhere’ in French ( watch their video here ). IHG the call ‘Your Rate by IHG Rewards’ or ‘Your rate by the IHG awards’ in French. They claim to have increased their digital revenues by 7% and mobile revenues by 32%. Marriott, Starwood, Choice and Best Western have also declared war on OTAs with a loyalty program for its members, offering the best rates.
They fight to take what belongs to them. Are you ready to participate?
The time has come to wake up and act by using this moment as an advantage!
In this article you will find some ideas that will allow you to think about this topic and some ideas that you could incorporate into your sales and marketing strategies.
Map & Hotel Marketing Strategy – Part 1
We have set up an internet marketing plan for independent hotels regarding how to drive direct sales. And take note, these marketing techniques, tips, ideas and best practices can be implemented in any hotel!
We will cover the following areas of online marketing for hotels:
- Best practices for hotel website
- SEO = search engine optimization
- Brand protection
- SEM = search engines marketing
- Marketing Meta-Research
- Discounts and loyalty offers
- Reputation Management
- Booking engine
- Conversion stimulation
THE DESIGN OF THE HOTEL’S WEBSITE IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS SUCCESS
First, you need to implement a crucial aspect in your thinking and acting. Your hotel website is not only your source of pride and your “business card”, but also the most important tool for generating direct bookings. Your own website is your best friend and you should treat it carefully and keep an eye on details!
Your website must have a nice and original design, a style matching the character and DNA of your hotel, include a user-friendly booking engine, and be well-optimized to attract the results of natural search engines.
Unfortunately, many hotel websites are developed without even worrying about SEO and finding the right keywords. This can have a negative impact on the number of visitors and at the same time on bookings made via the site (or in this case, reservations that are not made!).
Ergo: Step One: Have an amazing site and step two: Make sure travelers can find your website easily!
So, what should a good website look like and what should it characterize to improve your rankings?
- The design should be outstanding, clean, functional and easy to navigate . A unique and friendly site that makes a clear statement of the brand, differentiating your hotel from others.
- Explain in detail everything about your hotel, its services, facilities and points of sale. Answer any questions that a potential customer might have before booking your hotel, or information that is decisive. Tip: Ask your reception and reservation staff to make a list of all the questions they get on a daily basis, such as credit cards you accept for example.
- Use as many photos as possible and share an excellent video of your hotel and destination. We recommend at least 100 in total and a minimum of 8 images per room type.
- Use keyword research to determine which consumer research you should target and develop an elaborate landing page strategy with short, medium, and long keywords.
- Create well-optimized theme landing pages with special offers and local experiences.
- Include guest comments to showcase their experiences at your hotel.
- Set up a booking engine with a simplified booking process .
- Mobile Phone : Today, potential customers are usually on the road and more and more people are booking via their mobile phone. You should develop and optimize the mobile version of your site and especially your booking engine. The content should focus on highlighting the most important information to facilitate the trip planning process and generate a reservation. Special offers and last minute rates must be highlighted and displayed as an eye catcher. They must be easily bookmarked for the transition to the computer version.
- It is essential that your website be fast , on computer as well as on mobile devices. You can use Google Page-Speed Insights (link), which is a mix of tools and analytics that give you insight into the loading level of your website and, at the same time, correct any problems discovered in your site. analysis.
Hotels should not hesitate to invest in their website and online marketing. However, getting something cheap can be quite expensive if you are misreported, which can make you miss opportunities. You will then need more indirect bookings and pay more commission to travel agencies.
I highly recommend working with a company that has experience in the e-commerce travel industry and has already created several successful websites (let them demonstrate how many direct sales these sites generate). Also make sure that they use an open source Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal so that you do not depend on them and thus really own and control your website … (You will not build a hotel where the construction company has the foundation and the pillars, does it?)
Note: most people already know it, but prevention is better than cure, use html and not flash, search engines can not read flash, so the ranking of a flash site is a bit difficult …
SEO, SEO OPTIMIZATION BY SEARCH ENGINES, THE BASIS OF BEING FOUND ON THE WEB.
SEO or search engine optimization can be applied by even the smallest independent hotels to ensure a consistent and professional presence in search engine results pages, (‘ SERP ‘), by applying a few elements and strategies of based.
The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about SEO is: Change is constant !
The major search engines (like Google) are changing their algorithms more than 500 times a year, as well as introducing new features. All changes affect how search results appear on the results pages. You, dear hoteliers, must take a proactive approach to content creation and SEO.
Here are some crucial SEO strategies :
Content is king ! When it comes to high rankings. You need truly engaging and hotel-specific content to drive conversions! A good website not only informs, but inspires!
You want potential customers to spend more time on your pages and to visit more pages of your website. To achieve this, you will need unique content. You must also minimize the bounce rate (people leaving your website from the landing page without navigating further). These metrics send positive signals to search engines, which use the information to determine where a page ranks in the results.
I repeat myself again to emphasize the importance of mobile search which today means a greater share of global research activity. You must recognize that your mobile interface is more important than ever. Google has recognized this and penalizes search rankings for sites that have low mobile capabilities. So, make sure your content is compatible on mobile devices! Check your property website on your own mobile. How does your property look? Is it easy to make a reservation? You can use http://quirktools.com/screenfly to check different screen sizes and devices.
In addition, of course, keep an eye on the behavior of mobile visitors (their level of engagement, what phase of purchase they are in, etc.) and adjust continuously.
Be aware of the traffic! Check the ranking of your visibility regularly. Observe how content affects search engines and end users. Collect information on user engagement and organic traffic. Be proactive in tracking through the analysis tools:
- Monitoring the visibility of keyword rankings on an analytics platform (eg Google Analytics)
- Use Google Webmasters tools and the Bing Search Console to perform on-site SEO controls and technical assessments.
Be ready for the changes! Act quickly and efficiently in response to changes in search engine algorithms, user search queries, and the competitive landscape. Regular reporting, data collection, and defining action steps on ongoing optimization efforts are key to success. Be proactive!
Get help from professionals. Feel free to use technology. Reach the main platforms of research visibility. As mentioned above, a good content management system / CMS (ideally open-source) is crucial for real-time content and SEO updates.
A (good) CMS should provide the ability to update (easily and in real time) content on the page, metadata, images, promotional corners and other essential components. Train your staff on using the CMS.
Control your website and identify high-yield pages, opportunities for search visibility, recent successes, the best sources of engagement and traffic, and performance analysis against a set of data.
You need a uniform, simplified and optimized local search presence . Search engines place greater trust in uniform lists across well-established portals and, as a result, are more likely to position your hotel ahead in the search results page. Therefore, reduce directory duplication, include a quick check and regular maintenance of local profiles on various platforms (such as Google My Business, Yelp, Bing, CitySearch, Superpages, Yellow Pages, etc.).
Use links to build credibility ! One of the most important factors is how links interact with your website!
Basically, search engines learn to know specific websites and / or pages by analyzing links from other sites that lead to them. Links from reliable, high-value sources (such as .edu, .gov) alert the search engine that the linked page / site is also trustworthy and, therefore, important to search results. You should regularly monitor and audit all incoming link activities, as well as opportunities to gain credibility from links and especially avoid punishment using bad links (spam). The strategy for managing links is the magic word here!
Be more than “just a hotel website” Here it is – our friend ‘content’! Provide the traveler with engaging and informative content! Avoid generic and boring descriptions. Attract the visitor. Give advice on the area, nearby attractions, inform them about activities, add event calendars and interactive maps and share other interesting local knowledge. Show that you are the number one destination!
Do not exclude other digital marketing opportunities , such as paid search (Ads), banner advertising, email marketing, etc. and turn your website into a revenue generator.
Now, let’s talk a bit about the details of various elements of SEO .
Titles are a very important element. Not only does it appear in the clickable part of your ad in the organic search engine results, but it also improves the ranking by placing your target in the title. Titles must be clear and consistent with the actual content of the page.
Each title must contain these 3 elements to represent your pages and help you with your ranking:
- Title of the page
- Appropriate accompanying keywords
- Name of the hotel / brand
Note: You can only target 2 or 3 keywords per page to ensure optimal results. More will dilute your ranking potential. You will need multiple landing pages to target different combinations of keywords.
Use Google Keyword Planner to identify relevant keywords for your hotel and target markets. You should look beyond the obvious keywords, and also include landing pages with short and long keyword combinations in order to reach the easy targets of online traffic. This will help your overall SEO strategy gain momentum.
Meta descriptions – They provide a brief summary of the page inviting to visit your link. These are direct ranking factors and can influence other aspects such as the clickthrough rate (the number of users of your page) and the average time spent by the user on the site (both of which are ranking factors). direct).
The meta descriptions in the SERP can give valuable information and influence undecided users. A good meta will bring more traffic to your website and generate more direct bookings. Whenever a customer reaches a keyword that you include in your meta-description, these terms will be saved in the results.
You should mention the USP – something that differentiates your hotel from your competitors. The unique points of sale ensure that the guest reserves directly to you. Be sure to send the appropriate message to target the right audience.
Note: the keywords must match those in the title
Headers – Create and mark ‘headers’ and ‘sub-headers’ in the content of your page. This is a very important element on the page to target the keywords! Many leisure travelers use their smartphones to get travel inspirations. With the headers you separate your text that catches users’ attention and makes it easy to navigate.
Using this type of title, we understand what it is. Recognizing the subject easily will allow you to improve your usability statistics, which in turn will improve the SEO score of your pages. Use a clear structure with paragraphs in subdivisions. This will make your website enjoyable.
Content – I repeat: Google’s search algorithms are very sophisticated, which means you need amazing content! The most important factors for your content are: quality (interesting stories), readability (without spelling and grammar mistakes, easy to navigate – eg short paragraphs and dots), freshness (update of the information, links, easy to navigate and quickly find what the user is looking for, easy to book directly).
Ergo: Pay attention to the details! Make sure your headers are labeled appropriately, your website is easy to scan and read and post quality content to engage readers. And do not forget :The content is king if one wants to appear in the good rankings!
Rich Snippets – They provide instant information about your hotel through reviews and ratings (a note displayed below your title, a written review by a customer that replaces the meta description, specific business information like address or business hours ). ‘Rich Snippets’ can instantly increase clicks. This is a very useful SEO tactic in your arsenal.
To display a Rich Snippet note, you will need a developer to “mark” the corresponding text on your website using the standards found on Schema.org. You can also use any other type of Rich Snippet, such as events and product / price annotation. Information about an upcoming event can be displayed just below the title and meta description. Hotels can enjoy concerts, events, special theme nights, festivals, etc., listing them as Rich Snippets. TripAdvisor is based primarily on the use of product / price extracts. Since they occupy the same location as the ranking / evaluation Snippets,
Rich Snippets do not directly affect your search rankings, but they affect the rate of users clicking on your ads in search results, as well as the bounce rate and the average duration of the session. These snippets not only draw users’ eyes to your ads, but they also give them instant information and an extra reason to click on your website.
As I mentioned above: Using links is a very popular and effective SEO tactic ! There are two types of links: internal and external links.
- Internal links refer to other pages of your website. They help search engines find all the pages of your website (in order to get a higher ranking in the results, the search engines must first know that the pages exist) and they facilitate for the potential user to find what they need (eg a link to the booking menu for a direct reservation).
- External links are Inbound (lead users to your page from other pages) or Outbound (lead users of your page to other pages). Google is also looking for websites to connect to other relevant sites, which shows that a site is participating in the community (and is not interpreted as spam). Reaching other websites to link to yours is an important and simple tactic to generate traffic. Think about travel blogs and hotel websites.
PROTECT WHAT’S YOURS!
The simplest basic step is to protect what belongs to you. That is, your name, your registered trademark is yours. Protect it!
Many hotels do not do this, allowing travel agencies to bid on search engines and steal business. This is really stupid . Why would you let an online travel agency control the traffic of people searching for your hotel.
You can easily control distribution and direct production costs by implementing brand protection in your online marketing strategy. Which means you have to submit the hotel’s trademark to Google (and other search engines) in order to block ads with your hotel’s name / brand by others.
Why ? Be aware that when working with an agency, these third-party sites also post ads on your behalf on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
How? When a consumer searches on a particular hotel (yours in this case) on Google, agencies bid on Google Adwords on your hotel name and hijacks potential customers to their agency website. This ad appears at the top of the results in Google and the ignorant customer clicks on it and goes to its page (not yours!).
By advertising the hotel’s name in the search engines, the agency intends to make this client their own customer – or even worse, redirect them to other hotels. This phenomenon has very recently been called into question under the name of “misappropriation of SEM” or “theft of branded keywords”. Agencies should focus on generating additional bookings and revenue, but unfortunately they do not keep their promise, especially when it comes to independent hotel.
Yes, that’s what we think about hotel brand hijacking by agencies (OTA).
So, what is the solution? How to protect your brand?
- Your trademark must be officially registered, locally or at European level. Registration at the European level is much more effective. An online application costs € 850 for a registered trademark.
- Once your registered trademark is registered, you must submit it to Google. This link may be useful to you: https://services.google.com/inquiry/aw_tmcomplaint
- Once accepted, you will need to follow up with Google (via email) to ensure that all advertisers adhere to the policy. Remember, you will not be able to eliminate all ads, but only those showing the brand of your hotel in the ad text (the URL is excluded)
The goal would be to achieve a true win-win situation , not the situation that the OTAs define in their sales pitch to hoteliers. Of course, you need their help to reach a wider audience, but remember that they also need you (probably even more) because in the end it’s you who own the rooms! … And with that, the bargaining power.
Ok guys, enough for today. This was the first part of our Internet Marketing Plan for independent hotels. Next week we will continue with more tips and practices regarding online marketing that we use at hotelsheetsusa.com
Patricia @ firstname.lastname@example.org