Hoteliers need to continue to focus on distribution channels that are cost-effective, generate the most bookings, protect rate parity and price integrity, and reach key customer segments. How do you do this? Below are some tips you should consider for your 2012 digital marketing plan in order to achieve this.
Hotel website re-design
Your hotel website is your shopfront and a professional looking site is important if you want customers to book with you direct. With the new Google Panda update, it's important that you don't scrimp on getting a professional website that is SEO friendly, easy to navigate and professional looking. But what elements make up an effective website?
- Ensure that your website has unique and engaging content
- Include updated and high resolution photos
- Include a booking button on every page and it can be found easily. Make sure it sits above the fold and stands out so that it directs people to book straight away
- Easy to navigate and is SEO friendly - ensure that the website is built with the latest technology HTML, the layout is clean and easy to navigate for humans and search engine
- Include a CMS so you can update fresh content regularly and photos
- Include social media icons
Get a video
Videos are a great way to sell your hotel, rooms and facilities. Video also engages consumers better than any other medium. Video is also ideal for users on the go - it's easier for customers to watch a video of your property on their iPhone, Android devices, tablets, etc.
Due to the shortened attention span, keep the video short - less than 2 minutes, which illustrates the different aspects of your hotel: rooms, facilities, weddings, spa, entertainment.
Advertise your videos on YouTube (good for SEO) and make sure your videos can be found easily on your website, Facebook page etc.
Marketing initiatives that encourage sharing of content
Implement marketing initiatives such as competitions to generate buzz, increase traffic to the website, encourage repeat visits, increase your database and ultimately increase online bookings. Provide discounts or specials on your website or social media page. Include a calendar of events, tripadvisor reviews, blog with updated news on upcoming events in the area.
It’s important that you allow your customers to easily share the content either from your website or social media such as Facebook. Include surveys, polls and ask questions on Facebook.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
With the recent Google Panda updates and the ever changing algorithms by search engines to improve the user experience, it's important that your website and SEO is ever evolving to take the SEO updates into consideration. This includes ensuring that your website is easy to navigate and user for both humans and search engine spiders and there is a focus on unique and quality content that brings value to the consumer, rather than keyword stuffing your sentences.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has been a staple of hotel Internet marketing budgets for some time now because it works. Smart SEM marketers typically find that their campaigns generate significant revenues for their property in upwards of 1,500% ROI.
Google recently released a study that addressed the question: “What percentage of paid clicks would be acquired organically if I pause my SEM campaigns?” Results showed that 89% of paid clicks would not be recouped organically – only 11% would be covered by organic search results.
In a competitive market, an increased focus on local searches now and a heavy OTA presence, there is now a need for properties to spend more to get and maintain their market share.
Email marketing is still an essential component of any property's direct online channel strategy. It is also an easy and affordable way to send messages to key customer segments.
To maximise the power of email marketing in 2012, consider sending targeted emails that are relevant to your customer segments. Consider getting people who have not opened or clicked on email links with a special offer to get them interested in your email again. Call past customers and update their email addresses and send them a special offer to remind them of your hotel.
Send emails relevant to your customer's interests. For example, if a customer has expressed an interest in golf, send them an offer that includes accommodation and a round of golf.
Have a look at your email template. Does it need a refresh? Get a professionally designed email template. And lastly, with so many people viewing emails on a mobile device while on the go, make sure your emails can be read via mobile.
Mobile Websites & Marketing
Research shows that by 2014, mobile Internet users will surpass the number of desktop Internet users. The most important statistic though is the number of smartphone users. Smartphones are changing how we do business in hospitality, how we market, how we service customers.
A survey conducted by Google in 2011 shows that 1 out of 5 hotel queries come from mobile devices. Additionally, Google revealed that 20 percent of searches across Google are local, but that number bumps up to 40 percent for mobile searches.
As consumers continue to embrace their smartphones for all types of activities, mobiles will play an increasingly important role in the travel sector, especially in last minute bookings. With this in mind, it's important that your website is mobile friendly.
- Create mobile-friendly textual and visual content that presents the hotel product well.
- Enhance the mobile user-experience via well-developed mobile site navigation, a mobile booking engine widget, mobile calendar of events, etc.
- Increase website “discoverability” via mobile SEO and mobile SEM (e.g. Google mobile AdWords) and online media initiatives.
- Make the mobile website more interactive via mobile-social media initiatives, for example, contests.
Social media has changed how travel consumers research, plan travel, access travel information, and perceive credibility of information. There is also no doubt that Internet users are increasingly influenced by social media sites and peer reviews
Social marketing should continue to be an important component of your digital marketing mix in 2012 and in addition to using it for bookings and revenue, social media is about:
- Building Buzz
- Building brand awareness
- Interacting with and engaging with customers
- Keeping up with the times, making the hotel look current, cool and up-to-date
- Driving engaged and relevant traffic to the property’s own website
- Answering questions and feedback from customers
- A great way to reach other potential customers from your network
Online reputation management
It's very important that your hotel monitors and responds to customer reviews. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, 92 percent of travellers are more likely to book accommodations for a hotel that posts a detailed property description and photos. According to PhoCusWright, 87% of travellers found guest reviews from people they didn't know influential in their travel decision.
In 2012 hoteliers will need to also pay special attention to Google reviews, which are part of Google Places. Recently Google removed all third-party customer reviews, including TripAdvisor, from the Google Places pages, except for its own customer reviews.
Enhancing the hotel content on the property’s Google Place page with photos and videos, as well as steering guests to comment on Google Reviews should become a priority for any property owner.
It is obvious that in 2012, properties will need to employ multi-channel marketing and distribution strategies, supported by a smart allocation of their digital marketing budget if they wish to succeed online.
If you are unsure, seek professional help from a digital marketing company that understands and specialises in the best practices for hotel digital marketing and who can help you generate above-industry ROIs.