Today, I am going to talk about some online marketing strategies that Hotels can use to increase visitation without spending a fortune. There are plenty of digital marketing options available that are worth testing for hotels all over the world.
6 Best Practices
Below is an image that details six different Hotel Marketing best practices. These are some important strategies that all hotels should consider when putting together a marketing plan.
For this article, I will pretend I am running a hotel in Oahu, Hawaii.
The goal online for any hotel is to increase visibility to potential guests. You want your hotel to be front and center when people are looking at their accommodation options in your area. When someone searches “Hotels in Oahu Hawaii” in Google, you want to have your hotel show up in the search results on the first page. In addition, you want your hotel to have good visibility based on reviews when someone visits their favorite Online Travel Agency (TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels, Orbitz, Kayak, Priceline, Travelocity).
You can never expect travelers to find your hotel – it is up to you to find travelers.
Before you ever start any campaigns, it’s good to figure out a target customer. In my opinion, hotels have to be looking for customers who are just about set on their destination and who are in the accommodation decision-making process. For example, you want to reach people who have decided Oahu, Hawaii is their destination but have not settled on a Hotel or Resort yet.
In order to break it down by demographic, use the data from Google Analytics to find the ages and genders that are most likely to book.
Key Performance Indicators:
For hotels, you generally want to optimize for cost/conversion as your top key performance indicator (KPI). Website traffic does not equal business so you must track your marketing campaigns to see what is working and what is wasting budget. You can measure everything from bookings to actual revenue in Google Analytics.
Some other things you may want to measure are newsletter sign-ups, phone calls, and results from your promotions. In addition, you can also try to measure how many people are interacting with your booking widget.
Tracking and Testing:
The two most important keys to online marketing are tracking and testing. You want to track as much information as possible from your campaigns and run split-tests to find what works best. Some of the things you want to test are landing pages, ads, and ad targeting.
Imagine this scenario: You create 3 landing pages for an ad campaign and send 200 visitors to each landing page. Out of the 600 visitors, you measure a total of 80 conversions for a conversion rate of 13.3%. Landing Page #1 has a conversion rate of 20% while Landing Pages #2 and #3 only have a conversion rate of 10%. Therefore, you can select Landing Page #1 and continue to test your landing pages by just making small tweaks and improving.
Reviews are one of the most important factors for online success. I won’t get into too much detail about review management, but it is important to respond to negative reviews online with a positive message. In addition, you should encourage guests to leave a review after their stay. Reviews will obviously be very dependent on your guests overall satisfaction at the hotel.
One of the biggest benefits of managing reviews is you will be able to understand the common pain points of your customers. Are the beds uncomfortable? Is the pool dirty? Are the rooms clean, tidy, and updated? Is the Wi-Fi too slow? These are all common complaints from travelers and you can understand where you need to improve to accommodate your guests.
Mobile-Friendly Web Design:
According to Skift, 27% of all travel transactions were completed on a mobile device in the first quarter of 2015. In addition, more and more travel transactions start with research on a mobile device followed by a booking on desktop or tablet.
Consumers are using their mobile devices more than ever so it is very important to be mobile-friendly. You can gain an upper hand on competitors by giving the best user experience possible on a mobile device and a seamless experience from mobile to desktop.
Online Travel Packages:
There is a huge reason why websites like TravelZoo and Sherman’s Travel are so popular: Travelers want to get the best bang for their buck on vacation. One of the best ways to encourage more people to book at your hotel is to offer seasonal travel packages.
Remarketing (Google, Facebook, YouTube)
You can set-up Remarketing audiences for the Google Display Network and YouTube through Google Analytics. For Facebook, you can set-up Remarketing audiences through Ads Manager under the Audience Manager. The first thing you want to do is set-up two Remarketing audiences: ‘All Visitors – 14 Days’ and ‘Converted.’ The ‘Converted’ audience will be made up of people who have already booked their hotel room. You want to target all the people who have visited your website over the past 14 days and you’ll want to exclude anybody who has converted already.
If I’m competing with all the other hotels in Oahu, Hawaii, then I’ll want to be aggressive with anyone who has visited my website in the past several weeks but has not booked yet.
Google Search Ads (Desktop/Mobile)
Due to the changes in the Google search engine results, it’s very difficult to get targeted, organic traffic in the travel niche. Look at the image below of the search engine results in Google for the search query ‘Hotels in Oahu Hawaii.” Every single link above the fold is a Google advertisement. Users have to scroll down to find the organic results and the only actual hotel that ranks on the first page is Marriott, the rest of the results are Online Travel Agencies. In other words, if you want your hotel front and center to prospective guests searching in Google, you will have to pay for traffic.
As you can see, there are tons of sponsors and no organic results above the fold. Unless you are ranking well compared to your competitors on many Online Travel Agencies, you will struggle to compete.
Bing Search Ads (Desktop/Mobile)
Again, look at the image of the Bing search results below. Unless your hotel is listed in the carousel at the top, you will have to pay to have any listing above the fold. The organic listings are more accessible in Bing but the only hotel that ranks on page one is Marriott, just like in Google.
Although there is less volume in Bing, the one good thing is there’s generally less competition than you’d see in Google AdWords. I have ran many campaigns that actually performed better on Bing than Google from a cost/conversion standpoint.
Google Hotel Ads
Google Hotel ads allow hotel owners to feature their hotels right in the carousel underneath the ads in search results. It’s a great way to display a hotel description, reviews, amenities, photos, rates, availability, and contact information. View the images below for what the carousel looks like and a hotel that is using hotel ads.
As you can see in the pictures above, potential tourists can find all the information they would ever need before booking right in Google and then they can find rates using the booking widget.
Getting Started – You can learn more about Google Hotel Ads here. You will need a Google My Business page and you need an authorized partner to integrate your ads.
Travel Deals (TravelZoo, Shermans)
More and more travelers are looking for the best possible deal for their vacation accommodations. With so many different online travel agencies and travel deal websites, people will search high and far to find the best possible rates. Because of this, hotels need to offer deals on their accommodations if they are struggling with room nights.
Some options for hotel deals include:
Offer a discount for stays of a certain amount of nights. For example, give a certain discount if the stay is four nights or more.
Offer package deals that include your amenities. For example, give a resort credit to the spas or restaurants on your property.
Offer deals from Sunday-Wednesday.
Offer top-tier rooms that are not selling well at a discount.
Go to this page on TravelZoo for a minute. If you’re not selling rooms, test a special offer and see if it helps bookings compared to the year prior. I’ve used TravelZoo for several years and one thing I’ve found is that hotels tend to keep their deals updated on their website year after year, which usually indicates it’s working.
Google Display In-Market
The Google Display Network offers targeting to In-Market segments, which are groups of people who are actively looking a specific air travel destination or hotel destination. They have In-Market segments for most of the top destinations in the United States. Look at the image below. As you can see, you can target destinations like Chicago, you can target people looking for cruises, or in this case, we can target users looking for hotels in Hawaii.
Instead of using general contextual display advertising, why not take advantage of this awesome feature from the Google Display Network? You will reach travelers who are still in the decision making process and they may just end up booking at your hotel.
Start by focusing on the six best practices above in the image. You do not want to fall behind when it comes to factors like mobile-friendly web design and the utilization of Analytics to make informed marketing decisions. There are many considerations for hotels and the key is to be visible to your target customers.
In the past, you weren’t always able to directly measure ROI with your marketing. If you purchase a billboard, it’s very difficult to know exactly how many room nights and how much revenue that drives to your hotel. However, you can actually quantify that $500 in marketing spend turned into $1,500 in booking revenue through digital marketing.
If you don’t know where to start, set a test budget and try Remarketing and Search ads through Bing and Google. Make sure tracking is properly set-up so you can actually track a booking back to a certain ad. Once you spend your test budget, analyze the results and try to find opportunities and wasted spend.
Many of the largest hotel chains in the world (Sandals, Marriott, Hilton) are at the forefront of Digital Marketing and it shows in their results.