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Mr. Brown

Sales & Marketing

Tips on How to Improve Your Hotel's Digital Marketing Strategy

Providing an insightful analysis and ten key tips to increase your chances of success within the digital marketplace

By Mark Brown, Sales & Digital Marketing Director, Great Hotels of the World

With so much competition, it is extremely difficult to make your property stand out online. Technology is progressing so quickly, it is easy to get left behind while other properties steal the limelight. Digital marketing, especially for hotels, is becoming increasingly complex. Hotels now have to think about how to compete for guests in new channels, at every stage of the booking journey.

The five stages of the booking journey are:

  • Dreaming: 68% of business travellers watch travel-related online videos.

  • Planning: The average traveller visits ~22 travel-related sites during 9.5 research sessions prior to booking.

  • Booking: 37% of leisure travellers report that the internet prompted them to book, up from 28% two years ago.

  • Experiencing: 70% of business travellers check-in to their flights/hotel via their mobile device. Almost 1 in 4 hotel queries come from a mobile phone.

  • Sharing: Roughly 1 in 3 business travellers have posted reviews online of places they've been.

A hotel's content also needs to look good on any device, and this can be confusing. For example, if you have a hotel website built in Flash, then you are immediately excluding iPad users who won't be able to see your property, as Flash sites aren't visible on Apple products.

The single biggest tip that I can give a hotel is to research the hotel digital marketing systems that have established their reputation in the market. They are designed to be extremely easy to use but deliver capabilities that would have been beyond the reach of most hotels just five years ago. Cloud-based digital marketing systems are continuously evolving and are available on monthly subscriptions. Your content is optimised for the device that is accessing it, be it desktop, mobile or an app, and drives bookings through your most profitable channel, the website booking engine. These systems enable you to implement most of the tips below without having to pay an agency. I predict within 18 months, hoteliers will be able to manage their web presence, SEO, pay-per-click, channel management, reservations, analytics, and CRM on one cloud-based easy-to-use app. And booking deliveries back into the system will be commission free!

Top 10 tips to improve your hotel's digital marketing strategy

1. Do an audit of your hotel's website

Onsite optimisation of websites is one of the most important factors in ranking better in search engine results. Your hotel's website gives you the best opportunity to engage your visitors. Getting an audit of your hotel's website will show you where are losing customers. It will give you insight on which pages are the most visited so you can provide more insightful information within those pages. It will also give you information on your less popular pages, so that you can make improvements. It will also give you an idea of which offers are more appealing and which channels you get the most visitors from. You must perform your website audit before the launch of any new website design and you must try to keep up with changes in hospitality industry standards.

2. Look at what your competitors are doing

The best way to learn about improving your hotel's digital marketing strategy is to look at your competitors. Examine their website and their social media pages to see how they are interacting with their customers. Investigate whether they are fully optimised across different channels. When evaluating their website, write down five things that they have done that have caught your attention and examine whether your website provides the same content, image base etc.

3. Make sure that visitors to your website can navigate to your rooms or booking engine/booking button within two seconds of entering your site

According to recent research, guests spend an average of six minutes on hotel websites. Six minutes gives hoteliers significant opportunity to entice guests to book. However, if your guests cannot easily navigate your website they will give up and go somewhere else. Optimising your website so that potential guests can reach your booking button within the first two seconds of entering your site is vital. Remember, a website should be a transaction engine that converts "lookers to bookers." If 90% of visitors bounce off your home page, you need to change your presentation.

4. Make sure your website has the functionality to load quickly and that you have high quality photographs across your website

As previously discussed, you have just seconds to impress your website visitors. Making sure your website loads quickly is extremely vital to keeping them interested. Enticing your guests with bold, impressive and high quality photographs is also important. If you do not have a strong visual impact your guest will find another hotel that does. Making the guest's decision as simple as possible is the sound way to creating more bookings through your own website.

5. Get digital marketing agencies to make you a proposal

By inviting a couple of digital marketing agencies to make you a proposal, you can gain significant information on how to improve your position within the digital marketing landscape. Gaining advice from experts in their field will enable you to outshine your competitors and give your property a real edge. If they can prove a sound business case, serious consideration should be given to making an investment.

6. Make sure that your reservation policy is as flexible as those of online travel agents such as Booking.com and Expedia

Don't give visitors a reason to go elsewhere. Providing a flexible and attractive reservation policy will ensure you drive more bookings from your own website. OTAs such as Booking.com are able to demand higher commission payments which threatens hotel websites. In providing a flexible reservation policy, such as deposit rather than pre-payment, you put your property in a better position to attract more customers.

7. If you haven't got a mobile version of your website or an app, get one

It is vital that you ensure that your website does not contain Flash as this means that visitors using iPads will be unable to view your hotel website. Make sure that you have a mobile version of your website as an increasing number of bookings now come via these devices. In measuring the success of bookings through a mobile optimised version of your website, examine whether it may be worthwhile investing in a mobile app. Mobile apps are likely to become the most effective channel for reaching out and generating repeat business.

8. Try and join an affiliate network that has a focus on hospitality

It is important that you gain a large presence across a variety of channels if you want to navigate the digital landscape successfully. Joining an affiliate network that has a strong focus on hospitality, where you can post various offers and showcase your property, will have a great impact on the positioning of your hotel.

9. Build your Google+ fan page and get your guests to engage with you

Having a presence across all social media channels is vitally important. Providing content and posts that are engaging to your customers will have a significant impact on your presence, as customers engaging with you are able to suggest your pages to their own network groups. Though social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all important, an active Google+ page will help your search engine optimisation (SEO) presence on Google. This is because Google has the power to insert certain pages at the top of search results if someone in your Google+ circle has liked your Google+ page. Consequently, a more active page with engaging content will enable your property to reach higher rankings in Google's search pages.

10. Investigate pay-per-click to see if it can work for you

Though pay-per-click will not work for all hotels, it is important to evaluate whether these campaigns could give you incremental bookings, or get bookings that would otherwise have gone through an OTA at a higher cost.

The next couple of years will see a number of new cloud based services that will allow hoteliers to reach more guests directly. Hotels should embrace this innovation as it will decrease dependency on Online Travel Agents. That surely has to be a good thing!

From seismologist to dotcom entrepreneur, Mark Brown has a wealth of experience in many diverse fields. His main skill, however, is in providing social media, e-commerce, online marketing and customer relation management expertise to businesses of all kinds – from small start-ups to companies with multi-million pound turnovers. He has pioneered new recruitment models and methodologies and founded and launched a number of online businesses in different sectors. Mr. Brown is experienced in sales training, management, business analysis, project management, executive search and selection and digital marketing. He has also provided senior level global recruitment services to the telecoms, banking, finance and internet industries, primarily in the emerging markets, Middle East and UK. Mr. Brown can be contacted at 44-0-20-7383-2335 or mbrown@ghotw.com Extended Bio...

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