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Mr. McCartan

Revenue Management

Semantic Web: Hoteliers need to pay attention now

By Michael McCartan, Managing Director Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Duetto

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, is set to take center stage once again as he leads the evolution of the next development of the World Wide Web through a set of Semantic standards that will process data directly and indirectly by machines. In essence this means qualifying content throughout the web space to identify its originality and quality to ensure that users find the information that is most relevant to their needs.

Over the years, Google has been developing its technology, as well as other search engines, to deliver results that are meaningful to the user. The most recent installments include delivering automated and generated search terms for the user based on previous searches and reference across historic web reads.

The results that are being delivered are also more specific to the user, in this way providing content that is most relevant to individuals. As this technology becomes more refined the way to optimize web-pages for search will shift and therefore businesses will need to prepare in order to remain at the forefront of the search results. Therefore this will require ongoing manipulation of the content across the web to make the most of the search results opportunity available.

As we delve into structuring SEO, it is important to note that structures implemented 5 years ago are now out-dated, and as a result search engines have reorganized their search algorithms that identify those pages that played to those traditional rules but potentially provided the user bad, irrelevant or meaningless content. It used to be the norm to post the same SEO-styled article throughout the web, however duplicated content is now noted by the search engines and is more and more discounted.

Pages that were tagged with a whole range of Search Keyword terms, which are irrelevant to the content, are also being sidelined in the internet stratosphere. Specialists in this field are coming under demand and it's important to understand why. Search engines are doting themselves to the user, providing specific targeted content, further as an evolution of paid-search businesses want to more accurately target the right web-users that will deliver an ROI. This means the entire web industry needs to step up to the mark.

For hoteliers it is essential that all content across the web and on the direct website makes reference to these changes and begins to develop a strategy to benefit from these, whilst also reaching the right value consumer to become your guest.

What is semantic web?

Semantic web aims at converting content into meaningful data. It is a technology that can enable machines to "understand" and respond to complex requests based on their meaning. Such that an "understanding" of what the searcher is looking for requires that the relevant information sources are semantically structured.

While there is a lot of unstructured user generated content available online, it is important that these become organized such that it is readable by machines. Semantic web aims at driving this evolution - which will make information gathering and analysis easier for individuals and businesses.

How does it help a hotel business?

With the emergence and popularity of travel and guest review websites, travelers happily post their experience of their vacations and talk about the airline they traveled with, or the hotel at which they stayed etc.

While this helps other travelers to know about various hotels, the suites, their services etc, it also means hotels need to know what is being written about them. They need to monitor customer experiences and ensure any negative feedback is responded to and rectified. In order to know what is being published about them, hotels need to have technology (read semantically) on their side.

How does technology help?

There are various tools that gather guest feedback from various websites and provide them to hotels in consolidated reports so hotels can act upon the information and reviews posted. It has been noticed that proper guest review management can lead to increase in hotel ratings online which in turn positively impacts occupancy and revenue.

To understand what happens in the back-end of such review monitoring tools (e.g. RTReview) we need to look at how the tool is configured. The tools will pull reviews from various review website including Qype, Holidaycheck, Yelp, Expedia etc, and prepares a consolidated report for the hotel user. This report consists of all the guest feedback, along with ratings and also lists various categories that the guest mentions in their review - e.g. rooms, cleanliness, service, food, etc. This is filtered by utilizing the guest profile data that the guest review website has been provided by the guest, and by assessing the key words in the text that the machine has learnt to understand.

How do guest reviews help?

Guest reviews are insightful to understand what guests think of your hotel and their stay but also provide the data you need to better understand your guests. Through customer profiling information you learn the age, demographic, interests of those that stay at your hotel. By filtering this data you can begin to see more clearly how each guest segment views and perceives your hotel and its value, this way helping you to more specifically target higher revenue guests. Furthermore, through semantic analysis of the text of the guest reviews on your hotel, you can identify the keywords that are relevant to the booker. You can better understand why they booked and stayed at your hotel.

This level of detail can help you market your property more appropriately and develop a more insightful revenue management strategy. Guest reviews can also be embedded on your website, adding your own unique and dynamic content will help your rankings in the search engines and give visitors the information they need to make a reservation decision. The more you can influence a customer's journey through your position, your marketing and your channels; the more you can increase your direct sales.

Utilizing this data to understand opinions

Sentiment analytics allows the tool to further grasp the positive and negative reviews through pre-configured word polarities and backend algorithms with help of Natural Language Processing (NLP) through third party libraries. (e.g. a software code is written such that the tool knows that "good" is good, so the tool will categorize all reviews with the word "good" in the positive review and all "bad" in negative reviews, so the overall average rating is done accordingly.) This is therefore taking words and understanding their general relevancy in socially emotional contexts.

For example - A guest may write that the hotel is "very, very good" but only provide a rating of a 3 or 4, which is not a true reflection of how this guest feels about the hotel. Hence through Sentimental Analysis, the tools understands and generates an overall rating, while also pulling the ratings provided on the review website. This provides the hotel with a true picture of how the guest is actually feeling.

Further, unorganized platforms like social websites are also tapped into and the tool uses this technology to understand guest feedback for the hotelier.

The next stage for these machines analyzing text will be 'auto-learning' (moving more towards semantic), so that the tool will start learning new words automatically, based on their meaning delivering greater depth of knowledge for the hotel.

How does it help you understand your customers better?

The hotel can gain greater control on the generation of results by identifying key Top Keywords to analyze. By understanding what draws guests to your hotel and leave posts and reviews, it is possible to drill further into detail to understand how these key words can help support the sales proposition for the hotel, and deliver the relevant services the guests expects.

Based on the reviews received, hotels can understand their customers 'Likes' and dislikes and what they expect from their hotel stay. Hotels can work on this feedback to focus the product being sold and marketed to encourage repeat business and utilize booking platforms that target the most valuable guest.

Keywords

In the hotel industry 100's of properties in one region, or city, are fighting one another for prime place, against the multiple OTAs and resellers who also want to secure that customer booking. It is essential to firstly know how your third party interfaces use search engines to maximize the prime position on the web. Know the key words they use for their website, for your hotel and your competitors. Talking directly to your account manager will give you that insight.

Review key words with your own search, and see what properties come up in your local area. It maybe that you need to drill down even deeper to specific search terms that may include local events and festivals, perhaps the personality type of your hotel guest, or the interests that your guests have staying in your hotel from museums to local attractions, or even specific venues.

Drilling down to very specific key words on which to base your SEO and PPC campaign can help you draw those bookings from OTAs and third parties and bring the guests that are more relevant to the product you are offering - thereby delivering the value and revenue you need.

Content

Content is key today and will support the development of Semantic web and Sentiment analysis - guest reviews is one quick and easy way to generate dynamic content for your own website which the search engines are listening too, it's also the unique non-duplicated content search engines want. When they find the same article twice, they don't know which one to verify and can potentially dump both - this will lose the value and the effort put in it in the first place.

Developing the content through guest reviews gives you the possibility to add a large scale of content incredibly quickly that adds additional value through the number of distinct voices that are generating it. Furthermore, it will give potential guests the insight they need to make the final purchase decision on your direct sales channel, therefore reducing your distribution costs.

Your aim is always the most valuable customer and if you can discover what your general guest expects from their stay, you can deliver and in return better propositions and positioning on the web. Together with the relevant website content that will help sell your hotel

Your direct website is the one chance you have to be able to present your product in full to visitors - unlike any third party. You are not obliged to use a set format where all property information pages are identical; you can share your brand values through imagery, sound, video and text. On your own website you have no limit for the amount of content to add, which is unique to make it appealing to search engines. Plus you can change this content as regularly as you wish, to keep it fresh and dynamic, therefore relevant to the searches customers will make. Inserting the strongest performing keywords from semantic analysis will help your content perform even better.

If the content matches the guests' expectations until departure at your hotel, your sales tool becomes a stronger mechanism and will drive revenue success.

What this means to hotel & travel marketing content?

There is by no means an immediate success rate from developing content ready for the semantic web, instead it should be considered an evolving process that can start today with all your ongoing content production. It takes time for search engines to recognize new pages and content and for it to be acknowledged by the algorithms of the machines sorting their data.

However understanding now how Google brings bookings to your hotel, and how you can then begin to influence it for direct sales will begin to reduce your costs of distribution and improve the revenue from your direct sales channel. It will also help you stand out from your competitors and reap the most from each third party sales channel, while providing a real identity and personality for your hotel.

Prices have been the focus for a long time, inventory distribution has been addressed and product offering continually restructured. Semantic web is now on the horizon, tomorrow's web results will pay attention to all your marketing, revenue and guest activity. Beginning to understand how it works now will help you achieve a top position as it evolves.

An expert in the fields of hospitality and electronic distribution, Michael McCartan joined Duetto as Managing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2014 to spearhead the rollout of the company's products and development of Customer Success teams throughout the EMEA region. Since joining Duetto, he has grown the European headquarters of Duetto in London, as well as establishing teams in Germany and Dubai. Mr. McCartan is adept at engineering creative solutions and then executing their delivery, understanding the exact needs of the client and the challenges surrounding the market. He is a valued member of the HSMAI Europe Revenue Management Advisory Board, contributing to articles and leading seminars and keynote sessions for the association. He is also a frequent speaker and panellist at major travel industry events across EMEA. Mr. McCartan can be contacted at +44 7557968806 or michael.mccartan@duettoresearch.com Please visit http://www.duettoresearch.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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