May 31, 2012

7 Online Hotel Marketing Strategies & Mistakes

I’ve had the opportunity to work with several different hotels on their online marketing programs in the past 5 years. Having worked with Corporate Marketing Directors, Marketing Managers and Coordinators and the General Managers I’ve seen a lot of opportunities where hotels can improve their online marketing strategies. Below are 7 common online hotel marketing mistakes and steps to turn these mistakes into strategies for your hotel marketing program.

Hotel Marketing Strategies

Mistake #1 – Having too many web assets.
I’m not talking about having hundreds of photos or videos (which is actually a good thing), but I’m taking about the situation that I see some hotels get into where they have 1 main website, and 2-3 other smaller websites that may be for group sales, weddings, or other marketing efforts. In a world where SEO is so complex and a marketing department’s time is so stretched, it really doesn’t make much sense to be so fragmented. In fact, if you have several different sites that you’re using for different initiatives, likely it will take a lot more time to have successful SEO program for each. Also, managing these sites can be a headache, most likely they have been built at different times, and on different Content Management Systems (CMS), which means you have different places to update. Finally, I’ll take this concept a step further and note that I see a lot of hotels dabbling in social media marketing as a way to drive more brand exposure and potentially bring in new business. Having too many social media accounts and not enough new content that can be frequently updated is a big problem, and a rather embarrassing problem if weeks or months go by without any meaningful updates.

Fix this by…
Take an inventory of your web assets and social media profiles. Then determine which ones are main hubs of activity and consider folding-in or getting rid of the outliers. This is one of the key Hotel Marketing Strategies.

Mistake #2 – Not paying attention to Local.
Google Places recently rebranded to Google+ Local. This update shows how much Google is investing into their Google+ brand but it also underscores a bigger problem for hotel management companies and hotel chains. IF you don’t have a good handle on your local profile presence online, you’re way behind the competition. Google+ Local in search results is taking over the traditional search results and cannibalizing paid search to some extent. Google’s mission is to provide searchers with the information that they are intending to find, and Google’s local offering brings those results to the forefront. The importance of owning your local optimization strategy is even more important for mobile searches. In 2010, only 22% of mobile searches had local intent, that grew to 50% in July 2011, and I can only see this number continuing to grow into the 60-70% range.

Fix this by…
Search in Google for your hotel name, if you have not claimed your hotel Local page, do that first. Then optimize the elements of the local page including description, categories, photos, videos, etc. Don’t forget to note the reviews and pass those along!

Mistake #3 – Unbranded Booking Jump experiences.
How many hotel websites have you visited that have a beautiful website with all the bells and whistles, but then you went to the reservations page and it simply did not even come close to matching that experience. This is not a search marketing issue – it’s a conversion and branding issue. I’ve worked with hotel clients in the past 12 years that have a conversion problem when they send visitors to 3rd party sites, like booking engines. When fixed and that experience is seamless, conversion rates can go up 40-60%. If you’re working with one of the larger booking engines, they tend to do a good job of giving you the tools for a branded booking experience, so you should take full advantage. If you’re working with a one-off booking solution that doesn’t offer these tools, it might be time switch.

Fix this by…
Perform your own usability test by using Google Website Optimizer, Morea, or Neil Patel’s Crazy Egg. Also, ask your booking engine if they can help you brand the booking page to better match your site. Typically this can be done with a header image and matching CSS code.

Mistake #4 – Not understanding/caring about Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is free. It’s simple to install and simple to use. You can even set up dashboards that pull all of the complex metrics together into one spot for ease of use. Not using Google Analytics or another analytics program to understand how visitors are reaching your website is a big mistake. In most cases Hotels receive 80-90% of their ‘new visitors’ from search engines. That means that you should know exactly which keywords are being searched when customers arrive to your website. Furthermore, you should know which pages they arrive to and, you should also know if visitors are spending time on the site or bouncing off. These are all important factors because they can help you understand if your site is optimized for the right keywords and, more importantly, if the content and experience meets their needs as customers.

Fix this by…
Spend a few days reading through Avinash Kaushik’s website, he is Google’s Analytics evangelist. He has excellent posts about basic analytics, but also includes some pretty technical tricks to get the right data that you’re looking for out of Google Analytics. Once you’ve done that and have a good understanding of the type of metrics that you can get in Google Analytics – back out your priorities. If you care about the amount of money being generated through non-branded organic traffic, you can create a custom report in Google Analytics to show you this information on a monthly or weekly basis.

Mistake #5 – Not using Paid Search to capture Branded Traffic.
This concept is sure to spur debate among anyone that is savvy – but its worth discussing. Often times hotels feel that they have such a strong brand that they do not need to bid on their own brand keywords in Google AdWords or other paid search markets. I agree that in some cases a brand may be so strong or so small that a branded paid search campaign is not needed. However, consider this: If a 3rd party site, such as an OTA is making 10% on a $300 booking, is it worth spending $.15 to potentially capture that visitor and not have to pay commissions? In many cases, the answer is yes, and in fact, the Return on Ad Spend for many branded hotel campaigns can be in the hundreds if not thousands of a percent. You don’t have to spend a lot to earn a lot, and the potential payout to 3rd party sites is the opportunity cost of not running a branded paid search campaign. Another positive feature is that you can control the booking and conversion experience and send visitors directly to a page that fits their needs.

Fix this by…
Starting a branded campaign. Send visitors as far along the booking funnel as possible. They searching for your hotel by name, so likely they’re further along the booking process. You can test running and not running a campaign and see if your organic search gets an up-tick, but there’s proven statistics that an organic and a paid listing equates to higher combined click through rates. This means consumers are not going to 3rd party OTA sites, which means higher margins on booked rooms for you.

Mistake #6 – Not getting hotel staff involved.
I talk about this a lot when I’m speaking at conferences and I really believe it’s one of the biggest things that someone in a hotel marketing role can do. As a marketing manager or director it’s your job to find the right customers for your hotel by showing them how they will enjoy the hotel, get a great deal, etc. To do this, you may not be the right person to tell the story to the consumer. This is where the hotel staff comes into the picture. Imagine if you brought together the Catering Manager, the Wedding Planner, the Restaurant Head Chef, the Housekeeping Director, and the Concierge and you asked them to provide you with an update, a story, or an interesting fact every 2 weeks. Not only would this give you content for your website/blog/social media presence, but it’s an authentic story from the people that are experts in that aspect of the hotel. I’d much rather read about the head chef’s wine and seafood pairing than some drab article about the food that a hotel’s restaurant offers. In fact, I may build up such an interest in that chef’s bi-monthly articles that I might share them with a friend that has never been to the hotel. That’s authentic marketing.

Fix this by…
Get everyone in a room together and ask them to tell their story. Give them the freedom to speak their mind and show you their passion for their job. Then build a process to get that information and distribute online. Not ever employee will have the best writing skills, but that doesn’t matter, you just need the authentic story, which could come in form of written content, photos, videos, etc. Employ a part-time local writer to help out, have them sit-in on the group discussion and write up the content.

Mistake #7 – Not paying attention to Reviews.
First hand accounts of a stay at a hotel are gold. They can tell consumers exactly what they can expect if they were to stay at your hotel. Now, that’s if they’re good reviews. Bad reviews can have a huge negative effect, especially if they’re in popular review website locations such as TripAdvisor and Google. My final mistake is last for a reason – its probably the last thing that people want to think about or deal with. Who wants to deal with a bad review? Especially, when there’s really not much that you CAN do to deal with it online… Well, there is something that you can do. Each review is like a personalized note to each employee at the hotel telling them about the things that they’re doing well, or not doing so well. Online hotel reviews should be made visible to hotel employees and not hidden or ignored. They’re a great opportunity to share positive stories and to discover areas of improvement. Not to mention that better reviews DO affect search engine and website rankings, and I see this continuing for the foreseeable future, especially with local and mobile search becoming even more prevalent.

Fix this by…
Making reviews part of your everyone’s business. Reviews are such an essential part of business in today’s hotel marketing arena that they need to be brought to the forefront. Monthly meetings should include highlights and lowlights with written and online reviews. Make reviews so essential that people are held accountable for reviews.

I’m sure there’s at least one item that you can pull from this list to help improve the visibility of your hotel brand. It doesn’t take a mountain of new rules or lots of money to make these changes, but rather the understanding of the importance and how these impact your online visibility.

I can be reached on Facebook if you have questions or would like to discuss further.

Mar 27, 2012

ACCED-I Denver Social Media Strategy Presentation

I had the pleasure of speaking about Achieving Social Media ROI this week at the ACCED-I conference in Denver.

>> Download the presentation here


ACCED-I (Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International) is a group of over 1,500 campus professionals that work at Colleges and Universities coordinating and planning conferences and special events.

Topics Covered

  • Social Media Plan Developing (Social & Audience intelligence)

Tactical Strategies

  • LinkedIn Optimization + Strategy
  • Twitter Optimization + Strategy
  • YouTube Optimization + Strategy
  • Blog Optimization + Strategy
  • Forums Optimization + Strategy
  • Google+ Optimization + Strategy
  • Pinterest Optimization + Strategy
  • Facebook Optimization + Strategy + New Facebook Timeline Implementation

Chuck Salem, from Unique Venues and I spoke at the Technology and Marketing Institute about Social Media ROI.

The use of Social Media is becoming more and more popular among college and university venues for their sales and marketing efforts. SeoSkye began this institute with the basics of internet marketing as a crucial component
to the success of your conference and/or events operation. Folks learned how to successfully use tools to best position your meeting space for customer development and future growth. Address key components of internet marketing including: search engine optimization (SEO), measures for success, Google Analytics, and mobile marketing.

During the second part of this institute, we focused  on selecting the best social media tools and strategies to provide the best ROI. We will discuss how to select the right social media tools to employ, what is effective and what has become “ordinary” in the industry, and how you can gauge the effectiveness, specifically the ROI, for each strategy used. Discussion will include how to remain consistent in your branding and marketing approaches using viable and effective social media strategies.

>> View all Speaking Engagements

Feb 2, 2012

Speaking Engagements – Scott Fish

This page will be updated as I am invited to speak at various search marketing and travel events.

Full Set of Presentations and presentation details after the JUMP.


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Feb 1, 2012

Quivira The Legendary City of Gold & Riches

The Legendary City of Gold & Riches: Quivira


Throughout history many tales are told and stories are share of mythical places around the world that have taken explorers deep into uncharted territory.  None is more famous that the legend of Quivira,

Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado first mentioned the mythical city of Quivira in 1541 when he was exploring parts of New Mexico and the eventual southwestern United States.  Driven by his desire to find the mythical Seven Cities of Gold or “Seven Cities of Cibola.”

The story of Quivira is based on Portuguese legend during the 8th century on a Catholic expedition on the island of Antilla.  New Spain (New Mexico/Mexico) was the place plotted for exploration to find Quivira.

Coronado heard from a local Indian called The Turk that a wealthy civilization called Quivira was located far to the east.  Coronado was told that “trees hung with golden bells and people whose pots and pans were beaten gold.” During the middle of 1541 Coronado lead an expedition of 30 with his army and priests (Franciscan friar named Juan de Padilla), along with local Indians through the Great Plains in search of Quivira.

Ultimately Quivira has been plotted to be in central Kansas, although obviously there is no city of gold.  Archaeologists have found several 16th century artifacts around the area that may have been part of the Coronado expedition.

Many maps of the North America region in the 16th and 17th century include the city of Quivira, although its location generally has moved with time.  In general Quivira is places around Kansas, Oklahoma, southeastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle.

Remaining references to the cartographic region include Lake Quivira and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in the state of Kansas.

Jan 29, 2012

New Acquision: 1853 Western States – Smith

I recently acquired this great map showing the western states and territories in the United States in 1853.

An ORIGINAL antique 1853 map of the WESTERN UNITED States from Smith Schools Atlas.The States and Territorie sare individually hand watercolored. The West is shown very different from today. The entire upper Great Plains is shown as a huge NEBRASKA TERRITORY. The WASHINGTON and OREGON TERRITORIES are twice the size of the modern States and extend east all the way to the Rocky Mountains.

The Oregon Territory was created in 1848, and Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859.

The KANSAS TERRITORY extends west all the way to the Rockies and included modern Denver. A huge UTAH TERRITORY, with a population of only 11,000, included all of modern Utah and most of NEVADA, COLORADO, and part of WYOMING. FILLMORE CITY is marked as the “Proposed Capital” of the UTAH TERRITORY. The NEW MEXICO TERRITORY included all of modern NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA, and part of COLORADO and NEVADA. CALIFORNIA had just become a state in 1850 and is shown with a population of 264,000.

Most of the States and Territories have their populations printed on them. The locations of dozens of Indian Tribes are shown throughout the West.

Map measures 10 X 12 inches.

he copyright date of 1853 is printed along the lower border. The original hand watercolors are still bright and vibrant. This map is over 155years old published a decade prior to the CIVIL WAR.

Jan 28, 2012

New Acquision: April 1748 edition of Gentleman’s Magazine

1748 Gentleman’s Magazine, London, with Thomas Jeffrys Map.

This April 1748 edition of Gentleman’s Magazine was printed in London and contains 47 pages.  Included in this edition is a folded engraving of city and fortifications of Maestricht by Thomas Jefferys.

Maestricht is a city in the Netherlands, located in the southern Dutch province of Limburg, the capital.

During 1673-1678 french troops occupied Maestricht and it was eventually restored to the Dutch in 1748.  This reclaim did not last long, in the same year Maestricht was retaken by the French.  The Siege of Maastricht took place in April-May 1748 during the War of the Austrian Succession. A French force under the overall command of Maurice de Saxe besieged and captured the Dutch barrier fortress of Maastricht in the final few months of the campaign in the Low Countries. After a relatively long siege the garrison of Maastricht capitulated and marched out with the honours of war. Maastricht was returned along with France’s conquests in the Austrian Netherlands according to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle signed in 1748.

The map in this magazine outlines the plan to rebuild the fortifications.

Highlighted is an important article on the impressment of Colonists in Boston to work and man ships. Interesting information pertaining to the fact that many of those who settle in the Colonies rarely return to England. The impressment caused riots in Boston and the article is followed by a letter Governor Shirley followed by a response from the Speaker of the Massachsetts Bay General Assembly Hutchinson.

There is also the discovery and sighting of a new comet.

Full-page plan of Cornhill which was devastated by a fire.


A New & Correct Plan Of All The Houses Destroyed And Damaged by The Fire Which Began In Exchange-Alley, Cornhill, On Friday, March 25th, 1748

Cuts of antiquities as well. Songsgeet also.

Very Good, no binding, measures 5 x 8″.



Jan 28, 2012

New Acquisition: Map of greater New Orleans, Louisiana

I recently acquired a great map of New Orleans, Louisiana from 1931.

Title:  Map of greater New Orleans, Louisiana

Published by: WM E. Boesch, New Orleans Association of Commerce, creator

Size: 21 inches x 34 inches. (1 map ; 49 x 67 cm., on sheet 61 x 92 cm.)

Across the top of the map the Lake Front Development & Parkways are shown.  The west end is shown along with the Spanish “Fort” and the New Orleans Airport.

Canal Street and the Audubon Park are highlighted perfectly.  The out for the Canal Street Ferry is also highlighted near the different Warfs.  The US Naval Reserve on  The Bernard Highway is also being shown, just across from a proposed national park.



This map shows features such as roads, railroads, canals, levees, drainage, land ownership in outlying areas, cemeteries, parks, Parish boundaries, ferry routes, and more. Includes index in margins.

Condition: Very good condition. No cuts, tares, holes, stains, and no repairs. Normal surface wear on corners and little wear on the folds.

This map is also featured in the Harvard Map Collection.

Jan 27, 2012

Famous Map Makers: Pieter Van Der AA

Pieter Van Der AA Map Example

Pieter Van Der AA Map

Pieter Van Der AA


Pieter Van Der AA, a famous publisher during the beginning of the eithteenth century was apprenticed to booksellers’ trade at nine, later to be come a bookseller and auctioneer.

Acquiring the map plates of earlier cartographers and map mappers, Pieter Van Der AA, was famous for re-issuing several important maps in the eighteenth century.  His most important work was the Galerie Agreable Du Monde, a 27 volume TOME that was issued in 1729 and contained over 3,000 plates.  What makes this so rare and sought after is the publication size, just 100 sets.  Common among his engraving are large maps with separate frame borders that eventually contained maps printed into the blank area.

Read about more famous cartographers and map makers.


May 24, 2010


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Jun 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Dies at age 50

Pop giant Michael Jackson, who took to the stage as a child star and set the world dancing to exuberant rhythms for decades, died on Thursday, TMZ website reported. He was 50.

There was no official confirmation of the reported death and spokespersons for Jackson could not be reached for comment.

“We’ve just learned Michael Jackson has died,” TMZ said.

“Michael suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon at his Holmby Hills home and paramedics were unable to revive him. We’re told when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back,” the entertainment site said.


Michael Jackson Dies at age 50

It added, “A source tells us Jackson was dead when paramedics arrived.”

Earlier, the Los Angeles Times said the singer had been rushed to a Los Angeles-area hospital by fire department paramedics who found him not breathing when they arrived at the singer’s home.

The newspaper said paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the scene before taking him to the UCLA Medical Center hospital.

Jackson had been due to start a series of comeback concerts in London on July 13 running until March 2010. The singer, whose hits included “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” had been rehearsing in the Los Angeles area for the past two months.

The shows for the 50 London concerts sold out within minutes of going on sale in March.

His lifetime record sales tally is believed to be around 750 million, which, added to the 13 Grammy Awards he received, makes him one of the most successful entertainers of all time.

He lived as a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on charges of child molestation.

There were concerns about Jackson’s health in recent years but the promoters of the London shows, AEG Live, said in March that Jackson had passed a 4-1/2 hour physical examination with independent doctors.

Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, the seventh of nine children. Five Jackson boys — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael — first performed together at a talent show when Michael was 6. They walked off with first prize and went on to become a best-selling band, The Jackson Five, and then The Jackson 5.

Jackson made his first solo album in 1972, and released “Thriller” in 1982, which became a smash hit that yielded seven top-10 singles. The album sold 21 million copies in the United States and at least 27 million worldwide.

The next year, he unveiled his signature “moonwalk” dance move while performing “Billie Jean” during an NBC special.

In 1994, Jackson married Elvis Presley’s only child, Lisa Marie, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1996. Jackson married Debbie Rowe the same year and had two children, before splitting in 1999. The couple never lived together.

Jackson has three children named Prince Michael I, Paris Michael and Prince Michael II, known for his brief public appearance when his father held him over the railing of a hotel balcony, causing widespread criticism.

In memorium: Michael Jackson dead at 50
03:20 PM PT, Jun 25 2009

As news reports and shocked reactions ripple around the world about the news of his death, it’s impossible not to reflect on the eternal and profound mark he left on music and pop culture at large.

While there are countless nerve-tingling moments in his storied career, few had as cataclysmic and immediate impact as his performance of “Billie Jean” on the now legendary “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever” TV special in 1983. For anyone who was there or watching it as it happened, it was a moment that literally changed pop culture overnight.

In celebration of the music and memories, here is that magical moment to relive all over again.

Please feel free to use the comments section to share your thoughts, memories and remembrances of the eternal King of Pop.

– Scott T. Sterling

The Three Who Died: Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon

Yesterday began the deaths of three major figures, each of whom played a part in the advertising world throughout their careers. The latest and maybe most relevant is Michael Jackson, who reportedly died earlier today after suffering a heart attack; he was 50. Before him was Farrah Fawcett, who battled cancer for three years before succumbing to it; she was 62. And yesterday we learned of the passing of Ed McMahon who was 86.

Each of these loved personalities lived his or her life in the limelight and as part of their celebrity status were offered advertising opportunities. The ads they took part in stick out in many of our minds (though we’re not airing the Pepsi ad where Jackson’s hair is lit on fire, for obvious reasons). Jackson and Pepsi, McMahon and Publisher’s Clearing House, Fawcett and Noxzema.


map collection

screen-shot-2012-01-27-at-6-37-28-pm screen-shot-2012-01-27-at-6-38-49-pm screen-shot-2012-01-27-at-6-01-21-pm


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