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.
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.
I had the pleasure of speaking about Achieving Social Media ROI this week at the ACCED-I conference in Denver.
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.
- Social Media Plan Developing (Social & Audience intelligence)
- 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.
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.
Blackwater Worldwide has decided to change their name to “XE”. Here’s more on the article about the blackwater name switch.
So, we all know about xe.com, a currency conversion website. My initial thought is that there’s no way that Blackwater will be able to get their hands on that domain, so what’s second best?
XEsecurity.com – nope, this was registered by XE.com Yesterday.
XEinternational.com – nope, this too was registered by XE.com Yesterday.
XEinc.com – There it is! This one’s been registered by the Blackwater group since 2004.
It should be interesting to see what happens here, I could easily see XE.com really pushing this trademark issue considering that they are making defensive domain registrations based on the news of the Blackwater name change.
Think about this for a second…
Google has the ability to display text ads on millions of websites that have a reach of millions of vistiors every day. These sites include well known media outlets, blog networks, and niche communities. With Google’s content network you have the ability to tap into these sites with targeted and relevant ads.
So why wouldn’t you want to?
Historically Google’s Content network has really had a hard time driving conversions, rather they would drive a lot of clicks, but all of that traffic had a hard time converting. In the middle of 2007 that all changed, Google started cleaning up the content network and advertisers have been flocking to re-try the advertising medium. One of the big changes that Google made was allowing you to see which URLs your ads are showing on.
Ok, So How do I Optimize for the Google Content Network?
Daniela Araujo is an expert at optimizing for the Google Content Network and she has some excellent tips on how to drive up conversions within the network.
Here are some tips from Daniela:
* Include in an ad group, not only very specific keywords, but also generic keywords that describe the specific industry or field for each product or service;
* Run separate campaigns on Google content and search, because a keyword may not have equal success in both channels. Also, budgets and bidding can be managed more efficiently when content and search campaigns are running separately;
* Ensure that your ads average positions remain above position three (3), as most sites publish only three Google ads per page;
SMX Advanced in rainy (very rainy!) Seattle was a great conference! All the usual suspects were there + a few new faces. I went up with Mike Rosenberg, Lisa Peyton, and Sean McMahon.
Our CEO at EngineWorks was asked to speak at 2 different sessions, one on building value into your SEO company, which was covered on the Bruce Clay Blog and the Search Engine Roundtable, and the other was about Funding, Valuing & Selling SEM Businesses.
On Tuesday I had the chance to meet a lot of great people in the industry.
My good friend, Justin Davy at Scripps Networks, introduced me to A.J Negahban. In case you don’t know this company, they’re the ones that own HGTV, the Food Network, DIY Network, and many other properties.
If you think way back to a few years ago you’ll remember a company called Become.com – it’s old yellow brand and business model has since changed and they are going full bore ahead with comparison shopping in a quickly growing market. I had the opportunity to meet Jon Glick, VP of Product Search & Comparison Shopping and Arjun Jayaram, VP of Engineering. It was great to hear what is new at Become and it sounds like the company is poised to grow significantly over the next 5 years.
An agency in Seattle called Portent Interactive was great to talk to while in Seattle. I talked to Stacy Conner and Tom Schmitz and it was great to hear about what Portent is working on.
DoubleClick was well represented at the conference and i had the chance to talk with Michele Goldberg about what’s in DoubleClick’s future, the answer… you’ll just have to wait 2-3 months and see!
Bend, Oregon is a hot spot for SEO companies. Smart Solutions‘ President, Mark Knowles was at the conference, expanding the awareness of his Bend Software Development Company. My colleagues at EngineWorks went out to Umi Sushi in Seattle with Mark and it was great to hear about the new product that Mark’s company is launching very soon.
Also in Bend, I met Mellissa Jenson from Acxiom, which is a data company and it’s interesting to hear what they’re doing with consumer’s data to learn how to market more efficiently to them.
At Bruce Clay Inc, It was great to meet Chris Hart, whom is heading up the company’s east coast expansion. I also had a good change to talk with Bruce Clay about a few international optimization ideas.
Sean McMahon, the CEO at EngineWorks introduced me to Tim Mayer, Yahoo’s VP, Search Business and he was great to meet. Tim’s involvement in the industry goes all the way back to Inktomi, where Sean worked with him to put together an arrangement for TrafficLeaders’ Paid Inclusion product.
I also was happy to see Scott Hendison, Todd Mintz and From SEOmoz: Rand, Jane, Rebecca, Guillian, Scott. David Mihm was also at the show, along with Julian Chadwick from PDXPipeline.com, Chris Winfield, from 10e20, and Ben LLoyd from Amplify Interactive. While at the conference I had the chance to also chat with Bob Tripathy from Discover.com, Marianne Sweeny from Ascentium, Stephan Spencer, Founder & President at NetConcepts & Brian Klais, VP Search at NetConcepts.
At the end of Wednesday I had the awesome chance to meet Michael McDermott, the VP of sales at Resort Technology Partners. RTP offers point of sale & ecommerce solutions for resorts around the world.
Reputation Management and Reputation Monitoring Tips
One of the fastest growing areas of search marketing is the little corner of the web where all of your secrets are hiding. If you don’t want people such as your customers to know about your troubled past, then reputation management is something that you or your company can benefit from. Now, I should note that reputation management isn’t only just about pushing bad reviews down in the SERPs – nope – Good reputation management involves identifying a problem and the person voicing the problem, then reaching out to them to find a solution. There are many examples in history such as “Dell Hell” where a company has ignored the opportunity to reach out and actually fix the problem at hand.
In today’s search landscape that is growing more and more Blended – you’ll see search results that aren’t just reviews any more. Videos, digg results, pictures, news items and a growing number of alternative “Voices” are being included in the search results, posing a difficult task for anyone that wants to manage their reputation. For a company that has spent years managing their reputation, a single negative piece of content online can ruin a brand.
How Do You Manage Reputation Online?
The first thing that you should do is gauge the scope of a brand that you want to monitor. IF you’re a small company, then you have fewer employees that have a voice or that can screw up. If your company is larger than, I would say even 10 people, then you have a more difficult task at hand because each of your employees may be running a blog or may be taking phone calls or emails that are not known to you. Managing reputation online should include key executive people , subsidiaries, brands, trademarks, products and your company name. There are so many variations of “your reputation” that people can discuss, and getting a handle on them is just the first step in deciding the scope of your reputation that you want to monitor.
How Do You Monitor Reputation Online?
Within just an hour, a blog post can be posted on a popular site and then it can be dug and have been seen by 100s of thousands of people. So how do you control this – How do you know when this happens? There’s a few ways to get “in the know”:
- RSS Feeds – sites like Feedster, Technorati, Digg, BlogPulse, etc
- Google & Yahoo Alerts – Use your brand or a person’s name
- Monitor Social Media sites in your niche.
- Monitor buzz sites like Yahoo Buzz or Google Hot Trends
- Use tools like boardtracker.com to monitor Forums
When I was at SMX West in Santa Clara Chris Bennett of 97th Floor stated that “Understanding Google’s Algorithm to better Your Reputation management Objectives” is a good Tool to manage reputation. Essentially understand how information flows and how people disseminate it. One of the best ways to combat negative reputation results is understand why that result is there in the first place. How recent is that result and how well do they rank. Understand that one thing that you CAN do is use your SEO skills to build up authoritative pages such as social media profiles that contain a lighter-side of your company. If you own the social media profiles, then you will own the content and the voice.
To understand how important this is, take a company like Microsoft and do a Google search for Microsoft “tags” and check out how many social profiles there are out there that people have created with that company’s name. This is the same concept of registering multiple variations of a domain name to protect from cyber squatters.
Engage and Solve the Problem
The last and probably most important strategy for reputation management is to solve the problem. There are so many sites out there that offer ways for a company reach out and attempt to solve the problem rather than just banter back and forth. By engaging the community that has posted any negative comments about your company you will be miles ahead because you show that you care and are taking time to address the issues.
Ultimately reputation management is your job. No one else will do it for you and yet there are plenty of people out there that could ruin your brand in seconds by posting negative information about you or your company. The best advice that I can give is to…
BE READY – Have your monitoring plan in place.
ACT – know how to diffuse a negative situation and show sympathy.
LEARN – People voice opinions when they feel strongly, listen to those opinions.
Resources that are very helpful in managing your identity:
FindMeOn.com – This allows you to put together a list of your networks and then watch them all!
Keotag.com – Search tagged blog posts that may include your name or brand.
SimplifID.com – One ID for all your online profile.
Garlik.com – Identity theft research tool – searches for mentions of your name or brand.
Monitor This – track keywords and monitor mentions across many blogs.
SocialURL.com – Allows you to see all of your profiles.
I was recently asked by a fellow domainer how I felt about the current prices of domain names in general. Here’s my take on Generic Domain Names, International Domain Names, Typo Domain Names, and other factors such as financing and the dissemination of knowledge.
I think domain prices have the potential to go up and down, and the type of domain which is affected has some very distinct qualities.
- Generic Domain Names
Generic domain names are always great for a business that wants to build its brand. However, as more and more companies get in tune with the domain name market, they will want to lock-out their competitors from buying related domain names. Just as Carls Jr. owns Burgers.com, they may also want to buy Hamburger.com and Hamburgers.com, or how about frenchfries.com or cheeseburgers.com. Not only is branding a factor, but companies are beginning to engage in a game of web site monopoly.
Further more generic domain names have the traffic that every business needs so that they can convert a visitor into a lead and eventually a sale. What better way to “buy” advertising than to buy a domain name that has residual traffic for the next 100 years! Generic domain names will be skyrocketing in value over the next few years.
- International (CCTLDs, IDNs) Domain Names
As the international community starts to move online, there are many challenges that content writers will face, the biggest being, how to provide content in the language and format that someone from a different county, culture and languge can understand.
IDNs are one way to do that, these domain names are actually domain names that use the different language characters, giving the chance for someone in Japan to have a Japanese character domain name, instead of just Latin script letters. I believe these domain names will move up in value dramatically, they may be the next gold rush online, but the traffic MUST be there, without traffic, they are useless.
Domain names in specific CCTLD sets will be moving up in value as well. We’ve already seen the .es and .fr extension do well, and I think that .in, .jp and .br will begin to do well in the resellers market.
- Typo Domain Names
Oh, the typo market, how that has changed over the last few years. Typos are like a hot-potato right now- everyone that has one is trying to pass them along to the next buyer at 2-4 years revenue. The problem is that if you continue to invest in typo domains and not in another class of domain names, you’ll find yourself sitting there with many high-risk domain names when the shit hits the fan. Typo domain names are ok to own as long as they are not being used in a confusing way. If you own a domain name that has a brand name + a product or service that they brand offers, then this domain name will be useless in 1-2 years as big brands get smart about domaining. Just as generics will increase in value due to big-business becoming more aware, typo domains will loose value as big-business becomes more aware.
Financing Will Change the Game
Sedo already offers financing for up to $10k, and DomainCapital is trying to corner the market. Jay Westerdal touched on domain financing a few days ago, essentially saying that domain names are an asset class where there are no large institutional lending players yet. When Wellsfargo offers loans for domain names, can you imagine the number of people that say “Hey, I want thisdomain.com and I’m willing to take out a $10k loan for 5 years to buy it.” This will cause the prices to skyrocket simply due to supply and demand. More people will have access to funding, which means more demand, and higher prices.
I have a background in SEO, then I played around in the domain space for a few years and now Im back as Director of SEO with a full service marketing company. What happened over the last 2-3 years is critical, I now have experience in the direct navigation business and in the SEO/natural traffic business. How many other people are crossing the lines? This shift of knowledge between SEOs and Domainers is happening right now, everyone wants both pieces of the pie.
So Whats Up and Whats Down?
- Generic & high traffic domains are the best combination.
- Typo & high traffic domains are waining, they should loose value over the next few years due to higher risk factors.
- International domains will have to prove higher traffic levels before their prices catch up to the rest of the market.
- The domain financing industry will start to boom, and then the snowball effect happens, causing the right domains to gain in value.
- More buyers: shifting of knowledge is creating more buyers of domain names as businesses and industries, like the SEO industry, want both pieces of traffic.
I have been spending some time catching up on facebook today and noticed that a few of my friends have WALL postings that include a url that LOOKS LIKE it goes to a facebook account. But in reality it is really a Numerical Chinese domain name that has subdomains tucked onto it to look like it’s a facebook url.
An example is this one: http://www.facebook.com.profile.php.id.371233.cn
Some of the messages being posted through friends of friends account look like this:
“lol i cant believe these pics got posted….its going to be BADDDD when her boyfriend sees these- http://www.facebook.com.profile.php.id.371233.cn”
You’ll notice that the domain name is reall 371233.cn and is made to look like a profile # page on facebook.com – The best solution it to tell your friends through a non-facebook messaging system.
Today I was reading Sahar Sarid’s post about Thanksgiving.com and I started to wonder who owns the the Holiday domain names. Granted, these are 1 day domains, or in the true sense, “seasonal” but during the right time of the year, they probably generate more PPC revenue than most domainer’s portfolios do over an entire year.
GLobalAccess, a nice company that resides in the Isle of Man. They’ve got this one parked and have owned it since 1994-08-05.
Scott Day owns this one, registered on 1997-12-29, I’m sure that this domain had a great year this year!
Hallmark owns this great domain, perfect for a company that sells a lot of easter cards! Registered on 1998-03-14, this one was probably drop-caught at one point.
This is a very interesting domain, looks like it has been owned since 1994-08-30 and it’s partially developed, the owner also owns halloween.biz, santaclaus.com, santaclaus.info, hurricane.com, PhoneBook.com, scholarships.net, thanksgiving.info, easter.biz, find.biz, court.com, diving.com, jacksonville.biz. Quite the Holiday Collection!
InfoSpace owns this one, it was registered on 1996-05-28. It seems to be a pseudo-parked page put together by InfoSpace.
Domain Capital shows up as the owner in whois, but it looks like this domain is being used by CLUBPLANET, an end user. Originally registered on 1997-12-12.
Jeff Reynolds, aka precision marketing owns this domain, registered on 1996-10-11, the site promotes AmericanFlags.com, which Jeff also owns AmericanFlags.com.
It was registered in 2004. I noticed that the .net/org/info/us arent taken yet.
Versimedia owns this domain, registered on 1997-08-10, it forwards to Greetingcards.com.
Versimedia also owns this domain, picked up on 1999-03-13.
Versimedia scores again, registering this name on 1997-08-10, the same day as LaborDay.com.
Its a name and a holiday, Frank Schilling owns this one, registered on 2002-05-23.
Registered on 1997-10-23, this name is owned by Versimedia, which also owns GreetingCards.com and several ofther big domains.
Owned by P. Gordon, owner of Getaway.com and UnitedStates.com.
Registered on 1998-11-06 by Holiday.com, Inc. which is a Japanese Company, this domain is sort-of a parked/directory site.
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