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Digital Marketing

Increasing traffic to your hotel’s website is likely to be a core part of your revenue strategy in the digital age. But what has worked in the past may not be as effective now. Changes in how consumers search for services and the way that results are ranked means it could be time to overhaul your current marketing plan to achieve the results you’re after.

Digital hotel marketing strategies need to constantly evolve, reflecting the rapidly changing landscape that the hospitality industry needs to contend with. As online marketing continues to advance, algorithms and search engines are becoming more sophisticated. Changes allow consumers to find information more effectively what they’re looking for in relation to their search terms. But organic traffic is in decline. Instead, paid search and social media traffic is on the rise.

The shift in how consumers arrive at a website signals a need for hotels to reassess their current marketing budgets and strategies. With the behavioural change being driven by multiple different areas, including devices used and best SEO practices, your hotel marketing team needs to understand how to take advantage of the changes to improve your conversion rates and brand awareness. The good news is that despite it becoming more difficult to secure organic traffic, consumers are more willing to engage and make hotel and experience bookings digitally.

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Why is organic traffic down?

The decline of organic search is directly linked to changes made for paid searches. In 2016, Google changed how you see ads on its site and as the largest search engine by a considerable margin, this has undoubtedly had an impact. Previously, ads were displayed on the right-hand side of the results, separating them to a greater degree from the organic results. Now, Google displays up to four text ads at the top of the results page, leading to more consumers clicking on PPC adverts rather than browsing down to the organic search results for your property.

It’s a change that’s having a bigger effect on browsing on mobile devices. In 2014 the number of consumers using mobile devices surpassed those using the traditional desktop. In the UK, over 60% of searches are made on smartphones or tablets. Users don’t want to have to scroll down when using mobile devices, leading to them clicking on the paid ads at the top of the results, further reducing organic traffic.

On top of that, social channels are becoming more popular. It’s the most effective digital hotel marketing approach for converting clicks into sales. Travellers aren’t just using social media platforms to share their own snaps, they’re using them to research destinations and gain travel inspiration too. So, while organic searches might be down as consumers seek different ways to gather hotel and holiday information, you’re presented with opportunities too.

Convenience is playing a role in the reduction in organic traffic as well. While many people are comfortable booking from mobile devices while they’re on the go, others are utilising other functions, including the call extensions button on Google results. The number of people choosing to call and speak to a business representative has increased by 5%, demonstrating that just because organic traffic is down, your hotel revenue doesn’t have to suffer as a direct result.

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Digital Marketing
Things are changing quickly in the world of online travel marketing. 60% of leisure travellers now put their own itineraries together, whether that’s booking flights and hotels or even adding in tickets to attractions. While this is great news for travellers and those who have found their sweet spot in this part of the travel industry, it can be a confusing time for those who are not used to the shifting landscape.

SearchMetrics has compiled a new infographic and whitepaper to help those struggling with digital hotel marketing. The research shows the most important ranking factors when it comes to travel SEO. It’s a popular subject, so SearchMetrics meticulously used Google data to find what people were really searching for.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for travel, such a popular subject, one of the more popular items that ranked highly within travel over other benchmark factors was the number of images on each page. Happily, overall content relevance was there too—proving that travel customers and clients plus the search engines are good at separating the wheat from the chaff in a place of perhaps oversaturated content.

Word count was over 50% more important than the average, non-travel related page, meaning that this can make or break your page if you’re jostling for a plum ranking with Google. Google has stringent algorithms that locate and quantify various pages and woe betide your webpage if it should break or bend its best practise rules.

The perennial Buzzfeed favourite tactic of the bullet pointed list was also prevalent within all types of travel sites and startegies—making it a key digital hotel marketing tactic. Travel sites also working hard to improve their rankings should give careful consideration to the use and of number of internal links, URL length, interactive elements and the presence of H1 and H2 tags. All of these metrics were found to be important ranking factors for travel sites.

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However, due possibly in part to travel’s particular niche, several elements of travel pages fell well below the average benchmark. Despite travel being an integrally social experience, links to social media such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest were much lower than in other sites. Of these, Pinterest fared the best, possibly because travel is a type of experience given to plenty of visuals.

What can travel marketers learn from this? Those focusing on digital hotel marketing need to know their particular ranking rules well, since their competitors ultimately will. Keep the content relevant, remember that numbered bullet lists and word counts matter more in travel than in many other fields, and pay attention to things like URLs and H1 and H2 tags.

It can be difficult to parse this kind of research if you’re trying out a new kind of campaign or even dipping a toe into the waters of digital hotel marketing for the first time. Digital Hotelier can help.

Digital Hotelier is committed to helping hotels enhance their digital marketing skills and manage their revenues. In a world where Google seems to come out with new rules and different algorithms with alarming regularity, driving direct conversions can be tough if you’re managing it alone. Get in touch to see how we can help.
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Digital Marketing
There are many different benefits to closely monitoring the customer journey. By keeping a close eye on the decisions made by your prospects along the way to becoming a valued customer, you can help to optimize this experience and influence their end destination – making a hotel booking.

As a key concept in digital hotel marketing, there are some interesting ways to use the power of digital to take charge of this journey and funnel your prospects through to the ultimate conversion objective of making a room reservation.

1. Understand Key Customer Channels
Knowing as much as possible about your customers gives you a much better chance of getting a decent handle on their activities and helping to shape them beneficially. Perform a careful analysis of the various contact points your customer has with your hotel. From a digital perspective, this is made much simpler than with offline marketing. There are a wide variety of digital methods a customer might use to engage with you which are not limited to simply interacting with your product or service directly at the booking stage.

Each point of contact your customers have with your hotel is a chance to influence their decision making process in one way or another. Customer journey mapping takes into account both what you want to provide the customer, and what the customer wishes to receive. The gaps between this idealised experience and the one your customer experiences in reality are where your efforts should be focused.

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2. Research on Social Media
Look at your digital marketing channels incuding your activities on blogs and social networks. Observe the conversation around your brand, and note its tone. Are you engaging enough with your prospects? How does your hotel sound from an outsider perspective? How does it look? Would you book a room? By taking a dispassionate view to your offering, you can get a better idea of how a potential customer initially sees you. They have no vested interest in the success or failure of your business – what they see is what it can provide for them. By showing that you can deliver on a great experience from the get-go, you greatly enhance the likelihood that customers will make that all-important booking.

3. Join the Conversation
Set up Google Alerts for your business and regularly monitor them. You will gain a competitive advantage by engaging on a consumer level. Your ability to manage all levels of communication during the customer journey will have a make-or-break effect on its eventual outcome. Research different channels of discovery about your brand – be it consumer forums, comparison sites or your own website – and look at it all from a usability and desirability angle. Your end goal is to create a bond between you and your customer, so taking charge of the awareness and discovery stages in a digital sense takes into account the many activities and actions your customer will undergo before making a purchase – giving you chances to maximise these efforts to ensure they show your hotel in the best possible light.
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Digital Marketing
We may already be a quarter of the way through 2017 but with nine months of the year left to go, there’s still plenty of time to ramp up your digital hotel marketing plans. One easy way to differentiate your online presence from your competitors and offer a satisfying, seamless experience for visitors is to be bang on trend – if you’re ready to kick your marketing up a gear and looking for innovative new strategies to generate more revenue and more bookings, consider adding some or all of these emerging trends to your digital hotel marketing plan of action.

Virtual Reality

It’s been around a while, but in 2017 virtual reality is more accessible than ever. Travel agent Thomas Cook is setting the pace in the travel sector, offering virtual reality experiences in a series of experience-rich specialist high street stores its calling Discovery branches. While it requires some investment and specialist expertise, virtual reality makes for a distinctive addition to any digital hotel marketing strategy. It can be used to give tours of your accommodation or allow travellers to explore premium excursions and the local area before they even unpack. Offering this kind of immersive content can be a winning differentiator.

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Chatbots

Chatbots have been running mainly under the radar but expect them to go mainstream in 2017. Some brands have already started to adopt the technology and incorporate it into some aspects of their marketing and customer service but, there are plenty of ways to be an innovator in the hotel sector. There are a multitude of ways you can incorporate chatbot tech into your website – use it to drive personalised experiences by offering returning visitors a more tailored interaction based on past behaviours. A customer service chatbot can sit on your site and answer questions about room availability or field frequently asked questions such as cancellation policy, additional room taxes and distance from public transport links.
The US train provider, Amtrak has used a chatbot to do just that for its web customers, rolling out ‘Julie’ to help travellers find information about routes, bookings and its rewards program. It has reported a 25% increase in overall bookings and 30% more revenue per booking since the chatbot launched.

Reviews

Word of mouth has always been the best way to drive sales but consumers have been slower to place their trust in online reviews. This all looks set to change in 2017 with local evangelists Bright Local’s annual survey finding a massive 8 out of 10 customers now trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. Only 9% of online consumers ignore reviews and 9 out of 10 online shoppers will read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. This leaves a very small window of opportunity to create the right first impression and convert an intent-rich search into a confirmed room reservation.
 

Live Streaming

It used to be that live streaming was costly, time consuming and fraught with tech challenges. This perception is now outdated and a couple of exciting launches in the social media sector have put live streaming firmly within reach and within budget for any and all businesses looking for new ways to connect with their audiences.

Facebook Live Streaming is now available to all users and means you can use it to interact with your guests and share special events as they happen. It can be used to field questions, reach new audiences and share your engaging content in new ways.

 Holding a special event such as a wedding? Offer to live stream for guests who can’t be there in person. Launching a new amenity or debuting a new style of suite? Live stream it to get the word out. The possibilities are limitless. YouTube also offers a live streaming option and there are plenty of apps and tools to take it up a notch.

Influencer Marketing

It’s been a buzz word for the last couple of years but expect influencer marketing to really come of age in 2017. There are now legitimate celebrities across almost every industry, formed off the back of blog posts and YouTube videos. This new generation of celebrities has a powerful voice and several have already cashed in with profitable brand collaborations, book deals and clothing lines.

2017 will see a more sophisticated evolution with brands and influencers working together to create unparalleled and specific content experiences rather than churning out the same old style of sponsored post or influencer endorsement.  Consider partnering with micro-influencers as well as the more influential trail blazers in channels like YouTube and Snapchat to set your digital hotel marketing apart from the crowd.
 

Social Amplifications

It’s taken a while for many brands to figure out how to extract a decent ROI from social and figure out its place in the marketing mix. While it’s not a direct sales channel, it is essential for actually delivering sales. Social amplification will be a hot topic in 2017 – with hotels and travel innovators really honing in on what works and how to amplify social impact. This will pull in lots of other disciplines such as live streaming and content marketing as well as demand scheduling savvy, data analysis and listening capabilities. Tap into this trend to amplify your messages (such as greater awareness of deals and USPs) and deliver more successful content experiences to clients.
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