How to Solve 3 Common Hotel Digital Marketing Challenges
I’ve learned a lot after hundreds of phone calls with my clients, including the unique digital marketing challenges that hoteliers face. Regardless of the uniqueness of the represented independent hotels, there are a few challenges that remain the same among my different clients here at GCommerce.
1. Your Hotel Is Losing Ground in the SERPs
It’s no secret that the hotel niche has been one of the most competitive niches out there within the SERPs (search engine results pages). Each property has to compete against other independent hotels, hotel chains, review sites and OTAs. Not to mention, the seemingly infinite amount of travel destinations that consumers have to choose from can draw potential guests to other destinations entirely. And if your market is down in occupancy as a whole, you’ll have an even harder time competing to get people to stay at your hotel.
Solution – In order to have a bigger presence in the search engines, you need to develop a solid SEO strategy for your hotel. Here are a few key components for success:
Do keyword research – Before you start, you’ll want to do some research to find out what your hotel’s target audience is searching for, and create content and messaging to include those keywords within your hotel’s website.
Take advantage of Google My Business and Bing Places – These free resources are true gems in getting your hotel’s website to appear within the SERP. Take advantage of their features and make sure you are encouraging your guests to leave reviews on Google as part of your strategy. Consider a partner that offers local search directory optimization, as ensuring your information is consistent across the internet can positively impact your hotel’s SEO success.
Optimize your meta descriptions and title tags – Make sure every page on your hotel’s website has optimized meta descriptions and title tags. Title tags carry a lot of weight in determining rank within search engines, and meta descriptions can have a lot of impact on getting users to click-through to your website.
Create local content – If you don’t have a blog you’re actively using, start now. Write blogs about things to do in your area, about your hotel and other topics geared towards your target audience and post them at least twice per month. Don’t forget to include a CTA within the blog, encouraging readers to stay at your hotel.
Page speed – Make sure your website is loading quickly. Note that 53% of mobile site visitors bounce if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Don’t forget Google includes page speed as part of its ranking algorithm. Use Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool to check the speed of your website and work with your website administrator to make updates to improve speed but that don’t take away key functionality and imagery.
Mobile first design – The majority of site visits are from mobile devices. Make sure your website (and booking engine) are designed with this in mind. Whenever you make a change on your hotel’s website, make sure to view that change on your mobile device.
2. OTAs are a necessary evil.
You would love to NOT participate with the OTAs, but the cost to compete against them is just too great. So, you join forces, perhaps just limiting to one or two OTAs, and pay the 10-30% commission for them to take reservations on your behalf. In fact, Booking.com knows how reliant hotels are and recently announced they will be taking a commission on resort fees. And even with this change, the reliance on OTAs isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In this current landscape, utilizing OTAs to supplement your reservations is important. However, your goal should be to strive for as many direct bookings as you can, and reduce overall OTA contribution.
Solution – Develop and implement a book direct strategy for your hotel.
Take ownership of “Best Rate Available” – You control your hotel’s rates. Take ownership that you have the best rates available on your website. You know a portion of your guests are going to price shop against the OTAs - give them confidence that they are getting the best rate by booking direct.
Use software tools - Look at using partners such as Cybba or Triptease, who have shopping cart abandonment tools and price comparison tools. While the price comparison tool can be controversial, consider the customer buying journey. If potential guests are shopping your hotel’s site and they see they are getting the best deal booking through you, why would they need to leave your site and price shop elsewhere? Keep them on your site, minimize the chance for price shopping (risking them booking through an OTA or another hotel), and capture the conversion.
Consider joining a rewards program – One of the reasons many people book with a hotel chain or OTA is to get hotel points (especially business travelers and frequent travelers). Consider a partner like The Guestbook, which allows your property to white label the rewards program and offers multiple reward redemption options. Or as another option, join independent hotel groups like Preferred Hotels or Stash Rewards.
Market to past guests of OTAs – Train and enforce your front desk asking for email addresses for guests who book through an OTA. Segment these guests into their own email list, and send specific offers with targeted messaging, encouraging those guests to return and book direct for their next stay.
Entice guests with unique perks – You may be stuck price matching rates available OTAs, but you can also get creative and offer what OTAs can’t. Try offering resort credits, complimentary room upgrades when available, or unique packages with dining, spa, golf or other experiences included in the stay package.
Pay attention to rate parity – You’d be surprised how often I find that my clients are not in rate parity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a Google search on my clients, only to find that their hotel website is the most (or one of the most) expensive places to book a room – no joke. If the OTAs have a cheaper rate than you offer on your own hotel’s website, don’t be surprised if your guest books through the OTA. When this happens, all of your digital marketing dollars have gone to waste.
3. Wearing Multiple Hats
I find it’s not uncommon for the general manager to be in charge of email campaigns. Or the revenue manager also in charge of public relations. Or the director of sales to also be responsible for social media and community management. We get that you’re busy, but here’s some tips to help.
Solution – Let go of one of your hats (or at least share one).
Encourage employees to take ownership in marketing efforts – Train your front desk to capture unique information about your guests, like their favorite beverage, what activities they like to do when they visit, etc. You can use this personal information for an extra touch next time the guest stays, which will increase customer loyalty. Also, encourage your front desk staff to have guests leave reviews if they’ve had a pleasant stay. Task a few staff members to take photos that could be used for social content.
Consider training from the ground up - I’ve seen my clients successfully use internships as part of their strategy, which has often turned into full time hires down the road. Off-load some of your easier, time-consuming tasks to them to free up more time for you to focus on revenue-generating projects.
Hire a hotel digital marketing partner – Find a trusted marketing partner that knows the digital marketing landscape, specific to the hotel industry. GCommerce has been specializing in marketing in the hotel industry niche for over 17 years. Here at GCommerce, we would gladly wear one of those hats for you. Contact us for your free online assessment.