The number one lesson for managers in the travel business is: The marketing have changed. And it keeps changing fast!
Over the past couple of years we’ve been seeing the power to generate more bookings passing to the OTA’s hands. Add to this, search engine algorithm updates (like the last one “Penguin” that took down a lot of “well ranking” websites), integration of social media tools and technological changes and you will see a small part of the challenge hoteliers have ahead when it comes to marketing their hotels online.
When we consider all these changes together and view them as all part of a single process it is immediately apparent that is necessary to understand how search marketing works.
With all these new tools it appears overwhelming, but the truth is, for those who are flexible and actually take advantage of the technology, it can be a great opportunity!
There are 2 major topics that must have the marketer’s attention in the online game: Content and relevance / authority of the websites you want to engage with.
In the travel business, more than SEO within your own hotel website, it is important to be present (and well represented!) in the OTA’s. This is, in general a challenge. Just imagine updating your hotel’s information through thousands of OTA’s websites, in different languages, plus connecting all of this updates to your social media sites? In other words, hoteliers have to worry about their own hotel’s websites, plus thousands of OTA’s around the world that sell them!
One point at time: first let’s talk a little bit about SEO on your own website. Search engines don’t want pretenders to be ranking in the top ten. So forget about buying links, publishing poor content, writing keywords and endless descriptions all over and building aggregate links in high PR websites.
The major search engines are able to monitor what happens when visitors arrive on a website: what they do once they are there and how they interact with the available content. Some of the variables search engines uses to determinate it are:
- The amount of visitors that leave without visiting other pages (high bounce rate)
- Stickiness –The amount of time visitors spent on the site
- Retention – Number of pages visited in a single session
- Number of users that manually block specific website from their search results
- Engagement – Social media integration and interaction
That last point is especially important. Google recently introduced the personalized search, and with this the “Search Plus Your World” which makes the social interactions with content affect the ranking in the search results. In other words: if a content posted on Google Plus generates “buzz” such as comments, likes, shares, +1’s, tweets, etc, it will not only generate social exposure but will also increase the ranking on search engines.
In order to have a successful web strategy is important to create and share useful, entertaining, informative and valuable content. However, none of that matters if not spread it as much as possible through the social media sites.
But an important thing to have in mind is that: OK content is no longer good enough. In order to inspire customers to talk about your content in the social media world, content must become extraordinarily good. That’s no easy task, especially for hotels. For this type of business content must have a particular meaning.
Create quality content for a hospitality business, usually means rich media: photos, virtual tours and videos. Consumers want to see the hotel they are planning to stay at, period. They want to check the pool, the room and the facilities, and more they want to fantasize about the time they will have in that hotel. To invest in quality rich media content is mandatory if you are planning to increase your booking: studies have shown:
- Total unique visitors to the hotel website will increase an average of 13%.
- Rich content click-through (to booking engine) rates 4 to 5 times more than static images.
- Rich content generates post-impression activity (return visits) rates twice those for non-rich content and 46% more sales for those activities compared to non-rich content.
- The bounce rate (number of visitors abandoning site after viewing only one page – home page or landing page) improves by more than 5 percentage points.
Now, the other side of the coin: The distribution of your content through the OTA’s.
There is no way to deny that the OTA’s are important players in the travel marketing. A recent study by Cornell University on the so-called billboard effect, shows that about 75% of the visitors that booked on a hotel website visited an OTA before, and three to nine of those bookings, were directly influenced by the OTA listing. Bottom line is: presence on the OTA’s will generate more bookings (on your site and the OTA).
But how to have your property up to date in all of those thousands of OTA’s and in all languages your clients might are looking for? Good news is: There are companies specialized in creating and distributing rich media. This means that you can have a “hand” on your marketing plan! Having a well done distribution package can be the difference between being found (or not) within giants such as Expedia and Travelocity.
Online Marketing strategies that rely only on link building without a good content development plan tend to fail. To have good results in your marketing plan, is important to prioritize two main points: Content and distribution.
Most the time the investing in content and distribution won’t break your budget and the ROI (Return on Investment) is high and fast.
Does your marketing plan include content and distribution?