I just received the list of most popular articles from hotelmarketing.com and am republishing it here. I couldn’t find it on their site and emailed them to publish it but am not sure if that’s going to happen any time soon since they also announce that they’re on holidays until January.
Looking through the list is quite interesting. I wrote about it in a Google+ post (which has limited distribution) so am republishing the content of that post here:
Just went through the hotelmarketing.com‘s list of most popular articles in 2011. An excellent list, reading through the list alone is a great analysis of what’s happening in the hospitality world. Here’s my analysis of the scene: Feel free to add yours.
1. Hoteliers are more and more worried about their dependency on OTAs. Rate Parity problems, Cutting availability to OTAs being flagged and more.
2. Hoteliers still haven’t figured out how to yield results from social media. And nobody blames them. The stats talk for themselves: while social media brings lots of visits and can be used as a branding strategy the conversion of those visitors is much lower than on search. And what should we talk about?
3. Hoteliers want more direct. OK that’s nothing new, it’s the eternal problem of every industry, how to increase direct sales.
4. Hoteliers are searching for new marketing ideas. The posts with catchy headlines like Google+ will re-shape search… andGroupon and Expedia… are high on the list indicating that new ideas are definitely on their mind, even if many are just not mature yet. It leads me to believe that the common phrase that hoteliers are not up-to-date is just wrong, they are probably more careful and aren’t going to invest heavily into stuff that doesn’t work.
5. Big names still work best. I guess this isn’t limited to hotels but if there is Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google, Kayak or other big name in the headline it just gets much more readers. That’s just one of the PR laws, big names sell.
It’s probably more revealing as a trend to see what posts were most read and shared than the content of the posts. It gives a great crowdsourcing of hotel marketers interests (at least those that read hotelmarketing.com).
With the analysts at WIHP we’re constantly crunching numbers. How many visits before clients book, what countries book most, what links are the best, how do they find the hotel, what pages are most interesting, how fast the booking goes etc. Good marketing is based on lots of analysis and I think every good marketer out there knows that. I thought it would be fun to share some of the numbers, so I got an infographic made with some of them and it’s pretty cool. Here are the booking trends in the independent hotel market as an infographic.
Very interesting stats, and definitely reflective of our observations. Key takeaways: (1) Your home page MUST be optimized for conversions; (2) You need to be visible in conventional search, have good reputation with prior guests, AND be on the OTAs; (3) your website must stand out as providing something different.
To which I added that you need to have a booking engine that’s designed to convert. With 44% of user time spent on the booking engine if it’s somewhat complicated, slow or not representative of the hotel you’re going to lose conversion since the OTAs have some pretty good booking engines.
With no further ado, here is the hotel booking trends infographic:
I’ve been using Google+ for a few weeks now and I’m starting to get the hang of it. I am actually quite liking the design and feel for the platform and can’t wait for Google to open the business listing so we can really start using the platform for hotels. But meanwhile here are 5 ways a hotel can use Google+ for their property.
First of all it will require that the concierge or front desk staff open an account and become the “voice” of the hotel, this can’t be done trying to pretend to be a hotel, it needs to be an individual. But that can work too.
1. Open an account for the front desk or customer services of the hotel and determine who will be the user. It’s got to be a person.
2. Build circles for the different types of clients you have. This could be Summer holidays, New Year’s eve, Weekend breaks, Luxury Suites or so. Make groups with your guest types and load them into the system into various circles. It doesn’t matter if they are on Google+ or not because G+ has this great feature that one can share with people not on G+ via email. By clicking on the check box you can share stories, offers, photos or news to a particular circle which will get forwarded by email.
3. Create photo albums for the hotel and categorize them properly, such as room type, lobby, pool etc. Make this a display for the hotel. And remember to put captions with each photo providing a proper link for the hotel’s site and the specific page where they can get more information.
4. Remember this is a social network so it’s about talking to people and getting them to share their experience, comments, viewpoints etc. Don’t try to make this just a sales pitch for the hotel, interact with people, help them. And remind them of the great services that you can offer. That also means responding to their reviews and fixing things that went wrong.
5. Invite people to hangouts and if they’re interested answer questions about the hotel, how to get there, things to do in the area reassure people who haven’t been there before that your hotel is best for them. And those that have, tell them about new things being done in and around the hotel.
Couple of words of caution, don’t put people in too many circles as you’ll likely start spamming them and that’ll be the end of your Google+ experience for them. Don’t post everything public, use Circles for what they’re good for – making circles. Keep them exclusive it’s more fun that way and you get the right message to the right people.
And most importantly assume the viewpoint of the people getting your messages, if you write to them as if you were the one receiving the message you’ll get a long way. Nobody wants a sales pitch thrown at them all the time, they want to see the human side of the hotel.
Maybe Google+ is going to eliminate the need for email marketing altogether. I guess time will tell…
Together with the analysts at WIHP I just published a study of the top referring sites that bring bookings. Contrary to what some may think, referring sites as seen in Google Analytics doesn’t necessarily show the sites that bring bookings. And while some say that it’s a numbers game of more visits = more bookings there are some sites that really produce and others that don’t. Here is our analysis after reviewing several thousand sites and more than 35,000 bookings.
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In the highly competitive market of Travel, hotels need to analyze their top referring sites constantly. Unfortunately most hotels look at referring sites on their web stats with tools such as Google analytics or other and can only see which sites bring traffic, that doesn’t always show the real picture since a site can bring lots of traffic, but does it bring qualified traffic which turn into bookings.
At WIHP, like a few other professional hotel marketing companies, we’ve developed our own tracking systems that permit us to really study the ROI of the campaigns being done for our clients and track all the way to the booking.
A recent study we conducted taking into account over 35,000 bookings on the largest European markets (Paris, Rome and Barcelona) gives a pretty good picture of which type of sites generate most bookings and the market share these sites have. Taking into account that each of these categories actually generate revenue for the hotels in question, it important to state that none of them should be left out as “a minority” since they will generate revenue. The question is only one of how big an investment to make into those sites.
Below are two graphs, one with search engines and one without. We included the one without search engines to make the graph clearer as a sort of “zoom in” on the real referring sites.
Top Referring Sites for Hotels
|Reviews and Review sites||7.3%|
|Social Media sites||0.8%|
|Rate checking sites||0.4%|
Explanations of the results:
Search Engines, this is self-explanatory, these are all the search engines. They bring the most of the traffic as mentioned in my prior article about the real source of hotel bookings, the majority of the people booking the hotel have found the hotel elsewhere and at the time of booking have already decided which hotel they want to stay at and thus search for the hotel directly in the booking engine.
Map Search, we’ve purposely separated this from the broad Search Engines category since map search behaves slightly different in that one could be searching for a type of hotel in an area and find the result on map search etc. Map search isn’t limited to Google Places but also includes other map-based search systems that are trackable.
Reviews and Review sites, included here is Tripadvisor which is one of the largest in the category, but also other sites such as yelp.com, vinivi.com and the multitude of review sites on the market. In this category we have also included online reviews by online magazines or review sites (non-social).
Emails, these are all the trackable email that we found, people using non-web emails clients are not trackable and wont appear here, they aren’t in this statistic at all since they’re considered direct visitors by any tracking system.
Travel Guides, as this is a study of referring sites, travel guides in this case is all the online travel guides such as Fodors, Frommers, Lonelyplanet etc. again, for more information on the off-line effect of travel guides see our study on The Real Source of Hotel Bookings.
Other, we’ve included in this category all the miscellaneous sites such as a university referring their visitors to a local hotel or corporation etc. Of which there are quite a few but not enough to make it a category on it’s own.
Directory Listings, in this category are all the listings such as Yellow Pages, local hotel directories etc. Surprisingly this category doesn’t bring that many bookings.
Social Media sites, this includes Facebook, Twitter and other minor social media sites. While these are often on the top list of referring sites, they don’t necessarily all convert into bookings. As I mentioned earlier none of these sites should be neglected since they are all generating revenues and I am a strong believer of Social Media as a platform for hoteliers to reach out to potential guests. See my article on the launch of Hotel Seven in Paris which was almost entirely done via social media.
Blogs, we’ve separated blogs from Review sites as they’re a different type of review somewhere in between user reviews and journalist stories. In some cases blogs are extremely efficient and should definitely be considered in any hotelier’s marketing campaign.
Rate checking sites, in this category are sites like Kayak, Trivago and other rate comparers. Which per experience have a more qualified audience but who in many cases bring traffic to OTAs more than to hotel websites since hotel websites can’t easily push their rates.
Top Search Engines for Hotels
Further we analysed the search engines that bring bookings. On this category there is no mystery, Google leads by far with Yahoo and Bing right behind. As the Yahoo/Bing alliance rolls out this will become one and hopefully will take more than 7.6% of the market. Oddly enough with 30% of the market in the US the bookings aren’t nearly that much which probably comes from the non-US markets.
Conclusion for the Top Referring Sites and Search Engines for Hotels
While there are obviously some key sites that bring the most interested users and converts them into bookings, a hotel needs to be on every possible site in order to get all the bookings possible. It isn’t enough to focus on a single source or two, each of the above categories need to be worked on and the hotel’s presence on each will determine their brand recognition in the eyes of the end-user. The leading position of search engines in the bookings shows that to get the booking requires that the hotel is present everywhere. Only in that way will the end-user finally search for the hotel’s name, which is the search the user will do when he is ready to book. Other information that we will cover shortly shows that on average a new customer visits your site 3.78 times over several days before they make their purchase, which proves that there is a lot of shopping going on.
Working at WIHP I come across lot’s of hotel websites both good and bad, there are some points that I find commonly misunderstood by hoteliers and some web designers which make for ineffective hotel websites that don’t sell as much as they could. I started writing this as an article about hotel website design, but as it turns out I’m going to make a list of DO’s and DON’Ts or rather Don’ts and Do’s as I am listing it here. While some of this may go against established viewpoints, I am not writing it as a series of opinions, this is based on over 12 years of trial and error in the highly competitive market that is Paris.
To start with let’s get one thing straight. A Hotel website is there for one purpose and one purpose only – to sell inventory directly for the hotel at highest possible profit to the hotel. What a website isn’t is a medium to flatter a hotelier’s ego, it isn’t there to impress people with fancy animations, it isn’t there to be liked by Google, it isn’t there for any other purpose than to generate maximum bookings at the highest possible profit to the hotel.
Now that we got that straight let’s go over some do’s and don’ts of common points I have noticed together with other professionals at WIHP.
Don’t create a website for Google, Google isn’t going to sleep in your hotel!
It’s a classic we keep running into, some hotelier has been “advised” by a “professional” that the website needs lots of keyword heavy text and lots of information on the home page in order to be well indexed in Google. So they make a horrible website that guests try to avoid. Get this straight – someone who is booking a room in a hotel isn’t interested in a description of the hotel’s history and or something like: “This is really a boutique hotel because it was renovated with a specific boutique hotel design and therefore is getting some of the best reviews as one of the top boutique hotels in the city”. That is making a website for Google rather than for your guests. Sure your SEO guys will complain, but they’ll just need to get better at their jobs.
Don’t focus on animations, it’s distracting.
We all want a sexy website, with fancy animations that look great. We want to show the world that we have the latest technology in the world and we’re up to date, skip it – it’s a distraction! Your guest knows what he wants – even if he is seeing an average of 12 websites before he choses his hotel it isn’t because he doesn’t know what he’s looking for. On the contrary, he just isn’t finding it and your animations are making things worse.
Don’t present the entire city, you’re trying to sell your hotel.
I can’t count how many times I’ve landed on a hotel website only to be searching for the “Rooms” menu option so I could get to see the rooms and find out what the hotel was really like. Some people seem to think the hotel needs to present every single corner of the hotel and then every single corner of the city. Sure it’s great to show your bar but why in the world are you telling him about your Concierge, Shopping, Things to do, Events, Shows etc on your main menu? You aren’t the local tourist information you’re trying to sell him a room. Waste his time and he’ll go somewhere else, like an OTA for example (they understood this long ago).
Don’t go cheap on your booking engine, it’ll cost you the sale.
Unfortunately too many hotels think the Booking Engine is something they can relegate to the cheapest on the market. What would you think of your reservation office telling the potential guests “Hm let’s see I think I can accept your reservation but you’ll have to hold while I check with the manager and my supervisor, after that I’ll run a credit check and you can call back in about 15 minutes” you’d fire the lot of them. That’s what a bad booking engine is doing to you. Pay a little more, get something that’s efficient.
Now that we’ve looked at those points, the contrast will probably seem obvious but let’s go over them.
Create a website for users. As I mentioned in my earlier post about USPs you need to present 3 factors in 3 seconds: Location, Comfort and Value. How do you do that? Visuals, large ones, show don’t tell. People want to see the room, see the location, see the rates and that is what will close your guests to come. Use great and large photos, as I mentioned in my post about hotel photography – guests want to see your room, your hotel and what you have to show, if a photo tells a thousand words, then you don’t need to write a lot. If your site is pertinent, Google will show it, so focus on the people. They’re the ones that will sleep in your hotel.
Make your website fast and to the point. As I mentioned just above you have 3 seconds to make the sale. The potential guest knows what he wants, show him your hotel, if you fit his criteria you’ve got the sale. So make your website fast, add some animations if you want but only if it helps the three second rule, the WOW effect of your website should be your hotel not the animations.
Navigation must be simple. Menus need to be simple and easy to navigate. There are essential points of the hotel that need to be shown, such as the rooms, the location and how to book. Sure you can add more but add intelligently because your guest needs to know how to book or where to check your location without being rocket scientists. Remember you’ve got lot’s of competition and they may sell faster than you.
Invest in a good booking engine. The booking engine comes at the most crucial moment of the sale. Now is the time the guest needs to pull out the credit card, all the reasons in the world why he shouldn’t pay are going to creep up. You can either help yourself make the sale with a fast and smooth booking engine or help him find reasons not to pay by having a complicated booking process. Test the booking engine before you sign a contract. How smooth is the booking process, get your parents to try it can they figure it out? Try some people to see if they find it annoying, smooth, easy or if they just leave.
As a hotelier, you have one objective to keep in mind – is it effective? demand from your web-designer that he produce a site which converts and is measurable in increased revenues. Simple analytics can provide you with the information. While we have developed a sophisticated hotel analytics system at WIHP, you can already start measuring by installing e-commerce with Google Analytics. Track your conversions, how many visits create how many bookings etc. compare with your friends that have similar hotels, are you better, worse etc.
This list isn’t everything but I hope it gives enough to make hoteliers think and maybe review their design.
Probably 60% of all the hotels are to some degree dependent on OTAs. Meaning the OTAs are bringing them more than 40% of their business.
The common problem for hoteliers is how to increase their revenue with a limited stock of rooms per day and any day lost can’t be recovered. Once they have worked out how to fill the hotel, the dilemma is often how to decrease the market share of OTAs and increase their direct bookings. For those of you who aren’t hoteliers OTAs take up to 30% commissions on the bookings they send to hotels. That is a large part of the hotel’s profit.
Back in 2008 when I was the director of Hotel Taylor in Paris (a three star boutique hotel) I was living that dilemma every day. The hotel had just been renovated and was becoming quite popular on OTA sites, so much so that I had month where 80% of my revenues came from OTAs. While I welcomed the revenues it was obvious that this model would not last. It became urgent to work out a strategy to shift to direct bookings. Here is how we did it (and I say we because this was a teamwork between the hotel and our internet marketing agency).
We contacted the best webmarketing agency in our area (WIHP, which is where I work now) and told them to make the best website they could. We gave them carte blanche and told the designers that the site has to be better than anything on the market. The site they made was this one www.paristaylorhotel.com some key elements where, full-screen images, easy navigation, easy to book from anywhere in the site.
2. Invest in your online marketing strategy
We took two thirds of the OTA commission budget and invested it into online marketing. Working with pay-per-click advertising, blogs and every possible means of direct marketing they had to offer. We weren’t going to make much more profit, but we wanted to be independent.
3. Use Social Media
We started working Social medias, blogs, Facebook and any other medium we could find to get in direct contact with future guests. We had to get out there and make the hotel known to real people that were all potential guests for us.
4. Print advertising
To make things worse, aside from the OTA dependency we also had a recession well on the way. So we went even further and bought print advertising signed contracts for full page ads in travel magazines. It was expensive and the smaller hotels had not tried it before. Most of our friends thought we were crazy, but we trusted our strategy.
5. Keep working with OTAs
OTAs are not evil, they’re just expensive. So of course we didn’t shut them out and start some kind of revolution. But since our direct bookings took over most of our inventory, we didn’t have much to sell through them anymore. However we kept them all going and paid our commissions. Even if they were rather small.
6. Best Rate Guarantee on your website
This is always a heated subject, but you need to decide where you’re going to put your future.
With about one year of work, applying the strategy, spending the money, we created a reputation for ourselves and currently have a hotel that is known by the public and booked at an average of 88% over the year. With an ADR that doubled on 24 month. It’s not undoable, but it takes some courage and it takes being backed by a strong marketing agency that knows what they’re doing.
- A viewpoint on advertising history
- HotelMarketing.com’s most popular of 2011
- ZMOT and hotel marketing
- Where hotels should get new guests [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Hotel Booking Trends an Infographic
- Five ways a hotel can use Google+
- Top referring sites for Hotels by WIHP
- How to Successfully open a hotel
- How do they find us?
- Do’s and Don’ts for a Hotel Website