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The ABCs of Hospitality Web Marketing: Part 2 of 3


Once upon a time, we were all new to this industry. For some, it was many years ago and for others like myself, it was just over one year ago. I remember being shown to my desk, given computer login information and being told to read countless eBooks, blogs and infographics to familiarize myself with everything to do with hospitality digital marketing.

Thoughts and questions flew through my mind. What is SEO? Facebook has apps? What does UGC stand for? Why are there so many terms surrounding “mobile”?

hospitality marketing questions
Well, it’s hard to believe more than a year has passed since then and I’ve definitely gotten an in-depth and crash course in hospitality digital marketing (aided by taking the great Certified Hospitality Digital Marketer course). Now, I am here offering you this guide to the ABCs of hospitality marketing – making the world a better place, one definition at a time.

Authenticity

Authenticity can refer to a number of different things, but based on what I’ve learned so far it’s especially important when it comes to engaging with your guests before, during and after their stay.

Nobody wants to feel like they’ve received an automated response. Guests want to feel special and cared for – that’s what will make them come back and recommend your property to other travelers. When you’re replying to guest reviews, Facebook comments, tweets or emails (good or bad) make sure to craft a personalized response for each guest, address their comments and thank them for their feedback.

Best Practices

Fancy words for “guidelines from people who know what they’re doing.” Our resources that go over best practices are really easy to follow and provide valuable insight at the same time.

Content Marketing

The art of marketing to someone without actually marketing to them. Why is this important in the hospitality industry? Content is synonymous with storytelling – it puts buyers first, attracts travelers directly to your website and focuses on help, not hype.
Did you know that 80% of consumers appreciate learning about a company through content? Content marketing is your chance to tell your property’s story.

Direct Bookings

Direct bookings, as the name implies, are made directly with your property’s desktop or mobile websites (your direct sales channels) – your property is able to keep 100% of the revenue since you won’t have to pay any commission to third-party booking websites.

A good way to drive more direct bookings is by having original content on your website, by having a social media presence and by being mobile optimized (because of Google’s latest update!). Anything that encourages travel shoppers to click on and explore your website gets them one step closer to making a direct booking with your property.

Engagement

I briefly touched on this in “authenticity,” but engagement can go beyond simply replying to people when they reach out to you. Engagement involves all forms of interaction – posting user-generated content and sharing community events to name a few. For example, the Hampton Inn & Suites Boulder-North frequently posts fun articles on their Facebook page about things to do in Colorado and around their community. By telling their local story, it sets them apart.

Each time you are interacting with travelers online you are engaging with them and one of the keys to generating more bookings is high levels of quality engagement. This stems from attention-grabbing posts that usually include fun statements and/or bold images – Facebook posts that include images see 37% more engagement than those with just text.

Facebook Apps

Facebook apps are a great way to give travel shoppers a complete experience without forcing them to leave their precious social media network. 87% of people younger than 34 use Facebook to solicit advice before making bookings, so incorporating apps such as virtual tours, multi-media galleries, guest reviews and “book now” buttons will incorporate the level of convenience that today’s travel shoppers expect.

Guest Reviews

The best part about guest reviews is that they are the real opinions of real people with real experiences. 80% of travelers say that TripAdvisor reviews make them feel more confident in their booking decisions – we recently hosted a webinar about how guest reviews can help drive bookings and I suggest you check it out because guest reviews are one of those things that can make or break your property.

Hospitality Marketing

This term encompasses your entire marketing strategy – from your website to mobile sites to social media to presence on third-party travel channels.

As the travel shopping journey continues to change (it’s estimated travelers now visit anywhere between 10-30 websites, across multiple devices to search for accommodations online), it’s important to have a multi-channel hospitality marketing strategy, telling a consistent story on every channel and device travelers use for research and booking.

Instagram

According to Instagram, it is a free and simple way to share your life and keep up with other people. According to hospitality marketing professionals, it’s a great way to participate in visual storytelling while engaging (mostly millennial) travel shoppers.

Like anything else on the internet, there is Instagram etiquette, especially for businesses. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with our Instagram DOs and DON’Ts. My number one tip? Don’t just post photos of your property. While travel shoppers like seeing rooms and amenities, they love seeing what makes your property unique – your staff, community and history.

Join the Conversation

Building off of what was said in “engagement,” while it is extremely important to respond to comments and interactions with guests and travel shoppers on social media, it is even more important to be conscious of the content of your interactions.

It’s good to just say “thank you” to a good comment and “sorry” to a bad comment. It’s great to build off of that “thank you” or “sorry” and try to begin a conversation – this shows the original commenter and anyone that sees the comment that your property cares.

Keep it Fresh

Have you ever looked forward to a new episode of your favourite television show and then discovered that you’ve been waiting all week for…. A rerun?!

That’s similar to how a travel shopper feels when they see the same stale content each time they visit your website or social media pages. Since your property is continuously growing and improving, so should the content that you post. Keep content fresh by taking inspiration from your story, your staff and your community.

Link Building

This term is not directly related to hospitality marketing, but it is paramount when it comes to content. And remember, content is what helps you tell your story and keeps travel shoppers engaged and interested.

Link building can be summed up in four words: quality, authority, quantity and diversity. One of the ways search engines rank and evaluate your website is by the quality and quantity of links pointing to your site from external websites.

How can your property engage in good link building? Marco Braggio, an SEO expert that works frequently with those in the hospitality industry, explains in our Beginner’s Guide to SEO: think about partnering with websites of local restaurants, attractions and community organizations. Share their content and get them to share yours – it’s a win-win situation!

Mobile

When was the last time you heard someone say, “I left my smartphone at home today. I’ll be completely fine and I won’t miss it at all.” Never. The answer is never. Once, my friend actually fell asleep cuddling with her iPhone – that’s how connected people these days are to their mobile devices.

In today’s digital world, it is so important to not only have a mobile presence but to be mobile optimized in order to reach the widest variety of travel shoppers possible. If you haven’t heard already, Google is now rewarding mobile-friendly websites with higher spots in mobile search results.

There is so much information about mobile that we dedicated the entire month of May to it on our blog. In the interest of time, we created a concise summary for your reading pleasure.

Navigable

Have you ever been trying to navigate a website and you just can’t figure out where the one page you need is? This is a frustration that is bound to be experienced by travel shoppers at some point during their shopping journey, but there are a few things that your property can do to ensure that it does not happen on your website.

First, make sure that your website is optimized for multiple devices because travel shoppers don’t just shop from their computers anymore. Secondly, make sure that the navigation tabs are clear and easy to find from any page of the website. Finally, having a visual-first approach that eliminates the need for paragraphs upon paragraphs of text will give the whole webpage a cleaner look and therefore, will help travel shoppers find what they need quicker.

OTA

Many travel shoppers visit OTAs (online travel agencies) while shopping for accommodations online. How can you grab their attention?

Ensure that your property is displayed on these websites the same way it is on your own website – lots of photos, concise descriptions proving context and anything else that a travel shopper would want to see during their travel shopping journey. Most importantly, make sure you’re telling a unique story that is consistent across all channels.

Pinterest

You’re probably thinking, “oh great, another social media platform to take up more of my time.” Pinterest isn’t just any social media platform. Pinterest is a visually enticing website that has 72.8 million users, of which 85% are female. When you take into consideration that women account for more than 85% of all household purchases and 92% of vacation decisions, you will realize that you essentially have your target demographic being presented to you on a silver platter.

Pinterest can be especially beneficial for the hospitality industry because of the way that users use the website. Many people use Pinterest for inspiration and for the research phase of their travel shopping journey, so it’s an amazing opportunity to tell your property’s unique story and to capture the attention of travel shoppers at the beginning of their shopping journey.

Questions

Everyone has them.

If your property is able to anticipate the questions that travel shoppers will have and then create content answering those questions then guests will thank you for it – you save them the time it would require to find the answers on their own and give them the confidence to book with you.

A great example of anticipating guest questions and creating content geared to answering them is the “Staying at a B&B” page on The Cedars of Williamsburg Bed & Breakfast’s website. They realized that some travel shoppers have never stayed at a B&B before and decided to answer frequently asked questions.

ROI

ROI stands for return on investment – is all of the time and money that you invest in your website, mobile, Facebook and other social media, etc. worth it?

The Ashley Inn and Suites Lincoln City increased their occupancy rates by 14% in just 18 days after implementing Vizlly – now that is a return on investment.

SEO

SEO is the set of best practices that aim to improve the natural or organic search engine rankings of a given website. In non-technical language, this essentially means that SEO can help your website achieve higher search engine rankings, thus raking in better traffic, reaching more travel shoppers and bringing them to your virtual front door.

SEO has become standard practice for marketers in every industry as a way to be found more easily in the sea of search engine results and attract qualified traffic and leads.

Since SEO is such a vast and important topic, we have a Beginner’s Guide to SEO as a resource on our website, so you can check that out for more information.

Targeting

Today’s travelers don’t want to be just another name in the guest book – they want a personalized and tailored experience. In fact, four out of 10 travelers would share their data if it meant increased personalization.

When we travel, we want to know about much more than the price of the hotel, its address and what our room will look like. We want to know about what there is to do in the community, what we can anticipate for our experience and a basic outline for an itinerary before we arrive.

This is why it is so important to provide your ideal guest with a story targeted to their needs. Successful storytelling isn’t about casting a wide net and hoping for the best, it’s about telling the right story to the right people at the right time.

User-Generated Content

UGC comes in many different shapes and sizes. Re-tweeting guest comments on Twitter, posting guest photos on social media and sharing anecdotes from guests are all great examples of UGC, and Hotel Galvez has nailed this on all their social channels.

On Twitter, a guest tweeted “Just got to the Hotel Galvez, this place is beautiful! Such an amazing feel and incredible old charm!” and tagged the hotel in that tweet. Hotel Galvez retweeted this and commented “Thanks! Enjoy your stay.” Not only are they engaging that guest on social media, but they are sharing that user-generated content with other potential guests.

This can also be very helpful in telling your property’s story, especially if you’re not exactly sure what your story is. By taking a look at what other people are posting about your property on social media you can get a sense of what they like and what they don’t like. Maybe your concierge is a hit among travelers or perhaps your breakfast selection is top notch. Take advantage of these positives and feature the guests on your social media – after all, we’re much more likely to believe something about a property if we hear it from someone just like us.

Visual Storytelling

During my first week in the hospitality marketing industry, the single most important thing that I learned was that visual storytelling is the future of hospitality marketing – of all marketing actually.

Visuals compel us much more than text alone does. It’s in our nature. After all, we were drawing pictures way before we were writing books. Visuals are also a great way to show travel shoppers the value that your property can provide so you can sell on much more than price alone.

Website

As travel shoppers become increasingly savvy and are presented with more and more options for where to stay, the importance of an optimized, visual and user-friendly website continues to increase.

First things first: visuals are so important to have on your property’s website (see “visual storytelling”). As the cliché goes, a picture’s worth 1,000 words. Visuals – including but not limited to photos, videos and virtual tours – can help tell your property’s story in a unique way and take your storytelling to a whole new level.

It’s also important to have a website that is optimized for the different devices that travel shoppers use (see “mobile”). An optimized website is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have.

If you want to be a superstar and create a visually-compelling website that will leave travel shoppers begging for more, take a look at our scorecard: Creating Visually-Compelling Websites That Drive Bookings.

Generation X

Yes, I am aware that technically this starts with “G” and not “X”, but “X” words are few and far between so “generation X” it is!

Generation X are those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s – shaped by global political events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and are more open to diversity and embracing differences.

These are the people who are most likely to be traveling for business, to be looking for family-oriented vacations and to be looking for diverse, cultural experiences. Although we haven’t included all different types of demographics here, you should have an idea of who your target demographic is – be it leisure or business, Gen X or Gen Y or all of the above – and cater your story to them.

YouTube

Can you even remember a time where there was no YouTube? Believe it or not, there are some people in our office who can’t, so I imagine that plenty of travel shoppers (Millennials) are in the same boat.

There are over six billion hours of video watched each month on YouTube (keep in mind that there are about seven billion people in the world) and it is quickly becoming one of the world’s most powerful marketing tools.

This is all very interesting but you’re probably wondering how this affects you, a hospitality marketing professional, and what to do about it. Well, travelers are watching travel categories such as destination and attraction related video, and travel vlogs (video blogs) receive four times more social engagement than other types of travel content.

Zzzzz’s

As in sleep – you know, “catching some Z’s”?

It’s what guests will be doing at your property, and might be one of the only things they’re in their actual room for. With that knowledge in your hand, use it to your advantage and tell your property’s story online. Show travel shoppers that your property is more than just a place to fall asleep – it’s an all-encompassing experience.

Pull parts of your story from guest reviews, your community and even your staff. Your property’s story can come from so many places – it’s unique, just like your property.

That’s a Wrap!

Hopefully this will help answer some questions and clarify some terms and concepts, whether you’re new to the industry or not. I’m a little biased, but I wish something this great was around last year when I started in this industry.

This is part two in a three-part blog series discussing web marketing in the hospitality industry. See what you missed in part one here, and stay tuned for part three!


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