Developing an Effective Search Engine Marketing Strategy

When budgeting for Search Engine Marketing your projected costs have to be in synch with your expectations. For example, if you expect 25% of your room sales to come from the Internet, you need a comparable share of your marketing investment. To make as accurate an estimate as possible be sure you know what percentage of your sales were online in the past, so you can determine how many room nights or what percentage of increase to expect.

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>>BREAKING NEWS – Microsoft AdCenter Goes Live

Finally here!  Microsoft’s AdCenter has been turned on today.  All Pay-Per-Click ads running on US search properties are coming from AdCenter…bye bye Yahoo!

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Unique Visitors or Visits – which metric should you use?

Every hotelier should be reviewing their web logs and looking for hidden golden nuggets of marketing information.  Your web logs will not only show you the amount of traffic your website is receiving on a yearly, monthly, daily and hourly basis but will also show you your top referring sites…these are sites that ARE SENDING YOU VISITORS.

However, when reviewing your web logs, it is important for you to consider your measurement metrics when it comes to “Visits” vs. “Unique Visits”.  To help you decide which approach is right for you, visit Omniture’s Matt Belkins latest blog on the subject. Here is an excerpt of his blog:

Unique Visitors are a superset of Visits and may represent multiple opportunities to convert a customer. As such, using Unique Visitors as the denominator in most performance calculations is actually overstating the effectiveness of your site. For example, if I visit a retail site 4 times in one week, and purchase twice – what is my conversion rate? If you use weekly unique visitors, my conversion rate is 200%. If you use visits, my conversion rate is 50%. Which is a better representation of site effectiveness? Clearly the 50% is much more valuable in understand where your site may or may not be performing optimally. With the 50% conversion metric, I have the opportunity to analyze which visits did not convert…what happened? Is it a navigational issue? A cross-sell problem? Or perhaps a remarketing opportunity? If you used Unique Visitors, you’d never get this visibility.

We support Matt’s comments.  Be sure to visit his blog posting.

How can a Small Hotel Market on The Internet?

How can a Small Hotel Market on the Internet? If your hotel, resort or B & B has less than 100 rooms and an ADR of less than $70 it is unlikely you can afford to contract a full service Internet marketing program. The fees for a truly managed search engine optimization or pay per click program will make it difficult to generate the level of ROI that you want. This does not eliminate you from doing Internet marketing it just means you need to familiarize yourself with to online tools that are available to you to make the most of your website. Use these tools and invest in services where you really need expertise. Of course your investment in time and money for Internet marketing depends on many factors, you have to consider;

1. Average daily rate

2. Your market size: number of competitors and seasonality

3. average length of stay

4. Source of your guests; local, regional, national and international

5. What percent of your guests book online today?

6. Guest types; business, leisure, family, couples, military or seniors

7. Guest preferences; local recreation, local attractions, business meetings, attend conferences

8. Guest amenities; wifi, hi speed Internet, ocean view, dining, spa, privacy, room service

9. Potential for repeat visits

10. Guest language preferences

All of these factors should be considered (a) when developing your website design, highlights and navigation (b) when choosing keywords for optimization or pay per click (c) developing reciprocal or inbound links to your site. Once you have answered how each of these factors affects your business you are ready to build an Internet plan. Internet sales are rapidly approaching 50% of the average hotel’s sales, for every online sale you can expect one and a half phone sale. Your first year ROI target should be a minimum of 6 or 7 to 1 ratio with an annual growth of 2 to 3 percent.

This gives you a range to consider for your level of investment and ROI. As you set your plan and goals, you need to look at first your potential revenue and second your maximum cost. If you already have a marketing plan, the share for Internet marketing should be around 50%. Look at which of your top three markets can be targeted online through online advertising, proactive search optimization, 3rd party merchant sites, regional portals and convention bureaus and seasonal pay per click.

Please reply and tell me how you do your planning or your experience with Internet marketing.

Converting Third Party Bookers Into YOUR Customers

I’m often asked by sales & marketing directors and General Managers how they can "win back" guests who have decided to make their travel plans via a third party site like Expedia, Travelocity or Hotels.com.  The intent of course is how to increase online revenues and to build guest loyalty via direct marketing through the hotel’s own website, versus the third party sites.

One of the strategies I always recommend hoteliers deploy is what I call the "e-conversion program".  Simply stated the e-conversion program offers "third party website guests" with a reason to book directly online with the hotel’s website…that reason being a preferred rate discount and/or upgrade upon check in.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Set up a special rate code (an SRP code in most hotels) that floats a 10%-15% discount off your lowest published rate.  Call this code your "e-conversion code" in your Property Management System (PMS).
  2. Have your General Manager draft a welcome letter offering your "third party website guests" the ability to use this discount code on future reservations by booking directly on your website.
  3. Run your daily arrivals list and identify your "third party website guests".
  4. Upon checking in a "third party website guest" hand them the General Manager’s welcome letter.
  5. Emphasis that they should book through your website in the future and to use the special "e-conversion code". 
  6. Based on your availability, offer them a room upgrade for their current stay so they feel special on their current visit.

I deployed this program in over 250 hotels when I was Vice President of E-Commerce for Prime Hospitality (AmeriSuites, Wellesley Inns and Suites and Prime Hotels & Resorts) and it worked very well.  We were able to increase each property’s ADR while winning back our clients.  And best of all, the third party website DIDN’T have an issue with this!

Your Website is Your Point of Sale

Your website is your point of sale so no matter how much you invest in Internet marketing and advertising don’t pay to bring shoppers to a website that does not present the right look and feel.  If you are investing in search engine optimization or pay per click make sure the pages that are attracting shoppers present the right message.

Offer professional pictures, minimize your text with bullet points and short powerful descriptive phrases.  Keep your reservation links obvious on every page!  Make sure the name of your links convey what the visitor will find there.  Highlight important points in your text with bolding or italicized letters.

Never have more than 300 words on a page.  Keep your message fresh and relevant, change your copy frequently.  When a visitor sees the last update was 3 years ago, you have lost their interest. 

Let me know what works best for you?

Setting Your Internet Marketing Goals

Ask yourself a few questions about your Internet marketing and sales strategy. Do you have a pro-active search engine marketing program? Is the ratio of your online sales compared to your overall sales growing? Are your online sales producing your best ADR and ROI? Is the percentage of your investment budget comparable to your percentage of Internet business? For example, if 25% of your sales are originating online, is your Internet marketing budget 25% of your overall marketing budget?

If you answered no to any of these three questions you need a closer look at your Internet plans.

Be sure to consider a percentage of your phone reservations when you analyze your Internet marketing results.

Your marketing decisions, of course, are affected by factors unique to your hotel such as location, local market conditions, rate category and seasonality. On the other hand, whatever these factors may be, in today’s battle for market share, your sales are directly affected by the quality of your website and how your site is ranked on the major search engines.

Your final decision depends on how much of your overall room sales are coming from online sources. If you are not getting 50% at a good ADR, you need to spend more on marketing because this is the average for a full service hotel. If you don’t know what phone reservations are generated by your website you need to setup a special toll free number on your website. You should average two phone bookings for every online sale. If your bookings go to the brand booking engine track it with a fictitious IATA number.

Let me know how you are tracking your results? You should be checking on what your marketing service supplier is telling you.

Allocating Your Marketing Budget

Marketing will always be a gamble!  When you win, your ROI is great.  When you lose, your ROI is a loser.  How do you decide what to put into printed collateral, brand services, promotions, conferences, premiums, local events, Internet and so much more?

Think of your marketing in terms of short term and long term returns.  Some of your marketing efforts are intended to keep your local audience aware of your location and services.  On a broader basis you need to reach out to a more global market.  To reach the global market at their point of sale decision, there is no better way than the Internet search engines.

Internet shoppers use search engines for 85% of all online purchases, so what percent of your marketing budget is committed to search engine marketing?  Think about it.

Free SEOTracker for Hotels

You may have read about this last week, but I wanted to make sure you knew about this in case you missed the press release.  Lodging Interactive is offering a free SEO positioning and analysis report called, SEOTracker, to any hotel manager.  Worth looking into it and best of all it’s free.

Click here to read more about our SEOTracker.

Welcome to our Blog

Hello and welcome to the Lodging Interactive Blog!  You may already know us as a leading provider of Internet sales & marketing services to the hospitality industry.  Our current and past clients include well over 400 hotels and resorts located in over 34 countries.  Our clients include both independent properties as well as branded properties such as Marriott, Hilton, Best Western, Crowne Plaza, Radisson, Holiday Inn, InterContinental and many more.  You can click here to visit our website if you’d like more information on what we do and who we do it to.

So now that I’ve established our credibility in being a leader in our field, let me explain what you can expect to find here at our blog.

What this blog IS:

The Lodging Interactive blog is meant to be educational and informative to hoteliers.  Especially informative to General Managers and Sales & Marketing Directors who have been charged with managing their property’s on-line business.  While we will discuss and cover many topics, the majority of our focus is in the following areas:

  • Website Design, Development & Hosting
  • Website Revenue Optimization
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Website Search Engine Optimization (yes this is different than SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
  • Paid Inclusion & Web Directories
  • Online Paid Advertising
  • Hotel Website Booking Engines & GDS Connectivity
  • Online Comment Cards
  • And much more…

What this blog is NOT:

A means for us to sell you something…and we mean it.  Sure there will be opportunities when we will plug ourselves and our services, but you will never be presented with a hard sell.  This blog is all about you and your hotel and how to gain the most revenue from your website.  If we are successful in meeting this goal, when you’re ready to buy…you will think of us (we hope).