It’s scary out there for hoteliers. Hotel owners have always had competition; from guest houses, B&Bs and other hotels. But now there’s a growing number of hostels (and ‘poshtels’), as well as services such as AirBnB which are competing for both online visibility and your customers.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make yourself seen and heard online.
The Year of Mobile Marketing
2015 is the year where the importance of mobile marketing became apparent, and businesses without responsive, mobile-friendly websites fell dramatically behind their competitors.
The ever-increasing use of smartphones and tablets (and now smartwatches, too) led Google to implement an important algorithm change in April, 2015.
Google is now favouring responsive, mobile-friendly websites in its search results, meaning that businesses who fail to make the update will start to see a dramatic drop in their organic search visibility.
“Businesses who continue to ignore the fact that mobile usage is the way forward, stand to lose out to competitors who have already embraced the switch and taken action to keep themselves present in the fast-paced, dynamic age of mobile technology.
Responsive websites are currently the most effective way of tackling the problem of multiple device usage. The majority of established businesses have already made the switch, but smaller businesses are being left behind and this is having a negative impact on their online (and offline) campaigns.” – Aptitude
Mobile App Madness
You might have heard the popular saying “there’s an app for that”. The increase of smartphone and tablet usage has inspired a surge in app development, and now there really is an app for pretty much anything you can think of (if there isn’t, grab the opportunity to be the first right now!).
Google’s 2014 study, the 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision, found that business travellers were more likely to book hotels via mobile apps. What’s more, 45% of travellers did their planning and research on smartphones and tablets.
“The Ritz-Carlton app goes beyond basic hotel search and helps deliver the Ritz-Carlton experience to any user – even if they’re not on a Ritz-Carlton property” – Tnooz, 2012
That was back in 2012. Today, mobile apps play an even bigger part in our everyday lives, and hotel and travel apps have become increasingly sophisticated. Just look at some of the most recent headlines:
The Hotel Smartphone App Will Control Room Service and Everything Else, Skift, May 2015.
This App Wants to Be Your One-Stop Shop for Hotel Services, Entrepreneur, May 2015
These Next-Gen Hotel Apps Let You Pick Your Room, Unlock It, Order Meals and More, Digital Trends, May 2015
Your hotel may not be able to immediately compete with these apps, but you need to start thinking about how you can harness mobile technology to help your business stand out.
The Unsung Hero: Local SEO
Many hoteliers forget about local search engine optimisation (SEO), either because they don’t understand it or because they focus their attentions on attracting guests from further afield. However, local search is a key factor for visibility and is one of the highest revenue drivers for location based businesses.
The best way to kick-start your local SEO campaign, is to build local pages for the main search engines, such as Google (who own over 67% of the search engine market). Google My Business is a free platform provided by Google that helps local businesses increase their online visibility.
Verifying your business in Google+ ensures that your website appears in Google Maps. At the same time it increases your chances of being presented in search results (i.e. “hotels in London”).
When creating your Google business page, it’s important to make sure all the information you provide is correct:
- Ensure your business location is entered correctly
- Double check your business name, physical address and phone number(s)
- Add information such as reception opening hours and payment types
- Link your website to your local Google+ page
Read Moz’s How to Have a Successful Local SEO Campaign in 2015 for more information about local SEO.
Google’s Pigeon Algorithm
Almost a year ago in July 2014, Google announced the algorithm update – “Pigeon” – which turned the local SEO community on its head. One of the biggest changes resulting from the update was that local directories started to be favoured above local businesses in Google’s search results.
“It looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefitting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google sad, this updates ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor – sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have.” – Search Engine Land
So what does this mean for hotels? Hoteliers should aim to get listed into the main directory sites (not the low-quality ones), and regularly monitor/update those listings. Reply to reviews, answer questions and supply updated information. Your prospects may see your hotel for the first time via a directory, so it’s important to include them in your marketing efforts.
Content Marketing: Buzzword of the Year
Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media or content in order to acquire customers.
Almost every business is now embracing content marketing in their digital marketing strategies, and with good reason. In the competitive online world it gives people a reason to revisit your website and interact with your brand.
Content that is engaging, interesting, and helpful is the most successful, which is why it’s really important to know your target audience(s) so to be able to produce content that is relevant to them.
An important thing to remember is that travellers don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Your job is answer the most important question on everyone’s lips: what’s in it for me? And then create content that is easy to find, understand and share (check out my post – 12 Content Ideas for Your Hotel’s Blog – for some inspiring ideas).
Email Marketing is Back (Actually, It Never Left)
With the success of content marketing, businesses are starting to look at their email marketing campaigns with a renewed focus, utilising relevant content and making the most of personalised interaction.
There is no more direct way to advertise and reach out to potential guests than with email marketing. Hoteliers can also utilise personalised emails to ask for feedback and reviews from recent guests.
Social Media is THE Place to Be
Last year, TravelClick found that 66% of hoteliers were investing in Facebook advertising, and 23% had increased their Facebook advertising budget.
TravelClick said: “Hoteliers are seeing the benefits of online advertising as it increasingly drives bookings through property websites.”
Every minute on the internet…
- Over 100,000 tweets are published
- 28,000 Instagram posts are uploaded
- 208,000 photos are shared on Facebook
With this is mind, you can see why it is important to utilise social media in your online strategy.
Think of social media as an extension of your hotel’s website.
Invite guests to join your social media pages and ask them to post pictures of the hotel and their trip.
Pick the right social media channel for you:
- Facebook – Great for competitions.
- Twitter – Get involved in news and conversations. Utilise hashtags like #TravelTuesday to reach new audiences.
- Instagram – perfect for sharing visual imagery of your hotel/local area all year round.
- Pinterest – Many hoteliers underestimate the power of Pinterest marketing.
Conclusion: Your 2015 Marketing Checklist
- Ensure that your website is responsive and mobile-friendly
- Consider creating an app for your hotel
- Create a local SEO strategy, and list your hotel on Google My Business
- Invest in content marketing, and make sure you’re making the most of your email marketing
- Choose the right social media channel for you and use it to interact and engage with your audiences
HotelContractBeds is one of the UK’s leading manufacturer and supplier of contract beds and mattresses. Bespoke services also available. Follow @HotelMattress for more articles like this one.