Recently, Blue Magnet Interactive attended a Webinar hosted by Leonardo titled Big, Bold, Visual: What You Need to Know About Hotel Marketing in 2015. All of us at Blue Magnet Interactive have a passion for using our digital marketing expertise to assist our hotel partners. We develop a strategy and focus our marketing efforts to ultimately drive revenue and engagement for our clients, whether through organic search, paid advertising, or social media. Keeping up with marketing trends is valuable not only for our own knowledge but also for executing innovative and successful strategies on behalf of the hotels we work with.

The webinar speakers included Darlene Rondeau, Vice President of Best Practices and Online Merchandising at Leonardo; Tim Peter, Digital Marketing and E-commerce Expert & President; and Christine Beuchert, Senior Director, Marketing and Ecommerce Strategy at Marcus Hotels. They discussed the most anticipated marketing trends for 2015 which include:

  • Visual storytelling in the online shopping journey
  • Rise of content marketing
  • Power of video for a hotel's bottom line
  • Multi-screen, multi device connectivity

The webinar presented a range of valuable information, so I have highlighted three takeaways to serve as the keys to your hotel's marketing kingdom in 2015.

1. Content is King

Improving hotel websites and creating a content marketing strategy tend to be the main concerns among hotel marketers. That being said, it is extremely important for your hotel website to tell a story that cuts through the clutter and is consistent across all platforms. If your hotel has an idea of what your brand experience is and it does not align with your guests' view of what your brand is, then you are not executing your content strategy successfully. Combat the trend of declining organic search traffic by telling an awesome story about your hotel.

Great content leads to product differentiation, more inbound links to your website, and engaged customers. Make your hotel's independent website engaging, decrease its bounce rate, and turn visits into bookings! Content should follow three criteria; it should be snackable, shareable, and sharp.

  • Snackable: Your content should be easy for a reader to glance at quickly and understand. The best way to execute this is by formatting simple text into bulleted lists and incorporating a lot of relevant imagery. Not only can a viewer process an image 60,000 times faster than reading a snippet of text, but images are also a more concise way to deliver your hotel's message. For example, if a potential guest is browsing hotel rooms, they can easily understand the atmosphere, quality, and size of each room type by viewing photos and scanning a few bullet points rather than reading a wordy room type description. As users of the internet, we no longer read everything we see but skim for highlights and clear identifiers. Although it is still important to use text to tell a story, a website no longer requires as much text as it once did to attract search engines.
  • Sharable: A great way to expand your hotel's reach is making the content on your independent website sharable. Make the photo gallery, wedding gallery, restaurant images, and accommodations images "pinnable" so that users can add them directly to their Pinterest boards. Creating a cross-channel strategy allows your hotel to get exposure on multiple platforms, ultimately reaching a new audience of potential guests. We all know that photos sell hotel rooms, so utilize short videos on YouTube and let your high-res imagery convey your brand story.
  • Sharp: Let your guests see what they want to see. The web is a visual channel, and sharp content and imagery is what users want to look at. Incorporate a "book now" button and make it easy for users to view the hotel's policies that they are curious about (e.g. check-in time, pet-friendly fees, Internet availability). When creating a content strategy for your independent website, your mission should be to give potential guests the best user experience possible!

2. Context is Queen

Segment your guests' behaviors by context. What kind of people does your hotel attract and where are they using the Internet? Observe, measure, and learn your guests' pain points in each of those contexts. Improve your site, brand, and experience by aligning the user experience with that context in mind.

Make sure your site is convenient for them! Frustrating the user during the shopping process will inadvertently send them to another site to complete the transaction on an OTA, or worse, at a different hotel. By showing users exactly what they want, they are more likely to book directly on your hotel's independent site.

Tim Peter provided a perfect example of understanding your guests' behaviors with an airport hotel scenario. Imagine you work at an airport hotel and many of your guests book rooms when their flights are cancelled and they are running through a busy airport with suitcases in hand. Nearly every guest in this scenario will be looking for a hotel room on their mobile device. So ask yourself, is your hotel's website mobile optimized? Is there a button users can press to call the hotel's front desk without having to write down a phone number to then dial into the phone pad? Does your mobile website easily coordinate with Apple Pay or Google Wallet, or are guests able to make a reservation without typing in their credit card information? All of these things can help improve the user experience and make hotel guests stay on your website and book a room on-the-go. Mobile is frequently used for last minute bookings and 61% of users will abandon sites that are not mobile friendly.

3. Data is the Crown Jewels

Lastly, it is important to gather data to better understand your guests' behaviors, wants, and desires. These should lead your product, promotion, placement, and pricing efforts and decisions. Make sure your strategy is unique so that it cannot easily be duplicated by your competitors. Be willing to start small and remember that you have the ability to know your guests better than anyone.

Make sure your hotel's independent site integrates Google Analytics or some sort of website tracking that allows you to understand users' interests and movements across your site. Implement event tracking on all calls-to-action on your website to give you more insight into what links, images, or buttons users are clicking. If you see people are clicking on a certain special offer frequently, but that offer isn't bringing in any more revenue than usual, evaluate what the problem may be. People are clearly curious about the special offer and want what it includes, but it may be priced too high. Perhaps the allotted booking dates or minimum night requirements are not ideal for travelers. Data like this can be particularly valuable for creating new pages and specials on your hotel's website.

Now that you have the keys to effectively market your hotel online in 2015, go forth and implement these strategies! Use content, context, and data to gain a competitive advantage over other hotels in your market and increase your direct bookings and revenue.

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The holiday season, one of the busiest times to travel, is right around the corner. This holiday season is the perfect opportunity for your hotel to exercise its creativity by showcasing your jolly spirit on your social media channels and independent website. By participating in the holiday season, your hotel will evince a cheerful personality, which will allow guests who are excitedly preparing for the holidays, to identify with your brand. To help you get started, I have outlined several ways to naturally integrate the holiday season into your hotel’s online marketing strategy, which will help humanize and enhance your hotel’s online presence.

Integrate the holiday season into your hotel’s social media strategy

Posting relevant content about the holidays on Facebook or Twitter can increase fan engagement, post reach, and even page likes. Fans, especially those who are in the holiday spirit, will enjoy seeing what types of seasonal activities are going on at your hotel, which will then lead to interaction with the posts. Below are some creative suggestions to help your hotel post effective and engaging social media content leading up to the holidays.

Host a holiday-themed contest on property and ask Facebook fans to vote

Encourage your team to become involved in the holidays by announcing a company-wide competition, which you can then transform into a Facebook contest. Whether you ask your team members to wear a festive outfit or have each department decorate their office or a section of the hotel, take photos and post them on your Facebook page in a designated photo album. Then, announce the premise of the contest with a Facebook post and ask fans to “vote” by liking, commenting, and sharing, which will increase your page’s engagement. Make sure you establish the time frame and clarify the points system so you have an easy way to determine the winner. Incentivize your hotel team to participate by providing a winning prize for the team member or department with the most votes at the end of the contest.

During the 2013 Halloween season, Hampton Inn & Suites Nashville Downtown encouraged their Facebook fans to vote for their favorite pumpkin, all of which were carved by the hotel staff. Fans that participated were entered into a drawing for a chance to win 5,000 HHonor points. Getting fans get involved in selecting the winner helped the hotel increase their Facebook reach and post engagement.

Hampton Inn & Suites Nashville Downtown Pumpkin Contest

During the 2013 holiday season, Embassy Suites Denver Southeast hid an Elf on a Shelf doll around the hotel common areas. They then asked guests to take a picture of the doll when they saw him around the hotel and post it on the hotel's Facebook page. The hotel marketed this imaginative campaign through Facebook posts, flyers on the front desk, and table toppers in the dining area. The hotel organically gained 21 new fans throughout the short campaign, and the Elf on a Shelf posts increased their reach to 2,669 people (an increase of 669% YOY when compared to holiday posts in 2012).

Embassy Suites Denver - Southeast Elf Contest

Post photos of your hotel’s holiday décor

Keep your social media content relevant by posting photos that show your hotel’s holiday decorations. This will help your future guests imagine what it would be like to stay at your hotel during the season. Here are a few fun ways to create quick and interactive content:

1. Leading up to Halloween, post a photo of pumpkins and a bowl of candy sitting on the front desk.
2. Around Christmas time, use your smart phone to take a short video of your team decorating the Christmas tree.
3. During Hanukkah, display a menorah in the lobby and take a photo of a team member lighting one of the candles.

During the 2012 holiday season, Radisson Hotel Fisherman’s Wharf helped their fans imagine what it would be like to stay at their hotel during the holiday season by posting a picture of their festive lobby. The spirited post received both likes and comments from their Facebook fans, including one fan who admittedly wished he was there. 

Radisson Hotel Fisherman's Whaf festive lobby

Post your hotel restaurant’s seasonal specials and events

Sharing your holiday menus and on-property events on Facebook will increase engagement among local fans and bring in more foot traffic, which will translate to more food and beverage revenue. Here are a few ideas for relevant posts to help boost your local food and beverage traffic:

1. Post a photo of your hotel’s seasonal cocktails (e.g. Egg-nog, Candy Cane Martinis, or Gingerbread Cocktails) alongside the recipe.
2. Post a photo of your hotel’s Christmas day dinner menu with a link to your hotel’s dining page for more information.
3. Post photos of other seasonal specials as they are added into the menu mix.

During the 2013 holiday season, Embassy Suites Brea – North Orange County shared their special holiday delights with their Facebook fans. With the menu posted on social media, more fans were aware that the hotel was offering seasonal specials during Christmas and New Years.

Embassy Suites Brea – North Orange County holiday specials menu

Integrate the holiday season into your hotel’s independent website content strategy

Refreshing your content strategy regularly can improve your online presence by showing that you are keeping your site current and relevant. This should naturally have a positive impact on your hotel’s SEO. Below are some unique ways to seamlessly weave the holiday season into the content strategy on your hotel’s independent site.

Audit your current photography to ensure it includes seasonal imagery

In recent years, people have begun booking flights and hotel accommodations closer and closer to their actual travel date. This means that a guest shopping on your hotel’s website is likely looking to book a hotel for a stay that’s within the next 30 or 60 days. By keeping your photos fresh and seasonal, you will be able to better manage guest’s expectations. For example, if your hotel is located in Kansas City, a place where the scenery changes with the seasons, make sure your hotel’s photography incorporates blue skies and sunshine, red and yellow fall foliage, and sparkling white snowcapped buildings.

Add new or rephrase current special offers and discounted packages

Brainstorm new special offers that integrate a seasonal event or holiday. For example, if your hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to the nearby mall, create a holiday shopping package targeting moms who need to do their holiday shopping. You can also take your current offers and tailor the copy to reflect the holiday season. So, if your hotel already offers a shopping package, add some seasonal verbiage to the package description so that it appeals more to guests booking a stay around the holidays.

In the screenshot below, Hilton Bellevue is offering discounted guestrooms during Magic Season weekends, as that community event incorporates kid-friendly activities, so it draws families into the city to celebrate the holiday season.

Hilton Bellevue holiday and magic season events

If your hotel has a spa, create a seasonal-inspired spa deal. For example, The Lodge & Spa at Callaway Gardens offers a “Purifying Pumpkin Facial” for the 2014 fall season, and they promoted a “Jack Frost Spa Treatment” for the 2013 winter season. Adding a spa deal that reflects a particular season or holiday creates the illusion that the offer is only available for a limited time, so guests are more likely to book the treatment.

The Lodge & Spa at Callaway Gardens purifying pumpkin facial

Share local community or city-wide holiday events

If your hotel is located near an area that does something special for the holidays, share it on your independent website. Write a landing page featuring well-known holiday events. Those events that are expecting a large turnout will already have a lot of awareness and, therefore, more search volume.

Create a seasonal events calendar on your independent website to list smaller or more locally-based, seasonal events, as this will serve as a helpful guide for things to do in the area around the holidays. Having this information readily available on your hotel’s website allows guests to see that your hotel is located near fun and happening events. It essentially creates a “one-stop-shop” for guests so they don’t need to do additional research after booking their stay. They can see what events are happening in the city right on your website and begin planning their itinerary. Make sure to ask the event host to link back to your hotel’s site too, especially if they have an accommodations page!

In the screenshot below, The Lodge & Spa at Callaway Gardens promotes Fantasy in Lights through an informative landing page that ties in a seasonal “Fantasy in Lights" package.

Fantasy Lights at Callaway Gardens

Ready to get into the holiday spirit?

It’s time to spice up your holiday marketing strategy. Sit down with your hotel team and begin making a list of events, brainstorming special offers or contests, and going through your photo library. Then, work with your hotel’s marketing manager to seamlessly integrate these seasonal strategies into your existing social media and independent website strategy. Bust out your Santa hat, relax with a cup of eggnog, and watch your fans engage with your jolly hotel!

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ClickZLive-Chicago

This past week, the Blue Magnet Interactive team was fortunate enough to attend ClickZ Live in Chicago, formerly SES Conference & Expo. Our digital marketing team explored various session to hear industry leaders insights on topics such as paid advertising, email marketing, social media, data & analytics, and user-experience. Read our key takeaways from some of these educational sessions and discover how these insights can be applicable to the hotel industry. 

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What session did you attend?

Winning Email Marketing Strategies: Improving Opens, Clicks, Conversions and Return-on-Investment presented by Jeanne S. Jennings, Consultant on Email Marketing Strategy at JeanneJennings.com.

At this session...

Jeanne reminded the audience that email marketing is not dead. Following ecommerce websites, email marketing is the second highest ranked marketing channel in providing effective results. Jeanne noted that 74% of marketers who test their email campaigns report that email marketing results are “excellent” and “good”. She then introduced several email marketing elements that are crucial for improving opens, clicks, conversions, and return on investment, which are:

1. Subject Lines: one of the most important parts of any email marketing campaign. Your subject line often determines whether your email is opened and read or deleted and forever forgotten. Throughout the years, there have been many beliefs on what makes a good subject line, and Jeanne shared her opinions and personal studies on a variety of these trends.

    • Special Characters: Less than 10% of email subject lines contain special characters today. As Jeanne and the audience agreed, a subject line, such as: “Enjoy an Exclusive Holiday Offer ★” appears to be spam, since the star is not directly related to the product. In order to keep your subject lines clear and concise, it’s best to avoid using special characters when writing subject lines.
    • Long Subject Lines: It’s important that subject lines are long enough to engage the reader and get them to open your email, but don’t make your subject line longer than it needs to be. Always make sure everything you are writing in your subject line is of value to the reader.
    • Short Subject Lines: Sometimes you can get a lot of impact and value with a short, concise, and straightforward subject line. An example from the presentation was an email from New York & Company with “100” as their subject line. It was relevant and exciting because everything in the email was $100.
    • Personalization: In a 2014 study, MailerMailer found that personalizing the subject line and body of the message is the key to optimizing email campaigns. This study showed that users were more likely to purchase more items, more willing to receive promotional emails, and more willing to share personal preferences when they received a personalized email campaign.

2. Content Strategies: Even though over 90% of marketers are utilizing content marketing today, successful execution may be more difficult than originally assumed. In a study by The Content Marketing Institute, lack of time, producing enough content, producing engaging content, and lack of budget are the top challenges of content marketing. Creating an editorial calendar, polls and surveys, videos, and promotions, are a few ideas to create engaging and original content.

3. Landing Page Optimization: Since conversions happen on landing pages, an email campaign is only as effective as the landing page it is linking to. It is critical that your landing page has a clear and concise headline, is directly related to what your email campaign is promoting, and has a strong call to action.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this sesson is...

Making the effort to personalize email campaigns can have a huge impact on results and ultimately lead to an increase in ROI and overall revenue-per-email. Using revenue as their key performance indicator, Jeanne helped a client test personalization in their email campaign. Through their intricate testing, Jeanne and her client found that using the recipient’s first name to personalize both the subject line and the body of the message boosted revenue-per-email by 160%.

How can a hotel ensure their email marketing campaign is successful?

Email marketing strategies can help hotels increase occupancy by generating new guests and improving guest retention. Email campaigns allow hoteliers to visually and descriptively explain why their hotel is the best place to stay in their city!

A few tips for hotels to increase ROI on their email marketing campaigns include:

  • Send an eNewsletter. This is a perfect way to share all the fun happenings at your hotel. If you recently participated in a charity event or had a fun staff outing, share it in your eNewsletter! While eNewsletters are a fun way to stay in contact with your guests, it’s important that they are also promotional. In order to be an effective email campaign, eNewsletters should be 60% editorial and 40% promotional.
  • Maintain a consistent email marketing campaign schedule. Boost your email frequency by sending a series of email campaigns. By doing this, you are more likely to see a higher ROI than a one-off email campaign.
  • Promote hotel specials, especially limited time offers. Whether they are seasonal special offers such as a holiday shopping package or a year-round offer you want to promote, an email campaign is the perfect way to get the word out to a targeted audience.
  • Target past guests. After guests check out of your hotel, it’s important to stay in the minds of those customers. Sending past guests a variety of email campaigns is a great way stay in touch and ultimately improve guest retention at your hotel.

Read more highlights from other ClickZ Live Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What session did you attend?

12 Tips for the Perfect Email Campaign presented by Sundeep Kapur, also known as the Email Yogi.

At this session...

Kapur walked the audience through his tried and true email marketing processes. He recommended learning as much as possible about your email subscribers through surveys, so you can send them the most targeted campaigns possible. He also suggested connecting stories across campaigns, rather than sending out unrelated blasts every day/week/month. For example, if you send out a quiz in one eblast, send out the answers in the next. One of Kapur's other key takeaways was to always send out a relevant campaign. Even if you're sending out an email wishing your subscriber a happy birthday, find a way to connect it back to your company so that it is relevant to both parties.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is...

How effective real-time response can be. Including buttons to request a download, whether it be a coupon or a whitepaper, can create a back and forth email chain that makes ESPs (email service providers) think subscribers are actually conversing with you, which helps to keep your account in their good graces. Automatically sending the download immediately after it's requested has also shown to have a very high open rate - averaging 95%! Moral of the story, finding a way to make campaigns interactive can help to boost engagement. 

How can a hotelier make the most of their email marketing campaign?

With so many people coming in and out of a hotel, from corporate conferences to weddings, family vacations to high school reunions, email marketing provides a way to reach each of those groups with a specific, targeted message. Since brides-to-be don't want to book your family fun package, and parents traveling with their children really aren't interested in your wedding packages, segmenting your subscriber list is one of the best things a hotelier can do to increase their open and click through rates and decrease their number of unsubscribes.

One thing to remember: Even a segmented list can have a high unsubscribe rate if hoteliers are buying their lists. It's important that hoteliers never resort to buying a list - it could get your email marketing account shut down all together!

Read more highlights from other ClickZ Live Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What session did you attend?

Ad Optimization Best Practices: Create, Test, Convert presented by Frank Palmieri, Manager of Creative Strategy at Yahoo, and John Gagnon, Bing Ads Evangelist. Both speakers focused on the importance of strong ad copy in PPC campaigns.

At this session…

The speakers shared top four tips for compelling ad copy, which are:

1. Appeal to Emotion

Online users’ purchase behavior is strongly influenced by their emotions. The words and phrases used in ad copy should jump out at the users, making them feel that they have a reason to click your ad. In an example from the seminar, Frank showed an ad for womens handbags. Rather than the headline of the ad simply saying, “Buy Our Great Handbags”, it appealed to the users’ emotions with a headline saying, “Splurge On The Perfect Handbag This Holiday.” The action word “Splurge” denotes the idea of, “I’ve earned this handbag!”, compared to the more generic, non-emotional word “Buy”, which most likely doesn’t evoke any particular emotion from the user.

Hotel Marketing Tip: In ad copy, use emotion-evoking action words like “Indulge”, or “Nourish”. You can also try stressing time sensitivity with phrases like “Don’t miss out on ____” or “Limited time savings.”

Optimized Ad Copy

ad-optimized-for-emotion

Unoptimized Ad Copy

ad-not-optimized-for-emotion

 

2. Use Colloquial Language

In simple terms, speak the users’ language. It is easy for advertisers to get caught up in industry terminology that often doesn’t mean the same thing to an online shopper that it does to the person writing the ad. It is important to understand how your target audience refers to your product or service in casual conversation since online users typically type in search queries in the same colloquial language that they use with friends.

Hotel Marketing Tip: Imagine your property is what many people consider a “Bed and Breakfast” (say, for example, a converted Victorian home with 10 private bedrooms, and home cooked breakfast each morning for guests). You and your staff may refer to your property as an “Inn”, but after doing keyword research, you notice that there are four times as many monthly Google searches for “Bed and Breakfasts” than for “Inns”. With this knowledge, your ad headlines should use “Bed and Breakfast” rather than “Inn” to make sure that your ads are appealing to searchers in terms that mean something to them.

3. Be Credible

This idea is often undervalued and overlooked when developing ad copy. The speakers discussed how both Bing and Yahoo have performed various ad tests proving that the more believeable your copy is, the better your ads will perform. Words like “Official” and characters like the “Trademarked” or “Registered” symbols are authoritative in the eyes of searchers, and have proven to drive higher click through rates. With this concept of credibility and transparency in mind, some PPC platforms have even implemented rules preventing advertisers from using vague or gimmicky terms like “Best” or “#1”.

Hotel Marketing Tip: If your hotel is part of a large and well know brand like Marriott or Hilton, use those branded terms in your ad copy. Even if your hotel is independently owned, use phrases such as “Official site of [your hotel]” to capitalize on the credibility associated with the word “Official.”

Optimized Ad Copy

ad-optimized-with-credibility

Unoptimized Ad Copy

ad-not-optimized-with-credibility

4. Promote Lists

From 140 character tweets to 70 character ad descriptions, online searchers are increasingly used to short-form content. Rather than reading through paragraphs of content, modern consumers can’t seem to get enough of short and precise lists. The speakers discussed how frustrating this phenomenon has made some classic journalists who prefer writing in depth news articles, as their articles are often being passed up for “Top 5 Breaking News” segments, each with 3-4 sentence summaries rather than lengthy analyses. The good news is that ads promoting “Top 5” or “Top 10” content tend to perform incredibly!

Hotel Marketing Tip: Build a landing page on your hotel’s website that outlines a “Top __” list, then create PPC ads that highlight and link to that page. Some great ideas for hotels include, “Top 6 [City] Attractions”, “Top 10 Restaurants in [City]”, or even “Top 5 Reasons To Get Married At [Your Hotel]”.

 

Read more highlights from other ClickZ Live Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What session did you attend?

Next-Generation Website Usability: How to Optimize Your Site for the Best User Experience presented by Shari Thurow, Founder & SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive

At this session…

Shari reminded the audience about the importance of creating a positive user experience by paraphrasing Peter Morville, founding father of information architecture – users can’t buy what they can’t find. She then introduced several site elements a website developer or project manager must test and measure to ensure a satisfactory user experience. These elements include:

  • Learnability
    • Can a user easily learn how to use the site?
    • Can a user quickly understand how to navigate the site?
    • Can a user tell what parts of the site are clickable and what has been clicked already?
  • Efficiency
    • Can a user achieve their objective on this site?
    • Can a user check out and complete their transition or is there a high abandonment rate?
    • Are users spending an abnormal amount of time seeking help on the site (reading FAQs, using site search, using the live chat feature)?
  • Memorability
    • Can a user remember how to use the site upon returning?
  • Error Prevention
    • Can a user easily recover from errors they make on the site?
  • Satisfaction
    • Would a user recommend the site to another person?

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is…

Your site design should consider usability for disabilities as well. Make your site more accessible to people who are color blind by using a high color contrast throughout the content to help distinguish among the various site elements. Try a color contrast checker like this WebAIM resource. Underline clickable text to make it obvious that it is a hyperlink. 

Also, a usability best practice is to use a three color scheme for all clickable elements – active, inactive, and visited. Make your active color a warm color – coolor shades of gray tend to recede and are better suited for inactive elements. Use Adobe Color CC to find a palette that works for your site.

How can a hotelier ensure their website provides a positive user-experience?

If a user can’t figure out how to check rate on your hotel’s website, continually encounters an error, or has to create some sort of user log in to proceed, chances are, they will bounce off the site and book elsewhere. So, when designing a new website for your hotel, gather 30-40 people (demographics of test subjects should vary) and run a usability test to work out any issues or kinks prior to launch.

Also, try to think like a guest. What are the top “make it or break it” criteria a guest may want to know about when selecting a hotel? Some of the most crucial decision-making amenities include free WiFi, pet-friendly rooms, proximity to public transportation, etc., so make sure that information is easy to find and the policies are clearly presented. Ask your front desk staff or phone operators what questions they receive often, whether during the booking process or a guests stay. Include answers to those commonly asked questions on your hotel’s site where applicable. If you don't know where to place the information, create an FAQ or Q&A page that serves as a customer service resource.

You should also devote some time into researching your target audience and determining your site’s color scheme. Different colors have different meanings and those meanings also vary among different cultures. Thurow mentioned that a majority of women make travel decisions for their family, so your hotel's website may benefit from a neutral color palette, or perhaps, one that is slightly more feminine. She suggested using purple for travel related sites.

Read more highlights from other ClickZ Live Chicago 2014 session

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What session did you attend?

Dominating the Local Ecosystem - Trends, KPIs and Ranking Factors presented by Richard Mastriani, Director of SEO for Wyndham Hotels, and Benu Aggarwal, Founder of Milestone.

At this session…

The speakers reviewed the most important factors to consider in Local SEO. The top thing that can negatively affect your local SEO is inconsistency with your UNAP (URL, Name, Address, Phone). It is of the utmost importance that this information is identical throughout your website and citations.

The other factors in order of importance were:

  • Authority Reviews
  • Social
  • Mobile
  • Quality and Authoritative Links
  • Google My Business Signals
  • On Page Signals
  • Location of Business

Mastriani also shared a few tools that are useful for local SEO. There are a number of tools available, including Moz Local and Yext that will push your business data out to these local data aggregators.

One of the most interesting things I learned is...

You cannot ignore the big data aggregators. If your listing is missing or incorrect on InfoUSA/ExpressUpdate, for example, it could negatively affect up to 70% of your other  business listings on the web.

How can a hotel ensure they are leveraging their local presence?

Hotels will best succeed with Local SEO if they have someone dedicated to this, either in house or through an agency. The U.S. Local Search Ecosystem is a web of sites that are constantly transmitting data to each other. If your business has incorrect information on one, it can trickle down to be incorrect on hundreds of sites and negatively affect your online performance. A local SEO pro will know what tools to utilize and what steps to take to ensure a squeaky clean UNAP for your hotel!

Hotels be warned though. If an agency claims that they can update this information with the click of a button, be wary. Not every tool is 100% foolproof, which is why Blue Magnet takes a fine-tooth comb to our hotel’s listings.

Both speakers mentioned that managing these local listings takes manual effort – it may require time on the phone with Google customer service, following up on a correction to Foursquare, or manually adding a business to Acxiom. These types of updates are best completed by a human, rather than a robot.

Read more highlights from other ClickZ Live Chicago 2014 session

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What session did you attend?

The Future of Customer Engagement with Location Based Marketing presented by Brendan O’Brien, Director of Global Marketing at Cisco.

At this session…

O'Brien discussed emerging location-based marketing capabilities and how they are being used to deliver innovative business models and drive revenue. The location-based services (LBS) market is expected to grow by 66% each year for the next five years, reaching almost $50 billion by 2019. What does this mean for businesses? Business professionals need to understand location-based marketing and its reach, impact, and capabilities to deliver real value in the future.

Captured from WiFi and other interactive beacons and sensors, location for a business is a treasure trove of data. Capturing local data and measuring local traffic can heavily influence a business’s overall engagement strategy. Discover where people go, where they spend most of their time, and what’s important to them. Location-based marketing allows for businesses to deliver personalized, relevant content directly to the clients’ devices, which increases engagement and customer satisfaction as well as provides an enhanced level of customer service.

Here are the location-based marketing basics:

  1. Detect: When we use WiFi, our presence is tracked through our mobile devices. It may seem creepy, but it’s completely anonymous (it’s how map apps track traffic and provide real-time traffic updates). This data shows where customers go and how much time they spend there.
  2. Connect: When customers sign up for an app or login using their Facebook or Twitter accounts on a mobile device, it gives access to their personal information such as demographics and personal preferences. This allows businesses to discover who their true audience is and what they want.
  3. Engage: Having gathered and analyzed the location-based data, businesses can provide customers with unique, personalized experiences through push notifications and app-based mobile engagement.

Mobility drives loyalty, loyalty drives revenue.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is...

40% of shoppers use in-store WiFi, 46% of shoppers buy products in-store after using a mobile device to research them, and 50% of shoppers use their mobile devices in-store to look for additional deals, coupons, and offers. Mobility continues to influence how customers make their purchasing decisions; however, where mobile users access WiFi and information is steadily becoming equally as important.

How can a hotelier use location-based marketing?

A great example that O’Brien shared is MGM’s innovative Bellagio App. The renowned Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas is very large and has many onsite amenities and attractions, therefore MGM Resorts International partnered with Cisco to develop an interactive app for their guests. They equate the app to a “personal concierge” - with interactive maps, event schedules, push notifications for shopping discounts, and show tickets, guests can easily enjoy their stay in Las Vegas. Check out Cisco’s video about the Bellagio App here.

Several brands and individual hotels, like the Bellagio, have incorporated mobile apps into their marketing strategies. They vary from simple reservation apps to guest services apps. Although helpful, not all increase guest engagement or provide unique offers. Adding innovative LBS to these apps will help hotels offer their guests enhanced customer service and personalized experiences.

Below are some examples of location-based services applicable to the hospitality industry: 

  • Automatic Check-In: Guests can avoid lines by using auto check-in on a mobile device when they enter the hotel lobby.
  • Keyless Entry: Say goodbye to lost/stolen keycards. Guests can unlock their room or suite with their mobile device. Bluetooth enabled locks will recognize the unique device specifically registered to that guest room.
  • Maps for Visitors: Your hotel can provide guests with interactive maps of the surrounding area or of the hotel itself, especially if the hotel is connected to additional facilities such as a convention center, shopping center, or theater.
  • Increase Event Attendance: Remind guests of upcoming events through push notifications. Let them know in advance about breakfast, evening receptions, special holiday events, or conferences.
  • Offer Special Promotions: Send your guests tips and discounts through push notifications as they explore surrounding restaurants, shops, and attractions.

Read more highlights from other ClickZ Live Chicago 2014 sessions.

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In this age of Big Data, it is very rare to find a website that does not use some kind of web analytics program, and the majority of sites that use web analytics use Google Analytics (GA). Despite the widespread usage of GA however, many of the users that have access to GA accounts do not have much familiarity with the data available and what those data mean. In particular, I have found that many hoteliers who work with agencies often have access to their hotels’ GA accounts but do not regularly look at the data contained within, either because they are intimidated by the quantity of data or because they are content to let their agencies pull reports for them. At Blue Magnet, we believe not only that knowledge is power but also that it is important to continually learn from our clients and educate them in turn. Therefore, we always encourage our hotel partners to regularly check their GA accounts, and we try to continually increase their knowledge and understanding of what the data mean. Since not every hotel is lucky enough to work with Blue Magnet though, we have put together “A Hotelier’s Guide to Google Analytics” to help hoteliers everywhere understand how to interpret and translate the data!

Basics

Before digging into the data, it is important to understand a few basic concepts. Without a base in the key concepts of web analytics & GA, it is very easy to misread or misinterpret GA reports, which can have dire consequences, and we certainly don’t want that. But we understand if you are pressed for time, so click here to go straight to the Useful Reports section (just come back and read this part later)!

  • No tracking data is 100% accurate – This is a general tenet to keep in mind no matter what data/reporting you are looking at. There are flaws in all tracking methods and as Heisenberg (no, not Walter White) theorized, the very act of measuring an event changes the outcome of the event, making it impossible to perfectly capture reality in data. As a result, the data in a GA report will likely not exactly match data from other sources (e.g. AdWords, brand reporting, etc.).
  • Google Analytics does not automatically track revenue and cannot track it for certain sites – One of the most interesting features of GA is Ecommerce tracking, which allows site owners to see where their revenue came from (i.e. Organic Search, Paid Media, Social Media, etc.) and how users behaved before they completed a purchase (e.g. they looked at an average of 10 pages before purchasing). Unfortunately, Ecommerce tracking is not available for branded hotels because the brands do not allow hotels to place tracking code on the brand reservation pages. For independent hotels however, Ecommerce tracking can be enabled as long as the hotels’ booking engines support the integration; however, setting up Ecommerce functionality can be tricky so it is not enabled for many boutique hotels. If you have an independent hotel, make sure your Booking Engine supports GA Ecommerce integration and find someone with GA experience to help you get it set-up.
  • Set the date range before you look at any data in GA – Data without context is meaningless, so set the date range to help make sense of your data. We recommend using Year over Year data if available because Month over Month data can be misleading due to seasonality.

Google Analytics Date Range

  • Google Analytics has two main data forms – Metrics & Dimensions
    • Dimensions are categories of data. They are qualitative and usually written in letters. For example the dimension Source would have values such as “google” or “bing.” Important dimensions include:
      • Source – The specific site or channel that a user arrived from (e.g. google, bing, tacos.com, (direct))
      • Medium – The kind of site or channel that a user arrived from (e.g. organic, cpc, referral, (none))
      • Landing Page – The page on which a user began her session (regardless of the source or medium)
      • Page – The page where something (e.g. pageview, goal completion, event) happened
    • Metrics are data that provide quantitative measures of user behavior. They are usually written in numbers. For example, the metric Sessions would have values such as 1,098 or 3,489. Important metrics include:
      • Sessions – Number of sessions
      • Bounce Rate – Percentage of single page sessions
      • Pages/Session – Average number of pages viewed by users per session
      • Avg. Session Duration – Average length of sessions
      • Pageviews – Number of times a page was viewed (includes repeats)

Useful Reports for Hoteliers

One of the issues that many hoteliers have with GA is that there is simply so many data and reports that it can be hard to determine where to go for useful and meaningful information. With that in mind, I am going to introduce you to 5 key reports that should give you a good idea of how your website is performing AND I will provide a template for a GA Dashboard that you can use to quickly check your site performance. All for the low, low cost of NOTHING!

  1. All Traffic Report (Acquisition > All Traffic)
  2. This is my favorite report for quickly checking the overall performance of a site. It provides a nice overview of your site performance, including:

    1. Source/Medium – Where your traffic came from
    2. Sessions – How many times users visited your site
    3. Avg. Session Duration – How long they stayed on your site
    4. Revenue or Goal Completions – How much revenue or how many goal completions each source brought in

    The All Traffic Report is a great one to look at with YOY data because it will tell you exactly which traffic sources saw increases or decreases in performance. One thing to remember about this report is that it provides session level data, which is data that reflects all of a user’s behavior over multiple pages and during a certain time period (usually 30 minutes), as opposed to page level data which reflects user behavior on individual pages.

    Google Analytics All Traffic Report

     

  3. Organic Landing Page Report (Acquisition > Keywords > Organic (Change Primary Dimension to Landing Page))
  4. The Organic Landing Page Report will allow you to quickly judge the status and progress of your SEO efforts. Over the past few years, changes in Google’s algorithm have moved SEO reporting away from individual keyword phrases and toward general topics, so one great way to measure a website’s visibility for certain topics is to look at organic search visits to pages that revolve around that topic. This report will show you:

    1. Top Landing Pages – Pages on which a user’s session began, which will tell you what general topics users searched for when they found your site in search engines
    2. Sessions – Number of sessions that began on each landing page
    3. Bounce Rate – Percentage of users who left your site without visiting a second page, which can help you identify content that is driving traffic but not engaging users
    4. Conversion Rate – Landing pages that drove the most goal completions or revenue, which can help you apply the tactics of the successful pages to help improve the lower performing pages

    Finally, keep in mind that although the “Primary Dimension” of this report is “Landing Page,” this report contains session level data; it shows the page on which the session began and all of the metrics reflect user behavior throughout the entire session, not just on the landing page.

    Google Analytics Organic Landing Page Report

     

  5. Adwords Campaign Report (Acquisition > Adwords > Campaigns)
  6. This report shows you how your paid AdWords traffic behaved after clicking on one of your ads, as opposed to the reporting in AdWords which contains information about your ads leading up to and including the click but not after the click.

    The metrics in this report are the same session level metrics that were included in the above two reports (A. Sessions, B. Bounce Rate, C. Avg. Session Duration, D. Conversion Rate), and like those reports, this report allows you to see the volume, quality, and conversions for your Primary Dimension, in this case AdWords Campaigns.

    Please note that like the Ecommerce tracking, this reporting is not automatically enabled and needs to be set-up before it will start pulling in AdWords information, but it is much easier to set-up than Ecommerce tracking. It will also allow you to pull Analytics data into AdWords which can be very helpful. Google has a simple guide to linking Analytics and AdWords located here.

    Google Analytics AdWords Report

  7. All Pages Report (Behavior > Site Content > All Pages)
  8. This provides an overview of site performance from a page level perspective, as opposed to the session level perspective of the previous reports. This report displays metrics reflecting user behavior on individual pages. It shows:

    1. Pageviews – Total number of times users looked at a page
    2. Unique Pageviews – Number of times a page was viewed at least once in a session
    3. Avg. Time on Page – How long they stayed on that specific page
    4. % Exit – Percentage of users who left the site after viewing a particular page

    These metrics can help you identify the most popular pages on your site, see the value in pages that do not have much visibility in search engines but are highly viewed by users, and discover which pages users are spending the most time on and which ones might be driving them off the site.

    To understand the difference between Pageviews and Unique Pageviews, think about if someone viewed the same page three times during a session. Maybe, she first went to rooms, then clicked to visit the Suites page, realized that she wanted to book a standard room and returned to the Rooms page, then decided to check the Specials page before booking, and finally returned to the Rooms page and clicked a Book Now link. That would be reported as 3 Pageviews and 1 unique Pageviews for the Rooms page.

    Google Analytics All Pages Report

     

  9. Top Conversion Paths Report (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels >Top Conversion Paths)
  10. This report is not an essential report like the above reports, but it is a great example of the interesting and lesser known reports available from GA. The report shows:

    1. Multi-Channel Grouping Path - The mix of different traffic sources that contributed to conversions on your site. For instance, it will not only show the number of times users found your site through Google (Organic Search) and booked, but it will also show you how many times users found your site through Google, bookmarked your site, and then visited your site from that bookmark two separate times (Direct X 2) before booking.
    2. Conversions – The total number of goal completions that each conversion path contributed to your site. This differs from standard conversion data which just shows the final medium a user came from before converting regardless of if they had visited the site before from a different medium.

    The Top Conversion Paths Report provides a different perspective on your traffic than the All Traffic Report and will get you thinking about multi-channel conversions and attribution models, which will become more and more important as the internet continues to become more fragmented and specialized.

    Tip: Set the Path Length to “All” to see all of your conversion paths.

    Google Analytics Top Conversion Paths Report

Dashboards and Beyond

The above five reports are just the tip of the Google Analytics iceberg, but if you check them regularly and understand what they can tell you about your site, you will not only be able to monitor the performance of your site but you will also be well equipped to explore all of the other reports and data available within GA.

Finally, as promised, I have created a Hotelier’s Quick Stats Dashboard Template that pulls the most important metrics from the above reports into one master report. All you have to do to use it is click on the following link, login to your GA account, and choose the View to which you want to add the Dashboard:https://www.google.com/analytics/web/template?uid=VRTzTQ0QRbWAeFzQ9N4S-A.

Depending on how your GA account is set-up, it might take some minor tweaking to get the Dashboard to pull in the correct metrics, so if you have any questions, contact us today or ask us on Twitter: @Blue_Magnet.

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