Making The Most Out Of Your Hotel's Google+ Listing
Google knows how to generate buzz for their new products from the get-go, even if that particular endeavor isn't being rolled out to the public until much later. So, while it may seem like all that hype about Google+ back in June 2011 was anticlimactic, Google had a master plan brewing. With Google's strategic approach to put Google+ on the map (both literally and figuratively), it's time to make your hotel's Google+ presence shine above that of your competitors.
In recent months we have slowly but surely witnessed the subtle integration of some Google+ suggestions into organic search results. Soon after, Google announced a big change to local search: business listings on Google Places (the standard business listings that appear on a Google Map search) were automatically merging with Google+ Local listings.
This transition reorganized the layout of the photos, content and reviews to align more closely with other Google+ initiatives. It also established a unique plus.google.com URL for each local listing, which allowed for business owners to provide a link directly to the listing. Additionally, it abolished anonymous reviews by requiring that customers log into a Gmail account before leaving a review, adding an element of authority.
Google then proceeded to announce that any local businesses that had joined Google's social network by creating a Google+ Page could finally merge their Google+ Page with their Google+ Local listing. Combining all of these various Google platforms allows businesses to have one standard listing that unifies content and photos across all Google search results, map listings and social channels. Business owners will no longer need to visit multiple local and social pages to monitor their reviews, edit content, upload photos or post announcements. Customers will benefit from businesses establishing one all-encompassing listing because they are more likely to receive accurate information that comes directly from the business itself.
We hope you followed our advice several months ago when we recommended that your hotel jump on the Google+ bandwagon because, now that Google's social media platform is gaining momentum, it's time to ensure that your hotel's Google+ Page is standing out among the pages of your competitors. Follow our suggestions to ensure that you are effectively marketing your hotel on Google+.
Create a Google+ Page for your hotel
- Before creating a Google+ Brand Page, you will need to create a personal Google+ Profile. Similar to how Facebook brand pages work, the owner of the page must have a personal profile in order to create a Page. Your Google+ profile must be a realistic name rather than a brand name.
- In the left hand navigation tab, select "Pages " and "Create New Page."
- When it prompts you to select a category, choose "Local Business or Place." Only Google+ pages set up as a local business are able to merge their page and Google Places listing thus far.
- Enter your hotel's phone number to locate it on the map. Select the correct listing and confirm your initial information before creating the page.
Merge your hotel's Google+ Page with your hotel's Google+ Local Listing
- When you view your Google+ Page, Google will boldly publicize that it is unverified and it will prompt you, as an owner of the page, to "Verify your business to be found across Google, including Search and Maps."
- Google will then require that you verify via postcard which may take up to 1-2 weeks. Enter the name of the person at the business who will be responsible for retrieving the postcard.
- The postcard will contain a PIN that will need to be entered on the Google+ Page to verify that you are indeed the owner and finalize the merge of your Google+ Local and Google+ Page.
Ensure your hotel stands out from the crowd
Just by merging your listings this early in the game you will automatically be ahead of most of your competitors, but don't sit around waiting for the rest of the not-so-tech-savvy world to catch up. Make sure you optimize your listing with relevant information and incorporate creativity to highlight your hotel's unique personality.
Optimize the content
Begin optimizing your hotel's Google+ page by filling in the fields under the about tab such as: Introduction, Hours, Website, Contact Info and Address. In comparison to many other social networks, Google+ provides the business with a liberal amount of creative control when describing the hotel in the Introduction section. For starters, you will probably be relieved to find that there is no character limitation forcing you to pick and choose what information guests may need to know. You can keep your Introduction short and to the point or you can add flowery language and innate details.
As you're inserting the text, take advantage of the basic formatting tools that Google+ provides, such as bolding or italics, to call attention to key phrases, organize your content or insert hyperlinks. In the example below, the hotel uses a bullet point list to make the amenities easily readable and incorporates two direct links throughout the copy to send potential guests to their brand.com home page and the hotel's restaurant page.
In addition to providing a link to the hotel's website, brands can create a list of other URLs they want to link to on their Google+ page, including social media pages. Hotels can use these additional links to grow their social media followers on Facebook or Twitter, to showcase their hotel's photography on Flickr or to captivate guests with video tours on YouTube. If the hotel's restaurant publishes its menu online or takes reservations via opentable, publicize it here! Since this Google+ page is now acting as the Google+ Local page as well, the listing is ideal for capturing customers that search for hotels or restaurants by location on their mobile devices.
Showcase your hotel's personality
Now that you've got the content in there, it's time to get creative! Similar to Facebook pages, Google+ uses a standard thumbnail image (250 x 250) accompanied by a rectangular cover photo (940w x 180h). If you haven't yet opted in to the cover photo, you may still be privy to the 5 square thumbnails in a horizontal row. (It's important to note, once your curiosity gets the best of you and you switch over to the single horizontal cover photo, you will not be able to revert back to the 5 horizontal images.)
As both an hotelier and as a guest, you are probably well aware that hotel photography can be a powerful "make-it-or-break-it" factor when deciding between 2 or more comparably priced hotels. So, take advantage of these first-impression photos on Google+ and provide alluring images that show guests why your hotel should be added to their Google+ circles. To get your creative wheels spinning, think about what sets your hotel apart from others. What do guests repeatedly comment on or why do guests keep coming back? Does your hotel have a distinct personality due to the location (i.e. Nashville's country music scene)? Do your rooms offer spectacular views of the city, the lake or the mountains? Do guests choose your hotel for a particular amenity? Does your hotel pride itself on being pet-friendly? Does your hotel mostly cater to business and meeting guests? Are you known for being an amazing wedding or reception venue in the area? Determine what your hotel's strengths are and highlight them at the forefront of your Google+ Page. Think about your cover photo as a billboard.
For example, the hotel below, which is widely recognized as a landmark in San Antonio and is nicknamed the "Official Hotel of the Alamo," thrives on the city's rich history and culture. Due to its unique architecture and proximity to the Alamo, the hotel captures a big leisure and tourist audience, so the Google+ Page draws on Texan authenticity and must-see nearby tourist attractions.
While the polaroid-inspired montage above may take some extra creative skills that require time, effort and even possibly outsourcing, it very clearly sets the hotel apart from the typical Google+ page -even a hotel that has great, high-res photography. If you use a design program, you can even add text on top of the photos for additional branding opportunities, as in the example below.
Respond to your reviews
Reviews, which were previously found on your hotel's Google Places listing, are now hosted on your Google+ page. In an attempt to weed out false reviews or spammers, Google requires reviewers to be logged into a Gmail account. As an hotelier, you already know how important it is to respond to most of your reviews, whether good, bad or mediocre. Reviews on Google+ are no exception. Crafting a well-written response and putting a positive-spin on any negative feedback will show the reviewer as well as any other potential guests on Google+ that the hotel has a caring management team and appreciates guest comments.
Google+ makes it easy page admins to respond. When you are logged into your Google+ Page, select the About tab and scroll down to see the reviews. Make sure they are sorted by "Latest" so you are responding to the most relevant reviews. Hit "Respond" and enter a quick, personal note of gratitude for their positive feedback or mention the steps the hotel is taking to improve upon whatever the complaint may be.
What's next for Google+?
In related news, Google+ is now allowing page owners to invite up to 50 additional admins to co-manage the Google+ page. This lets multiple people monitor and edit Google+ pages without having to share confidential login information. Although only one person can be the actual owner of the page, ownership can be easily transferred to another person.
In typical Google fashion, Google+ has finally announced that it is rolling out vanity URLs to select brands, celebrities or public personalities that are in a large amount of peoples' circles. While most of the Google+ world will have to wait it out, some fortunate folks are now able to select a unique URL where the brand name replaces the long string of numbers in the standard plus.google.com URL. For example, if the Emily Morgan Hotel wanted to promote their Google+ page on printed marketing collateral, they would provide the following link: https://plus.google.com/b/118259268316760754340/118259268316760754340/posts, instead of something more concise such as: plus.google.com/emilymorganhotel. Having key phrases, like your brand name, in the URL will be beneficial for both SEO efforts and for marketing your Google+ Page.
Don't say we didn't warn you! Google is determined to make Google+ a powerful force in the search, social and local world. Setting up, merging and managing a bold and well-optimized Google+ Page will ensure that your hotel is one step closer to dominating the search engine results!
Want more information?
Give us a call at 877-361-1177 x202 or send us a note if you are interested in finding out more about independent websites or how Blue Magnet can help you achieve your hotel's ecommerce goals.