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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As a hotelier, you have an important decision to make when your hotel is undergoing a renovation - to be completely transparent about the construction or to keep it under wraps until the guest arrives on-property. Many hoteliers may think that if guests don't know about their renovation, it can't hurt their bookings. However, this plan will surely backfire. Unsuspecting guests that find themselves in the midst of construction, will often take their feelings of surprise and disappointment to TripAdvisor. This leaves hoteliers dealing with unhappy guests on property and an onslaught of negative reviews to respond to.

When your hotel is undergoing a renovation, you are in the driver's seat. You have the power to transform guests' negative perceptions about staying in a hotel mid-renovation into something positive. After all, renovations are creating a newer, more modern hotel for your guests. It should be an exciting thing! To build excitement and avoid negative guest reviews, it's important to be honest about the hotel's renovations and keep shoppers and guests informed of on-going changes both in person and online.

1. Be Honest and Upfront During the Booking Process

In the same way you wouldn't want to arrive home to surprise construction, no guest wants to arrive at your hotel to find unexpected renovations underway. During a trip, your hotel serves as a guest's home base - it's where they will sleep, work, and eat, so it's understandable that they prefer a restful environment. As a hotelier, you know that hotels are extremely careful to keep renovations as undisruptive as possible, but to the unknowing guest, construction is synonymous with noise. That's why it is important to be transparent about the hotel's renovation process and provide shoppers with a detailed account of what they can expect during each renovation phase. If they understand that they won't wake up to the noise of hammers in a neighboring room or have to trek up four flights of stairs when the elevators are being redone, they will be more willing to stay at your hotel. On the contrary, hiding renovations from guests can leave them feeling duped upon arrival, which leads to bad online reviews.

To avoid unhappy surprises, place alerts on the homepages of both your independent and brand site, so shoppers are immediately aware of any construction taking place during their stay. Link the announcement to a landing page with more information so that shoppers are able to understand exactly how your hotel's renovations will affect their stay.

While "We're renovating!" may get the point across, using zingier verbiage can help guests understand that the renovation is a positive change that they will ultimately benefit from. Something along the lines of "Good enough isn't good enough for us! We've heard your feedback and are working to create a better hotel for your future visits" can make guests feel that your hotel cares about their comfort, and ultimately, feel more connected with your brand.

Many OTAs, such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Asia Rooms, offer a space on each hotel's listing for announcements (see screenshot below). Updating these announcement sections across all online distribution channels will help shoppers be more informed about your hotel's renovations.

OTA announcement

2. Tell Your Guests What to Expect Upon Arrival

Create a hub of information for your guests by adding a renovation landing page on your independent website. Publish details about what changes are being made and the scheduled dates for each renovation phase as well as renderings of the new spaces and photos of the model rooms or suites. This may seem like information overload, but it can help put guests' minds to rest about anticipated disruptions during their stay.

Make sure to spell out exactly how your renovation will be taking place, so that shoppers are aware that construction won't be happening in the room next door to them, or even on the same floor. As renovation phases are completed, update the page to reveal new photos that showcase before and after comparisons. The updated look will excite shoppers to book a room at your hotel.

Renovation landing pages can also serve as useful resources for your hotel team. No doubt, concerned guests will be asking hotel employees about the changes and how the renovation will affect their stay, so use this page as an opportunity to answer any frequently asked questions. Then, your staff can refer guests to the landing page if they do not know the answers off-hand.

Renovation Landing Page

3. Provide an Open Line of Communication Throughout the Stay

Hoteliers can go the extra mile to make guests feel included in the renovation process by providing an update in each room outlining the renovations to take place that day. Guests will appreciate that the hotel has taken the time to keep them in the loop, and it allows the hotel to manage guest's expectations appropriately. Guests won't be surprised to see new mattresses being hauled through the lobby if they are warned in advance.

General Managers can even go so far as to provide their personal contact information in the daily printout. This gives the guests an outlet where they can voice their feedback and concerns directly to the hotel rather than posting a scathing review on TripAdvisor for the world to see. This will prevent shoppers from being scared away by other guests' sub-standard experiences. Plus, the General Manager can use the private complaints or feedback as a means to immediately improve the renovation experience for other guests.

4. Generate Community Excitement on Social

Social media is a great tool to utilize during your hotel's renovation since it is an inexpensive way to extend your message to many people. It is a great medium to keep guests informed about updates taking place in real time and to generate excitement about the various improvements being made.

Post "behind-the-scenes" photos on your social pages to give guests a taste of what the new rooms will look like. Photos of inspiration boards, new furniture, and construction can all incite fan engagement and spark interest in returning to the hotel when renovations are complete.

Facebook Renovation Post

As different phases are completed, display the finished products on social media. Make guests feel valuable and increase fan engagement by prompting fans to share their opinions of the new look. Post a high-res visual and pose a simple question to spark interaction, such as "In three words or less, how would you describe our new guest rooms?" Plus, when it's time to update your room descriptions on your hotel's independent site, you'll already be prepared with some descriptive phrases inspired by your hotel's fans.

5. Keep the Excitement Alive Long After the Dust Settles

Your work doesn't end when the construction crew packs up and every ergonomic desk chair is in its place; now, it's time to announce your new look to the world! Use what you learned when marketing your hotel renovations to now promote your newly renovated property by updating the same channels with your new property amenities and information.

One of your first priorities should be to update both the room descriptions and photos on your website. Changing your homepage alert (see screenshot below) to announce that renovations are finished lets shoppers know they can expect to find brand new spaces when they choose to stay at your property.

Homepage Renovation Announcement

Now is a perfect time to update your OTA listings to reflect the change your property has seen. Update your hotel description to mention your newly renovated rooms, meeting space, lobby, etc. Your new features could be a deciding factor between your hotel and a competitor!

It's also time to announce the completion on your social media. Give your Facebook fans and Twitter followers a "sneak peek" at your hotel's new look with photos of your updated spaces or showcase just how much your hotel has transformed with before and after photos. Your fresh look could help to inspire a visit from a devoted fan.

Facebook Renovation Post Before and After

Ready to Renovate?

While hoteliers may dread guests' reactions to on-going renovations, keeping guests and shoppers informed on the transformation and working to generate a positive buzz about the changes will help avoid unhappy guests on property and a string of unsatisfied online reviews.

Also, take note that if you are hesitant to overuse the word "renovation" in your online marketing strategy, you can replace it with hotel makeover, improvements, exciting changes, etc. However you choose to refer to the renovation, just make sure you keep the message and tone extremely positive throughout.

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Just as one would not buy a car sight unseen, travelers are not going to book a room at a hotel without first reading reviews and looking at pictures of the property. So what are hoteliers to do when their properties frequently receive negative reviews on TripAdvisor that damage their online reputation? Unfortunately, many hoteliers resort to TripAdvisor fraud - posting fake positive reviews themselves or encouraging their personal network to do so - in an effort to boost the hotel's TripAdvisor reputation. While false TripAdvisor reviews may seem like a good idea to the uninformed, it is a practice that results in critical, and sometimes debilitating, consequences from which hotels may never recover.

Why would hoteliers feel compelled to commit TripAdvisor fraud?

TripAdvisor is the second most visited travel site in the world, with an average of 260 million unique visitors per month and more than 150 million total reviews. Those stats clearly indicate why a positive representation on TripAdvisor is so crucial to a hotel's online reputation and financial success.

Any marketer worth his or her salt knows that word-of-mouth is one of the biggest influences on purchasing decisions. TripAdvisor has enabled naturally occurring word-of-mouth on a global scale. No longer is a traveler limited to their personal network of friends, family, and colleagues for hotel reviews. Now, they simply have to visit TripAdvisor to learn what hundreds of guests had to say about their stays. Studies show that 81 percent of travelers usually or always reference TripAdvisor before booking and that over half of all travelers would not even consider staying at a hotel that has no reviews.

If a hotel has a lot of positive reviews, then travelers will be more likely to book. If travelers are more likely to book, then that means a likely increase in…? That's right, every hotelier's favorite word - "revenue." Simply put, higher TripAdvisor ratings equal more money for the hotel. By moving up one point on a five point rating scale, hotels can increase their rates by up to 11.2 percent without seeing a decrease in occupancy. With hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue on the line, it is no wonder hoteliers consider posting fake positive reviews.

Okay, TripAdvisor is important, but how could someone spot a fake hotel-written review?

Because thousands of reviews are written on a daily basis, it is understandable why hoteliers may think that their fake reviews will slip through the cracks and appear legitimate. In an attempt to discover fake reviews, TripAdvisor claims to track the IP addresses of computers from which reviews are written. The site is alerted if multiple reviews come from the same IP address, signaling that hotel representatives may be writing fraudulent reviews from their offices. Even if they are writing reviews from different IP addresses, many hoteliers are treated to a rude awakening upon learning that their fake reviews were easily discovered by both TripAdvisor and travelers due to five common tells that signal the review is hotel-written.

  1. Perhaps the most obvious sign of a hotel-written review is one that includes "hotel speak" that the average traveler would not typically use. So that review singing the praises of a hotel's "well-appointed rooms with complimentary high-speed internet access and ergonomic desk chairs"? Fake.
  2. Multiple reviews for the same hotel that include the exact same or almost the same wording are almost always fake. In these instances, it is apparent to TripAdvisor and travelers that these reviews were written in an effort to increase the hotel's overall rating.
  3. A sudden burst of positive reviews all around the same time is a clear indication to TripAdvisor and travelers that the reviews are likely fraudulent.
  4. Positive reviews with a general lack of detail, an excessive use of superlatives and adverbs, and an unnecessary amount of exclamation points are the calling cards of many hotel-written reviews.
  5. Obviously, every TripAdvisor user will have a first review, but if a review already seems suspicious and also happens to be a user's first review, it is probably hotel-written.

Individually, all of these hallmarks of hotel-written reviews make them quite easy to spot. When these attributes are combined in a single review, hoteliers might as well just include, "by the way, this review is fake and an attempt to boost the hotel's rating." That would not make it any more obvious than it already is.

Even if people know the reviews are fake, a better overall rating is all that matters, right?

Wrong. One of TripAdvisor's core tenets is that the success of the site is based on honest reviews by real travelers telling it like it is. Fake reviews upset this balance and lead to travelers losing trust in the site and possibly not using it in the future. That is the last thing TripAdvisor wants. Upon detecting fraudulent reviews, TripAdvisor imposes a number of penalties designed to punish the hotel and discourage them from writing fake reviews again.

Almost immediately, the hotel's listing may be dropped several pages in the TripAdvisor popularity index. That means potentially thousands of lost guests and lost revenue, as most travelers do not search for a hotel past the second or third page of listings.

Hotels that have been caught writing fake reviews are ineligible to be included in all of TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards and top 10 lists. These honors provide valuable free marketing and have been shown to greatly boost the online perception of the hotels that receive them.

The biggest penalty that TripAdvisor levies on hotels posting fake reviews is the dreaded "red flag" that is placed on the listing itself. This large red label is prominently displayed at the top of the listing, informing all who view it that the reviews are not to be trusted (screenshot below). One hotelier claimed to have seen a 75 percent drop in revenue and a "catastrophic collapse in bookings" after her hotel was flagged.

tripadvisor listing with red flag

If hoteliers do not write fake reviews, how can they ever increase their hotel's rating?

One of Blue Magnet's Managing Partners Chris Jones wrote an excellent blog article answering this very question. Hoteliers should always use the reviews of their hotel - the good, the bad, and the ugly - as free market research to learn negatives that the hotel must improve upon and positives that the hotel can further enhance or promote.

Hoteliers should be candid in all communication and marketing regarding the hotel's quality and what guests should expect from the hotel. Guests do not want to be misled. Marketing a three star hotel as a five star hotel is an invitation for negative reviews from travelers whose expectations were not met.

Happy guests love to leave great reviews. At an industry conference earlier this year, Andrew Wiens, International DMO Manager at TripAdvisor, mentioned that 77 percent of all TripAdvisor reviews receive either four or five "bubbles."

Whether reviews are good or bad, all of them should elicit a hotel management response. 78 percent of TripAdvisor users say that seeing hotel management respond to reviews makes the users believe that management cares about their guests. Positive perception is everything.

At the end of the day, the best way to receive positive reviews online is to provide an excellent offline experience for guests. As long as hoteliers focus on delivering positive experiences, TripAdvisor fraud will not even be a consideration.

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We are honored that Web Marketing Association named the Blue Magnet Interactive-designed The Residences at Biltmore responsive site as an Outstanding Website in the Hotel and Lodging category for 2014.

webaward-icon-2014-v2

It is a privilege to be recognized for our team's hard work and continued commitment to providing top-quality digital marketing services for our hotel partners. The Web Award program is now in its 17th year and is "the longest running annual website award competition dedicated to naming the best Web sites in 96 industries while setting the standard of excellence for all website development."

 

Redesigning The Residences at Biltmore site was no small feat, but we jumped at the opportunity. We are proud to share the exciting journey and excellent results with you below.

The Situation:

Prior to partnering with Blue Magnet Interactive, The Residences at Biltmore's website was aesthetically uninspired, was not properly optimized for search, and delivered a poor user-experience. The site was extremely text-heavy, lacking high-res imagery, and dominated by a dull green background. The site was also difficult for users to navigate and littered with broken links. Since it was not mobile-friendly, users were forced to pinch and scroll on their tablets or smart phones to obtain more information or attempt to book a room.

Overall, the site was not selling the luxury Asheville experience. The Residences at Biltmore is an independent hotel and their website is their primary source for online bookings, so not having a fully functional site was highly problematic.

The Action:

Our development team rolled up their sleeves, eager to take on the challenge and transform the lackluster site into a functional and beautiful booking tool. They began an extensive discovery phase to get a solid understanding of the local Asheville area, competitors' strategies, target demographics, and the hotel's unique selling points. Since the hotel already had a website, the Blue Magnet team worked with the hotel to uncover any technical issues that could pose a challenge later on such as domain or hosting problems.

Then, they set forth to conceptualize a visually appealing site that would allow the hotel to better market their luxurious and modern all-suite accommodations and sell more value-add packages. Asheville is quickly becoming a leading tourist destination for U.S. leisure travelers, so they made sure that the redesigned site highlights the area's captivating scenery and appeals to guests looking for a balance of outdoor adventure and blissful relaxation. The redesigned site was also built responsively, so that shoppers can easily navigate and explore, regardless of browser choice or device.

And, on top of all that, the team revised the site architecture to ensure that it is more intuitive than the previous site, which had a very confusing sitemap. A user can now easily travel through the site and find all the information they are looking for in just a few clicks. Before launching the finished product, our account management team conducted a thorough keyword analysis to ensure the site's meta content and on-page copy was fully optimized and provided relevant information.

The DesktopTransformation:

rab-desktop-comparison

 

The Mobile Transformation:

residences at biltmore mobile site redesign

The Results:

The below results are from Google Analytics and compare data from Jan 1 - Aug 31, 2014 to data from the same time period in 2013. The new site launched end of August 2013, in between these two comparison periods.

Bounce Rate decreased 25% YOY, demonstrating an improved user-experience. Users are finding the hotel's website based on relevant search queries and are not bouncing off the page after unintentionally landing on it. As the site is now responsive, users are also able to read the content and navigate the site much more quickly on mobile devices and do not have to pinch and scroll excessively. Therefore, they are less likely to exit the site or switch devices to continue shopping.

Mobile Traffic increased 23% YOY, showing increased visibility and usability for mobile shoppers. Prior to development, our design team customized mobile versions of each desktop comp to ensure that the mobile site would contain only information deemed necessary for mobile shoppers. When the site breaks down from desktop to mobile, various high-res images are stripped down or cut out altogether and certain elements transform into mobile-friendly buttons. This creates a faster page load time on mobile and improves the ovearll mobile shopping experience.


Does your hotel's website need a renovation? Contact us to learn how our award-winning team can help transform your hotel's outdated website into a user-friendly, informative, and successful online booking platform.. 

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social media week chicago 2014

Times are changing - the pound sign is now a hashtag, tweets aren't just for birds, and brands want things shared more than a kindergarten teacher. This past week, the Blue Magnet Interactive team set off to explore several educational seminars hosted by Chicago's Social Media Week to stay on the forefront of the everchanging online social landscape. Our online marketing team is eager to share how their key takeaways from these sessions can translate into successful hotel social media marketing campaigns.

Read highlights from our Social Media Week adventures:

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Caroline attended Forget Being Forgotten: 4 Methods to Become an Industry Leader on Social Media.

At this session…

Lauren Young, a brand marketing author, educator, and CEO of Freshly Baked Communications broke down the 4 ingredients one needs to be a divergent thinker, create innovative content, and break through the clutter of social media. The 4 ingredients are:

  1. Fluency
  2. Originality
  3. Flexibility
  4. Elaboration

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

Well, I learned how to cut an index card to fit over my head. Also, I learned that creating the best content is neither a left brain creative activity or a right brain creative activity. It's a blend of both the whimsical and the practical, using the whole brain.

How can hotels use the 4 methods to become an industry leader on social media?

Your hotel should be able to use these 4 ingredients to create unique and effective social media posts. Being able to see things from a new perspective, promoting a special offer in an interesting way, and maintaining a consistent voice will help your hotel's posts stand out in cluttered Newsfeeds.

Read more highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Stephanie, Andrea, and Kelsey attended Social Media Hacks to Fuel Your Content Marketing Efforts to learn about cost-effective content distribution tricks to help businesses acquire more (quality) followers and leads.

At this session…

The framework for content marketing consists of strategizing, producing, distributing, and measuring. In this session, Laura Licata, Product Marketing Manager at Belly, discussed distribution techniques through social media. Licata proclaimed that "content doesn't work if it doesn't move" and getting in front of the right audience can often be challenging. She shared cost-effective solutions and hacks to help get your company's content and brand name in front of the right audience in order to increase shares and website traffic.

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

Stephanie: So many great tips and tricks for sharing content! I already knew that LinkedIn was a great place to share blog posts with like-minded professionals, but Licata took it a step further and suggested sharing your content with three to five relevant groups on LinkedIn. In order to narrow down the best groups to share content with, take a look at their activity statistics under Group Info to see how active the members are. She also shared a great Twitter hack: tweet about the same topic multiple times, but with a different twist each time. When you are promoting a blog post on Twitter, try tweeting out the title of blog post first and then a few quotes. Twitter can also be a great place to do A/B testing on blog titles! See which title gets the most clicks and update accordingly.

Andrea: Get as much mileage out of your content as possible. When you write a blog post or attend a conference, don't just post about it on Facebook and Twitter one time and call it a day. Instead, extend the blogs shelf life by finding unique ways to distribute the content multiple times over an extended period of time. While it seems like common sense to continuously promote your blog posts on social media, it's also easy to forget. As you write new blogs, you tend to push those posts out and neglect your older posts that are still relevant. Some of your Twitter followers may not have seen the first tweet about that article or the message may not have compelled them to click the link, but if you post about it a second or third time with a different message, you increase the chances of your followers seeing and clicking it. Also, if you record educational presentations or seminars, use Fiverr to get the audio transcribed inexpensively. Then, pull out little nuggets of information and direct quotes from the speakers to create your own blog post or social media content. 

Kelsey: It is important to create relevant content and be sure to repurpose it in case one of your online followers didn't see you share it initially. For instance, if you have an exciting special offer or an event that you're looking to promote at your hotel, it might be helpful to tweet variations of that offer or event at alternate times of the day to connect with different audiences. Another great reminder she shared was to continue to take advantage of the free tools available to help track how your content performs (Facebook insights and Twitter analytics) as well as tools that help jazz up your visual content (Canva).

What social media hacks can a hotel use to improve their content strategy?

Stephanie: One of Licata's six rules for content marketing was to "befriend social whales." Connect with the people who engage with your property on a regular basis. 85% of consumers seek out recommendations from influencers;  try creating goals around influencer marketing and discover new ways to engage. 

Andrea: To build on what Stephanie said above, every hotel has so many social whales to befriend, so start engaging with them on social media and establish a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, interact with nearby area attractions, local wedding photographers, and reputable event planners.  Your target markets most likely overlap and your future guest might be one of their Twitter followers.

Kelsey: When it comes to sharing content on Facebook, continue to keep it short, sweet and include a picture. Posts with a picture tend to perform better than posts without a picture. It is crucial to work with your social media manager and regularly share pictures from your property so that you can showcase what makes your hotel unique on all social channels. Think: What photos can I take in and around my hotel that tell a story about the hotel and that a potential guest wouldn't gather from our property photos on the website?

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Stephanie attended The Power of Lifestyle Imagery to learn how to subtly incorporate engaging and creative imagery into a social media strategy. 

At this session…

Joey Brant and Leif Fescenmeyer of Cramer-Krasselt discussed the importance of a visual content strategy. Eye-catching images don't require a fancy photo shoot, but can be achieved with some creativity, a smartphone, and a couple of filter effects. Brandt and Fescenmeyer also discussed the importance of cleverly placing your product/brand in a creative environment as opposed to utilizing a "look-at-me" approach where the consumer knows that they are being sold to. The key to producing lifestyle imagery is to "focus on the story and the information will come along for the ride." An example of a band who does this well is Starbucks.

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

The biggest eye-opener for me at this session was when the speakers asked us to take out our phones, look at our personal feeds, and then to look at a brands' feed. Something so simple really made a huge impact, and that moment is something I will carry with me when creating content strategies for hotels. Taking the extra few minutes to brainstorm, get creative, and really optimize your images can go a long way. When it comes to imagery on social, consider what drives a purchase versus the experience you have once you have the product. Informative content belongs on your website, contextual is appropriate for social. The speakers shared the useful acronym CAR: Context (works perfectly in the setting and situation), Authentic (is genuine and doesn't look overproduced), and Relevant (makes sense to the consumer mindset in the time and place where viewed). This was by far my favorite session from this year!

How can a hotelier use powerful lifestyle imagery to improve social media performance?

Hotels have great lifestyle imagery at their fingertips; your property should take advantage of these photo opportunities! If you were a guest, would you rather see a post with a link directing to an informative landing page about Times Squares or a picture of happy people actually enjoying the popular landmark and creating memories? Make your fans feel like they are right there in the action and then they will want to be. "Make friends, not ads."

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Stephanie attended Bored With Sweepstakes? Get Inspired For Your Next Promotion to learn how to transform run-of-the-mill promotions into powerful, interactive campaigns.

At this session…

Nikki Halcomb (Account Manager, Premier Business Solutions, LLC) and Kelley Whalen (Account Supervisor, Earned Media, HY Connect) shared their best practices for social media promotions. The speakers dove into the difference between a "sweepstakes" and a "contest" and how to comply with legal guidelines. They also discussed how promotions that are executed correctly can amplify your online presence, build customer loyalty, and drive revenue.

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

In order to create a memorable promotion, amuse! Create great incentives and come up with messaging that not only reflects your brand voice but encourages participation. Kelley discussed how integrating a good cause can amplify engagement because "87% of consumers would switch from one brand to another brand based on the other brand supporting a good cause."  It's also important to keep things simple. A good cross-check to see if it's easy enough is to ask yourself, "Would my friends enter?" The adult attention span is only 2-8 seconds long, so it's important that your promotion is entertaining and uncomplicated.

How can a hotelier create an engaging social media promotion?

Promotions should be a part of your hotel's budget. A good promotion requires a lot of brainstorming and creativity, so plan ahead and put together a cohesive strategy before launching something uninspired.

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Maggie and Stephanie attended McDonald's & The FIFA World Cup: Engaging Audiences Through Localized, Global Activation to learn how large brands continue to stay relevant to a global audience.

At this session…

McDonald's Global Director of Digital Engagement, Sosti Ropaitis shared how the 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign was created. The goal was to engage audiences across multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and television in some regions) in 100+ countries.  McDonald's aimed to create a campaign that was  "language agnostic," portrayed "cultural relevancy," and had an "emotional connection." The campaign incorporated many elaborate pieces including a competition for artists to create a design to be featured on McDonald's fry boxes, an app that customers download to play an interactive game using virtual and physical space, a YouTube video featuring talented, local soccer players from around the world of all ages, and finally a set of videos created no later than 12 hours after each World Cup match titled #FryFutbol. Ropaitis successfully shared just how important real time, digital content is, especially for a 75-year-old brand. He also touched on the long, extensive process it takes to create such a powerful, interactive social campaign.

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

Maggie: Digital content is hard to keep in one market, regardless of how hyper-targeted your campaign is. This is a good thing for added exposure, but it is important to keep this in mind when creating content to ensure it is easily read/adjusted/formatted for the market that you hadn't originally targeted.

Stephanie: In addition to what Maggie said, I thought it was interesting how Ropaitis discussed the success of the McDonald's Gol! YouTube video. He said that how many views the video received was not as important as the "I like this" to "I dislike this" ratio, which was something I hadn't considered previously. It was also eye-opening to hear that McDonald's had the first ever global promoted tweet, #FryFutbol. Ropaitis talked about the strategy for coming up with a hashtag that worked globally and was able to break the language barrier. Throughout the presentation he referred to the campaign as "GLOCAL" - a global campaign that needed to perform well on a local level, which can be a challenging task.

How can a hotel continue to stay relevant to such a widespread audience on social media channels?

Maggie: Ropaitis reiterated something I think is important for all brands to remember when considering their social strategy; views don't really matter, engagement matters. So, your hotel has 1,000 Facebook Fans, but now what? Simply posting content and having this audience view it while scrolling through their newsfeed is not enough. Focus on creating engaging content that will have fans and prospective fans actively participating in the conversation you want your hotel to be having.

Stephanie: It was interesting to see a large brand, such as McDonald's, use cross channel marketing for an event that was viewed globally. Their FIFA World Cup campaign was an excellent example of creating the right content for the right channel. Each specific piece of the promotion was created for specifically for where the content was going to live (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the App). In turn, they saw their engagement skyrocket. It is so important for your hotel to understand that content should not be replicated through every channel, it must be tweaked and optimized for wherever the promotion is going to live.

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