In case you missed our hotel mobile strategy workshop at the Online Revealed Canada Conference this year, we're sharing our deck so you can ensure your hotel is properly optimized on mobile!

ORC2014 Mobile Strategy Session Description:

With so many people using their smartphones and tablets on-the-go, it’s vital for hoteliers to be targeting a mobile audience in each stage of travel – from planning to booking to experiencing. Does your hotel have a mobile-friendly website and is it providing an optimal user-experience? Is your hotel effectively capturing nearby searchers looking for a last minute room? Is your hotel team proactively encouraging your guests to share their positive experiences on Facebook? If your hotel does not have a mobile-strategy in place, than you may be losing potential guests to your mobile-savvy competitors. In this session, Blue Magnet Interactive will walk you through the necessary mobile channels that your hotel needs to be optimizing to increase bookings and drive more revenue in 2014!

 

 

Want to Get Started?

Be sure to download Blue Magnet Intearctive's Mobile Strategy Checklist to kickstart your hotel's mobile strategy!

If you have any questions (and can ask it in 140 characters or less), tweet us at @Blue_Magnet. For those of you that struggle with the art of brevity, you can contact us here.

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Are you visiting Chicago for an industry conference or tradeshow? Stopping by the Windy City to meet with clients? If you're looking for the best place in Chicago to eat brunch or a happening bar downtown to grab a cocktail with colleagues, Blue Magnet has you covered. In order to help you work your way through Chicago's fine dining & drinking scene, the Blue Magnet team compiled some of our favorite places to eat or drink and some hidden (and some not so hidden) gems to explore. We promise there is no shortage of exciting things to do in Chicago!

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Longman & Eagle

  • Incredible food, great drinks, and awesome atmosphere. Right across the street from the Blue Line. - Patrick McCarthy
  • OH MY GOSH - THE QUICHE! - Kelsey Nupnau

Anne Sathers

  • Gooey, yummy cinnamon rolls and awesome Swedish hospitality. - Michelle Laing

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

  • Great food and a make your own bloody mary bar! - Karie Miller

Rockit Bar & Grill

  • The River North location has have excellent live music (same guy plays during brunch every weekend and you can request just about any song in the world), amazing cheese fries with melted brie, and a fantastic bloody mary bar! - Andrea Mann

Francesca's Forno

  • Excellent eggs benedict with thick slices of ham, hot coffee cake skillet and intersection location that's great for summer people watching in Wicker Park. - Matt Bitzer

 

More Blue Magnet Brunch Recommendations:

  • Southport Grocery and Cafe
  • Bite Cafe
  • Oak Tree Restaurant
  • Pump Room
  • Jam & Honey
  • Kingsbury Street Cafe

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Empty Bottle's Honky Tonk Happy Hour

  • Every Friday from 5:30 - 7:30pm, the Empty Bottle turns into a honky tonk paradise. Free to get in, the Hoyle Brothers are the official Honky Tonk band and the crowd are the official best dancers in Chicago. They've got cheap beers, great music and if you're lucky, the tamale guy will stop in towards the end. - Abby Heft

Townhouse Restaurant & Wine Bar

  • Great place to go and relax after a long day at work! In the summer they have outdoor seating which is always a plus! On Friday's they have $5 Chicago Brews and great appetizer deals! You can't beat that! - Maddy Fuller

DryHop

  • They don't have a dedicated happy hour special, but DryHop is brewing the best beer in Chicago and selling it cheaper than any other breweries in the city. It's a great place to grab a drink. - Chris Dean

The Bar at Siena Tavern

  • This newer restaurant is a great place to grab a drink and enjoy gourmet pizza or pasta after work. They have a pretty large bar area, but it gets crowded fast, so get there early to stake out a seat (or table if you're lucky)! - Andrea Mann

 

More Blue Magnet Happy Hour Recommendations:

  • Cantina Laredo
  • Three Dots and a Dash
  • Violet Hour
  • Revolution Brewing
  • Dusek's
  • Cedar Hotel

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Lou Mitchell's

  • Cheap breakfast, historic spot. - Kelsey Nupnau

Triple Crown or Lao Hunan (Chinatown)

  • Unique, delicious food in an under-visited part of Chicago. - Patrick McCarthy

Portillo’s

  • Can't come to Chicago without getting a Chicago dog or some great Portillo's Italian beef. - Karie Miller

Cheesie's Pub & Grub

  • The BEST grilled cheese sandwiches you'll ever have.- Jourdan Dunn

Nha Hang Viet-Nam

  • I am a huge fan of Vietnamese food, and Chicago is home to some fantastic, inexpensive Vietnamese restaurants. Adventurous eaters should head to Nha Hang Viet-Nam in Irving Park for an authentic and delicious Vietnamese meal. They've got some of the best Pho and Bahn Mi in town for a great price! - Amanda Diamond

Belly Shack

  • Korean bbq and Puerto Rican fusion. What's not to like? - Katharyn Vera

 

More Blue Magnet Cheap Eats Recommendations:

  • Litos Empanadas
  • Noodles in the Pot
  • Sultan's Market
  • Andy's Thai Kitchen
  • Morgan's on Maxwell
  • Picante Taqueria

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Sunda

  • It's delicious, quite an experience, and there is usually a celeb there. - Kelsey Nupnau
  • Delicious cocktails & sushi in convenient River North location. - Brittany Aller

Girl & The Goat

  • Fun cocktails, lots of different options for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, relaxed atmosphere. - Maggie Meyers
  • Great food in a fun atmosphere where you can try sharable plates of some creative cuisine. Get the Magic Beans--green beans like you've never tasted before. I used to hate green beans, but I was soon shown the error of my ways by the Girl and the Goat. Also, make sure you order the Pig Face--it's delicious. It's exactly what it sounds like, even if doesn't look that way on the plate; Some people (including me, the first time) are scared away by the name, but you don't have to worry about your food staring back at you while you eat it. - Matt Bitzer

The Publican

  • Simply one of the most enjoyable restaurants in Chicago. Incredible food, oysters, beer list, and ambiance. - Patrick McCarthy

Frontera Grill

  • Rick Bayless is one of the premiere chefs in the nation for a reason - his food is awesome. Gourmet Mexican fare and great drinks to match. - Chris Dean

 

More Blue Magnet Wine & Dine Recommendations:

  • The Gage on Michigan Ave
  • Longman and Eagle
  • Bavette's Bar & Boeuf
  • Joes
  • RPM
  • Takashi
  • Gilt Bar
  • Kai Zan Sushi

 

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Lou Malnati's

  • The crust is the BEST and they honestly have the best deep dish in Chicago. - Kelsey Nupnau
  • I love their thin crust & deep dish...my favorite in the city for both options. I never grew up with deep dish, but after trying others, this is my favorite of that kind. - Brittany Aller

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria

  • New Haven style pizza (super thin crust, which is a nice change from Chicago's typical gut bomb deep dish stuff) - that reminds me of home. - Michelle Laing
  • This is the #1 spot that Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame goes to eat when he's in town. So, you have possible celebrity sightings, an insane beer list (they brew their own beers!) and delicious pizza. It's also in trendy Wicker Park, with a lot to see and do before or after your meal. - Abby Heft
  • Excellent topping selections and combinations, monthly pizza specials featuring unique toppings and flavors, great brewery atmosphere, award-winning beers, live band karaoke on some nights. - Matt Bitzer

Giordano's

  • This is a really cliche answer, but if you're in Chicago, make sure to try Giordano's (and order deep dish). - Stephanie Hilger

Pequod's Pizza

  • The deep dish with crumbled meatballs and onions is unreal! Always packed on weekends. - Maggie Meyers
  • Skip the line at Lou Malnati's and head straight to Pequod's in Lincoln Park! Their deep dish pizza boasts a caramelized crust that cannot be beat. - Amanda Diamond

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

  • It's not technically pizza, but their pizza pot pie is incredible. They mix melted cheese, sausage, and mushrooms with the best pizza sauce I've ever had and bake it all inside a house-made dough. - Chris Dean

 

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Second City

  • If you can get to a Second City show, do it - great comedy and there are some really good restaurants nearby. - Kelsey Nupnau
  • Another must-do in Chicago - attend a show at Second City. This is one of my favorite places to take out of town guests. Always hilarious and who knows - the folks you see perform might just end up on Saturday Night Live tomorrow! It's great to be able to say, "I knew them before they were famous." - Abby Heft

Sporting Events

  • Sporting events! Chicago is home to great teams with rich history! Check out the Bears at Soldier Field, but make sure you arrive early to get in on the tailgating action! Head over to the United Center to catch the Bulls or Blackhawks or to Wrigleyfield to watch a Cubs game! - Stephanie Hilger
  • I like to take visitors to a sports game whether its a Cubs/Blackhawks/Bears game. The fans in Chicago are so intense and it creates such a fun atmosphere! - Jourdan Dunn

Architecture River Boat Tour

  • Take a river architecture tour. It's touristy, sure, but I've gone several times and it never gets boring. An enjoyable, different perspective of the city during nice weather. - Brittany Aller
  • Do the Wendella River and Lake tour, which is longer and cheaper than the others, and takes you out to the lake for great skyline views. Great, passive way to see the city. - Katharyn Vera

Chicago Parks

  • Chicago is simply the best place to visit any time of year (except winter!) and one of my favorite pastimes is going to one of the many Chicago parks. Whether just lounging and reading a book, soaking in the sun while it lasts, or playing Frisbee you can't go wrong! Enjoy the beautiful Chicago weather on your next visit! - Maddy Fuller
  • If it's in the summer, I always take out-of-town friends to the Lincoln Park Zoo and for a walk along the lake front. Seeing that side of Chicago always surprises them. - Maggie Meyers
  • It's cliche, but everyone should still see the Bean. It's unique. - Caroline Scanlon
  • Check out the concerts in Millennium Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo - Tim Dale

 

More Blue Magnet Things to See & Do Recommendations:

  • Music Box Theatre
  • Rosa's Lounge
  • Eataly
  • Chicago's Lakefront
  • The Signature Lounge on the top Hancock Building
  • Attend a taping of the NPR news show, "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!".

A few more Chicago recommendations that didn't necessarily fit into any of the above categories, but we felt were still worth mentioning:

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Hopleaf

  • It's hard to choose a beer off their list because there are so many worth trying. And it's definitely worth staying for their food. - Caroline Scanlon

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Molly's Cupcakes

  • Delicious and unique flavors of cupcakes that you can eat while swinging on swings in the bakery. So cool! - Michelle Laing

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The Doughnut Vault

  • The gingerbread stack is always a safe, delicious bet, but their seasonal flavors are typically spot on. Make sure you follow them on Twitter though. Once the Donut Vault is sold out, they are closed for the day, but they update their count per flavors throughout the day on Twitter! - Katharyn Vera

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Bub City

  • If you love wearing your favorite flannel shirt, rocking cowboy boots, sipping quality whiskey, all while jamming out to country top hits, then Bub City is for you. Live music on some nights starting around 10pm. Extensive whiskey bar and speciality cocktail list.  I recommend trying the Riverboat Gambler! - Andrea Mann

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North Avenue Beach

  • Favorite Beach?! Chicago has beaches?! Yes, you read that right. Believe it or not, Chicago is home to a number of great beaches. If you're visiting during the summer, I suggest stopping by North Aveune. It's a great spot to watch (or take part) in a sand volleyball game. I also love going to Castaway's (a big boat, 'docked' permanently on the beach - you can't miss it). They have plenty of options for food and drinks and feature live music on the weekends! - Stephanie Hilger

 

Are we missing one of your coveted Chicago spots? Tweet us at @blue_magnet and tell us why it's a Chicago favorite in 140 characters or less!

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You have been hearing about the benefits of a vanity site for your branded hotel for years, and this year you have finally allocated some of your hotel’s marketing budget to this important initiative! Now that your new hotel vanity site is live, you are excited and anxiously anticipating improved results and online revenue increases. But what type of results should you be expecting in the first year? This is a question that clients from branded hotels often ask us at Blue Magnet when we are launching a new hotel website, and although it may be easier said than done, we always encourage hoteliers to set realistic expectations and measurable goals for all online marketing initiatives on day one!

Why Should Your Hotel Invest in a Vanity Website?

The benefits of a vanity website are undeniable. While you need to budget appropriately for a new website (and may have sticker shock at first), it is important to remember that a vanity website is a long term investment for your hotel. Blue Magnet often recommends new vanity websites to our clients for reasons including:

  • Ability to differentiate your hotel from the brand by showcasing its unique personality
  • Better visuals and opportunity to display hotel photography and video
  • More flexibility for content development
  • Ability to target niche keywords and expand presence in search engines
  • Improved user experience designed for improved conversion rate
  • Social media integration
  • Efficient website updates with quick turnaround time
  • Enhanced reporting

As the screenshots below depict, a Crowne Plaza hotel found it challenging to accurately portray the unique charm of their property on the brand site (left). So, Blue Magnet designed and developed a custom vanity site for the hotel to highlight its features and set it apart from the standard Crowne Plaza hotel (right). The hotel took advantage of all benefits listed above in designing and launching the vanity website that clearly captures visitors visually with strong photography and better user experience.

Crowne Plaza Brand SiteVS   Crowne Plaza Vanity Site

Defining Expectations for Vanity Website Performance

Assuming your hotel already has a vanity site, then many, if not ALL of the reasons listed above, must have convinced you to take your hotel’s online marketing to the next level. From Blue Magnet’s extensive experience and expertise in vanity site management, we have proven that all of these benefits work together to produce impressive results. While each hotel website has its own rate of improvement and unique goals, there are common trends with each site that can be used to best set your expectations for the performance in the first year of the site going live. It is also important to note several different factors that can influence each hotel’s online performance, including:

  • Property – the size of hotel, service level, target market (business, leisure, group), and other property-specific assets all play a role in varying results.
  • Market – where the property is located, from a leisure destination to a large city center or small suburb influences results.
  • Photographystrong photography can have a positive impact on website performance, and likewise, poor photography can hinder user experience and negatively impact conversions.
  • Seasonality – annual hotel forecast and local or on-property events can affect results.

In the first year that your hotel’s site is live, you should expect an upward trend in visits and revenue referred from the vanity site when managed effectively. At Blue Magnet, we have seen a wide range in positive ROI for all vanity websites. In most cases, it is important to note that year one’s ROI takes into account the up-front cost of development of the site. Moving forward, in year two, year three, and so forth, as the site establishes its credibility in search engines and without the one-time cost of the site build, ROIs trend upward YOY. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we can calculate ROI, we need to ensure your hotel’s new vanity site gains visibility in search engines.

Ranking in Search Engine Results Pages

What to Expect?

Comprehensive SEO strategies take timeWhen will my site start to appear in the search engines? When will it rank #1 on Google? When can we expect it to rank organically at the top of the SERPs for a specific keyword, like San Diego hotel? Will it show up on Google’s carousel immediately? These are the types of questions we frequently get from clients with new vanity websites. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: a comprehensive and effective SEO strategy takes time. While some vanity sites immediately appear in search engines, others take a couple months’ time to get indexed and begin ranking high for competitive search terms, and it will take even more time to improve rankings for ALL websites. At Blue Magnet, we never promise exact placement in search engines, and we will not promise it now. Never trust an online marketing company that promises you first page or first place ranking on Google. There are no guarantees in SEO. But if your hotel invests in SEO before the site even goes live (and ensures the hotel’s SEO strategy is following all best practices), then your hotel’s site has a better chance for ranking high in the SERPs for relevant key themes quickly.

What Needs to Be Done?
Your hotel’s marketing manager’s first task for the new site will be conducting keyword research to optimize all meta content and on-page copy. It is also very important to submit your sitemap to Google so the search engine can efficiently crawl and index the pages on your site. After you have completed all on-page optimizations, it is just as important to optimize off-site elements. Consistent local listings and third party citations play a critical role in helping your site rank better in SERPs. Previously, your listings most likely all connected and pointed to the brand site, or a variation of the brand URL, or did not list a URL at all. A thorough audit and update of 100+ local listing sites is in order to ensure these are factually correct and pointing to the vanity site URL. You will also need to place an emphasis on link building for your hotel’s new site. You do not want just any old link to point to your new site though, so your SEO specialist will create an aggressive link building strategy to obtain links from relevant websites with respectable domain authorities. All of these organic SEO initiatives are imperative in order for Google and Bing to recognize your hotel’s new site and begin placing it on search engine results pages. And all of these efforts are on-going; some might say SEO is like mowing the lawn, in that it requires continual maintenance to be effective. So can you realistically expect your hotel’s website to rank #1 for your desired keyword immediately? No, but with proper SEO strategies in place (and patience), the chances will greatly improve.

Visitor Traffic

What to Expect?
How many people will visit my site each month? Is 5,000 visits a good amount of traffic for a new site? Is 77% unique visitors in line with what other hotels see? We often hear these types of questions from our clients immediately following a site launch. There is no single answer to satisfy each hotelier’s curiosity – so I have to refer back to the qualifications mentioned earlier and reiterate that every hotel and market is different. What I can say is: Blue Magnet implements Google Analytics tracking on all of our hotel’s vanity sites to ensure that we are constantly monitoring site traffic and striving to improve the numbers over time. You should expect an upward trend in traffic month over month in the first year, with exceptions due to seasonality or special promotions that may skew MOM reports. For example, if your hotel aggressively promotes its New Year’s Eve “Take the Elevator Home” party and room package, you should not be disheartened to see a dip in MOM site traffic towards the end of the month in February’s reporting.

Reporting from Google Analytics can provide excellent insights to the website’s performance. In the screenshot below, you can see at a glance the site’s performance in growing traffic after first launching the site and improving MOM with occasional drops that may be due to seasonality.  Again, it's important to note, that although there are occasional dips in traffic, the overall trend is positive over the life of the campaign.
New vanity site traffic growth

What Needs to Be Done?
The same SEO tactics that we reviewed in the previous section, which are necessary to implement for your site to rank well in search engines, will directly impact your hotel’s growth in site visits. Your marketing manager will also focus on growing your referral traffic by acquiring new links to point to the new vanity website. Using the former URL (probably brand site URL), you can pull a link profile to identify sites already referring traffic to your hotel. From this list you can reach out to sites to update the link to direct traffic to the vanity website. This not only impacts the new site’s link juice to rank better in SERPs, it also directs traffic to the new site that has been better optimized for a great user experience and higher conversion rate. Your marketing manager should be continuously analyzing the data in Google Analytics to determine quality visitors – visitors who are most likely to convert. Keep in mind that quality is not the same thing as quantity. It is more important to have a quality visitor that is interested in your hotel’s content than a lot of visits from irrelevant or low-quality users. How can you determine a high-quality visitor? By implementing goal tracking in your Google Analytics, you will be able to segment your traffic and clearly benchmark behavior – look for visitors that click through to multiple pages, submit RFPs, fill out the contact us form, click for more information on your packages, or check availability using your hotel’s booking widget. Your online strategies should be focused on driving relevant high-quality traffic to the site, so that these visitors are more likely to convert to a guest at your hotel.

Site Revenue and ROI

What to Expect?
I know, your ultimate question is: how much revenue is the hotel’s vanity site going to produce in a month, a quarter, a year? Is this incremental revenue that the hotel would not have booked if it did not have a vanity site? As I have consistently explained with previous answers; there is a wide range of revenue we have seen sites produce in the first year. Each property and market will have different factors contributing to differences in expected and actual revenue. The trend is certainly upward MOM in the first year with Vanity site revenue growth YOYvariances due to seasonality and availability. As the site performs better in the search engines and drives considerable high-quality traffic, you can expect revenue to grow as well.


An interesting finding we have identified is that average daily rate is often higher when booked through the vanity site than on other online channels. On the vanity site, you are able to attract more leisure travelers who book without brand loyalty discounts and are more interested in value-add packages which help drive room rate. Your marketing manager should continually optimize the website with fresh content and offers to improve conversions and drive revenue through the site. As for ROI expectations in year one, expect a positive return; we have seen ranges vary between 16:1 to 60:1 in the first year, and continue to grow in year two and beyond. As seen in the graph, with time, strategy, and continued site improvement, revenue grows dramatically year over year resulting in brag-worthy ROIs.

What Needs to Be Done?
Your eMarketing strategy is never complete. There are always opportunities to improve the site by refreshing SEO or updating your content marketing strategy based on findings in Analytics. As it is difficult to track conversions for hotels that must funnel reservations through brand sites, it is a best practice to set up a ‘Thank You’ page to track visitors that click an offer or use the booking widget to check availability. This page is only visible after a user checks availability to make a reservation. If your site is performing well, meaning it does a good job of prompting curious visitors to check rate, the ‘Thank You’ page should be among your pages with the highest page views. As this is the main goal of the site, we read into Analytics to determine pages that need updating and what rooms, packages, or events your guests seem to be most interested in. We ask questions such as: Are visitors finding what they are looking for? Are they bouncing off certain pages? Are they staying on the site long enough? Are they clicking through to other pages? Which room types are people most interested in? What special offer garners the most attention and clicks for more information? By finding answers to these questions we can identify which pages need copy refresh for better user experience and what primary selling points should be more visible on the site to improve the conversion rate.

Beyond the Numbers

With any vanity site, hoteliers should always look for more marketing opportunities with the site. Although it’s difficult, I advise you to not to get too caught up in the numbers when your site launches; rather, think about the core components of the site that can ultimately help your hotel achieve new traffic and revenue records. With your vanity website you now have a new marketing channel with enhanced capabilities apart from the brand site, and listed below are important site elements that you should utilize to help your hotel reach its goals!

  • Landing Pages – expand the site’s content with unique landing pages geared towards topics with search volume and that contain valuable information for your site guests.
  • Hotel Marketing – get creative with opportunities on your website to market special offers, events, amenities, and more with updated masthead images, banner ads, announcements, and prime placement of calls-to-action.
  • Analytics – dig into Google Analytics to identify more ways to improve your site; from updating pages with high bounce rates to switching out banner ads to produce more clicks, there’s always more opportunity to produce better results.
  • Mobile Optimization – Is the site mobile friendly? Is it responsive? To convert last minute searchers into guests at your hotel, ensure mobile users are able to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for.

Best of luck with your new vanity website! Set your expectations before the launch of the new vanity site and outline a multi-faceted marketing strategy to help you achieve your hotel’s goals. By understanding the critical areas to optimize your vanity website, you can expect to see all performance metrics rise throughout the year and continue to improve year over year. While vanity sites should be designed to provide the best user experience from the get-go and SEO’d before launch, active site management and strategizing are necessary for the site to continuously perform up to or better than your expectations.

Related Articles:

  • Hotel Website FAQ# 1: Should our hotel website be built on a proprietary CMS or an open source CMS?
  • Hotel Website FAQ# 3: What is the Difference Between Responsively Designed Websites and Separate Mobile Sites?
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As a hotelier, you may realize the importance of understanding your audience when creating effective marketing strategies, but do you know you how much easier it just became to really get to know your audience? Thanks to a new addition to Google Analytics, you can now snoop a little deeper into the behaviors and lifestyles of the people that visit your hotel's website. Google Analytics recently added Demographics and Interests tabs to its reporting, providing hoteliers with a unique insight into the age, gender, and lifestyle traits of their websites' visitors. This added knowledge allows hoteliers to create a better user experience on their hotels' websites and refine their marketing strategies to target potential high-value guests.

Before getting the opportunity to dive into Google Analytics' new data, you must enable the new reporting function. For detailed instructions, please visit Google Analytics Support. Once the reporting has been enabled, you will be able to see your website data broken out into two categories - Demographics and Interests. It's also important to note that for both Interests and Demographics, the information is based on a percentage of your total site visitors and should be viewed as estimation. Therefore, the data in both of these tabs may not be a completely accurate representation of your site's visitors, but it can definitely show you valuable trends.

How is this Information Obtained?

Information provided in the Demographics and Interests tabs in Google Analytics is derived from the implementation of the DoubleClick cookie. Cookies are small files, each with their unique identifier, that are saved in a visitor's browser and allow servers to differentiate one browser from the next. The DoubleClick cookie uses this same premise to keep track of which ad has been shown to which browser and is therefore able to track conversions. For example, when a user views your website where you have enabled the DoubleClick cookie and then later uses the same browser to visit your site again and converts.

To protect the rights of minors, Google does not include data on visitors below the age of 18. If you are going to utilize the new Demographics and Interest tabs in Analytics by enabling the DoubleClick cookie, it is best practice to update your site's Privacy Policy to ensure visitors are aware of the new cookie that will be stored in their browser. If users are uncomfortable with the new cookie, they have the option to opt out of DoubleClick cookie ID.

What Does the Demographics Tab Show?

The Demographics tab segments Google Analytics data into three sub-sections: overview, age, and gender.

  • Overview - The Overview displays a high-level glance at your visitors' ages and genders based on the key metric that you select, such as visits, bounce rate, or average visit duration. In the image below, the Overview data shows the visitor age and gender breakdown based on 40.43% of total visits to the site.Visits Overview
  • Age - The Age tab provides a much closer look at how each age group behaved on the site by using metrics such as bounce rate, pages/visit, and transactions or goal completions. Displayed in a table that can be sorted by each metric, this information can show you which age group visited your site the most and which had the highest conversion rate during a given time period. By looking at this data you are able to determine which groups convert well but don't necessarily visit in sufficient numbers. For instance, in the below example we see that 25-34 year olds visit this site the most often, but convert at one of the lowest rates. On the other hand, 55-64 year olds convert at a much higher rate, but don't visit in large numbers.
  • Demographics Age

By noticing these trends, a hotel can uncover high-value guests that it may not have considered marketing to before and can tailor site content based on these potential visitors. Why do 55-64 year old guests select this hotel instead of its competitors? Do they like that this hotel offers free breakfast and valet parking? Do they love that the rooms are extremely spacious? That this hotel has a free airport shuttle and 24/7 concierge? As a hotelier, make it your mission to determine what elements are important to this target age group - even if that means asking some guests within this age range next time they check-out or reading through months of TripAdvisor reviews! Highlight these areas of the hotel on its website callout boxes and hotel special offers to continue to increase conversions within the 55-64 year old age group.

  • Gender - Similar to the data that is displayed in the Age tab, the Gender tab shows the breakdown of users into male and female based on the same site usage and goal completion metrics mentioned above. This information can give you insight into how different genders interact with your site. For instance, based on the information below, we can gather that women tend to have a higher conversion rate for this particular hotel, suggesting that this hotel should be tailoring its marketing strategies to female guests. This hotel should consider what amenities women feel are most important when booking a hotel and devise a plan to highlight those pivotal items on the website. Do women book at the hotel because it has a top-rated spa next door? If so, the hotel should create a banner ad on its homepage to highlight the hotel's close proximity to the spa or the spa's discounted rate for hotel guests!Demographics Gender

What Does the Interests Tab Show?

The Interests tabs provide insights into your visitors' lifestyle interests such as food, travel, sports, and news. The Interest tab is segmented into four areas: Overview, Affinity Categories, In-Market Categories, and Other Categories.

  • Overview - This section provides us with a sweeping view of the three interest categories based on a key metric, Visits in the image below. As noted above, the information is based on a percentage of your total site visitors and should be viewed as estimation.Interests Overview
  • Affinity Categories - Affinity Categories are broad classifications of user lifestyles. These are people that are just starting their purchasing process. Hoteliers can use an analysis of Affinity Categories to reach potential new guests by understanding their interests. As you can see in the table below, Affinity Categories range from TV lovers to travel buffs and everything in between. This is an excellent opportunity to consider new hotel specials that match the interests of your site visitors. In the example below, visitors that are interested in sports convert at a lower rate than those that are interested in family television shows. In an effort to increase conversions of sports fans, the hotel might consider creating a package that includes tickets to a sporting event with a complimentary shuttle or a free appetizer with a bucket of beers in the bar.Affinity Categories
  • In-Market Categories - In this section you will find a breakdown of users who are in the market for a specific product and are more likely to convert. You will find a smaller amount of site visits categorized as In-Market compared to the two other segments. This is simply because it is harder for Google to pinpoint which users are in the market to make a purchase for that specific industry. However, over time Google Analytics will be adding to the list of In-Market Categories.

In-Market CategoriesThe data provided by the In-Market segment can help target your PPC ads. By analyzing the data in the new Google Analytics tabs, you are not only able to determine which age groups and genders are most likely to convert, but this information will also help you when selecting the target audience for your ads. Similarly, you can easily refine your marketing lists by eliminating any ad spend that you are currently using on low-value customers and increasing spend on customers with a high conversion rate.

By taking reports like In-Market segments into consideration before creating your next PPC ad, you can create specific ads to focus on each category, which should result in a higher conversion rate. Take the In-Market data above - if your hotel is located next to botanical gardens or a local greenhouse and you are trying to reach the group of visitors that are interested in home and garden, you should highlight that information in your ad by including your close proximity to the venue in the ad copy and link the ad to a landing page dedicated to the local attraction.

  • Other Categories - Providing a more detailed view of your audience's interests, Other Categories classifies users by the content they absorb and how often they do so. Users are going to be interested in learning more about the specific categories that they already engage with and therefore will be more likely to convert if the site's content matches their interests. With the new information that the Interests tab provides you, you will be able to explore different opportunities within your website to create a better user-experience. You will be able to tailor your content based on your audience's interests, demographics, and lifestyle traits. For example, in the screenshot below, we can see that people who are interested in Food & Drink/Cooking & Recipes are visiting the hotel's site in large quantities and are viewing more pages per visit and spending more time on the site than visitors with other interests.Other Categories This indicates that this segment of visitors are more likely to spend additional time on the site exploring content than the other segments, so if the hotel added content that would be of interest to food enthusiasts, they may be more inclined to make a reservation at the hotel, whether at the hotel restaurant or by booking a room night. After analyzing this information, this particular hotel decided to build more dining content by including a "Meet The Chef" page. Blue Magnet now updates the hotel's website each month with one of the Chef's favorite recipes to provide the visitors with relevant content that would be of interest to their food audience. Additionally, we update the page with seasonal menu items or chef specials to maintain fresh content and encourage visitors to return.

Key Takeaways

Understanding the lifestyles and demographics of people who visit your site will allow you to discover new opportunities, tailor your hotel's online marketing strategy and provide a better user experience during the guests' planning and booking stages. Enabling the Demographics and Interests tabs in Google Analytics is beneficial for a hotel and can provide openings to expand content on your site, better target your ads, and add new amenities or packages that cater to high-value audiences.

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If you're anything like me, you may occasionally find yourself Googling acronyms you overhear colleagues, clients, friends, or even your little nephew say in order to decode their seemingly cryptic code. In the fast paced digital world we're all living in, shortened phrases can save us time… when we know what they mean. Unfortunately, we don't always know what they mean and oftentimes they vary across industries and professions. In the hotel marketing world, it's not uncommon to overhear some conversation along the lines of: "Will you log out of the CMS then check the CTRs of our latest PPC campaign and update the KPI report by EOD? Please, and thanks!" You stand there for a second, puzzled. She wants her to do what?!

In this post, we'll uncover the mystery behind some of the most commonly used digital marketing acronyms to help hoteliers make sense of our hotel online marketing jargon.

Website Terms

CMS: Content Management System
Hotel Marketer Context: "Can you provide us with the login to your hotel website's CMS?"

Content Management Systems are web-based tools that allow you, as a website administrator, to easily update your site's content without needing to be intimately familiar with HTML coding. A CMS helps you arrange how your website will look, determine what it will say, and point to where your links will lead. The beauty of a CMS is that it takes care of much of the "behind the scenes" work that non-technical website admins might otherwise spend hours attempting to figure out. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we build our clients' websites on open source CMSs like Joomla or Wordpress, which provide user-friendly interfaces and allow clients to have more control over their hotel's website in the long run.

UX: User Experience
Hotel Marketer Context: "We're designing your hotel's new standalone site to have a cleaner layout and overall improved UX."

Remember the last time you visited a website that took so long to load that you gave up on your search? Or when you landed on a homepage that was so cluttered with text and flashing images that your eyes didn't know where to look first? Or, my favorite, when the website's text is in such a searingly bright color that you can barely make out the words on the page? These are all examples of poor user experience. Since websites are meant to be marketing tools that help generate sales, your hotel's website should be designed in the most user friendly way possible.

Wondering what makes a website user friendly? In two simple words: site architecture. A site with a good UX usually has a fast page load time, logical link structure, clean layout, and no 404 errors. To put it bluntly, if your guests aren't thinking about how impossible it is to book a room on your website, your site is probably providing a good user experience!

Advertising Terms

CTR: Click-Through Rate
Hotel Marketer Context: "Your hotel's latest e-newsletter had a 14% CTR when we featured the holiday package. That's the highest rate we've seen so far!"

ctr meme

In layman's terms: CTR = total people who clicked your content / total people who saw your content

In advertising terms: CTR = total clicks / total reach

Example: 750 people clicked your Facebook ad / 25,000 people saw your Facebook ad = 3% CTR

Click-through rates ultimately indicate how compelling your content is. Was it compelling enough to get a visitor to click the button, link, or ad? As a hotelier, you may have heard your marketing specialist refer to CTR when reviewing your hotel's email marketing campaign (what was the CTR of the link to your website?), assessing your hotel's Expedia TravelAd reports (what was the CTR of shoppers actually clicking the ad they were exposed to?), or when reporting how well your hotel's Facebook ad performed (what was the CTR of Facebook users who saw the ad and actually clicked the link to "like" your page?). The more relevant and interesting your content is to your audience, the higher the click-through rate will be.

Strategic marketers have gotten very creative with ways to increase their campaigns' CTRs. In reference to website links, one of the smartest marketers I know once said, "Where there's traffic, there's hope." The higher the CTR, the more website traffic, the better and the chances you'll sell your hotel rooms! See where I'm going with this?

PPC: Pay Per Click
Hotel Marketer Context: "If April is a high need period for your hotel, we can set up a PPC campaign targeting mobile searches to bring in more website traffic."

Pay Per Click is an advertising model that we talk about mainly when referring to online ads. These types of ads show up as "sponsored" results on search engine result pages. We use PPC advertising to capture the attention of customers who would likely otherwise click on the first organic search result they see. The beauty of PPC is that advertisers only pay for desired actions taken by their audience rather than paying for an advertisement's total exposure.

*BONUS acronym* "CPC" stands for "cost per click" and is an advertising metric often referenced in conjunction with PPC campaigns. For example, while running a PPC ad campaign, you may find that your average CPC is $0.35. In other words, you are paying $0.35 each time someone clicks your ad. PPC advertisements should be highly targeted using keywords and demographic metrics. More on PPC tips for your hotel here.

Search Engines Terms

SEM: Search Engine Marketing
Hotel Marketer Context: "This month we're focusing on our SEM efforts by identifying more link building opportunities for your property."

Here's a topic all of us at BMI could go on and on (and on and on) about, but instead, I'll kindly give you the short summary. Search Engine Marketing refers to a whole slew of online tactics we use to improve a website's overall ranking in search results. Specifically with hotel marketing, our SEM efforts combine search engine optimization (and all that SEO entails), local listings, social media, link building, and PPC advertising (aren't you glad you already understand that acronym?!).

SERP: Search Engine Results Page
Hotel Marketer Context: "After updating the meta content for your hotel's website, the site is now ranking 3 positions higher on Google's SERP!"

(Pronounced like "Slurp" but without the "L". Try it. It's kind of fun to say.) I'm willing to bet that you already know more about SERPs than you think. Any time you enter a search term or phrase into Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine, the information and links to related websites that the search engine returns on your screen make up SERPs. Some of the key components you'll see on SERPs include organic search results, sponsored search results, social search results, rich snippets of information that Google thinks you'll be interested in, and Google's "carousel" of location based results.

Local Search Terms

NAP: Name, Address, Phone
Hotel Marketer Context: "We're auditing all of your hotel's local listings to make sure your hotel's NAP is consistent throughout the internet."

NAP (also sometimes called NAP-W or NAP-U ["W" stands for "Website", or "U" for "URL"]) refers to your hotel's online identity. In the messy, unpredictable world of local listings, the more consistently your hotel's NAP appears across listings, the more trusted your hotel will be in the eyes of search engines (and guests). So, for example, you don't want use your hotel's 1-800 number in one listing while using its local number in another. Also, be careful not to abbreviate addresses in some listings (St. vs. Street) while fully spelling them out in others. While Google is pretty darn smart, it can be easily confused by conflicting NAPs. Bottom line: to ensure your hotel avoids an identity crisis and establishes authority in search results, NAP consistency is key!

Social Media Terms

RT: Re-tweet
Hotel Marketer Context: "Last month your hotel's Twitter account had 15 RTs which led to an overall increase in website referral traffic from Twitter."

Re-tweets are one of the most important Twitter metrics for measuring successful patterns of audience engagement. RTs are essentially social re-shares of your message to a new audience that was otherwise out of your reach. For example, let's say your hotel wants to drive room sales so you tweet a special discount code. Your followers will see your discount code, and, if the deal is juicy enough, one of your followers may RT your message to his network of followers. This ripple effect will allow your message to be seen by not only your followers, but also by the followers of anyone who RT-ed your message. The more RTs your tweets get, the wider the reach and exposure your message will receive. Ensure your tweets are informative, compelling, or humorous to increase your chances of getting a RT.

AWDLY: Are We Done Learning Yet?

There are hundreds of other digital marketing related acronyms out there, but by understanding some of these more commonly used terms, you'll be able to better understand your hotel marketer's reports and recommendations.

If you're ever unsure of what a digital marketing acronym stands for, tweet us at @blue_magnet and we'll do our best to explain it to you in 140 characters or less!

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We pay Senior Account Manager Abby Heft in melted nacho cheese.

It's possible that she concocted the idea upon hearing that circus elephants are sometimes compensated with peanuts…in cartoons. In fact, within her original employment agreement at Blue Magnet she crossed out the proposed salary and wrote in "nacho cheese," then approved the revision with the initials AH (and cheesy fingerprint smudges) to lock it in.

But while you, sane reader, may question her logic, you simply can't argue with Abby Heft's performance, as our first Blue Magneteer Award winner of 2014! Fueled by a steady income of liquid gold, Abby bounds over hotel eMarketing hurdles like Superman leaps tall buildings…if he were on a raging cheese high.

BlueMagneteerAward-AbbyHeft

Dizzying Highs & Terrifying Lows

But with every dizzying cheese high comes the inevitable, terrifying lactose low. It turns out Abby felt like she was hitting a wall with one of her favorite Pacific Northwest hotels. Site performance was starting to plateau, local competition in the market was heating up, and general site growth was beginning to taper off. But Abby loves her hotel client in Bellevue, WA. So much so, in fact, that it prompted one team member to question that if she loves it so much why doesn't she marry it. So, as with any committed relationship, Abby wasn't about to toss in the towel without a fight.

Abby To The Rescue

After analyzing the situation, Abby's first goal was to generate more web traffic by optimizing the site for "Bellevue hotels" related keywords, a competitive term with high search volume with which the hotel had always struggled. Taking action, Abby re-optimized every page and scrubbed away hundreds of spammy links pointing to the site. It wasn't long before the keyword "Bellevue hotels" rocketed to the top of the charts for search query volume in Google Analytics' Search Optimization charts.

In addition to SEO, Abby also revised the hotel's on-page user experience by including more enticing special offers and prominent calls-to-action in key positions throughout the site. As a result, the number of guests who checked room availability on the site jumped 76% for the fourth quarter of 2013 YOY. Most importantly, that increase in clicks yielded a cheese-melting 18% surge in standalone site revenue this quarter over the same period last year!

With performance like this, it's no wonder Abby claimed the January 2014 Blue Magneteer Award. Said Abby upon claiming her award: "Thank you, Blue Magnet! I'm going to keep kicking ass in the name of hotel emarketing everywhere. Just make sure you keep delivering those buckets of nacho cheese to my door."

Not to worry, Abby--as long as you keep working your magic, Blue Magnet promises not to cut the cheese.

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If there is one thing Patrick McCarthy prizes above all else, it's a good sit. No distractions. No interruptions. No nonsense. Just a comfortable chair for settling in for an indeterminate period of time. A truly fine sit, however, would not be complete without the accompaniment of a good book in one hand and a tumbler of Wild Turkey in the other, according to McCarthy.

Still, whiskey and literature aside, Patrick has claimed the November 2013 Blue Magneteer Award, standing sitting tall above the rest with his intense focus on SEO and outstanding leadership. And it's all thanks to a mighty fine sit that lasted the entire month of November.

Patrick McCarthy wins the November 2013 Blue Magneteer Award!

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing great American obesity epidemic and its simple, one-click, press-of-a-button lifestyle, inactivity has become the latest boogeyman conjured up by the media these days, threatening Patrick's cherished pastime. Yet, despite recent studies clearly identifying the undisputed and very serious health risks of prolonged human immobility (like that of the common computer user), Patrick's resolve has only strengthened with every ossifying American joint and every hunching American spine.

Fortunately for Patrick, unlike the rest of the human population that may have been ill-equipped for the sedentary life, Patrick's preferred extracurricular activity has properly conditioned him for a career in the "doing something with computers" industry--a perfect fit for Blue Magnet.

Now, that's not to say Patrick's stationary lifestyle is an indication of a lackadaisical, unmotivated or unproductive approach to work. Quite the contrary! He's simply most productive while tethered to his favorite chair…any chair.

The Source of Patrick's Power

Some have theorized that his spine is composed of pure adamantium with obvious Wolverine-like regenerative properties, elastically reshaping to its original, healthy form like a memory foam mattress. Other rumors persist that due to a terrible accident as a young boy he received a controversial heart transplant from a two-toed sloth-a heart unaffected by the burden of static inertia. Still, some have suggested that the guy simply prefers not to move, happily shaving off years of an active existence in favor of a life less mobile.

Regardless of where Patrick McCarthy summons this X-men-esque, sloth-hearted, inanimate strength from, his sitting has finally paid off and earned him the November 2013 Blue Magnteer Award! But it's not the sit that wins awards--it's the man behind the sit. And this man is a search-engine-optimizing, hotel-marketing powerhouse--a loud, energetic, positive force in the office, and clad in mostly tweed--but nevertheless quite stationary.

Leading Like a King Glued To His Throne

As a Senior Account Manager and expert in all things SEO, Patrick not only skillfully shapes his clients' sites into revenue-generating masterpieces, but also trains and strengthens the Blue Magnet team on SEO best practices, ensuring that, though they may not have the marathon, desk-time endurance as Patrick, their digital minds are just as honed.

Specifically, Patrick recently conducted a full site audit and implemented a thorough search engine optimization overhaul of the entire site for a new client located in Turks and Caicos. Not only did his efforts yield a 54% increase in overall organic search impressions month-over-month (increased online visibility), but generated an amazing 60% increase in overall organic search clicks month-over-month (active engagement with our site). In addition to executing crucial SEO tactics throughout the site, Patrick redirected and restructured the entire site for a clean implementation of the site's architecture behind-the-scenes. These efforts combined generated significant online visibility and user engagement with the site.

While many weaker men and women would have succumbed to scoliosis long ago, Patrick sits tall in his seat as yet the latest example of the best, brightest and least mobile of Blue Magnet!

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OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) – hoteliers love to hate them. Unfortunately, they’re an important part of your hotel’s eMarketing strategy. Joe Schmo down the road doesn’t know anything about rate parity or the exorbitant margins your hotel has to pay when guests book a room on an OTA; however Joe Schmo does know that the Travelocity gnome is adorable and that those William Shatner Priceline commercials are hilarious. So, when he’s looking for a hotel in city X, Joe turns to his favorite OTA to begin shopping.

Although many hotels typically offer a best price guarantee to counter OTAs and encourage guests to book directly with the hotel, it’s seemingly difficult to get their message out to everyone. So if they have rooms to fill, it’s often best practice for hotels to just play along and fight the OTA battle.

Expedia is the giant in the OTA landscape. If your hotel is playing nice with OTAs and you need to sell rooms quickly or have specific need dates, then Expedia’s TravelAd solution is a great advertising opportunity. Many hotels enroll in the Expedia Travel Ads program at some point or another– but are they using the ads strategically to get the most bang for their buck? Probably not.

Here are 5 tips for hotels to increase their ROI from Expedia TravelAds:

1. Be sure your your hotel’s Expedia listing is optimized. The first thing to check is your hotel’s thumbnail photo – is it the best representation of your property? If you don’t have a great exterior shot of the hotel, it doesn’t hurt to use a pool image or a beautiful room or lobby photo. This is your hotel’s first interaction with a potential guest – showcase your hotel’s best assets! You can also add up to 4 photos for each room type. Make sure each room type has at least has 1 photo, but try adding 4 if possible so you can create a visual experience for your shoppers. This can be the view from the room, an amenity photo, a bathroom photo – anything that will help sell your room. Lastly, check your descriptions and available amenities. Are you highlighting everything a guest will love about your hotel? Is all of the information completely accurate? Guests will not appreciate false promises – and you can be sure incorrect information will come back to bite you in the reviews later on.

2. Read a few of your hotel’s best Expedia reviews to determine what to highlight in ad copy. Maybe all of your guests are raving about an outdoor fire pit during winter – might be worthwhile to try out an ad highlighting that inviting amenity in your copy. This is actually a good place to get ideas not only for TravelAd copy, but also for hotel descriptions and your website copy. Keep in mind, TravelAds don’t need to be written for SEO – your goal is to grab users’ attention so they click for more information. Write compelling travel ad copy that will resonate with your potential guests!

3. Don’t set Search/Booking dates if your hotel has ads targeting Travel Dates within the next couple of months. For example, if you have an ad targeting travel dates during the first week of March, it’s pretty likely that folks are booking right now in early February. You don’t want to miss out on those potential guests traveling in March if you have your ad scheduled to appear only for guests searching towards the end of February. The Travel Dates are important – Search/Booking dates, not so much.

ROI-travelads

 

4. Be sure you cap your hotel’s spend by setting a daily/weekly/monthly budget. Otherwise, you could spend your entire ad balance in the blink of an eye. If you are continuously maxing out your budget early in the day, either look at possibly increasing the budget or set a reminder for yourself to turn your ads on in the afternoon and have them paused at the beginning of the day. Manually turning your ads on later in the day will ensure that your ad only appears for a shopper searching in the afternoon and evening, and it is likely that your competitors have already run out of their budget by then and are not showing at all.

5. Make friends with your hotel’s Expedia Market Manager and Travel Ads Account Manager. These guys can be a wealth of information and can be really helpful in planning your Expedia TravelAd strategy. If you notice that all of a sudden your hotel is not getting any bookings or if the “recent market price” for your TravelAds skyrockets, a quick phone call with your Market Manager can usually provide you with insight and new strategies. Also, Expedia’s Market Managers are generally cool folks! At Blue Magnet, we look forward to chatting with our Expedia Market Manager contacts any chance we get… that’s how we’ve uncovered some of these fantastic strategies for our own clients’ ads!

By following the 5 tips above, hoteliers can start working towards improving their Expedia TravelAds ROI and increasing occupancy during need periods. With so much competition on OTAs, it’s tricky for hotels to get in front of potential guests and convert them into actual guests. Expedia TravelAds can help maximize your hotel’s exposure to a plethora of innocent shoppers, but it’s the hotelier’s job to make sure that first impressions turn into sales!

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*Update (Feb 21, 2014 at 10:00am): You can now go back into your hotel's Facebook page subcategories and add 'Hotel' without it changing to 'Hotel Mooshaus.'

Did you wake up this morning, log on to Facebook, and realize that your hotel decided to change its name to Hotel Mooshaus? Well you're not alone! All hotel Facebook pages have been edited to include a bizarre update on their hotel’s information - the subcategory 'Hotel' has mysteriously changed to 'Hotel Mooshaus'.

About Section with Hotel Mooshaus subcategory

What exactly is Hotel Mooshaus?

We're still trying to figure that out. As of now, if you click on the Hotel Mooshaus subcategory it will take you to a mysterious Topic page. At time of writing, 13,019 people like Hotel Mooshaus on Facebook:

Facebook Mooshaus page

Don't have moose at your hotel? How can you fix your hotel’s Facebook page?

Right now, Blue Magnet has a support ticket open with Facebook to fix this issue on our clients’ Facebook pages. Plus, with Mooshaus trending on Twitter, it's bound to get picked up by Facebook's support staff pretty quickly.

mooshaus-trend-twitter

In the meantime, you can temporarily fix your hotel’s page on your own by removing the 'Hotel Mooshaus' subcategory from the Facebook page categories until their support staff fixes the issue.

  1. Go into your About section
  2. Click to Edit your Page Info
  3. Under 'Subcategories' hit 'Edit' and hit the 'X' on Hotel Mooshaus:

 remove-mooshaus

You don't have to edit your main category - it should still be listed as 'Local Business: Hotel':

Keep as Local Business: Hotel

Will this happen again?

It's possible. Facebook pages within the 'hotel' subcategory have been hacked before, which is why it's always a great idea to check your Facebook page’s 'About' section from time to time. The most recent Facebook hack that affected hotels specifically was a mysterious 'APPhotel.com' subcategory, which has since been removed.

Apphotel example

When can you go back and add 'Hotel' as a subcategory again?

I find this amoosingWe'll keep you updated on our conversations with Facebook and let you know when the issue has been corrected. But, for now, we definitely recommend removing 'Hotel Mooshaus' as a subcategory to avoid any confusion!

 

 

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As social media becomes a larger and more powerful marketing tool for hotels, consumers are getting more particular about which brand and business pages they communicate with. Online communities interacting with your hotel are becoming more focused and detail-oriented, so hotels must provide relevant and community-oriented posts to keep their audience engaged. Managing an active social media presence is not easy. Time is precious, and staying in-the-loop with community events and happenings can become overwhelming. Luckily, there are many informative resources available to all social media managers to ease the stress of managing a social media presence for your hotel. Whether you are managing your hotel's social media in-house or you are providing social media marketing services from off-property, you can ensure that you're always establishing the hotel as a local expert on social media with the tips below.

Pro Tip #1: The best local resources can be easily found...locally!

The lobby of your hotel can sometimes seem like its own community, but it's important to stay abreast of local events happening in your neighborhood, town, and city. Bookmark local news sites and sign up for area newsletters to filter nearby events and happenings directly to your inbox. Not only will this save you time scouring the web for relevant content, but it will also save your guests time! By spoon-feeding useful and relevant local event resources to your guests on social media, you are eliminating their need to proactively search for nearby activities which ultimately enhances their hotel experience. The following resources will provide you with great information about local community events, news and happenings, which you can then share on your hotel's social networks.

Neighborhood Patch website

Many neighborhoods or communities are covered by an online Neighborhood Patch. These hyper-local online resources are backed by AOL, and they focus on news, events, local businesses and more. They are often managed by a single editor who is also very active on social media. As you scan see in the screenshot below, I used the the Walnut Creek Patch to alert the hotel's Facebook fans to free yoga sessions nearby!

diamondblog patch

Convention and Visitors Bureau newsletters

Your local CVB is often an ideal resource for community events, dining guides, and attractions. Their job is to promote various goings-on in your area, which in turn makes it much easier for you to learn about local events and attractions. They are also great resources for more unique local attractions, such as outdoor hiking trails! In the example below, I found unique content on the local Asheville CVB's website to promote the town as a "Hunger Games" fan tourist destination on the hotel's Facebook page.

diamondblog cvb

Local magazines and publications

Have you ever walked by a newspaper stand featuring free local newspapers? Be sure to pick one up and take a look, you may be surprised at what you can find! Local publications are often ideal resources for learning more about your local dining, music, sports and entertainment options. From 'best of' dining lists to weekend previews, be sure to check out your local online or published newspapers or magazines for some great social media content. Plus, many national publications such as 'Eater' & 'Serious Eats' manage their national accounts alongside local-focused sites. These lists are very helpful resources for visitors and locals alike so don't be shy about sharing this content from your hotel's social media sites. I like utilizing community-based publications, such as 'Diablo Magazine', to share 'Top 10' type lists on Facebook or Twitter that our guests can explore during their next visit.

diamondblog localpublications

Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

Would you like to provide your social media fans and guests with something to do in the area that is a little different than the typical tourist attraction? Then look no further than Atlas Obscura and Roadside America, two websites that will guide you to the most unique and offbeat locations in your area. From haunted bars to wacky museums, you'll find it all on these unusual sites. By promoting unique attractions on your hotel's Facebook page, you showcase a distinct personality that sets your hotel apart from its competitors. Below, Embassy Suites San Luis Obispo thinks outside of the box by highlighting a hidden gem in the area with the hotel's Facebook fans, courtesy of Atlas Obscura.

 diamondblog atlasobscura

Pro Tip #2: Actively monitor to avoid actively searching.

You may not consider Twitter and Facebook to be search engines, but the search functionality on these resources can actually prove to be a more efficient use of time for a social media manager than searching for content on Google or Bing. In addition, Google offers a great resource through its Google Alerts that allows users to save time and energy by eliminating the need to dig through pages of search engine results.

Monitoring mentions and keywords on Twitter/Facebook

The simplest way to stay in the loop online is by monitoring hashtags about your city! Both Twitter and Facebook organize topics by hashtags, enabling you to easily monitor community-related topics, events, and news. In the screenshot below, I am searching for tweets that contain #asheville to see what is currently going on in the city. The snowy weather seemed to be a common theme in #asheville on this particular day, so I used that information to guide the hotel's tweets for the day.

diamondblog keywordmonitoring

It's also beneficial to use a social media monitoring tool to help you easily filter through Twitter conversations and engage in valuable interactions. At Blue Magnet, we prefer to use Sprout Social to help monitor conversations on various social channels. Their 'Smart Search' feature lets us follow hashtags and key phrases so they appear in our inbox, whether the person included our Twitter handle in their message or not. For example, in the screenshot below you can see how this hotel's social media manager utilized 'Smart Search' to monitor tweets containing keywords "hotel in San Diego" and proactively extended an invitation to a potential new guest!

diamondblog sproutmonitoring

Filtering articles to your inbox through Google Alerts

Google Alerts allows you to save time actively searching for content to share on social media by filtering recently published articles right to your inbox. You can easily customize the types of results you want to see and how often you receive them. You can filter your results by news, blogs, and even video. For example, if you are managing social media for a hotel in Chicago, you may want to set up a Google alert focusing on "events in downtown Chicago". This way, you will be the first to know when an event reaches news-worthy status as it will arrive straight to your inbox! Your social media followers will appreciate the time-sensitive information and events so they can join in on the festivities.

diamondblog googlealert

Pro Tip #3: Always check the facts because, truth be told, it's not always sunny in Philadelphia.

If your hotel utilizes off-property social media management, it's very important that they stay well aware of details about the local area. This may seem trivial and, yes, it should be common sense, but you don't want to learn the hard way by posting about the beautiful sunshine in your hotel's town when, unbeknownst to you, it's actually pouring rain! Use these simple resources below to ensure that your social media team is on its A-game at all times.

Weather.com - for all your Polar Vortex alerts!

The weather is often a hot topic of conversation, especially during something as crazy as the recent 'Polar Vortex'! Staying on top of temperatures and weather is an important way to connect with the local community. While I am personally guilty of using the weather as an ice-breaker on conference calls, I also know that crazy weather provides plenty of great social media fodder. It is a common subject that can evoke emotion in just about everyone! From safe driving tips in snowy temps to sharing icicle pictures at your hotel, there are plenty of ways to stay involved during weather phenomena. Remember, if you do utilize off-property management, it's important that they are well aware of localized weather so as to avoid any sunshine-focused posts in the middle of a snowstorm! In the screenshots below, you can see good examples of hotels enlightening guests with weather-related updates.

diamondblog weather

CNN.com or a similar breaking news source

When managing your hotel's social media campaign, it is very important to stay aware of both breaking local and national news to avoid any uncomfortable situations. It is never okay to take advantage of a national tragedy to market your own interests, a la Epicurious.com's Boston Marathon debacle. It is also important to always monitor any pre-scheduled posts or tweets. You want to avoid offending others by unintentionally posting during a difficult event. For example, Seamless had scheduled a post on Sept 16, 2013 proclaiming that 'Today is national GUACAMOLE day. Nothing else matters'. Later that day, a gunman fatally shot 12 soldiers at the Washington Navy Yard. This 'harmless' pre-scheduled post turned into a PR nightmare, as it was seen as extremely insensitive in light of current events. Seamless has since deleted and apologized for the post, but it's a big lesson in staying aware of breaking news and keeping track of your scheduled posts. Be especially mindful if you have multiple social media mangers sharing responsibilities on one account, as you should always be in-the-know on what posts are on deck to prevent miscommunications!

diamondblog seamless

Our friends at Sprout Social are well aware of this possibility. During the aftermath of the Boston Marathon crises, they actually posted a warning on their website encouraging social media managers to check their pre-scheduled posts and tweets for anything offensive. Thanks for looking out for us, Sprout Social!

'Hey Google! What time is it in...?"

It is pertinent to stay aware of time differences when posting on behalf of your hotel. While this applies to all social media managers, it is particularly important for those managing social media off-property, Your Facebook post about your hotel's weekend brunch buffet would be perfect to post on Saturday at a 9AM, but if you neglect to factor in the time change and schedule it for 1PM then the effect is greatly diminished. Also, be sure to double-check your AM vs PM scheduled posts. You want to avoid waking up to find that your lunchtime special was posted at midnight! Google is your friend - simply type into Google 'What time is it in..." to verify your time zones before scheduling a time-sensitive post!

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Pro Tip #4: Locals know best - and by locals we mean your staff!

Have you ever been asked by a guest, 'where do the locals go?' An often overlooked resource in the social media game for hotels is the staff and guests themselves! Staff members have a unique view of both the local communities' favorite spots, as well as opinions of visiting guests. For guests looking for the BEST french fries in town, or a unique romantic date spot, your staff can often provide personalized, authentic recommendations! Its special touches like these that keep guests returning again and again.

Staff scavenger hunt

Your hotel staff is a fantastic resource for local happenings and providing an insider view of the hotel happenings. I recommend creating a social media scavenger hunt that lists out various locations and amenities of the hotel and having the team partake in a friendly competition to capture as many items as possible with a camera. Smart phone pictures will suffice, so no excuses! Have the staff submit photos of seasonal decorations or a delicious breakfast spread and use them on social media to show your fans what's happening "behind-the-scenes" at the hotel. Behind-the-scenes photos at the hotel tend to receive high engagement with your social media fans because your guests enjoy seeing the great team that makes their hotel experience so fantastic!

Here are some ideas to get your hotel's photo scavenger hunt started:

    • Staff recognition and awards
    • Involvement in community: hotel events, brand events, community service
    • Team spotlights or bios: Chef, GM, Front Desk Manager, Housekeeping Manager, etc. 
    • Seasonal decorations around the hotel
    • Chef specials at the restaurant or bar
    • Action photos of F&B team preparing dinner, staff setting dining table
    • Centerpieces for wedding or special event

Staff and Guest Picks

The staff and loyal guests can also provide great recommendations of their favorite local restaurants and entertainment options. Create a brief questionnaire to compile some of the teams or guests favorite spots in the city so that you can feature their recommendations on social media. For example, when guests check out, ask if they would be willing to provide future guests with some recommendations for exploring the surrounding area. If they say yes, hand them a card and ask them to fill-in-the-blank: "Don't leave San Francisco without…." Then feature these authentic spots that the locals love on social media so your guests can check them out when staying at your hotel! Plus, it will save your social media manager time when they are hunting for the best chicken wings in town. I recommend keeping the guest questionnaire short, sweet, and somewhat vague. You never know what kind of gems your guests may discover during their stay!

Key Takeaways for Providing a Kick-Ass Social Media Strategy

Whether you are personally managing a social media page or utilizing outside assistance, it is important to provide the best information possible for your guests. Keep in mind:

  1. Great local information can be found at your fingertips.
  2. Actively monitor keywords to save time digging through search engine clutter.
  3. Fact checking is key, especially concerning breaking news and local weather.
  4. On-site staff and satisfied guests can be great resources for authentic local recommendations and social media content.
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