Posted in Reputation Management on August 12, 2014 by Cat Sullivan
TripAdvisor’s newest feature, Questions & Answers, is a trip-planning tool that offers an easy way for your hotel to interact with potential guests. When browsing a hotel on TripAdvisor, travelers can scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter a question in the designated box.
A representative of your hotel, past reviewers, and other members of the TripAdvisor community can then provide timely answers and feedback. This gives your hotel the opportunity to set travelers’ expectations by giving them all the information they need to choose your property for their next trip. The tool basically offers a more personalized version of the already popular TripAdvisor forum. Travelers can ask questions specific to your hotel like, “What time is breakfast served on weekdays?” or “We are planning to visit in December, will the renovations be complete by then?”
How Your Hotel Can Get Involved
When a new question comes in, your property’s registered TripAdvisor email will receive a notification. Login to your hotel’s TripAdvisor page to address the traveler’s inquiry as directly and concisely as possible. Responses must be family-friendly, original, and cannot include links or contact information. As a property representative, your response will automatically go to the top of the responses, giving it priority and authority over the comments from the rest of the TripAdvisor community. TripAdvisor community comments are sorted based on upward and downward votes by the rest of the users. As a hotel representative, you can answer the same question multiple times if something has changed at your property over time.
Other hoteliers in the same market will not be able to answer traveler questions for your hotel. Additionally, competing hotels in the area cannot ask questions about your hotel. These rules have been implemented by TripAdvisor to combat spam on the site.
5 Ways TripAdvisor Questions & Answers Benefits Hoteliers
In the first example below, the Marriott Oakland City Center effectively uses the Questions & Answers tool to communicate with potential guests. The hotel representative provides a brief but detailed answer to the traveler’s question in a timely manner. Now that the guest is well-informed, she can book an accessible room at the hotel with confidence.
In the example below, the hotel has the opportunity to reassure a guest so he does not cancel a block of rooms. However, no one from the property has responded to the guest, who asked the question 7 days ago. The hotel’s failure to respond is detrimental to the hotel, since they will likely lose this reservation. Plus, as you can see in the screenshot below, another TripAdvisor community member responded with her own warning to avoid the hotel, so the hotel’s silence will likely negatively impact the hotel’s reputation.
5 Things to Keep in Mind before Getting Started
TripAdvisor’s new Questions & Answers feature is a valuable tool for your hotel and potential guests since it opens up a direct line of communication. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to engage with travelers, improve your property’s online reputation, and convert shoppers into hotel guests.
What if there were simple changes to your website that could increase online revenue dramatically? You would make those changes, right? Well a site is never complete, and there is always room for improvement. All you need to do is follow a process that helps determine what changes will improve your site’s performance. By implementing A/B testing, marketers can experiment with various changes to a site and measure the impact of each change.
A/B Testing Success Story
One of Blue Magnet’s clients, a hotel in Florida, was experiencing a period of low occupancy. As their Internet marketing manager, I was tasked with the challenge of increasing reservations during the hotel’s need period. To begin, I took a step back and examined the hotel’s website as a consumer, rather than a marketer. Working with a website day in and day out can sometimes make marketers overlook issues obvious to visitors. Since the hotel’s challenge dealt with online reservations, I decided that a closer look at the hotel website’s booking widget was probably a valid starting point.
The original reservation widget contained a white and green call-to-action button reading “Check Availability.” Since the entire site’s color scheme is white and green, it seemed like the button was getting lost in the background. As a visitor to this website, I would expect the most important button on the site to command much more attention. As a marketer for this site, I wanted to see if a different color button might prove more compelling.
After some initial research, I chose red for the alternate version of the button. From what I gathered and inferred, red is a highly visible color. That’s why stop signs, fire trucks, and other things that need to be noticed quickly are painted that color. Contrasted with the green background, a red “Check Availability” button seemed like it would pop off the page, catch the eye of visitors quickly, and draw more clicks, but I needed to be sure before I made such a significant change to the site. Enter A/B testing.
Original White Button (A)
Red Button Variation (B)
I set up an A/B test to show the original button to some users and the alternate red button to others, and let me tell you, the results were exciting. After just a few weeks, the new red button was reveiving 13% more clicks than the white button. After reaching the 95% confidence threshold, I switched the button over to the red version permanently and monitored the next month’s performance. In 30 days, the total number of people clicking the button to check rate for this particular hotel improved 38% YOY which translated into 65% increase in booked revenue YOY.
Percentage of visitors that checked rate on variation A vs. variation B during the experiment.
This simple color change contributed to thousands of dollars of revenue for the hotel. If you want to make some quality changes to your own website, read on, and I’ll teach you how to implement A/B tests to improve your site’s performance.
What is A/B Testing?
A/B testing is a randomized experiment that takes two (or more) variants of a web page (A and B), presents them both to different members of the audience, and then tracks the differences in performance.
How to Implement A/B Testing
Before you decide what feature to change on a specific page, you need to determine how you want the site to improve. Think about the goal of that particular page. What purpose does it serve to your website as a whole, and what metrics indicate how the page is performing? For example, if you are trying to generate more revenue from a specific special offer, you may look at how many clicks that particular offer has compared to other offers in the same time period. If the offer has fewer clicks than you’d expect, start thinking about different page elements that could be affecting its results. Is the copy compelling? Can users clearly see where to click? Is the page layout confusing or cluttered, making it difficult to find the offer? Once you have determined what aspect of the page you want to improve, follow this simple 5 step A/B Testing process to produce a higher converting site:
1. Making an Educated Change to the Page
Once you determine what the goal of your page is, decide what the “B” in the A/B test will entail. This decision requires some thought. Don’t make a rash judgment, but don’t let this step bog you down either. Spend some time considering what changes on the page will fuel changes in site performance. Try to view your website from a visitor’s perspective. How does this page look to you if you landed on it for a specific search query? Is the information you’re searching for easy to find? If you were directed to this particular page from another page in the site, what would you expect to see? As a visitor, is there an action that you can take to accomplish your goals (e.g. contact for more information, click a button to check out, etc)? If this exercise does not help you discover an element to change, it may be useful to get a fresh set of eyes on the page and hear from an outside perspective. Ask a friend, family member, or some of your top customers for their valuable feedback.
As a fellow marketer, I know your time is valuable. I wouldn’t want you to read this article and then set up A/B tests that make little to no improvement to your site’s performance. Do your initial research and use your best judgment to determine your “B.” Whatever you decide to change, it doesn’t always have to be huge, but it should be purposeful.
2. Setting Up an A/B Test
Google Analytics makes setting up A/B tests simple. First, you need to create a duplicate page to test against the original. This duplicate page should contain your variation(s). While your duplicate page is still being tested, I would recommend that you set it up with a meta noindex, nofollow tag so it doesn’t appear in search results.
Once you have the duplicate page ready:
The objective you select to measure for the experiment should be a metric that indicates the page’s strength. Google Analytics allows you to pick from your present goals, some site usage statistics such as bounces, pageviews, and session duration, or you can create a new goal for the experiment (e.g. contact form completions, check availability clicks, wedding form RFP submissions, etc.).
There are a few other options to determine how your experiment will be run and measured. You can choose the percentage of traffic you want to participate in the experiment, and you can also choose how the two pages will be distributed to your site’s traffic. Google’s default will show the page that is performing better more often, but if you wish, you can choose to show the two pages evenly. Finally, select the confidence threshold you want to reach before the experiment is stopped. The higher the threshold, the more confident you can be that the changes you are making will produce improved results.
Next, paste the URL of the original page and the URL of the test page into the provided boxes. I suggest naming them something that reflects the variation of that page, such as White Button vs. Red Button.
Finally, Google will provide you with a snippet of code that you need to paste into the header of your original page. This code will redirect certain visitors to page B, your test page. You may need to have some technical knowledge or work with your developer to implement these changes into your Content Management System, such as Joomla or Wordpress.
Once you have set up your A/B test, you can sit back and analyze the visitor behavior!
3. Tracking How the Site Change Impacts Visitor Behavior
Google does a great job of clearly laying out the experiment statistics. The data will include the number of sessions (visits) for each page version, the number of conversions, the conversion rate, the difference in conversion rate compared to the original page, and the probability of outperforming the original page (that’s your confidence threshold). It’s fun and useful to monitor this fairly frequently. If your test page is not producing improved results, you may want to end the experiment earlier than you had intended and try implementing a different change instead of holding out hope for months on end. If you changed the color of a “Check Availability” button and didn’t see an increase in number of click in two weeks, maybe you want to keep the original button color and try different verbiage, such as “Book Now."
4. Implementing the Improved Version
This is a no brainer. Once the A/B experiment is finished, pick the version that performed better (depending on what your goals are) and make that the default page. Voila! You have just made your site better and will soon have the measurable results to prove it!
5. Repeating the Process
It is awesome that your site is performing better, but the job of an online marketer is never done. Now that your page is producing improved results, set up another test to beat the new version or take what you have learned from this experiment and apply it to a similar A/B test for another page. Winston Churchill said it best: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. “
Have you tried A/B testing on your website? Tweet us at @Blue_Magnet and tell us about your experiments.
Posted in Online Marketing on July 02, 2014 by Maggie Meyers
At Blue Magnet Interactive, we try to stay up-to-date in the SEO, social media, and online marketing world by attending educational industry seminars and events. From networking receptions to conferences to happy hours and more, we enjoy meeting other marketers with innovative ideas and varying perspectives. So the Blue Magnet team was excited at the opportunity to attend a cocktail hour and networking reception sponsored by Bing and Inc. at the Wit Hotel for some Search + Social education.
The panel for the event's Q+A session included Maisha Walker from Message Medium, Bruce Clay from Bruce Clay INC., Marty Weintraub from aimClear, and Duane Forrester from Bing. The lively group of panelists welcomed questions from the audience, all of whom were concerned about one thing: the future of their business online. The attendees' knowledge level concerning SEO and social was quite varied which made for some great questions. The panelists shared a ton of valuable information and insights at the Bing event, so instead of hitting every talking point, I will give you 5 key takeaways on how to best market your business online.
1. The Importance of Usability
There are billions of websites. So what will set your website apart from that of your competitors? Why would a customer/guest/user stay on your site (and convert) instead of turning to another site? Well, there's no one absolute, but if you want to increase the likelihood of users staying and converting on your website, you need to ensure that your site is easy to use. Usability is a crucial element of your site's performance and it is important to think like a customer when designing or redesigning your website. The panelists suggest performing usability tests at several stages throughout the development of your website. You want to catch and correct user experience and usability issues while your site is still in development to save time and money. The panelists recommend asking a group of users in your target demographic to participate in these usability tests. You then supply the "test" user a list of tasks to complete on the website so they can give you feedback on their experience. Once you know what kind of issues users are having you can fix accordingly and watch your conversion rate skyrocket!
2. Target "Shopping" Keywords
As many SEOs and content marketers know, it's easy to get wrapped up in Google's Keyword Planner tool, searching for as many relevant keywords to insert into site content. At the end of the day though, users typing queries into a search engine are just people like you and me. One of the panelists gave a solid example to drive this point home. Let's say you are brain surgeon. What service do you perform? Brain surgery. So, as a brain surgeon looking to drive more traffic to your website, you may immediately think to target consumers searching for 'brain surgery' as a primary keyword. But, someone searching for a trusted doctor to perform this very serious surgery, is probably not simply typing 'brain surgery' into Bing or Google. A high school student doing a research paper on the topic might type this query, but a patient shopping for the best surgeon is probably not going to search this way. So what "shopping" keyword should you target in this instance? Ask yourself, 'What is the prospective patient actually looking for? 'A brain surgeon! Targeting 'brain surgeons in [your city or state] is a much more relevant search query for your target audience and will prove to be a much more effective keyword for your website.
The brain surgery keyword concept applies to the hotel industry as well. While it is likely that a prospective guest would type in 'San Francisco Hotels' to begin their search, it is also likely that they hone in on a specific area within San Francisco when they are closer to booking. Target their "shopping" queries by focusing on keywords like 'Hotels near the Golden Gate Bridge' or 'Hotels close to Fisherman's Wharf' to increase conversions.
3. Content is King
Once you have determined your "shopping" keywords, it's important to include them in your content. But instead of stuffing keywords in your page like you have been taught to do in the past, focus on writing compelling content that naturally incorporates variations of your "shopping" keywords. When you keyword stuff, your visitors are going to be frustrated that your page has nothing to do with what they searched, and your page will eventually be penalized by search engines for blackhat SEO techniques. Keep in mind the quality of your content at a high level as well; check for typos, grammatical errors, and accuracy. Make the content useful and informative from a consumer stand-point and update it frequently. As the panelists reiterated, having outdated information on your site will confuse users and eventually turn them away.
4. Relationship Building > Link Building
As most SEOs are well aware, link building is an effective way to prove the authority of your site to search engines. Trusted sites typically link to other trusted sites, so finding relevant link opportunities for your site can lead to better exposure in search results. Acquiring trustworthy links is easier said than done, and, as the panelists advised, it is best to think of this crucial SEO initiative as relationship building rather than link building. Find a way to make it mutually beneficial to both parties involved, rather than simply asking that the site add a link to the desired page. For example, check for broken links on their site and include that information in your email to the webmaster when requesting a link for a bit of give and take. Also make sure to explain why adding your link is in their best interest. Does your hotel offer a free shuttle to that destination? Can you offer a lower rate for customers of that business or service? Fostering a relationship and offering something of value in return makes your link building request more appealing.
5. Paid Search Can Be Pointless
Allow me to clarify, paid search is NOT pointless, in fact it can often be very lucrative for your business. However, as panelist Bruce Clay stated, "If you don't understand reporting of paid search, it's of no use to you." Invest in an online marketing partner that manages your website and can actually interpret the data from your paid search campaign and refine the strategy. Typically, the first phase of a paid search campaign is defining your goals and budget. Your paid search team will then perform extensive research to determine what keywords and ad groups will be most beneficial for your campaign using Google Keyword Planner and design attractive and relevant ads. When your campaign is active, it is crucial to analyze your data to ensure you are achieving your goals and that it is as worthwhile investment of your money and time. You can run ads all year long, but if you do not continuously analyze the performance to optimize your ads and refine your strategy, your campaign becomes pointless. Use the reporting Bing and Google AdWords provides, paying attention to ad impressions, clicks, and conversions. Optimize your target keywords and ad strategy accordingly. The panelists suggest staying up-to-date with the latest changes in reporting through industry blogs and learning more about interpreting the data through free webinars and courses. Taking the time and energy to understand your paid search campaign will result in the most bang for your buck.
There are countless ways to increase the exposure, credibility, and conversion rate of your business through online marketing. By understanding some of these key takeaways shared by the panel of industry experts and implementing them in your business's online marketing strategy, you'll be taking the reins and controlling your online presence with more knowledge and confidence.
Posted in Online Marketing on June 24, 2014 by Andrea Mann
If you have thought about going on a diet before, you have probably done some initial research to determine the right diet plan for you. And, like most people who finally decide to pull the trigger on a diet, you were probably hoping to find something that promises to deliver fast results … as in, yesterday. While you were investigating these self-proclaimed miracle diet products or meal plans, you probably noticed how easy the ads always make it look. They all claim “Just eat or drink [this] twice-a-day and never diet again” or “ban [this] from your diet forever and drop 10 pounds”. Just like these popular dieting fads, there are always new buzz words, trends, or social media sites emerging in online marketing that immediately catch hoteliers’ eyes and seem to be the “answer” that they have been searching for. They get laser-focused on that one new “it” thing. They pour all of their resources into that one marketing channel, whether it is SEO, Pinterest, or something else they have read about, and they expect a quick-fix. They expect, or at least hope, that their hotel will immediately begin ranking #1 on Google for hundreds of keywords, and their hotel will be at 100% occupancy every night. But of course, that’s not realistic, and deep down they know it.
Why doesn’t a fad diet/marketing strategy produce ideal results in the long run? Because these strategies are not focusing on the big picture and long term investment. My mom has always preached “everything is okay in moderation” and “haste makes waste”, and I think she is on to something here. (Yes, mom, you were right.) I have tried several short-lived diets, and I have even succumbed to a torturous juice cleanse in the past, and I always lose the weight only to gain it back as soon as I start eating a normal diet again. I have witnessed similar mishaps in the online marketing world. Everyone starts talking about the importance of linkbuilding. And then an SEO gets the bright idea to try to produce a miracle by cheating the system. They begin implementing some spammy linkbuilding tactics to speed up the results – what marketers refer to as “black hat SEO”. They go out and solicit any site and every site for free links back to the hotel’s website, most of which are completely irrelevant to the hotel. While the hotel may reap some benefits and rank well in Google for a few days or weeks, it won’t be long before Google catches wind of the gimmick and penalizes the hotel for failing to adhere to standard guidelines. What happens when Google slaps you on the wrist? The blackhat SEO plan backfires, the hotel drops several pages in Google’s rankings, guests can’t find the hotel’s website organically, and online bookings plunge rapidly. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we strive to create a holistic, multi-channel online marketing strategy for every hotel that we partner with because all of the various marketing components are always much more effective and produce much better results when working in tandem. Our team always follows best practices, even though that often requires more time and resources, because doing online marketing correctly the first time is a much better long term investment for the hotel.
Creating a diet/multi-channel marketing strategy that works for your hotel
It all boils down to finding the healthiest marketing mix for your particular hotel – a marketing mix that will help your hotel achieve its specific goals. When it comes to dieting, everyone has their own goals, whether it is losing weight, getting toned, or running a marathon. Everyone also has their own dietary requirements depending on their health, lifestyle, and fitness regimen. If you run 10 miles a day, you might aim for a larger carbohydrate intake than the person sitting next to you. While it is important for every hotel to have a strategy in place for its website content, SEO, social media, paid advertising, and email marketing; the actual strategy and investment in each strategy should differ from hotel to hotel. In order to determine what multi-channel marketing strategy is going to be most effective for your hotel, your hotel team needs to assess its current marketing strategy, establish realistic goals, and determine areas of improvement that are of utmost priority. If your hotel does not have a beautiful wedding space and scenic room views, you may find that you can cut Pinterest out of your marketing budget. If you realize that your hotel has been spending $1000 on a paid search campaign but your hotel doesn’t have a user-friendly website with informative content, you may realize that it’s best to halt your paid media spend and invest in a website redesign and content refresh before paying for more traffic. Once you have determined your marketing goals and needs, you can work with your hotel marketing team to put a multi-channel strategy in place for the next several months – knowing that it is going to take some time before your hotel is sold out every night. But if you continue to follow best practices and invest in a healthy strategy, you’ll get there in due time! You have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run – no one expects you to be running a marathon tomorrow. As with dieting, you will continue to “weigh-in” regularly and refine your hotel’s online marketing strategy.
We were honored to be invited to attend and present at a hotel management company’s leadership conference in Annapolis, Maryland this past week. Our presentation deck below uses this dieting/marketing analogy to visually depict how Blue Magnet Interactive approaches a multi-channel marketing strategy to maximize your hotel’s online visibility and drive online revenue.
When creating your hotel’s marketing plan, it’s important to examine the journey a consumer takes when traveling, because, at a high level, it is very similar for all consumers. They begin dreaming about taking a trip. They start doing their research and planning. Eventually they book their hotel, flight, rental car, etc. They travel to their destination and have an experience. Whether it’s a good experience or a bad experience, they will likely share their vacation stories and photos with friends, family, and anonymous strangers, which will then inspire the next person to begin dreaming about a much-needed vacation. For a hotel to successfully master a multi-channel strategy, they need to optimize all of the various channels that consumers interact with during any of these stages of travel. The deck below gives multiple examples that show how a hotel can diversify their channel marketing and optimize each channel with consistent, informative, and unique content in order to deliver the best possible experience, both online and offline.
Posted in SEO on May 21, 2014 by Patrick McCarthy
Yesterday, Matt Cutts announced that Google was introducing a new algorithm update called Panda 4.0. As indicated by the name, this is not the first Panda update that Google has implemented (in fact, Search Engine Land has confirmed 24 previous Panda updates), so although we do not yet know the specifics of Panda 4.0, we can make some informed predictions based on past updates.
What is Panda?
Panda is an update to Google’s search algorithm that first launched in 2011 and targets low-quality sites and sites with “thin” content. Before Panda, it was possible for sites to rank high in the SERPs for specific keywords by creating pages with keyword heavy but valueless content. Panda was designed to push these kinds of sites and pages out of the top rankings and reward high-quality sites by moving them up in the rankings.
What is Panda 4.0?
As with past Panda releases, Panda 4.0 is a refinement of the Panda algorithm, designed to continue the process of improving the quality of Google’s search results. It is likely intended to identify and penalize low-quality sites that previous updates missed. There is also some evidence that the update may boost the visibility of high-quality sites (although this could be the result of low-quality competitor sites losing visibility rather than Google directly rewarding high-quality sites).
Should my hotel be worried about Panda 4.0?
Search Engine Land has indicated that approximately 7.5% of English language queries will be affected by this update, which makes it a relatively major update (the majority of the 24 updates mentioned above affected around 1% of English queries) and means that it could potentially affect sites in your market; however, if you have been following the SEO content best practices that we have outlined on this blog though the years and have a hotel website full of high-quality, valuable content, you not only do not need to worry but you might have reason to celebrate. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we took a random sampling of the websites that we work with and found that none of them have seen any drops in traffic or visibility from Panda 4.0. In fact, all but one of the sites we sampled actually saw a significant increase in organic traffic starting on May 19th, when MozCast first registered large changes in rankings likely due to Panda 4.0.
On the other hand, if you have a hotel website that is full of pages that were created only for SEO and contain little to no unique content or keyword-stuffed content, your site is likely at risk of being negatively affected by Panda 4.0; and even if you do not see immediate declines from this update, you will almost certainly be affected by a future Panda update and should take this as a spur to start updating your website, rewriting your current content, and creating new unique content.
Check back for the latest news or follow us on Twitter for Panda 4.0 updates.
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on May 13, 2014 by Karie Miller
Wouldn’t it be nice if business was thriving year-round? Unfortunately, with seasonality and market conditions, most businesses witness an inevitable slow period. For hotels, the dreaded slow period is evident when there are many more room vacancies than occupancies. Although the slow period will differ from hotel to hotel and reasons may vary, nearly every hotel is affected by it at some point. If you review your hotel’s forecast for the year and identify times that occupancy is consistently low, you can carve out strategies to boost revenue and increase occupancy throughout that time of the year. In this blog, I will provide several targeted strategies for increasing occupancy during your hotel’s recurring need dates.
Create Targeted Hotel Need Date Strategies in Advance
The first step to success is advanced planning. When you anticipate need dates in advance, there is more time to develop effective strategies to drive room bookings during your need date periods. Whether you have been at the hotel for several years and are familiar with the hotel’s ebbs and flows of occupancy, or you have analyzed your hotel’s annual forecasting reports, you should be familiar with which weeks, weekends or even months your hotel tends to be slow each year. Now, look at some of the obvious need periods that are at least 60-90+ days out and bring your marketing team into the conversation to begin some market research! Below are some questions to consider as you begin researching the local area and market:
Through first-hand experience, established connections within the area, and market research, your hotel will be able to maximize revenue by taking advantage of special local events, new exhibits, or important anniversaries and celebrations. Keep in mind that it is essential to plan ahead and give your entire team enough time to develop targeted strategies specific to the market and local area.
Effectively Market Your Hotel’s Need Date Strategies
Now that you’ve developed a targeted need date strategy to drive business during your slow period, it’s time to effectively market your hotel’s strategy to your intended audience. It’s important to utilize multiple online marketing channels, including: your hotel’s vanity website, PPC, social media, and email marketing to get as much visibility as possible.
If your hotel is looking to reach a larger audience, consider putting money towards boosting a specific post or creating Facebook ads. Facebook ads provide incredible targeting capabilities, allowing you to stretch your hotel’s budget and only reach your hotel’s desired audience. Through Facebook ads you are able to target people who live in a certain area or who have certain interests. So, if your hotel was a sponsor for the city’s Gay Pride festival, you could create Facebook ads proclaiming your hotel’s Pride partnership and target the ad to reach the LGBT community within 25 miles of your hotel. By utilizing Facebook posts, boosted posts, and advertising you will be able to market your need date strategy to a targeted audience that is more likely to convert.
We know that slow periods are exhausting and often inevitable, but it’s important to look at your new need date period as an opportunity to get creative and explore new possibilities, local partnerships, and marketing strategies. If you are able to provide your hotel’s sales, marketing, and revenue teams with enough advanced notice about looming need periods, you will be able to research, develop, and implement effective and targeted strategies to increase occupancy during slow periods.
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!
Posted in Online Marketing on March 18, 2014 by Kim Armour
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:
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.
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:
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?
What to Expect?
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.
What Needs to Be Done?
Site Revenue and ROI
What to Expect?
What Needs to Be Done?
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!
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.
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on March 04, 2014 by Michelle Laing
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.
CMS: Content Management System
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
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!
CTR: Click-Through Rate
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
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
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
(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
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
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!
Posted in Online Travel Agencies on February 24, 2014 by Abby Heft
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.
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!