Earlier this month, my colleague and I had the pleasure of attending WeddingWire World Chicago on behalf of Blue Magnet Interactive. The event intended to educate vendors about different strategies for successfully marketing their wedding business online. After a fun-filled day attending panel discussions and presentations by industry experts, we walked away armed with the latest trends and insightful tips for marketing your hotel's wedding business. In this blog, we'll share our key takeaways from WeddingWire's event, including facts and figures provided by the speakers, to ensure that you are well-equipped to market your hotel as an ideal venue for weddings and receptions.

Top 4 takeaways from WeddingWire World Chicago

1. Implement a social media strategy. Today's potential wedding client is social.
2. Take wedding reviews seriously. Today's potential wedding client does their homework.
3. Ensure your website is mobile-optimized. Today's potential wedding client is mobile. 
4. Revamp marketing materials and contracts to be inclusive of same-sex couples. Today's potential wedding client is attuned to social issues and perceptions.

wedding wire chicago


Social Media: As a wedding vendor, why should you implement a social media strategy?

Did you know that 1 out of every 4 minutes spent online is specifically spent on a social networking site? Today's engaged couple is extremely social, and typically begins the research phase of selecting a wedding reception site by browsing your social media pages and looking for things like pictures, reviews and the vendor's personality. The speakers offered countless tips for sharing wedding content on social media to help generate more engagement and sell your services as a wedding vendor.

Some of our favorite recommendations that can be applied to your hotel's social strategy include:

  • Sell your area and features. If a highlight of your hotel is the stunning view of the bay from the rooms on the top floor, ask your followers a no-brainer question. For example, ask: What view do you want to wake up to after your special day?
  • Ask open ended questions. It's easy to answer yes or no, so challenge your followers to engage with your hotel by asking a question that elicits an emotion. For example, ask: Where do you want your first dance to be, and why?
  • Get specific. Find out the key elements that your guests look for when planning their wedding so you can tailor your content to their interests. For example, ask: What is the top thing you need to make your wedding a success?
  • Utilize thank you cards and photos from previous weddings. Ask the couple if you can "show them off" on your social channels to give your followers a better visual of what they can expect at their own wedding. Showing remnants from a happy couple's wedding will resonate with followers more so than images from a staged photo shoot.

Online Reviews: Why should your hotel develop an online wedding review strategy?

If you haven't been encouraging your previous clients to share their experience through a review yet, this needs to be one of your top priorities! In fact, 95% of engaged couples use online reviews to select wedding vendors. In addition, younger generations are very inclined to read reviews; If your hotel does not have a positive reputation on various online review sites, it will probably struggle to attract any millennial shoppers.

Some key tips to ensure your hotel acquires valuable wedding reviews or testimonials include:

  • Give your clients a reason to write a review. Did you do something extraordinary to make their big day special? Did you exceed their expectations? What makes your location unique versus other places they could have held their wedding or reception?
  • Where can people find reviews of weddings at your hotel? Do you utilize a service like WeddingWire to specifically collect reviews on weddings and receptions at your hotel? Are you getting reviews on Facebook? Google+? Through email? One way to help with collecting reviews is to ask guests who mail or email you a review if they could share what they wrote on your preferred review site. Be sure to send them a link to your hotel's listing when you ask!
  • Capture the essence of your hotel's wedding venue with video reviews. Do you have a wedding planner who really connects with the couple on their wedding day? Ask the couple if it would be alright to catch them in a happy moment and ask them a fun question. This way, the couple doesn't have to worry about writing something later, and you can actually capture the experience you are trying to sell.

Mobile Strategy: Why must your hotel have a mobile-optimized website (or at the very least, a mobile-optimized micro-site specifically for weddings)?

81% of people leave a website when they have a bad mobile experience. A bad experience is typically a result of the website not being properly optimized for mobile users. While Blue Magnet Interactive has strongly encouraged hotel websites to be mobile-optimized since the beginning of the "mobile trend," it was pretty astonishing to hear this statistic at WeddingWire World!

Hotels that use email marketing to promote their wedding space need to be especially aware of mobile optimization because 65% of people open emails on their phone. The industry pros at the WeddingWire event recommended checking that the emails you send out are mobile-optimized, providing content that is to the point, and ensuring that the email itself is free of overwhelming amounts of text and images. More so, the links embedded in your email campaigns are likely pointing to your website, so if a user comes straight from a mobile-optimized email to a website that is not mobile-optimized, you are more likely to lose that potential client.

One of the speakers shared an interesting perspective regards to websites, pointing out that: "You don't get business from your website but rather through your website." We felt this was important because your website doesn't necessarily yield direct business; often times it's the information you provide on your website, and the experience you provide guests that generates client interest. They see the information on your website and then decide to connect with you, whether it be through your website's contact form, by phone, or through email. At Blue Magnet, we know that a hotel's website is specifically designed to help answer any questions a potential client or engaged couple may have, and often is an important resource towards the beginning of the shopping phase; so, by the time a client is ready to book a wedding at your hotel they've gained the necessary information through your website and are ready to contact you to move onto the next step.

LGBTQ Community: Does your hotel's marketing material and contracts contain inclusive language? How should your hotel be connecting with same-sex couples?

Kathryn Hamm from Gayweddings.com gave an outstanding overview of the growth the LGBTQ community has seen over the years and why vendors should be connecting with this segment now more than ever before. To start, Hamm mentioned that 77% of people under the age of 30 support gay marriage, meaning, acceptance is continuously growing. Additionally, she explained that 46% of same sex marriages wed in the couple's home state. The remainder of same sex couples travel, usually due to the restrictions of their home state. Therefore, if your hotel is located in a state that currently allows gay marriage, you should be actively marketing your wedding space to target the LGBTQ community, as there are likely more out-of-state wedding shoppers..

Kathryn also reminded the audience to avoid "vendor awkwardness." Believe it or not, one of the biggest concerns that LGBTQ couples face when planning their wedding is not due to cost, but rather anxiety: "When I call, is the vendor going to hang up on me?" To avoid vendor awkwardness and assure all clients that their queries will be well-received make sure your hotel markets itself as being inclusive and accepting.

A few ways you can ensure your hotel's marketing materials are inclusive of all couples include reviewing your:

  • Wedding Photos - Are the photos on your website and marketing materials only showing a traditional wedding, with a bride and groom? Add some wedding photos featuring all types of couples to show that your venue is not exclusive. This allows all engaged couples to truly envision their wedding or reception at your hotel.
  • Marketing Materials & Contracts - What type of language are you using across your website, marketing materials and contracts? Does it still use presumptuous language like "bride and groom?" Replace any instances of exclusivity with more inclusive terms like "engaged couple" or "partner".
  • Your Resource List - Do the professionals that you work with support gay marriage? Make sure your recommended and preferred vendors also support the LGBTQ community so you don't accidentally send a client astray.

Based on the changes happening across the country, particularly in Congress, Hamm left us all with one final question: Will your business be ready to support same-sex marriages by June 2015?

Overall, we gained some great insight into the wedding industry and learned several helpful tips to help hotels market their wedding space more effectively, all while having an awesome time mingling and networking! To learn more about WeddingWire World Chicago, be sure to search the hashtag #WWWorld. We welcome your questions and feedback so be sure to connect with us on Twitter @Blue_Magnet!

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Having a successful social media campaign can boost your hotel's awareness, increase visits to your site, and ultimately drive engaged followers to book a room. However, getting your hotel's social media activity off the ground can be challenging and not getting your desired reach and engagement can be frustrating. So, how can you give your hotel's social media presence an added boost to increase reach without spending ad money? You may not realize this, but your hotel already has social media ambassadors on hand to help your hotel increase social engagement. You see them every day. They are already putting their heart and soul into your hotel's offline marketing efforts by providing great service on property. Your social media ambassadors are your team. Getting team members involved in social media may sound intimidating or time-consuming at first; however, your hard-working team's engagement and support can be a crucial factor in obtaining social media success.

Why are your team members the secret ingredient to improving your hotel's social media performance?

For starters, they most likely are already active on social media sites. Team members that enjoy coming to work and truly love their brand are prone to spreading that adoration on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular networks. Additionally, if someone on your team shares your hotel's Facebook post, their entire network will be exposed to that post. If someone in their network then shares the Facebook post again, a new pool of Facebook users can now see the post. When your team engages with your brand, they present the opportunity to organically increase your hotel's reach into a much wider audience.

How do you get your team involved in your hotel's social media campaign?

There are plenty of ways to make it fun and easy for them. Your management team should cultivate an encouraging environment and set guidelines on what type of information is beneficial to share.

In fact, your team members that are active on social media are likely already checking into the hotel on Facebook, posting about upcoming events, and sharing their day to day experiences. Therefore, it is imperative that you provide your team with proper social media training and tools to facilitate involvement. Train your hotel team on best practices, common terminology, and how they can best assist in establishing your online community.

In this Slideshare, Blue Magnet Interactive highlights why team involvement is important for your hotel, how your property can foster their participation, and what your team can be doing to help your hotel reach its social media goals.

If your want to improve your hotel's social media strategy, please contact us to learn about our social media marketing services. Tweet your questions or comments to @Blue_Magnet.

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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.

TripAdvisor's Questions & Answers 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

  1. Hoteliers can engage with potential guests before the purchasing stage
  2. Hoteliers have the ability to answer questions more than once, keeping the information as correct and up-to-date as possible. This is particularly useful because OTAs and local listings are not always updated every time there is a change on property, which can confuse shoppers. This platform allows travelers to get clarification on necessary information and eliminate confusion.
  3. Hoteliers can help humanize the hotel brand by showing guests that the hotel cares about their questions and concerns and takes the time to respond. Guests appreciate personal interaction!
  4. Hoteliers can improve their overall image by being honest and proactive. Not only does the person who asked the question appreciate the response, but other hotel shoppers will respect the hotel for responding as well. 
  5. Hoteliers can essentially audit their communication. What messages are clear across their channels and which messages need to be reworked?

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.

TripAdvisor's Questions & Answers Positive Example

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.

TripAdvisor's Questions & Answers Negative Example

5 Things to Keep in Mind before Getting Started

  1. Make sure your property is registered and that you have a designated staff member to answer questions in a timely manner. If travelers are inquiring about your property, they are probably ready to book. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to convert shoppers into guests!
  2. Balance your answers with brevity and helpfulness. Readers don’t want to sift through a lengthy response to find the answer to their question.
  3. Emphasize the positive. If the answer to a traveler’s question is “no”, supplement it with a positive remark. For example, if a guest asks whether you have a spa on-site and the answer is no, let them know that you have two top-rated spas less than 5 minutes from the hotel and that your concierge is more than happy to assist with scheduling and directions.
  4. If you are seeing travelers ask the same question time and time again, think about how you can display the information more clearly on your website, OTAs, and social media. 
  5. Although you want to respond to questions quickly, make sure you also evaluate your answers carefully before posting them. Answers can receive positive and negative votes from the community, so think about rephrasing your answers to ensure they are viewed as helpful and the votes are positive. 

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.

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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) 

White Button


Red Button Variation (B) 

Red Button 

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 Graph

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. Make an educated change to the page
  2. Set up an A/B test
  3. Track how the change impacts visitor behavior
  4. Implement the improved version
  5. Repeat

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:

  1. Go to the Behavior tab in your Google Analytics account
  2. Select "Experiements"
  3. Click "Create New Experiment"
    create new experiment
  4. Follow along with the questions
    a/b experiment questions

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.


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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.

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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.

Presentation Deck

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.

Is your hotel on a diet? If you need help determining the best online marketing strategy for your hotel, please contact us. Tweet your questions or comments to @Blue_Magnet.

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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.

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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:

  • Are there any local events happening during this need date period? Look on your local CVB’s website for an annual event calendar and search on Google for upcoming music festivals, state fairs, restaurant weeks, and parades. Compile a list of key events that cater to your hotel’s target demographic and determine which of those events fall within your need date period. How can your hotel leverage these events? Perhaps the hotel can offer a special deal specific to event-goers, such as a discounted rate. Simply have guests show their ticket stub or receipt from your chosen local event to receive the discounted rate. Since your guests most likely booked online in advance prior to attending the event, you can offer them a credit on the room upon checkout. Chances are your guests are visiting your city to explore local events, so encourage them to choose your hotel by offering an amazing deal. A local event partnership will not only encourage visitors to choose your hotel over your competitors, but it will also fill need date vacancies.
  • Are there any popular attractions celebrating anniversaries or offering special exhibitions during this need date period? As you are compiling the above list of local events, note any special occasions or happenings that may offer unique marketing opportunities. For example, is the zoo is celebrating their 50th anniversary or is the museum bringing in a special Egyptian exhibit? If so, you can reach out to the attraction and inquire about becoming the “official hotel” of the attraction’s celebration. You will most likely have to pay for this type of sponsorship, but partnering with a popular attraction during a big celebration will get you a link on the attraction’s website as their “preferred hotel” or “official hotel”. As the “official hotel” of the special event, your hotel will also receive additional advertising exposure through collateral used to promote the celebration. While the website link and advertising exposure will be valuable, it is important to take it one step further and create something that will really drive potential guests to your hotel. For example, your hotel could offer free roundtrip transportation to the attraction or discounted tickets available for purchase at the hotel. Be sure to get ahead of the game and research these key anniversaries in advance, before competitors swoop in and grab the “official hotel” title.
  • Do you have a lot of repeat or loyal guests? If so, create a “Refer a Friend” special offer during this need date period. Whether it is due to the excellent customer service and amenities at your hotel or your hotel’s proximity to a local attraction, your guests who visit multiple times are coming back for a reason. Develop a promotion that will encourage guests and their friends to want to stay with your hotel during a specific time period. Create a “Refer a Friend” promotion where previous guests can refer a new guest and receive a discounted rate on their next visit for doing so. The new guest will also receive a discounted rate during the specified period. Make sure to specify that blackout dates may apply, giving your hotel the flexibility to only offer the discounted rate during need periods. Creating a “Refer a Friend” need date strategy will encourage repeat guests and word-of-mouth referrals, which will ultimately fill rooms during your need date period. 

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.

  • Use the real estate on your hotel’s vanity site. While brand sites have the same standard pages for all hotels within that brand family (dining, rooms & suites, amenities, etc.), vanity sites provide more flexibility for hotels to create landing pages with unique content. A landing page offers more opportunity for your hotel to target a niche audience by focusing on a certain topic specific to your hotel or local area. For example, if your hotel is pet-friendly and you receive a lot of questions on the topic, you may find it valuable to create a pet-friendly landing page on your vanity site that hosts all of the pertinent information, including: size restriction, fees, available amenities, and nearby parks. This pet-friendly landing page would ideally target a niche community - guests that bring their pets on vacation and actively search for pet-friendly accommodations. When a guest lands on the niche page that highlights the hotel as a pet-friendly property and serves as a one-stop shop for pet lovers, it will likely have a high-conversion rate. This same logic can be applied to your need date strategy. Create a unique landing page to market the hotel’s attractive offering, whether it’s the official hotel partnership or your new “Refer a Friend” program. Be sure to promote your new landing page on your website with a compelling banner on the homepage to increase visibility and reach more potential guests. The screenshot below shows a hotel using their vanity site’s prime real estate to maximize exposure for the unique gas card promotion. The large banner ad on the homepage points to a page containing more information, drawing the user further into the vanity site.

Need Date Strategy

  • Invest in a targeted pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, which will drive quality traffic to your new landing page, and will ultimately lead to bookings. A PPC campaign allows you to get in front of online shoppers that are searching relevant queries and direct them to any destination on your website. You select the relevant keywords to target, and you can also narrow down the ad’s reach by factors, such as type of device (mobile, tablet, PC) or location (zip code, state, country). Since you only pay for the ads people click on, PPC is a very cost-effective yet targeted way to reach the right audience. It can take time for Google to index your new landing page and rank it high in the SERPs organically, but PPC ads will allow your new landing page to appear in top placement in Google’s results right away. Therefore, it’s highly beneficial to launch a targeted PPC campaign solely focused on the hotel’s new special deal for a need date period to drive quality traffic to the landing page immediately!
  • Promote your need date strategy to your loyal following on social media. By posting on your hotel’s Facebook and Twitter pages you will be able to quickly reach your hotel’s followers, with the potential to reach many more people through likes, comments, and shares. The social media posts can announce your new local partnership or “Refer a Friend” program, or share important information on the specific need date strategy. The screenshot below displays a hotel utilizing social media to market a special package in order to direct interested followers to the hotel’s website to book their stay. Without spending any money to boost the post’s reach, this post organically reached 785 people that may not have known about the package otherwise.
  • Social Media Strategy

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.

  • Increase exposure within a targeted audience through email marketing campaigns. For example, if your hotel is looking to promote your new “Refer a Friend” program you could create a visually captivating design with thorough copy describing the “Refer a Friend” incentive. Since the point of this need date strategy is to have returning guests refer their friends to stay at your hotel, consider using hotel pictures and guest testimonials to enhance your campagn. After you have created a visually appealing and informational email campaign, send it to your hotel’s email list. Since they have opted-in to your hotel’s emails, they should be eager to learn about deals and discounts. Make sure your email has a clear call-to-action, such as a “book this weekday rate by May 5” or “enter promo code X for 20% discount” so that recipients understand what you want them to do upon reading it. Email campaigns are the perfect way to get your new need date package directly in front of your loyal guests.
  • 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.

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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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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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