If you are like other hoteliers, you might not be focused on your website. Between managing budgets and team members, keeping guests satisfied, and day-to-day operations, websites are often one of the last things on hoteliers’ minds. You may be seeing tens of thousands of dollars in revenue come through your website every month, but do you know whether or not the revenue you are seeing is good, bad, or an amount that is in line with what your competitors are seeing? Luckily, there are efficient ways to monitor your hotel website’s performance.
Website performance can be segmented into two main categories: traffic and behavior. On one hand, you would like to see a consistent, or increasing, amount of traffic to your site and be able to identify when and why traffic drops are occurring. On the other hand, you want to ensure website visitors are converting into guests when they do visit the site. These two components work hand in hand, with the end goal being total conversions.
To measure traffic performance you will need some historical data (the more data the merrier). For websites that are older than a year, YOY (year-over-year) data should be the primary time frame you are comparing. Compare your YOY data in month-long segments, at the very least. Anything shorter than thirty days might not provide enough information to give a full picture.
Evaluating YOY data seems simple enough on the face value; for example, look at visits from September 2017 compared to September 2016. If 2017 has less visits, that means something is wrong…right? Not exactly. You will next need to segment this traffic by where it came from, commonly referred to as the traffic source. Perhaps traffic is down in paid sources due to a decreased ad spend in 2017 compared to 2016, but organic and direct traffic is up. This would indicate that there is nothing slacking on the website, but looking into increased ad spend would be warranted. As is always the case with data, you will want to consider it with context. What if the Olympics were held in your city last year, causing a big influx of traffic for nearly the entire summer? You would see a drop in traffic the next year, but not necessarily because of website performance. That might be an extreme example, but it goes to show that real life context does indeed matter when comparing website traffic.
Now, let’s talk newer sites. If you have a website that is less than a year old, comparing YOY data is obviously not an option. In this instance, you should focus on MOM (month-over-month) comparisons. *Big disclaimer: these are not as reliable as year-over-year comparisons due to this little thing called “seasonality.” Even the most constant markets see degrees of monthly fluctuations in occupancy over time. Some markets’ occupancy trend lines look a lot like a rollercoaster. These market changes are reflected in search volume reports by changes in local search demand. The logic is as follows: if you are seeing less occupancy in one month over another, chances are there are less searches for hotels in the area as well. Funny how the real world is reflected online like that. As mentioned before, some markets are definitely more susceptible than others, but I would recommend taking the time to iron out seasonality before making a MOM traffic comparison no matter what market your property is in.
There are a couple of ways to do this: the hotelier’s way and the digital marketer’s way. Like Are You Afraid of the Dark, this is where you get to choose your storypath.
Do you know how to source average market occupancy, by month, over the last five years? If not, just use the current year’s market monthly occupancy numbers. You will notice I use “market” because you need to pull in more than just your property’s report. If the site traffic is really up or really down, the fluctuation could be causing the change instead of vice versa. You will want to calculate the occupancy change between the two months you are comparing website traffic. The equation is, using whole numbers instead of percentages (current month – previous month) / previous month. A quick example:
- September 2017 market occupancy: 85%
- August 2017 market occupancy: 92%
(85 – 92) / 92 = -.076. This means demand was down about 7.6% month over month. Okay, you are ready to hop to the monthly traffic comparison section.
First you will need a list of market-specific keywords to compare. We use a keyword stubsheet to generate these and we typically have around 50 searches for each analysis. Keep these terms general “hotels in X,” “hotels near X,” “X hotels,” and the like will work best. Now that you have a list of market keywords, you need to establish the trend line. If you have an Adwords account, I suggest using Google’s Keyword Planner. Here you can copy and paste your list into the tool and get two “average monthly searches” totals, which you can use to establish the trend. The equation for this is (current month – previous month) / previous month. A quick example:
- September 2017 market searches: 8500
- August 2017 market searches: 9200
(8500 – 9200) / 9200 = -.076. This means demand was down about 7.6% month over month. Okay, you are ready to hop to the monthly traffic comparison section.
Monthly Traffic Comparison
Once you have an established trend line, you can more accurately see how your website is performing. If your organic traffic is beating the trend, than you are likely outperforming the market. If your site is under the trend, you could have an issue. When comparing monthly traffic, I advocate for monitoring the trend for at least one additional month if you are down – some months, especially for a young site can be slower than others. However, if you are seeing your site underperform trends month-over-month two to three months in a row, it is certainly worth considering an SEO campaign.
Earlier, we talked about two segments – traffic and behavior. Let’s get to the latter part. A whole boatload of traffic arriving at the beachhead of your front page will do you no good if that traffic sails right away after stepping foot on the sand. You need a way to evaluate whether or not the traffic you are seeing is qualified and converting. If you are a hotelier with just a brand site, which behavior information you will be able to obtain is likely limited to what the brand can provide. At the very least, you will want to see the conversion rate on the site. Like traffic, you need to take this in a historical context. Has this conversion rate increased or decreased in the past? In addition, ask you brand contact or digital marketing agency if the goal conversion rate is on par with similar properties. If your brand contact can provide bounce rate for the site, that would be even more helpful. Like conversion rate, compare it to market averages and to historical data to evaluate if it is performing well.
For independent hotels and brand hotels that have a vanity site, more metrics are likely available to you. Bounce rate is the gold standard. A good bounce rate for a vanity site will vary, but from organic traffic sources and on the homepage, you will want to see a bounce rate lower than 30% and ideally closer to 20%. Tracking the percentage of clicks on buttons and links that lead to the reservation system is good practice as well. This also varies widely, but from organic traffic sources you will want to see more than 30% of traffic going to the reservation system after landing on your vanity site.
If you are seeing decreasing traffic and a lower than average bounce rate, it is worth running through a more intensive check of your site (link to SEO audit). This audit can help identify what issues might be causing these. As always, the knowledgeable hotel marketersat the helm of Blue Magnet Interactive can help identify and solve hotel website issues, leaving you more time to run your hotel.