Your hotel has a phenomenal meeting space that can drive significant revenue for your business, and you want to maximize this amazing sales opportunity. Your fantastic sales team works diligently to generate new leads and book interesting conferences, trade shows, seminars, meetings, and conventions. You promote your space on Cvent, Meetings-Conventions, HotelPlanner, social media, your local visitor’s bureau, and every other channel you can find. If possible, you’d shout it from the mountaintop. However, one tool in your digital marketing toolbox offers more flexibility, delivers a better user experience, and generates more qualified leads than any other channel: your hotel’s independent website.
Take a look at how your independent website can supplement your sales strategy and improve your meeting marketing campaign today!
Customize the UX with Your Independent Website
Your independent site allows you to customize the online user experience (ux) unlike any other meeting or event marketing channel on the Internet today. Not only does your independent site let you directly dictate the quality, quantity, and format of the information on your website, you can also control the look, tone, and functionality of the content itself. Where channels such as Cvent, Meetings-Conventions, HotelPlanner, and hotel brand sites lock your hotel’s meeting space into a one-size-fits all model, your independent website provides limitless opportunities to create a user experience tailored to your business and for your target audience. If your competitors solely rely on these rigid and traditional channels, taking full advantage of your independent site will help your business to stand out in the competitive digital marketplace.
Building an independent website for your property allows you to control both the universal design and individual elements of your site. Where a channel like Cvent forces all meeting and event spaces into a uniform, templated design, your independent site allows you to set yourself apart with enticing color schemes, customized visual elements, prominent calls to action, and a truly unique online experience. Your hotel’s meeting and event space is vastly different than your competitor’s across the street. Your digital marketing strategy should be different too.
Let’s compare the with their Cvent listing. While the Cvent listing prominently incorporates the property’s meeting space specs and other pertinent venue information at the top of the page, the color scheme, templated design, and rigidity do not sell the uniqueness of the venue. The Cvent listing provides limited opportunity to target specific groups, convey the personality of the sales team, or create an inviting user experience. Aside from the two images at the top of the listing, the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center’s Cvent page looks identical to their competitors.
Additionally, Cvent’s use of pop-up ads and inclusion of competing meeting spaces at the bottom of the page create distractions that ultimately detract from your hotel’s ability to capture the attention of a visitor.
Contrastingly, the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center’s independent site injects color, character, and creativity to the content. This not only grabs the user’s attention, but also enhances content itself. The website gives the hotel the ability to strategically incorporate images directly into their on-page content to entice and engage the user. Look at how the meeting room photo and branded promotional banner draw the eye to the special offer and supplement the copy itself.
It’s always better to show than to tell, and your independent website allows you to do just that. For example, it is easy to claim that your event venue offers state-of-the-art A/V equipment, but if you include a photo of a professional stage rig with high-tech lighting and great projection, then you immediately back up your claim. Compare A/V content on Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center’s independent website and brand website.
Your independent website also allows your hotel to enhance the visual appeal of your calls to action. In addition to the prominent purple buttons that invite users to submit proposals, the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center’s customized sidebar banners give users a bold, visual, and unique invitation to submit an RFP.
Get creative with your on-page real estate and find new ways to appeal with your various audiences.
Using your independent website to market your meeting space allows you to include more unique and in-depth content than any other channel online. The ability to update your website in real time lets you quickly add exclusive promotions, target different audiences, and a publish as many helpful pdfs as you see fit. Are you looking to book more trade shows, pharmaceutical groups, or technology conferences? The flexibility of your independent website lets you publish all the niche content you want to attract new and qualified business.
For example, if your property wants to increase inquiries from association groups, you can build out a unique landing page to appeal to that market. You can tailor your content for your niche audience and let them know that your specific meeting venue is the perfect place to book their annual conference (as well as expand your footprint in organic search, but more on that later). With the inherent flexibility of the independent website, you can incorporate very specific information about the floor plans for on-site trade-shows, the types of groups that you’ve hosted in the past, and glowing testimonials from previous groups. Does your hotel offer complimentary airport shuttle service for all convention guests? Let the world know! That is a major selling point that you can showcase with your copy, image strategy, sidebar banners, mastheads, or pdfs. You have the freedom to customize your website to drive group sales. Take advantage of it.
Generate Highly Qualified Leads
With more robust content, a customizable image strategy, stronger calls to action, and the ability to target specific audiences, your independent website guarantees extremely qualified leads for your sales team. By providing the right people with a stellar user experience, the inquiries generated by your independent website will yield a higher percentage of proposals, site visits, and bookings than any other channel in your arsenal.
By providing detailed information, incorporating accurate and enticing photography, and conveying the unique personality of your sales team, your independent website sets realistic expectations for prospective groups. Informing your audience about what your team can and cannot accommodate ensures that you will receive qualified leads and reduce the amount of time and energy spent on pursuing out-of-scope inquiries.
Additionally, your niche content tells your audiences what kind of groups you want to book. Combining detailed information about specific event types with highly-relevant photography will demonstrate expertise and experience to your ideal customer. Once a prospective group submits a qualified RFP through your independent website, your awesome sales team can seamlessly transform the qualified inquiry into an actualized sale.
Expand Your Reach In Organic Search
Increase organic search visibility for your hotel’s meetings and events pages with calculated and customized on-page SEO strategy for your independent website. With full control over your keyword targeting, on-page content, and meta tags, your meetings-specific SEO campaign will expand your reach in organic search, drive qualified traffic your website, and, subsequently, increase the number of qualified RFP submissions through your website. Even better, if you have access to website data and search analytics for your website, you can more effectively audit and optimize your meeting and event pages for ongoing and sustainable growth. By constantly honing and tweaking your hotel SEO campaign, you will maintain an advantage over your competitors in the SERPs, drive additional traffic to your website, and grow your property’s revenue through increased leads for your sales team.
Take full advantage of the flexibility of your independent website by optimizing each on-page element of your meetings and events pages for search engine visibility. While channels like Cvent, HotelPlanner, and your hotel’s brand site have some customizable elements, your independent website give you complete control over your website’s content. Creating epic content with comprehensive, keyword-rich copy, a strong image strategy, and optimized meta tags will not only help to increase conversions on your site, but will also tell Google’s algorithm exactly what your page is about. As a result, you will see an increase in impressions for qualified queries, more clicks to your website, and, ultimately, revenue growth from your increase in sales inquiries.
Find Your Audience
First, make sure that your page is targeting a relevant topic for which you can compete. For example, a convention center in Kankakee should not try to rank for “Chicago Convention Centers”. With McCormick Place, the Donald E Stephens Convention Center, and countless conference spaces peppered throughout the Chicago and its suburbs, gaining an edge in the SERPs would be next to impossible. Getting qualified clicks would be even tougher. Instead, focus on where your business can and should be listed. Determine the search volume and SERP competition for topics relevant to your business and choose the best topic for your page. With the groundwork laid, we begin the fun stuff: creating great content.
10X Meeting Page Content
At the core of an optimized meetings or convention center page is epic content, which means you want to create a user experience that far exceeds what your competitors can offer. For meetings and conference pages, great content commonly includes (but is not limited to) comprehensive-but-digestible copy, floor plan and catering pdfs, and a strong image strategy that highlights your layouts, furniture, A/V equipment, and overall meeting experience. Add engaging element like videos, interactive tours, or infographics where you can. Know your meeting space, understand your website, and get creative!
Not feeling creative? Try these:
- Utilize your sidebars for page-specific banners. Highlight room blocks, link to catering menus, or show off your complimentary airport shuttle.
- Add an image slider. Make a strong first impression by showing off the range of your floor plans and the quality of your meeting amenities
- Create a meeting-specific photo gallery to supplement your copy. Let potential guests see what you can do
- Create a testimonial pdf and link out to it. If a guest leaves a glowing, 700 word review, share it! Just make sure to remove any personal customer information before you publish the review.
- Highlight your local area. The line that differentiates between business and leisure travel has all but disappeared. Tell us what makes your location special
Differentiating your website from your competitors’ is a key to creating epic content. While channels like Cvent and HotelPlanner homogenize competing venues, your independent site lets you express your unique charm. Are you located near a world-class golf course? That’s awesome! Tell me about it and tell me how to secure a tee time. Maybe your event space has tons of natural light. Show me! Sunshine and ocean views can really sell a conference room. Remember, your hotel has its own unique story with an arsenal of individual strengths. Simply telling this story – and including relevant keywords and phrases throughout – will go a long way in creating great content for the human user and the algorithmic robot.
Optimize Your Meta Tags
Now that you have produced awesome content that both Google and your audience will love, you need to supplement your efforts with optimized meta tags. With full access to the back end of your website, you have the ability to optimize your header tags, alt tags, page title, and meta description with more precision than any other channel.
For your header tags (especially your H1 tag), include the primary elements of your primary topic in a semantically natural way. Google knows that the valuable verbiage in your header tags carry added importance for the reader and considers this when generating its search rankings. Additionally, Google increasingly understands human semantics and knows that a person looking “Denver Convention Center” and “Convention Centers in Denver” are usually looking for the same thing. When optimizing your title tags, always keep the human user in mind as you incorporate the most important components of your page’s topic.
Optimize Your Image Strategy
Since we have established that it is better to show than to tell, you have plenty of opportunities to optimize the tags on your meetings and conventions pages. An tag is a small snippet of html describing an image for search engines, but is (typically) not visible to the human user. When a Googlebot crawls your page, it reads these tags and uses them to better understand your website. By optimizing these alt tags for your page’s primary topic, you can better explain your content to Google’s algorithm and increase your visibility for relevant queries. When optimizing an alt tag for a meetings or conventions page, the goal is to be accurate, descriptive, and concise. If you publish an image of the floor of a trade show your alt text should read “denver trade show” or “trade show near denver airport” instead of a generic descriptor like “convention”.
Your independent website also allows you to optimize your site speed. When you upload catering, floor plan, or A/V images to your site, add image dimensions to your image tags. This will tell your browser how to size your images and reduce the load time of your page. Google wants to give its users the best experience possible, and by increasing your site speed, you send positive ranking signals to the search engine.
Optimizing for the Future
While your independent site allows you to optimize for the traditional on-page elements outlined above, the customizable design of your site also allows you to optimize for the future.
You have total control over the mobile usability of your site and should design your site accordingly. In April 2015, Google made it clear that it intends to nudge the Internet into a more mobile-friendly place, and that its mobile algorithm will rank pages accordingly in search. Lucky for you, complete authority of the design of your site gives you complete full autonomy to work within Google’s best practices for mobile-friendly sites. Begin by updating the template of your site; resize your content for smaller screens, employ readable fonts, and include easy-to-click links for the clumsy thumb. After you have updated the basic functionality of your site, tailor the copy and image strategy of your individual pages for the mobile user. As our pal Brian mentioned in his discussion of mobile optimization, what works on desktop does not necessarily work on mobile.
Optimize for Human Users
Optimizing your independent website for conversions give you another opportunity to control your own destiny in the SERPs. As machine learning increasingly dictates how Google’s algorithm determines the SERPs, a website’s ability to successfully solve a problem or answer a user’s question becomes more important for search rankings. Therefore, by designing, formatting, and optimizing your meetings pages for RFP conversions, you are also inherently optimizing your pages for search. Google knows that when a visitor finds your website, reads your copy, clicks your floor plan PDF, and submits an RFP, that user has completed a successful search. By embracing the endless content opportunities of your independent website, you are inherently optimizing your site for the future of organic search.
Off Page Optimization
In his recent post about the inarguable importance of off-page SEO, our pal Nick emphasized the importance of using your real world relationships to build quality backlinks. Your active sales team puts your website in a unique opportunity for lots of easy link building. Many of the businesses that your hotel has partnered with are promoting their conferences on their own websites. Likely, a lot of these groups are naturally linking to your independent website. That’s awesome. However, some groups may not intuitively think to link back to your hotel or meeting space, which gives you the opportunity to pursue that link. Just reach out, say how excited you are for their event, and request their link.
Reaching Niche Audiences
Take advantage of the customizable nature of your independent website to target new and niche audiences. Since you have full control over your content, you have the ability to build out unique and effective landing pages to attract specific types of groups, meetings, and conferences. Are you looking to book more quinceaneras? Creating an epic landing page that incorporates commonly-searched quinceanera keywords, demonstrates your hotel’s ability to throw an awesome party, and includes images from previous quinceaneras will generate organic search impressions for your event venue for quinceanera-related queries. Or maybe you offer special discounts to attract business from pharmaceutical companies. Not only will building a fully-optimized landing page for pharmaceutical conferences increase your visibility in organic search, but inform your target audience that you are the perfect venue for their event.
While many of these niche events groups will have less search volume than broader meeting queries, these pages will still increase the overall amount of impressions for your website as well as attract highly-qualified, high-converting traffic for your business.
Track Your Growth
As you improve, optimize, and implement your meetings-centric SEO campaign, you should regularly track your website’s performance in organic search. With tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics you can determine how many times your individual meetings and conference pages appear in search, which specific queries your pages are relevant for, how many clicks each page receives (and for which query), and the average position in the SERPs for each page or query. These reports provide a wealth of data and insight. Use them to track your visibility in search and monitor how your pages are performing for their primary keyword phrases.
Located in the “Search Traffic” tab of Google Search Console, the Search Analytics report lets you filter down your content to determine how certain pages are performing for specific queries. Utilize these filters to track changes in the amount of search impressions, click through rate, and your average position in the SERPs. As you see positive or negative trends, adjust your on-page strategy to improve your position in the SERPs, drive traffic to your website, and generate inquiries for your sales team.
Track Your Traffic, Improve Your Website
The ability to track user engagement and search engine visibility for your independent website is a truly awesome advantage for your hotel’s meeting space. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Blue Buzzard allow you to understand your online audience, how they interact with your website, which pdfs they click, and which content does not resonate with your audience. Unlike other meeting marketing channels, your independent website gives you the autonomy to statistically analyze your meetings and events pages, identify which content performs best, and optimize your content strategy to maximize RFP submissions. Additionally, by tracking how your meetings and conventions pages perform in organic search, you can effectively benchmark, audit, and improve your SEO campaign for ongoing and sustainable growth.
This data is invaluable. This data doesn’t lie. Use it to your advantage to drive traffic to your site, increase RFP submissions, and grow your sales and revenue.
Earlier this year, our pal Sean outlined Six SEO Reports to put you on the path to search engine success. Keeping a close eye on the traffic, bounce rates, and conversion rates conversion rates of your meetings and conventions pages allow you to to monitor the growth and success of our meeting marketing campaign.
As you monitor traffic to your website’s meetings and events pages, keep in mind that your target audience will be different than your general hotel traffic and that you should adjust your expectations accordingly. Since far fewer people are looking to book meeting rooms than hotel rooms, significantly fewer people will land on your meetings and events pages than your home page. This totally normal, and you should expect to see this. Additionally, the percentage of total website traffic generated by a site’s meetings pages will vary from case to case based upon the local market, the strength of your SEO campaign, changes in Google’s algorithm, or countless one-off variables.
“So, Donnie Boy, that’s a whole lot of variables,” you may be thinking, “how do I monitor my meetings and events traffic?” Simply, the best way is through year over year comparison. As you build out epic, niche landing pages for specific meeting groups, implement creative content ideas, optimize your meta content, build links, and improve your content you should see YOY growth in traffic. If traffic has declined, dig into your SEO toolbox to identify if the decrease stems from a hiccup in your SEO campaign or a change in Google’s always evolving algorithm.
Tracking Goal Conversions
The ultimate goal of your independent website’s meetings and events pages is to generate qualified leads for your sales team. In Google Analytics, the most effective way to quantify these leads is to track the amount of unique, successful RFP submissions. However, you also need to monitor the amount of visitors that click the “call” button after entering your website through a meeting or event page. While website data cannot tell if the caller requested a proposal or simply asked about the availability kosher catering options, we do know that he or she displayed a certain level of interest in your event space.
As you analyze your conversion data, look at both the total number of RFP submissions as well as the percentage of total visitors submitting RFPs. Both metrics provide valuable insights. The raw number of RFPs is fairly straightforward; the more qualified leads, the better. Ultimately, a YOY increase in RFP submission tells you that you are receiving more lead and that your independent website’s content (and likely SEO) strategy are working.
However, some analyses require month over month comparison, and the raw number of RFP submissions does not account for seasonality. Here, you want to look at the percentage of sessions in which an RFP was submitted. This metric removes many of the seasonal variables and allows you to focus on the effectiveness of your website for generating sales inquiries. Even better, Google Analytics landing page report lets you analyze your RFP conversion rate sitewide as well as for sessions that began on your meetings pages. This report also allows you to see how many meeting-minded visitors entered through the home page and ultimately submitted an RFP. Have a look:
By tracking the number of RFP submissions on your website, you will have concrete data about your performance of your website. Use this to benchmark the effectiveness of your meeting marketing campaign and constantly tweak your strategy. If you see an increase in RFP submissions and in RFP conversion rates, stay the course. You are doing great work. If you notice a year over year decline in these metrics, you should audit your meetings pages and optimize for conversion. Like I said, the data does not lie.
While it is extremely useful to track your RFP submissions, you should also monitor micro-conversions to further analyze how users interact with your meetings and events pages. Tracking the number of clicks each meeting pdf receives tells you a lot about the people visiting your website.
- Each pdf click demonstrates active interest in your meeting space.
- Knowing that people are actively reading your floor plans, meeting venues, and planning guides, helps ensure that your RFP submissions will be qualified inquiries from well-informed users.
- Analyzing which event pdfs receive the most clicks indicates which content is the most (and least) popular. You can use this to tweak your content strategy accordingly.
- Anomalies in the number of pdf clicks versus RFP submissions can indicate problems in your content strategy or the functionality of your RFP form.
Additionally, the number of pageviews for your RFP page can also tell you about the audience and functionality of your website. When a user clicks through, he or she has shown next-level interest in submitting an inquiry. That’s great to see! These clicks let you know that your content is engaging and that your event space looks inviting. Naturally, not every person that visits the RFP page will request more information, and drop-offs are inevitable. However, if you notice a large discrepancy in the amount of pageviews and RFP submissions, you need to troubleshoot. Start with these basic tactics:
- Test the functionality of your RFP form.
- Determine if the instructions and fields on your form are intuitive and user-friendly.
- Check your analytics data for device-specific issues on the RFP page.
- Audit the copy, image strategy, and other on-pagel elements of your RFP page.
- Look for content on other pages that may have set false expectations for the user.
Follow Your RFPs with Blue Buzzard Proposal Path
Now that you have created epic meeting content and optimized your pages for search, your data shows increases in website traffic and RFP submissions. Things are looking good. The data doesn’t lie. But as it turns out, you’ve become a vicious data fiend and want to track your RFP submissions beyond the confines of your independent website. Lucky for you, there’s a fix. The Bluebuzzard Proposal Path tool logs every single inquiry submitted through your independent site, allows you to delegate leads to different members of your sales team, and allows you to assign a revenue value to each actualized lead.
Furthermore, after espousing the notion that your independent website will generate more qualified leads than other meeting marketing channel, we can look to Bluebuzzard to substantiate these claims . After five months of Bluebuzzard data for the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center, the overwhelming majority of independent website inquiries have resulted in proposals, site-visits, or actualized revenue. Bluebuzzard’s dashboard makes it clear to see the fruits of your labor and concrete revenue returns on the time and resources that you have invested in your independent website.
How Blue Buzzard Works
Since Blue Magnet is currently in the process of compiling a comprehensive write-up of the Bluebuzzard Proposal Path, I’ll spare you from the the granular details. In the meantime, here is a quick overview to tide you over:
- Once you’ve officially partnered with Bluebuzzard, your hotel will receive its own unique account.
- A Bluebuzzard RFP form is added to the source code of your website.
- Once a user fills out your custom fields and submits an inquiry, your designated “lead catcher” receives an email alert. The lead catcher is usually the Director of Sales, but could be anyone at the hotel.
- The full inquiry is logged into Bluebuzzard dashboard.
- The assigned managers of you hotel’s Bluebuzzard account can assign leads to different members of the sales team.
- Members of the sales team follow up with each lead and update the booking status and estimated value of each inquiry as that information becomes available.
Cut Out the Third Parties
With full control over your website’s SEO campaign, content strategy, and user experience, you can reduce your hotel’s reliance upon third party vendors during the sales process. By generating sales inquiries directly from prospective planners, you will mitigate the revenue lost through third party commissions and avoid lost communications with unreliable vendors. While you will not be able eliminate these problems completely, you will be able to better control your bookings and revenue.
Say No to Commissions
For example, third party vendors charge a ten percent commission for every sale made through their website. If a group books 30 rooms for two nights at an ADR of $125, they are walking away with $750 processing fee. Even worse, the third party removes your sales team’s prized, exceptional service and human touch from the process. By committing to a calculated SEO and content campaigns, your independent website competes with the third parties for clicks in the SERPs and provides an exceptional user experience that promotes direct inquiries.
Say No to Third-Party Shakedowns
Driving RFP submissions through your independent site also reduces the possibility of lost communications with third party vendors. For example, “If hotel fails to track actualized rooms due to incomplete records, lost or stolen records, or technical failure,” during a HotelPlanner transaction, “then the hotel must pay 10% commission on all requested rooms”. In other words, if for any reason the third party vendor does not properly loop your property into the sale, you not only lose the revenue, but are charged a 10% fee for their mistake. By promoting in-house inquiries, your independent website mitigates some of the potential horror stories caused by third party blunders and let’s your talented team do what they do best.
In Conclusion: Master of Your Domain
Your hotel’s website is powerful and valuable tool for generating sales opportunities. With the freedom to customize the user experience, define your company’s personality, and create unique and engaging content, your independent website will set you apart from your competitors and provide a direct and user-friendly channel to drive inquiries. By thoroughly, compellingly, and accurately telling your venue’s story, you will see a notable increase in the quality of your RFPs; integrating Bluebuzzard Proposal Path into your group marketing arsenal will let you know how great these leads are. Your independent website also opens the door to the world of data analysis. Insights from tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console will inform you exactly how people interact with your website and how you can improve your existing campaign.
You have the tools. You have the talent. Go show off your awesome meeting space. It’ll make your sales team happy.
Don’t have an independent site? Get in touch with our Design and Development team. We’d love to chat.