Depending on your strategy and needs, using OTAs is an easy yet effective marketing tool that can really boost your online presence and occupancy. Having complete, up-to-date listings across OTAs is crucial for taking advantage of the “Billboard Effect” and for having a holistic hotel online marketing strategy. That said, here are five simple steps that you can follow to further increase your hotel’s presence on these important channels.
1. Update Content Regularly
Make sure that your listing contains content that is up-to-date, complete, and compelling. Your most recent hotel information, photos, room amenities, and policies should be accurately displayed on each of your listings. This will not only help visitors make informed decisions about your hotel, but it will also ensure that you show up in the proper search results when visitors use filters. For example, if a hotel that previously charged $10 for parking per day, now offers it for free and does not update this information across OTAs, the hotel will not be listed when the Free Parking filter is used to refine search results. These updates and changes may seem minor but can make a big difference to ensure that your hotel can be found easily in an OTA depending on the visitor’s needs and search behaviors.
To increase visibility in the search results, work with your market manager to add a tag to highlight a hotel special and draw visitors’ eyes to your listing. Depending on the OTA, market managers will allow you to submit the tag copy to emphasize your hotel’s recent renovation, a weekday discount, or simply your advance purchase rate.
2. Open Up Availability and Ensure Rate Parity
While larger hotel brands rely on brand agreements for availability and parity, smaller properties should keep an eye on rates and inventory. By having open availability and all rates within parity, you will inherently achieve a higher user experience for travelers looking to book, and market managers will be more willing to strategize and work with you to achieve your goals. Having infrequent parity issues is rewarded by increased ranking as well, so by ensuring that your hotel listing is in parity with your brand reservations and other OTAs, you will help increase your listing visibility organically too. In addition, to maximize exposure and take advantage of the different booking opportunities on OTAs, hotels should load vacation package rates to display for visitors looking to book air + hotel or hotel + car. Participating in opaque channels is another opportunity that hoteliers can utilize. Having a presence in an OTA’s variety of booking options will maximize your exposure and give you a fuller OTA strategy.
3. Evaluate Distressed Inventory
OTAs are often associated with distressed inventory, but having a strong strategy to tackle your occupancy issues will help your online campaign beyond your need dates in addition to increasing your exposure. If you are trying to target sales over the next 24-hours, use channels and mobile app sites that specialize in this type of booking and travel window, such as HotelTonight. Hoteliers can also increase exposure by opting into 24-hour sales. The short booking window drives a strong call to action, and you can still target a longer travel window, depending on the sale and OTA.
OTAs will also promote particular markets, so if your region is being highlighted in the next Last Minute Sale, make sure you are listed in the email blast if you need the extra exposure. There is a good chance that some of your competitors will be listed here as well, so opting into Last Minute Deals will not only increase your exposure from having just the organic listing, but it will also ensure that you are taking advantage of all the OTA opportunities that will put you on par with your competitors’ presence.
4. Use Targeted Ads
Bidding for ad space in OTA search results is a very straightforward way to increase exposure in these channels. Specifically, it is a very effective strategy for targeting precise booking and travel windows. Ads such as Expedia TravelAds or Sponsored Search on Travelocity and Orbitz are very effective for hotels, regardless of whether your hotel’s organic ranking in the OTA search results is high or low. On the one end, if you rank poorly for your market, ads will give you the opportunity to be listed higher than your organic listing in that OTA. On the other end, if you already rank high on the page, running ads will double your real estate on the search results page, increasing the chance of a user clicking on your ad or listing over a competitor listing.
5. Communication with Your Market Managers
Lastly, one of your greatest resources for maximizing your presence and strategy in OTA channels is your market managers. Make sure to keep open lines of communication with your market managers since they are going to be consistently aware of booking patterns and trends within your market. Communicate and verbalize any need dates and your desired goals, and allow them to help you strategize accordingly. While market managers often come into play to let you know that your rates are outside parity, they sometimes will have effective strategies and opportunities for you that would be worthwhile to look into. They can be quite a help in navigating all the different OTA opportunities, and in finding which strategies will work best for your campaign.
While OTA strategies cannot stand alone as your online marketing strategy, they can be exceedingly helpful in creating a wide-ranging, full-scale online campaign. A Cornell study showed that a hotel that receives 10% of its overall contribution from OTAs also received another 10% in direct web bookings through their official brand website by being promoted on the OTAs. Having a full, complete presence across OTAs will not only result in an increase in OTA bookings, but it will also result in an increase in direct, brand.com bookings due to the increase in awareness of your hotel.
Need help with OTAs for your hotel?
Give us a call at 877-361-1177 x202 or send us a note if you are interested in finding out more about independent websites or how Blue Magnet can help you achieve your hotel’s ecommerce goals.