Ages ago, when I was still a starry-eyed youth, I had a job very different from what I do today. I worked in a bowling alley as a porter, which is essentially a combination of a barback and a busboy. In short, I stocked a bar and cleaned up after league bowlers (who can be surprisingly nitpicky). When you work a job in the service industry, you hear one phrase pretty often (and it still chills my spine to this day). You may have even heard it from guests at your hotel, “The customer is always right.” While this phrase still reminds me of angry customers looking to get something for free, as my career in marketing has progressed, it has become clear that this phrase can have an entirely different, and much more valuable, meaning. Customer feedback can be extremely useful when marketing your hotel. By understanding what the population as a whole thinks about your hotel and about your local area, you can incorporate their opinions into your website, yielding amazing results!
Some of the most frustrating aspects of content creation include the fact that ideas sometimes slip away and the creative juices simply stop pumping, or in some cases they are flowing in the wrong direction. The goal of all content you write for your website should be to provide guests with highly relevant and insightful information that adds value to the experience your users will have. Relevant and valuable information not only improves the user experience, but is recognized and rewarded by search engines. This means that when you write content that is highly relevant and valuable for your website, it will perform better for relevant search terms. Fortunately, a wonderful invention of the modern age known as “the internet” allows you to conduct easy research on what guests want to read about!
When you are working on new content and cannot seem to make any progress, there can be a few reasons why. In some cases, you may not know what people will find valuable. In other instances, you may be positive that an idea is great, but it actually may not actually be that interesting to a typical guest. In these cases, “the customer is always right” should be your mantra. “The customers,” not as individuals but as a collective whole, are actively online and sending out signals about content that they find valuable. Look at what real guests are saying about your hotel for inspiration to determine the most effective topics to focus on when you are creating marketing content.
The Struggle of Content Creation
If you have ever tried writing content to better market your hotel, you most likely ran into difficulties at one point or another. In my experience, these difficulties can manifest themselves in one of two ways. The first, and most common, wall you can hit is universally known as “writer’s block”; you start off with the goal of creating eloquent, thought-provoking content and end up lost in a sea of your own ideas with no clue of which direction to take. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may have a very clear idea towards what you think users find valuable, but as you work, you find that the idea is not very developed and will not be as important to guests as you had anticipated.
When marketing your hotel, remember that dreaded phrase, “the customer is always right.” “The customer,” as a group, are your guests, your target market, and the people you want staying at your hotel. Whenever you create any sort of marketing material, it should always be written to speak to them. You must always keep in mind what they want and what they find valuable.
Imagine you are trying to promote one of your specials on your independent website. You may have a special that, in your opinion, is the best idea ever and should be promoted heavily. A common example would be something along the lines of a “Gas Card Package” where guests receive a $10 voucher for use at a nearby gas station. This may be useful for a certain type of traveler, but if no guests appreciate your convenient location near the highway, then you may be getting your heart set on something that will end up generating very little interest – yielding a very unsatisfying result. However, if you still hope to promote one of your specials, you can do research to see what recent guests found valuable. By conducting a little bit of extra research, you can discover which features of your hotel guests appreciate the most and focus your efforts on gaining visibility for a package that you now have evidence guests like, providing you with a significantly better chance at success.
Conducting Research for Content Marketing
Now we want to explore the actual “meat and potatoes” of content creation. With an understanding that we want to tailor our writing for our target guest and focus on topics they find valuable, the question you should be asking at this point is, “How do I know what topics guests want to read about?” Fortunately, we live in the 21st century, and the internet allows every single one of your guests to have a voice! As a common practice, you should always keep an eye on what guests are saying about your hotel so you can provide the best possible service and know where you need to improve. In a similar vein, Yelp, Tripadvisor, OTA reviews, and travel blogs that feature your hotel are perfect resources for content ideas for your independent website.
Disclaimer: Only use blog posts and reviews as sources of inspiration – many content creators have shot themselves in the foot by directly copying content and Google is not a fan of it.
If a guest writes a review about your hotel, he or she is likely to express their personal likes and dislikes. Take the time to read through a few of these reviews and you will quickly find features that are common guest favorites. When a user notes one of your amenities, he or she is throwing up a nice little flag for you saying, “I find this valuable!” If enough users are calling out a specific feature of your hotel, you should strongly consider writing more content about it. (Provided there is more to be said; sadly, you should not try and stretch out multiple pages about your pet-friendly policy).
For example, take one of our hotels in San Luis Obispo. It became clear after reading several reviews that their staff is friendly, helpful, and goes above and beyond in terms of service. Because so many guests have such complimentary remarks about their staff, it was a no-brainer to write a landing page that let prospective guests meet the team that provides such exemplary hotel service!
Best Practices for Marketing Research
It’s pretty clear for hotels that there are certain features guests will frequently talk about in their reviews, messages, and posts. So how do we find these features? There are a few different ways to sort through the signals guests are sending out, and each has a unique value that can help you on your path to success!
Don’t Limit Your Focus to Your Best Reviews
When reading through reviews and guest comments, you are certain to find a few guests who did not have a stellar experience. In fact, you will most likely find several one and two star reviews that have a lot of negative remarks. Don’t be disheartened by these! There’s a significant amount of value to be had from all reviews, negative ones even more so. What one guest may see as a drawback, another might see as a selling point. As a content creator, it is necessary to really look into what guests are saying and think carefully about what that might mean for you. For example, if a guest leaves a negative review about your Evening Reception you can read carefully and see if the issue that he or she had was due to unrealistic expectations. If this is the case a well written callout on your independent website can act as a selling point while also clarifying what guests should expect.
Don’t ignore those middle of the road reviews either. These mediocre reviews often highlight guests’ likes and dislikes and can be extraordinarily insightful. I have often found that because of this, three star reviews are sometimes the most helpful, as a guest has put careful thought into what he or she is saying and is more likely to have level headed thoughts. In the case of wholly positive or negative reviews the guest is sometimes so full of emotion it’s tricky to determine what he or she is being honest about.
The two reviews above tell very different stories about the same hotel, despite being only one week apart in publishing date. It can be difficult to determine an honest opinion when a guest is extremely pleased or displeased about a single aspect of your hotel. Meanwhile, the below review covers a few different aspects of the hotel and reads as if the user invested a lot of thought about what they liked and disliked about their stay.
Check Out the Reviews of Your Competitors
You can discover new paths to success for your hotel by understanding the strengths and limitations of your local competitors. When looking through your own reviews, take a few minutes to see what users are saying about other nearby hotels. Consider what guests are saying about your competitors and think carefully about how their likes and dislikes can be leveraged for your own marketing content. Do you have a similar amenity? Are you even closer to that attraction? Do you have reviews that speak even more highly about that feature? If guests love something about a competing hotel it’s not unlikely that they’ll love the same thing about you!
Discovering Traveler Type
TripAdvisor provides a handy tool to sort reviews by traveler type. Many hotels tend to be highly popular among certain demographics. For example, many airport hotels with flexible meeting rooms become popular among business travelers. Whereas hotels near a local amusement park or attraction tend to see mostly family travelers, downtown hotels in a popular getaway location will cater mostly to couples. If your hotel wants to continue to focus on travelers that often come in, sorting by traveler type can help you double down on your efforts and boost your popularity among this target demographic. Sometimes we see hotels looking to expand their market to a new traveler type, and in these cases, this feature allows you to see what those guests like and dislike about your hotel.
If you really feel lost while trying to sort through your reviews TripAdvisor has another amazing tool to let you know exactly what most guests are talking about.
When look up your hotel on TripAdvisor, you’ll see a lovely group of popular topics like in the photo above, each one being a clickable link. When you click on these topics, you can see exactly what guests are saying about this feature. If you check out these links, it’s very important to read through as many reviews as you can; some may be negative and others may be positive, and you will want a comprehensive understanding of what guests think about this feature. Under no circumstance should you only read through one or two reviews to support your own personal feelings about this feature. When using this approach it is vital that you read through many different reviews and comments so you can understand the most popular and unpopular aspects of the feature, and properly focus your efforts.
There are many great ways to find value from various review sources, I highly encourage hoteliers to check out other ways to get the most out of your hotel reviews.
Applications Outside of Your Hotel
Another effective way to use review-based content beyond your hotel amenities is to research your local area to find the best businesses and attractions to recommend to your guests. Many hotel websites feature tasteful guides on popular attractions and restaurants, which serve as a great tool for guests who are looking for fun things to do during their stay. While you might think that Chinese restaurant on 5th is the bomb.com, websites like Yelp are great for finding out what a larger sample size of people think about it.
For example, this hotel is located in Downtown Los Angeles. Even when the writer is extremely familiar with the Downtown area and has a strong opinion on the best attractions, that knowledge has a bias of his or her own interests. Since we are trying to write for a wide audience of potential guests it is wise to do research and discover the opinion of the “customer” as a collective. While it is always important to have variety in these guides (so it can be useful to as many guests as possible), reviews and blog posts can be a boon when you want to know the general opinion of an attraction and provide handy tips that you might not know otherwise!
Bringing It All Together
At the end of the day, remember that all research done through user generated content should be used purely for inspiration. If you are working on fresh content for your website, it is likely that you will “hit a wall” and wonder how to move forward. Since the best content for your website, from both a user and SEO perspective, is that which guests find relevant and valuable, your writing should focus on topics that guests have come out and SAID is relevant and valuable. By doing research, you can discover exactly how “the customer is right” and better understand what they want to know. This practice makes writing landing pages faster and easier, and you can have it on good authority that the information you are publishing is relevant and valuable. Just remember that the new content on your site should be just that, new. Write about topics people are expressing interest in; but this is your hotel, and your voice and verbiage should be unique to you. If you simply copy what users are saying in an attempt to relate to them you are not creating fresh content. Now you are fully prepared to rework pages of your website to focus on topics that you know for sure will be valuable to guests.
Coming up with exciting ways to market your hotel in the digital world can be difficult, and few managers have the time or energy to take all the necessary steps to create the content they need. Fortunately, our team is always happy to help ambitious hoteliers achieve their marketing goals. Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help your hotel succeed in the digital marketplace!