Hotel Internet Marketing: Google + Your Hotel = Visibility

In hotel Internet marketing, the name of the game is getting your hotel’s name in front of as many pairs of eyes as possible. Marketing experts have said that it takes an average of seven views for potential customers to start remembering a name. A relatively new tool from Google+, “Google My Business,” could help up your chances of making it to that magic number.

What is Google My Business and how does it work?

Google My Business makes it easier for hotel owners to get their business information up on multiple Google platforms. Even if you already have a website and a Google+ page for your hotel, firing up Google My Business will connect you to all Google’s platforms, ensuring accurate information shows up on Google organic searches, maps, and Google+.

How do I sign up?

  1. Go to https://www.google.com/business and click the blue “Get on Google” button on the top right. You’re now on the way to “claiming” your business as yours to manage.
  2. On the map, use the search box on the top left to find your business by name and address. From there you can create a Google account and Google+ page for that business.
    – If you already have a Google account for your hotel but not a Google+ page, click the drop-down arrow on the top right, next to the “gear” icon. Click to “Create a New Page.”
    – If you’re starting from scratch and want to get your hotel in front of local and non-local customers, click the “Not a local business?” link just to the left of the gear icon, and use the Brand option to get started building your hotel’s Google presence.

What if my hotel brand has more than one location?

Once you’ve created your hotel’s Google My Business presence, it’s easy to add and edit more locations here.

What are the possible drawbacks?

Google My Business does require regular monitoring to make sure the information presented to potential customers (hotel name, address, local phone number, basic features) stays accurate. The reason for this is that Google pulls information for a wide variety of sources when a user conducts a search. If, for example, an address or phone number is typed wrong on one site (like Yelp), the incorrect information could appear. That’s why you need to ensure that wherever your hotel’s information appears on the web, its information is updated and accurate.

Your hotel + SmarteHotel.com’s services = a powerful marketing combination. Contact us today!

Your Hotel Marketing Plan: 3 Tips for Social Media Content Sharing

When it comes to the social media arm of your hotel marketing plan, it’s clear the best type of content is the type that gets shared, over and over again. The million-dollar question then is what is “good” content? And how do you achieve the Holy Grail of social media—going viral?

 

Tip #1: Offer Solutions

Ask your front desk staff what travel-related problems most customers complain about. They don’t always involve specific problems with the hotel itself, but the misadventures the customer relates about getting to and from the destination.

 

Travel how-tos are among the most shared type of content on the web. A few sample topics you can customize for your hotel or its location include:

  • How to make the most effective use of suitcase space.
  • How to stay organized during a business trip.
  • How to easily and cheaply get around your area during a very busy time, like high tourist season or during a special event.
  • How to handle encounters with the local wildlife (animal and human).
  • Simple “hacks” that make traveling with kids easier.

 

Tip #2: Bite Into the Bulleted List

In general, web pages filled with reams of “grey”—long blocks of unbroken text—are at best skimmed, at worst skipped altogether. While online, readers’ eyes are drawn to short, punchy, bulleted lists. For example, you could develop the following ideas into bulleted content:

  • Top five things to see and do in your area.
  • Items travelers should and shouldn’t leave behind when traveling to your region.
  • Ways to blend in like a local.

 

Tip #3: Make it Visual

Including an eye-catching graphic or photo that captures the topic and tone of your content makes it easy for readers to share on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest. Superimposing the title, such as “Five Travel Hacks You Can’t Live Without” or “(Location name)’s Best Beaches” on the picture means readers don’t have to take their eyes off it to comprehend the message.

 

How-to or list videos, while more labor intensive and expensive to produce, can sometimes be the most effective way to communicate your content. For example, what do you think will better show off your hotel’s amenities? A static picture, or a video panning across the pool area while palm trees wave and kids splash in the sun? Which might gain more business: a photo of an empty ballroom, or a clip of a business meeting or event in progress?

 

By knowing who your customers are, how far ahead they book, and why they come to your hotel, it’s more likely your hotel marketing plan content will go viral.

 

Smart eHotels™ can help make your hotel marketing plan content the talk of the Internet. Contact us today!

Hotel PPC: Are You Doing it Wrong?

Hotel PPC (pay-per-click) is quite the buzzword these days. It looks deceptively easy—set it up, wait for customers to spot it on their search engine results page, and let the reservations roll in. However, the reality is it’s not that easy, and if you’re doing it wrong, you’re wasting money. Find out how to get it right using these five tips.

 

Tip #1: Good SEO Isn’t Enough

You may be thinking, “Why should I employ PPC when my web site’s search engine optimization (SEO) already puts my hotel at the top of most customers’ natural search results? Isn’t PPC a waste of money?”

 

Not necessarily. On average, a customer needs to see your hotel’s name at least seven times before it begins to “stick” in his or her mind. Ensuring your hotel’s name appears twice on the same page is like getting a two-for-one advertising deal.

 

Tip #2: You Can Set it and Forget it—Sort of

Sure, you can set up a hotel PPC campaign and let it do its thing, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. That’s a recipe for disappointment and a conclusion that “PPC doesn’t work.” It does work, but you have to work it. Check on the progress at least once a week and tweak it as needed.

 

Tip #3: Google Isn’t the Only Game in Town

Arguably, Google is the biggest and baddest paid search engine on the web, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the other search engines or treat them all the same. Studying how PPC works differently for each one will help you gain even more clicks.

 

Tip #4: Just Throwing Money at PPC Doesn’t Help

Conventional wisdom says if your PPC campaign isn’t generating enough click-throughs, simply raise your bid to improve page positioning. But it doesn’t work that way. Much like SEO content, search engines look at more than just how much you’re willing to pay when determining optimal page positioning. They look at the quality of the clicks you’re generating, which includes the click-through rate and the relevance of the ad content to your landing page.

 

Tip #5: A Good PPC Campaign Won’t Fix Everything

If your web site isn’t prepared to meet the expectations of the potential customers clicking through, you’re wasting your advertising money. Make sure your site is user friendly, especially the booking system. If a visitor has to click more than twice to find what is needed, you’re at risk of losing business to an easier-to-navigate competitor’s site.

 

Let Smart eHotels help you get your hotel PPC campaign right the first time. Contact us today!

Hotel Online Marketing Plan: How to Maximize Pinterest

Pinterest, the wildly popular online bulletin board, is a brainstormer’s paradise. Who hasn’t cut a picture from a magazine, clipped a recipe, bookmarked a web site, or tacked a list to the fridge to reference later? Trust social media users to take a simple concept and find a million and one ways to use it—such as including it in a hotel online marketing plan.

 

In the past couple years, the number of Pinterest users connecting to all kinds of business web sites has outpaced all other social media outlets, including Facebook. It’s a powerhouse that can’t be ignored.

 

In fact, hotels can now take advantage of Pinterest’s business accounts. If you’ve already set up a regular account for your hotel and aren’t sure how to use it, you can easily convert to a business account and explore tools that let you integrate Pinterest with your web site.

 

Button It Up

Next, after you’ve created an account, use a simple code to add a Pinterest button to the page template of your web site. It’s pretty easy if you know even basic web site coding; even easier to turn over to your web designer. A button makes it simple for customers to find and follow your boards, similarly to how they “follow” your Facebook page.

 

Even better, you can have a small “Pin It” button pop up whenever a visitor rolls a mouse pointer over a picture. This is an easy way to make that connection that could later lead to a booking.

 

Weave Your Web

Like many other social media sites, you can link your hotel’s Pinterest account to your Facebook page and Twitter feed. Anytime you post something new to a board, a notice will then post to your other social media feeds.

 

Your First Boards

You’ll quickly learn that it’s easy to get caught up in exploring the labyrinth of Pinterest topics. Start simple with boards that focus on your hotel’s rooms and its amenities like restaurants, bars, pools, workout facilities, public areas, and more. The idea is to pin high-quality photos from your web site. Then when a picture catches a potential customer’s eye, a click on that picture will take him or her directly to your web site.

 

More Pinboard Ideas

Once you get the hang of creating boards and pinning, widen your horizons a little. Create a shared board that lets customers pin their photos of a recent visit. Add another board that highlights special promotional rates. And perhaps start a new board of the bartender’s latest cocktail creation or the restaurant’s current special dish. Make boards with connections to local attractions, popular travel writers, and more . . . the possibilities for getting your hotel’s name out there are endless.

 

In fact, it’s easy to get a little too scattered. Just make sure every pin serves a specific purpose that links back to fulfilling your hotel online marketing plan and, ultimately, your business goals.

 

Connect With Us

Let us show you how well social media can work for your hotel. Contact us today!

Your Hotel Internet Marketing Plan: Chart a Course to Social Media Success

You have a hotel to manage. Maybe several hotels or even an international chain. You’ve heard that anyone and everyone is on Facebook. So, like a good manager with a vague idea of a hotel Internet marketing plan, you create a Facebook page for your hotel.

 

Now what?

 

Chances are you’ve also heard about Twitter and Pinterest. However, this scattered approach to hotel Internet marketing isn’t going to work unless you find a way to braid these dangling threads together into a cohesive, functioning unit.

 

Marketing = Business, Business = Marketing

When in doubt, always refer to your business plan. If the only business plan you have is floating around in your brain, deposit it on a piece of paper. Once it’s written down, it’s easier to look at objectively and adjust as needed. Even if it’s just one page or a few sentences, write your business plan down! After reading it, if you decide to change it, that’s why erasers and backspace keys were invented. If you’re not sure where to start, search the Internet for “write a simple business plan”, and you’re off and running.

 

Next, every move you make in social media should—must—support your business plan. If it doesn’t serve the plan, it’s a waste of your time. That doesn’t mean your social media activities can’t be appealing, informative, and fun. It just means you need to work social media like you would a lively cocktail party, making sure your voice is heard above the sound of everyone talking at once.

 

Draw a Picture

Let’s go old school on this. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil. At the top, write the main points of your business plan. Draw a box around that. Now draw one or more short lines down from the box to your target customer or customers. Box those in.

 

Beneath each of those, draw lines that show where each customer can be found online. One type of customer might be found socializing using sites like Facebook and Twitter. Another group might be more easily found in online travel forums. Others may have to be enticed from their email boxes.

 

Make a List

Now list ways to build your audience for each of these channels, and figure out how to make it incredibly easy for each of these customer segments to book a stay. And voila! You have the beginnings of a keenly targeted, functional hotel Internet marketing plan.

 

Now wasn’t that easy?

 

Find Out More

If you need a hotel Internet marketing plan that works, we can help. Contact us today!

Video: Creating Your Hotel Internet Marketing Brochure

Travelers are on the move. Why should your hotel Internet marketing plan stand still? An effective way to add some movement to your marketing is with an eye-catching video. A video serves as an electronic version of a colorful, printed brochure, except no trees have to be sacrificed to bring it to life.

Site Matters

What’s the best place on the web to post a video? With the popularity of YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, it’s a no-brainer that the finished product should be uploaded to those easily accessible sites. Who wouldn’t want access to over a billion viewers per month?

The problem is, a YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram viewer is one click away from your competitors’ videos. However, someone watching a video on your hotel’s web site is one click away from booking a stay. That’s why an attractive, informative, and—most of all—functional web site is critical to draw in and hold a customer’s interest, from the home page right through to the booking confirmation page.

What Moves a Viewer?

The answer is “Movement!” Sure, it would be easy to string together a couple dozen static photographs, tack on some canned music, and call it a video. However, that’s more like a slide show. When’s the last time you enjoyed someone else’s vacation slide show?

You may also be tempted to produce the video yourself, assuming that paying someone else will be too expensive. However, figure in the costs of equipment and video editing software, not to mention the hours spent writing an effective script and learning to use the software, and you’ll be further ahead to hire a professional. The increase in bookings will more than pay for the investment.

Let Us Help

SmarteHotels.com can help your hotel Internet marketing move into the spotlight with a great marketing plan. Contact us today for more details.

Hotel PPC: Smart Keyword Targeting Saves Campaign Dollars

When selecting keywords for your hotel PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaign, it’s tempting to pick words and phrases that seem to make the most sense, such as “hotels in San Francisco” or “hotels near Yellowstone.” In reality, this is a good way to burn through your PPC budget in nothing flat.

Before you target your keywords, you need to target your campaign. Ask yourself what goals you’re aiming for when you set up a PPC advertising effort.

Are you staking out your territory?

If your goal is to prevent your competition from highjacking your hotel’s name to drive traffic to their web sites (hey, it happens), allocate a healthy amount of campaign dollars toward keywords that include your hotel’s name. If this sounds like a no-brainer, it is—so much so that its importance is often underestimated. You may not even be aware you’re being “brandjacked” until you investigate why your previous hotel PPC campaign was unsuccessful.

Do you want to attract customers looking for hotels in your region?

Another way to target your hotel PPC campaign is to go after travelers who are already planning a trip to or through your area. Let’s say your hotel is located near a professional sports team’s game venue. The team’s top rival is coming to town for a game on a certain date. Therefore, you already know customers will be looking for “hotel near Giants stadium” or “hotel near Fenway Park,” and pretty much when they’re going to be searching. Voila, you have the keywords and the time frame for your hotel PPC campaign. This is one of the most efficient ways to spend your PPC dollars.

Are you looking to establish your brand name?

No way around it, getting your hotel’s name in front of as many eyes as possible is an expensive proposition. A branding mission is the most expensive type of hotel PPC campaign, but if your hotel is new on the block, it’s still a bargain compared to other types of traditional advertising.

Establish Your Presence

One ever-present goal is to make customers aware your facility exists, so it’s essential that you make every click count. How? By ensuring that every customer who clicks on your PPC link is greeted with a top-notch landing page that’s attractive, informative, and functional.

SmarteHotels.com can help you build a hotel PPC campaign that pops. Contact us today!

Hotel CRO: Are Your CRO Procedures Ultra Efficient?

Congratulations! Your hotel chain has grown to the point it needs a central reservations office, or CRO, to handle the volume of reservations. However, you’ve noticed that your hotel CRO staff members seem a little harried. They’re all on the phone and the hold lights are flashing everywhere.

This may not be a sign that all is well, since a customer who has to wait too long is a customer lost. Few people have the time or patience to wait even a few minutes to make a hotel reservation via phone. They’ll hang up and move on to the competition rather than cool their heels listening to soothing music.

So how do you know if your hotel CRO is running as efficiently as possible?

The Answer’s in the Phone Data

If you’re using an automated phone system that manages incoming calls, you most likely have access to activity reports that contain data such as:

  • Number of “failed” customers.
    These are callers who never became customers because they hung up while on hold.
  • Average time a customer waits on hold.
    It’s good to shoot for a time-on-hold goal. Many top-tier companies aim to answer about 80 percent of calls with a live person within 20 seconds. If you find your CRO is consistently falling short of this goal, it could be time to add more staff.
  • How long a customer service representative spends on each call.
    Depending on the complexity of your hotel chain’s rate structure, along with the type of travelers who book at your facilities, the average call time can be anywhere from two to five minutes. Call times under two minutes aren’t necessarily desirable—this could mean a representative isn’t spending enough time sharing information or upselling, or that the calls are ending without the customer making a reservation.
  • Percentage of calls that end with a reservation made.
    This is a data point that should be looked at over a longer period of time since conversion rates can vary greatly by the day of the week or the time of year. For example, you’ll have times you’re turning people away because you’re sold out, and slow times when almost every call results in a booking, which can skew the statistics.

Note: The number of calls lost because all the lines are busy can usually only be obtained from the phone company.

If you’d like to convert more callers into loyal customers, SmarteHotels.com can help. Contact us today!

Getting a Visual on Your Hotel Online Marketing Plan

The Internet is very much a visual medium. A picture is worth, literally, a thousand words—if not more. However, as any seasoned web marketer can tell you, web site hits, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers don’t necessarily translate into sold hotel rooms. If your web site is getting a lot of visitors but you aren’t seeing an uptick in bookings, take a look at these tried-and-true web marketing tips to strengthen your hotel online marketing plan.

The Human Element

As you know, including high-quality photographs of each room category, the grounds, amenities, on-site restaurants, etc. is essential. However, did you realize that including a person in at least some of those photos can help sell your hotel to potential customers? This helps customers picture themselves relaxing in that room, lounging by the pool, or enjoying the restaurant or workout facility.

Also, take a look at your hotel’s “About Us” page. Including a picture of the facility owner or manager with a personal welcome message can help potential customers feel like they’re not dealing with a stranger. A group picture of the staff can help too.

‘Moving’ Pictures

Including a video tour can make customers feel like they’ve already visited your hotel, but a “moving” picture that tells a story can “move” customers to book a stay rather than moving on to the next site.

For example, show a picture of:

  • a business meeting taking place in your facility meeting rooms, equipped with technological amenities.
  • a conference where a business person and a supply vendor are shaking hands on a deal.
  • a wedding reception in joyous progress in one of your ballrooms.
  • a grandmother reuniting with her grandchildren at a picnic by the pool.

Fan Pictures

Encourage guests who’ve enjoyed their stay to send photos taken at your hotel along with their testimonials. Including these on your web site, Facebook page, or Twitter feed can tip the scales for a potential customer considering a booking.

If you’re ready to snag potential customers’ attention with your hotel online marketing plan, then we can help. Contact us today.

How to Use Hashtags in Your Hotel Internet Marketing Plan

The hot trend right now? Hashtags. They’re on everyone’s lips and the tips of millions of typing fingers. #Curious? Here’s how to use hashtags effectively in your hotel Internet marketing plan.

What is a Hashtag, Anyway?

Used on the Internet, a hashtag is a word or phrase (without spaces or punctuation) immediately preceded by a hash or pound sign (#). The hashtag makes that word or phrase easily searchable. Twitter first adopted the hashtag for searches, and now it is used on several social media platforms.

Before the hashtag, these keywords and phrases were known as metadata tags. With the advent of Twitter, however, these keywords have come out of the coding and into common usage. When chosen wisely, they can amplify your hotel Internet marketing plan.

Types of Hashtags

Hashtags fall into three general categories:

  • Brand or campaign-specific
  • Trending
  • Content

A brand hashtag should be your hotel’s name and/or the slogan that brands your hotel. This is the kind of slogan that when people hear it, they know without a doubt it’s your hotel. A few well-known examples of brand hashtags include:

  • #BaskinRobbins, #31Flavors
  • #Kmart, #KmartBLS (as is “Blue Light Special”)
  • #CapitalOne, #WhatsInYourWallet
  • #McDonalds, #ImLovinIt

A campaign-specific hashtag is one that rolls out with your latest marketing campaign. A few prominent examples include:

  • Wendy’s: #twEATfor1K. Customers who purchased the restaurant’s new sandwich—and posted a picture of it online—were automatically entered in a drawing for $1,000.
  • The White House: #40dollars. Used to raise awareness of what a tax cut extension would mean to working families.
  • Home Depot: #HDgameday was a photo contest featuring college football fans with Home Depot buckets at the stadium.

Brand or campaign, hashtags make it easy for you to locate and interact with past, current, and future customers. Say a guest posts a photo of the view from his room. What better way to show you’re paying attention than to respond before he even checks out?

The key is to keep hashtags short, use them consistently, and make them unique. “#ValentinesDaySpecial” is not going to grab much attention, but “#TwoHeartsTwoNights” stands a better chance.

A trending hashtag relates to a specific topic everyone’s talking about. Trending topics are extremely fluid. A hot topic can be on the top ten hashtag list one moment, yet fall off mere minutes later. This is why you can’t put a hotel Internet marketing plan into action and just forget about it. Instead, when you quickly adjust your online content to jump on a trending hashtag, it can get you in front of millions of eyes in one fell—and free—swoop. For example, #MusicMonday is a hashtag that frequently bubbles to the top of trending lists. You could use it to talk up the live band appearing in your hotel’s pub.

However, let’s emphasize that it’s extremely important to pick and choose only those tags that connect with your hotel brand. Also, don’t pile a long list of hashtags on the end of a tweet. Your Twitter account could be flagged as spam and suspended. “Selective” is your mantra.

Content hashtags aren’t necessarily trending or wildly unique, but they are words and phrases that are commonly used in web searches. It’s sort of like the social media equivalent of SEO, or search engine optimization.

So what are your potential customers searching for? They’re seeking a hotel in a certain location or for a certain event. For example: #NewYorkCityHotels, #conferencehotels #NYCweddingvenues, #NYCholidays. They could be looking for hotels within a certain price point or with a high level of service, such as #budgethotelsNYC or #4starhotelNYC. If your hotel’s located in an area known for a popular event, use that event’s hashtag to let people know of your hotel’s convenient location, like #NYmarathon.

With selective and judicious use of hashtags, your hotel Internet marketing plan can be a campaign heard around the world. For more information, contact SmarteHotels.com and let us help.