Hotel SEO: Do Your Homework, Make the Grade

Let’s try a hotel SEO experiment. Go to Google, and type “hotel” plus the name of your hometown or the nearest big city in the text box. Press Enter to search.

 

What do you see?

 

In the list of unpaid results, most likely you see links to the most popular travel booking sites, perhaps one or two of the hottest travel review sites, and maybe one large hotel chain. Down at the very bottom.

 

What don’t you see?

 

Chances are, you probably won’t see links to small hotel chains or independents. Go ahead, click on page two of the search results. More big commercial names. Page three—more of the same. No, wait, there’s one independent luxury hotel clear down at the bottom of page three.

 

How did that get there? What is this hotel doing right, or at least right enough to claw its way onto page three? And what could the staff improve upon to work their way up to page two . . . or the Holy Grail of search engine results, page one? Below are three ideas to make this happen:

  1. Research keywords. Using the wrong keywords is just as bad as ignoring hotel SEO completely. For example, a highly desirable but overused phrase like “luxury hotel” is a good way to make your hotel disappear from search results. Think about how your target customer might word a search phrase, like “hotel Detroit historic district” or “lakefront hotel Detroit.”
  2. Build keywords into your hotel web site. Take your carefully researched keywords and begin building them into your hotel web site. This doesn’t mean randomly copying and pasting clumps of words on every page. The words have to make sense within the context of the content. Think of this as building a story around those keywords. Include useful content that draws the reader to click “book” instead of “back.”
  3. Cookie-cutter = kiss of death. Don’t trust some other company’s web site template to effectively manage your hotel’s SEO strategy. Custom fit the web site structure, as well as the content, to your hotel. Make every image, every word something the customer wants more of, not meaningless click bait.

 

Smart eHotels™ can help you hit your hotel SEO target—every time. Contact us today!

Hotel Sales Marketing: What Makes a Good Marketing Manager?

Congratulations! Your hotel business has grown thanks to your hard work, careful planning, and targeted hotel sales marketing efforts. However, you find marketing is taking up a larger and larger chunk of each day. You decide to hand off this task to someone who can concentrate all their energy into this time-intensive task.

 

First Steps

You may be tempted to “hire from within”—simply assigning these duties to an existing staff member—but is this the best move? A good marketing manager needs a variety of skills, not least of which is multitasking. The following list of specialized skills for a good marketing manager will help you select the right person for this job, whether he or she is already on your staff, or you reach out to hire someone new.

  • Objectivity

Do you know why customers choose your hotel? Well, yes, of course you do. The combination of service, price point, and location, right? You provide these features and the customers come. But have you directly asked customers what factors went into their choice? This is valuable information you might be missing out on. A good marketing manager will ask hard questions like these—what you did right, what could be better, what was a turnoff—to not only bring customers back, but attract more of the ones you want.

  • An Eye for New Marketing Opportunities

In addition to keeping the hotel’s web site polished and up-to-the-minute, a marketing manager should be up on the latest trends in online and real-time marketing. That means maintaining a lively, interactive presence on a variety of social media and review sites. Plus, this marketing expert should develop new and creative ways to maintain an active role in the local community, like sponsoring a high school team or hosting “pop-up” venues for local crafters, designers, and food vendors to showcase their talents.

  • Networking Ability

All hotels have periods where occupancy rates traditionally dip. A good marketing manager will need to come up with innovative ways to boost occupancy without lowering standards for your target customer. This is where the ability to effectively network with other local businesses could make the difference. Is your hotel traditionally a busy mecca for summer tourists? Bring in new winter guests with a weekend of gourmet food and wine tastings provided by nearby restaurants and wineries. Are meeting rooms going empty during the business conference off-season? Open them for short-term use by local businesses, clubs, or charity organizations.

  • Humility

A good marketing manager doesn’t forget that every last member of the staff is the face of the hotel and can make or break a customer’s experience. Never overlook the fact that staff members can be an excellent source of ideas not only to improve service, but to make a customer’s stay one-of-a-kind. In a good way.

 

Hotel sales marketing doesn’t have to be a big mystery. Smart eHotels can help clear the way. Contact us today!

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!

What’s New In Hotel Revenue Management Systems

Hotel Revenue Management can look like a big bowl of acronym soup: RevPAR, TRevPar, ADR, GOPPAR. Happily, there are a number of software systems available to help you sort it all out into a column labeled “Profit.”

First of all, let’s review what those acronyms mean:

  • RevPAR – Revenue Per Available Room
  • TRevPAR – Total Revenue Per Available Room
  • ADR – Average Daily Rate
  • GOPPAR – Gross Operating Profit Per Available Room

While these formulas look at maximizing revenue from several different angles, they all have one thing in common – time. The data generated won’t be very useful unless it’s used within the context of clearly defined time parameters. For example, comparing last week’s Tuesday through Thursday to this week’s Tuesday through Thursday, or to the Tuesday through Thursday exactly one year ago. You could look at a single day, or a whole month. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

Even if you’re a RevPAR wizard, a good hotel revenue management system will save time you can use to accomplish more tasks throughout the day. Some new systems on the market include:

  • RevPAR Guru
    RevPAR Guru offers an advanced revenue management module designed to help you increase online bookings, and easily determine pricing and distribution. Another module delivers reservations made by online travel agents (OTA), and a booking module to help you increase reservations made directly from your hotel’s website.
  • InnRoad
    Billed as an “all-inclusive” hotel software package, InnRoad takes all the individual tasks a hotel manager needs to do on a daily basis – check competitors’ prices, monitor online travel sites for their latest special offers, and review historical data like ADR, RevPAR by room type, occupancy rates, and more – and streamlines the whole process to keep your hotel competitive within its local market. It even has tools to help you easily design and implement special limited-time room prices to help you capture and retain customers.

Need help choosing the right revenue management system for your hotel? We can help. Contact us today!

Global Distribution Systems Q&A: Part 2

In part one of this series, we discussed what the GDS is, and why getting listed in the global distribution system is vital. This time, we’ll get into more of the nitty-gritty.

What kind of costs are involved?

Normally there’s a one-time fee to sign up, then a yearly fee to maintain membership. In addition, there will be a per-reservation surcharge, plus a commission paid to the travel agent or the web portal that booked the room. As you can see, this can be a serious investment, so consider your options carefully. You could manage your GDS presence yourself; hiring a service or purchasing software to help you manage it is yet another cost, but it may be worth it.

What can I do to make sure my investment in GDS isn’t wasted?

  • Keep your GDS listing details up to date. If you’ve added amenities, upgraded rooms, or are undergoing renovations, potential customers will want to know.
  • Include close-by activities and attractions.
  • Post professional photos of the property, rooms, and amenities.
  • Keep track of the time and money you’ve invested in your GDS venture. Regularly review your return-on-investment to make sure you’re staying on course.

What are some examples of GDS management services?

There seems to be almost as many GDS management services as there are hotels! Each one offers a different suite of services and software, one of which is bound to be a good fit. Here we’ve listed a few of the more well known ones, with a short description of unique features they offer:

  • Xotels.com
    A CRS (central reservations system) that allows you to quickly update your GDS details and rates yourself using their user interface.
  • Bookassist.org
    Combines GDS and IDS (internet distribution system) in one interface.
  • Innlink.com
    GDS and IDS management integration with a RevPAR tool.
  • Hotelogix.com
    Condenses the complicated and sometimes intimidating job of GDS management into a simple-to-navigate interface.

Are you ready to go global with your hotel? We can help you plan and implement a successful launch. Contact us today!

Global Distribution Systems Q&A: Part 1

Every year, more and more hotels – from small independents to regional and multi-national chains – are jumping into the global distribution system (GDS) pool. To make sure you don’t wind up over your head in the deep end, we’ve compiled a few of the most often asked questions about hotel GDS, followed by a few examples of hotel GDS services. We’ll cover two this week, and several more next week.

What is the Global Distribution System?

Simply put, the GDS is the ultimate one-stop online source for hotel room rates, inventory, rooms and their descriptions, and available discounts. Every professional travel agent has access to this massive database through portals such as Sabre, Galileo, Amadeus, Pegasus, and Worldspan.

Popular do-it-yourself search-and-reserve engines such as Booking, Travelocity, and Priceline (to name only a few of the most familiar) also tap into the same GDS database.

My hotel already has a website with a booking function. Why do I need a GDS listing?

While it’s vital to have direct booking capability on your web site, GDS bookings are rising so fast, it’s a phenomenon you can’t afford to ignore. Even with the best hotel SEO, the fact is more and more customers are turning from Google searches to web portals like Travelocity to look for hotel rooms that suit their time frame and budget. Why? Ever more detailed search tools offered by GDS-based booking portals make it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for, rather than what Google algorithms select to show you.

Having said this, it should be noted that GDS services are not free. Therefore it’s probably not going to be the right fit for a 3-bedroom bed and breakfast. But if your facility has 25 rooms or more and it’s located in a high-demand travel destination, the benefits of a GDS listing could outweigh the costs.

Tune in this time next week for part two of this Q&A, where we’ll discuss more about the costs involved in global distribution systems, how to protect your investment, and a comparison of several GDS systems.

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!

Left Brain, Right Brain: The Hotel Revenue Management Skill Set

A few good hotel revenue management experts are born for this role, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be made. While the following list of revenue manager traits might seem long and intimidating, keep in mind no one person embodies all these qualities. Also, any skill can be strengthened with proper training. It could be argued that the most important trait of a hotel revenue manager is an ability to work both sides of the brain.

 

Left Brain Skills

  • Economic Guru—An ability to stay updated and understand what’s happening not only in the hospitality industry, but the economy as a whole.
  • Math Wizard—Must be able to translate all that economic data into useable numbers that apply to your hotel.
  • Tech Geek—Should know spreadsheets inside and out, effectively navigate online hotel distribution channels, understand the principles of e-commerce, and choose the right hotel revenue management system for your hotel.

 

Right Brain Skills

  • Chess Master—Be able to re-evaluate the data in front of him or her to plan five moves ahead, and adjust as needed.
  • Great Communicator—Once a strategy is developed, he or she must be able to sell that plan to coworkers, managers, and possible hotel owners. This takes people skills and the ability to stay cool under pressure.
  • Spirit of Adventure—While hotel revenue management requires the ability to analyze and make sense of data—lots of data—it also requires the courage to make decisions based on that data and to sometimes take a leap of faith. And, of course, be able to critically analyze the change in data resulting from that leap.
  • Voracious Reader—A good candidate for the job should have subscriptions to financial, economic, and hospitality industry publications; online blogs; and newsletters.
  • Right Attitude—The drive to keep going onward and upward in terms of definable goals and skill level is necessary.

 

Smart eHotels has the right stuff to enhance your hotel revenue management strategy. Contact us today!

What’s New in Hotel Yield Management Software

Not happy with your hotel yield management software package? Check out these new stars on the digital horizon.

 

IDeaS

IDeaS Revenue Solutions (Integrated Decisions & Systems, Inc.) isn’t exactly a new kid in the hospitality management and travel industry. IDeaS has been developing and refining its yield management software solutions for over 25 years. These aren’t just a ragtag group of software geeks whipping up a cookie-cutter software package; IDeaS is a worldwide company experienced with properties of all sizes.

 

The array of IDeaS software and services includes:

  • Pricing System—Uses advanced analytics and market insight to help hotel managers improve room pricing strategies.
  • Forecasting Management System—Has been honed into an invaluable tool that rolls recent trends, upcoming special events, and historical data into one user-friendly application.
  • Function Space Revenue Management—Helps hotel managers attract more group business and turn this into more than just one revenue stream.
  • Revenue Performance Insights—A data analysis tool that helps revenue managers sort mountains of data into reports that provide crystal-clear forecasting tools.
  • A Wide Range of Podcasts, Webinars, White Papers, and Videos—With these tools, learning to use the system will never be a lonely process.

 

i-Rates

Hotel yield management software takes a giant leap forward with i-Rates, a hotel revenue management system that uses algorithms to intelligently learn as you use it, therefore making customization effortless.

 

System components include:

  • Dynamic Daily Rate Calculations—To keep rooms priced too low from selling out and rooms priced too high from sitting empty.
  • Reporting Tools—These continually analyze room rates, the booking pace, and other parameters for comprehensive, detailed performance reports. Just a few of the types of data analyzed include the occupancy rate, average daily rate (ADR), revenue per available room (RevPAR), reservation patterns, group booking patterns, and all kinds of historical data.
  • Market Information—Gathers data about competitors’ rates so you can stay on top of pricing fluctuations.
  • Discount Management—Keeps an eye on the number of rooms available and determines the optimum booking channels for each room type.
  • Stay Restriction Management—Monitors booking patterns and recommends stay restrictions such as close-to-arrival bookings, minimum stay requirements, and more.
  • Inventory Control—Makes accidental overselling and underselling a thing of the past.
  • Upgrade Recommendations—Lets you know when an upsell, suggesting an upgrade, or a room type change could lead to higher revenues.
  • Group Management—Analyzes a group reservation and instantly suggests an optimal price point so you can give an accurate price quote without making the potential customer wait.
  • Corporate Account Management—Helps you offer the best possible corporate rate, and once that account has been landed, continually analyzes booking volume, what other revenue streams are impacted, and more.
  • Promotion Management—When you plan a special promotion, assists in forecasting profitability and its effect on occupancy rates.
  • Automated Function—Allows you to have room rate changes automatically executed through all booking channels.

 

Infor EzRMS

Like the name implies, Infor makes hotel yield/revenue management easy by treating a hotel room as what it is—a perishable commodity with a daily “expiration” date.

 

Among its many available modules are:

  • Database Tools—To provide maximum reporting flexibility.
  • Demand Module Algorithm—Evaluates property-specific forecasts.
  • Optimization Module—Helps you balance supply with demand.
  • Booking Channel Optimization Recommendations—Can be set to automatically send room rate updates across the board.
  • EzREGION—Modeled for regional and central management teams.
  • EzBUDGET—A day-by-day budget pattern analysis tool.
  • EzCOMPETE—Ensures your room rates are competitive across all booking channels.
  • EzQUOTE—Helps you analyze and offer optimum group rate requests.
  • EzCONTRACT—Keeps you from making potentially costly contract mistakes.

 

Need a hand with choosing a hotel yield management software package? Smart eHotels can help. Contact us today.

Hotel Room Pricing: Dynamic Pricing 101

No hotel—at least no successful hotel—charges the same room rate all the time. However, even if you have different price structures for different types of rooms, for high and low demand cycles, and for different types of customers (i.e., business vs. leisure vs. groups), your revenue management will be most effective with dynamic hotel room pricing.

 

What Is Dynamic Pricing?

In the hotel world, dynamic pricing means being flexible with the amount charged for a particular hotel room based not only on customer demand, but on the perceived value the customer places on your limited room inventory. A whole slew of factors affect what you charge and when—and to whom—including knowing:

  • Your target customers and different segments thereof, how far in advance each segment tends to book a room, and how long they tend to stay.
  • What type of room and amenities each segment gravitates toward.
  • Which segments tend to spend more of their discretionary funds on on-site attractions such as restaurants, spa services, and business services.
  • What your competition is doing/charging/marketing.
  • How to stimulate demand when it is traditionally low through smart marketing practices.

 

Software for Hard Data

Sound complicated? It can be! It requires a pile of historical data, research, and a willingness to take carefully calculated risks. A good revenue management software package can certainly help, but it’s at least as important that you (or the employee assigned to the task) understands the numbers you’re crunching.

 

The more you can fine-tune what you’re asking for a room and when you’re asking it—sometimes day by day—the less revenue will fall through the cracks between what you’re charging and what the customer is willing to pay.

 

Charge too little, and bargain hunters will snap up all the rooms before customers who would have been willing to pay more typically book. Conversely, if there’s a gap between what you perceive the value of your rooms to be and how the customer values the room, too many rooms will go unsold.

 

That’s why it’s imperative to be dynamic both in your hotel room pricing and also by raising the level of quality, service, and amenities to which customers are attracted. For further solutions in this area, contact us today.