Hotel Online  Special Report

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Managing Online Consumer Awareness for Your Hotel
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CHICAGO, APRIL 2006:  In today’s online marketplace, it is difficult to keep your hotel in front of the consumer.  Consumers have thousands of ways to find your hotel – Search Engines, Online Travel Agencies, Travel Meta Search Engines, Consumer Review Sites, Brand Web Sites, and Individual Property Web Sites.  Each of the sites in these categories presents numerous opportunities for you to build the awareness of your hotel, make a brand impression, and attract a shopper to your preferred distribution channel or web site.

Given the complexity of the web, how do you make sure consumers can find your hotel online?  Is it easier for consumers to find your hotel or your competition’s hotel?  There are many tools and techniques available to monitor and improve your consumer visibility.

  • Web Site Design and Maintenance
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Pay-Per-Click Advertising
  • Paid Inclusion
  • Linking Strategies
  • GDS Participation
  • Online Travel Agent Distribution
  • Travel Meta-Search Participation
  • Consumer Reviews
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Customer Segmentation
  • Behavioral Targeting
You may choose to use an ad agency or an Internet marketing firm, or you may decide to rely on your brand, or you may elect to perform this function at your hotel.  Regardless of how it is managed, it is in the best interest of each hotel to understand the results of these efforts.  The question is, how?

Let’s simplify the online world for a moment.  As with any marketing or distribution channel, you need to focus on the placement of your product.  In other words, if a consumer is searching online for a hotel room in your destination, is it easy or hard for them to stumble across your hotel?  Good placement leads to bookings.

Research from multiple channels shows that hotels listed at the top of the search results are significantly more likely to be clicked, researched, and booked.  Therefore, top placement in online channels translates into top market share.  Obviously, price and distribution costs must be taken into account when selecting your marketing and distribution partners, but once selected, put focus on your placement in these channels!

For example, a study on Google visitor behavior by Enquiro reported that 80% of searchers never move past the first page.  This means that if a consumer types in, “New York hotel” in Yahoo or Google, the 10 hotels, brands, or travel sites in the natural search listings and the advertisers listed on the first page will reap 80% of the consumer eyeballs.  Since roughly 1,600,000 searches occur for “New York hotel” each month, being on the first page creates a significant competitive advantage for the hotels on that page.  While volumes are lower in smaller markets, they are still extremely significant, as they remain proportional to the number of travelers needing a hotel room in the destination.  Case in point, the keyword “Portland hotel” generates more than 300,000 searches each month across the major search engines.

Where is your hotel?

Do you know how visible your hotel is in your local online market?  Is your hotel more, or less visible than your competition?  While you may not be able to compare your online results to those of each of your competitors, you can compare your Online Visibility™ to each of them to help you understand the overall success of your online marketing efforts.

Let’s take a closer look at Search Engine Visibility in one market.  Each month, consumers generate nearly 1,000,000 hotel-oriented searches on the top three search engines for the destination of Chicago.  If we break this search activity down, we can classify the activity into 14 categories based on the consumer’s search topic.  The following table illustrates.
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Chicago Search Category 
Percent of Traffic
Destination 61.5%
Specific Hotel Name (Branded Searches) 21.65%
Spa 6.15%
Downtown 3.34%
Discount 2.58%
Airport 1.13%
Economy 0.62%
Michigan Ave. 0.57%
Upscale 0.48%
Suite 0.33%
Map 0.25%
Boutique 0.23%
Group 0.19%
Romantic 0.18%
Sources: Essential Analytics, Yahoo Search Marketing and Wordtracker
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Consumers searching on the specific name of a hotel, which we call Branded Searches, drive nearly 22% of the hotel-oriented search traffic for Chicago.  If we take a closer look at which hotels in Chicago have the highest search traffic of this kind, the following 10 hotels lead the market.  The following metric alludes to the brand recall associated with each hotel in the online marketplace and stems from the marketing tactics used over the course of prior months.
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Hotel Name
Share of Branded
Searches
Hard Rock Hotel 7.3%
The Drake Hotel 5.6%
W Hotel  4.2%
Omni Chicago Hotel 4.1%
Peninsula Hotel  3.7%
Renaissance Chicago 3.6%
Hotel Monaco 3.5%
Intercontinental Chicago 3.2%
Hotel Allegro 3.3%
Fairmont Chicago .08%
Sources: Essential Analytics, Yahoo Search Marketing and Wordtracker
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Now let’s review where hotels stood in terms of placement over recent weeks.  The following table shows the top 10 Chicago hotels in terms of online placement as seen by consumers searching the three major search engines – Google, Yahoo, and MSN.  The Online Visibility metric signifies how visible each hotel is in the search engines.  Here are the results:
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April 3, 2006
March 20, 2006
Change
Hotel
Online Visibility
Rank*
Online Visibility
Rank*
in Rank
Intercontinental Chicago 82% 1 80% 1 0
Hyatt Regency Chicago 72% 2 67% 5 3
Hotel Monaco  71% 3 59% 7 4
The Drake Hotel  70% 4 66% 6 2
Fairmont Chicago 68% 5 80% 2 (3)
Renaissance Chicago 68% 6 41% 14 8
Wyndham Chicago Hotel 67% 7 58% 9 2
Hotel 71 67% 8 73% 4 (4)
Sheraton Chicago 66% 9 79% 3 (6)
Omni Hotel Chicago 60% 10 58% 10 0
Source: Essential Analytics
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When consumers are searching for a Chicago hotel in a search engine, the above hotels are reaping the rewards of their marketing efforts.  They are creating solid brand awareness, high traffic to their preferred web site, and they are driving bookings on that site – depending only on the conversion rate they achieve.

Would you care to guess which hotels in Chicago are outperforming their competition as it relates to all bookings either driven or influenced by search engines?  Per a Performics research study, nearly three quarters of consumers that book online have researched their travel options on a search engine at some point during their decision making process.

Can you then guess which hotels will score well in brand awareness in future months?  We already saw that one hotel achieved a 7.3% share of all Branded Searches in Chicago, which translates to approximately 24,000 searches for their hotel each month.  The click-through rate and conversion rate for this type of search is usually quite high, but even with very conservative estimates the monthly revenue would be over $20,000 ($240,000 annually), in addition to revenues from marketing efforts on all the non-Branded Searches.

The Online Visibility numbers are volatile, and fluctuate every week along with your market share across online channels.  However, monitoring and managing your Online Visibility creates success in the online marketplace.

What about other channels?  The Online Visibility metric can be performed for any channel – Online Travel Agencies, Travel Meta Search Engines, the Global Distribution Systems, and more.  Marketing success has been, and always will be difficult to track in its entirety.  However, if you are not in front of consumers, you will not receive their bookings.  Once you are able to reliably track your Online Visibility by channel and site, you can work in parallel to convert a higher percentage of the resulting traffic into reservations.



About the Author
Tim Henthorn is the founder of Essential Analytics (www.EssentialAnalytics.net).  Its Competitive Marketing Console (CMC) monitors the online world to track the Online Visibility of a hotel and its competitive set across Search Engines, Online Travel Agencies, Travel Meta Search Engines, and other channels.  The CMC also alerts its users to online advertising campaigns run by the competition and stores the history, enabling improved ROI analysis of campaigns.  Hotels, Hotel Brands, Management Companies and Internet Marketing firms can leverage the benefits of the CMC across their hotels to manage their Online Visibility from a local, regional or corporate level.
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Contact:

Tim Henthorn
Essential Analytics
Phone:  847.556.9326
info@EssentialAnalytics.net
www.EssentialAnalytics.net
 

Also See: “Internet Content and Visibility” Becoming More of a Factor than Actual Roadside Visibility / Craig W Cooley / November 2005
Case Studies Prove Hotel Search Engine Optimisation Delivers Results / February 2006

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