Hotel Online  Special Report
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So, You Have a New or Improved Hotel Web Site…
Now What? How to Promote Your Web Site
By Neil Salerno, November 2006

During the past several years, many hoteliers made the commitment to revise their web sites to conform to search engine and hotel marketing guidelines. Although there are many hotel sites which are still dysfunctional and non-productive, others have been improved and ready to produce reservations. Now, the hard part begins; what are you going to do to dominate your online competition? 

According to Merrill Lynch, this year over 27% of all hospitality revenues will be generated through the Internet. In 2007, experts predict that 39% of all travel sales will be generated online. As with any other market segment in your arsenal, the challenge is to capture more than your fair share of online business in your market. 

Driving Business to Your Web Site

Driving business to your web site takes knowledge, planning, time, and effort. If you are intent on gaining a competitive advantage, then you need to build traffic to your site by implementing an effective Internet marketing strategy. There is far more involved than simply using search engine optimization. 

Some technical designers can certainly create some awesome web sites. Unfortunately, most of them lack the hotel knowledge and expertise to build an effective hotel site or launch an effective online marketing program; this takes hotel marketing experience; knowledge of how and why people choose a hotel. 

Fortunately, many hoteliers are waking up to the reality that a hotel web site needs to be as functional as it is attractive, but also needs to be a marketable sales piece to generate reservations. As a result, many hotel web sites are now being revised and new sites are being created by experienced and talented hotel site marketers; hotel marketing experience makes the difference. 

According to several booking engines, the average hotel web site converts only 3.7 % of “lookers into bookers”. By any measure of success, this is pretty anemic. Improving this capture ration is a function of your site’s design marketability. Even a slight improvement in your site’s capture ratio can reap great financial rewards. Combine better conversion with even more visitors, the rewards are obvious.

The first step in the process of promoting your site is making certain that your site is search engine friendly; search engines are the most common way for people to find a hotel; next, what does your site say and how does it say it.

Is Your Site Ready for Promotion? 

Before you begin developing your promotion plan, use this simple list to see if your site is promotion-ready.

  • Simple design with easy common-sense hotel navigation theme. People should not have to learn how to move around your site.
  • Well thought-out title and description tags tailored for each page on your site; a vital component.
  • Thoroughly researched search key word phrases; an aid for some search engines.
  • Well written sales text which reflects search key word phrases for each page on your site; search engines only read text.
  • Photo gallery with searchable text content for each photo and well-thought-out “alt tags”.
  • Sparing use of flash content; too much can kill your site entirely.
  • Page Image density which promotes quick page downloads on anyone’s computer; waiting for a page to download is most annoying.
  • Text which reflects your hotel’s location (most important), facilities, and activities.
  • Booking engine link to promote online reservations; most important for independent hotels.
  • Hotel site designed and conceived by an experienced hotel marketer
Search Engine Optimization

By now, hoteliers are coming to the realization that search engine optimization begins with the design specifications of the hotel site itself. Marketing to search engines for increased popularity ranking is worthless unless the site is prepared and designed for compatibility with search engines. 

When SEO first became popular, many hoteliers jumped on the SEO bandwagon only to be disappointed with poor results from sites which were poorly prepared and poorly designed. It just doesn’t make sense to perform SEO on a poorly designed web site. Search engine submission can be extremely beneficial on a well prepared and well designed web site.

Utilizing Your Email Signature to Promote Your Web Site

It may appear silly to some people, but adding your site URL address to your email signature can promote traffic to your site. The email signature is your business card. Your signature file is a mini-advertisement for your hotel and its services (called sigvertising). Instead of only listing your hotel’s phone number and URL, give the reader an insight into your hotel and a reason to visit. e.g. located less than 1 mile from the Convention Center.

Using Your Web Site to Develop a Permission-based Email List

Developing a permission-based email list of visitors is an excellent way to develop loyal site visitors. Many hotels do this with the help of an email newsletter; hotels in Florida have been doing this for years. There are many email engines available to place on your site, which will collect this important data, store it, and allow you to communicate with your site visitors.

If you have difficulty writing a professional monthly or quarterly newsletter, there are marketing companies with hotel sales knowledge who can write them for you for a small fee; a guaranteed good return on a small investment.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-per-click is an excellent way to boost your site’s visibility. Hotels bid for placement on search engine sponsored search results. Since some search engines use your site’s popularity to help determine your ranking, this can be a great temporary marketing task.

Although it is not a place for the timid or inexperienced user, pay-per-click can produce great results. The major engines provide a budgeting format so you can set a monthly spending amount so there are no end-of-month billing surprises. Yahoo search marketing and MSN are both excellent; very popular engines.

News Groups, Blogs, and hotel Articles

Read, read, and read. Perhaps the most powerful marketing tools available today is reading and learning about techniques and ideas on the Internet. I know…you’ll say you don’t have the time; flimsy excuse not to learn. 

There are many great sources of information. Subscribing is generally free and they all provide a snippet of information about the article so you can decide, in advance if the article might interest you. I may be prejudiced, but if your reading time is limited subscribe to the many hotel oriented publications. Knowing where to find help when you need it is the key to many successful operations.

Developing a Dynamite Link Strategy

Developing a link strategy is one of the most crucial elements involved in Internet marketing. It is a very time-consuming task, but it is time well spent. If you have no one on staff to do it; there are many hotel savvy marketing companies who can do it for you. Links are important because:

  1. Appropriately placed, they can be a real traffic builder.
  2. A number of frequently used search engines use link popularity as one of their ranking criteria. The more links to your site, the more popular it is; so the number of links to your site can significantly impact your placement with search engines.
  3. The more links you have to your site, the more opportunities search engine spiders have to find your site.
Never place outbound links on your home page; they should be two or three layers down on your site. You want visitors to view as much as possible on your site before giving them an opportunity to leave it. 

Hotel web sites today have the ability and capacity to produce a substantial portion of your hotel’s total revenue; many hotels receive 30-70% of their total reservations online. It is definitely worth your attention.

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Contact:

Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach
Email: NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com
Web Site: www.hotelmarketingcoach.com

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Also See: Nine Tips to Create a Dominant Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Hotel Web Site Priorities –Some Do’s, Don’ts; Why the Heck Did You Do That? / Neil Salerno / November 2005
Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003


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