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Why Do Hotels Fail Online?  
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A “How - To” List for Avoiding Common Pitfalls
August 2007 - More hotels than ever have decided to start marketing themselves online. There is good reason: everyone wants their piece of the online pie, which is now worth of billions of dollars. Furthermore, the number of travelers using the web to book hotel rooms continues to grow tremendously; hotels must be online if they want to remain competitive.

Though many hotels feel they are making a great leap by beginning to market their websites, they are largely unaware of the pitfalls that await them. After working with many hotels and private equity groups, we know where you are most likely to stumble. We hope this list will be a helpful reference for those of you looking to begin, or improve, an online marketing program.

How to Avoid the 10 Most Common Internet Marketing Mistakes

1. Don’t start a marketing campaign without setting goals. 
You may be tempted to jump into internet marketing because “everyone else is doing it.” But everyone is doing it to achieve their own specific goals. For example, they may want to increase the online component of their total revenue; improve their ADR; increase their market share; or build their brand. There are many ways to set up an internet marketing program. If you are not sure where to start, bring in specialists to help you figure it out. They should ask you lots of questions about your business and what you want to accomplish. They should also have a good understanding of what markets and promotions should be targeted, based on your specific needs and goals.

2. Don’t use a one-stop shop for search marketing services.
The hospitality industry is flooded with “vendors” that provide a website, internet marketing, a booking engine, and more. They will do everything for you short of washing your car and walking your dog! The fact is that one company cannot be the best at providing everything a hotel needs to succeed online. With almost every hotel website I come across, I can tell at a glance who made it, thanks to the predictability of these one-stop shops. They use design templates, unoriginal copy, incorrect grammar and spelling—in the name of SEO, and then run the same packages and promotions for every one of their clients. Hoteliers can learn this truism from retailers: you need to bring the best experts and resources together to achieve optimal results. 

3. Don’t forget to build your brand.
Positive brand building has a very strong impact on offline conversion and helps to secure repeat business. If the sole focus of your online campaign is ROI, you are not reaping the benefits of a balanced program. Your online marketing campaign should find a balance between ROI, which is always a short-term priority, and brand building, which is the long-term strategy for success. 

4. Optimize the copy on your website. 
Good copy is the most crucial element of your website. Guests will eventually book with you based on what information you have provided them about your location, property and services. If travelers do not feel informed and secure about where they will be staying, they will not book online. Relevant content is also essential to improving your natural rankings on Google, Yahoo and other search engines. Excellent conversion rates can only be achieved with well-written, up-to-date content.

5. Focus on your website’s usability. 
Hotels put enormous emphasis on design: creating the best “look and feel” for the website. However, the most important factor, and one of the most overlooked, is usability. It’s a shame to see high-end, costly websites on which the reservations button is almost impossible to find! Always provide easy access to meetings- and weddings-related information. Access to the booking engine should be ubiquitous; prominently displayed promotions, specials and packages should also lead directly to booking. In other words, make it easy for travelers to find what they’re looking for and then book it. Studies show that you now have four seconds to engage a website visitor: use those four seconds wisely.

6. Integrate your online and offline marketing strategies.
Ads placed by your traditional, offline ad agency will have a huge effect on online traffic. Likewise, what you write on your website will affect the front desk staff at your hotel. Make sure you coordinate all efforts to avoid confusion and make the most of your marketing dollars. For example, if your hotel is running a summer promotion offline, then you should be advertising the same summer promotion online with a dedicated landing page and paid search marketing campaign. Your Sales, Operations and Revenue Management departments also must be well aligned, so that company-wide strategies can be implemented effectively in both online and offline venues.

7. Don’t lose customers at the point of purchase. 
Convincing a traveler to stay at your hotel is only half the battle. The final goal is a completed reservation. Don’t let a complicated booking engine cost you conversions. When your visitor decides to search for availability, your booking engine may either confound him or take him quickly through the booking process. Of course, there are many alternatives for the traveler who finds your checkout process frustrating: third party sites, calls to your front desk, or a host of competing hotel websites. There are many booking engines on the market, so choose carefully. Make sure your booking engine is the most convenient way for a traveler to reserve a room.

8. Make sure you have adequate tracking capabilities. 
Creating a good tracking mechanism is an important first step in any internet marketing project. A search engine marketing program that is not being tracked can never reach its full potential. It is shocking how many excuses vendors give to hotels regarding the inability of their products to provide 100% tracking: from clicks, to pageviews, to conversions. If your booking engine does not support tracking, get one that does. Then have your search engine marketing company configure it, so they can show you exactly what results you are getting and make continual improvements. There are some great tools out there. Put them to use.

9. Participate with OTAs. 
Participation with third party websites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz is crucial. These travel websites draw millions of visitors and are a great platform on which to showcase your hotel. OTAs are also a top source of qualified traffic, as they bring in travelers searching for your hotel by brand name. Working closely with OTAs can make or break your online conversion for brand-related terms. It’s time to start thinking of OTAs almost like search engines, where placement on page 1 has a huge impact on hotel website conversions and revenue.

10. Understand the connection between hotel operations and online bookings. 
You can quote me when I say, ”the best laid internet marketing plans die at the front desk.” Hotels need to make sure that customers receive what they were promised online. Bad experiences travel quickly in the form of “guest reviews” on a myriad of websites. Negative reviews will definitely dissuade travelers from booking with you, decreasing your online conversions. Thus, making your guests happy is still a good idea. Don’t forget to take appropriate action when things go wrong: the customers you win back are the most loyal of all.

ADR = average daily rate; SEO = search engine optimization; ROI = return on investment; 
OTA = online travel agency.

About Evision Worldwide

Evision Worldwide is a full-service internet marketing agency. 

  • Our internet marketing experts provide high-powered paid search marketing services, highly effective search engine optimization, and a wide range of targeted workshops and seminars. 
  • Seasoned consultants are available to review your website or any aspect of your online marketing strategy. Consulting projects are designed to meet your needs.
  • Our pay per click (PPC) marketing team is second to none, providing customized solutions for hotels, resorts, property management groups and leading brands. We consistently outperform our competition in the US and worldwide. 
Contact us today to find out how we can make your internet marketing program a success.
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Contact:

Vikram Singh
Evision Worldwide LLC
T 415 244 9861
F 847 574 0886
vikram@evisionworldwide.com
www.evisionworldwide.com

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