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O'Rourke Hospitality



What can a Blog do for my Hotel?
The General Manager from Hawthorne Hotel Shares Insight!




Our Internet Marketing Tip this month focuses on the benefits of blogging. We had the pleasure of speaking to Juli Lederhaus, General Manager of the Historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem Massachusetts. Juli is a pioneer in blogging and has written a post every day since 1995.
 


Julie shares with us what inspired her to start blogging, “Ever since the internet came around I always wanted to have a way to talk to our guests directly. The whole HTML thing was so complicated so I was looking for a way to do that and I went to a seminar and thought this is exactly what I need. So I came back to the hotel that day and I set up our blog and I’ve been blogging every single day – haven’t missed a day in over 4 years!”
 
Considering the many benefits of blogging, we expected that the majority of hotels would have a blog, however our research this month revealed that 95.7% of First Class and Luxury New England Hotels don’t write blogs!



WHAT IS A BLOG?


A blog is a type of website where you can write and post entries on a regular basis. You can link the blog to your hotel website and encourage guests to subscribe through e-mail, or an RSS feed, which will be discussed in the ‘how to’ section of this article.
 
Apart from text entries you can include photos, videos and links to other sites. Be creative about what you write and what will be of interest to your guests. Below are some ideas to get you started.
 
• write about upcoming events in your hotel
• report on past events at your hotel
• write about events or things to do in your city
• post itineraries of a walking tour
• interview owners of interesting shops or restaurants
• post your restaurant menu, recipes, and food shots
• post your special offers
• write about your spa or hotel amenities
• include stock photos from free stock photo sites such as stock.xchng. Digital Image Magazine has compiled a list of 25 Free Stock Photo Sites .
 
Below is snapshot of one of Juli’s blog entries for the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA. As you can see she writes interesting content in a conversational style, and also includes photos and videos.



WHY DOES MY HOTEL NEED A BLOG?

Connect with Guests
When we asked Juli what kind of impact blogging has on her business, she emphasized connections and new bookings, “It connects us to our guests in many different ways. It connects us to groups, it connects us to regular guests who follow us on our blogs and read it every day.”

“In addition to our daily blog, we also do a wedding blog. Our brides and grooms are thrilled when we ask if they want to be on our blog. They are all about it. It actually has resulted in us booking weddings, many weddings, because people go there and they see different people’s ideas, they see the letters of recommendation, they see pictures, people really enjoy it,” says Juli.
 
Permission to Communicate with Guests
Most readers will sign up to receive your blog posts and they are actually giving you permission to contact them. If your content is interesting, your guests will be happy to receive your posts, and you will have a chance to promote your hotel and special offers without the expense of email campaigns, direct mail, or ads. You can also choose to allow your readers to leave comments on your blog which will open up two-way communication.

Brand your Hotel
A blog gives you a chance to develop and reinforce your hotel’s brand voice. Your blog entries should be written in a tone and style that reflects your hotel’s distinctive personality. Is your hotel a family-run country bed and breakfast, a trendy urban hotel, or a sophisticated luxury hotel?

A blog also allows your brand voice to become human which will instill trust in your readers. Bill Marriott’s blog on the move is a good example of this. He is able to stay in the Marriott Brand Voice while also revealing some of his personality. This blog also has a ‘listen’ icon, which allows readers to hear an audio of Bill Marriott reading his post.


 
Increase your Visibility and Search Engine Ranking
Search Engines like blogs. By updating your blog with fresh, timely content you are inviting the search engine ‘spiders’ to come index your site. Blogs naturally attract search engines because they usually contain lots of keyword-rich text, good links, and a clear navigation system.

You can also take steps to optimize your blog for the search engines very similar to the way you optimize a page on your website. Below are a few tips on how to do this.

• Select Keywords
 Research and select relevant keywords and place them strategically in your blog. You should use these keywords in your blog domain, blog title, and body copy.

• Use Internal Links
Internal links are links that bring the reader to another page on your site or your blog. Use your keywords in the anchor text of the links.

• Create backlinks
It is essential to build backlinks, which are links on external sites that point to your blog. These links will help build pagerank. Encourage other bloggers, or relevant websites, to link to your blog. You can also submit your blog in search engines and directories. Robin Good has compiled a list of the Top 55 Best Blog Directories.

• Write Articles that Link to your Blog
Write interesting articles and submit them to online industry magazines. Place a link in your articles that will direct readers to your blog.

• Have a Side Navigation Bar
Set up a side navigation bar that lists your previous posts and place this on each page of your blog. You could also set up a blogroll which is list of external blogs that you like and recommend. The website BlogRolling can help you manage this.

HOW DO I SET UP A BLOG?

Step One: Set up your account
You can set up your blog on one of the blogging software programs available online.  Blogger is a free site that is owned by Google. It is very easy to use and you can set up your account in about 8 minutes with their step-by-step instructions.  Other popular sites are WordPress and TypePad.

You should also buy a domain name for your site and use your keywords in the name. Some popular places to buy domain names are godaddy.com, moniker.com, and network solutions.

Step Two: Set up an RSS feed
A web feed is a function that allows ‘feedreaders’ to access your updated blog. Most weblogs use an RSS feed which stands for Really Simple Syndication, but you could also use an Atom format. Web Syndication is the process of using the feeds to alert those who ‘subscribed’ or signed up for your blog that you have a new posting.

Once you have set up your feed you can add the RSS symbol to your site alerting readers that they can subscribe to your blog. You can also give them the option to receive the posts through their email. Below is an example of the RSS symbol from the HotelChatter daily web magazine.



Once someone clicks on the RSS symbol they are prompted to choose a ‘reader’, also known as a ‘news aggregator’, where they would like to receive the feed. Some of these readers, such as Google, allow users to receive the posts on mobile devices. Below is a screenshot of the subscription prompt.



Many people subscribe through the Google Readers. When you click on the Google icon, a window will pop up giving you two options: Add to Google Homepage or Add to Google Reader.


 
‘Add to Google homepage’ is my favorite. I have set up my iGoogle page with tabs for categories such as news, SEO blogs, weather, Hotel News etc. Then I ensure the correct tab is open and when I choose to subscribe to an RSS feed I just click on ‘Add to Google homepage’ and the feed appears on my page.

The screenshot below is of my Hotel News tab and you can see the top 3 headlines of the 6 blogs or newsfeeds I have subscribed to. If I find a headline interesting I can click on it to read the complete article. It is a great way to peruse news items from a variety of sources in a short time.



To learn more about syndications and feeds visit Google’s Feed 101 in the help section.

So now that you know how the RSS Feed works, it’s time to set one up for yourself. Once you have created your blog, go to Google’s Feedburner site and follow the step-by-step directions to get your feed. Read the help section that explains How to Create a Blogger Feed. Feedburner also has a feature that allows subscribers to receive updated posts by email.

It is not necessary to have a feed on your blog, but it makes it easier for your readers to receive your posts.

Step Three: Start Blogging
Start Blogging! Write about things that will interest your guests. It is helpful to read your competitors’ blogs to see what they are writing about. Keep a list of ideas for future blogs.  Set up your iGoogle and subsribe to blogs in your industry. You can search for blogs on the subject of your choice in sites such as Google Blog Search, and Technorati.com.

Step Four: Promote your Blog
Now that you have a blog, you have to attract subscribers, which means you need to promote your blog. Below we have outlined a few ways to do this.

• comment on other blogs
• write a guest post on a blog that your guests may be reading
• post your blog on social bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon and delicious
• put your blog entries on Facebook and LinkedIn
• send out tweets on Twitter every time you update a blog post
• put a link to your blog on your articles and press releases
• put your blog link on your business cards and email signatures

You should also repurpose your blog posts to get the most mileage out of them. For example if you write a blog post about an upcoming event at your hotel you can turn it into a press release and submit it on a hotel article site. You could also send it out as an e-mail, or make a quick video about it. The more you distribute your content the more traffic you will drive to your website.

We hope these tips have inspired you to start your own blog. It is really not as difficult or time consuming as you may think, and you will discover the many benefits of blogging for yourself, such as new opportunities, new business, and new connections. As Juli says, “Writing a blog post is no more difficult than writing an email. I spend between 15 to 20 minutes on the blog every day. I think that finding 15 to 20 minutes that has a direct result in a connection with our guests is an important thing.”

We hope you have found these tips helpful. If you have any questions please feel free to call us at 978-465-5955 or write an email to info@orourkehospitality.com

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Contact:

O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing
44 Merrimac Street
Newburyport
MA 01950

http://www.orourkehospitality.com

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Also See: How to Edit, Export, & Upload Your Hotel Videos – Easy Technical Tips / September 2009

How Hotels Can Build Links by Leveraging their USP, PR, and Organic Growth; an O’Rourke Video Interview / September 2009

Will Google Caffeine Affect my Hotel SEO? / August 2009

Don’t Hide From Trip Advisor Reviews! / August 2009

5 Ways Hotels can Improve and Track Return on Investment from Twitter – Oh wait, there is no investment! / August 2009

Leverage Blended Search and Boost your Hotel’s Search Ranking Position / August 2009

How to Optimize Your Hotel Website for Natural Search / August 2009
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