Hotel Online  Special Report

Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization;
Always A Work In Progress

By Neil Salerno Ė October 2003

Youíve read many articles extolling the unlimited potential of the Internet. I sincerely hope that the numbers of skeptics are slowly disappearing as more hoteliers discover that the electronic media can be a viable source of business. More hoteliers are publishing their hotels on the Internet. This is good, but itís not enough to simply publish a Web Site, even if itís well designed.

Publishing a Web Site is only the beginning of the eMarketing process. It is amazing how many hotel web sites are published and left untouched for months, or in some cases, years. Generally, it is these hotels, which remain disappointed with the results they have been achieving. They obviously donít understand that a Web Site should be a work in progress. 

In the ďgood ole daysí before the Internet, smart advertisers worked hard to measure the results of print and broadcast advertising so they could adjust and polish their ads to maximize results. The popular phrase was ď50% of all advertising is a total waste of money, the problem is we donít know which 50% it isĒ. Fortunately, this is not true for the electronic Internet medium. Thanks to many brilliant people, the Internet is a data users dream for it is completely measurable. There are several excellent and very affordable tracking engines, which enable us to analyze how people use a web site and provide us with an exact measurement of the results.

No matter how attractively designed, it is the actual web site visitor who will shape and determine the effectiveness of a web site. The very first time I read a Web Trends Report, one of the best tracking engines available, I couldnít believe my eyes. This optimization engine measures every detail needed to optimize your Web Site. Among the abundant data it collects, you can measure the number of pages viewed; amount of time spent on each page; number of unique users; number of repeat visitors; referral web sites and search engines; sequence of pages viewed; and much more data, which should be used to target needed refinements to your site. Web Trends can even give you your siteís exact conversion ratio.

Of course, as with all data, it has to be reviewed and utilized to be effective. I have several clients who receive these reports but donít have any one on staff who has the time to review them. If thatís the case, find someone to do it on an outsource basis. Timely reaction to these reports can multiply your on-line reservations. The true measure of your web site is what and how visitors use it and react to it. The functionality of a Web Site will determine the booking results. It is simply not enough to just measure reservations made. You can improve the results.

Set goals for your Web Site. The Internet is and should be a separate feeder-market segment. I would love to hear from those progressive marketers who will actually include the Internet as a separate income line item. If you identify and set a budget goal for the Internet, you will be forced to develop and implement plans to reach those goals. 

Now that you have a Web site, a means for gathering data so you may make monthly adjustments to improve it, itís time to make it easier for people to find it. The most obvious first step to market your Web Site is to make certain that your URL address is printed on every item that could possibly be viewed by consumers; letterhead, business cards, billboards, etc. Many hotels even include it on their invoices and bank checks. 

If you have unique nearby restaurants, try exchanging hypertext links so you are on their web site and they are on yours. This same exchange sometimes works well with local attractions like museums and parks too.

The battle for search engine optimization is underway, but most markets still present many areas of opportunity for someone to take control. The masters of optimization, at this point, are certainly the many third-party wholesalers on the net. They dominate most sponsored search engines. Try searching ďcity, state hotelĒ in almost any primary or secondary market. You will probably find that the first four or five results will be third-party wholesalers. 

In most markets, pay-per-click search engine submission is still a very cost-effective tool. Companies like Overture do an excellent job of providing primary search results on a pay-as-you-go basis. If used properly, it will produce excellent search results.

Key word submission is still very effective, if done well and often. There are applications available for self-users and several good companies, which will provide key word submission to the 1000 plus search engines for a small monthly fee. 

Develop your Web Siteís full potential by reviewing and adjusting it often. Now that you are most likely preparing budgets, itís the ideal time to develop your Internet strategy for 2004. 

Neil L. Salerno, CHME
Hotel & Internet Marketing Solutions
1369 South Wembley Circle
Port Orange, Florida 32128
Also See: Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesnít Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? Itís Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... Youíll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelierís Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003

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