By Vikram Singh
Marketing is evolving as I am typing this sentence. I’m here to make sure you are not wasting your time, energy and marketing budgets by focusing on outdated metrics. Many of the metrics you’re using have become irrelevant because of the seismic change in how people are researching and booking travel today. If you are still measuring what does not matter, you will end up getting blindsided. Don’t let a false sense of security, or an unwillingness to change, cost you market share and revenue.
Outdated Online Marketing Metrics
Measuring straight up year-over-year traffic is a quick way to lead yourself into the land of confusion. Because of the way Google has personalized the heck out of their search engine, those massive droves of online visitors that used to reach your website are now:
- Finding the information they need in the Google universe (Google Hotel Finder, Google Flights, etc)
- Seeing their own version of Google based on their browsing history, their click-thru history, and the retargeting associated with their Gmail accounts. Basically, they are not seeing universal results, which used to result in massive traffic numbers.
Over the past several years, I have seen a decline in website traffic across the board in hotels and travel. The way people are moving across devices throughout the day, coupled with their growing concerns about privacy, means it’s getting harder to track them. Don’t worry: those wanting to sell you ads are working hard on a solution. But conversion and engagement metrics, not traffic, need to be center stage.
Childish Gambino sums it up: “Yeah, you got some silverware, but really are you eating though?”
The personalization of search engines that I highlighted above directly affects another popular favorite from the days of old timey marketing: the beloved Keyword Ranking report. Back in the day, you know pre-2005, you could really hang your hat on this one. Rankings meant traffic, and traffic converted. Ah, the good old days! Today you are paying someone to dominate a list of keywords as part of SEO. You might as well burn cash to stay warm. Read these articles instead to learn how SEO has evolved, and why ‘pay to play’ is the new (old) king.
Meaningful content and website expansion have replaced keyword rankings. Looking at the Top 10 Keywords report in 2016 is like looking at a newspaper from 2005 to predict the weather today.
Email Open Rate
Bragging about the size of your email database is so last decade. The more relevant question is: how many segments or groups do you have within your database? Male vs. Female? USA vs. International? City vs. State? Sending massive email blasts without any segmentation is a sure shot way to get ignored/unsubscribed. Your content is key and needs to be segmented to succeed. Here’s an example of an email campaign that is WAY too broad, and therefore destined to fail.
You can beat your competition by embracing the power of segmentation. Like search engines, email systems also are not doing what they used to do back in the day: the good ol’ pixel-based tracking. One of the biggest email clients (Gmail) does not open image emails by default, which singlehandedly derails the “opened” metric. Anyway, sending emails like the one above does not help, even if they register as opened. I may have opened the email, but I will not sift through 100+ deals to find what I need, thanks. I have Google/Expedia for that!
Social Likes, Shares, Followers
Still counting Likes? Followers? Well, you can stop doing that. Neither of these things is anything more than a suggestion that someone might pay attention to you. For hotels and travel, this is where discussion is a better KPI (Key Performance Indicator) than the number of likes, retweets, and shares. A discussion can be an online interaction on social media, a phone call, or an email exchange. These interactions can take place during the trip planning phase, at the property during the stay/event, or post stay. All of those activities mean more than clicking on a Like button.
Social media is not the place to be broadcasting a message and expecting to get revenue. I fondly remember the days when agencies could make money by adding a “BOOK NOW” link on Facebook! But that didn’t last long. Today you need to look at the level of discussion you are having online. So, have you engaged your customers? What content have you produced that they should care about? These are the real questions to ask.
Pro Tip: Look at Insights section of your Facebook page. Go here to see your Twitter situation: http://analytics.twitter.com.
Travel is one of the most competitive segments online. You have to up your analytics game if you want to stay relevant. Pats on the back and high fives for outdated metrics are bad for your profitability (and your street cred). It’s always a great time to update your online marketing metrics to stay competitive. In my next post, I will cover the exciting metrics that actually drive your profitability. Stay tuned, stay woke!