By Margaret Mastrogiacomo, EVP Strategy

This month, the latest digital innovations include new voice search and SEM studies presented at SMX Advanced, the rollout of Instagram branded content ads, and native advertising becoming a more impactful display format as it gains more traction. From SEO to design, find out the top five things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing.

1. SEO: According to a study revealed at SMX Advanced, voice search optimization is tied to high SERP placement, site speed, and content readability.

In an SMX Advanced speaker session by SEMrush titled “Optimizing for Voice Search and Virtual Assistants,” SEMrush revealed research that suggests the key to voice performance is high SERP placement, site speed, content readability, and high-quality backlinks.

  • Eighty percent of voice search results came from the top three positions in SERPs. SEMrush revealed this compelling result from the study, which emphasizes the importance of the top three placements in SERPs. For hotels to increase their chances of ranking in these top three placements and potentially gaining traction in voice search results, it’s important to hone in on long-tail keywords that are highly relevant to your hotel brand.

In addition to the top three placements in SERPs being closely tied to voice search results, SEMrush also found that 60% of results came from Featured Snippets. Tracking common long-tail queries associated with your hotel brand and creating content that answers these questions is one strategy for appearing in Featured Snippets. For example, if a common brand search is “Does Hotel X have a rooftop pool?” you can create valuable, informational content that answers this top question to potentially rank in Featured Snippets relevant to your brand and, ultimately, voice search results.

  • Answer length has an effect on voice search ranking. The study also recommends that paragraphs optimized for voice search be no longer than 45 words. Keep your content short, focused, and easily digestible.
  • Site speed and backlinks also make an impact on being selected for voice search results. SEMrush found that the majority of the pages chosen for voice search results load significantly faster than the average page in the SERP. In addition, backlinks, anchors, and title keywords were more prevalent in answers delivered by the voice assistants.

Overall, this SEMrush study provides useful information as hotels develop voice search strategies and voice search becomes more and more prevalent. NextGuest Digital keeps a pulse on the latest SEO studies and consistently incorporates new findings and strategies into its ongoing SEO services.

2. SEM: Better aligning your marketing with your customer’s journey can increase success.

In another SEM focused speakership at SMX Advanced, titled “Aligning Your Marketing With Your Customer’s Journey,” Amy Bishop and Michelle Morgan spoke on guiding potential customers through the path to purchase.

  •  Know your market. This session covered the importance of understanding your customer segments and what motivates them to purchase – and in the case of hotels, what motivates them to book. At NextGuest Digital, we observe trends across campaigns. For instance, campaigns highlighting value tend to resonate best with the family travel segment, and packages with “something in it for the kids” tend to have a higher conversion rate among this segment.

Understanding what motivates primary and secondary customer segments to book can help fuel the booking funnel with the right message in the right phase of the travel planning journey.

How can SEM audience insights play a role in defining customer segments? Hotel marketers can look at any audience they have (must have at least 1,000 users in it) to see which in-market and affinity audiences their target segment belongs to and get a better understanding of how these audiences are comprised.

3. Display: Native ads can dramatically help engage your target audience and fuel the booking funnel.

One of the best ways to boost the impact of your overall display strategy is to use native ads. Native ads appeal to those browsing web content because they blend into the core user experience. They do this by matching the look and feel of the content publisher and website in which they appear, such as in social media or as recommended content on a web page. According to Sharethrough, a native advertising network, online users are more apt to read native ads because they are part of the content experience.

In a study comparing native formats to traditional banner ads, researchers from Interpublic Group (IPG) and Sharethrough found that:

  • Consumers viewed native ads 52% more frequently than display ads.
  • Consumers spent the same amount of time viewing native ads as they did editorial content.
  • Native ads delivered a 9% increase in brand affinity over banner ads.
  • Native ads registered an 18% higher lift in purchase intent than banner ads.

For hotels, native advertising is a great way to reach potential guests in the dreaming phase of the travel planning journey and fuel the top of the booking funnel with engaging editorial content or video. For example, native ads can be a great way to promote editorial blog content or 15-30 second videos that help tell your brand story. Even cinemagraphs, which are static images with slight details of movement, can help engage your audience.

For native advertising, make sure that the publisher you choose provides the ability to select targeting dimensions related to user intent, profile, and location/device. Real-time, first-party travel or search intent data featuring well-informed segments and hyper-relevant keywords is critical for campaign success. Native ad networks such as Sharethrough and Sojern offer these real-time intent signals to help ensure your campaign achieves its goal of fueling new users into the booking funnel for more successful retargeting.

4. Social: Instagram advertisers can now convert organic influencer posts into ads.

We covered the announcement of Instagram’s new branded content ads to promote influencer posts in the March “Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now” edition, and these ads are officially rolling out to all advertisers in the coming weeks, allowing brands to create ads using organic posts from influencers. Instagram also announced that branded content ads for Stories will roll out over the coming months.

Before brands can use influencer posts as ads, the content creator must grant their business partners (the brands they have relationships with) access to promote their posts. Once the influencer has done this via their advanced settings page, brands will see the influencer’s posts in the Ads Manager under “existing posts” and can run the content as an ad within the Instagram newsfeed or Stories format.

With influencer and lifestyle content making a big impact on travel and hospitality, now hotel brands can achieve greater success when they partner with influencers and easily expand reach and engagement with this curated content.

Image result for instagram branded content ads to promote influencer posts

5. Design: Achieve depth in your digital design.

With flat design being a strong trend for some time now, designs that feature drop shadows and provide a sense of depth are starting to make a comeback. Where can creating a sense of depth become a unique element in your hotel’s design strategy? Drop shadows on overlapping images in broken-grid layouts throughout your website design can tastefully create depth and interest without disrupting the user experience.