Are You Blogging Yet?
Blogging for Lodging
Blogs are the hottest growing medium of communication for businesses and individuals. Based on Technorati research (blog search engine), there are almost 3 million blogs created every month, and bloggers create over 1.6 million posts per day, or over 18 updates a second!
Blogs are websites with content management systems that allow visitors to the site to add content. They are forums for organizations and individuals to exchange ideas and communicate with their partners, customers, employees, etc. You can create pages relevant for your business, post articles on different subjects, and offer a platform for others to write their comments or opinions on that post.
As a first step towards understanding blogs, its important to get familiarized with some key terms used in the blog world.
• Blogosphere – Community of bloggers
• Posts – Post is an article or a comment written on a blog.
• Trackback – A method for Web authors to request notification when somebody links to one of their documents. Trackbacks enable authors to keep track of who they are linking to, or referring to their articles.
• RSS – Real Simple Syndication
• Web Syndication – Refers to making Web feeds available from a site in order to provide other people with a summary of the website’s recently added content
• Content Syndication – Ability for others to subscribe to the content on your site (using RSS feeds)
• Socializing the blog – Promoting your blog by asking relevant bloggers to review your site by posting, commenting and linking.
Due of the interactive nature and ability for readers to write their reactions and comments, blogs offers a solid platform for writer and readers to interact and develop a mutual understanding of the opinions of the either party. This allows managers in organizations to get a closer look at what their employees feel or for companies to understand what their customers think of their products.
In the business environment, we believe that blogs offer a solid interaction forum that can be used by companies to read into their customers’ minds, resulting in a better understanding of customer requirements. This information can be used effectively by companies to tailor their product offerings to best meet the needs of those customers. Blogs can be used effectively by companies to establish credibility and trust, and provide insight into the company’s “philosophy and personality.”
Blogs and Search Engines
For an online marketer, blogs offer a powerful marketing platform. Not only do blogs enable marketers to gain a better understanding of their customers, but the content posted on blogs is much easier to find on search engines as well. Search engines love blogs because they love fresh content. Every time new content is posted on a blog, the blog site pings the search engines. This results in frequent search engine spider visits and hence much higher optimization and ranking.
Blogs also have RSS (Real Simple Syndicate) functionality, which means as soon as your article/post is posted on your blog, people signed up to receive your RSS automatically receive information about your post. They come to your blog to read the post or read it in their RSS reader. It all happens in real time on your site. The more you write, the more people will read and comment. Bloggers link to each others blogs while commenting on the post. So, every time a blog has fresh content, whether you wrote a post or readers of the blog commented on your post, search engines get pinged and visit your site.
Blogs help in securing quality links from relevant blogs by trackbacks and comments, which in the blogging world is also called “socializing the blog.” This helps in gaining link popularity and link relevancy, and helps drive relevant traffic very quickly.
Blogs for the Lodging Industry
The lodging industry can utilize blog technology very effectively as a marketing tool. Blogs can be used effectively by hotels and brands to communicate with their customers and to develop an understanding of their needs. In our opinion, one of the best forms of blogs for the hotel/lodging industry is focused on information about the hotel’s local market. Hotels can successfully utilze blogs to communicate about the attractions and places of interest in their local market. A significant amount of people visit hotels because of local events, attractions, things to do, etc. Therefore, blogs showcasing local destinations can be highly successful for hotel marketing.
There are several categories and functionalities to consider while developing lodging industry blogs. An example of a hotel industry blog can be found at http://blog.rivernorthhotel.com and http://www.experiencewashingtonstate.com/. In these examples, blogs discuss the destination and top attractions in the hotels’ local market. It also has information about restaurants in the area and provides reader the ability to post comments and opinions. You can discuss the features and amenities that your lodging offers by creating a section for featured properties.
5 Tips For Making Your Lodging Blog Successful
1- Talk about your destination – Local area attractions and exciting information – rather than about your hotel.
2- Commit time to manage your blog – Unlike your website, your blog does require commitment of your time. Moderate your blog carefully on a weekly basis. Socialize with bloggers who are blogging about your area and request that they review your blog.
3- Convert readers by offering time sensitive offers, discount tickets to attractions, and information about local deals, etc.
4- Offer local videos and podcasts about your area on your blog.
5- Under a dining category, add a post about your hotel’s restaurant and add a personal touch by offering a great recipe from your hotel chef.
The journey of blog promotion is never ending. Here are 10 steps you can take to promote your blog. The more action steps you will take, the more successful you will be and the more ROI you will gain.
1. Create a step by step marketing plan for promoting your blog.
2. Enroll your blog in to blog search engines.
3. Enroll your blog RSS in to RSS search engines.
4. Inform your customers about your blog and the flexibility of adding comments. Make sure to moderate your comments.
5. Offer online functionality for surveys and polls, etc.
6. Offer time sensitive offers, such as coupons, local specials, etc. at least two to three times a month. Send an email campaign to let people know that they can find offers only on your blog.
7. Let your visiting hotel guests know about the blog and ask them to post comments about their experiences with your hotel and the destination. You may want to check first that the guests had a great time.
8. Socialize your blog – this is a very important step towards promoting your blog. You have to seek out bloggers who are blogging about your area and your topics. It is easy to find bloggers specific to your industry by using blog search engines such as Technorati. Make a list of relevant bloggers and write about their blog on your blog. Ask these bloggers to review your blog. If they find your blog relevant and informational, they will post positive reviews on their blog about your blog and will give your blog a very qualitative link.
9. Offer periodic podcasts about local events, attractions, and things to do, etc.
10. Inform and train your employees to be aware of the blog and be a part of the promotional strategy. When they answer a call, they should be able to provide additional information about the blog.
Tracking Your Blog’s ROI
Blogs give businesses indirect, long-term ROI. The best return on investment from a blog comes from gaining a better understanding of your customer. From the customer point of view, people do business with people they know. When people read your blog and comment on your blog, they feel they know you and your business. They might not have an immediate need for your services, but eventually, when they have a need or their friends have need, they will call you.
You can track your blog’s ROI by:
– Enrolling/submitting your feed using Feedburner, software that gives you the flexibility to manage RSS feeds and track usage of subscribers.
– Adding online tracking software such as Urchin and Webtrend to track unique visitors, page views, and referrals, etc.
– Phone Tracking – add phone tracking on your blog to find out what people are asking when they call after reviewing your blog.
Examples of Lodging Industry Blogs
Your blog can focus on delivering news, establishing you as a leader, or can be niche, destination or company specific. Here are few blogs established for the lodging industry.
Leader Blogs – Lodging industry leaders or franchise companies can create a blog to communicate their corporate initiatives, news and history, or add a personal touch by adding voice casts. Bill Marriott has done a great job of this, showcasing Marriott policy, personal achievements, and the Marriott family. Check out his active blog at http://www.blogs.marriott.com/.
Niche Specific Blogs – The lodging industry can create niche specific blogs. Examples of such blogs include those catering to luxury travelers and travelers looking for great deals or travel videos such as Upgrade Travel Blogs. Other travel blog feature tips, news, and commentary for business and leisure travelers looking for comfort, style, and convenience while getting great deals. Check out http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/.
Destination Specific Blogs – These blogs showcase a destination, featuring top attractions, tours, dining, etc., and offer featured hotels. Destination blogs can feature one hotel or can be used by several hotels. Essentially they are not focusing on the hotel, but rather they are talking about a destination that brings people to the hotel. Once readers decide to try a destination and things to do, they can choose to stay at one of the featured hotels. Check out http://blog.rivernorthhotel.com and Experience Washington blog.
Company Specific Blogs – Companies marketing to a specific industry can create a blog focused on that industry. Blog categories highlight the main products the company is offering. For example, on Milestone’s blog we talk about emerging trends, email marketing tips, local search, blogs, podcasts and information relevant to internet marketing. Check out http://blog.milestoneinternet.com and
FAQS about Blogging
Here are some of the questions I get asked about blogs. I tried to summarize my point of view in the answer.
Q: What if people write negative comments about me or my business because of personal rivalry on my blog?
A: You can moderate all the comments posted on your blog. That means, only allow the comments you want or delete the comments which are motivated by personal rivalries.
Q: What should the URL be for my blog?
A: There are two ways to go about it. Your URL can be blog.yourmainsiteurl.com or separate from your website. There are pros and cons of going either way. If you use blog.yourmainsiteurl.com as your blog URL (that means establish a subdomian), you tend to gain traffic and page rank fairly quickly because your website already has relevancy built up. The negative aspect is that it may negate some trust. Successful bloggers might have a hard time trusting you since they know that you are in the business of selling a product or service. On the another hand, if your URL is separate from your domain, it will be easier to gain trust but harder to gain traffic/ page rank since it is a brand new domain you are marketing. We have done both types of blog URLs, and it really depends on your long-term goals.
Q: Is it possible to customize the look and feel of a blog?
A: Blogs are created by using blog open source software. While its is hard to have complete freedom over the look and feel of your blog, you can use open source codes to somewhat customize the look and feel of the blog.
As I was writing this article, I felt like I was discovering a new passion and embarking on a new journey into the blog world. In upcoming articles, I will be covering even more ideas and strategies about blogging, as well as blog tips and success stories. In the name and game of blogging, I would like very much to hear from you. Please comment and I will surely respond.
Thanks for reading!!
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