The New Year brings positive energy and progressive thinking to our industry, and we feel strongly that this will be a year of change and reward. With so many productive strategies already in the online playing field and on the horizon, businesses and hotels are positioned to expand their online marketing efforts in cost effective ways to engage customers and capture new markets. On that note, we give you our online marketing prediction for 2009. Our list of the most effective strategies is based on trends and successes seen across our entire customer base, as well as cutting-edge search trends reported by online media companies.
America’s Online Spending: We are steadfast in our belief that people will spend money on all online channels, such as search, display ads, banners, video, blogs, etc. They will utilize the internet as an economical lead generation tool. According to eMarketer, search spending will continue to increase as traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, is on the decline. Total US Internet ad spending will increase to $25.7 billion in 2009, an 8.9% growth rate. Out of total internet spending, search marketing spending will grow by 14.9% in 2009, to $12.3 billion. Despite the fact that this is lower than last years increase, it is still a robust increase compared to nearly all other media sources.
Video: Video is the hot buzz word for internet marketing, and online video consumption will continue to grow. Video search results are blending in with universal search and are showing up as part of the main search results. According to a recent post on the Forrester Blog, (http://blogs.forrester.com/marketing/2009/01/the-easiest-way.html ) on a keyword phrase for which Google offers video results, the video has a 50 times better chance of appearing on the first page of the search results as compared to the website. This is primarily because online media has less video than websites. As a savvy marketer, it is crucial to optimize your online video and make sure it is part of your online marketing/SEO strategies.
Blogs: Building on the 2008 trend, blogs will continue to be an essential part of your website in 2009. Amazingly, there are still hotel operators, CEOs, and small business owners who do not endorse blogs as a powerful media tool to interact with customers and online communities. They are concerned about people leaving negative comments or competitors leaving their URL. We have to change our thinking process. If done correctly blogs can help you to communicate with target audiences in a more personal, informal online setting. Successful hotel owners and small to mid-size businesses will make blogging an essential tool to communicate with their customers, generating more leads, posting time sensitive offers, posting information about destinations and things to do, and reasons to do business with them. (Milestone founder Interviews Matt Cutts) Business blogs will become an essential part of a website for both customers and business owners who are committed to retaining their customer base by initiating interactive dialogue with customers and providing compelling information and true value.
Customer Retention by Active Listening: We predict that 2009 will be the year for active listening and interacting with your customers. In today’s economic climate, there are fewer customers and more competition. Therefore, customer retention is crucial for any business. It is important to keep your customers engaged, satisfied, and informed. Keep them engaged by providing information they are seeking. Interact with them in social spaces by providing blog feeds, twitter feeds and by securing feedback through survey tools. Pay attention to what your competition is doing better than you, and make adjustments to capture your market share. In today’s competitive online market, businesses will have to focus on customer retention tools.
Local and Mobile: With Apple’s iPhone becoming an even more popular phone device, mobile searches, which are local in nature, are growing exponentially. According to a recent survey done by Google confirmed that iphone users conduct 50X more search queries than any other mobile phone. (Google homes in on revenues from phones) Since mobile searches are more local in nature, small businesses should be ready for a local presence, including claiming search engine map listings, naming images with keyword phrases, securing links from popular IYPs, directories and websites, and creating mobile compatibility sites. (Local Search)
Social Media Marketing and Optimizing: In 2009, small businesses will find that social media is one of the most cost effective ways to engage and interact with their customers. More small businesses will enhance their profile on social media sites, such as facebook, twitter, myspace, and flickr. Social media profiles are indexable by the search engines and also impact the search results. Businesses can build small communities of supporters and followers, and market their products and services by engaging customers with interesting content. It will be important to actively listen and participate in social media channels. While creating your profile is the first step, it’s more important to put together a marketing plan that will inspire everyone in your company to use social media to communicate what is happening at your hotel, your business, and in a particular destination. This means ensuring that all departments are responsible for marketing and communicating. Your business must work together to create and maintain a cohesive social media plan and action list.
Online Coupons: With our economy in a recession, online coupons are becoming more and more popular with consumers looking to save money on everything they purchase, including hotel rooms and travel. It is crucial to offer time sensitive offers and enroll your website on sites that feature coupons. According to comScore Media Metrix (http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2270), traffic to coupon sites and saving sites increased 33 percent in 2008 from the previous year. Again, it is essential for your hotel to have time sensitive offers, specials and deals listed on coupon sites. Make this part of your 2009 marketing resolution! ( Find Out How Your Hotel Can Generate More Revenue with Online Coupons )
Online Reputation Management: We all need to stay actively engaged with our customers. It is critical for companies to carefully monitor their reputation online, and have an action plan for responding to criticism honestly. It is very important to set up Google alerts and twitter feeds, and respond to every single instance where your company/business is mentioned. Someone from your hotel/business must be on hand to either thank customers for choosing your services, or offer assistance if a problem is brought to light. Your ultimate goal is to create a good buzz and control negative comments by staying in tune and actively responding.
Organic SEO – Let’s not forget to pay attention to organic SEO. With the increase in budget cuts on paid search, companies and businesses will be reducing their paid search budget and will focus on long-term, tried-and-true SEO strategies with link building, compelling content, better codes, smart design, and innovative strategies. We believe that organic search marketing will become the preferred way for small businesses to survive as cash-strapped clients become concerned about increased media costs in the traditional space, high competition and the cost of paid search. Organic search will become more niche in nature. It will become more important for businesses to hit the right target audience who will do business with them.
Paid Search: PPC advertising is a solid strategy to get quick results and enhance revenue if you are seeking short term results. PPC advertising is targeted and provides instant gratification. As an advertiser, you only spend if people are interested in your offering. When done properly with the right strategy, attention to detail, and ongoing management, PPC offers solid returns to the hotels.
Metrics & Tracking ROI – Ultimately it will become more important this year to measure the true performance of your online returns. Documenting SEM efforts, analyzing and sharing reasons for successes or struggles are even more important to your online bottom line. As the economy struggles to recover, it is more important for businesses to analyze their return on investment, determining what works and what does not work. If businesses are marketing but not measuring, they will miss many of these new opportunities to engage customers and drive revenue. This is the year to define metrics.
We predict that 2009 will be a year of change and thinking outside the web page. With many cost-effective strategies accessible to hotels and small businesses – from video and blogs to mobile search – you can really hit your online marketing efforts out of the ballpark. Utilizing these innovative online marketing resources can put you ahead of your competitors. Make 2009 a year to shine online!
Contributed by: Benu Aggarwal, Milestone Internet Marketing
2009 Online Marketing Predictions by Benu Aggarwal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.milestoneinternet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.milestoneinternet.com/.