84% of Americans say that their buying decisions are highly influenced by online reviews1. And according to Opinion Research Corporation, 80% of travelers perform online research prior to booking their travels. As more and more travelers perform diligent research prior to booking a room, it is important that GMs and hotel owners know exactly what information consumers can find online about their hotel. More importantly, search engines like Google and Bing now place high ranking factors on social media and guest reviews channels, making online reputation management (ORM) a must addition to a hotel’s revenue management/sales and marketing strategy. If a negative comment or review appears in the results, this can be damaging to the hotel’s reputation and can drastically affect its revenue.
Below are steps hoteliers can take to improve the hotel’s online reputation.
Step 1: Find out the hotel’s current reputation
Knowing what people will find when they search for the hotel’s brand is the first step to online reputation management. Try doing a search for the hotel’s name using Google, Bing, and other search engines and see what shows up in the results pages. Are the results pages mostly populated with negative or positive reviews? If negative content does exist and conveniently appear within the first three pages of results, the best strategy is reducing the visibility of these damaging content by pushing them down the line with positive content.
Step 2: Create and optimize your identity hub
Before diving into and tackling dozens of social media channels, it is important to first and foremost have a well optimized identity hub – the hotel’s website. This will be the core source of information about the hotel, its offerings, latest news, etc. Optimize the content with relevant search keywords as well as the hotel’s name. Doing so will tell search engine crawlers that this site is all about the hotel.
Once the hotel’s identity hub well optimized for search, the next step is linking to it. Search engines consider each link to the site as a vote for the site. Furthermore, search engines also take into account the source linking to the hotel’s website. The more reputable the source is, the better the vote. For example, a link from USA Today will pass more relevancy to the hotel’s website compared to a link from Joe Shmoe’s personal blog.
Step 3: Create and post positive content
To make negative content appear lower in search results, hoteliers need to create and push for relevant, positive content. One way of doing so is responding to negative reviews about the hotel. Acknowledging the reviewer assures the disgruntled guest that management is listening and that their concerns are heard. This shows that customer service is top priority for the hotel and can convert an angry guest into a loyal customer.
Another way of adding positive content on the web is taking advantage of highly relevant and powerful social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Flickr. As these social media powerhouses carry significant SEO power, content on these channels will immediately get higher ranking than a single post on a personal blog. Therefore, being active on these channels and linking back to the hotel’s website not only improves the hotel website’s search relevancy, but also helps the hotel dominate the search engine results pages and control what travelers find when searching for the hotel’s brand.
Step 4: Automate the process
There are several online tools that can help automate the process for hoteliers. One example would be eBuzz Connect 2.0 – reviews and social media management solution provided by Milestone Internet Marketing, Inc. Such tools can help keep track of hotel’s activities on social media channels, mentions on reviews channels, and provide a workflow management so the hotel staff knows exactly what to do with the reviews.
While hotels may not be able to remove damaging content, there is a way for hoteliers to minimize its harmful effects using SEO techniques. In addition, if the hotel has a squeaky clean image, following these techniques can help further improve its online perception.
- Opinion Research Corporation:
Online Feedback Significantly Influences Consumer Purchasing Decisions http://www.opinionresearch.com/fileSave/Onlline_Feedback_FINAL4_13_09.pdf
HOW TO: Manage Your Online Reputation Using SEO http://mashable.com/2011/06/27/manage-online-reputation-seo/
Contributed by: Teresa S. Villaruz, Sr. Marketing Specialist, Milestone Internet Marketing