Modern hotels face several challenges as they work to build a strong business. Ample competition in their area, the rise of alternative accommodations when traveling, and poor travel numbers in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic have all caused problems for those in the hotel industry. Like all businesses, those in hospitality must learn how to build a strong digital presence to make themselves visible and appealing to customers.
Google My Business plays a critical role in building an online reputation and helping customers find your hotel. Here is what all those in the hospitality industry should understand about seizing opportunities on these pages to build your brand.
Create a presence on Google My Business
To build the digital presence of your hotel, claiming your Google My Business is the first step. Google uses this listing to show results to customers when they search for hotels in the area. If you earn a position in the top 4 and the Local Pack, then the information from the Google My Business page will get featured and displayed prominently to relevant searchers. Even without earning this top position, however, your information will get displayed when people click on the featured results to see the map and more options.
On your Google My Business page, you want to create a highly relevant and appealing page. Make sure that all of your information gets listed accurately and aligns with the name, address, and phone number listed elsewhere for you on the web. Make it easy for people to contact you directly from the Google page with accurate contact information and a link to your website
On this Google page, you can also upload engaging images that help guests visualize themselves staying at your hotel. You want them to see why they should choose this hotel over all the others in the area. Accentuate any amenities you offer and make any appealing location information readily available. Google reports 60 percent growth in mobile searches that have the phrase ‘hotels with’, indicating the importance of providing features that customers want to see.
Through the Google page, you also have the chance to interact with potential customers directly. If people ask questions about your hotel, you can respond to them on the page. These responses are also public for other people visiting your page, so you can use this as a chance to demonstrate your customer service.
Finally, work to cultivate reviews on your page. Invite satisfied customers to leave you reviews on your Google page. You should also monitor your reviews and respond to them, as this provides you with another opportunity to display your engagement and concern for your customers.
Navigating the hotel-specific features of Google My Business
Images, attributes, and highlights
Once you have begun to fill out your page, now the time comes to create a hotel-specific listing that will stand out from the competition. Google provides hotels with opportunities to list their amenities.
Under the ‘Hotel attributes’ portion of your account page, you can edit the services and the amenities that you offer. Make sure you maintain a complete and regularly updated list on your Google My Business page to increase your appeal to customers.
A summary of your amenities can be viewed from the main Search page and Maps. Google will also provide customers with a ‘hotel highlights’ option as they look at hotel options. This also features different key amenities, such as wi-fi access, for customers as they look. While not every hotel will get highlights displayed, you should verify that if they do appear for your hotel they are accurate. If you see errors, reach out to Google directly.
Similarly, keep the images featured on your Google My Business updated and professionally shot. You want each room to look as appealing and inviting as possible. If you make any updates or upgrades to the accommodations, make sure that your page reflects these changes.
When prospective customers search for a hotel on Google, they also get to see a star rating produced directly by the search engine. This differs from the star ratings left by customers.
This rating from the search engine will be on a scale of 1-5 and helps customers sort through the more luxurious and economic options quickly. A 2-star hotel, for example, will have more economic prices and few amenities. The 5-star option will have significantly higher prices, but also more luxurious features to go with the price.
Pay attention to the rating Google assigns you and verify that it accurately reflects your establishment. If you feel it does not, you can contact Google directly
Businesses inside your hotel and ‘located in’ relations
In addition to regularly updating your amenities list, also highlight any businesses within your hotel that people not staying at the hotel can access. For example, you might offer award-winning cuisine in a restaurant, a luxurious spa, or a popular bar. Google can also help you bring in additional customers through these more independent portions of the hotel.
You can also let Google and prospective customers know if you have businesses that operate inside your hotel, that are not connected with the hotel, by setting up a ‘located in’ relation.
Business hours and booking
Keep in mind that since hotels are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to accommodate their guests, Google does not offer a place for hotels to specifically list their hours.
Since many people searching for hotels will also express an interest in booking a room, the listing will, however, include booking links. The search engine generates these links through the Google Hotel Ads.
Finally, with the current state of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, hotels want to take the proactive step of letting customers know what they do to preserve the safety of customers and employees. On Google My Business, you can also address customers regarding the pandemic and let them know about any policies you have in place in response to the situation.
Some hotels also provide additional support for those working to fight the pandemic by offering free or discounted accommodations for these responders. If your hotel participates in this effort, you can select this attribute in your business profile.
Helping your hotel stand out from the competition
Here are our suggestions for differentiating yourself from the other hotels within your geographic area.
1. Keep everything up to date. Ensuring that all of your information remains accurate provides a better customer experience. They know what they will get from your hotel and will not encounter negative surprises. It also helps you highlight any new features that customers might appreciate.
2. Engage with your customers regularly. Through Google My Business, you can let customers know that you pay attention and care about their needs by replying to reviews and answering questions. Let them feel appreciated and start building that initial trust.
3. Track, ask, and learn what customers traveling to your area want to see. Ask visiting guests what interests them the most about your area. Track requests and questions that your site and customer service representatives receive. As you better understand what customers desire, you can incorporate that into your offerings. Travel packages, services to help them set up tours or other visits, or even just having brochures on hand can help you create a more enjoyable experience.
4. Think outside the box regarding what customers might want to experience. Most hotels offer the standard bed and various dining options. You want your amenities to help you differentiate yourself. Luxury options, working with common destinations to create travel packages, and adding convenience through technology can all help your hotel attract visitors.
5. Pair your presence on Google My Business with an easy-to-use website that captures customers’ interest and provides them with easy navigation. According to Google, a straightforward website matters more to high-value guests than even reviews or loyalty programs.
Building a digital presence for a hotel provides you with additional opportunities to interest and engage customers. Understanding the role of Google My Business within this process and using the options available to highlight what makes your hotel unique can help you build your customer base.