By Benu Aggarwal, Milestone Internet Marketing
Effective internet marketing in the year 2008 will be a powerful promotional agent for the hotel industry – from major franchise chains in urban cities to independent inns in rural countryside. In fact, it has been projected that 40% of all hotel bookings will be generated from the internet in 2008. As we envision the possibilities this year, hoteliers must take a proactive approach to internet marketing and direct their strategies and budgets from traditional offline marketing to hard-hitting online highways.
Savvy hoteliers who utilize the hottest trends and practices in internet marketing – from social networking to mobile websites – will be well rewarded for staying ahead of the competition curve and capturing more market share . . . both now and in the years ahead.
Here are the top 10 internet marketing resolutions for hoteliers who want to spark their hotel’s online bottom line. Say them, believe them, and put them into action.
1. Successful website architecture
2. Update Local Search, Directories, Internet Yellow Pages, and Maps
3. Enhanced Rich Content
4. Online Listings
5. Email Marketing
6. Exploring the Mobile Web
7. Unlock the Power of Social Media Marketing (SMM)
8. Measure Online Success
9. User Generated Content and Reputation Management
10. Online Video Search
1. Successful Website Architecture –I will review the architecture of my website to ensure that it contains the two essential elements – user friendly interface and high rankings in the search engines. Search engines should easily find my site and customers should be able to navigate my site effortlessly and quickly to find what they want. To achieve these goals, I will take time to understand the Google webmaster guidelines to see if my site is architected well and is friendly to the search engines. I will make sure that my site has enhanced, keyword rich customer focused content, which is built in a search engine friendly CMS (Content Management System), including site maps, meta data, H1 tags, anchor tags and many other effective search engine requirements. My site is designed for my customers so I will carefully analyze what is being displayed on my website. My customers are looking for local attractions, events and related packages, therefore it is important to provide this information for my customers. I will also make sure that every page on my site is at most two clicks away. I do not want my customers to solve a puzzle before they find what they are looking for.
2. Update Local Search, Directories, Internet Yellow Pages, and Maps – I will ensure that all my local online champions have accurate information about my hotel or business. I will move portions of my offline advertising marketing budget to online enhanced listings especially focused on Internet Yellow Pages, Local Search Engines, Search Engine Maps and Directories. My main goal is to make sure that my customers can find accurate information about my hotel quickly. I understand that with search engines launching universal search, it is imperative to focus on all of the channels and available functionality to ensure maximum saturation of the search engine results golden triangle.
3. Enhanced Rich Content – I will create compelling, customer focused content that matters to my customers. Everything I write online will be based on customer search behavior. I will research my customers, their interests, and their search behaviors. I will conduct research by using keyword discovery tools such as Word Tracker to come up with a set of keywords that I will incorporate into my organic content. I will use these keywords in optimizing every single channel of online media – global distribution system (GDS), central reservation system (CRS), hotel online description (HOD) pages, website, email marketing campaigns, and all promotional tools used online. To achieve a stronger online bottom line, my property’s online description WILL be customer focused and include accurate information the customer is searching for.
4. Online Listings –I understand the importance of listing my website URL online on different search engines, directories, local businesses websites, niches, press releases etc. I will work with my Internet Marketing partners to strategize for a robust online listings campaign. I will write and submit articles and press releases as part of my effective sales and marketing strategy. Maintaining the quality of listings from authoritative sites and links from well-optimized press releases and article submissions will be part of my overall link building mission. I will not get persuaded by quick fixes and submit to “500 search engine submissions overnight” campaigns any more. I will focus on quality not quantity. I will measure returns by reviewing referrals from these listings before I renew my listings. I will be successful in generating quality traffic to my hotel site via the organic growth of quality incoming links, which is key to search engines optimization.
5. Email Marketing –eMarketer estimates that email advertising spending will grow from $338 million in 2006 to $616 million in 2011 – an 80% increase – I will focus on creating and maintaining relationships with my hotel audience by giving them valuable information via email campaigns. I will implement a complete interactive month by month email marketing initiative that highlights my hotel’s happenings, area events, local attractions, time sensitive specials and market related packages. I will measure the real results of every promotional dollar spent. I will check click through rates, do call tracking and see which headlines and campaigns are giving me the most results. I will carefully implement what I learn for subsequent campaigns.
6. Exploring the Mobile Web –While the Web provides phenomenal opportunities for hotel marketing, Mobile web campaigns pack a new and mighty punch. In the U.S. market alone, total mobile data revenues are expected to grow from $5.4 billion in 2006 to $37.5 billion by 2010 (eMarketer). The search engines have launched location-based searches using GPS enhanced phones and cell tower triangulation. Search engines are going to be able to provide local search results based upon a users location. Like me, I am sure my customers are using free voice search from Google, MSN, and Yahoo (Google 411, Live Search 411, One Search). These services have replaced paid directory assistance. I will determine how my website appears on handheld devices. I understand that I might have to invest in a separate site for this new media that is more compatible, quicker to download and easier to navigate on mobile devices.
7. Unlock the Power of Social Media Marketing (SMM) – (Social Networks, Blogs) –One of the fastest growing sectors of the web is social networks and Social Media Marketing. On today’s popular social networking sites, people with common interests share news, links, comments, insights, information, and reviews. This year, I will connect with people that matter to my business in a virtual world. Some of the exciting social networks I will explore are Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, etc. First, I will build a profile of my business/hotel/brand and begin a dialogue with people who share similar interests. There are several groups I can join such as meeting planner groups, local wedding planner groups, and sports groups. I will remember that social networks can not be used primarily as advertising vehicles but should be used to develop connections in my community by contributing valuable information. I will invest a substantial amount of time to promote and manage my blog, videos and social media networks to be effective in this market space. I will publish a blog to maintain conversations and connections with my customers by providing valuable information. Blogging by a business opens up communications with potential customers, present clients, and possible collaborators. I will participate to add real value and build connections. I understand that SMM significantly increases branding, awareness, site traffic, search rankings, and building an effective network of friends and prospective customers.
8. Measuring Online Success –I will utilize important metrics to evaluate my internet marketing strategies by defining and measuring the success of my online promotional efforts. I will measure my success by these metrics: traffic, unique visitors, click through rates, referrals, keyword conversions, and total revenue which ultimately increases my hotel’s bottom line. I will define these measurement metrics to the vendors I work with. I will explore and understand all the tools available to measure these metrics. My narrow focus on the end result will help in generating phenomenal results. I will not be bidding for keywords or running any banner advertisements until I can track my returns.
9. User Generated Content and Reputation Management –I will keep a vigilant eye on what is being said about my products and services online. I understand the importance of user generated content and that researchers found that 40% of consumers were willing to make a purchase after viewing positive comments. A recent survey conducted by comScore and The Kelsey Group reported that nearly one-quarter of consumers are willing to pay more for products or services which garner good online reviews. Users are willing to pay up to 20% more for services which receive “Excellent”/5-Star online ratings rather than “Good”/4-star online ratings. I will manage a robust reputation management program as part of my PR efforts, which involve checking and monitoring my brand name, my URL, my name, competitor’s names on reviews sites, and main search engines on a regular basis. While I cannot control negative comments, I CAN manage them by monitoring the right channels, improve my services and products based on comments, and saturate SE listings with positive responses and good comments. I can manage what is being said by watching, conversing, connecting, and contributing on these channels.
10. Video Search – Video search offers a phenomenal marketing opportunity without any cost per click or per action and is viral in nature. With search engines favoring universal search, video is influencing regular search results. At Milestone, we already see more and more video based results in the major search engines regular search result sets. I will create video optimization as part of my ongoing promotional strategies. I will review my hotel video library and make sure that these videos are search engine friendly. I will invest my time in understanding what I need to do to get a jump start on Video search and work with vendors who understand video search.
About Milestone Internet Marketing
Milestone Internet Marketing, Inc. is a full-service internet marketing solutions provider and an educator for the travel and hospitality industry. We provide solutions for developing powerful internet presence and driving revenue on the internet. Our portfolio of services include developing and promoting independent and brand.com websites, blogs, podcasts, RSS, email marketing, etc. We currently work with over 600 hotels nationwide and are a preferred vendor for several major lodging brands. Milestone is also a leading internet marketing educator for the lodging industry and offers its popular and widely acclaimed internet marketing training workshop and book – Hotels to HTMLs for several lodging associations, brands, and management groups. www.milestoneinternet.com.