Increase Your Hotel Bookings with These Digital Marketing Strategies
February 11, 2020 Rajat Tyagi
Hotels cater to several sets of audience pools at the same time. This makes hotel marketing a little more challenging. Additionally, large overall hotel inventory coupled with new alternatives such as Airbnb further adds to the growing competition. In a generic hotel SWOT analysis, the biggest opportunity always is that a large chunk of small and mid-sized hotels across the globe is still operating in a traditional style. Adopting digital marketing strategies specifically to increase hotel bookings will be the differentiator – it will be a strength for those who adopt these strategies and a threat for those who don’t. Progressive and tech-savvy hotels can certainly increase their hotel bookings with these marketing strategies.
Components of a successful digital marketing strategy for hotels
A good digital marketing strategy, just like any corporate or SBU-level strategy begins with the current status analysis and future state envisioning. Further, based on the gap analysis, a digital strategy roadmap is designed. So, it’s important for hotels to know the category they represent and who their target audience is. For hotels, unlike many other businesses, creating an ideal buyer persona can be challenging because they cater to a wide range of audiences based on demographic segmentation. Hence, hotels must have several strategies in place for different audience pools. For example, If necessary, a hotel may need to split their audiences into two, three, or even four separate campaigns to ensure they’re sending the right message to the right prospect based on various criteria such as income targeting, age group, etc.
A comprehensive digital marketing strategy for hotels must include all possible inbound tactics (such as creating a stunning website, doing SEO, investing in SEM, digital marketing services, Social Media, listing on OTAs, etc.) and outbound tactics (such as sending out campaigns through email, app notifications, mobile ads, etc.) The goal of any outbound or inbound digital channel is to drive traffic and convert traffic into bookings). It takes a very strategic approach to content creation and distribution, adoption of new-age tools for workgroups such as social listening, conversion rate optimization, use of AI-powered chatbots, etc. for successful implementation of a digital marketing strategy.
Additional Read: Best Digital Marketing Tools to Consider
While SEO, SEM, etc. are very important strategies for hotels, SEO and SEM alone may not be sufficient considering such high competition in this niche. Marketers must consider hotel-specific techniques such as local SEO, display ad network, optimization for OTAs, email campaigns, etc. for better results. As we move forward in this article, we will explore these in greater detail. Let’s examine some of these hotel-specific digital marketing strategies that can help increase your Hotel Bookings.
Let’s evaluate some of these strategies one by one.
Embrace a well-defined digital strategy for OTAs
More than 70% of hotel bookings come from online travel agencies (OTA). Large OTAs attract a lot of traffic from several countries. Some of the leading OTAs where a hotel must get enlisted are Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Agoda, Priceline, HRS, Airbnb, Orbitz, Laterooms.com, TripAdvisor, Trip.com, Travelocity, etc. In addition to these global players, hotels must get listed in regional OTAs too. For example, a hotel in India must also get listed on MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Trivago, etc. Listing to the regional (or national) OTAs attract a lot of domestic traffic. Moreover, Google’s first page always enlist the sites that are local.
In the above Google search, only regional/national players are listed at the top. Also, it is interesting to note that 3 out of 4 listings on Google’s first page are for the OTAs. Because of high traffic, enormous backlinks, the ability to generate content, etc. OTAs always top the organic search results. Most OTAs advertise on offline media as well which leads to traffic that comes simply through the top-of-the-mind recall. Even at a local search for hotels for a specific location in a city, OTAs top organic search result.
Google Ads do place you on the SERP but these slots are mostly occupied by the large OTAs who couldn’t make it to the first page organically.
This analysis tells us that SEO, as well as SEM, may not put you on Google’s first page despite a lot of efforts as well. So, instead of spending too much time doing SEO and SEM, it would be a much better idea to optimize your listing in leading OTAs by regularly updating high-quality photos and videos, regularly updating your content, ensuring rate parity, devising new and innovative seasons strategies and increase your positive reviews and stars. And, not to be emphasized enough, responding to negative reviews is equally important for online reputation management (ORM).
Target local SEO and Google Display Network with Ad Retargeting
From the keyword research, we know that most people search for some form of hotel search phrases and modifiers, plus the location (E.g., cheap hotels in Chicago). Such queries send a clear localized intent to Google that the user wants results relevant to a specific geographic location. An optimized Google My Business listing increases the chance of appearing in the Map Pack result.
Find out how La Quinta attracted more customers.
Google Display Network and Ad Retargeting
When a potential customer is evaluating hotels, he or she might read relevant posts on hotels, locations, etc. If you have an optimized strategy for Display Advertising, chances are that a lot of hotel prospects visiting relevant posts would come across your banner Ads and reach your website or landing page. The irony is that the abandonment rate for booking hotels online is over 75%. In this scenario, Ad retargeting helps a ton. If a prospect has visited a hotel site even once but moved on, they can keep following that prospect on other sites he or she visits if the hotel has enabled ad retargeting. Minutes after visiting the Oberoi hotel’s website, when we returned to a totally unrelated website, we could still see them. We visited other hotels as well but not many were seen again because they are either not using Google Ads or they have not enabled Ad retargeting.
Do not Ignore Social Channels
Use Social listening tools
It is important to check for mentions on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and most major platforms. You can use Hootsuite, Curalate, Sprout Social. BuzzSumo or similar tools for Social listening through mentions. This can not just help you in real-time market feedback but it’s also a potential sales opportunity for the hotel.
Use Facebook travel ads (previously Facebook dynamic ads)
Facebook travel ads offer unique solutions that help connect hotels with the travellers they want to reach. Facebook Advertising enable hotels to set up and present offers, serve up ads with real-time availability and pricing to people based on where and when they want to go.
Run Paid Ads on Instagram and Other Prominent Social Media Platforms
Just like Facebook’s ad options such as boosted posts, newsfeed posts, video campaigns, and carousel posts, Instagram offers photo ads, video ads, carousel and stories ads. Visual content such as video has become the most consumable content. And the content on Instagram is visual. so its fertile ground for boutique hotels looking to advertise.
Digital marketing strategy for social platforms would not just include Facebook and Instagram. Other prominent channels such as YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest have their own paid campaign plans. Designing paid social media campaigns that weave together the various social platforms, as mentioned above, and their many advertising options is a must for hotels.
Additional Read: Social Media Marketing Guide
Email Marketing should be an important part of the Hotel digital marketing mix
There are typically the most common types of hotel guests – Backpackers, Families, Seniors, and Business travellers. Although social media, websites, OTAs are great for Backpackers and Business travellers, families and seniors may not be that tech-savvy. Email, however, is the tool that is used by all these segments. Great and non-intrusive email campaigns still have great ROI. So it makes clear sense for the hotels to not ignore email marketing. Another reason for using email marketing extensively is that smaller hotels have limited marketing budgets, and simply throwing money at marketing won’t deliver the key. That’s why email marketing is crucial for the hotel industry: email marketing returns $38 for every $1 spent, making it the channel with the best ROI.
A great responsive mobile-first website with a lot of content is crucial for hotels just like any other business. SEOs and SEMs do not work as effectively for hotels as they would for other local businesses. Hence, hotels must have an in-depth strategy for OTAs, Google display network and social media platforms. Local SEO is very important for hotels. And email marketing should be a key element of the hotel’s digital marketing strategies. There is no doubt that hospitality is a competitive niche, however, hotels can greatly improve the chances to increase their bookings with these digital marketing strategies.