Benchmarking Webtrends Survey: Part Two.
By Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen ~ A Couple of Chicks
Wednesday, 20th September 2006
Integrated marketing recommendations for the tourism industry and beyond.

The first article in our series "Benchmarking Webtrends" started to aggregate and draw some conclusions about how active the hospitality industry is in using the internet as an advertising medium for tourism.  

A Couple of Chicks e-Marketing distributed a survey to over 250 Hospitality professionals who rated their participation in online marketing and distribution techniques through various online marketing strategies including; Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), use of Web Analytics, Pay-per-click advertising (PPC), RSS feeds, Blogs and other online marketing opportunities.

The results of the survey have provided us with a cross section of the industry's thoughts on tourism web marketing trends for 2007, and have provided us with a platform to make some recommendations about how to add Online Marketing to your budget.

Managing Content

Survey Highlights

  • 50% of Survey participants do offer consumers an e-newsletter
  • 63% still use PDF's to house content with only 3% using an RSS Feed
Content is King. To effectively communicate with customers while improving your Ranking with Search Engines, new market mediums (such as RSS and Blogs) a must to embrace.

Are you tired of e-newsletters? Interestingly enough almost 50% of the survey participants still don't distribute an e-newsletter to consumers asking for information about their product. For those who do have an e-newsletter, they are split between sending it monthly or quarterly and 83% have given the responsibility to their marketing department. Now I am not suggesting marketing shouldn't own distribution and content of the e-newsletters, however I do feel the other departments should have input as to the purpose and message of the e-blasts.  57% of our survey participants responded that the primary purpose of their eblast's was only to provide information, and not specifically to close any sale.

I don't know about you but I don't have that much time, or even that much interest in reading about what's new at a hotel property. Truth be told, many of the items in many e-blasts are just not that newsworthy. However, I am still interested in specials or sell offs for my favorite places, and can spontaneously decide to surprise my husband with a weekend getaway if the right offer lands on my desktop at just the right time.

Let me elaborate on that as information and content is good for a variety of reasons. E-newsletters are what we refer to as a "push-marketing" technique where you risk - in a world where people receive hundreds of e-mail's daily - that you will not be hitting your perspective customers at the exact moment they have a desire to read about your product. 

How can you better maximize the content you have?

According to the survey 63% are using a PDF file to house content on their site. PDF's are okay, and visually appealing - but they do not always get indexed by search engines and are cumbersome to open. Moving toward a Web 2.0 platform, it is eye opening that only 3% of our respondents had an RSS feed, with 80% stating they did not and 16% acknowledging they did not even know what RSS is.

What are RSS news feeds?

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication". An RSS feed is something a website offers to readers as a "news feed" of their information downloaded to their newsreader (like My Yahoo) of choice.  An RSS feed is available for everyone to add to their own "news reader" for free and gets displayed on your desktop or in your web browser when content is new.

As a consumer, an RSS feed delivers exactly the information that you have anonymously "subscribed" to, eliminating the need to go out and check your favorite outlets for new information, (and saving the search steps) because new updated content is delivered directly to your computer.  It is so much more efficient than going to the search engines to get it, or getting endless email newsletters. Using RSS feeds, those individual websites will deliver opt in news right to a consumer's desktop, suitable for reading, clicking, printing, or ignoring.

How is this beneficial to you as a marketer? First of all instead of "pushing out" content to someone who has no interest (or has been caught in a spam filter), your content is "pulled" by an audience already interested in your information. In addition - each of the feeds now create hundreds of quality inbound links pointing to your website, building on your natural search engine optimization efforts.

This ends up being a win/win/win. You connect with your customers.  Customers get relevant content and Search Engines reward you with higher rankings for providing fresh quality content.

Part Three of the Benchmarking Webtrends will continue with some Recommendations for what to add to your 2007 Online Marketing budget, but we will get you started with some suggestions until Part Three is released!

Online Marketing Recommendations – Benchmarking Webtrends for 2007

What should be added as line items to your 2007 marketing budget?

  • If you have not already invested in professional Search Engine Optimization – consider this for 2007 – the investment will pay off! More than 80% of website visits begin in a directory or search engine, if your website can't be found – you will loose a huge part of your customer base.
  • Consider some kind of Online Advertising channel (A Pay Per Click campaign, Banner Advertising etc.) – that is a must do for 2007.  (See Benchmarking Webtrends-Part One). Make sure to track all of your online marketing efforts so you can move the dollars from traditional channels based on ROI.  Part 3 of this report will review Website Analytics in more detail.
  • Add an E-newsletter and/or RSS feed to interact with your customer. For more on RSS you may be interested in "RSS Defined by A Couple of Chicks"
  • Add an RSS feed to maximize your content for optimal Search Engine Optimization. For a closer look at Search Engine Optimization - "Cleaning up the Internet…One title tag at a time"
Part Three of this series will discuss Web Analytics and how to use it, Website/Consumer Usability, more 2007 online marketing budget recommendations, and a summary of our Benchmarking Webtrends survey results!

About A Couple of Chicks:

Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen are the co-founders of "A Couple of Chicks," a non-intimidating approach to Internet Marketing, e-Distribution & Revenue/Campaign Measurement. The "Chicks" specialize in using Creative, Distribution and Technology together to bring clarity to marketing on-line.

To find out more about A Couple of Chicks Marketing and the tools and services, or to inquire about e-marketing workshops and online marketing consultation, visit www.acoupleofchicks.com

The Benchmarking Webtrends Survey was conducted online through Survey Monkey in July of 2006 in preparation for the Online Revealed Canada 2007 – the Canadian Online Travel Conference. The survey received participation from hospitality industry professionals in various capacities of tourism sales and marketing.  A Couple of Chicks would like to thank all of the participants for their time in completing the survey.
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