Simple Guide to Boost Hotel Electronic Marketing.
By Neil Salerno
Friday, 2nd November 2007
This article won't list reams of impressive marketing statistics and elaborate charts; you've read them all before-

If you are still not convinced that electronic marketing is a necessary sales tool, you must be living on a remote island somewhere. At this point, your web site should be producing upwards of 35% of your total business; many hotels far exceed that.

I'm going to make the huge assumption that, by now, most hotels have some sort of web site. For independent hotels, a functional web site is an absolute must. Today, even owners and managers of franchised hotels are beginning to realize the huge benefits that can be derived from having their own privately owned and managed web sites. The combination of a proprietary, privately owned, site along with their franchise site can be a formidable combination.

Franchised hotels, with their own privately owned sites, generally point their reservations link to the franchise booking engine; most franchises require it. This makes it difficult to track reservations originating from your site, but, rest easy, knowing that your proprietary site is maximizing generic search results and that it's adding considerably to overall reservations production.

Some franchise and membership type organizations encourage their members to have their own privately-owned sites to maximize search and sales results; they are way ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, there are still some franchises that totally forbid their members from having a proprietary site at all; this is sad and very short-sighted.

Generic search is the biggest weakness of franchise web sites; this weakness can be overcome with a privately owned site. Only 20% of hotel searches are by brand name; the vast majority of hotels are found through generic search. Maybe one day these short-sighted franchises will wake-up and smell the roses.

Marketing Through the Global Distribution System

The GDS was developed many years ago to serve travel agents, airlines, hotels, and car rental companies. It was one of the world's first computerized travel data bases. It still enables travel agents to "see" hotel availability/rates and gives them the ability to book reservations directly through proprietary systems like Sabre, Apollo, etc.

Today, its role has changed a bit, but it still holds an important place in travel. First of all, I believe that travel agents will always produce valuable business, so why not maintain a listing to get travel agent reservations. Most franchises keep control of GDS participation for their members, but independent hotels must join on their own.

For independent hotels, the primary benefit is that the GDS is linked with Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz. Therefore, membership in the GDS gets you representation on these major booking portals. I predict that the GDS will seek many additional links with the Internet in the future.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)   

This term has been bandied around so much that its meaning has been warped and distorted in the minds of many people. SEO must be incorporated into the design of the web site itself; it is not something which is only done after your web site is completed. If a site is not designed within the scope of search engine requirements, SEO is impossible.

Search engines impose many "rules of the road" for web site design in order to comply with the ways in which their engines perform searches. If anyone wants to work SEO on your site, without first analyzing your site for its compliance to search engine parameters, run, don't walk, away. Web site design is the first step in search engine optimization..

Pay-Per-Click Advertising ( a short-term tool)

PPC is an excellent tool to drive traffic to your web site. Web sites bid to show prominently in the "sponsored" search results of various searches. With the huge volume of sites, today, it's an obvious advantage to be on the first page of search results; remember, more than 80% of hotels are found through search.

On the other hand, the goal of an optimized web site, followed by search engine optimization, is to produce similar results through generic search. A new site could take 60 to 120 days to build search popularity; in this case, PPC could be a great short-term measure until your site earns a higher ranking and generic search kicks-in.

It's important to understand that PPC can drive visitors to your web site. Be sure that you are not paying good money for PPC just to drive traffic to a dysfunctional site; one which is not designed to maximize reservations results. A site analysis could be your best small investment to be sure your site works well for search and sales.

Understanding How Generic Search Works (and how to work it)

When someone enters a search term into a search engine, the engine sends out spiders or search bots to find that term within the text contained on all their ranked web sites. The results are based upon site relevancy; the closer the match, the higher the results. Choosing the terms to use within your site is a meticulous procedure and not simply a guessing game. Finding the most popular search terms is crucial to success in generic search.

Destination-oriented key words/phrases are obviously most important, but don't forget that countless users search by many other terms, such as: weddings, meetings, proximity to attractions, even special hotel or area amenities. The key is to find these terms, evaluate them for search popularity, and incorporate them into the site text. Remember, search bots can only read text…content is king.

In-bound Links Will Produce Higher Search Engine Rankings

Several major search engines use site popularity as one criterion to rank web sites; in-bound links enhance site exposure and drive more visitors to your site. Simply providing out-bound links on your site, which should never be on your home page, do nothing to improve popularity and could even detract from your site's ranking.

Reciprocal links to/from popular sites will boost your site's results by driving more traffic to your site. Don't forget links to/from your local Chamber of Commerce and CVB; they're bound to be very popular.

If you had a sales person who delivered a third or more of your total business, you would no doubt, shower that person with lots of attention and make sure he or she is well compensated. In fact, electronic marketing can deliver that level of business or more; make it your central focus for '08. The payback can be great.

Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach
Email: NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com
Web Site: www.hotelmarketingcoach.com

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