When you’re an independent hotel, you have to do whatever you can to be independent. Of course you have your website (increasingly a mobile version), and you manage different channels to distribute your inventory, including on the likes of Expedia and Booking.com.
But there are many ways that online advertising can help direct bookings, and in many cases “recapture” guests that have searched for your property, or properties in your region, as well as target people online based on their particular characteristics.
We will outline below a few of the ways you can grow direct bookings.
Go for Google
As ever, Google remains king. Your hotel might be the best property in your city, with a distinct and well-known name, but you notice that natural search engine results (for example, where someone types in the exact name of your hotel), are increasingly dropping down the results.
Sponsored links (or adverts, in other words) keep appearing nearer the top on the all-important first page. These appear when companies use a tool called Google AdWords. This is the tool that Google provides to help you with your marketing in the Google Search Engine.
Set up a Google AdWords campaign and select the words, or phrases, that you want your hotel to be associated with – and then appear at the all-important top of the page, on the first page. However, you’ll be competing against other online travel agencies for this, who may want their own text advert (sponsored link) to appear when people search for phrases related to your offering.
As a result, setting up Google AdWords can seem straightforward, but when it comes to running a campaign, things get more costly, and complicated. To get the most out of it, you must spend time learning the tool, find out the best keywords and best price for your hotel. It’s fast moving because the prices for keywords change all of the time. It can be time consuming, and busy hoteliers often don’t have the time.
It’s also important to remember Google AdWords helps you to increase revenue from the market, rather than growing revenue from new markets. The larger hotel chains will be able to use online advertising to add bookings from new markets, but for independent hoteliers it’s more about boosting sales from existing markets because you will be able to gain more direct bookings.
At Availpro, we are always happy to offer our customers advice on Google Adwords, but there are other methods…
Mobiles, and social media
It’s important to appreciate how smartphones play a key role in travel decision-making for many consumers. From looking at our booking data from 2016 to 2017, we saw that mobile websites weren’t really converting lookers into bookers that much – but over the past six months it’s really taken off. It seems the mobile is becoming the only way to find a hotel, and then book that hotel.
For timing, using Google AdWords can help you grow bookings for the next 30 days, yet social media advertising offers a way for hotels to introduce themselves over a longer period of time. It’s a slower technique that’s more like marketing, but can help drive direct bookings over a period of six to eight months.
Facebook has been a mobile-first company for a couple of years, and offers hotels a clever way to advertise. Using its advertising tools, a hotel can select the types of people it wants to target. For example, 30 to 35-year olds that like gastronomical experiences, and have been writing about, reading about, or “liking”, posts that involve Spanish cities on Facebook.
The same applies to Instagram, which Facebook owns – and we are seeing newer, and more trendy hotels, place their adverts on Instagram.
And because people are always logged into Facebook across multiple devices, it’s able to monitor the user’s online browsing habits – all anonymously, of course, but it still creates a picture of what that user’s interests are, including holiday searches.
Retargeting, remarketing and the importance of rate parity
Retargeting and remarketing are important techniques in the world of online advertising, and they are both important strategies to help your hotel reach potential customers who have left your website without making a purchase. Retargeting typically relies on cookies (a small piece of data left by your website on the user’s computer, that helps you to deliver relevant adverts), while remarketing usually uses email.
Both Google AdWords and Facebook employ these techniques, to help you recapture visitors to your website. So if you are using Google AdWords and Facebook, you must be be aware that when you’re placing different adverts, any prices you are advertising must be the best price. When people see your hotel advert, they will likely check that price on OTA website, such as Booking.com or Expedia, and on your own website.
Therefore, check that you do not have any current campaigns across your OTA channels – and that the price you are advertising in Google AdWords matches the best price available directly on your website. Make 100% sure that your Google Adwords campaign will never be more expensive than your direct rate.
We’re in the middle of developing a new tool that will be able to help you track how bookings were made across different devices. For example, a search for a hotel is started by someone on the train in the morning, then in the evening that person continues the search on their desktop computer at home, then the next day they go on to book that hotel on their mobile device in the office. In a similar way to Facebook, we can match your hotel with the interests of that person, based on their profile and interests. This combination gives us prospects.