These days it’s not only business travelers who are looking for hotels which offer free Wi-Fi. A survey of U.S travelers by Trip advisor in January 2012 clearly shows that free Wi-Fi is the most sought after amenity when staying at a hotel, and 88% of travelers expect free Wi-Fi at all lodgings. For business travelers it is the single most important service for a hotel to offer.
Though the survey might not be universally representative, it still speaks to the changing services that hotels must provide these days. Obviously staying connected with friends and family is something that many travelers put a high priority on, and they want to be able to do it at their convenience.
As smart phones and other mobile devices increase their market share, instant access to information and one’s network becomes an integrated part of people’s habits and they want to take that with them on their holidays too. There are still hotels which do not provide free in-room Wi-Fi access but charge an expensive fee for access. You can be sure that many guests will think twice before staying at such hotels for a second visit.
The survey, of course, does not only speak of the need for hotels to offer free Wi-Fi (and breakfast, among others). Probably the most important point is that travelers make a reservation for a hotel and subsequently look around for other hotels. If they find a place offering better amenities, they will cancel their previous reservation. This highlights the need for not only getting the basics right but also offering services that set you apart from the competition.
Google has recently launched Search Plus Your World, SPYW for short, and as we mentioned in our previous blog post it will likely have implications on Google search results. The big change is that searches now include personal content if you are logged into Google+. Results are tailored to the individual user based on several parameters.
One of these parameters is the social profile of your online contacts and friends and this is the most groundbreaking change and one that has left some people worried about whether Google will still be able to offer the most relevant results. But the opportunity, especially for small businesses, is to create content on their Google+ page that is relevant to their target audience and the possibility to compete more equally with big companies is definitely there.
It is still early days for SPYW and it is therefore difficult to judge its impact but it signals the start of a whole new kind of personalization of search results even though so far it is for Google+ content only. It is currently a problem for Google that most people still prefer Facebook and Twitter over Google+ and a migration is not, at least in the short term, on the horizon.
Still, Google seem positive about Google+ and although it is only supposed to be users of Google+ who will see their searches affected by the new changes, people in the SEO community fear that content from Google+ will carry more weight in regular searches as well. If the new changes start to seriously impact searches there is no good reason for hotels not to sign up and use it to improve search rankings on Google. The thing to remember is it still comes down to shareable, linkable and quality content and this should be your focus no matter the platform.If it turns out that Google is stacking the deck in favor of its own product and it becomes significant for regular searches it is important to be there from the beginning to build a community around your business by sharing your content there as well.
A topic we have not yet given much attention is email marketing. Although it may seem a little old hat, done well email marketing can be very effective in keeping and building up good customer relations, and for many businesses can be a backbone customer retention strategy. To be successful you need to establish trust and know your customers. Here are some more specific points to apply to your email marketing:
- Find out what they prefer to get in your emails
- Make sure you abide by best practices for opt-in and opt-out
- Do not send the same types of messages over and over
- Find a good frequency
- Deliver catching images and short messages
- Personalization: utilize information about your customers to tailor your messages to them
- Make sure it is easy to be forwarded or shared on social network
Let’s start the new year with some fresh stories about hotel marketing:
In this first blog of the year we would like to give a short introduction to useful tools for monitoring your online reputation. As many hotel marketers are using some of Google products such as Google Places, Google Adwords, Google Analytics etc. We will focus this piece on Google Alerts.
Google Alerts is a free service which will lets you know when someone mentions your hotel on the internet; for example in on blogs, in articles or news etc. Read more about Google Alert
As a hotelier, it is important to know what people say about your hotel online as these mentions will be a source of information to other users who might be your future guests. Having as much information as possible about where and in what context your hotel is mentioned is of great value when planning your digital marketing strategies.Set up your search terms in Google Alert which should include your hotel name as well some possible misspellings of your name just in case someone makes a mistake. You will receive notification emails whenever someone is talking about your hotel. It is a good opportunity to learn what are your hotel’s weaknesses and what your guests expect from you.
Here is a list of similar services that can aid you in your online marketing efforts:
- Google+ and Google+ Pages: This year Google launched its own social media platform and it is now available for businesses as well.
- OTAs: OTAs still play a big part in hotel online marketing. But at a high cost in terms of commission. Many independent hotels are trying to break their addiction to OTAs by paying closer attention to other advertising channels such as their own hotel websites and social media.
- Mobile Sites: More and more people are searching and booking a hotel room on their mobile devices. Mobile compatible websites for hotels have become more and more important. A lot of hotels lose customers when the booking engine on their website does not work on mobile devices.
- TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor is the main source of guest’s experiences and reviews. Throughout the year there were reports about fake reviews or forced reviews by hotel owners. Hoteliers should have ways to encourage reviews and smart ways to prevent or deal with bad reviews.
- Social Media Marketing: Social media has emerged as a new channel for hotels advertising online and at the same time engaging with customers. It can be an effective and cost saving tool especially for small and independent hotels. But it works very differently to regular advertising.
- The Use of Video: Visual appeal or photographs are not the only thing site visitors want to see, they now wish to learn about your hotel in a more experiential way by watching video of your property. Videos taken by other guests tend to be preferred over professional, managed productions.
Looking Ahead into 2012: what are the predictions?
Previously there were a lot of complaints about how Google+ Pages only had one owner who could manage the page as well as not being able to transfer ownership. But now Google is offering a new service for its users making it possible to add multiple page managers and transfer ownership to another person’s account.One Google+ page can add up to 50 managers but only one remains the page owner who can add/remove other mangers as well as transfer ownership to another one.
Here is how to add managers to your Google+ page
- Sign in to your Google+ account
- Choose the page you would like to add managers or transfer page ownership
- Go to “Option” on the top-right of your page
- Then select “Manager”
- Add managers one by one by email address and the invitation will be sent to their Gmail and they need to accept it first
Page ownership transfer can only be done between page managers. If the person you wish to transfer ownership to is not an existing manger of the page, you need to add him/her as a manager and wait for the acceptance first. Then go to setting menu (same as mentioned above) and select “Manager”. You will see “Transfer ownership” option on the right and click on it. You now can choose the new page owner and you, the old owner, automatically become a manager of the page. No confirmation is needed from the new owner.
Small Hotel Solutions has been collecting the latest news about hotel online and offline marketing which might be interesting and useful to hotel owners: