A good digital marketing strategy should be in every hotelier’s toolkit—especially in today’s highly digital world. With a few good tips and tricks, hoteliers can make good use of digital-marketing tools to maximize return on investment.
“It is tough to give a blanket answer to how much a hotel should be spending on its marketing costs without diving into the specifics of the market and the identity of the hotel itself,” Steven Manners, CEO and founder of marketing agency Motif, said via email. “Typically, a marketing budget should fall within 10 [percent] to 25 percent of the revenue generated by the hotel.
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“I would encourage people to look at how they are measuring the market. Are you [return on investment]-positive on the dollars you’re spending?” said Tim Peter, founder and president of marketing company Tim Peter & Associates. “If not, focus on how you make that ROI-positive so that the cost of marketing becomes the cost of sale.”
The experts offered a few areas hotel marketers should focus on to contribute to a positive ROI.
1. Invest in Content
Peter said content is king when it comes to digital-marketing efforts, and hoteliers shouldn’t be afraid to invest in this area.
“Content matters because without it, search does not work for you,” he said. “And without content, you have no social.”
Hotel websites need high-quality copy, images and in some cases, videos. That content then can be leveraged via search and social-media channels, he said.
“There has to be investment in the content about your property and destination to make people want to stay there. We see this all the time: Hotels that I work with start off saying search doesn’t work and we look at their landing page, and it doesn’t answer the guests’ questions,” Peter said.
What happens is the website has a high bounce rate, which causes the hotelier to waste money on search, he said. Great, quality content will answer questions that visitors have about a destination or property without making them work for it.
Although paying for experts to draft content can be expensive, Peter said it’s more expensive to leave rooms empty. He encouraged hoteliers to work with outside help from content creators as well as experts within the property, such as restaurant chefs or the concierge.
“Your website is a 24/7/365 salesperson ready to answer guest questions,” Peter said. “If you have a high bounce rate, you are telling guests to go away. You are saying, ‘I don’t want to help you.’ That’s expensive.”
2. Search is Fundamental
Once great content is in place, paid search is key, experts said.
“Paid search is the most fundamental of digital-marketing tactics for any business, Google Adwords being the best example of this,” Manners said. “Most hotels, especially independents, are not actively involved in this space for one reason or another, but it provides tremendous ROI because you are targeting people when they are further along in the booking process (using a search engine) versus a native (in-content) ad.”
That’s not to say that organic search isn’t still important, however. Peter said that many people will still click on organic links over paid ones, but the ratio has shifted.
“It used to be 70/30 for organic, but it has shifted more in paid,” he said. “It’s still above 50/50, though.”
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Google chooses which ads to show based on how websites rank from an organic perspective, Peter said. And if a hotel website has a poor organic score, that hotelier could find he or she is paying more when it comes to bidding on keywords.
“When you give bad answers to guest questions, you have a low-quality score and you have to bid more. Each click will cost you more,” he said. “If your quality score is bad enough, Google won’t let you show up at all. And if you have a low-quality score but you’re high enough to show, you will be bidding more even when no one is bidding against you.”
Peter said it comes back to a website’s content. The best way to lower the cost is to have a good answer for guests visiting the hotel website, which will lead to lower bounce rates and cost per clicks as well as higher-quality rankings with Google.
Retargeted marketing campaigns also should accompany paid-search efforts, Manners added.
“These ads are served to guests who have already visited your website and have great conversion rates,” he said. “Retargeted marketing campaigns often have very high conversion and ROI due to the fact that you’re going after people who have already visited your website.”
3. Don’t Underestimate Social Media
Social-media platforms, such as Facebook, are cost-effective tools for hotel marketers, mainly because there is less competition, Peter said.
“Getting people to find you on social takes a combination of high-quality social posts and putting money behind them, such as a sponsored post to extend your reach,” he said.
Another way to extend reach is to contact social influencers, Manners said.
“Depending on the market the hotel is in, contacting a popular social influencer and having them stay at your hotel and post about their stay can prove to have tremendous ROI, but it only works at certain hotels,” he said.
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Peter said social media can be a cost-effective tactic because it brings people who are at the top of the funnel who will then come back via search.
“Don’t think about these as isolated one-offs,” he said. “Think about how they work together, each as steps in a journey, rather than trying to throw money here and there and hoping it works. It should be a cohesive, coherent, integrated strategy.”
He said the problem is that all too often hoteliers look at digital marketing as a cash register, where they put $1 in and hope to get $5 out.
“Social traffic doesn’t convert right away, but it comes back as search,” Peter said. “You can put $1 in and get zero return, but then look at the traffic coming back that turns into sales from other channels. Look at each piece and how it supports the other.”