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OTA

10 Secrets of Luxury Hotel Websites (Part 2)

January 31, 2017 • By

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Last week we covered the first five secrets of luxury hotel websites … Here’s Part 2 and the final five tips for luxury hotels and resorts:

6) Luxury Hotel Websites Synthesize Design and E-Commerce

Clearly, luxury hotels need to be vigilant about their online presentation and perception, but the savviest upscale properties understand that e-commerce tactics and visually arresting design CAN coexist beautifully … and profitably.

A few elements to keep in mind:

• There is nothing inelegant about a clear and consistent call to action. A “Check Availability” button in a prominent location at all times can be designed in an understated manner and regardless of your booking engine partner, the front end booking widget experience can be custom designed in a refined manner rather than using the standard default widget.

• Templates and do-it-yourself content management systems can hinder your ability to extend your brand tone into the e-commerce realm. Make sure your website developer has the ability to implement all aspects of your branding including colors, patterns, textures, fonts and photographic and copywriting tone.

• Mapping the location of the hotel and its surrounding attractions are critical to e-commerce conversions. However, you don’t have to use canned/default map features and colors. Google Maps can be customized to display only the information relevant to your brand, as well as its brand colors and tones.

• The mantra of luxury branding is: “Less is more.” A more understated, “clean” layout not only harkens backs to luxury print design and branding campaigns of the past, but it also leads to faster page load speeds and better SEO results. Google is now indexing mobile site structures first. This means, fewer mobile pages and more succinct and efficient websites.

• With increases in Internet speeds and pervasive wifi, video (the ultimate branding and storytelling medium) has become a powerful inspirational tool for luxury hotel websites. A good inspirational video extends user engagement and increases entrances into the booking engine.

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7) Luxury Hotel Websites Welcome Global Visitors

Just within the past decade, the U.S. hotel industry has seen a significant uplift in wealthy international travelers. This growth in global guests and the ease of digital marketing across borders has given luxury hotels massive opportunities to expand into new markets and succeed internationally.

However, when it comes to your hotel going global, it doesn’t make sense to stick with a one-size-fits-all hotel web design or booking engine. Every culture has its own assumptions, ideals and values. What works in one country may flop in another. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

• Get a Real Translation

If international visitors go to your hotel’s website and just see English, it sends a message that their business isn’t important or that you don’t care to make their online experience an inviting one. And don’t make the lazy mistake of Google translating all of your website copy, then calling it a day. Reaching international travelers will take much more than a lazy word-for-word replacement. It requires taking into account the nuances, the cliché phrases and the style of language of your specific target.

Currency and Payment Options

Once you have overseas visitors hooked with a successfully localized hotel website, don’t lose them to an all-American, all-English booking engine that displays room rates only in U.S. dollars. The same principle goes for guest room and suite measurements. Most of the world uses the metric system, so don’t describe rooms with feet and inches.

  Dates and Times

Avoid confusion by displaying the times and dates in the preferred local format. This also guarantees a seamless user experience for international guests who are accustomed to different formats than what your American guests are acquainted with. Surprisingly, the format of MM/DD/YY is unique to the U.S. (and oftentimes used in Canada too, adding to the confusion). While Japan uses YY/MM/DD and most of Europe uses DD/MM/YY.

  Enable Language Toggle

We can’t always assume a guest’s native language based on where they live. So, it makes sense to enable guests to specify and easily toggle the language that suits them best. 

8) Luxury Hotel Websites Convey a Luxury Service Culture

Wealthy travelers expect VIP treatment and the highest caliber of hospitality from start to finish. Not only do luxury hotel brands invest heavily in service training and empowering their staff, they showcase that dedication to service and genuine hospitality directly on their website itself. Ritz Carlton's staff lives by their Gold Standard credo to “fulfill even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”

This commitment must extend to the first touch many potential guests have with your hotel, through the phone and chat agents made available via your website. These operators must understand the details of your luxury service experience and be able to convey it via chat and phone.

9) Luxury Hotel Websites Enable Personalization

Shoppers who visit luxury stores expect and appreciate a personalized experience. Luxury hotel e-commerce is no different. Smart hoteliers in the upscale and luxury categories have built-in personalization features in their e-commerce experiences, including:

Detection of the website user’s search engine query or location and instant presentation of dynamic content (or offers) that match the user’s interest (ex: “adjoining rooms on the beach”).

• Smarter presentation of room categories that enables guests to select rooms based on their personal preferences (ex: “quiet, away from elevators, low-floor or ocean-view).

• Digital tracking of loyal past guests (and their past booking behavior) and instant dynamic presentation of offers, content and images that match their profile (ex: past guests can instantly be recognized and offered a “loyal guest” discount which creates kinship and reduces potential abandonment to OTAs).

10) Luxury Hotel Websites Respect Users’ Time

High-end guests often have more money than time … So they seek amenities and services that reduce friction and allow them to get what they want quickly. Smart luxury properties feature these capabilities right on their website, such as mobile check-in, 24/7 service butlers, on-site activities and rentals, service requests by SMS, children programs, or airport transfers. Further, high-end customers want to know they can reach a real person at any time. So, luxury properties lower the barriers to staff by making it simple to chat, call or email directly from their property's website and by promising quick response times (some even offer a convenient “call-back service”). The idea is to make their affluent customers feel like a part of an exclusive community and to give them multiple direct lines of communication to your staff.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: The First Step In Converting OTA Guests Into Direct Bookings

November 4, 2016 • By

FridayFreebie-Tambourine

Welcome to the Friday Freebie! Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue. 

This week’s freebie: Convert OTA guests into future direct bookings by capturing their email address.

We can understand the frustration hoteliers have with business booked through an OTA. Not only do you pay hefty prices for one reservation, but OTAs don’t share the customer’s email address when it arrives in your PMS, barring you from digitally remarketing to these customers later.

But, there’s an extremely easy solution to this. Smart hotels simply ask the guests directly for their email address and give them a good reason to do so.

Here are a couple of ideas. Ask for the guest’s email address to:

  • Receive an email receipt of their stay.
  • As a log-in for Wifi.
  • To send them exclusive deals for future stays.

The bottom line: Don’t let an OTA guest walk away without collecting their email address. That is the only way you can market to them in the future and stay on their radar for other travels.

Get More: How Hotels Make Their OTA Addiction Worse


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

OTAs Hitting Hotel Owners Where It Hurts: Real Estate Values

November 1, 2016 • By

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A new report from the AHLA has sent a ripple of concern through many hotel owners.

According to the report, entitled: Demystifying the Digital Marketplace“the revenue retained by US hotels after paying all customer acquisition costs declined by almost .4% or $600 million… That $600M in additional cost would have contributed directly to net operating income. Using an 8% capitalization rate (which most investors require), these additional acquisition costs of $600 million reduced the asset value of the overall hotel industry by at least $7.5 billion.”

Translation: Costly third party bookings are eroding profits and overall hotel asset values.

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The situation for many owners is even more serious in markets with new supply and growing Airbnb listings. Meanwhile, pricing power and occupancy everywhere seem to be peaking, which restricts revenue even further. All of this, in conjunction with acquisition costs rising, appears to be signaling an impending slowdown in RevPar. All of these factors mean hoteliers are left with less net revenue each month, with only one smart option to pull them out of the sinkhole of eroded margins: to drive bookings from the hotel’s direct channel.

The only way for hoteliers to increase their margins is by reducing the fees they pay to third parties and focusing their efforts on increasing direct, higher margin bookings.

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You may not be able to ditch OTAs altogether, but you can leverage them as a customer acquisition tool and convince the guest to remain loyal from that stay forward. Not only then do you "own" the customer, guests who book direct tend to be more loyal, spend more and stay longer.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

The Incredible OTA Stat That Everyone Has Forgotten About…

August 29, 2016 • By

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Sometimes, we all need to be reminded of just how much we’re throwing away by leaning too heavily on OTAs as a primary source of online bookings. Everyone knows that OTA bookings cost more, but very little is ever made of the amazing fact that OTA bookings are usually much lower in total value than direct bookings.

Siteminder, which is a unique position to see booking flow from both OTAs and direct websites, recently stated: The average booking value hotels are realizing on their direct website is nearly double the value they are receiving from third-party booking channels. (The finding is based on the 43.5 million reservations).”

And Kalibri Labs, which helps hotels evaluate revenue performance, analyzed the daily stay and cost history from 25,000 U.S. hotels from 2011 through present. They found that bookings made directly on your hotel brand’s site were 9 percent higher than OTA bookings. Plus, when you factor in ancillary on-property spending, direct bookings brought in up to 18 percent more revenue than OTA reservations!

Here are the reasons behind this surprising stat:

1. OTAs Are for Brand Atheists and Price-Conscious Shoppers

The picture of an OTA customer is clear. They don’t care about your hotel brand (or any other property’s brand for that matter), what makes your experience unique, or any of your updates and renovations. 

You are a commodity to them. They’re looking solely at price and where they feel they’ll receive more bang for their buck.

OTAs are not only your least valuable booking sources, they are also your costliest. To make matters worse, many hotels attempt to out-do their competition on OTA channels by offering even lower rates than what is listed on their own hotel website (via opaque offers). It’s the hotel industry’s version of self-sabotage. Not only is this short-sighted, it unnecessarily undercuts and cheapens any other efforts you make to drive profitability at your property. Lowering already-discounted room rates will ultimately leave potential guests no reason to book direct.

2. Direct Bookers Are Loyal Guests Who Tend to Stay Longer

Guests who book direct care about so much more than price. They want something unique that only your hotel can offer. They’ve done the research, looked at your comp set, read your reviews and have deemed your hotel worth their time and money. 

These invested guests tend to book longer stays and spend more money on ancillary products during their visit. Plus, the value of these directly booked guests only multiply because there is a large possibility that they’ll come back for a return stay, meaning more room nights and even more ancillary spend.

The Big Takeaway:

The major lesson behind this incredible stat is this: 3rd party bookings not only cost more, they also bring less total revenue.

Instead of lowering your rates and paying hefty commissions for low-value OTA bookings, get smart about investing in marketing tools This includes retargeting tools, personalized and targeted email marketing, live chat to engage visitors, a booking engine with automatic best rate guarantee, reservation recovery, and a stunning responsive website and mobile site.

This will ensure a more balanced approach to your distribution and give your hotel the full benefit of higher value bookings.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit:www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: Use FOMO To Sell More Rooms

July 29, 2016 • By

FridayFreebie-Tambourine

Welcome to the Friday Freebie! Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement – for free – immediately to drive more direct bookings.

This week’s freebie: Reel in more bookings by tapping into FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Nothing can make a prospective guest book a room faster than having limits placed on them. Knowing that the number of rooms or time remaining to take advantage of a certain price is a powerful motivator.

Brilliant marketers across all industries use this “scarcity principle” often, especially OTAs! Just think of a big sale that ends on a specific date. Or, an online store that is down to the last two of an item you’ve had your eye on. The premise is to urge guests to not delay in reserving a room with you and inciting a “fear of missing out” (FOMO in millennial speak).

Ask your hotel booking engine if they can tag certain room categories with urgency and FOMO messages when inventory reaches predefined levels. Use copy that creates perceived immediacy and stimulates guests to act now:

  • “Only 4 rooms of this room type remain.“
  • “Only 2 rooms on this date still available.“
  • “Only available to the first 15 guests."
  • “Included in XYZ Package.”

Get more brilliant methods of using psychology principles to drive bookings here: The Surprising Psychology Behind Successful Hotel Websites – Part One


 About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

The One Question That Terrifies Hotel Marketers

July 19, 2016 • By

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You’re precise with your numbers. You’re diligent and know where every cent of your hotel marketing budget is spent. Your owners and hotel asset managers decided to trust you with their investments and now rely on you to make the right decisions to turn the largest profit possible. However, there is one paralyzing question that can make even the most fastidious hotel marketer and general manager stammer nervously during an owner meeting:

“How Much Do All of These OTA Bookings Actually Cost Us?”

The truth is that this question is truly difficult to answer, and many hoteliers want to avoid it all together. But, it MUST be addressed as owners and asset managers are starting to hold their operators more accountable for the actual costs and real expenses of each channel. And with KPIs like ADR and RevPar peaking, owners are starting to realize that costly 3rd party channels and hidden OTA commissions are cutting into their bottom line.  Not fully understanding your reliance on OTA bookings and their REAL costs to the hotel can eventually put the own owner/operator relationship on the line.

How OTA Costs Fly Under the Radar

While we all know that OTA commissions should be treated as marketing costs, they are often an ”invisible” marketing expense in your budget or internal hotel P&L. Because OTAs usually pay a net rate back to the hotel, you never see the actual cost show up in your financials. This is ultimately what makes the question, “How much does each OTA booking cost us?” a challenge to answer.

Unfortunately, other marketing investments needed to grow lucrative direct bookings aren’t given the same forgiveness in your property’s financial statements, and show up as tangible expenses.

Owner Priorities vs. Your Priorities

It’s common for owners and operators to not be on the same page about this issue from day one. Owners are concerned about maximizing asset profitability and performance. Owners want cost-efficient revenue. After all, the hotel is an investment – the more money saved per booking, the better.

By hiring you and your management team, they’re trusting that you’ll do everything you can to cut expenses, make sound financial decisions on their behalf and ultimately and diligently yield above-market returns.

The Real Reason Why Owners Continue to Cut Your Marketing Budget

Owners and asset managers are getting more savvy about how much you’re spending to bring in bookings. And the first place they’re going to scrutinize expenses is on your hotel’s P&L. Unfortunately, all of the cost-effective tools needed to bring in the most profitable reservations are listed in the property’s Sales and Marketing Budget and are ripe for getting cut simply because they are visible. These include hotel website design upgrades, SEO, online media and retargeting, email marketing, advertising, social media, reservation abandonment programs, etc. As you already know, it’s common for owners to inspect each line item, debate them with you during lengthy budget meetings, then adjust or slash as they seem fit.

But sadly… incredibly… they often cant see the biggest marketing cost of all: OTA commissions.

Growth of the channel that can bring in the most profit (your own hotel website) is hindered by budget restrictions, while costly OTA bookings are allowed to flourish under the radar.

Adopt an owner mindset and mindfully examine what costs are required to bring in the most profitable bookings. Then, consider how to start reducing your OTA “marketing” costs and moving those funds to higher margin direct marketing activities. 


 About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

How Hotels Make Their OTA Addiction Worse

June 28, 2016 • By

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The cycle of OTA dependence is all too real and aggravating. But, it’s time to face the facts. It’s your fault, not the OTA’s, if an OTA-driven guest doesn’t come back and book direct the next time around.

Some hoteliers are dropping their pitchforks and getting smart about their relationships with OTAs by leveraging them as a customer acquisition tool. We agree with this approach. It’s time to embrace OTAs as a channel (albeit an expensive one) that gets new business in the door. But once that OTA guest checks in, it’s now up to you and your staff to make an extraordinary impression on them to keep them loyal from that stay forward.

In other words, you should only be paying for that OTA customer ONCE. Then, use these tactics to keep the guest coming back to you, not the OTA, for a return visit:


1. Deliver a Remarkable Experience

Today’s hotel guests want amazing experiences. They want more than your amenities and creature comforts, more than packaged entertainment and big-ticket attractions. Out-of-the-ordinary experiences are what will ultimately compel guests to return to you again and again. Look at what your comp set is doing to stand out. How can you top their offerings and stand out amongst the crowd? Get creative and brainstorm ways to wow

image2your guests in unexpected ways. Some stellar ideas we’ve seen in the industry include a chocolate buffet, a running concierge, complimentary photo memory books and a fun-loving dog you can adopt for the day.

Extraordinary experiences do more than just urge the OTA guest to book direct for a return visit.  These experiences compel guests to share stories and brag to their friends, family and social networks, giving you even more exposure to new business.

2. Build a Culture of Great Service

Even with a remarkable experience, it's the staff that can really make or break a guest’s stay. Encourage managers and employees to personally connect with guests and build relationships. Make it clear to the front desk that a guest is a guest, no matter what channel they came from. Often, guests who book through an OTA are assigned to the lowest room product, which can often cause major friction and cause them to feel as if they are being punished. Why punish a new customer? Even worse, that guests will leave your hotel believing that your worst rooms are the BEST you have!

Because most OTA guests don’t understand the nuances of their reservation, they may not even be aware of what else your hotel has to offer. Mention larger room types that you have available and upgrade them when space is available (the loyalty you will engender is greater than the cost of any net operational revenue you might incur). Offer them local tips on how to make their stay even better. Make sure your front desk conveys to these guests how happy you are that they chose you. Treat them like VIPs, as you would any other guests, at every touchpoint.

3. Collect Their Email Address Upon Check-In or Check-Out

We can’t stress this enough. Don’t let OTA guests walk away without leaving their email address! This is the only way you can market to these guests later and stay on top of their mind. But, you have to give them a good enough reason to do so. Offer to send them their receipt directly to their email. Ask for their email address when they log-in for Wifi. Offer to send them an exclusive offer via email.

4. Communicate the Benefit of Booking Direct While On Property

It is your responsibility to educate your guests on all the reasons why it’s worth their while to book direct. Leverage the one thing that OTA doesn’t have – personal interaction with the guests. Have your front desk mention all the perks of booking direct casually upon check-in and check-out. Print out the benefits on keycards, hotel brochures and even the signage in the elevator. Email the guests post-stay thanking them for their business and offering them an exclusive offer to return. Every OTA guest should walk away aware of the privileges they’ll receive if they book direct the next time around.


 About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday The 13th: Three Things That Terrify Hotel Marketers

May 13, 2016 • By

image1Friday the 13th is here, and while people are feverishly avoiding ladders, staying out of the way of black cats and tightly securing every mirror around, the hotel industry has their eyes on other dangers. Here are three terrifying things that are making hotel marketers anxious right now:


1. Frighteningly Low Budgets to Accomplish Marketing Targets

A thin marketing budget is a common cause for anxiety for hotel marketers. We all know how much money and staff hours are required to achieve the lofty targets owners expect. However, more and more owners and GMs are shortchanging their marketing teams, believing that social media is "free" or that there are an abundance of cheap and no-cost marketing tools that can be leveraged to reap big profits.

You need to do your part to inform your management team about the exact investment needed to produce a specific ROI. When they ask you how much to allocate to the marketing budget for the next year, don’t hastily spit out an arbitrary figure or leave the number open to negotiations. Instead, be specific about what your goals are and what amount of funds, resources and staff will get you there.

2. Peaking Occupancy and ADRs

The inevitable is here, and a cause for celebration is now slowly turning into a reason for concern. After a steady climb, hotel industry economists are declaring that occupancies and ADRs are soon expected to peak. And, what goes up, must come down.

CBRE stated in a recent report that while national occupancies and ADRs are seeing all-time highs and expected to peak this year, local markets are starting to show the signs of growing competition with new hotel product and an increasing number of Airbnb units.

In addition, while the rising levels of inflation and employment benefit hotel demand, bringing occupancy to such lofty numbers, this will also burden hoteliers with higher prices to pay for labor, goods and services.

3. A Scary Reliance on OTAs

We all know the pain and pleasure of the bookings that come from OTAs. They rescue you during slow periods, consistently fill rooms and bring new travelers through your doors. But it all comes at the price of outrageous commissions, shrouded customer details and the low possibility of repeat business. Most hoteliers decide to swallow their pride (and their profits!) and accept the situation as it stands. Is it any wonder then that the industry finds it difficult to kick its OTA addiction?

However, we’re here to remind you that you don’t have to succumb to this dire situation or walk away from OTA bookings altogether. Remember, there are smart ways to combat and neutralize OTAs, while optimizing your hotel booking system and hotel website design to drive direct bookings.

First, find out how much each it costs your hotel to attain each OTA reservation (marketing cost per booking). Compare that to how much you’re allocating to other channels that could pull in direct business. Then, give OTA guests a reason to share their email addresses with you. Offer to email their bill or entice them to sign up for future offers. OTA reliance is an issue almost all hotels deal with, however this doesn’t give you an excuse to surrender to lost revenue.


 About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Want To Beat OTAs? Do This One Thing

April 11, 2016 • By

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There's no doubt OTAs have several things that you don’t, like up-to-the-moment technology, a global staff reaching tens of thousands and marketing budgets with lots of commas. 

However, they do have their weaknesses, including a major flaw that also happens to be one of your hotel’s strongest marketing weapons: your ability to present your property as THE best place to experience your city/region.

Modern travelers are no longer drawn solely to price, convenience or rooms with a view. They want what’s OUTSIDE your front doors. They want to explore, discover and make memories. In fact, according to a TripAdvisor study, experiences and the promise of an enhanced perspective are what ultimately drive travelers to pull out their wallets.

What OTAs lack is true, local knowledge that showcases remarkable things to do, see and taste that can turn a traveler’s itinerary from blah to brilliant. You have a powerful unique ability to PROMISE the guest that you will enhance their perspective of your city/state/region, and OTAs cant do that across thousands of properties!

Check out this chart from the TripAdvisor study, which shows the disparity between what travelers actually want vs. what hoteliers THINK travelers want:

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Leverage your local upper hand and use your hotel website design to showcase your destination and meet consumers craving for authentic travel, and beat OTAs while you’re at it.

Provide a Sense of Place:

Modern travelers are experiential explorers, first and foremost. They want to experience your destination at every touchpoint, from eating locally sourced ingredients at your restaurant to being surrounded by the works of local artists on your walls. Showcase all the ways they can experience your destination in an authentic way, from telling the story of the local boutique down the street, the family-owned restaurant that all the locals love or the hidden hike that mostly locals venture out on. Make your hotel website more about your destination, rather than a boring list of your amenities.

Sure, OTAs are great at selling hotel rooms. But, they can’t hold a candle to your hotel’s ability to share the experiences that will ultimately matter. Make destination marketing a priority on your hotel website. When you showcase the secrets and local experiences of your destination, you’ll win over travelers’ hearts and their wallets.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

The Painful Truth About Hotel Website SEO

March 28, 2016 • By

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You are a director of sales and marketing overseeing all day-to-day activities for your property, maybe several properties, from meeting/group sales to Trip Advisor reviews and website promos. It all falls on you.

Then one day, your GM calls and says, “I just did a Google search for 'Miami Hotels' and we don’t come up anywhere. What are we paying that hotel website company for?”

You immediately go online to do more searches and panic ensues. You start to think, what ARE you paying them for? Aren’t they supposed to be handling all of that Google stuff? Why isn’t your hotel on the first results page for all of those non-branded keywords?  Why is everything so different on Mobile?

The answer is that everything you’ve expected or known about search engine optimization for hotels up until the last year is now obsolete. Even if you’ve invested thousands of dollars into your SEO efforts to have your website successfully rank on page one of Google for “Miami Hotels,” you may never see your website show up on page one, let alone see a measurable ROI.

So how do you answer your GM and hold your Hotel SEO firm accountable? It’s time to redefine your KPIs when it comes to search, and face some of the harsh realities of SEO for the hotel industry.


Problem 1: Google Has Commercialized Its Results Pages

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Summary: In 2015, Google reduced its Google Maps and Google Places results from displaying a “7-Pack” to a “3-Pack”, only showing three Hotels with a thumbnail image and Google’s own commercialized meta-tool. Hotel Ads may lead a consumer to book via Google or with one of their OTA advertising partners.

And recently, Google made further, MAJOR layout changes to its SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), especially for broad search queries like “Miami Hotels” or “Hotels in Times Square."  As a result, natural/organic search listings have now been pushed further down the pages and are seeing a reduction in organic click-throughs, and even less traffic on mobile devices.

Solutions: While you cannot control the search engine's giant layout or where your listing is displayed in the SERPs, you do have some control on what information is being populated:

Claim your property’s Name and Place (NAP) and make it consistent across all platforms from Google Plus to Yelp. Make sure your Google Plus page is verified and links directly back to your hotel’s website. Services like Yext or Moz Local can help you manage all of these in one simple platform. Other services like Whitespark can assist with citation cleanup or updating any listing on the web that has your property’s business name, physical address and phone number, in addition to helping build safe, credible backlinks.

  Control the images you display across the online universe with image parity software like ICE Portal or VFM Leonardo. This will help clean up images of your hotel across the web, including the OTAs.

Target answers not keywords. A recent study revealed that 15 percent of Google’s 3.5 Billion daily searches were questions or queries that the search engine has never seen before! Hotel websites need to target “long tail” search queries by adding content that answers a traveler’s questions and provides information about the destination or the experience guests will have. Don’t be afraid to promote local businesses or restaurants; not everything on the site can be self-serving. A hotel site is more likely to rank for long tail queries that have less competition and will see a rise in user engagement.  Quality website traffic over quantity!

Utilize a content mapping and interlinking strategy. What page does your website user visit most before they book?  Is there a pattern in the sequence of the pages they visit before entering the booking engine? Once you identify the most relevant pages on your hotel's website, analyze the typical user’s journey to complete a booking. This “path” report can be pulled from Google Analytics.  Content mapping ensures that the content on those pages, and the text links within the site copy, are interlinked properly, making it easier for the user to find the information they are looking for in addition to passing signals to Google about what content is most related and important.

Problem 2: Increased Competition for Your Own Hotel Name

Summary: Google’s Hotel Ads and Book on Google products have made it harder than ever for hotels to get traffic from their own brand name. TripAdvisor, big brands and the OTAs have always out-muscled individual hotel websites for popular non-branded keyword searches (ie: “Miami hotels”). But in 2015, new paid advertising products emerged, making the search engine marketing space even more competitive for individual properties.

Last year, Google introduced its Book on Google model alongside its Hotel Ads module. Online users now have the option to view rates from all OTAs or book with Google directly from the SERP page, without ever having to actually visit a hotel or OTA website! Properties connecting via a CRS are paying approximately 10-12 percent commission to Google for the Book on Google feature, and anywhere from $1.00-$4.00 cost per click (CPC) to have their rate listed alongside the OTAs on Google’s Hotel Ads module.

You can read more about how Google’s products work on their official websearch blogBut here is a simple visual breakdown of Google’s new page structure:

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Solutions:

  Dominate the SERP by combining PAID and Organic Search Efforts. Consider having your PPC and SEO teams working side by side to implement tactics like Review or Ad Extensions and Event Schemas to take up as much real estate as possible on a page for brand related search queries.

  If budget permits, participate in Meta Search Advertising or Hotel Ads, but be sure that the hotel rates are in parity!

    Add alternative tags to all of the property’s images and with the hotel’s name to influence branded image results.

    Invest in having unique content in other places that have direct links back to your website from authoritative places like Wikipedia, Youtube, etc.

• Refresh the website’s title tags and header tags if you notice click-through rates on your organic results are decreasing. Use strong language in your site’s title tags and meta descriptions like “book direct” or “official hotel website.”

Check back next week for Part 2 of Painful Truths about Hotel SEO


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com