Direct website traffic is very important in the hotel industry. Hotel’s own website and booking engine is where hoteliers have the greatest control over their image, rates, margins and several other essential factors that might also be somewhat controllable on other channels, although never as much as in the hotel’s own channels.
Hotels have to be able to stand on their own, especially if they are relatively small and have little brand recognition. The Internet is a level playing field, but it is also very crowded and noisy., If hoteliers don’t have a multi-channel digital marketing strategy, they will have a great difficulty being noticed, and will consequently be dependent on Online Travel Agents like booking.com.
Hoteliers not only need to have potential customers land on the hotel’s own website: they need a website which is an attractive enough channel so as to guarantee that customers will actually book their stays instead of booking through other channels.
So, how can hoteliers increase direct website traffic?
1. Truly best available rate
It’s your own website, your own channel. It is the place where you have the greatest control over your values and margins and, consequently, the channel to which you should give privilege. The best prices available online should be available on your website.
Other websites and services can very well provide the same prices as well, but you should not be at a competitive disadvantage on your own website. If you offer non-refundable rates on OTAs, you should offer them on your website too. If you participate in the newly launched booking.com Genius 10% discount, you should offer 10% off for repeat visitors or facebook fans.
In addition, to differentiate from OTAs’ fixation with price-comparison is to provide special promotions and special offers (e.g. a welcome drink) for increased prominence.
2. Better pricing on your booking engine
Dynamic pricing doesn’t mean to simply lower prices in the low season and to increase prices in the high season; nor does it mean to offer huge discounts when you realize that the hotel isn’t going to be as full as expected at a certain time.
Dynamic pricing is about offering promotions and special offers, for instance, to returning customers and to particular consumer with your booking engine. These kinds of directed campaigns should be used to improve your customers’ loyalty and your overall brand recognition, by meeting your customers’ needs and desires and rewarding them for choosing your hotel.
3. Good looking, optimized, website
When you are trying to lead customers to your website, the website itself needs to look attractive. Your hotel website needs to be appealing enough so that when potential customers stumble upon it they will get a positive impression of the hotel and will want to share it or bookmark it for future trips.
Remember to make sure your hotel website reflects the experience and values of your brand and property, it’s easy to navigate, prominently displays your pictures and engages visitors to book.
4. Creating backlinks is not that difficult
Remember to list your hotel in the several websites available out there. Not only should your listing have the basic contact and location information, they should also have your URL. This could seem as a given, but, for instance, when listing their property on Google Place many website administrators/developers don’t put their hotel website URL in the location in question.
5. Social back links
It is important to have an engaging page in the most popular social media websites. Having a good page on Facebook and Google+ as well as a Twitter feed can go a long way towards presenting customers with a positive idea of the hotel and increasing your online presence.
It is also a strategy to diversify your communication channels to consumers. With social media you are given an opportunity to communicate with your customers in a more informal manner and, if you’re an independent hotel or a small group of hotels, you can use social media to transmit a more friendly and small-business feel to your customers.
6. Leverage niches
Looking to just stand out on your locations search results (i. e. “hotels at XYZ”) is terribly expensive and might even be prohibitive in costs. Instead, you should focus on markets that have more to do with your hotel. This could mean, for instance, posting your hotel in listings especially suited to your market segment or aiming at more niche markets in your SEO, e.g. activities around your hotel like horse-back riding or paragliding (e.h. “hotel paragliding French alps” or “surf center Algarve”).
7. Attack multiple languages
Your website should be made available in more than one language. It is especially important for hotels in Europe to be available online in multiple languages, as their customers don’t just come from their own country (or even from countries with the same native language). This results in hoteliers having to be available for these potential customers and being capable of catering to their differing tastes/culture/etc. online.
Hoteliers need to make sure that, regardless of the language, potential customers will be attracted by their websites into making a reservation. The hotel’s website is an important part of the overall perception that clients form of the hotel and, as such, making it available in their native tongue could be a positive step in their perception of your hotel.
8. Optimize for mobile devices
As both mobiles and tablets show values of impressive growth, both your webpage and booking engine should be optimized for mobile devices.
It’s essential to also have your booking engine optimized as, according to Google studies, 40% of leisure travelers and 36% of business travelers book using their mobile devices. In a study conducted by GuestCentric with over 300 hotels, a whopping 60% of smartphone bookings were for same night or next night stay.
Optimally, your website should have an optimized version for both smartphones and tablets.
9. Resuse offline content
You have guests that found your hotel. That is the optimal opportunity to ask them what information could have helped them prepare for their trip and, overall, enhance it. This not only gives you the knowledge necessary to make posts for future guests to find your hotel, it also gives you important knowledge for your staff to be aware of when helping them in the future.
Furthermore, there are other things that you can take advantage of. For instance, if you make brochures for your hotel and/or the surrounding locations and activities, then make that content available online. Once it’s available you might see it slowly spreading and your hits increasing.
10. Have your pictures labeled properly
Lots of potential customers will search for your hotel and look at your website before making a decision, while some will make an image search to see its appearance before even going to the hotel’s website. By having your pictures titled properly you can make sure that potential customers will see your hotel. This is especially important with Google’s attempts to show immediate answers to queries. Take for example how the search for “Tivoli Sao Paulo” will have the results with a picture of one of the hotel’s rooms on the side.
Hoteliers should be able to promote their properties online regardless of their size. As hoteliers need to increase direct traffic to their hotel website, it is clear that they should give preference to both the hotel website and the hotel booking engine . With a multi-channel digital marketing strategy and the right tools, even small independent hotels and hotel groups can have an online presence that previously was only attainable by big hotel chains.