Planning Your Hotel Marketing Budget For 2014 - Webinar Q&A

Planning Your Hotel Marketing Budget For 2014 - Webinar Q&A

14 Nov 2013 Adrian Caruso

We'd like to thank everyone who joined us for the webinar this week on Planning Your Hotel Marketing Budget for 2014. In case you missed the live presentation (or if you want to watch it again) we've embedded a video of the webinar below.



You can also view the full set of slides from the presentation on SlideShare.

We had loads of questions during the webinar and unfortunately there wasn't enough time for us to answer all of them live during the webinar itself, so Adrian, James and I have put together this Q&A post to answer the rest of the questions that people asked.


Q: Is It Beneficial To Use Your Competitors Name In Your Keywords?

Ken: There can be value in setting up an Ad Group in your AdWords PPC Campaign to target keywords related to your competitors and present searchers with an alternative, but this can become costly because your own site generally wouldn't be very relevant for your competitors' brand names, meaning that you'll have low Quality Scores for these keywords and ads and consequently need to make much higher CPC (Cost Per Click) bids in order for your ads to show.

The flip side of that is that you can create an Ad Group targeted on searches for your own brand name and, because you're likely to have much better Quality Scores for your own brand's keywords, you should be able to get these for much lower CPCs.

Our experience with clients has generally been that brand and competitor focused Ad Groups often have much higher Click Through and Conversion Rates that more broadly targeted, non-brand related campaigns. They're certainly worth doing with a small portion of your total ad budget, but they should be thought of as an add-on rather than making up the entirety of your PPC Marketing efforts.


Q: Does Voice Search Mean Google Will Be Searching For Voice On Video, Or Actually Search The Text To Match To The Voice Search?

Ken: Google isn't able to index the words spoken in videos (yet – I'm sure it's something they're working on), so no, when we refer to "Voice Search" we're talking about the ability for users to speak their query to Google (using Google's Search apps on smartphones or the Voice Search capabilities on desktop PCs equipped with microphones) and for Google to figure out what you're actually searching for so that they can return a set of search results that answers your question.

For example, you might use Voice Search to say, "What's a good pizza place near me?" and Google would understand that "pizza place" means you're looking for a restaurant that serves pizza within a close distance of your smartphone's GPS location.


Q: Does Yellow Pages Still Survive In This Modern Marketing World? Or Should We Solely Concentrate Our Efforts/Funds On Google And The Worldwide Web?

Ken: Printed Yellow Pages directories are mostly ignored by people these days (when was the last time you opened one up rather than just searching Google for the information you wanted), but listings with Yellow Pages can still have some value in an online world.

Yellow Pages directories have traditionally been one of Google's trusted sources for business' Name, Address and Phone Number (N.A.P.) citations, which are used to confirm business' Google Maps listing details.

I would question the value of paying for enhanced listings on Yellow Pages though, or for the kind of "SEO" services they sometimes promote.


Q: How Does The "Big Picture" Format Affect A Website's SEO?

Ken: Although it's a bit of a balancing act to get the right kind of keyword focus in place on a webpage that's dominated by a large image and only a small amount of text, it's certainly possible to do it by ensuring that all the most important areas on the page for emphasising your most relevant keywords are effectively optimised. We also make sure that we effectively cross-link to the site's deeper pages and that they're suitably focused on their own most relevant keywords so that the whole site is able to appear in search results for desirable terms, rather than just focusing on driving traffic to a text heavy homepage.

Obviously Big Picture design isn't always appropriate for every type of website. We've found that Big Picture sites work great for hotels and resorts where showing website visitors the stunning views of the properties can really help to sway their decision making process, but for a content driven site like a magazine or blog there needs to be a much greater focus on the way the design presents that text content.


Q: Is There A Cost To The Ad Extensions [On AdWords]?

Ken: There's no extra cost in using ad extensions on your AdWords ads. Any clicks on an ad extension (whether that's a "Sitelink" – the batch of extra links grouped under your main ad – or a phone call triggered by the user tapping your "Call Extension" on a smartphone, or any of the other extension options) just cost you the same as a click on your regular ad would have, which obviously depends on which particular keyword triggered your ad to display and how much your CPC bid is for that keyword.

The benefit of ad extensions, beyond their original plus points of giving you a larger ad presence and the potential to appeal to more searchers, is that Google has now added them as a factor in determining where your ad will rank, so that if you have good quality, relevant ad extensions that users are more likely to click on, your ads (and its extensions) are more likely to be shown higher in the ads sections of Google search results.


Q: What Are Your Thoughts About Link Swapping Between Businesses In Your Local Area? You Having Their Link And Them Having A Link To You?

Ken: Link exchanges purely for the sake of trying to influence SEO and Google rankings have been a risky practice for years, especially since Google introduced their Penguin Updates to combat link spam.

My advice would be to not think about whether it's going to be good for your SEO to swap links with another site and instead think about whether or not having a link to that business on your site is going to be useful to your visitors (and vice versa).

For example, if you're a beachside hotel and you want to link to a local fishing charter company because it's something your guests might be interested in doing, then great, do it. But if you're thinking about swapping links with a local tax accountant, that's probably not so useful.

It may sound contrary, but the kind of links that Google likes the most are the ones that you've put there without giving any thought to whether or not they're going to benefit you with Google.


Q: Any Suggestions On Responding To Negative Trip Advisor Comments?

James: Replying to TripAdvisor comments is a must, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. The important thing is not to just reply to the negatives, because it snubs the people who have enjoyed their trip the most and reviewed you positively. 

Having been in the GM seat of a hotel and been personally connected to the property, my first piece of advice before replying to a negative review is to open a blank Word document. In this document, write a reply from the heart in the way you'd really like to respond to the review. Once this is finished, delete it and sure as hell, don't save it. This will let you get the annoyance out of your system and help you in your real response which will be completed with decorum and the utmost professionalism.

Here's how I deal with negative reviews;

  1. Start of by thanking the person for taking the time to review you. Regardless of the fact you probably don't like what they've got to say, they have taken the time to give you feedback.
  2. Respond to the feedback they've raised and let them know you have read and listened.
  3. Let them know if you will take any immediate actions from their reviews. (i.e. "I will speak to our bartender and let him know that he should also ask whether a martini should be served with lemon or olive.")
  4. Don't feel afraid to challenge elements that are clearly factually incorrect, but just don't do it in a righteous way. (i.e. "In your review you said that the beach is miles away, I just wanted to let other travellers reading the review know that there are many beaches in the area and that the closest one is 200 metres from the hotel.")


Q: You Mentioned Brand Hijacking, Can You Explain How To Protect Ourselves From This?

James: As discussed during the webinar, if you are already under a contract with the major OTA's, most aren't likely to let you away with changing the contract to stop bidding on your brand name on Google. Saying that, we've had successes with clients who are signing up to contracts for the first time having this clearly added to the agreement. So think before signing. If you are a major brand or chain you may want to look into registering a "Registered Trademark Application" with Google, that can prevent others using this name. We've seen this in place when working with Best Western.

The best ways to overcome paying commission for those already looking for your brand and wanting to book direct are;

  • Bid on your brand name on Google Adwords.
  • Create a loyalty scheme and offer members only rates to encourage repeat, direct visitation.
  • Be sure to have a best rate guarantee on your website and keep rate parity. All OTA's regularly report leakage, meaning that travellers leave their site and head direct to the property, booking there. In fact, one major OTA recently released research that suggested for every 1 booking they put in a property, 2-3 more go direct!
  • There are some tourism marketing agencies operating that work in a way that they create subpages for your property alongside their own 'holiday club' scheme. In our experience, these agencies are charging upfront fees for services like SEO and PPC, then driving traffic to their sites where you are charged commission above this. If you are in this situation, get in touch. As we are completely independent and don’t have our own booking channel, we are all about bringing the bookings direct to you – commission free.


Q: Are You Able To Provide More Info About How To Best Encourage Sharing On Facebook During And After The Experience By Guests?

James: This is a great question. One of the things that is really important to remember is that many of your customers will be using social media during their stay with you. Providing information about your channels is just helping them to find you easily. We find subtle prompts within compendiums and signage in-room, reception and restaurants works well. Some hotels offer small incentives for sharing on their page during the stay, we've seen coffee vouchers work particularly well.

The best way to encourage guests to share after their stay is to ask them. Train your reception team to encourage sharing on TripAdvisor and social media on check-out, even think about using a card or branding the back of folio folders with this information too. When the guests get home, think about a follow-up email asking for feedback and encourage sharing again.

We are also starting to use custom audiences on Facebook to promote sharing and reviews too.


Q: Do You Know Of A PMS (That Can Be Justified By A Very Small Operator) That Enables Tracking And Analysis Of Conversion Through All Channels, As Discussed?

James: There are a number of PMS and Channel Managers we work with. For strata title properties, Hi-Site and Hirum are great options. Otherwise it may be worthwhile checking out Little Hotelier by Siteminder, Resbook or RMS. We've worked with them all and have managed to get good reservation analysis and tracking through them all.

Q: Every Website Has Best Rate Guarantees? Who Do Consumers Believe First?

James: I don’t think it's a case of who they believe, you are not saying this rate is going to be cheaper than any other channel, you are saying they are not going to find it cheaper elsewhere. Most importantly, keep rate parity, so it doesn't encourage people coming to your site to book elsewhere. You may find this article I wrote for AccomNews interesting too.


Any More Questions?

That covers all the questions that we had left after the webinar, but if there's something else you'd like to ask us about how to plan your marketing for next year, feel free to chime in by leaving a comment below.

About Adrian Caruso

Considered a leader in digital business growth and marketing in the lifestyle, tourism, travel and hospitality sectors, Adrian has successfully launched and grown a number of companies in the online, retail, franchise and property space over the last 20+ years. Starting Fastrack over 12 years ago Adrian now leads a team of digital marketing and branding specialists working with many Australasia leading brands.

Want to see what we can do? Let's have a conversation!