Hotel digital marketing is a complex machine with many moving parts and constantly-evolving trends. New and improved ways of creating and sharing information are always on the rise. Due to the pandemic, the hotel digital transformation era has risen to the forefront and altered the way companies do business. According to the McKinsey Survey of Global Executives, “the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the digitisation of customer interactions by several years.” More than half of executives say they're investing in technology for competitive advantage or refocusing their entire business around digital technologies.
In such a rapidly-changing environment, it can be hard to keep up or know where to invest your efforts. In this blog post, we give an overview of the fundamentals of hotel digital marketing and explore how you can implement them into your strategy.
Discover 6 keys to successful hotel digital marketing:
1. Use search engine optimisation (SEO) to increase visibility.
Search engine optimisation is a method hotels can — and must — use to increase discoverability and maximise website traffic. SEO is a vital part of any hotel digital marketing strategy because, at its highest level, it helps your hotel's website show up higher in search engine results, such as Google and Bing. Combine that with the fact that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and it's easy to see the massive opportunity that proper hotel SEO presents.
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When your website is properly optimised, it's viewed by search engines as relevant content, making it more likely to earn one of the top spots on search engine results pages (SERPs). Seventy-five percent of users never go past the first page of search results, according to internet marketing firm imFORZA. So earning a high search ranking is key for gaining visibility.
The three pillars of SEO are discoverability, authority, and relevance. These three elements are the keys to having a well-optimised website. You can increase your discoverability by using targeted keywords in your website copy that event professionals and potential guests type into search queries. By producing content that answers questions and solves problems, you can increase your site’s relevance. Authority comes with getting other trusted sites to link to your website – called backlinks. Search engines see these backlinks as votes of confidence for your site and the content within it.
Here are a few tactics you should follow to improve your SEO:
- Post high-quality content at a regular cadence that is aimed to help your target audience — event professionals, potential guests, etc.
- Start your own blog or begin guest blogging on other authoritative sites in the industry to build your brand reputation and establish yourself as an expert and trusted thought leader.
- Choose keywords relevant to your audience and include them in website content and blog posts.
- Create a well-optimised FAQ page to answer your customers’ questions, help them to navigate your site, and showcase your knowledge.
- Obtain quality backlinks by reaching out to journalists, participating in online forums, and suggesting your relevant content for broken links.
2. Prioritise content marketing.
Every hotel's digital marketing plan will fall short without the right content marketing. Hotel content marketing is all about defining your audience and providing them with useful content at a consistent cadence. Creating valuable content and sharing it on the platforms used most often by your target audience establishes you and your sales team as a trusted resource. It’s also a great way to promote your brand and drive recognition.
According to SEMrush data, blog posts are the most-created type of content, with 86% of companies choosing to write blog posts compared to other types of content like email, infographics, and case studies. Blogging keeps your website fresh and relevant, which is also great for SEO.
“By nature, blogging requires publishing new posts with some level of consistency,” writes Jenn Zajac of Five Star Content. “This alone signals to Google and other top search engines that your website isn’t just sitting there on the web, outdated and ignored.” Zajac also notes that blogs can serve as a link between your social media accounts and your hotel website, and will drive organic search traffic to your site.
But creating quality content is just one piece of the puzzle. You also need to have a plan and goals to work toward. That’s where a content marketing strategy comes in – it helps you steer your content ship. For example, consider planners’ problems – the questions they have, and the answers they need. When writing your content, keep these in mind and create content that solves those problems. Additionally, choose goals and KPIs for your content – like increasing group bookings or RFPs – to track and measure your success.
3. Create an eye-catching CSN profile.
Event planners are increasingly using venue sourcing technology to search for venues, and in order to attract quality leads, your Cvent Supplier Network™ (CSN) profile needs to be well-optimised for searches. Optimising your CSN profile is just like optimising your website content. The information should be relevant, authoritative, keyword-targeted, and follow other SEO best practices.
Updating your profile is a simple and effective way to make a huge difference in visibility and planner satisfaction. According to CSN data, 65% of all RFPs come from Page 1 of CSN search results. The more complete your profile is, the more planners will see it, and the more business your hotel will gain.
Here are a few steps you can take to improve your CSN profile:
- Upload photos and video. With the new CSN redesign, venue profiles now come with a high-resolution hero image across the top and in the venue's Quick Views and Search Results. One Diamond and above listings have the ability to upload multiple images into the gallery to showcase the unique aspects of their property. No matter what tier of profile you have, all venues are able to upload a virtual tour, which is essential for planners who are sourcing from home and are unable to do an in-person site visit. It’s a great way to demonstrate that your venue has adapted to the changing times and is ready to accommodate planners’ needs.
- Add a detailed description. Besides your eye-catching image, the description is the first thing planners will see when searching CSN. Use relevant keywords in your profile so it will appear when planners type in their search query. A complete profile is important to improving visibility on CSN so that your venue shows up in the correct search filters.
- Add floor plans and food menus. Planners want transparency, and they want to know what your venue has to offer. For 1 Diamond listings and above, hotels can upload floor plans, room layouts, catering and restaurant menus, brochures, and other supporting documents to their profiles for planners to easily access. Cvent data shows that venues that are both listed on CSN and use Cvent Event Diagramming are awarded 1-2 times more RFPs than venues that don't.
- Paid ads for increased visibility. CSN offers Diamond Listings, which are like paid search ads for the Cvent Supplier Network. An image and a brief description of your venue will appear at the top of search results in the relevant metro area, which cannot be filtered out based on a planner’s search criteria. Hotels that upgraded their Diamond Listing saw their market share rise by 13%.
4. Stay top-of-mind through personalised and engaging email marketing.
Creating engaging and informative emails will keep your hotel top of mind for planners and travellers. If you don’t have the design capabilities or a team devoted to email, email marketing templates are a good resource that takes out complex coding work.
Infuse emails with a personal touch and make the content more relevant to the customer with subject lines and itinerary or travel suggestions based on past user behavior. For example, provide personalized offers and packages based on the traveler’s or planner’s past experiences with you. Or, entice your loyalty program members to a weekend getaway and a chance at gaining some extra points to put toward a future stay or other perks.
Other tips for writing engaging emails to boost your hotel's digital marketing efforts:
- Focus on making your subject lines actionable and clear first, then think about how to make them catchy and intriguing.
- Whatever you promise in your subject line, make sure the email copy delivers. Remember: Your emails are your chance to build trust and credibility with your customers.
- From the very beginning, establish relevancy. Explain why you’re emailing them, and why they should care about what you have to say.
- Be brief and get to the point. Think about the main idea of your email and the desired action you want the recipient to take. This will make it easier to write laser-focused copy and succinct emails.
5. Connect with your audience on social media.
There are 3.6 billion active mobile social media users worldwide, according to Statista research. That’s a lot of potential eyeballs on your content — and a lot of prospective travellers and planners you could be turning into customers. Behold, the power of hotel digital marketing.
Since 2011, Jenn Zajac has worked as a digital marketing manager for multiple hotel properties. She’s now started her own gig, Five Star Content, where she offers free social media copywriting courses and other helpful resources for hoteliers. We asked for her advice on social media best practices for hotels.
- Brevity is your friend. Attention spans on the internet are shorter than ever and there’s a lot of “noise” to compete with. Get to the point and make your content skimmable, whether it’s a blog post, social media caption, infographic, etc.
- Stop them mid-scroll. It’s worth spending time and resources to get high-quality images for social media, but your caption’s opening line can do this, too. Canva is a great tool for hotel marketers to easily create thumb-stopping social media graphics. Even adding a little touch of animation can make a big impact.
- Repurpose and revive old content. Effective social media strategy doesn’t always mean creating something new every single day! If you have a hotel blog, plan to write about annual citywides or recurring events, so you can revive that content with any necessary updates and reshare it year after year.
6. Inform and engage through video marketing.
Hotel videos, whether shared on social media, your website, or in emails, give prospects a quick and entertaining way to engage with your brand. They can be used to educate your audience, demonstrate your services and abilities, connect with your followers, create a more personalised experience, and much more. In fact, research from EyeWideDigital found that landing pages that include videos increase conversion rates by 80%.
Your sales teams can use video to connect with and convert prospects, as well as delight them with your original content. For example, companies like Bamboo HR are using video email messages as a way to create a more personalised sales experience.
There are many different types of videos brands can make. It all depends on your goals and the message you want to convey to your audience. Here are a few examples to get you started.
- How-to and educational videos. Teach your audience something new and help them see the value that you bring. For example, share your expertise on how to host a safer, socially-distant meeting at your venue, how to host a hybrid event, how to create an engaging experience for a virtual audience, etc. The below video segment from the Rachael Ray Show features a wedding planner who provides tips for planning a great event on any budget. A hotel can easily replicate this by interviewing its own staff and having its event team share best practices.
- Ask the experts. You have a plethora of internal experts working in your hotel. Leverage their knowledge and highlight it in a video. Interview your sales or planning team and ask them about event planning best practices and helpful tips for creating engaging meetings. The below video from Four Seasons gives a dramatic and exciting peek behind the scenes of what goes into creating an event at their properties, told in the voice of the Director of Groups & Events.
- Case studies and testimonials. Ask planners you’ve worked with recently to send you a short video testimonial about their experience hosting an event at your property, or you can conduct a quick Q&A with them remotely and record it for use on your website and social media. InterContinental Chicago Hotel created a video recap of testimonials from recent event attendees talking about their favorite parts of the experience.
Put this hotel digital marketing guide to good use!
Hotel digital marketing touches every aspect of the buyer’s journey with your brand — from their first contact with your content and services to well beyond the point that they become a loyal customer. And, each aspect of digital marketing builds upon itself and supports each part of your hotel's digital marketing ecosystem.
“A strong 2021 plan follows a strategic process, properly navigates the COVID-19 environment, stays ahead of industry trends, and leverages the right digital channels and strategies,” writes Margaret Mastrogiacomo, EVP of Strategy at NextGuest, for Hospitality Net. It’s these elements working in tandem that will create a strong foundation for your group, transient, and leisure business in the years to come.