Guide 1 for Hoteliers - First steps to get your hotel visible online
-‐ Guide 1 for Hoteliers – Overview of the Way to Get a Hotel Visible Online By Emilie Alba, extract of thesis “The Online Competition Between Hoteliers and OTAs”, September 10th, 2012. What does “building one’s online presence” mean for us, hoteliers? First, it consists in being present and active on at least 3 interrelated touch points: -‐ Social Media -‐ Website -‐ Search Engines Each touch point requires specific and diversified knowledge, which implies the know-‐how of different persons. Then, it consists in enlarging a hotel’s web presence through the use of another touch-‐point: local directories. Maintaining coherent business information among all these touch point is essential for successful SEO. (More about this topic on the next “Guide for Hoteliers”) How to maintain a hotel visible online? It works the same way as any other businesses, except that for hotels much importance is especially given to Social Media. As hotels sell intangible services, they have to communicate a lot about their brand and the experience they provide, if they want to get online reservations. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, Tumblr etc. are therefore essential to encourage potential customers to make reservations. Look at the map below, you will get it!
Each touch point embodies one or several specific role(s), which explains their position on the pyramid: 1-‐ Social Media is positioned on the top because good management influences the number of visits on a hotel’s website, which influences top ranking on Google’s search engine. 2-‐ A hotel’s website is located at the center of the pyramid because it influences and is influenced by both the activities on Social Media and Google. As a result the website also needs to be perfectly optimized to exert an influence towards the top and the bottom of the pyramid. 3-‐ Google is the base of the pyramid because its tools and features will influence the visibility of a hotel’s website and social media sites, which will increase the number of visits on the website, and finally result in a better ranking on Google’s search engine for the website. Do the 3 touch points influence one another? Yes, they do! And it creates a vicious circle that is at the origin of whether online performance or online disaster. This means that if a hotel is performing well on each touch point, then the hotel will be visible online. On the other hand, if a hotel encounters a problem on only one touch point, then the two others will be affected and the hotel will loose online visibility. Why is Google the base of the pyramid? 2
Google indeed embodies the role of a “provider of tools and features” (Google maps, G+ pages, G+ Local, etc.) that exposes your hotel to the public eyes. But Google also embodies the role of a “policeman”, with its algorythms that access all your social media accounts and websites, before deciding whether or not a hotel deserves to be visible on the Internet. This explains why web-‐marketing strategists give much importance to Google. *-‐/?..°?**, So what? Google is indeed the beginning of the launch of a “wheel” that is going to turn until the hotel is visible on Google Search Engine. The launch of the wheel consists in setting up Google accounts for each of its main tools. Then, so the wheel can continue its rotation, a hotel’s website needs to be optimized (web-‐developers have to intervene on this step). To finish, so the wheel can keep turning, social media accounts need to be created and regularly updated. At this step the “wheel” is turning, and to give it speed, hotels need to be active on social media. It will create more visits on the website and a better ranking on Google search engine. OK, this makes sense… What’s next? The obstacles that prevent the “wheel” from turning… So far, we clearly understood that to get a hotel’s website reaching more visibility online and getting more visits, the wheel has to turn in the right direction (from right to left on the graph). But, the wheel is heavy and therefore takes time before turning on and on towards its goal. 3
Moreover, during the launch of the wheel, hoteliers will encounter many obstacles that will slow down the launch. Look at the map below! The main problems hoteliers are currently encountering come from G+ Local (the merging of G+ and Google Places) and from the under or over optimization of their websites and/or social media sites. Don’t go too fast; briefly explain the problem with Google! The main actual trouble with Google is to get the Google + Local page created from the successful merging of a hotel’s G+ business page and Google Places Listings. 4
The launch of Google + Local is confusing for hoteliers because, even before the merging of the 2 tools, a temporary G+ local page is generated. Hoteliers are therefore facing two G+ pages (the business one and the temporary local one) and don’t not know what is going to happen next. They are wondering whether the final merging would automatically get done or whether there is something to do to get it done. Once the merging was done for some businesses (hotels included), many of them noticed data inconsistencies (wrong business name or phone number, photos missing, etc.) on their G+ Local Page, or saw their hotel disappeared from the G+ Local listing. These problems are due to the merging and will be discussed in more details on the next “Guide for Hoteliers”. What’s wrong with the hotels’ websites? The problems with the websites usually come from an under-‐optimization or an over-‐optimization. 5
When a website is under-‐optimized, it doesn’t have a performing content (wrong key words, not enough pictures, links missing or pointing toward under-‐optimized websites, business information not updated, etc.). On the other hand, a website can not perform well when it has been over-‐optimized with, for example, too long meta-‐tag description, excessive use of the same key words or links pointing toward other sites of the same owner, etc. What about Social Media? Too many independent hotels miss to update their social pages or to regularly post new content. This can directly have a negative influence on the ranking of a hotel’s website, in that Google can consider as “abandoned” a site linked to social media accounts (Facebook, blogger, etc.) that are not regularly updated. Ok, What are the consequences of accumulated “obstacles”? A hotel’s website will register less visits, which generally results in a loss of direct reservations on a hotel’s website. And in the end, the website will lose rankings on Google’s search engine and will be less visible. And OTAs will benefit from it…, I got it! Exactly… because when a web-‐user types for example, “Hotel San Francisco” in Google Search, the first results that are going to appear are results from: -‐ Google Hotel Finder -‐ Local Directories (ex: TripAdvisor) -‐ Online Travel Agencies (ex: Expedia) 6
See the screenshot below: As a result, web-‐users are more likely to make a reservation on an OTA’s website than on a hotel’s website. Time to sum up! It is highly recommended to have each touch point optimized by getting rid of the problems when they show up. It is not a step-‐by-‐step process; hoteliers have to maintain their presence on each touch point as regularly as possible. Optimizing one’s online presence doesn’t consist in dealing with Google for one month, with the hotel’s website the following month, and then with the social media sites the month after. It is dealing with the 3 touch points altogether, by: 1-‐ solving in priority the most important problems (whether they appear on a Social Media site, Google account or a hotel’s Website) 2-‐ updating the hotel’s information as soon as mistakes are noticed, and renewing the content as regularly as possible. 7