How to Build an Independent Hotel Digital Marketing Strategy
Despite the distinctive desires of travellers, the independent and boutique hotels around the world are fighting to remain competitive next to large hotel chains and Airbnb. Their dominance over the travel industry and healthy marketing budgets mean that standing out can be difficult for smaller hotels.
However, we believe that independent hotels are set to increase in popularity as we see more and more people looking for hotels who offer more personalised, unique and memorable experiences.
To get ahead of the game, developing a well-thought-out digital marketing strategy is key. This is due to the fact that most potential guests will be researching their holiday accommodations online, so having a strong digital presence will go a long way to boosting your hotels overall success rates.
We have developed a simple overview of some of the most important questions you should ask yourself before getting started, as well as some digital marketing channels to focus on first to drive results quickly.
Before you get started on your digital marketing strategy, it’s always good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. By doing this, you will be able to develop a strategy for your hotel that delivers actual results and lowers your MCPB (marketing cost per booking).
In order to do this, you will want to ask yourself the following questions:
What is your end goal?
Without an end goal, your marketing budget could be built in a way that doesn’t bring your hotel any value. So, make sure to ask yourself, what is it that you want to get out of your hotel marketing efforts?
Is it to increase the average occupancy rate? Or is it to boost your overall market penetration index? Whatever your goal may be, identifying it early on will help you tailor your digital marketing strategy.
Who is your target audience
By definition, a target audience is a specific group of people you want to reach with your marketing message. Therefore, it’s important to identify who these people are early on so you know how to tailor your marketing message.
If you are a high-end, luxury hotel, then you will want to target a group of people with a higher-income and a taste for the finer things in life. If you are a hotel offering unique experiences, like minimalist accommodations, think about targeting younger generations who are more drawn to this.
What are your best digital marketing channels
Now that you have a better idea of your goals and target audience, it’s time to develop your digital marketing strategy.
Think about where your audience is likely to be and the digital channels you can reach them through. For example, if your target audience is millennials, then you will want to develop a strong social media presence for your hotel. You will also want to think about what will give you the most effective results in the short and long terms.
If you are not sure where to start, here are some of the top five most important digital marketing channels every independent hotel should consider:
– Social media
– Email marketing
– Paid search
– Content marketing
Below, we’ve broken down the channels that will deliver results the quickest and which ones will provide long term stability for your hotel’s digital presence.
When it comes to advertising your hotel, visuals, including images and videos, are your best assets. In fact, photography affects the decision to book a hotel around 60% of the time.
By developing a strong social media presence, you can use these visuals to entice people to book at your hotel, as well as keeping your brand front of mind for any future bookings.
There are a number of different social platforms that you can use, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat, but our advice is to focus on 2-3 platforms only and to do them well.
We recommend starting with Facebook and Instagram first, as these are the go-to platforms for millions of people globally. Below is a simple guide to each and the posting frequency you should strive for.
This social platform is perfect for showing off your best images, videos and to develop a brand image. Think about posting not only images of your hotel rooms, but lifestyle images and images of the surrounding area to give them an idea of what it would be like to stay with you and sightsee. Aim to post 5-7 times per week.
Facebook is great for not only posting images and videos but also articles. It is also great for customer support inquiries using Facebook messenger and to show off some happy guest reviews through the reviews section. You will also want to post around 5-7 times per week.
If you want to boost your reach further, consider paid social media, where you are able to choose exactly who will see your ads (your chosen target audience) and on which platforms. For example, if you’d like to promote your hotel during a slower time of year, think about creating a post that promotes a special offer if someone books during certain dates.
Although one of the more old fashioned forms of digital marketing, it can be effective if used correctly. Email marketing can include sending weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletters, reservation reminders, thank you for booking/staying emails, feedback emails, and more.
To make them effective, you will want to consider segmenting your audience. For example, you will not want to send the same messaging to a previous guest as to someone who has never booked before. The more you are able to tailor your message to your segmented audience, the better.
Plus, you can add CTA’s (calls to action) within your emails that will help people take the desired action, which most likely will be to book their stay at your hotel.
The quickest way to start bringing in more bookings is to set up a paid search campaign using Google Ads. There are a few reasons why this works so well.
The first, and probably the most important, if you optimise your account right, you have the chance to show up on the first page of the SERPs (search engine result pages) for certain search terms. This is a huge benefit, because as an independent hotel, your website might not have the domain authority (how well your website ranks organically) to show up on the first page of Google.
Furthermore, you can show up for highly relevant search terms (what people type into a Google search bar). For example, if you are a hotel in Cambridgeshire with an incredible spa, you can bid on the search term ‘spa break hotel Cambridgeshire’ and your hotel will show up in one of the spots dedicated to Google Ads.
Finally, you are appearing at a time where the person has a certain intent, that intent being to search for a hotel. This means that any traffic coming to your website from Google Ads is most likely already pre-qualified to be a potential guest.
Content creation for digital marketing can come in many forms, including blogs, emails, and videos. Each can serve a different purpose and have different levels of effectiveness in helping your target audience take the desired action – whether it be to contact you, subscribe to a newsletter, or to book a stay with your hotel.
To make content marketing work for you, think about what people might be searching with regard to their holiday. For example, if you are an independent hotel in Paris, think about writing a blog about the best 3-day itinerary for visiting the city. This will help bring qualified traffic to your website and discover your hotel in an engaging way.
Each of the above digital marketing activities will be useful for boosting your overall visibility. However, there are other digital marketing activities that, although won’t produce quick results, are crucial to your long term digital success. We are of course talking about SEO.
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is anything that will help improve your websites organic presence on a search engine. This will help people find your hotel online without you having to use paid search or paid social and will help you compete against the large hotels who have strong brand recognition. However, any updates made for SEO can take up to 3-4 months to be picked up by Google. Therefore, you need to factor this in your long-term digital strategy.
As Google continues to dominate with an average net market share of 73% on desktop in 2020, you are best to focus your efforts here. SEO tends to be an overwhelming task, so these are some of the top tasks to carry out:
– Try to avoid uploading heavy images or videos on your website, as this can slow it down and Google will penalise you for a slow site speed.
– Make sure to update the ‘alt tags’ of each image on your website, as this is what Google will pick up on and will help it understand what type of content you have on your site.
– Optimise your page titles and meta descriptions to include high-quality keywords. Below is an example of how this will show up on the Google SERPs.
– Optimise the H1 titles on each page to include keywords that are relevant to your page. Take one of our recent blogs for example. The title ‘Top Luxury Travel Trends in 2020’ is the H1 title on our page and has been optimised for SEO.
– Check for any broken pages on your website
For more information on how to boost your hotels SEO, take a look at this Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO in 2020 by HubSpot.
At Best Loved Hotels, we represent a selection of the most unique and authentic independent luxury hotels worldwide and ensure they are growing their business in line with key industry trends. We also support them by offering them à l la carte marketing opportunities to increase their visibility through the luxury leisure travel segment.
To learn more about our programme benefits, take a look at our hotel joining fact sheet.