With 45 per cent of all hotel bookings currently made on the internet, it is more important than ever for hotels to optimise their online presence. Sam Trainor-Buckingham, marketing director at Ignite Hospitality tells BigHospitality readers how they can improve online bookings through their hotel’s own website.
To increase online reservations, there are three main stages that must be carefully considered by hoteliers: attract customers; persuade them to book; and provide the right tools to make bookings easy.
First and foremost, you need to get customers to your website, and ensure it is relevant to them. Key actions include:
- Search Engine Optimisation – points to consider:
- Keywords – carefully identify what search terms you want to target
- Use these keywords in your page title, headings, internal links and written copy
- Get as many relevant links to your site as possible
- Update your site content regularly – a blog is a great addition as it provides the ability to target longer keyword phrases that your site doesn’t focus on
- Don’t use Flash for your main website or in the navigation, search engines can’t read it.
- Ensure you’re on Google Places and all content is updated – this is essential for local search
- Engage online – just like you’d talk to a customer or peer, make yourself a part of conversations happening online, it will encourage links back to your site
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising – these are the small ads that appear on the right hand side of search engines, and allow you to target specific search terms
- Email Marketing – engage with repeat customers
- Social Media – ensure you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr
- Online Advertising – promoting your website on appropriate 3rd party websites
Persuade them to book
You need to think about your hotel’s ‘persuasion assets’ and make sure you clearly represent these on your website.
What is it about your hotel that makes it special? Why should a customer book over your competitors? What services, features, add-ons do you offer?
Hopefully you have a long list – does your website effectively represent this? Are the most important persuasion assets the first thing a user sees? It’s amazing how often the core attributes of a business are poorly represented online!
Your website is your sales hub, a tool to convert interest into sales and the rate at which this occurs is the ‘conversion rate’.
It should be the aim of your marketer and web developer to improve this figure. The two key aspects are:
- Usability – Ensuring users can get where they want quickly and easily is essential to conversion rate. The longer it takes, the more chance of distraction and frustration, resulting in a user leaving your site.
A quick and easy method of assessing this is by identifying five core demographics that make up your customer base, e.g. a business traveller. Get five friends who are not accustomed with your site to perform expected tasks – the problems they come across could easily be costing you hotel bookings!
- Conversion tools – Including conversion tools at key points on your hotel website is essential. Assess your site – where might a customer want to book or ask a question? If there is not a clear action at this point, you could be losing business.
A few tips that apply across the board:
- Having a booking engine on the homepage has been proven to drastically increase bookings
- Consistent calls to action throughout the site – is the ‘book online’ button included in the same place?
- Write ‘Book Here’, not ‘Book Now’ – it has been proven to increase conversions
- Inclusion of an enquiry form allows users to enquire out of hours
Constant analysis and adjustment is required to maximise online reservations, and each stage must be carefully considered.
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