Why hotels need an individual website

Statistics show that travelers become ever more educated if it comes to their search behaviour.
According to a study by Ypartnership and Yankelovich, Inc. this is where travelers first go when looking for a hotel or resort:

Web site of online travel agency like Expedia, Travelocity 31%
Search engine like Google, Yahoo, MSN 26%
Web site of specific hotel chain 21%
Web site of individual hotel/resort 10%
Meta search engine that compares rates 5%

(See: Travelers’ Online Search Behavior Evolves)

You may say that the figure for ‘website of individual hotel/resort’ at 10% is still quite low. However, what this statistic doesn’t cover is what people do after their first visit.
I argue, that a large number of people after doing some research on the top three – online travel agency sites, search engines and even specific hotel chain sites – will search for the individual hotel/resort website of a property they have preselected. The reason being, that all of the above, in most cases, only offer very limited information about a property and show small or bad quality photos. A traveler cannot be certain what exactly to expect at the hotel and usually, this is not enough to make a buying decision. At least not for a leisure traveler who is about to book a hotel room, mirroring their lifestyle, for a very precious few days of their life: holiday. After all, successful hotels these days don’t sell rooms, they sell an experience.
Take a look at the following two examples, favourite websites of the Hotel Magazine, and you see what I mean:

 

 

 

Neither of the top three places to which travelers initially go in order to search for a hotel or resort, could possibly cater for the experience an individual hotel website can and should create.

The second element to focus on is trust. As the above figures show, travelers have come to use online agency websites and do trust the big ones they know. Though they may not trust a site they have never used before, even if it sells rooms at a cheaper rate.
However, if they visit an individual hotel website which is professionally done, layed out well and maintained properly – i.e. they get the impression that the hotel staff is looking after it – they will probably trust this site more and prefer to cut out the intermediary. If the rate is higher on an online agency site because of booking fees or commission, the decision will be even easier.

This is exactly what I could see happening in my last position when analysing the website and booking statistics of our large network of chain, traffic and individual websites. The individual hotel websites brought in many more online bookings than for example the chain site or other sites with more than one hotel featured. Moreover, traffic very often came from the search engines where people were searching for a specific hotel name. It is unlikely that all those people would have known the hotel name from previous visits, offline marketing or friends and family. No, they have found the name on online agency, destination, review and hotel chain sites during the first step of their search and looked for a preselected property in the second step.

This is the reason why your hotel/resort needs an individual website. Create an experience, establish trust and you will increase your online revenue. – Plus, each booking will also come you much cheaper than any reservation made via a TPI (Third-party Intermediary) or OTA (Online Travel Agency) which usually costs you around a quarter of the value in commission.

What are the most important search engine ranking factors in 2009?

SEOmoz have just published their bi-annual study about the most important search engine ranking factors, i.e. the factors that decide over whether your website comes up on the first or last page of Google results when a user types in a keyword that is relevant to your site. The ranking factors were rated by their panel of 72 SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) experts. Obviously, Google can change its algorithm at any time. So even if you take all the factors into consideration and are doing an excellent job, you are not operating in a static environment in which that will necessarily be the case tomorrow.

I’m quoting the top five factors from the most relevant areas for SEO below:
(see full Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009 study)

On-Page (Keyword-Specific) Ranking Factors

1. Keyword Use Anywhere in the Title Tag
2. Keyword Use as the First Word(s) of the Title Tag
3. Keyword Use in the Root Domain Name (e.g. keyword.com)
4. Keyword Use Anywhere in the H1 Headline Tag
5. Keyword Use in Internal Link Anchor Text on the Page

On-Page (Non-Keyword) Ranking Factors

1. Existence of Substantive, Unique Content on the Page
2. Recency (freshness) of Page Creation
3. Use of Links on the Page that Point to Other URLs on this Domain
4. Historical Content Changes (how often the page content has been updated)
5. Use of External-Pointing Links on the Page

Page-Specific Link Popularity Ranking Factors

1. Keyword-Focused Anchor Text from External Links
2. External Link Popularity (quantity/quality of external links)
3. Diversity of Link Sources (links from many unique root domains)
4. Page-Specific TrustRank (whether the individual page has earned links from trusted sources)
5. Iterative Algorithm-Based, Global Link Popularity (PageRank)

Site-Wide Link-Based Ranking Factors

1. Trustworthiness of the Domain Based on Link Distance from Trusted Domains (e.g. TrustRank, Domain mozTrust, etc.)
2. Global Link Popularity of the Domain Based on an Iterative Link Algorithm (e.g. PageRank on the domain graph, Domain mozRank, etc.)
3. Link Diversity of the Domain (based on number/variety of unique root domains linking to pages on this domain)
4. Links from Hubs/Authorities in a Given Topic-Specific Neighborhood (as per the “Hilltop” algorithm)
5. Temporal Growth/Shrinkage of Links to the Domain (the quantity/quality of links earned over time and the temporal distribution)

Geo-Targeting Factors

1. Country Code TLD of the Root Domain (e.g. .co.uk, .de, .fr, .com.au, etc.)
2. Language of the Content Used on the Site
3. Links from Other Domains Targeted to the Country/Region
4. Geographic Location of the Host IP Address of the Domain
5. Manual Review/Targeting by Google Engineers and/or Quality Raters

Negative Ranking Factors

1. Cloaking with Malicious/Manipulative Intent
2. Link Acquisition from Known Link Brokers/Sellers
3. Links from the Page to Web Spam Sites/Pages
4. Cloaking by User Agent
5. Frequent Server Downtime & Site Inaccessibility

Factors Negatively Affecting the Value of an External Link

1. Domain Banned from Google’s Index for Web Spam
2. Domain’s Rankings Penalized in Google for Web Spam
3. Link is Determined to be “Paid” Rather than Editorially Given
4. Domain Contains Links to a Significant Amount of Web Spam
5. Domain Has Not Earned Trusted Links

How hotels improve their websites and service

A recently published article by Hotels Magazine looks at examples how hotels or rather hotel chains have improved their websites. The argument is that 31% of the people who visit an online travel agency site, book directly with the supplier and therefore the supplier websites need to be providing a good service. I’ve made a similar argument in a recent blog entry: Why hotels need an individual website.

The Hotels Magazine article explains how hotel chains start optimising search results, make download times faster and provide more graphics on their websites.

For example, the Sonesta Collection has moved images and flash content from its server to a content delivery network which makes their website download twice as fast. A content delivery network employs servers strategically in multiple geographic locations, each of them containing a cached version of the website, so that delivery time is speed up dramatically.

Another good example they give is the new E-Wave feature on the Paradise by Marriot website.
Marriott has created an interactive kit for the leisure traveler or meeting organiser, including maps and video. They thereby significantly increased the time people spend on their website (+25%). Moreover, users can upload their own video, generate their own itinerary and send it to a friend or travel partner.

To read the full Hotels Magazine article, please click here.

Welcome to the Hotel Online Marketing Blog!

About the author:

For the past 10 years I have been doing e-commerce or online marketing for hotels and the tourism industry. This month, I have just set up my own consultancy business under the name of e-conceptory.

Until about 3 years ago, I have been working for a company called Open World in Bath, UK. Open World was specialised in publishing websites and doing online marketing for the luxury hotel industry. My clients were hotels and hotel chains from around the world, such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Worldhotels, Swissotel, Small Luxury Hotels to name but a few. I moved back to Berlin, Germany two years ago, where I worked as Corporate E-Commerce Manager at a Hotel Management Company. I developed the company’s online strategy, set up a large network of group, individual and traffic websites to generate and increase online revenue from all the company owned sites.
I finished this contract a few months ago and have been keeping busy since, preparing for my own e-commerce consulting company.

In short this is what I have to offer:

e-commerce, ecommerce, e-business, ebusiness, online marketing, internet marketing, new media marketing, web project management, web design, web programming, usability, accessibility, functionality, seo, sem, display advertising, affiliate marketing, web 2.0, social media marketing through blogging, micro-blogging, communities, online reputation management