I think it’s time to slow-down, sit-down, and evaluate the impact of the Internet on hotel sales. For the past several years, hotels have been scrambling to have a meaningful presence on the Net, but few hoteliers appear satisfied with the results. For many hoteliers, it’s been a challenge to measure sales results from their websites. Many have not been able to establish benchmarks to determine what success on the Net looks or feels like.
Exposure and Conversion There are two primary purposes for developing a hotel website; exposure and conversion. Exposure, through search, is obviously most important. A website needs to be designed to follow search engine guidelines; if it can’t be easily found, it’s worthless. It may be attractive, but few people will ever see it.
Franchised hotels are beginning to understand that it is beneficial to have their own proprietary sites; only about 22% of hotel searches are done by brand name. For independent hotels, having a professionally designed website is absolutely essential.
Once a site is found, it must be designed to convert visitors into reservations. The design is critical because the site’s navigation and text content must be designed to drive visitors to the hotel reservation booking engine. I don’t buy the idea that most visitors view the information, pick up a phone, and call-in their reservation. This may be true is some circumstances, but that should not be needed to justify having a website. Real-time online reservations are still the goal.
Recognizing Success on the Internet One of the wonderful benefits of Internet marketing is the fact that success or failure is almost entirely measurable, but most hoteliers are not using the data available. The amount of data which is collected about your website is enormous. Unfortunately, it seems like many hoteliers have focused almost entirely on the number of site visitors, alone, to evaluate their site.
Measuring the number of site visitors, on its own, is a poor way to evaluate a website. The key is to get the “right” visitors to your site; people actually looking for a hotel. Some unknowing or unscrupulous web marketers can manipulate keywords to dramatically increase visitors, but the additional traffic doesn’t usually lead to online reservations. A good web marketer works hard to drive “relevant” traffic to a site and that takes talent.
Online search engines place a premium on the concept of relevant traffic. In the early years of the Internet, search engines created Meta search tags, which could be attached to each web page. These tags would be used to identify each page with words which most closely define that page. They soon found that there were many unscrupulous marketers who would simply add irrelevant and general key words to improve search results for their websites.
This created an enormous problem; search results were muddled and unreliable. Someone searching for hotels might find websites selling anything from car stereos to Viagra, simply because someone added the word “hotel” to their site’s search tag keywords. Several search engines fixed this by improving their search algorithms to search the entire web page for the use of those keywords within the body text. This made it more difficult to add irrelevant key words. In addition, search engines now review each website page for the relevancy of search words as compared to the site’s title and description.
Visitors, Page Views, and Reservations For most hoteliers, there are three main criteria to review; visitors, page views, and reservations. These are pretty much self-explanatory, but, if your web marketer isn’t providing this information, get it. When using this data, create a month-by-month comparison; hopefully against last year or your monthly budget forecast. 1. Number of new visitors – This measures search engine optimization effectiveness. 2. Number of page views and average number of pages per view. This measures website optimization & site stickiness. 3. Number of reservations made. Thirty percent, or more, of your total room sales. This measures website sales structure.
Of course, there are pages and pages of additional site data, which your website marketer uses to make improvements to your site. Search engine optimization is a continual function to use data to shape and reshape your website based upon website analytics data.
Revenue Management Can Make a Huge Difference Obviously, the goal of your site should be to produce online reservations. The factor which most website marketers can’t control is the inventory and rates being offered on your booking engine.
The main purpose of your website is to drive visitors to your online booking engine. If your hotel is using revenue management to drive the profit line, these same principles should apply to your website rates and inventory. As it has been said many times, consumers buy value, not rates.
The rates on your website often define your product. Deep discounts are not necessary if your site facilities and amenities create value. Get smart about your website sales results.
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