25 Point Checklist to audit your hotel’s total online presence
This is a fantastic overview of what you need to keep in mind when considering your online digital strategy. This article was originally posted by By Stephanie Smith Founder & CEO, Cogwheel Marketing on Hotel Business Review on June 12, 2022. How does your hotel or resort property measure up?
Your digital presence is more than just your hotel’s website. Studies show that people check between 7 and 35 sites before booking a hotel.
Therefore, potential guests need to see you multiple times before your hotel is a part of their consideration set. Your hotel needs both exposure to the right target audience as well as a consistent presence to get them to check rates then book.
Are you telling a consistent story across all your digital channels?
Since the pandemic, many hotels have had to pivot their target audience. But, not all markets have enough business to go around.
This 25-point checklist is intended to identify gaps in your total online digital strategy for most branded hotels. Once you identify where your needs are, you can begin working out a strategy to increase your hotel’s total online presence.
1. Market Trends
Visit Trends.Google.com (free) to search for “hotels in [Insert hotel city]” to view the search volume for your area. You can do multiple searches to see recovery for searches for particular markets and compare as many as 5 years of searches.
2. Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)
Define what makes your hotel unique against the competitive set as well as other hotels in your name brand. Remember, not all guests know your “brand standards” and most guests need to have information repeated to them. Unique Selling Propositions in the content of your hotel website, your on-page search engine optimization strategy, imagery, copy in your ads, social media and prominent throughout your entire online presence.
Content is relevant and up to date, including relevant Demand Generators that might have changed during the pandemic. Ensure amenities are accurate across all channels, including OTAs and local listings like Google My Business. Ensure all fields and characters are maximized in your hotel Content Management System. Room descriptions should showcase the differences in room type offerings. Highlight uniqueness in the room name, including balcony, sofa bed or views.
Imagery is a type of content and is the number one conversion metric and should be done every 3 to 5 years. Ensure your imagery meets or exceeds brand standards as well as respective OTA image standards to maximize your content score. Imagery should accurately represent your hotel, including any unique amenities. Consider images to represent pet-friendly, views, and in-room amenities as well as images that show the depth and size of the guest rooms and bathroom.
5. Demand Generators
Who stays at your hotel and competitor hotels have likely changed. Those transient demand generators were previously overlooked and now need more attention. Ensure hotel demand generators are represented in content and on-page and off-page search engine optimization opportunities.
6. Room Types
All of your room types should be represented and selling on your hotel website and OTAs. Highlight content that showcases differences between room types. Room type amenities should be accurate on all channels, including OTAs and your hotel website.
7. Hotel Packages
Ensure local packages display any hotel partnerships and showcase proximity to popular demand generators. Ensure your website and sell strategy for packages are aligned. Determine if it makes sense to push package to OTA sites if ADR increases can be achieved.
Here is an article to help truly maximize your hotel packages.
8. On-Page Search Engine Optimization
Conduct thorough keyword research and target with on-page search engine optimization via title tags, headers, and meta descriptions. Your meta description should include unique selling propositions and highlight proximity to major demand generators. Your unique on-page search engine optimization strategy represents your individual hotel identity separate from the brand
Conduct a variety of searches to determine your organic ranking on Expedia.com when searching for your hotel’s city. You can also view your sort order in Expedia Partner Central, but we find it to be inaccurate. Respond to all your reviews and note that walking of any Expedia guest or any forced refunds may cause your ranking to drop. Ensure hotel and room type amenities are up to date and try to achieve a 100% on the content score. This includes making sure each image accurately represents each room type and old images are removed. Also confirm the primary image is the right one for each room type. Check the points of interest to ensure they are relevant and the closest ones are listed. Utilize the pre-arrival email functionality to convey the information you want the guest to know prior to arrival such as outlet closures or changes in cleaning frequency.
Wash and repeat everything mentioned with Expedia. Auditing these 2 players will cover approximately 90% of your OTA presence. The only difference with Booking.com is you can suggest changes to the content on the home page and it is easier to see access levels and change contacts for different scenarios.
11. Other OTAs
Outside of Expedia and Booking.com, we recommend spot-checking other OTAs like Agoda, which has its own extranet. Additionally, if your hotel participates in Hotel Tonite or Hopper, those should be reviewed.
Unlike your OTA partners, MetaSearch sites generally do not have their own rates and inventory nor do they generally have their own extranet to update images or amenities. Example MetaSearch sites include Google Hotel Ads, TripAdvisor, Kayak & Trivago. While shopping your hotel on MetaSearch sites, it is a good way to ensure you are in rate parity. Additionally, you want to see your own website with the Official marker and preferably very visible as an option to transact.
Here is an article that further explains what is hotel metasearch.
13. UNAP (URL, Name, Address, Phone)
UNAP stands for URL, Name, Address, and Phone number. You want this to be consistent across all your online profiles, especially your name. If your hotel has ever gone through a name change or rebranded, your UNAP is likely a bit messy. While brand feeds may fix some errors in transition, they certainly do not cover them all. It is very confusing for guests (and Google!) to come across these variations and wonder which is accurate. Do searches for your old name to look for out-of-date sites and ensure EXACT consistency (even down to the dash or slash) on Google My Business, Bing, Yext, Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, TripAdvisor, Yelp.
Your basic TripAdvisor listing is free and should be claimed. Check your hotel’s ranking for various searches, including Best Value, Traveler Ranked, Price and Distance to City Center. Ensure you are in the proper category, ie hotel or bed and breakfast. Some larger markets are divided into sub markets so ensure you are in the want you want to be listed. Update your amenities, images and map PIN. Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative.
Here is an article that explains the different ways you can advertise your hotel with TripAdvisor.
15. Google My Business
IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, GET ACCESS TO YOUR FREE GOOGLE MY BUSINESS LISTING.
If you do not have access, contact your brand as they likely have created one for your hotel. It is easiest to gain access via a Gmail account and some corporate emails are hard to connect. Audit your listing to ensure The description and amenities accurately reflect your hotel. In the backend, you can review and edit “owner” images. If you search for your hotel on Google and click on the images in the Knowledge panel, you might find Google has pulled old images from old sites. In this case, you should 1) see if you can gain access to that site and remove them or 2) flag them. Also, request and respond to all positive and negative Google reviews.
Bing has a business profile similar to Google My Business. You can even gain access to your Bing listing (sometimes) if you have the right access to Google My Business. Attempt to complete your profile to the fullest, including tagging images appropriately. Review your hotel descriptions and amenities for accuracy. You also have the option to display an offer, just don’t forget about it!
If you ever have guests tell you they have trouble finding you or the Door Dash driver got incorrect directions, you might have an issue with your hotel’s GPS location on one or more sites. First, check the map on your brand site to ensure accuracy. If that is right, check turn-by-turn directions on Google from various locations, ie North, South, East, and West. Submit turn by turn direction changes to Google. If both of those are accurate, you can check back-end maps providers like HERE and Map Creator.
18. Reputation Management
We have touched upon responding to reviews on Expedia, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Google My Business. But, while the data shows that 97% of potential guests read review responses, it is also important to learn from your guest reviews. Use your brand tools to aggregate if you are getting multiple complaints about your property or a specific team member. While you cannot incentivize guests to leave reviews, you should incentivize your team to solicit reviews.
19. Public Relations
While there are varying degrees of public relations depending on your goals, a press release is the most basic. Common platforms like Cision help get your press release found by Google and hopefully picked up by additional outlets. At the hotel and market level, the hotel team should be asking local partners like chambers and convention visitors bureau to share these press releases.
20. Off-Page Search Engine Optimization and Competitor Backlinks
Even more important than on-page search engine optimization is your backlink profile against your competitors. There is no magic number when it comes to getting your hotel website listed on other relevant websites, you should strive to achieve more than your competitive set. Tools like Moz, SEMrush and ahrefs allow you to dissect where your competitor is being promoted that you are not. Look for partners with universities, hospitals, museums, and other demand generators to see if getting listed will not only increase your rankings on Google, but also drive traffic and exposure to your hotel.
21. Social Media
Extensive social media is not right for every hotel. To do it properly you need both human and financial resources. Start with a Facebook page and ensure it is set up on parent/child relationship with its brand. Do a search on Facebook to see if there is more than 1 page that might need remedy. Once you have access, audit the profile information, including images/albums and header and thumbnail images. Set up a “Book now” button to redirect to your proper website. Check for any reviews, respond as needed, and check for any negative comments that can be removed from the page. Leverage paid social media to get in front of new guests that have a propensity to visit your market.
Once you have mastered Facebook posting, you may consider an Instagram account. While channels like TikTok and Snapchat may help with brand equity, you may have issues monetizing them.
Here is an article about how to start social media marketing for your hotel.
22. Brand Tools
Each brand offers different opportunities to increase your online presence. This could be website enhancements, loyalty promotions, email marketing, on-page search engine optimization, GDS promotions, package builds, exclusive agency partnerships, approved photographers, and more. Contact your brand and take advantage of these before venturing to create your own strategy.
23. Paid Media
There are many channels where a hotel can put their marketing dollars. Once there is a firm understanding of timing, gaps in the above, and what market and type of travelers you want to go after, then you can determine a budget to help fill those gaps.
Most brands partner with Koddi to allow hotels to run paid advertising via a single platform. Depending on the hotel’s goals and targets, additional advertising above and beyond Koddi could entail social media advertising, Google Ads search engine marketing, display, and programmatic advertising, and more.
Here is an article about how to maximize your hotel advertising within Koddi.
Your sales collateral should reflect the same story as your online story. Ensure your unique selling propositions are present, with the correct amenities and the best hotel-specific imagery you have. Upload your collateral is represented on your hotel website where applicable. Additionally, your collateral should be ADA compliant and meet brand standards.
25. Channel Mix
It is likely that your channel mix has shifted over the past few years. While sales efforts pertaining to group and business transient have gone down, many hotels have seen an increase in their website production as a percentage of total sales. This will likely begin to drop down as those sales efforts become more fruitful and GDS business climbs back. What you should be looking at is your OTA percentages. If you are overly dependent on OTA business, let’s say greater than 25% of your business comes from OTAs, work on a plan to shift this business. This is different from segmentation as channel mix looks at the profitability of each channel and where the guests transacts, not the rate code in which this happens. For example, AAA can be booked via your website, GDS or OTA.
Here is more in depth information regarding hotel channel mix analysis.
Most hotels are really good at some things, and not so good at others. The same goes for your hotel’s online presence. You are likely getting good exposure from some channels and websites, and representing poorly on others.
Let the analytics and findings dictate where you need to close the gap. Only then can you determine where and when to spend your marketing dollars.