Competing for the attention of travel shoppers is getting harder. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, it’s easy to ignore unsolicited messages by simply closing down a webpage. Travel shoppers are in control, and they know how to avoid distractions.
Smart hotel marketers are realizing the value of content marketing in cutting through the clutter. Content marketing is a way to communicate the value of your property to travel shoppers, without directly selling. And it works. This video outlines the winning formula for a successful content marketing strategy; one that helps travel shoppers through their shopping journey and wins you more business.
Hi, I’m Darlene Rondeau, Vice President, Best Practices for Leonardo’s Online Merchandising Group. Today, I’m going to outline some content marketing best practices for hotels and accommodation providers.
According to Google’s….. Traveler’s Road to Decision report, 66% of people watch content related to travel while they consider taking a trip. And most travel brands are investing big money in it. According to Axxon Media, 84% of travel brands already have custom content on their website homepage. Yet the average conversion rate on travel sites is just 3%. So what’s wrong? Well, it’s likely that a lot of these websites are focused on the wrong things. In this video, I’ll provide 5 tips on how to improve your content marketing strategy to drive more direct bookings.
First off, you want to attract quality traffic to your website. By that, I mean travelers who actually intend to visit your area. Quality visitors have a lower bounce rate and are “stickier” that is to say once they arrive at your website, they stay around and shop around longer which results in a higher conversion opportunity. So how do you attract these prized visitors?
My first tip is to understand your unique value proposition – whether that’s location, amenities, your on-site restaurant, or something else – and then wrap your story around it. Instead of worrying about what Airbnb, Google or TripAdvisor is doing, concentrate on you. Identify those characteristics that make your hotel special, craft your story, give shoppers an immersive visual tour of your property and focus on your target markets.
Let’s take a look at an example of one hotel that does this very well.
The Blue Bay Inn is a boutique hotel on the Jersey Shore, located 40 minutes by ferry from Manhattan. As you can see from their website their value proposition is targeted, unique, and relevant to their kind of guest – someone who wants to be close to the water, or close to Manhattan. When I search for “Jersey Shore hotel near Manhattan”, the Blue Bay Inn appears on the first page. Then when I click through, my search query is further validated – “A luxurious boutique hotel on the Jersey Shore just 40 minutes away from Manhattan by ferry.” Perfect, that’s exactly the location I’m looking for, and now I’m engaged, so I am motivated to look closer at this property.
You can see that Blue Bay provides information on nearby attractions, like the Twin Lights Historic Lighthouse, Henry Hudson Trail (which I’m told by Pam, their GM is a super place for a hike) and the Seastreak Ferry – other things travel shoppers (like me) may be searching for.
They also use a good blend of content – words, pictures, and video to tell their story. Together, these create an emotional connection that travel consumers are likely to remember as they move through their shopping journey.
Now that you’ve created a story that will sell the shopper on you – what makes your property & experience unique…Be found. This brings me to my 2nd tip: Putting focus on the individual property is the perfect catch 22 because fundamentally you want a website that is easily located by search engine bots and has the rich content that consumers are looking for, providing the triple benefit: Higher rankings on Search Engine Results Pages, A reduction in bounce rates, and most importantly, more direct bookings.
Consider what long tail phrases consumers are searching for. Long tail queries have 3, 4, 5 or more words and account for 80%-90% of your website traffic. When the search engine discovers the property that is the best “match” for the shopper, its reward is a prominent place on the results page. I want to emphasize this point. Creating content that exposes stories of rooms, features and offers actually addresses the queries that consumers are typing in the search bar. You see, Search Engine Optimization is all about creating relevant information that matches what consumers’ are searching for. And this is trending towards longer and more specific questions, a.k.a. long tail queries.
Now for my third tip: focus on what actually matters to your ideal guest. Travel shoppers want to see detailed descriptions and photos of your property & guest rooms (taken from multiple angles), and naturally everyone likes a deal, so present them with special offers. Ensure that, at minimum, these 3 things are included on your website. Special offers don’t have to mean discounted rates. If you’re known for your bar scene, have a drink special to bring guests into the bar to increase ancillary revenue. It’s all about knowing who your audience is and tailoring an offer (and content) to them.
When it comes to images on your website, show them what they are looking for. Leonardo did an extensive analysis of more than 500 million images to learn what consumers were most interested in. Here’s what we discovered: The Top 10 most viewed images on travel websites include Guest Rooms, Restaurant, Recreational activities, the Lobby, a Map, Business Center, Pool, other Amenities, your property’s Exterior, and the Bar or Lounge. Tip number 4 is to lead with guest room images on your homepage. A lot of hotels opt for an exterior shot, but that’s not your “money shot” because that’s 9th in the top 10 of what people want to look at!
Now, let’s quickly touch on content creation. Who can help you tell your story? The narrative of your property can be told by anyone – your marketing department, staff, and your guests. Find ways to encourage everyone to share their stories. Maybe it’s a restaurant recommendation from your Front Desk Manager, or an Instagram contest for your guests. Many hotel marketers use their guest TripAdvisor reviews as the basis to create their stories. Consider this: If you are a 100-room hotel at 60% occupancy, with an average of 1.4 guests per room, that’s 31,000 annual storytellers that could be telling stories on your behalf!
My 5th and final tip: Remember that consistency is the cornerstone of any brand. So once you’ve developed your story, repeat it everywhere including your website, OTAs, social channels and mobile. Consumers will perceive you as trustworthy and credible, which will lead to more bookings.
Let’s review my 5 content marketing tips: One – Understand your unique value proposition and wrap your story around it. Two – Consider what long-tail phrases your ideal guest is searching for, and build relevant content that relates directly to it. Three – Keep your story focused on what matters to the consumer. Include detailed descriptions of your property, guest room images and special offers. Four – Lead with images traveler shoppers want to see – your rooms, not your exterior. Five – Tell your story consistently & everywhere including social channels and on mobile devices to build confidence that your property is the right choice for them.
Remember, content marketing is all about communicating the value of your property to hotel shoppers, and differentiating yourself, without directly selling to them. Be helpful, be unique, and most importantly, be authentic. I’m Darlene Rondeau. Thanks for watching.