30 content marketing tips for independent hotels and hotel groups

NB: This is a guest article by Aubrae Wagner, content strategist with EnVeritas Group, a global content marketing firm that creates, manages, markets and distributes content for Fortune 500 companies.

Because the travel and tourism space remains extremely competitive, it’s important for individual hotels and hotel groups to establish and maintain a competitive advantage in their marketing efforts.

One increasingly important way of doing this is to recognize what content marketing is and how to integrate it into your overall marketing efforts.

Content marketing is the active process of creating relevant and sought after content with the end goal of attracting your target market’s eye, mind and pocketbook.

Successful content marketers take the time to develop an integrated content strategy that focuses on the user experience, from market research to distribution, site copy to images and search engine rankings to measurement.

hotel content

Pre-game

1. Research the reader – Know who you want to appeal to

This may seem like a given, but many times hoteliers, especially as launch time nears, find themselves pressed for time and attending to a million other details. The basic step of figuring out whom your web content addresses gets lost in the shuffle.

Before considering content for a website or social media channel, you need to go back to the basics and identify who exactly you need to and will be talking to — road warriors, occasional business guests, leisure travelers, retirees, families with kids, etc.

You then need to take that knowledge and actively generate content that appeals to the identified groups.

2. Set content marketing goals – Know why you need to reach this audience

Once you’ve determined whom your target is, it’s important to know why you are developing content for them. What is it you hope to achieve with content developed for your website, blog, and social channels?

Is it brand recognition, customer loyalty, the ability to expose your hotel to new customers and expanded demographics?

Once all stakeholders on your marketing team can clearly state the goals of your content, those players should constantly evaluate any content ideas or opportunities against the rubric of how it does or does not achieve the stated goals.

Keith Wiegold, with the Content Marketing Institute, sums up points one and two when he says:

“A key to engaging content is put the customer first, to solve her problems and answer his questions. This requires understanding their beliefs, feelings, wants and needs.”

3. Start with professionally written copy

You wouldn’t skimp on carpeting and furnishings for your hotel’s lobby, so why let an amateur craft the online image of your hotel?

Poorly written, unorganized copy will have site visitors bouncing from your site like a red rubber ball. Invest the time and money to hire a professional who can showcase your hotel.

4. Add professional photography

Perhaps the only thing worse than site content written by an amateur is photography shot by an amateur. Poorly lit, grainy photos won’t sell your property, no matter how nice it is or what a deal the price is.

5. Use professional videography and/or virtual tours

Guests want to see exactly what they are getting when they book a room online. Highlight the hotel’s exterior, public spaces, dining facilities, meeting rooms, guestrooms and bathrooms when shooting videos and developing virtual tours.

Content Marketing expert Mike Volpe predicts in 2011:

“More video… as marketers realize that live video podcasts and other video formats… can communicate a compelling message to help you get found by more prospects.”

6. Have a style guide and stick to it

A Style Guide is your site’s secret weapon. It’s the behind the scenes playbook that keeps the online image of your site and all sites within your brand consistent.

It spells out everything from font type and size to photo size and number of characters in blocks of copy. Thoughtfully develop and enforce rigorously!

7. Use words that sell

Sell the experience of staying at your hotel. Remember you are selling more than just a place to sleep. You are selling a weekend getaway or a seamless business trip.

Find words that define your brand and enliven the experience of visiting your location.

8. Tell your story

Connect all of the outstanding elements of your hotel so that they tell a story both visually and verbally. Take guests on a journey through your hotel from exterior to guest room using properly ordered photographs that hit the hotel’s highpoints.

Written content should flow seamlessly from paragraph to paragraph, page to page, setting the standards for guest expectations.

9. Be unique

Each hotel has unique features that set it apart from all the rest. Is it your exceptional customer service and freshly baked cookies? Your outstanding location? Your free shuttle service?

Your world-class restaurants? Help your guests discover what makes your hotel special.

SEO and PPC

10. Use highly searched keywords in site copy

Use professional tools to research SEO keywords potential guests use when they search for a hotel and expertly weave those keywords into site copy.

11. Provide user-centered content

Stick with content that informs and educates the reader. With all the drama going on these days surrounding companies trying to game the search engines, you’ll never go wrong with simply providing the information that appeals to your guests.

12. Don’t overload copy with keywords

Keywords are important, but they should never be manipulated or over-used. They should be integrated into the copy to assist in providing readers with the information they need to find.

13. Link building

Link building is like word of mouth. The more quality sites (not link farms) that point to you as an “expert” make your credibility increase in the eyes of the search engines. Actively work to build relationships with sites in your area that would sensibly link to you. Remember that link building is not link sharing. Link sharing does little to promote your site’s credibility.

14. Google Places

Don’t forget to enter your hotel’s information and keywords into Google Places, where listings show up before organic rankings and include a map.

Hotel Marketing Strategies reports that 20% of Google searches are location specific, and Marketing Sherpa notes that “geo-targeted advertising provides highest ROI”.

15. Balance PPC and SEO

Put time and effort into managing both PPC (pay-per-click) and SEO (search engine optimization) initiatives. Coordinate both by ensuring that staff working on each initiative coordinates approaches, keywords and timing of activities.

Educate guests

16. Hotel details

Make sure your copy has all the details guests want about location, rooms, services, in-house dining and more. If you have washers and dryers in the rooms, clearly state that on the room’s page.

If you have free coffee in the lobby, make it known. Guests research and make decisions based on amenities, so leaving something out doesn’t give the guest the full picture of what your hotel offers.

Leading SEO site Seomoz calls this definitive content.

“Definitive Content educates people so, with their expanded knowledge can engage in conversation and make informed decisions. This content is educational. People who are searching for information have already identified that they’re not comfortable making uninformed decisions.

They’re looking for ‘the answer’.”

17. Local area and transportation

The first thing most travelers want to know when arriving in a new city is where they are staying in relation to the rest of the city. Is the hotel in the northeast section of the city? The arts district? Downtown?

Help orient your guests by providing destination content about your location and providing public transportation options, including the nearest bus, train, or underground stops.

18. Local activities and events

Take time to research the hotel’s local area and include nearby attractions and activities that guests can enjoy during their free time. Be sure to include local events and remember to update events at least quarterly.

Translation and localization

19. Spend time and money on translation

Engage a professional who speaks the native language fluently in order to capture the nuances of change from English to the translated language.

20. Localize keyword research

To retain highly searched keywords in translated copy, you need to have localized keyword research included in the copy. Don’t just assume that your English keywords can be translated and still maintain high organic search rankings. They can’t.

Noted localization expert Andy Atkins-Krüger says: “[Words] cannot be translated from market to market or language to language. You must start from scratch every time with some proper research.”

Value Prospects

21. Develop appealing special offers and update them regularly

Draw in guests by putting special offer packages together that encourage them to book. For example, a Romance Package around Valentine’s Day can include room night, breakfast and carriage tour. Update seasonally.

Distribute those messages across the right channels—website, facebook, e-mail, etc.

22. Enable private groups to piggy back off your site

It’s a simple concept really, but allowing your guests to have their own, private web page hosted on your site allows them to provide that URL to their company, corporate guests, wedding guests, etc.

They’ll have an organized website for their event, meeting or party, and you’ll get the bookings.

Timeliness

23. Regularly update site copy

Search engines reward refreshed copy. Guests look for timely information. Therefore, making regular updates to your site is a must. Regularly refresh special offers, information about local attractions, events and hotel details.

Grunt Work that Matters

24. Tend to the details

Remember to attend to the “little” elements of a site that give it a polished look and feel and assist with SEO – provide Alt Tags for photos, write short photo captions for images, properly size photos and fonts and use crystal clear images.

25. Make individual hotels updates simply and quickly

Empower each hotel to easily update images, words, offers, maps, etc. Use an online message board where hotels can input updates they need made and your content management team can quickly and easily respond to those requests.

26. Check facts/maintain databases

When was the last time you checked names, phone numbers and e-mails for all your hotel staff? General managers, regional managers and sales staff often change regularly. Be sure you keep your records up to date.

This will ensure that contact information on your website is easy to update.

27. Interview your managers

No one knows the hotel better than the hotel’s general manager. Be sure to thoroughly interview the general manager of the hotel before writing site copy. Content Marketing experts agree that you should tap into the 10-15% of staff who really “get” your product. Take advantage of their depth and breadth of knowledge.

Distribution

28. Coordinate distribution of offers and information across channels

Think through all the touch points where potential guests may have contact with your hotel – website, e-mail, social media, etc. Craft and disseminate your content so that it works together to dialogue with your potential guests about your hotel.

Measurement

29. Monitor traffic and user interaction to identify hard working pages

Tap into your analytics. Make sure you understand what it is they are telling you. Look for pages that are highly trafficked and retain guests. Make more pages like these. Also look for pages that don’t perform as well, identify why and make changes to (or eliminate) these pages.

30. Test and tweak

Be willing to tweak pages and to conduct split tests to determine which pages, headlines, layouts, etc. engage with guests and those that don’t.

Expert content marketer, Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 Content Marketing, says:

“I would dare say that the single most important characteristic of successful content marketers (individuals and brands) is perseverance.”

Perseverance in monitoring, testing, tweaking and trying again.

Conclusion

When developing your content marketing strategy, be deliberate and be dedicated. Get buy-in from all stakeholders and work together as a team to ensure that

content on your hotel’s website and social media channels is fully focused on engaging and attracting guests with its robust, unique nature.

Content isn’t just an after thought to fill space around a booking engine. Rather, content is the ticket that leads users to the booking engine.

NB: This is a guest article by Aubrae Wagner, content strategist with EnVeritas Group, a global content marketing firm that creates, manages, markets and distributes content for Fortune 500 companies.

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Viewpoints

About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.

 

Comments

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  1. tips and tricks to make digital marketing success

    […] sure to enter your hotel’s information and keywords into Google Places. This will help you to show your hotel during search along with a Google map to help customers find […]

     
  2. Max

    #7 is a HUGE one. Just look at Motel 6 – they sold their motels as being a sort of “home away from home”, and it worked out great for them. Or at the very least, they ended up making some legendary advertising (for a motel at least) that almost everyone knows and remembers.

     
  3. Mark hamlet

    hello there! I just want to ask if this post has a free PDF format, so we can download it for free.
    thank you , hoping for your positive response.

     
  4. Olivier

    Very usefull article.
    We work with hotels in China, but have the feeling that they are not really Marketing oriented…
    Just sales and customers services.
    Maybe it is just with the Chinese Market

     
  5. Scott Petoff

    A very worthwhile checklist to consult as hotels build and refine online content to get more direct bookings.

    A necessary independent hotel website element that I feel was overlooked is mobile. Trends show that more consumers are browsing for travel on mobile devices including smart phones and especially tablets. As hotel marketers craft new content and photos, care must be taken to ensure it can be made (restyled as) mobile friendly. For example photos may need to be shrunk and Flash sites should be avoided for compatibility issues.

     
  6. Hotel Managers Group

    It is hard to find fault with any of the suggestions that were listed in this article about content marketing. Each marketing tip was clear and concise and not so detailed or technical. For a target audience of hotel managers and marketers that may not have extensive experience with content marketing, it was perfect. Especially liked the suggestions of using professional photography and video to showcase the best features of a hotel.

     
  7. James Hacon

    I have personal experience of seeing the positive effects of online content marketing for independent hotels. When opening the St Clair Beach Resort (now Hotel St Clair, http://www.hotelstclair.com/) in Dunedin, New Zealand in late 2009 much of my focus for sales was online. As one of the only independent hotels in the area, I saw the generation and regular addition of varied content on our site as central to our optimisation – as well as conversion. We created a diverse range of online content including blogs, recipes, promotional videos, video testimonials, photographs, user generated photos, magazine articles and in-depth local information. The feedback was always positive and this resulted in over 60% of our total bookings coming directly through our website.

    In fact, this led on to me leaving to create a content creation and marketing company specifically for the tourism sector – Destination Content. Very powerful results to show from this venture too!

     
    • Eric Ingrand (@EricEVGEurope)

      Thanks for your comment, this is a great case study and you have done a great job doing this yourself. Many independent and hotels since miss that, I mean 60% coming through your site a is a really really good result. 1 you control your business and 2 you have greater margins, happy customer and a great way to measure your marketing $. We create content for hotels for more than 10 years and we have plenty of great stories related to traffic and conversion jumps. Content marketing is very powerful and does not only help you for short time sell, it is a great long term strategy, because engaging with customer either online or offline always bring confidence and brand loyalty up. Thanks for your comments happy to see that even more than a year after this article is still useful. Good day; eric

       
  8. Do corporate blogs still matter for hotel brands? | FreeWordPressAutoBlog.com

    […] Facebook is the new hotel search engine 30 content marketing tips for independent hotels and hotel groups Nineteen tips for an effective social media strategy in […]

     
  9. 30 Dicas de Conteúdo Web para Hotéis Independentes e Grupos Hoteleiros (Parte 2) « Blog do Turismo

    […] para língua. Você precisa começar do zero a cada vez, com uma pesquisa adequada. " Via: tnooz. Foto: Patrick Hajzler, […]

     
  10. Ingrand Eric

    Agree on above comment we could have added that for sure 😉 The only missing piece to the secret formula? 😉 We are less involved in theses mechanism (ie: reviews, social media monitoring) and therefore we omitted that part. However I fully agree, anyway comments are available so why not having them on your own site! That definitely helps the customer to stay on the site and not navigate more to find….reviews…
    Tkx for the comments
    Eric

     
  11. Hotelier

    Richard made a point; I can’t find a reference to “guest reviews” or to “User Generated Content”. Reviews of the hotel asked by email a few day after checkout and published on the hotel website = unique content (i.e. good for SEO) and there is no better way of controlling comments than hosting them directly on the website.. I used to manage a hotel in the past as well…

     
  12. Daoud Alexandre

    I agree completly with Richard: answering to all the negative press on tripadvisor would state the best example.
    Nonetheless, great article with really interesting marketing tips.
    I am currently trying to implement them on my website..
    I welcome any comments in case your are interested in sharing any.
    this is my website’s link: http://www.longitudehotels

     
  13. Darlene Rondeau

    I think this article hits on many valuable action items, in particular, the story telling advice. This technique, when used in conjunction with rich visuals, goes a long way in inspiring the guest to choose your hotel.

     
  14. Lindsay

    This is a really good presentation to download including tips to produce high quality content

    http://www.frommers.biz/service/documents/presentations

    It has really helped me!

     
  15. Richard Dennys

    As a past owner of an independent hotel in the UK I am surprised there is nothing on engagement with user reviews in here?

     
    • Ingrand Eric

      Hello Richard, thanks for your question. We were focusing here on the pure content marketing side, meaning what is directly related to the content displayed on a hotel web site. However you are right user review engagement is an an important piece of any hotel customer care and marketing strategy. Now my take on that is simple, there is no magic, hoteliers need to engage conversation and reply to complains on social network. It is never possible to do it all but there are some great tools on the market that can help hotelier to gain efficiency in monitoring and responding with social media reviews. The key is to answer, show empathies and follow with proof of corrective action taken. Thanks all for your positive comments.

       
 
 

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