Industry Update
Opinion Article27 February 2006

Case Studies Prove Hotel Search Engine Optimisation Delivers Results

By Keith Paulin

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I have a favourite analogy about hotels and how they should view their website and online marketing initiatives; it usually strikes a nerve pretty close to home…


Imagine if you printed 1,000 beautiful, four colour, ten page brochures that stunningly captured the unique nature of your hotel at ten bucks a piece…and then locked them away in a cupboard…how effective would they be? Or how about creating a masterful piece of direct mail that is riveting, stimulating and worth a Pulitzer Prize…and then never sending it out? About now you should be feeling very, very guilty…not about those 500 brochures still left in your cupboard (oops!), but about not driving your website hard enough…

Building a great website without Search Engine Optimisation is the same as those brochures or that direct mail piece; no matter how captivating the text or how breathtaking the dynamic imagery, if no-one can find your website when they are searching online for that “luxury San Diego hotel”, that “romantic B&B outside Paris” or that “adventure scuba holiday in the Maldives”, then you have wasted your money. Not only that, but the smart competition has already optimised their site and are reaping the rewards; and you are missing those rewards.

What rewards I hear you ask? My last article received an extraordinary response from the industry (well, over 100 emails anyway…I’ve just finished answering the last few today)…some genuinely asking for help, which I am always happy to try to provide, but more than a few were saying “Show me the money!”.

And it’s a fair call. So, this week we polished up a couple of Case Studies on Hotel Search Engine Optimisation projects that we have recently completed and posted these on our website for everyone to see.

To be honest, we picked a couple of the best ones for the Case Studies but when we looked at a range of sites that we have worked with over the last year, the results have been very pleasing overall…and these hotels are still our clients which, when invoicing time comes around each month, is the ultimate test of client loyalty.

In Case Study One, we picked a mature four star inner city hotel with over 400 rooms, extensive conference and events facilities and multiple food and beverage outlets. They had a “mature” website that had been upgraded to include a Content Management system five months earlier but they hadn’t done much with it. Through applying sensible Hotel Search Engine Optimisation techniques, direct online revenues more than tripled in three months…conference and events online enquiries quadrupled with sales conversions occurring at a staggering 75.0%...apparently, when conference planners enquire online, they are ready to book!

The hotel invested $9,000 over three months and has since increased annualised online revenues by a conservative $420,000 and still climbing…you wanted ROI? At a conservative 3.8% of incremental revenues, this is a remarkable result.

For Case Study Two, we looked at a recently refurbished, five star coastal resort hotel with approximately ninety rooms and serviced apartments; they also offer meeting space and breakout rooms to suit small to medium upscale conferences and corporate training. The budget here was a little tighter so we focussed on boosting their premium “romantic weekend escape” market. Through our preliminary research, we also learned that they had welcomed some great, premium corporate clients during the prior year that had also bought team building and bonding packages from local suppliers (What is it that makes the entire executive panel of a company want to jump out of a perfectly good plane with just a piece of cloth packed in a bag in the interests of team bonding?). We sought to capitalise on this knowledge, creating dedicated pages on the website to show off local suppliers for adventure/team building activities and featured these on the hotel website home page.

You want measurability in your marketing? Every day the owner of this hotel logs in to see his website statistics and is now able to equate changes in Unique Visits and online enquiries to future sales trends. Unique Visits to their website grew from 1,000 to over 4,000 per month, conference leads have tripled and “value added” team building sales quadrupled…and premium “weekend escape” packages doubled even after a 30% price increase! Ah, the wonders of yield management and dynamic pricing!

So, does Hotel Search Engine Optimisation really work? Yes…and no. SEO will deliver traffic, leads and sales prospects…but it still requires the hotel to be responsive, attractive and priced to meet (or slightly exceed) the market. If you and your team can respond to online enquiries same day, deliver a memorable experience in reality that matches the consumers experience online and at a price that offers genuine value for money, then Hotel Search Engine Optimisation is for you.

And please understand…this channel is no longer the place to dump cheap, last minute inventory; it is the place to wisely invest your scarce marketing dollars for maximum ROI. In both these Case Studies, the online channel is now their highest yielding source of business.

My next article will be on the “5 Essentials For Effective Online Marketing” which will provide you with some simple but effective tips to start you on your way…plus, apparently this kind of headline really grabs attention…and I always promised myself that, one day, I would write a headline like that! Oh, and keep an eye out for our “Hotel emarketing 101” workshops coming up in May…pre-register now or register online from 1 March 2006.

Keith Paulin is the General Manager of Hotel Marketing Workshop. Like many hotel marketeers in the industry Keith “landed” in hotel sales and marketing after commencing his career in hotel operations. Keith has worked in senior marketing roles both within the industry (Hilton, Regent, Hyatt, Accor) and in other industries (HP, Lion Nathan, Shell) and has formal qualifications in Marketing and Business Management. Hotel Marketing Workshop works with chain and independent hotels delivering tactical, practical hotel marketing strategies at property level that work and, just as importantly, they assist with expert implementation. Keith has a very strong interest in the world of e-commerce, Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing and a clear track record in producing on-line results in hotel internet marketing.

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