A Brief Guide to Managing Your Hotel’s Digital Assets
By Vikram Singh, Global Hospitality & Travel Strategist
Your domain name is the most crucial item in your digital asset portfolio: it's your identity. You must make sure you that you ALWAYS own your domain. No exceptions. You can check whether or not you own your domain on several registrar websites like this one or this one.
In the event that you are not currently the owner of your website domain, you need to issue a DEFCON 1 level emergency and make the transfer of your domain a high priority.
Worst Case Scenarios
These happen when a domain is registered: in an employee's or vendor's name; to an email address nobody is monitoring; or to a member of the previous ownership, when the new owners of a hotel fail to add domain transfer to their acquisition agreement. All of the following scenarios have happened to our clients:
- One fine morning, the website of a major hotel in NYC went offline because nobody was monitoring the renewal alerts. Luckily, after days of frantic work, the domain was salvaged before going to the open market for auction.
- A hotel in Chicago had its domain registered to an employee who one day decided to live off the grid. Again, a ton of effort was required to reclaim ownership.
- In other cases, a web marketing agency registers the hotel's domain. This is particularly true in cases where owners are clueless about internet and let the agency buy the domain for them. Beware: there are vendors out there who keep their ex-clients' domains and use those sites for shady link-building purposes; or charge the ex-client a lot of money to re-acquire the domain and keep their website running.
- Use an official/generic email address that you monitor and maintain.
- Please renew for more than 1-2 years. It costs less than the cost of a meal at a fine dining establishment. Never let the cheapest asset you own cost you the most amount of agony.
Website & Content Management System (CMS)
If you have been reading my articles for a while, you know this is something I am very passionate about. The majority of the world's hotels are not knowledgable (or choose to be in the dark) about owning their website, their single most important source of direct revenue. Ownership of your website simply cannot be ignored if you are serious about making direct revenue and building your online presence.
Worst Case Scenarios
Your investment in online marketing is about generating direct revenue from your website and building your brand. After years of paying a hotel marketing agency and investing your own time, you may be forced to start from scratch when you switch vendors. Will this will happen to you? Yes, you will lose everything if your website is built on a rented structure that you do not own and cannot take with you.
[What is a rented structure? A "proprietary CMS" that is exclusive to your design or marketing agency. And before you get caught up in the sales pitch, remember: it wasn't created to be the best CMS; it was created to keep clients from leaving. To put it another way, anyone using a custom CMS is just like Sisyphus, cursed to start from scratch time and time again, no matter how much money and effort you have put in.]
- Please read this article every time someone tries to scare you out of using an open source CMS like WordPress.
- Remember, any design and any kind of website can be powered by WordPress, so you are free to pick any designer and any marketing agency you like.
- Make sure you don't rent the engine of your most powerful revenue machine!
Your website analytics data is another crucial asset that you cannot leave in the hands of a hotel marketing agency. I have been an evangelist for using Google Analytics for as long as I have been in this business. Do not let agencies push you into using expensive analytics programs like Adobe Site Catalyst (Omniture). Please know that it's for their benefit not yours, and you will never be able to afford to keep it once you switch vendors unless you are a super rich hotel. Even then, why drive a Ferrari to the grocery store?
Worst Case Scenario
With one click, you can lose years of data on how your website has performed. Loss of revenue, conversion and site performance history will result in starting from scratch and a brief period of flying blind. Historical and seasonal data loss is scary when you are setting up your KPI's (key performance indicators) and benchmarking website performance. Cowboy marketers who do not care about any historical data might disagree with me. But in reality, you simply cannot abandon your historical data every time you switch vendors.
- Google Analytics has replaced older "Administrator" and "User" roles with four cool new options: Manage, Edit, Collaborate, and Read/Analyze.
- Always ensure that you own the Google Account that is associated with Analytics.
- Never use an employee/vendor email to register your Google Accounts.
Social Media Platforms
Every hotel today is registered on a number of social media platforms. Depending on the hotel, a lot of time and effort may have been spent on maintaining these accounts. Not only are all of your connections, friends, and customers there, but also your analytics and conversation history.
All of your social media platforms are associated with an email account. Make sure that you maintain a list of the emails/usernames that were used to register these accounts. If you lose access to your account, portability of your history and followers to a new account is hard. Also, you cannot really make the social media network do anything to help you. Why? Elementary: you clicked Agree on their 131-page user agreement when you opened the account.
Worst Case Scenarios
It takes years to build a reputation and a second to ruin it. This is particularly true when disgruntled employees/vendors who are registered users on your hotel's social media accounts decide to "teach you a lesson." Negative and offensive content posted under your handle can cause you a lot of online and offline heartache. Don't waste time apologizing when you could be doing something productive with your time instead.
- Use an official/generic email address that you monitor and maintain. Instead of firstname.lastname@example.org use email@example.com.
- Please use better passwords than "password" or "123456," and change them periodically.
The age of renting digital assets has already cost the hotel and lodging sector a lot of revenue. Restarting from scratch is simply not an option when it comes to your digital presence. Your hotel's digital assets deserve the same respect as the deed to the property. Those who don't respect their digital assets will continue to pay the heavy price of losing revenue and momentum every time they bounce from one low-cost vendor to another.