A Fast Way to Boost Direct Bookings - And Why You Won't Do It
By Babs Harrison, Managing director of Phoenix based Babs Harrison and Partners
Soak in these facts, per NetAffinity: "Blogging is more effective than social media and SEO in increasing website traffic. Also, leads attained through inbound marketing methods like blogging cost 60% less than those captured with outbound methods."
You already know that SEO is plummeting in value as a traffic generator as Google turns the screws on its insistence that better rankings go to better content, not to mechanical creators of SEO riddled copy.
And of course hoteliers - especially independents - crave more direct bookings, in order to shatter the hegemony of the big OTAs which often insist on as much as 30% of every booking. It makes good business sense to seek to generate more direct bookings.
Enter good blogs. They work magic because - done right - they generate strong search rankings that in turn generate more traffic that you know is interested in your hotel because they have willingly come there.
That is not exactly a news flash. Daily, many millions of new blogs post - many written by hoteliers. But how many can be counted as good editorial content?
Ask yourself about your existing blog: what percentage of posts are about your property and nothing else?
What percentage are about an offer - that is, you are seeking to sell a package, a class, an activity to guests?
For many hotels, 100% of the posts are about themselves and upwards of half are really sales sheets and nothing more.
That is not what guests and prospects want.
What they want is information, tips, insights, pointers. They want to be entertained and educated.
You are in an ideal position to deliver those goods - and yet many hotel DoSMs decline. They are comfortable posting promotions, nothing more, and they stay in that comfort zone.
Beak out of it to achieve real success.
Here's how to create a winning blog post - imagine you are writing it for Yahoo travel or maybe Conde Nast Traveler.
Think short - I like under 800 words.
Think visually - always include appropriate images. Smartphone pictures work.
Link to short videos to up impact.
What you are doing is creating an editorial package - not a sales sheet.
I am working on a blog right now, for an arts-focused hotel, that will offer guests and prospects information about upcoming shows at important local museums. A few galleries may be thrown in. Could this be a story in a local publication? Yes, but probably no local pub will in fact assemble exactly this set of information, certainly not in the image rich package I envision.
What do I hope to get from this? The holy grail is direct bookings of course. But I also envision website visitors linking to and Tweeting and posting on Facebook the blog's URL. I hope some mentioned museums will do likewise. That is, I am hoping to magnify traffic with big boosts from allies.
Would a big local museum link to a sales sheet? Don't be silly. But they will link to quality editorial content that mentions them in a positive light.
This is part of a campaign to position our blog - and our hotel - as a resource for those interested in the local art scene.
Some experts recommend long blog posts - upwards of 2000 words. I don't. Story lengths in most publications now are typically in the vicinity of 700 to 800 words (about as long as my columns, incidentally) and I like that length. A fast reader can absorb it in a couple minutes, an average reader in four, and that seems right in today's hectic world.
But play around, post some long blogs, and track traffic. If long blogs generate more traffic for you, there's your answer.
If it is all this simple, why do many hotels refuse to post good quality blogs? Mainly because the staff heading the effort does not include genuine content creators. It's that simple. Call it fear of the unknown and a fondness for "ABC" - always be closing - in every document.
That is emphatically not how to generate more traffic, more clicks, more direct bookings.
Leap beyond that. You want direct bookings. Now you know a fast track to getting them. Create good, visually rich blogs with lively content. Do likewise.
Babs Harrison + Partners