With online comparison websites charging around 15 to 20% commission for each booking, small hotels or bed and breakfasts are finding it more and more difficult to see a good return on investment from their sales. On the other hand most of these establishments do not know how to increase their visibility online or generate direct sales from their website. Here is a non exhaustive list of tips to help your business generate more bookings without the help of online comparison websites.
Booking system on your website
This may sound obvious but you need to have a reliable online booking system in place on your website. Accepting payments online is not a necessity although if you decide to have this facility make sure all types of credit and debit cards are accepted. You should also make sure booking is available from your mobile website. There are quite a few free booking solutions available, one of them, Freetobook, is quite easy to integrate to your existing website.
Cost: around £89 per year, including booking from your mobile website
This is probably where you need to start: get your business listed on Google Places. Tips on how to do this properly can be found in our Google Places Guide. Provide as much detail as possible about your hotel or bed and breakfast, attractions nearby, restaurants, how close you are to the action. Also upload good quality pictures of your rooms and establishment and indicate the price per night.
(Good) customer reviews are certainly one of the most important things these days in the accommodation sector to get the maximum number of bookings. You should have a system in place to encourage past customers to leave a review on your website and Google Places page. The best way is probably to send them an email just after their stay in your establishment, asking them to rate their experience and leave a review. If you still cannot see any review from them after a few days, just send them an email reminder with a deadline to give their feedback.
You will not need a big budget for this Adwords campaign as you will only be targeting very localised keywords. If your establishment is located in a big city where competition is fierce, you should target the precise area you are located in. For example if you own a hotel in New York, it will be easier to target long tail keywords such as hotel upper Manhattan or hotel 96st if this is where you are located. Buy those keywords in phrase and exact match to lower the cost of clicks.
If you do not already have one, create a special landing page for your Google ads, complete with pictures of the rooms, reviews, a map locating your establishment and of course a booking form. This will help you optimise conversion rates from your Adwords campaign.
Cost: depending on the volume of traffic needed but it could start from around £50 a month
AdChoices banners on YouTube would also be a good option to increase your sales. If for example you own a bed and breakfast in Barcelona, you could target Barcelona related content (for this particular example, just make sure your banner does not show for Barcelona FC – use terms like ‘Barcelona city’ instead of ‘Barcelona’ ).
The odds that people looking at Barcelona related videos are planning to visit the city are pretty good. Also remember to create these campaigns in as many languages as you can. Barcelona is a very popular destination for people from all around the world. For more information about YouTube advertising please check out our YouTube Advertising Guide.
Cost: around £30 a month should give you a good volume of traffic and sales.
This is in no way a definitive list of online marketing actions for the accommodation sector but a way to start moving away from price comparison websites. With a budget under £200 a month, you could finally start generating bookings directly from your website and keep the money to yourself. For further marketing help, please contact MarketingPerf.