Annual Review of Marketing and Performance

There are two things that I have noticed, time and time again, that innkeepers neglect, and both need to be reviewed at least annually, and the end/beginning of the year is the perfect time to look at them. The first is to evaluate the past year with respect to marketing efforts (using Google Analytics - or other software if you prefer), monthly performance compared to prior years, and performance of specific rooms. I have written blog posts on these over the years, so, rather than re-post them, they can be found at http://www.abouttheinn.com/2015/01/last-year/. The second is the plan (yes PLAN!) your promotional activities. Many innkeepers seem to simply respond to calls for marketing by local groups, or do what their competitors do. Neither of these has your success as their goal! Local marketing groups want to bring traffic to the town (and they should!), but they typically do this by getting YOU to pay for it, either by subscription, or by discounting. Neither helps you make a profit! Copying the competition does nothing to set you apart! Granted, all properties will promote some of the same things (fall foliage, holidays, etc.), but that doesn't mean your offering has to be the same as the others! Plan ahead, so your packages and promotions are ready in advance, and don't be swayed by requests to participate in things that do not benefit you! Here is a very timely, and much needed post by Heather Rasmussen-Turner about scheduling and planning (!) your promotional activities - with a calendar to help you with scheduling (customize it for your purposes).

AMP Up – Speedier mobile pages (and maybe do better in search)

If you have been tuned in to the search (Google) world, you'll know that, for the past several months there has been a lot of talk about AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for your web site. If you're like me, you will have realized that AMP was something you'll need to do, but, like most technology, it may need to "settle" a bit before you want to implement it. However, it is important to not let it get away (especially if your busy season is - or is about to be - ramping up for good weather), as it promises not only a faster (hence better, to Google) mobile user experience, but also there are indications that Google will give AMP sites priority in mobile search results. That would do it for me! The next section is a brief explanation of AMP. If you just want to know what to do about it, the TL;DR steps are in the section below it. What is AMP all about? For once, the basic concept is extremely simple. If your website is properly tagged (AMP has special html tags), the mobile version of your site is stored on an AMP server, which will serve it directly, at high speed, to the visitor. That takes traffic off your web server, but also provides an extremely fast loading of the site for the user. Note that, at present, AMP pages appear when the visitor clicks on your links in search results from a mobile device. Then, POW! the page appears instantly. Add to that the possibility (or probability) that this will benefit your placement in mobile search results, and the only question is whether it is difficult to set up. Fortunately, the answer is "no". In fact, if you have a WordPress site, it is extremely…

How to choose a booking engine for today

When this blog started out, quite a few years ago, it was intended to focus primarily on marketing and evaluating reservation or booking software. With changes in the industry, and in my situation, that emphasis has shifted, but, from a high-level view, it has all been related. However, it has been some time since I've written specifically about booking engines, but for some historical perspective, you can find some useful information here and here. There are several reasons why reservation software (booking software) has not been the focus of posts here. Among them, is sheer volume of the offerings. There were over 40 different offerings emphasizing B&B bookings when this blog began. Today some of those have gone out of business, but many are still there, in one form or another, and there are literally dozens of new additions to the field. Another reason is that my consulting work has lately been occupied with specific booking systems, so I have been reluctant to write about systems I'm evaluating for clients. Yet another is that several of the existing systems have promised to provide me with demo access so I can do a full review, but have failed to come through with the goods. Hmmm. What does that say about their ability to follow-through for customers, I wonder? Meanwhile, many (perhaps most) of the posts have explored ways to evaluate your marketing using Google Analytics - an area of much greater concern to many I speak with. Getting Started Whether you are considering a change of booking engines (and for our purposes I'll be using the terms "booking engine", "booking software", and "reservation system" or "reservation software" all to refer to the same thing - an external system for capturing guest bookings that can be - or appear to be -…

Ignore the Gorilla at Your Own Risk

[caption id="attachment_968" align="alignright" width="200"] Image courtesy Justin on Flickr[/caption] Among small lodging properties it has been common to refer to TripAdvisor ("TA") as "the 600 pound gorilla." While this term recognizes the enormous influence of the review site with prospective guests, it is not usually intended as a compliment. Instead it is meant critically, implying some measure of unfair treatment by TripAdvisor (B&B's have historically been difficult to find on the site) and sometimes by reviewers (differences of opinion, sometimes remarkably so, can be readily seen by scanning the reviews of many properties). As a result of the distaste innkeepers have for the negative side of this, many refuse to pay for TA's Business Listings, or participate in its booking program, TripConnect. But is distaste for the site a good business reason not to work with TripAdvisor? Certainly without data to back it up, any answer is inadequate. While a few years ago we were very critical of TripAdvisor's own business practices toward its paying customers (lodging properties), TA has made many changes since then. It has a dedicated fraud unit to enforce anti-fraud policies, and has significantly increased its support capabilities for paid properties. While undoubtedly far from perfect, the improvements are significant. Examining the Business Case [caption id="attachment_970" align="alignright" width="300"] WIHP's 2014 Booking Sources Results[/caption]The chart at right is WIHP's 2014 study of booking sources (these are direct bookings to the propetry website, so where bookings mention OTA's -- online travel agencies, such as Expedia, Booking.com, etc. - this is only an indication that the guest found the property on the OTA, not that they booked through them). For 2013 this study showed TripAdvisor (in green) to be the number one source of bookings. For all other years it has been in second place, behind only family and…

Finally! A Facebook Booking Button for Everyone

One of the most popular posts on About the Inn over the years has been a post on how to add a booking form to your Facebook page. However, this has frustrated many, as it requires a bit of cut-and-paste code, and only works for some booking engines. Finally, Facebook has made a move in the right direction, adding a booking button for everyone! Our friends over at Acorn Internet Services have a blog post with step-by-step instructions and screenshots. Head on over there and get yourself a direct link from Facebook to your booking engine.

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