Tag: analytics

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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…

How Did You Do Last Year?

It's that time again. A new year, and with it lots of good intentions resolutions to improve business for the new year. This is the time to go back over some statistics from last year to try to genuinely understand how you did last year, especially compared with the prior year, and to see what worked, and should be kept, and what didn't. I've written previously about year-end reviews, so, instead of re-inventing the wheel, I've revised and updated the three posts for 2014/2015, along with the spreadsheet for checking on room performance, which you can download from the posts. As mentioned in the posts, if you don't have a way of tracking this kind of information, start tracking it now. Use the spreadsheet, and update it once a month. It will take you half an hour a month, and at the end of the year, you'll have valuable information to use when looking back at 2015. These posts describe the most important aspect - using Google Analytics' Ecommerce tracking to validate how paid referral sources are performing. As mentioned there, you should consider other factors in addition to Ecommerce results when decided to keep or drop a paid source. However, Ecommerce tracking is so valuable that one more thing needs to be said: If your booking engine doesn't properly support Ecommerce tracking, get another booking engine! Five years ago it may have made sense to say, "My booking engine doesn't have ecommerce tracking, but it will soon. I'll wait." Five years has passed and they still don't support it. Get one that does! The Year End Review posts are: Year End Review: Making a List (Creating a spreadsheet to track room performance) Year End Review: Who's Naughty or Nice? (Looking at month-by-month performance) Year End Review: Cutting Through the…

Google Analytics: Tracking the Money

At the recent Hospitality Marketing Summit Conference in Denver, I gave three presentations on Google Analytics. This is the third of those three, Google Analytics: Tracking the Money. The earlier Google Analytics presentations were Google Analytics: Follow the Money and Beginning Google Analytics. Google Analytics tracking using Ecommerce tracking can be a very effective way to evaluate paid listings. However, it is necessary to use a booking engine that supports Ecommerce tracking, and then set up Ecommerce tracking properly. You can achieve similar, though less precise, results using Goal tracking if your booking engine doesn't support Ecommerce. But why? Ecommerce has been around far too long, and it is far too important, for booking engines not to support it. You should be using a booking engine that supports it. Slide descriptions are below the embedded slideshow. Slide 1: Overview: We'll discuss what we want to know, and how we track it. Where to find this information, and how we can simplify getting the information we need. Slide 2: We may want to know who sends visitors to our site, but visitors are not bookers. We want to know who sends the visitors who book. And we want to be able to compare paid sources to see how they perform. Slide 3: Sources sending visitors to our website are tracked in the Acquisition menu section in the Google Analytics tracking world. Clicking on Acquisition -> All Traffic, or to get a report without search engine traffic, Acquisition -> All Referrals, will show a list of who sends visitors. In order to filter out and view only the paid listings, we can create a custom Segment (a grouping of referral sources we choose) so that we can compare them directly. If we want to know how much revenue we have received from…

Google Analytics – Follow the Money

At last week's Hospitality Marketing Summit Conference in Denver, Colorado, I presented several sessions on Google Analytics for Innkeepers. The first of those sessions, entitled Follow the Money, gave an overview of how Google Analytics can help innkeepers evaluate their paid marketing to see if they are getting good value for the investment, that is, to see if they get an adequate return on investment. The slideshow is below. Beneath it is a description based on my HMS Conference session. I hope you enjoy it! Slide 1: Title Slide 2: Overview - the presentation will cover (1) reasons people give for not using analytics; (2) a case study; and (3) some words of caution. Slide 3: Here are several (bad) reasons people give for not using Google Analytics. The link is to a prior post on this blog, with even more reasons. Slide 4: What do you, the Innkeeper, really want to know about visitors to your website? The answer is generally the same: What sites send visitors (and how many), what sites send bookings, and how does one paid source compare with other paid sources. Slide 5: Bear in mind, that while sites that send lots of traffic are nice, visits are not bookings. You can't spend visits. By themselves, they don't produce income. There are a lot of reasons people visit your site but do not book. Slide 6: If you can learn which sites send visitors who book, then you can find the return on investment (ROI) for a paid listing, and compare the actual value of your paid listings. Slide 7: How do we evaluate this? Many innkeepers go by "feel" - they "feel" that a site isn't providing bookings. Others ask the guests, and we know that isn't reliable information! Slide 8: The better way…

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