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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…

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…

Please Don’t Look At My Website

"Please don't look at my website," said no B&B owner, ever. But if you take a stroll through the garden of delights found by searching on B&B's, you wouldn't think that was the case. Some look like they were built by the neighbor's child back in the 1990's, while others have been updated, but have only made it to the 2005 era. But looking around you will find that there appears to be a correlation between the most successful properties and the professionalism and quality of their websites. Hmmm. Could it be a trend? What makes a website effective? And why is an effective website important (do you really have to ask?)? What should you consider when deciding on hosting and building a new website? To some extent this discussion is prompted by the announcement from BBOnline, discussed in detail in the recent blog post from our friends at Acorn Internet Services, that BBOnline will stop supporting hosted websites May 1. Apparently the sites will remain active, but they can no longer be updated(!). Clearly some people will need to find a new home for their websites! How High Quality Should Your Website Be? Before embarking on a discussion of the considerations when choosing a new host and design for a website, let's briefly consider quality (and yes, that usually means expense). Think about this: how many of your guests tell you they found you online? At least 90%, right? OK, now of those 90+% of your guests, how many say something like, "Nope, I never saw your website."? None, right? Of course - they all saw your website. I know, and all the guests said how great it was, so why should you get a new site design? After all, this one was just re-designed, oh, two or three…

Maximum Return on Limited Marketing Resources

It's the classic conundrum, isn't it? We know we need to market to raise awareness of our brand, or to simply be found by those searching for lodging in your area. But resources are very limited, so you need to get the maximum return on limited marketing resources. Time and Money [caption id="attachment_896" align="alignright" width="300"] Vacancy on the loop by C X 2 on flickr[/caption]But it isn't only about limited financial resources. It is about time, too. You can hear the advice to do dozens of things to be sure you show up well in search engines - keep your content fresh, use the right keywords, update your titles, write weekly blog posts, etc., etc., etc.! Then there is social media. You have a Facebook page and you post frequently and interact with guests (if anyone ever responds!). You have a Twitter account. And an Instagram account. You sometimes post there, too. You have a YouTube channel, but who knows how to post videos? That's not to mention all the usual B&B directories where you've paid to be listed. Ordinary Results Is it enough? What do your Google Analytics (or Intell-A-Keeper, or, or, or...) statistics show? They usually show that your number one source of bookings is Google, then TripAdvisor and/or some of the paid B&B directories. What else? Where is the result of all that effort? Where is your blog? Where is Social Media? Typically they are almost invisible. I saw an innkeeper post (with great excitement!) on a forum in the past few weeks that they had finally received their very first booking from Facebook. This after years of being involved. So, let's see, several years of effort yields a night or two booking. Is that the "maximum return on limited marketing resources" you were looking for? Changing…

Go-Trippin: New Type of Promotion on Google

As innkeepers, we are accustomed to working very hard to get our websites to climb the rungs of the Google search engine results (SERPs). But the Google algorithm is a moving target, and its frequent changes mean we are constantly chasing the algorithm with our SEO techniques. Enter Go-Trippin - a new website, created by Acorn Internet Services, presenting information on local activities furnished by innkeepers. This may sound like a directory of local businesses, but it is much more than that, in its own subtle way, Go-Trippin's opportunity is entirely unique. Go-Trippin does bear some resemblance to a traditional directory, in that contributors also have a listing for their B&B on it. However, that is not the real purpose of Go-Trippin. Also, like any new directory, it is likely to be some time before that generates a significant amount of traffic to your website. The real value in Go-Trippin is its ability to promote the authority of each person who write for Go-Trippin. Every post contains special tags, identifying the author and the geographic area they have written about. As an added bonus, posts may appear on Google's Niantic Labs' Field Trip app. Available only for mobile devices, Field Trip supplies users with recommendations for nearby things to do, places to visit, and local businesses nearby. Go-Trippin capitalizes on this, as who better to tell people what there is to do in their areas, and make recommendations of local businesses than innkeepers? [pullquote]“We are doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space. It could be medical, it could be travel, whatever. And trying to make sure that those rank a little more highly, if you are some sort of authority or a site that according to the algorithms we think…

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