7 Ways To Conquer Summer Hospitality Marketing Online

School’s out, leisure travel’s up. If you work in the hospitality industry, summer is probably your busiest season. But are you getting as many visitors as you could from your online marketing efforts? If your online marketing went into hibernation this winter and failed to get a fresh start this spring, it’s especially important to make some changes now.

Here are 7 actionable tips to help travelers find your site when they’re booking their summer trip.

Update your website content to reflect the season.

As a hospitality business, failing to keep your website updated is kind of like leaving your Christmas lights up year round… only worse. Not only does an infrequently updated website look bad, it’s also likely to rank lower in the search engine results pages (SERPs) than sites that regularly add new, original content—and that means visitors are less likely to discover you organically.

Of course, SEO value isn’t the only good reason to add fresh summer content to your site. Chances are, visitors who land on your site are already contemplating a summer getaway, and having visual and written content that aligns with their wants will help convince them to book. Try adding bright outdoor photos taken on or around your property, and consider writing summer guides letting visitors know what there is to do in your area this time of year.

Make sure your site is optimized for mobile.

According to a recent update from Google, mobile searches have outpaced desktop searches in the US and 9 other countries. On top of that, sites that are mobile-friendly (i.e. are easy to read and navigate no matter what size screen they’re on) rank higher in the SERPs than those that are not optimized for mobile.

Even if they convert on a desktop computer, many of your prospective guests will begin their summer travel research on a phone or tablet, so you need to make sure your site utilizes responsive design and looks good on all screen sizes.

Pay attention to the window between booking and traveling.

Many hotels and vacation rental companies are discovering that the window between when a guest books a room and when they arrive has narrowed considerably in the last several years. To figure out when your PPC ads for summer travel will be most effective, you need to figure out the average window for your business. For example, if the 4th of July week is typically your busiest time of year, and you determine that your guests book 30 days out on average, you should start running PPC ads for this holiday weekend in early June.

So how do you find your business’s booking window? Look at historical data from recent summers, as well as emerging trends in your booking system. You should also pay attention to when competitors are increasing their PPC spend.

Spruce up your local SEO.

Location matters, online and off. When most vacation-goers start planning a trip, they search for some combination of a place name and a venue, such as “Las Vegas hotels” or “best restaurants Atlanta”, so you need to make sure your business is ranking for relevant local searches. Here are a few things you should be doing for local SEO to increase the return on your summer hospitality marketing campaigns:

  • Claim your business listing on as many relevant places as you can, including Google, Bing, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon (for restaurants)
  • Make sure your Google+ business page is completely filled in
  • Make sure your name, address, and phone number are structured as data on your site so that search engines can easily categorize them
  • Research keywords that have a relatively high volume of traffic but low competition from other area businesses (e.g. “Austin hotels” is a very broad search, while “Austin hotels near South Congress” is a more specific search that will likely have less competition)
  • Try to get your business listed in well-ranked niche and local directories

Target staycationers.

Don’t forget about local web users who aren’t traveling far but still want to take a mini-vacation. According to a 2015 Skift survey, 62% of Americans don’t plan to take a big summer vacation this year because they are too busy or can’t afford it, but 33% of Americans say they will still take short trips on the weekend.

Consider crafting PPC ads that are specifically targeted to people within your city or state. Use your site and social media to promote a special discount rate or package deal for locals. Add content to your blog that gives readers tips on how to be a tourist in their own city. There are great hospitality marketing opportunities for businesses even when travelers are sticking closer to home.

Use retargeting ads with compelling incentives.

Taking a summer vacation is a big decision, and most people don’t commit after just one short perusal of a hotel or vacation rental company’s website. Keep in mind that people who visit your site are likely in the research phase, and be ready to remind them about your accommodations as they move closer to the decision-making phase.

You can stay top of mind by retargeting ads to people who have visited your site without converting—just make sure the ads give them a good reason to choose you. For example, for people who looked at your ‘Rooms’ page, you might create an ad offering a one-week only discount on a standard room.

Invite summer visitors back again.

The end of this vacation season doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship with your summer guests. Encourage guests to follow you on social media or subscribe to your email newsletter (try offering an incentive, like a special discount for subscribers), and keep sharing engaging content about your facilities and region that will make them want to come back again next year.

It’s impossible to fit a complete guide to online seasonal hospitality marketing into one blog post. Want to learn more? Share your question or comment below, or contact us to start a conversation.

All You Need to Know About Native Advertising

You’ve seen labels like ‘Promoted’ and ‘Sponsored Content’ floating over certain headlines on sites like Slate, Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. Maybe you’ve checked out some of these native ads—which are structured to look and read like editorial content on the site—and wondered how well this approach works for the brands that use it, or how well it might work for your company.

To help you learn the ins and outs of native advertising (or even to just figure out a working definition for ‘native ad’), we’ve gathered up some of our favorite articles and infographics on the subject. Check out the links below.
 

What Is Native Advertising?

Time to Define Native Advertising

This post was written two years ago (an eon ago in internet years), but Josh Sternberg lays out examples for native advertising, sponsored content, and branded content that still hold up well today.

How Every Business—Including Small Local Players—Can Use Native Advertising

Although primarily aimed at small business owners, this is a good primer on native advertising for anyone.

The Shift to Native Advertising in Marketing (Infographic)

For those visual learners out there, here’s a pretty cool infographic that covers a lot of ground.

Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work (Native Advertising)

This is one of the most-frequently cited examples of native advertising done well. It fits with the format of The New York Times, it contains compelling research on the US prison system, and it clearly states the post is paid for by Netflix but does not overtly promote the video streaming company or its show, Orange Is the New Black.
 

What Does Your Audience Think of Native Advertising?

4 Things People Really Think about Native Advertising

You’ll hear plenty of praise for native advertising in marketing circles, but keep in mind it’s what your target audience thinks that matters. (Fortunately, not all the things people really think about native advertising are bad.)

What Millennials Want from Native Ad Content

It’s worth pointing out that this survey was conducted by a native ad platform company that has a stake in what people think about native advertising, but the trends it points to are still pretty interesting.
 

Best Practices

Success in Native Advertising Hinges on Preserving Best Practices

Let’s review some of these best practices so that we know how to preserve them.

7 Questions Marketers Should Ask About Native Content

There’s well-crafted, transparent native advertising, and then there’s the kind of nebulous, irrelevant native advertising that makes readers lose trust in a brand. Answering these 7 questions can help you steer clear of the latter category.

The Startup Marketer’s Guide to Sponsored Online Content

A basic roadmap for SMBs looking to jump into native advertising.

Despite What You Might Have Heard, Native Advertising Can Scale

A good read if you’ve launched your first native advertising campaign and are wondering what to do next.

Dell Shares Best Practices in Native Advertising

One of the best ways to learn more about a marketing strategy is to look at someone who is using that strategy successfully, and so far, Dell is doing native advertising well. Read an interview with Dell’s managing editor, Stephanie Losee.
 

Distribution Platforms/Channels

4 Tools and 5 Tips for Making the Most of Native Advertising

The 4 Tools section of this post nicely outlines the main distribution channels available for native content promotion.

Which Channels Are Best for Content Promotion? (Infographic)

A useful visual that breaks down owned, earned, and paid media channels.

6 Companies That Are Trying to Solve the Native Ad Scaling Issue

An overview of 6 companies that place native advertising content on publisher sites. The article was written in late 2013, and all 6 startups are still alive and well today (perhaps a testament to the demand for native ad placement).

The Complete Guide to LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

LinkedIn is turning into a powerful content distribution platform in its own right, and B2B owners might want to think about using it for their native advertising. Here writer Jeff Haden walks through the step-by-step process to start using LinkedIn Sponsored Updates.

7 Tips to Help Boost Your Content on LinkedIn

Learn how to get more eyes in front of your LinkedIn content, whether you spring for Sponsored Updates or not.
 

Measurement

Native Advertising is All Over the Map

This WSJ blog post points out the importance of coming up with standardized metrics for native advertising.

How Publishers and Brands Can Measure the Value of Native Advertising

If you’re not sure where to even begin with measuring the success of native advertising, start here. You’ll learn about attention minutes, social sharing, click-through rates, and conversions.

Eye-Tracking Study: Native Ads vs. Banners Ads

Ready to get a little more granular? This eye-tracking study shows how participants visually focused on native ads considerably more than banner ads.

Maximize ROI via Content Distribution Networks

This in-depth Moz post shows you how to use metrics to compare content distribution platforms so that you can stick with the one(s) that give you the best ROI.

The Reach, Engagement, and ROI of Content Marketing vs. Native Advertising

Here’s another very thorough Moz post, this time featuring original research on the ROI of content marketing compared to native advertising. It also includes a link to Fractl’s content ROI calculator to help you determine what’s best for your business.

 

GOING NATIVE WITH SPONSORED CONTENT

Describing Leverage Marketing – and digital marketing as a whole – has proven to be met with mixed responses over time.

 

A few weeks back, for example, my wife and I were at a school function for one of my daughters when we were introduced to a fellow classmate’s mother through a mutual friend. After some small talk (our kids, sports, weather, smelly gymnasium), the mother inquired to my profession.

 “Internet marketing? Is that where you sell ad space on the Internet?” she inquired.

 “No,” I replied. “What we do is…”

 “Are you the guys that put ads on Facebook?”

 “Well,” I started, “We …”

 “Do you know what I don’t like?” she interrupted, looking at my wife. “When I go on Facebook and I see ads there. I don’t go on Facebook to look for ads.”

Priss.

 

It’ll be probably to the chagrin of our mutual acquaintance, but promoted Facebook posts and other forms of native advertising are shaping up to be popular and valuable forms of digital advertising.

Sponsored post on Linkedin

 

This year, it is expected that the spend on native advertising will increase by more than a third compared to last year, according to an article on adage.com, with big names such as General Electric, Ford Motor Co. and Hewlitt Packard expected to be major players in this form of advertising that is expected to surpass $4.3 billion in spend this calendar year. By 2018, that figure is projected to double.

 

For those uninitiated, native advertising is a form of digital advertising whose design matches that of the natural content of the web page. Another way of putting it is sponsored content. Native advertising can be utilized in the form of articles, videos, music and other media to match the type of content the consumer might be browsing at the moment.

            

Social Media sites aren’t the only ones jumping onto the native advertising wagon. Click onto CNN, still a go-to for up-to-the-minute news for many online, or Rollingstone, once the great arbiter of all things musically hip, and it won’t take long to find an ad in between the headlines.

 

Native advertising on CNN

While this is proving to be a hit with many companies and websites, there are some out there, like our mutual acquaintance, that are taking issue with native advertising.

 

Last summer, comedian John Oliver, on his HBO series “Last Week Tonight,” lambasted native advertising in regard to its growing appearance on news sites in a lengthy segment.

 

“Ads are baked into content like chocolate chips into a cookie. Except, it’s actually more like raisins into a cookie—because nobody … wants them there,” was one of his more memorable quotes. “I like to think of news and advertising as the separation of guacamole and Twizzlers. Separately they’re good. But if you mix them together, somehow you make both of them really gross” is another.

 

I, though, like to think all parties – the companies buying the ads, the sites providing the space, and the readers on the web pages – are much smarter than Oliver and other native advertising critics will lead you to believe.

 

Despite their blending in with the sites design, it only takes a small modicum of common sense for readers to distinguish between what is news/content and what is an advertisement. Like the many choices of content/articles that are a click away on a news site’s page, readers can click on the ad if they want more information or simply leave it be. Additionally, content that is paid to be circulated by a company is often just as valuable to the reader as any other content on the page, when it’s done right. Paid content is researched and developed with the intent of informing its audience. Whether or not that audience wants to go on to browse products or make a purchase is entirely up to them.

 

Describing Internet marketing in a sentence or two may be confounding to some, but dealing with native ads is quite simple, if you ask me.

How to Stand Out from the Content Marketing Crowd in 2015

Here’s a frightening statistic: more than 2.73 million new blog posts are published every day. On a positive note, this shows that the overwhelming majority of businesses now recognize the power of content marketing to increase brand awareness and generate leads. Unfortunately, this also means that there’s a glut of not-so-great content, and making your voice heard over the clangor can be challenging. So how do you make an impact when it seems like everybody’s using the same basic content strategies? Try these five tips to stand out from the crowd this year. Read more

Why Inbound Marketing Conquers All

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-salesman-vintage-image29689455Are you a fan of the door-to-door salesman? What do you do if some stranger comes knocking while you’re in the middle of a meal or your favorite TV show …Ignore them? Most people do. What about annoying telemarketers that intrude on your dinner conversation? That’s what traditional outbound marketing is all about. Outbound marketing, also aptly named interruption marketing, attempts to approach people with no demonstrated interest in a product or service and reel them in. This type of marketing abruptly bursts into people’s lives uninvited and includes radio commercials, TV commercials, direct mail, telemarketing, door-to-door, spam or e-mail blasts, and even networking. It is also often ignored, just like the salesman.

 

Times Have Changed

Best-selling New York Times business author Daniel Pink who recently wrote To Sell is Human points out that this predatory approach to selling is quickly becoming outdated. He believes that sales has changed more in the past 10 years than it did in the last century, and most of this is due to the internet. Many adept marketers and business professionals have taken note of the same, and realize that the predatory approach is slowly being phased out of our culture. Most of us these days have a radar for aggressive sales tactics and don’t appreciate being hunted down like dogs. So, what is taking the place of these outdated, bothersome sales tactics? That would be inbound marketing, or inbound demand generation.

Rather than wasting time with trying to convince uninterested parties to take a second glance at your product or service, inbound marketing draws people who are already somewhat interested in your business, and they have the choice as to whether they want to listen to what you have to say or not. Creating inbound demand generation involves blogging, social media, SEO, and targeted emails. Does this really work? Companies that practice inbound marketing and marketing research institutes emphatically say that yes, it works even better than the old approach, and it’s less expensive to top it off.

Average cost per lead and cost per customer are lower with inbound marketing than with outbound –about 61% less according to the Search Engine Journal. Inbound marketing also generates more qualified leads through blogging and SEO:

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound 1

What Do Professional Marketers Think?

The majority of CEOs and marketing executives are devoting more of their marketing budgets each year to inbound marketing.  2013 budgets for inbound were around 50% higher than that of the previous year.  Almost every marketer realizes that SEO is a valuable aspect of inbound, with about 54% of clicks going to the first search result of search queries.  Apart from SEO, 60% of marketers dedicate at least 6 hours per week to social media. Interaction on social media platforms produces 2X more leads on average than trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, and even PPC. Companies report that social takes more time than blogging and email marketing, but most of them are putting aside the resources to do it for obvious reasons. Marketers also enjoy the fact that inbound marketing efforts are far easier to measure than traditional outbound efforts.

Why SEO is important

Customers Prefer Inbound Marketing over Traditional Advertising

On the side of the customer, 82% say that they enjoy reading relevant content from a brand. Over 70% would rather learn about a company or product by reading an article rather than seeing an ad. Wouldn’t you? Through inbound marketing, potential clients and current clients are able to learn about a company on their own time instead of having it shoved in their face, and they can explore products that revolve around their interests.

Switching over to a mostly inbound marketing system can be difficult and time consuming, but it’s definitely worth the effort. If you don’t rank on the first page of search results, or you’re not blogging or bothering with other inbound tactics, you’re missing out on a lot of traffic, leads, and revenue. Most companies can’t do it all on their own and get outside help from professionals. Drop us a line or give us a call to learn more about getting leads to come to you, not the other way around.

leads closed by source

*Data from the chart above compiled from Hubspot, The Houston Chronicle, & Smart Insights.

*Data throughout compiled by Hubspot unless otherwise indicated.

Good Content Hasn’t Changed: How to Take Advantage as a Company

On a recent trip to Mexico, I pulled out the in-flight magazine and began to flip through the pages as I prepared for a couple of hours of boredom in the usual tiny, cramped space that airlines pass off as a seat these days. The content immediately got my attention, and I was soon immersed in the descriptive prose that revealed interesting tidbits about both obscure and commonplace travel destinations alike. The photography was vibrant and seducing. I wanted to experience these places immediately. Then it hit me: This is good content, and this is what good content has always been. This magazine was obviously compiled by businesses for advertising, but it was informative, powerful, and well-researched, just as any good journalistic periodical might be. It was really advertising at its best. Read more

Digital Marketing or Marketing in a Digital World?

The shift is coming and most of us already know it. The Don Draper dinosaur is extinct. Not only has most of advertising become digital, but the majority of marketing departments will also be digitally-focused. Let’s reflect on all the old mediums of advertising: radio, TV, and snail mail. All of these things are now functioning digitally through podcasts, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and of course e-mail. The future of TV and radio is through the internet, and so it is with all forms of communication, including the telephone. As the future of internet TV progresses, digital advertising will surely become more involved, and cable TV will slowly fade into the background. So as you can see, digital marketing IS marketing, the marketing of the future. Sure, you’ll still have the occasional hard copy of a newspaper, magazine, or brochure, but for the most part, marketing strategy will be internet-based and integrated. Any other marketing efforts will be secondary. Read more

Destination Marketing: Content that Captures the Imagination

These days the vacation decision-making process begins with a search query. A study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT showed that 65% of leisure travelers start their vacation search online with no idea of their next destination. So is the travel marketing industry really taking advantage of this? According to many experts in the field, they are not. Read more

4 Online Marketing Strategies that are Vital to Your Success

In the eternally evolving world of the internet and online marketing, there are always innovative new ways of attracting and keeping your customers. We give you Leverage in 2014 with four core online marketing strategies that must be implemented for continued success in generating leads and revenue online this year and beyond. Read more

Hub and Spoke Marketing: May the Force Be with You

Death star marketingHub and spoke marketing is quite simple in theory, but not so much in practice. Many marketers think of the company website as a hub, and the spokes are the possible channels through which leads may be attracted to your website such as social media, press releases, search engines, directories and advertising. The idea is to have as many different channels as possible leading to your site. Hub and spoke is an accurate depiction of this theory, but allow us to present a better one…

Presenting the Death Star Analogy
Rather than the hub and spoke theory, I prefer to think of the company website as the Death Star and all the other online channels make up the tractor beam that pulls the ships in. Not to say that your website is deadly, but it should be an effective conversion machine with attractive landing ports (pages) and enticing content. Here we’ll show you how to start catching those ships in your tractor beam.

Building Your Tractor Beam
You want your tractor beam to be as powerful as possible to attract the right leads and search engines. In order to make sure your pull is stronger than that of any other competing death stars, strategy-based content needs to be provided on multiple fronts.

  • Verbal Social Media & Blogs

Your blog should be SEO optimized and designed to pull traffic in through informative and engaging content about your industry. Many companies utilize sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to post brief content that can draw people into the website. Posting snippets from your blog, company or industry news, and information about events can motivate people to go to your site and check it out or share your information with hundreds of others, thereby increasing the reach of your tractor beam. Keep your keywords in mind when posting on social media as well.

  • Visual Social Media

Most marketers are aware that images and photographs can significantly boost conversion rate. Unlike verbal communication, visuals attract attention quickly and can draw people into your site with a one-second glance. Pull people into your tractor beam by sharing attractive and informative images on sites like Pinterest, Flickr or YouTube. By informative I mean that a consumer should be able to see what your product or service entails in your images. When it comes to a photo of your product or service, a picture really is worth 1,000 words.

  • Press & Directories

Getting an article about your company in the press, whether it’s traditional paper press or digital media, is a great way to get more traffic coming in. Start by finding a local industry blog or small publication that provides news from your industry and provide an informational piece. Or, find an industry site where you may be able to guest blog. There are also several online directories and consumer review sites where your company can be listed to pull in more traffic. Start with Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo Local, small business directories, and industry-specific directories.

  • Advertising

Good old advertising. PPC campaigns and Google Adwords may not be free like organic search. (Well, hopefully you do pay your content writers.) But, these ads are guaranteed to get people to your website and directly to one of your landing pages. Ads should never lead to your homepage. People who click on your ads already have a product or service in mind and should be directed to an informative landing page where they may be easily converted to a customer without much fuss. Make sure your landing page headline matches your ad campaign, or you may not end up with the droids you’re looking for.

Hub and Spoke, or the new and improved Death Star Theory, is a simple concept but it does require time and strategy. If you need help building your tractor beam, or you aren’t finding the droids you’re looking for, give us a call. We’ve got tractor beam engineers at the ready.