PORTLAND, Oregon—Last week, Kent Schnepp shared 10 strategies for online success via search engine marketing during a webinar aimed at helping boutique and independent hotels improve their online marketing.
Schnepp is chief strategy officer for the search engine marketing firm EngineWorks Incorporated, which is based in Portland, Oregon.
Additionally, the West Hills, California-based Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association, which sponsored the webinar, is developing a booking engine so consumers can book boutique hotels in one place.
Schnepp’s strategies are:
1. Assess your company’s current SEM strategy and opportunity.
“Search engine marketing isn’t a silver bullet that will work for everyone’s marketing campaign,” he said. “When you consider what your online marketing strategy looks like, don’t necessarily rely on what other people in your industry are doing. Every SEM campaign should be customized.”
Therefore, hoteliers need to assess the current traffic to their Web sites from search engines and how much of that traffic converts to customers. Figure out what each conversion is worth by multiplying the hotel’s average daily rate by the average length of stay. Then determine the average cost per conversion or target cost per conversion.
2. Generate seed keywords and phrases central to your company’s business and offerings.
To generate seed keywords, look at your site and the keywords you’re already using in your Internet copy, such as “Belize resorts.” Then, note the keywords and phrases in a spreadsheet and look at the number of searches being conducted on those keywords during a period of time. Give the keyword an objective score to determine how important it is to your site.
Also, determine the competitiveness of those keywords. For example, when one searches for “Belize hotels,” there are more than 9 million results, whereas a search for “Belize vacations” produces about 877,000 results. “Belize vacations” in general is going to be a less competitive search term than “Belize hotels.”
3. Expand your keyword list.
Google provides keyword list tools, such as “Wonder Wheel,” which is a visual representation the number of searches on specific keywords and phrases. And several other services, such as Word Tracker and Dogpile, can help with this. KeywordDiscovery.com is a tool that is useful for going after international business, such as the European market.
4. Select your final keyword list.
To determine which keywords are most important to keep, figure out what the conversion rate likely will be on those keywords. Productive keywords have a high rate of search-engine traffic.
“For example, I would leverage ‘Belize luxury resorts’ over ‘Belize resorts,’” Schnepp said. “There’s more traffic that will convert at a higher rate.”
5. Analyze your competition and develop a strategy.
Use services such as SpyFu, KeywordSpy and Google, which list competitors’ paid and organic search rankings.
Then determine which online marketing channels are going to be most effective for the hotel company’s marketing campaign, including search engine optimization, paid search marketing and display ads, and social media marketing. SEO, which is labor intensive but typically less expensive than paid search marketing, can help companies obtain higher organic search engine rankings. Paid search marketing and Internet display ads should be run simultaneously to achieve immediate results.
6. Become a great writer.
“Whether it’s SEO, paid search or social media marketing, you have to write effective ad copy,” Schnepp said. “You can’t just go in and manipulate your Web site; it’s providing content that’s useful to someone.”
7. Track everything.
Track your Web site’s organic rankings, page views, traffic from search engines and time spent on the site. Also, track the bounce rate, which is when customers search for a keyword, visited the company’s Web site, then leave it. Track how you were able to get eyeballs on the new promotion, including impressions from display ads or paid search campaigns.
8. Test and optimize your campaigns’ performances.
When you’re looking at your traffic and success metrics, any good search campaign will run multivariant tests on the ad copy and landing pages. Once the data is segmented and companies determine which ads are performing at a better rate, they can fine-tune their marketing campaigns.
“You can make your marketing dollars stretch as much as possible,” Schnepp said.
9. Continually education yourself about search engine marketing techniques.
There are several useful Web sites to learn about search engine marketing, including new technologies and methods in the field. Engineworks.com publishes a daily blog about the industry, and SearchEngineLand.com is a good resource, too.
10. Repeat steps one through 10.
Hoteliers must continually assess, track and test their search keywords to achieve higher rankings and conversions for their marketing campaigns.