Search site advertising can pay off for hotels
10 JUNE 2015 1:55 PM
Web search advertising can be a good investment for a hotel, but these tools require marketers to pay attention to the details of the programs to reap significant returns on investment.
GLOBAL REPORT—Advertising on search websites and other distribution channels can help hotels capture additional business, but success requires attention to the details of the programs and a defined strategy of when to use this marketing tool, sources said.
“It can be a very effective source of business, and every hotel should be doing it,” said Sam Trotter, e-commerce manager for Boutique Hospitality Management and a Hotel News Now columnist. “It can be especially effective for independent hotels.”
Trotter said programs such as Google Hotel Ads work best when marketers use key words that are as specific as possible to their properties.
“Travel planning is a funnel: People start looking at possibilities and eventually they’re ready to purchase,” he said. “When they do, they’re probably looking at a specific hotel or set of properties. In New York City, for example, there are many locations and hundreds of hotels, so buying a keyword like ‘New York hotels’ probably won’t be successful.”
Instead, he said, marketers should buy keywords that are as specific as possible to their brand, hotel name and submarket.
“When a consumer is ready to book, they’re usually serious about a specific property or a few hotels, and they’re checking for rates, packages and other things,” he said. “That’s when you need your information in front of them.”
Google launched Hotel Ads in 2011, said Megan Danielson, head of travel for Google, as a way for hotel marketers to connect with the “tens of millions of searches for hotels happening every day.” The ads show specific properties with maps, photos, brief property information and rates. Users who want to book are connected to the hotels’ booking channels to complete the reservations.
Several global hotel chains, including Hilton Worldwide Holdings and Premier Inns in the United Kingdom, have reported measurable success by using Google Hotel Ads. According to Dustin Bomar, VP of digital acquisition and brand marketing at Hilton, the company was one of the service’s test sites.
According to Bomar, when compared to paid search initiatives Google Ads has resulted in increases in booking conversions and return on investment for the company. Part of the reason for the success, he said, is control over what the company spends on the program.
“The economics and performance of Hotel Ads are similar to (results) from a lot of metasearch sites, the reason being that we control what we spend on the site and we do it based on performance,” he said.
He said it is important for hotel marketers to be prudent in how they employ Hotel Ads.
“Even though there is a constant source of demand coming through this channel, we try to leverage it and flex it when there is a need at a particular hotel,” he said. “It’s knowing when a gap in business exists and knowing when there is a need at the hotel. If the hotel is full and the entire market of New York (City) is full because of something massive happening in the city then I don’t want to be bidding for business we can’t accommodate anyway.”
Bomar said his team works closely with revenue management professionals at Hilton and at individual properties to keep tabs on what’s happening in particular markets and properties.
Danielson of Google said hoteliers need to pay attention to the details of the program to maximize its effectiveness.
“It’s important to take advantage of all the things the product leverages: photos, amenities, room types,” she said. “(Hoteliers) need to make sure their feeds are updated and in real time, and pricing is accurate and up to date.”
Trotter said metasearch site ads can provide several other niche opportunities for hotel marketers.
“At one of our properties we offer two-bedroom suites, and since not many properties in the area have that amenity, we emphasize that keyword in our advertising,” he said. “It works pretty well for us, so we continue to invest in it.”
He said it’s also possible to use pay-per-click ads as a lead generation tool for hotel sales teams. In those cases, it can pay to invest more into the program to reap higher rewards.
“If you have a Midtown Manhattan hotel with a wedding venue, that’s a good keyword to use,” he said. “How much money would you be willing to spend to get a one-night reservation for $250? You probably would be willing to spend a lot more to acquire a client who will spend $25,000 on a wedding.”