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Neil L. Salerno, CHME, CHA

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Limited Service Hotels…Get in the Internet Game!

Who can do it & how can you pay for it?

By: Neil Salerno – Hotel Marketing Coach – October 2008

Limited service hotels have become indispensable to the hospitality industry, but they share a common dilemma when it comes to staying competitive on the Internet. They often have limited marketing funds and limited human resources to implement online marketing programs. The universal challenge is that, when they look to assign a new marketing responsibility, they usually have to look in the mirror and choose the first person they see.

Many people don’t understand the difficulties involved in operating a hotel with a limited staff and limited marketing funds. Often operators have the best of intentions, but lack the time and money to do those things that they believe will improve revenue; just dealing with the minutiae of daily operating challenges in a smaller hotel can be overwhelming at times.

It Takes Priorities

There will probably never be enough time, money, or human resources available for smaller properties to do everything they want to accomplish. For these hotels, prioritizing marketing initiatives is vital. The first priority should be to have a search and sales optimized website and to develop a simplified and affordable online marketing budget.

The relative newness of the Internet, coupled with its rapid changes, has made it very difficult for most hoteliers to manage Internet sales on their own. Outsourcing site design, management, and marketing is usually the only effective means. Sadly, many of the hoteliers, who have made investments in the Internet, have been disappointed by poor sales results due to poor site design and ineffective marketing,

There are still too many hoteliers who have not yet experienced the marketing and sales power of the Internet. Limited service hotels, independent or branded, often rely on just having a website; many of which are poorly designed and ineffective. Before you succumb to search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising, link strategies, and other marketing tactics, make sure your site is properly prepared. All the marketing tactics in the world will not help a site which is poorly designed.

Start with having someone review your website from an objective standpoint. Have someone, who doesn’t know your hotel, look through your site as a consumer would. Usually, for a small fee, many website design companies will review your site, point out errors and improvements, and show you how to make your site more effective. A totally new site isn’t always necessary.

The Top 10 Signs That Your Site Needs a Make-Over

10. Less than 3% of your site visitors are making online reservations.

 9. Your site is all about your hotel…and nothing about its location or local room generators.

 8. Your site has more photography than it has text. Content (text) is King.

 7. Your site has poorly chosen title, description, and Meta tags…or none at all.

 6. Your site has poorly written text which doesn’t include keywords.

 5. Your site’s designer is not experienced in hotel marketing.

 4. Your site’s text is not written in a sales priority-order.

 3. Your site is more than 3 years old.

 2. Your site has a Google PageRank of 3/10 or less.

 1. You consider your hotel’s presence on your franchise site is all you need.

The Next Step

Now that your site has been restructured and is fully optimized, it’s time to consider the best marketing tactics your hotel can afford. For new websites or newly optimized sites, Pay-per-click advertising usually provides the biggest bang for the buck. For smaller monthly budgets, I always suggest a concentration on Google AdWords. Google outperforms all other search engines. For bigger budgets, it pays to use Yahoo and MSN as well.

If you are confident, knowledgeable, and have the time, you might want to consider setting-up a Google AdWords account, research keywords, develop an ad, and manage a campaign for your hotel. If not, you might find it worthwhile to hire an online marketing company to do the work for you; most of these companies have reasonable rates and will provide you with reports of your campaign’s successes.

Search engine optimization and a link strategy are great ways to drive relevant traffic to your website. Although there are many companies which claim to be SEO experts, you must beware of those which make outlandish claims. Stay away from companies which utilize “Link Farms” which produce irrelevant traffic. The question of relevancy is one of the most important qualifiers for Google and you can be punished for breaking their rules; even if someone else commits the offense on your behalf.

Develop a monthly budget for your online marketing expense and check around to see who can create the best site marketing program for those dollars. Choose a company that will take ownership of your online sales results; not just report the number of visitors to your site.

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