According to eRevMax, almost 50% of all hotel bookings in Europe were made online last year with Booking.com controlling 60% of that market. Now if you’re impressed by that, then you’ll love this next stat. Only one-third of a hotel’s bookings are from walk-ins, phone calls, and emails as worldwide internet travel booking revenue has grown by over 73% in the past five years.
Now just let that sink in.
This means that any hotel, no matter how big or small, is reliant on its online presence, through travel booking sites or its website, for half of its business. That’s a massive chunk of the pie and while leaving things to the pros at the big sites like Booking.com or Expedia will undoubtedly pull in a fair share of business, there’s one more way small hotels, in particular, can attract new guests.
The Missing Link
In the last year or so I’ve researched thousands of hotels for a very well-known hotel metasearch and the most glaring omission I’ve found on the majority of hotelier’s websites is a regularly updated blog. This is something that baffles me, particularly where independent hotels are concerned. Here you have a business that pulls in half of its customers online yet there’s no attempt to engage potential guests with something as simple as a few blog posts that can be found via search engine results or shared through social media channels.
I think that this is most likely due to the natural tendency to follow in the footsteps of those that have succeeded before you. And while in many markets this is good common sense, in the world of hotel accommodation where brand rules all, it’s a little different.
Big Hotels vs. Small Hotels
Take for example The Ritz in London or The St. Regis in New York. These are two of the most iconic names in luxury accommodation, and neither of them has to make much effort to attract new guests. Yes, they have very fancy websites and a few special packages here and there, but there’s simply no need for a blog. The brand is so recognizable that by simply being open they have a license to print money. A dream job for hotel marketers.
Then you have the newly opened and independently owned boutique hotel or the budget inn that is relying heavily on word of mouth to get heads on beds. Both of these businesses are up against it from the start and the temptation, for the boutique hotel at least, would be to follow the lead of our iconic hotels. In terms of décor and service, this might be a great idea, but from a content perspective not so much. These hotels need to generate leads and regular blogging is key to their success.
How Can Blogging Help?
So how can a regularly updated blog help these smaller and lesser known hotels attract more guests? Well, let’s take a look at some more stats.
A worldwide survey of hotel guests carried out in October 2015 asked how important a number of factors were when booking online, and these two results are of particular interest to us.
- local attractions 83%
- local events 82%
Stats from Statista
As you can see people booking hotels online want to know what’s going on in the area. And while many hotel websites make do with a ‘local attractions’ page on their site, there’s plenty of scope here for blog posts with some interesting information on both local tourist attractions and events.
But just to be sure I checked out Google’s Keyword Planner to take a look at the search volume for a pretty standard phrase and as you can see, the stats don’t lie.
Admittedly it’s for London, but nevertheless, 165,000 average monthly searches tells us there are a lot of people that are looking for this type of information regarding their holiday destination.
Tips for Blogging
The key to a successful blog is to provide content that is of value and from the stats above we have a fairly good idea of what prospective guests will consider worthy of their time. So while the hotel cat’s antics might endear your business to some, it’s best to keep this type of quirky post to a minimum.
Do some keyword research on search terms for your area and make a list of possible titles that incorporate these terms. Standard posts on things to do in the region and local attractions should be the bread and butter of your blog as this is how your hotel is going to get noticed in search engines results.
In an ideal world, these well-written search engine optimized posts will rank highly in Google and bring new guests to your site. And once they’ve noticed that nicely placed link to your booking page in the blog sidebar, you’ve got yourself a new guest.
However, ranking for search terms isn’t as easy as it sounds and you may need to get a little creative with your titles and posts. Look for search terms that are low in competition and that you can easily write 500 words on. Bear in mind too that in the travel niche posts that are lists or that use the words ‘best’ and ‘top’ are the real attention grabbers.
Plan of Action
- Research keywords and search terms relative to the hotel’s area
- Make sure that some of these terms are low in competition
- Write some list posts (5 secret bars in Manhattan)
- Create titles that use buzzwords such as ‘top’ and ‘best’
Now there are of course many small hotels and B&Bs that make use of blogging to both attract new guests and to keep their regular visitors informed of any news, and to the owners of those businesses I take my hat off.
But these hoteliers are the exception rather than the rule, and until small hotels jump on the blogging bandwagon, they will continue to come a distant second to brand hotels whose name and reputation have earned them the largest piece of the online pie.
Ritz Entrance By Russ London, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18553841
Hotel Sign By Kevin Dooley, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/1577999575