Independent hotels continue to struggle with their online presence.
And it’s not hard to see why.
Just four years ago, the boutique hotel world–a happy alternative for the travel savvy–was turned on its head as major hotel chains began snatching them up to cash in on the desire for a unique, memorable guest experience.
A largely independent industry became branded, and what was once special about this sphere became commodified. And so began the tsunami of #millennial-themed marketing attempting to sway guests to their side of the fence.
I can smell the beard oil and vape from here.
Tidal waves of curated content and professional images swept through the space, putting independents at a disadvantage when stacked against the big budgets of corporate chains.
But what you know as an independent hotelier still rings true and is foundational for your success: authenticity is the key to outlasting imitators.
Still, it can be hard to get your name out there when you’re competing against a well-equipped marketing team or ad agency.
So how can you cut through the internet noise?
Below, I’ll lay out the three ways your independent hotel can better use common tools to increase your online presence and stand out from your competitors.
Let’s get started.
1. Blog Better
You know that blogging can vastly improve your SEO. It’s a strategy that many companies are turning to for getting their name at the top of Google’s search results page.
Sounds easy enough.
But blogging isn’t that simple. In fact, it can be downright demanding. And who has time for another task when your first priority is managing your guests?
So blog smarter, not harder.
Most people forget that blogging involves research. Not doctorate research, but research into your customer. It’s easy to just write about your hotel and what it can offer to your guests, but you need to first understand your guests to get them to your hotel.
The benefit of working in the hospitality industry is that you get to see your customer firsthand. You come face-to-face with them everyday. You know what they look like, what they act like, and (hopefully) what they want out of your hotel. (And if you’re still a little unsure, you can always create a buyer persona to hammer out the more intricate, but important details.)
Now do some digging. Whether it’s through guest reviews or even taking a look at your competition, really find what it is your guests enjoy about your hotel and what your competitors don’t offer.
Is your hotel the perfect location for an intimate wedding reception, or a cozy hideaway for an extended weekend? Does your home cooked Sunday brunch or downstairs bar service make you stand out from your chain competitors?
Find your niche and turn it into a “content tilt” and write about it.
Tip: too many hotels make the mistake of showcasing what they offer all at once without going into detail about just what it is that makes them unique. So take the time to offer rich exposition about your special location, or post about popular spots to visit, or fun things to do so you’re not just gushing about your hotel. Above all, be helpful. It’s another opportunity to show your guests that they’re your first priority.
b) Blog Less
Yes. The thing about this information age is that there’s plenty of it. So much, that sometimes plugging in can result in information overload. And this inevitably leads to the idea that more is better, barraging your guests with content that may rank your hotel near the top of the results, but doesn’t do anything for your image.
So blog less. Do it only when it matters.
Now, I’m not saying to forgo blogging all together. But when it becomes a challenge to both serve your guests and publish a post, know where your priorities lie. You should first and foremost be an all-star hospitality superstar, not a world-renowned blogger (though it’d be pretty cool if you could be both). Your guests come to your site to learn more about your hotel and how to have an awesome travel experience, not “the 3 surprising ways to boost RevPAR.”
But priorities aside, there’s also some strategy to this advice.
Bloggers are spending more time creating their content, really researching their topics and crafting posts of substance. Readers are more likely to share these posts and search engines know the difference between length and research.
Tip: that’s the difference between you and the big brands. You offer something special, something unique and memorable that your guests take with them long after they leave. Have your blog reflect this philosophy as well.
c) Involve Your Guests
You know that your guests are online so why not make the most of it?
With blogging, this can be fun for you and your guests. For example, if your bed and breakfast is prime real estate for a wedding or a baby shower, why not document the happenings on your blog? Many couples are beginning to create wedding websites and letting these couples tell their story through your blog is another great way to highlight your guest experience as well as get some content without sweating it out all on your own.
And aside from having to generate less content yourself, showcasing your guests’ experiences also tells a story, something that both humanizes your brand and spotlights what your guests can get out of their stay.
Tip: outside perspective can reaffirm a positive reputation and stories are far more memorable, cementing a spot in your customer’s mind.
2. Use Social Media (Wisely)
Wait. Let me tell you something first: you’re right. Sort of.
It’s true that everyone with an online presence is on social media. It’s kind of a marketer’s bread and butter these days. But that’s the problem. Everyone is on it. So you have to find a way to stand out.
Many businesses make the mistake of trying to be on all the platforms all the time. Post here, post there, and it just becomes a barrage of social media madness.
You know in hospitality that quality far surpasses quantity. Who cares how much eau de toilette you leave in your guests’ bathroom if it really does smell like toilet water?
In an age where if it’s not on the internet it doesn’t exist, it’s tempting to overpost and overshare. So get a handle on this monster before it does you more harm than good.
a) Pick Your Platforms
Follow us on Twitter. Follow us on Facebook. Follow us on LinkedIn. Follow us on Pinterest.
You get the idea.
Everyone wants followers and many businesses are flocking to any and all social media channels to get eyes on their name and product.
Sounds like a great strategy.
Some platforms work better than others, especially when you’re dealing with limited resources or advertising a specific product.
Take Pinterest, for example. This visual platform doubles as great advertising for small business owners to pitch their products and link to a direct page to sell them. Even media sites are using Pinterest to nab the attention of scrollers and get eyes on their articles.
Now on the other hand, take LinkedIn. This ‘Facebook for professionals’ is a great way for workers in similar fields to connect and share their workplace achievements and strategies.
Which one do you think would work better for your hotel to connect with guests?
So take a good look at your platforms and really evaluate what gives you a better ROI. By cutting out the clutter and extra noise, you allocate your time to more successful channels and spend less time on social media that isn’t doing anything for your hotel. Not to mention, by choosing the right platform, you’ll have a better chance of appealing to your target audience.
Tip: Instagram should definitely be on your options list.
b) Post Pertinent Info
The problem with this way of thinking is that it’s also led to an onslaught of oversharing. Because with one click, you can let the world know exactly what you’re doing.
For example, right now I’m wolfing down wasabi peas because they’re the best food in the world. But how does that help me increase my online presence?
It seems obvious that you should post only pertinent, helpful information, but you’d be surprised. Companies are in a race to put a friendly face on their brands, giving social media mavens the idea they’re naturally gifted comedians. Maybe some of them should be more careful.
Tip: as a hotel, you should stick to posts that uplift your hotel’s image and your customer experience. Trying to crack jokes to give your brand that extra edge on social media is a great strategy, but the risk of crossing the line or going too far is high and can be costly. So rather than throwing down the gauntlet with your competitors on social media or chiming in on controversial current events, concentrate on projecting that air of rest and relaxation that will attract guests to your hotel.
c) Engage with Users
Social media enables us to connect with other users in a way we never could before. Outreach with people across the country is now possible.
Too bad some businesses don’t make the most of it.
When a guest says something positive about your hotel, do more than a little dance to yourself. Engage. Make your followers and guests feel your renowned hospitality from afar.
Whether it’s a retweet or a reply on Twitter, responding to your followers lets them know that you not only listen, but care about what they think. Exactly like how they should feel at your hotel, right?
Tip: don’t just phone this in with an automated reply. Backlash in a sensitive situation can spell disaster for your image and launch unwanted attention for your hotel. Instead, take the time to respond yourself. And while I’m all about hospitality software to better manage your hotel, there are times when a human touch is more appropriate. Your followers will appreciate it and it’ll speak highly of your hospitality.
3. Grab Google by the Horns
I’ve already mentioned the benefits of blogging better to show up in more Google search results, but there’s something else you can do to get this popular search engine on your side.
A three-in-one solution. And it’s absolutely free.
Last year, Google launched Google My Business, an easy way for businesses to become more visible on the world’s biggest search engine.
And for an independent hotel, this is the holy grail of online presence. Because with Google My Business, customers can find accurate information about your hotel, get directions through Google Maps, and read through customer reviews. All in one place.
And did I mention that it’s free?
As a lazy Millennial, I often do a quick search through my iPhone. On my palm-sized screen, I like having all of my information in one place instead of flipping through multiple tabs (which is pretty difficult on mobile devices).
With Google My Business, I can see your front desk hours, copy your phone number for an informational call, or even skim through reviews to see what people like and don’t like about your guest experience. I can even get directions so I know where to go after arriving at the airport.
Seconds count on the internet, and while a main site can be helpful, it can also take precious seconds to load. Not to mention, if people are unfamiliar with your hotel, having a full organic Google search result can indicate you’re a popular option to stay at. So cut to the chase and grab ahold of customers early in their search by providing both accurate information and a centralized location for all your basic info.
Tip: just in case you didn’t hear me the first two times, it’s free.
Can you think of other ways independent hotels can better increase their online presence in the new year? Any other tips or stories for hotel blogging, social media, and Google My Business? Let me know in the comments below.
Header by Rachel Wille