You’ve probably heard the saying before, but it is worth repeating now. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. When it comes to digital marketing, there is no excuse not to measure the efforts put into your website, your email, or your other advertising.
That said, there is SO much data available, how do you know which metrics are most important in driving business decisions? That’s what we are going to answer here. We are going to take a look at a few large categories of marketing efforts, and break down the metrics that, if you have time for no other analysis, will give you the best bang for your buck.
UPDATE 9/12/2016: Melissa and the Fuel team break down this blog article in our weekly Hotel Marketing Podcast. Click the play button below to listen:
Website Metrics For Hotels
Let’s start with the largest piece of the marketing pie – your website. All of the other pieces of the pie feed into this money-making machine, so we are going to tackle this one first.
First – if you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this: website traffic does not drive revenue. Visits/unique visitors/page views should never be a goal for a hotel website. Why is this? It is qualified traffic that drives revenue. Sending more traffic from an unqualified source does nothing to your bottom line. In fact, it can even hinder your performance in natural search rankings, if the search engines see visitors quickly bouncing from your site back to search again. We are going to use the following metrics to determine qualified traffic:
1.) Conversion Rate: This is the most important metric we can use to find the most qualified website visitors. The formula to calculate the conversion rate = number of bookings/visits (or visitors). In Google Analytics, this is a built in metric you can see in any of the Acquisition reports, which will give you a list of all the sources of traffic, with that eCommerce conversion rate. In Adobe Analytics, you can view a built-in report of the purchase conversion funnel to see an overall conversion rate, and then segment that report by traffic source, or create a calculated metric that can be used in any ranked report, such as the Referring Domains report or Campaigns report. In any tool, conversion rate should be looked at site-wide, as well as by source, allowing you to see the big picture of the site’s performance as well as each source of traffic as comparison points.
2.) Conversion Rate – Front End: You can read more about deconstructing the entire conversion funnel in this post, but in short, the front end of your website (excluding the booking engine) has one job to do – convince visitors to search for a room. In this conversion rate, we are looking at the percentage of visits that achieved that goal. In order to measure this in Google Analytics, you can either create a segment of visits who view the first page of the booking engine process, and apply it to your report, and manually calculate the percentage of the segment to the source as a whole, or you can create a goal (my recommendation) that is executed when visitors reach that first step of the booking engine. You can then view the goal completion rates overall, and by source in any Acquisition report.
3.) Conversion Rate – Booking Engine: The conversion rate of people who enter the booking engine process can tell you very quickly if things are working well here, or if something has gone awry. Over time you should see relatively stable (or, hopefully, gradually increasing) conversion rates. If there is a sudden dip in conversion rate, it could indicate that there is a rate parity issue, rates are too high, or that there is higher unavailability. We need to look at the conversion rate of each step in the booking engine to understand where abandonment is occurring, and work to improve that abandonment rate. The first step in maintaining a high conversion rate is having a hotel booking engine that can seamlessly integrate with your website and is mobile-first.
4.) Bounce Rate – By Entry Page: Bounce rate is my least favorite metric for any website. It is the one metric that, in my opinion, is completely useless when using it site-wide. So why is it on this list? If used as a metric by entry page, it can be very useful. The great analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik (www.twitter.com/avinash), gives the best definition of bounce rate I’ve ever seen: I came, I puked, I left. While that is mostly correct, it does not necessarily apply to 100% of the website, nor 100% of visitors, and why using the site-wide metric is basically useless. Imagine this scenario: you are looking for the address of a hotel, so you enter the hotel’s name in a search engine, and click on the contact/about us page. Lo and behold, there’s the information you needed, so you leave the site. You have just technically counted as a bounced visit, but did you not accomplish what you needed to on the site? Yes, you did. Therefore, looking at the bounce rate by entry page is much more actionable metric. If your homepage bounce rate is 70%, this is a serious problem. Even with that data though, you’ll still want to break that down and see if there is a particular source of traffic driving that bounce rate higher than other sources. Looking at the entry page report, you can quickly see problem pages and/or sources of traffic landing on those pages.
Email Metrics For Hotels
A hotel marketer’s own email database can be one of the most affordable and best returns s/he can get, if used well. The most important metrics to make sure you are using the database to the best of its ability are:
5.) Deliverability: Surprised to see this metric listed first? If messages are not getting delivered, they can’t be open, read or converted into bookings. We’ve got to start with this metric first. This will give you a sense of the quality/age of the emails in your database. It will also tell you if you’ve been somehow blocked by one or more email services. This metric needs to be examined on every single send to the database to catch any issues and address them as quickly as possible.
6.) Unsubscribes: This metric will very quickly tell you whether you have pushed your subscribers too much with the frequency and/or content of messages. Again, this should be looked at on every email send to adjust the strategy of email marketing if a spike in the unsubscribe rate is seen.
7.) Opens to Click-Throughs: This is not a metric you will find in most email service provider reports; it is one you will most likely need to calculate yourself. An open rate by itself only tells you how effective your subject line is. By itself, opens do not drive revenue. Click-throughs can only happen if a subscriber opens an email, so I don’t find that metric very valuable either. We need subscribers who open the email to click on something. That is what this metric measures – how effective is the content of your message?
8.) Conversion Rate of Clicks to Bookings: We are back on the website for this metric. Once people were engaged enough with the content of your email, how likely are they to convert to a booking? Where was the abandonment from these visitors? What can be done on the next send to increase that conversion rate? Different landing page? A better rate? A different package?
9.) Revenue: It all comes down to money, right? How much money did the email generate? How did that compare to other emails in the past?
Paid Advertising Metrics For Hotels
This bucket of marketing efforts is rather broad. It encompasses paid search engine marketing, digital display advertising, print advertising, listings on CVB or DMA websites, 3rd party email sends, and any number of other paid advertising efforts. Regardless of the medium, the metrics used to measure success are nearly the same across the board:
10.) Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): This is, by far, the most important piece of information needed from paid advertising (usually – I’ll come back to that in a minute). This metric answers the question, “for every dollar I spent in advertising, how many did I receive in return?” It is the most efficient way to compare marketing channels to find the best use of marketing dollars. ROAS is determined with the following formula: Revenue/Spend.
There’s only one flaw in this metric – what about campaigns that are used purely for branding? Chances are, we will not see the return for branding and/or relationship campaigns, such as social media as we do for things like brand-based PPC. Yet, we know these types of campaigns need to be included as a marketing strategy to build the very top of our conversion funnel. Google Analytics has some very helpful multi-channel reports built into the system that can help you see the impact of those channels with less of a direct effect on immediate revenue. It’s very important that campaign URLs are set up with proper tracking so that they populate the correct channel in these reports. In the sample below, you can see “assisted” conversions, where a channel is given credit if it played a part in the purchase, other than the last click.
There are many, many more metrics that we can look at for all of these marketing efforts; however, these ten are a great place to start. They will give you actionable data, which is much more important that a piece of data that is “interesting.” We need to walk before we run, and these concepts will bring you from couch-surfing to an easy jog.