The world of hotel marketing is vast and complex. Platforms such as Facebook can drive tons of traffic, but not always revenue. Other systems, such as Google’s AdWords, are typically focused on driving revenue. The trouble marketers can get into is when they think about all channels with a similar mindset. This can spell disaster.
We have experienced something along these lines here at Fuel as well. When we became part of the beta with Google during the launch of Google Hotel Ads or “GHA” (formerly Hotel Price Ads or “HPA”), we put our PPC hat on and went to work. We soon realized that while GHA is a pay per click based campaign, the nuts and bolts were completely different. It was not an easy process to adapt our PPC mindsets from something like AdWords to GHA, but once we did we found opportunity and our clients found a great return on ad spend.
This leads us to our key findings… You can’t apply the same thought process to all marketing channels, regardless of how similar they appear to be. This is something we all already know, but it is a good exercise to go over the main web-based marketing tools at a hotel’s disposal and look how the mindset and management changes. Seeing that there are countless channels to choose from such as Google AdWords, GHA, TripAdvisor, Instagram, Twitter, Outbrain (and related services), and many, many more, we decided to narrow our focus and look specifically what we consider the mandatory channels for a hotel.
The Hotel Marketing Channel Matrix
To help visualize all the channels and mindsets needed, we have created this simple graphic showing where each one ranks in term of revenue generation versus branding as a goal and an active versus passive mindset.
Pay Per Click Marketing
In terms of management, a PPC campaign is an all-hands-on-deck affair where constant optimization and testing is what wins the day. Hotels, and marketers in general, who apply a “set it and forget it” mindset often find themselves spending tons of cash for little or no revenue. Platforms like AdWords make it very easy to reach the right person at the right time with PPC ads, though proper planning and management are crucial for success.
There is more to PPC than just text ads as well, and many of the other PPC tactics can be less ROAS focused, like retargeting and display. However, in all cases, it’s all going to lead back to the dollars a hotel generates.
Hotel PPC Simplified
Google Hotel Ads (GHA)
Google’s Hotel Ads (GHA) is an entirely different animal from the traditional Google AdWords type account. For those who are not familiar, Google Hotel Ads (“GHA”) used to be called Hotel Price Ads (“HPA”), but apparently Google saw fit to confuse everyone by changing acronyms. If you are not familiar with GHA, HPA or the next name they are going to come up with check out one of our previous articles, “Google Hotel Ads, What You Need To Know.” Simply put, GHA is the area on the search results page and maps where google will show the nightly rate for a hotel.
Once you understand how GHA works, you will immediately see that the mindset shifts from a hand’s on approach (aka PPC) to a more automated process. The hard work on a GHA campaign in in the initial setup of the data feed from your booking system to Google and initial campaign optimization. GHA relies heavily on machine learning to decipher customer intent and serving the hotel’s rate.
Google has not done a great job with their admin interface, however, this is not altogether a bad thing as the platform is designed to rely on automated bidding. The marketers key focus here is on price parity and making sure your account settings are optimized.
Google GHA Simplified
Trip Advisor’s Instant Book and Trip Connect
The mindset of a TripAdvisor campaign is simple. In fact, it can be summarized in just two word: RATE PARITY. Now, rate parity is less “marketing” and more “management”. But, as the person responsible for finding success in this channel, you will be the one who needs to monitor and identify any rate issues before they become problems. TripAdvisor offers two primary advertising channels (there are other smaller channels such as banner ads and business listings) which are Trip Connect and Instant Book. Both platforms do essentially the same thing in terms of showing your hotel’s best rate to customers based on the date they are searching. The key differences are:
- Instant Book is an integration between your booking engine and TripAdvisor that allows your property to be booked directly on TripAdvisor for either a 12% or 15% commission.
- Trip Connect is a pay per click based platform that allows a hotel to bid against OTAs to have a book direct rate shown to customers.
In the case of Instant Book, the hands on management is minimal because you simply set your commission level of 12% or 15% based on your desired minimum level of impression share. Then, you step back and TripAdvisor handles the rest. The data in Instant Book is one of the most valuable tools at your hotel’s marketing disposal. You can see specifically time periods where your rate is higher than others as well as when you have inventory issues. The reporting definitely doesn’t compete with a proper revenue management tool, but it’s great data for the team managing your campaigns.
Trip Connect is more similar to what you would expect out of a PPC based campaign where you select your daily budget and TripAdvisor will serve your property’s rate in an area at the top of your property’s profile page. We have found that positions 1, 2, and 3 all perform similar and your rate is far more of a factor in getting the click. You do want to be in the top three positions, below that you’re not visible.
At the end of the day, the best way to see great performance out of TripAdvisor is to give your guests an amazing experience so they rank you highly and ensure the rate you offer to visitors to your profile page is as good or better than the OTAs.
Trip Advisor Advertising Simplified
Facebook requires an entirely different mindset from traditional paid media outlets. A focus on customer experience, openness, and community is what hotels need in order to get a great rate of return on Facebook. This is not a platform where you are going to necessarily see a great ROAS out of the gate. It take a long time to build up your brand and followers before you’ll begin to see a direct return.
From an advertising perspective Facebook offers a vast array of options for driving potential guests to your hotel. These are broken into three categories based on a specific goal:
- Awareness Ads: brand awareness, local awareness, reach
- Consideration Ads: traffic, engagement, app installs, video views, lead generation
- Conversion Ads: conversions, product catalog sales, store visits
In all of the above, your goal as a hotel is to showcase the property in the best light possible. With striking photos, customer feedback, and prompt engagement. Yes, you can drive revenue from Facebook, but first and foremost your goal should be to connect and engage your guests.
While Facebook does not always drive a great dollar value return, it can be very effective for a lead generation and to re-engage and nurture former guests. A few specific tactics that we recommend include running contests or showcasing a great offer, using high-quality images and videos, encouraging engagement and action through specific CTAs, and being highly targeted with audiences.
Facebook Advertising Simplified
Most marketing platforms available to hotels and resorts today can all drive a great return. However, it is up to the hotel to determine which tactics to use on which platforms. At Fuel, we have seen some hotels thrive with a broad reach PPC campaign, while others couldn’t make it ROAS positive. Success really does depend on the individual property and how well it fits into a channel.
What we’ve also found is you’ll never find success if you are applying one marketing mindset to all your channels. If you’ve found yourself in this common trap, now is a great time to take a step back and evaluate each of your marketing efforts to ensure each has it’s own unique plan and it’s own metric for measuring success.