This article gives you a general overview and tips about content marketing for hotels.
The hospitality industry remains extremely competitive, especially since OTAs have managed to capture the lion’s share of web traffic.
To establish and maintain a competitive advantage in this complex ecosystem, hotels need to update their content marketing strategy to reflect changes in the digital sphere.
NB: This is an analysis by Eric Ingrand (vice president of content marketing) and Kathleen Gossman (senior content strategist) at EnVeritas Group.
Content marketing focuses on creating relevant content that meets the needs of users. The end goal is to attract your target audience’s attention and drive conversions.
Successful content marketing requires time to develop and implement an integrated strategy for publishing content across multiple platforms.
An effective strategy considers everything from user experience and market research to platform choice, images and measurement of the results.
In other words, this is an on-going process that requires sustained effort in order to meet your goals and reap the rewards.
To help you develop a winning strategy, here are 27 ways to develop a successful strategy.
Before you begin
1. Know your audience through research
This may seem obvious, but too many hoteliers try to appeal to everyone, and as a result, appeal to no one.
Before considering what website or social media content you want to create, go back to the basics and identify your audience.
Look beyond obvious stereotypes, ie. road warriors or leisure travelers, and really consider whether you are targeting mid-career women or entry-level men who travel for business.
Are your leisure guests in their mid-30s in search of active pursuits or Baby Boomers in town to see the grandkids? Once you know who you intend to target, research what it is they want to know, what questions they ask and the type of information they routinely seek out online.
Armed with that knowledge, you’ll find it easier to craft specific content to appeal to the identified groups.
2. Provide for desktop, tablet and smartphone use
Tablets and smartphones are responsible for about 25% of website traffic currently, and that number is only going to grow in the future.
Before you begin investing in high-quality content, you need to know if your website is mobile responsive.
If it isn’t, now is the time to upgrade. This will ensure that the user experience is the same across all devices and that your content displays correctly.
3. Set content marketing goals
Once you’ve determined your target audience, it’s important to know why you are developing content for them.
- What is it you hope to achieve with content developed for your website, blog, and social channels?
- Is it brand recognition, customer loyalty, the ability to expose your hotel to new customers or drive more traffic to the website?
Once your marketing team can clearly state the goals of your content, the team can effectively evaluate all ideas and opportunities against the rubric of whether or not the idea will achieve our stated goals.
After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, and why, how will you know when you get there?
4. Empower employees
No one knows the hotel better than the hotel’s manager and staff. Be sure to thoroughly interview the general manager and key staff of the hotel before writing site copy.
Content marketing experts agree that you should tap into the 10-15% of staff who really “get” your product. Take advantage of their depth and breadth of knowledge.
5. Start with professionally written copy
Did you hire a professional decorator for your hotel, or did you use the services of an amateur? Think about content in the same way.
Do you really want an amateur creating your online brand through misspelled words and awkwardly composed sentences?
Poorly written, unorganized text will have site visitors bouncing from your site like a red rubber ball. While many believe that a degree in English qualifies them as a professional writer, this is seldom the case.
Crafting content that speaks to specific audiences while adhering to best practices for each digital channel is not a universal skill.
6. Add professional photography, videos and/or virtual tours
Poorly lit, grainy and out-of-focus photos don’t inspire guests to book your rooms, no matter how lovely the rooms may be.
Images and increasingly, videos, reinforce that old chestnut: “A picture’s worth a thousand words”.
Readers are unlikely to read 1,000 words, but they love looking at great photos.
Guests want to know what to expect, especially in terms of the guestrooms, bathrooms and public spaces. If you don’t provide effective images, your potential guests will be searching YouTube, Flickr and TripAdvisor to find them.
It’s smarter to provide professional quality imagery on your website.
7. Embrace reviews
Sharing stories is human nature, and reviews are one of the most effective means of doing so.
Too many hoteliers have avoided reviews because, inevitably, there will be negative reviews. But did you know that the presence of negative reviews actually enhances your credibility?
Potential guests realize that no hotel is perfect, and not everyone is happy with every stay. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a friend’s recommendation, according to BrightLocal.
By addressing criticism in a professional and authentic manner, you’ll gain credibility and valuable insight into your guests’ experiences. And you might convert an unhappy guest into one who will give you a second chance.
8. Have a style guide and stick to it
A content style guide is a powerful tool. It’s the behind-the-scenes playbook that keeps the online content (imagery and text) of your site and all other digital platforms consistent.
That means you’ll be delivering a strong and consistent brand message.
A style guide spells out everything from font type and size to photo size and word counts. It can help you attend to the “little” elements of a site that give it a polished look and feel and assist with SEO – provide Alt Tags for every photo and video, write short captions for images, use properly sized photos and fonts, etc.
Once developed, you’ll find a style guide offers the ability to add bandwidth to your content creation; just remember to enforce the style guide rigorously!
9. Tell your story
Storytelling may be the current darling of content marketing as it is one of the most effective communication tools we have, but don’t try to copy one that you admire.
Focus on telling your story by taking guests on the unique guest experience journey that your hotel offers.
Remember that research you did about your audience? Now is the time to make it work for you. Is your hotel focused on health and wellness, does it offer unusual amenities or is it proud to be part of neighborhood lore?
Tell those stories. By focusing on the story, you will help your readers gain insight into your brand without enduring yet another hard sell.
10. Think outside of the box
Have you noticed how most hotel websites look alike and have interchangeable copy?
Each one offers a paragraph or three about the location and nearby attractions, describes the guestroom as an oasis of comfort and provides info on the restaurant’s unique menu or the bar’s happy hour. It’s a bit like political ads in an election year; eventually we simply tune them out.
To cut through the noise and sameness, take a fresh look at your hotel’s unique features that set it apart from all the rest. Use your content to help guests discover what makes your hotel special.
11. Hotel details
Make sure your copy has all the details guests want about location, rooms, services, in-house dining and more.
Guests research and make their decisions based on amenities as well as price, so offering a complete picture of what your hotel offers will help drive conversions.
Never forget that guests are looking for ‘the answer’ in the content that you offer them.
SEO and PPC
12. Optimize your content
Search engine optimization in 2014 has changed significantly when compared to what we recommended in 2010.
While potential guests still search for hotels via keywords, on-page copy no longer needs to be stuffed with high-volume keywords. Google, and other search engines, have become very adept at connecting the dots by using context to determine which websites have high-quality content that meets searchers’ needs.
Effective optimization includes adding schema to your webpages, providing high-quality content that addresses readers’ needs and questions and ensuring that your metadata meets current best practices.
If you provide authoritative, relevant and trustworthy content, you will be rewarded.
13. Provide user-centered content
Google continues to insist its primary goal is to deliver the best content to its users.
With all the drama surrounding companies who try to game the search engines and a steady stream of updates to the Google algorithm, you’ll never go wrong if you simply provide content that is user centered.
Speak to your audience and offer authentic information to answer their questions, and your site will see an increase in traffic.
14. Remember inks still matter
Link building is like building your reputation. The more high-quality sites (never link farms) that point to you as an “expert” increase your credibility in the eyes of the search engines.
Actively work to build relationships with sites in your area that would sensibly and logically link to your site.
Remember that link building is not link sharing. Link sharing does little to promote your site’s credibility, and in the post-penguin era, it may incur a Google penalty for your site.
15. Think globally and act locally
While the Internet has literally put the world at our fingertips, local search is a major factor that shouldn’t be ignored.
As you develop your optimization strategy, carefully consider the search needs of guests who may be neighbors in need of accommodations for the family reunion as well as potential guests who are half a continent away traveling for a business meeting.
How do you refer to your location?
Are potential guests searching for “Denver hotels” or “Cherry Creek hotels?” While “Denver hotels” may have higher search volume, those looking for “Cherry Creek hotels” have zeroed in on a location and are more likely to make a purchase.
16. Balance PPC and SEO
Put time and effort into managing both PPC (pay-per-click) and organic (unpaid) initiatives. Coordinate both by ensuring that staff working on each initiative coordinates approaches, keywords and timing of activities.
It’s a multilingual world
17. Transcreation for target specific content
Research indicates that website visitors take 15 seconds or less to decide whether to stay on the site or bounce. Be sure you’re connecting with them through content that literally speaks their language.
Engage native professional writers who understand the intricacies of capturing the nuances between English and the second language.
By merging translation with content creation on primary website pages enhanced with localized keyword research, you’ll be offering your audience an effective message that has been adapted to a specific location, rather than hoping that the original message connects with readers in a different cultural milieu.
Localization walks a fine line between transcreation and straight-forward translation.
Localization utilizes professional, local writers who deliver content that remains close to the original while sounding natural to the target audience.Localized content is a budget-smart choice for secondary pages on your website.
For content that deals with standard data, such as terms & conditions, FAQs and directions, computer assisted translation is the best choice.
The software, when used by experienced multilingual writers, delivers consistent and correct results for content that doesn’t have a strong marketing focus.
For those with no budget but a desire to speak to their audience in their language, automated translation might be an option. If you make this choice, make a point of including a disclaimer to let your audience know that they shouldn’t expect a high-quality translation.
Timeliness and accuracy
20. Regularly update site copy
Search engines reward fresh content. Guests look for timely information. Therefore, making regular updates to your site is a must.
Regularly refresh special offers, information about local attractions, events and hotel details.
21. Make individual hotels updates simple and easy
Empower each hotel to easily update images, words, offers, maps, etc.
An online “message board,” where hotels can submit update requests they need made and where your content management team can quickly and easily respond to those requests, takes the hassle out of keeping a website current and fresh.
22. Check facts/maintain databases
When was the last time you checked names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for your hotel staff? When was the last time you actually read your entire website?
Things change, and it is likely that if you were to read your site today, you’ll find some information has become outdated.
It’s a good idea to routinely review the website to ensure website data and contact information is up to date.
Share and share alike
23. Be social
Research what social media your audience uses, where they look for information and meet them there with high-quality content that addresses their needs.
Social media platforms offer terrific opportunities to engage with brand loyalists and potential guests in a more informal manner than is typical of a standard hotel website.
Develop a channel-specific strategy rather than simply duplicating your posts across every channel. In other words, don’t automatically carbon copy your tweets to Facebook.
And don’t forget that posts with images and videos draw significantly more engagement with your followers than just sharing text.
24. Coordinate distribution of offers and information across channels
Think through all the touch points where potential guests may have contact with your hotel – website, e-mail and social media.
Craft and disseminate your content so that it works together to create a dialogue with your potential guests about your hotel.
25. Repurpose content to extend its reach
It takes time and resources to create effective content, so as you make your plans, consider how to repurpose each piece.
When you create new copy for your landing page, revise it into a smaller article and share it on Facebook. If your meeting facilities are being used for a major event, ask guests to share their images with you for use on social media.
That same event may be useful as a blog topic about how to utilize the services of your in-house meeting director or what to ask the catering manager. No piece of content should ever be consigned to a one-and-done use.
26. Monitor traffic and user interaction to identify hard working content
You can’t be afraid to tap into your analytics. Make sure you understand what it is they are telling you.
Look for pages and posts that are highly trafficked and have higher time on-site numbers. Make more pages like these.
Also look for pages and posts that are underperforming because of low traffic, high bounce rates or low interaction; you’ll need to identify why these are occurring and make changes to (or eliminate) these pages and posts.
27. Test, tweak and repeat
Be willing to tweak pages and to conduct A-B tests to determine which pages, headlines, layouts, etc. engage with guests and those that don’t.
Have you considered trying one of the heatmap tools to see what visitors are really doing?
Expert content marketer, Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute, says:
“I would dare say that the single most important characteristic of successful content marketers (individuals and brands) is perseverance.”
Perseverance in monitoring, testing, tweaking and trying again is the hallmark of successful websites.
When developing your content marketing strategy, be deliberate and be dedicated.
Get buy-in from all stakeholders and work together as a team to ensure that the content on your hotel’s website and social media channels is fully focused on engaging and attracting guests with its robust, unique nature.
Content isn’t just an afterthought to fill space around a booking engine. Rather, content is the reason guests will use your booking engine.