Online Hotel Marketing Strategy Clinic

By Blake Suggs Account Director & Integration Specialist, Range Online Media | January 27, 2012

Maybe it's because Tax Season just ended that I have audits on the brain, but I believe that every campaign can use a good strategy audit every now and again. There are so many different programs and ways to manage a digital marketing strategy these days that it's difficult to know whether or not one is capitalizing on everything that's available. So with this article, I endeavor to take a major hospitality brand and outline where they are strong and where they are weak in order to outline key strategies for keeping and growing business in a period of economic challenges. There is one caveat I would like to highlight up front: this article is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the subject's online strategy, and I did not find huge problems with every channel I researched for this particular brand. In fact, most of the strategy was solid. There are tweaks and opportunities. However, that can benefit any brand; what's great, these are mostly simple fixes that can expand your presence and revenue even when times are tough.

For the purposes of this article, our subject will be an actual top name hotelier, which I will refer to as Brand XX to protect their confidentiality. Brand XX is a top tier hotelier with 300+ properties around the globe. Their property suite displays a heavy domestic U.S. presence as well as resorts in multiple countries and regions. From an online budget perspective, let's assume that Brand XX has $5M+ to spend, in addition to a steady offline (TV-heavy) presence.

First, let's look at the strengths and weaknesses of Brand XX's search strategy. Without getting into too much detail, here are the major strategies Brand XX is employing within their search campaigns that bode well for their online position within the marketplace.

1) Localized Results - region-specific branded queries for Brand XX yield geo-modified ads with specific body text that addresses a particular area's properties and/or its specials. Obviously this is ideal for breaking through the clutter (including many of the OTAs) thrown up by blanket broad match bidders with larger budgets.

2) Frequent Use of Promotions AND Brand-Centric Ad Text - given the market position of Brand XX, their comprehensive use of promotional ad text along with brand-centric ad text is certainly a strong play. By utilizing this mix Brand XX is able to capture both bargain shoppers and brand-loyal customers who might be cross-channel shopping for the best nightly rate. In addition the brand-centric ad text speaks to those price-agnostic searchers that would most likely focus on property/brand attributes when deciding on where to stay.

3) Strong Non-Brand Presence - Rather than blanket general non-brand terms such as "hotels," Brand XX appears to have a strong presence on longer tail non-brand terms. This allows for much more flexibility in regards to specific messaging, but the primary advantage is increased conversion rate at lower CPCs. The latter is accomplished due to the fact that Quality Score is such a huge factor in determining relative traffic cost, especially given the trend of including factors outside of Max Bid and CTR in its calculation.

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