Online Search Advertising: The benefits of vertical search vs general search

By Donald R. Smith Executive Vice President, Nor1 Inc. | January 27, 2012

Vertical search, at least in the case of travel, brings a highly qualified customer to your website - those that are "shopping to buy", unlike the majority of the general search users that are often times just looking at general information on a destination.

Hotel groups are moving an increased share of their advertising dollars to online venues for a few key reasons: Online advertising is trackable, the message can be changed quickly, and most importantly, it is in a medium where the majority of unmanaged business and leisure travel bookings take place. The biggest benefactors are of course, the large (general) search engines: Google, Yahoo and MSN. Hitwise announced recently that Google accounted for 65.13 percent of all US searches in the four weeks ending May 26, 2007.

Yahoo! Search, MSN Search and Ask.com each received 20.89, 8.40 and 3.92 percent respectively. The remaining 49 search engines in the Hitwise Search Engine Analysis Tool accounted for 1.66 percent of U.S. searches.

The online spend on search engines, both the above mentioned general search engines and the travel search players (SideStep, Kayak, Y! FareChase, Travel Supermarket, etc.), is noticeable as the market is shifting from the reliance on the online Travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity in favor of supplier-direct bookings, which can be attributed to the influence of general and travel search engines.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.