Over the last few years, digital marketing has become an increasingly important component of hotel marketing strategies. Never has this been more true as hotels develop their COVID-19 recovery plans.
From SEM to OTAs, there are a lot of digital marketing bases to cover. Whether you outsource or conduct your own digital marketing, this checklist will ensure you have all your digital marketing ducks in a row.
⬜ Social Media
- Organic (unpaid) social media content: Create a hotel social media strategy that supports your business pillars. Most platforms favor video, so dig into not only YouTube but IGTV, Instagram Reels, Facebook Live, and even TikTok.
- Social media ads: With organic reach at an all-time low, social media’s pay-to-play model has been widely accepted as a fact of life. Extend your reach and engagement with paid Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and Pinterest ads. Promote individual posts by “boosting” content that lives on your social page, or set up purely promotional ads within the individual platform’s dashboard.
- Influencers & ambassadors: Work with social media influencers and ambassadors with social clout to promote your hotel and leverage third-party word-of-mouth. It’s been proven that people trust other people more than the brand itself. Don’t shrug off those with smaller followings either. So-called micro-influencers are said to have even more influence over their followers, even though their numbers may be smaller.
⬜ Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Hotel campaigns in Google Ads: As the internet’s most prominent search engine, investing in Google Ads can help you rank and get noticed. Google has an ad tool specifically for hotels, which allows you to bid on dynamic ads that appear on Google’s Search, Maps, and Assistant and on Google’s own booking module, as well as take advantage of free booking links. To participate, hotels must have a Google Business Listing and use an integration partner to provide rates and availability.
- Bing ads: Ads on Bing generally provide a greater Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) because there is less competition on this search engine. It’s worth a small-spend test and grow from there.
⬜ Email Marketing
- Set up a strategy to leverage email marketing for an impactful ROI. Ensure it includes automated transactional emails as well as manual campaign emails.
- Set up an email management platform: Use your PMS and/or CRM’s automated email templates to streamline routine guest communications. Otherwise, tools like Mailchimp or Klaviyo can host your email list and provide templates.
- Ensure CASL and GDPR compliance: Check for regulations for your country, but essentially ensure you gather permission from your customers to email them, otherwise, it may be considered spam.
- Grow your email list: Set up various avenues to keep growing your email lists such as a sign-up in your website footer, a web pop-up, and social media ads. Your email list is worth its weight in gold because, as your digital customer Rolodex, it can’t be taken away from you versus social media platforms that could perform follower dumps or simply disappear altogether!
⬜ Online Bookings
- Online Travel Agencies (OTAs): Increase your hotel’s reach and digital footprint with OTAs, such as Expedia and Booking.com. Find the channels that deliver the best bang for your buck and frequently audit your content and update your images to make the most of your OTA hotel profile.
- Direct bookings: With the lowest cost of acquisition, make efforts to increase your hotel’s rate of direct bookings via email, social media, digital ads, and your property’s search-engine-optimized website. You will need a user-friendly online reservation system to drive more direct bookings.
⬜ Hotel Website
- Audit your website: Have a professional audit your website annually and make design tweaks to your hotel’s website to keep up with changes and keep performing optimally. This audit should include:
>> Responsive design
>> Website booking engine
>> Search Engine Optimization (SEO) analysis: up-to-date alt tags, check website speed, reduce image sizes if needed, check for backlink opportunities. Apps like Crushpics (reduce image size) and Tag Inspector (website auditing tool) can streamline this process.
- Blog: A hotel blog is not only great for updating hotel guests about your property, but it also helps your hotel’s SEO and contributes to positive Google rankings. If you have a blog, ensure you post regularly, and update old blog posts to keep them ranking.
- Pop-ups: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, website pop-ups are effective at collecting email addresses and advertising special offers that encourage direct bookings.
⬜ Monitor Online Reputation & Respond
- Online reviews: Monitor reviews via Google, TripAdvisor, and other online platforms and respond accordingly. Streamline this process and view and respond to multiple platforms using a single dashboard like BlueJay Reviews or Revinate — plus automatically send post-stay review request emails.
- Social listening: In addition to reviews, see what people are saying about you by signing up for mention alerts through Google Alerts and Talkwalker. These tools pick up news stories or blog posts about you and notify you by email. You can also set up alerts for your competition or monitor particular keywords.
⬜ Automated Marketing Tools
- Streamline digital ads with automation tools: If you don’t have the in-house capacity to manage your digital advertising campaigns, consider tools that can automate your digital dynamic and retargeting ads, such as AdRoll.
- Marketing automation: CRM solutions like Revinate and Cendyn provide comprehensive marketing automation and guest intelligence tools that can help you design more effective emails, upsell successfully, create campaign landing pages, and gather guest reviews.
- KPIs & benchmarks: Decide what your important success markers are for your business and then track these Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so you can measure your digital success. This includes:
>> Social media follower numbers and engagement rate
>> Email subscriber growth, open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates
>> Website traffic, top referrers, bounce rate (how long someone stays on your site determines content relevance)
>> Online booking numbers, revenue, returning customer rate, conversion rate
>> Digital ad clicks and Return on Investment (ROI)
- Measure, compare, act: Measure your KPIs, compare to industry averages and make adjustments as needed to increase your performance.
And there you have it! Digital marketing can feel overwhelming and changes literally happen overnight in the digital world. But don’t be defeated! It doesn’t need to happen all at once. Broken down into manageable chunks, your team can use this hotel digital marketing checklist to chip away at your digital tactics. After all, this isn’t a one-and-done initiative, but rather a road map for overtaking the competition. Soon, it will all feel like second nature as you put your plan on cruise control, only checking in for a tune-up every now and then.