FAQs for the Hotel Digital Marketer


We've compiled answers to the most commonly asked questions related to hotel digital marketing in our most recent blog. Whether you're a fellow digital marketer or a hotelier, this list of FAQs will be one that you should bookmark for a later date.

General Hotel Marketing FAQs

Why is booking direct better than letting the OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) do all the work? 

Competing against the OTAs can be a daunting task with their multi-million-dollar budgets, loyalty programs, and great online booking experience, but for all hotels, it is worth the fight. When a guest books through the OTA, not only do you pay a fee upwards of 25% commission, the hotel only has access to a limited amount of data on the guest. So unless you have a front desk that collects email addresses 100% of the time, you lose the ability to truly own the guests’ data and the ability to remarket to them in the future. 

"Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%. The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%." 

Are hotel loyalty programs important? 

Hotel loyalty programs can definitely play a role in driving conversion. They should be introduced during the booking process and in remarketing to past guests. The loyalty program needs to provide a benefit to joining that means something to the guest such as earning a free night stay or amenities like free breakfast. Providing a loyalty program such as GuestBook or Stash helps hotels compete against the OTAs that have strong loyalty programs. In fact, we've seen clients convert 10% more when they have a loyalty program. 

What is a bounce rate on a hotel’s website? 

Bounce rate refers to the percentage of users who visit the hotel’s website site and then immediately exit without further engaging, or triggering a second request on the site. While we don’t have a “magic percent” that all clients should be hitting, you do want to continually work to make that bounce rate as low as possible.

Does call tracking matter for hotel marketing?

Even in today's digital age there are many times when a customer still prefers to call a business to engage, ask questions, and ultimately book. We see this most often with more complicated or expensive products and it's true no matter what kind of hotel you are. If you don't have call tracking, such as through Navis CRM, you'll be missing out on valuable conversion data that gives a deeper understanding of campaign performance. We've had properties show no online booked revenue through a campaign but thousands in revenue booked over the phone. If you're only able to make decisions based on online booked revenue, you could be missing valuable data that shows the full performance of your hotel’s marketing campaigns.

What is the most important KPI (Key Performance Indicator) by channel for hotel marketing? 

It depends on what your objectives are for each hotel marketing campaign. If you're running a branded paid search campaign, you'll be more interested in conversions and ROAS vs an awareness campaign on Facebook where you’d want to pay more attention to impressions and reach. Campaigns aimed at driving more traffic to the site would want to focus on improving outbound clicks and click-through-rate while lead generation campaigns would measure success by number of leads submitted. KPIs are very subjective, but it’s also important to be seeing the whole picture when measuring success.

How do you define a performance KPI for different types of hotels and marketing channels? Do travel industry benchmarks matter? 

KPIs should measure value to evaluate success across all marketing channels for the hotel. They should be both:

  • Quantifiable Metrics - ones that are representative of the goals of your organization. For hotels, this is often Reservations, RFP Submissions, Newsletter Signups, or Membership Additions, but there can be other, supporting KPIs as well.
  • Leading Indicators - these are useful in marketing as it can show time and effort associated with a certain impact. Perhaps people that spend several minutes on a page that contains an RFP form or people that abandon during the booking process.

KPIs should avoid measurements that you are unable to impact. A good rule of thumb is that if you are unable to change it, then it should not be a KPI.

Like many other goals, KPIs should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART). Examples of KPIs and Supporting KPIs could be: Impressions, Followers, Engagement, Delivery Rate, Referrals Gained, Engagement, Site Visits, CTR, Open Rate, Bounce Rate, Conversions, Content Shares, Cost per Acquisition and Revenue.  

Why do direct booking tools help hotel website conversion rates? 

You can have the best hotel marketing campaigns in the industry, but if you're sending traffic to a site that doesn't convert then your performance is going to be dismal. Your website is your online storefront and you should be testing functionality to help increase conversion rate. Direct booking tools like The Hotels Network offer a great way to incorporate new features, personalization, and conversion rate optimization tactics to help drive better conversion rates on your hotel’s website.

Different attribution models - why is position based better than last click? What is the best attribution model for hotel marketing campaigns? Why is it important to look at data through different attribution models? 

If we think about a user that interacts with multiple platforms prior to booking (Display, Video, Facebook, Paid Search, Organic, Direct, etc.), how do we attribute revenue? In other words, which channel should get credit for the booking? If we only choose one, then we are essentially saying that a single source of traffic gets all the credit and the others are not as valuable.

Each platform needs to have its own attribution model in order to accurately describe how users are interacting with that source prior to booking. Attribution models often reflect where in the booking funnel a user is targeted and the relative success of that targeting. This becomes especially important as we use 3rd party automation tools in Display, Social Advertising, Video Advertising and Paid Search in order to automate bids, budgets and targeting for our potential audience. An attribution model that best analyzes the entirety of a users interaction through a specific traffic source is often most efficient when paired with automated tools.

A good highlight for us is the Default Position-Based Model that we use for Paid Search. Almost all of our accounts are targeting both Brand (bidding on your own name/brand terms) and Non-Brand (bidding on terms that are not associated with your name/brand). The Default Position-Based Model is as follows:

  • 40% of Revenue is attributed to the first click
  • 40% of Revenue is attributed to the last click
  • 20% of Revenue is split between all other interactions as measured by the system

If we were to only use a last click attribution model, the model would attribute more Revenue to the last clicks before booking, which are generally Brand Terms. As Brand Terms typically have lower search volume and lower CPC, we generally have difficulty spending our entire budget. We also are not representative to people who are searching in the market outside of the Brand Terms and overall Revenue typically decreases since we aren't growing our market share to potential new customers.

Using only a first click interaction has an opposite impact; we typically spend our budget very quickly, we are less representative to people who are searching for your specific brand, and we have a similar impact of overall Revenue declining as we are not representative to the people who are more likely to reserve through a Brand Term.

We find the best balance with a Default Attribution Model where we are targeting people at the top of the funnel, outside of Brand Terms, while also allowing for Revenue to be equally attributed to the bottom of the funnel where people are more likely to book. For this reason, we have found the best results in using this attribution model for Paid Search.

Each advertising platform uses a unique attribution model specific to that source in the hopes of best targeting the entirety of the funnel that users might be experiencing prior to making a reservation.

Hotel Digital Marketing FAQs

How often should I change our hotel’s display advertising creative? 

We recommend changing your hotel’s display advertising creative quarterly (every 90 days). This will ensure that our ad platforms have enough time to optimize your ads while also preventing what is called "ad fatigue." Ad fatigue happens when users are used to seeing the same ads over and over and thus stop engaging with them. Even a simple image change or text update would do the trick if the content or offer needs to stay the same. When it comes to the minimum amount of time ads can run we suggest two weeks to a month, as it could take two weeks for the ads to optimize and for us to have any sufficient data.

How often should I change our hotel’s  Facebook advertising campaign?

Similar to display advertising, we recommend that new Facebook campaigns go through a 90-day flight. This gives Facebook enough time to finish the "learning process" and really optimize the ads. The learning process is important because Facebook will analyze performance over the select period of time and then use its machine-learning functionality to better serve your ads to the correct audience.

Existing Facebook campaigns that go through ad refreshes or new ad creation should run for at least two weeks to a month. Short promotions or flash sales can be better utilized with the "offer" functionality in the adset level.

How can you show a return for our hotel’s prospecting (brand awareness) campaign? 

The best way to show a return for your hotel’s prospecting campaign is to run it alongside retargeting. Although you won't see the revenue being attributed directly to prospecting, you will know that those campaigns bring in the audience who will eventually book through retargeting ads.

Alternatively you could use more niche targeting (using keywords on display rather than geo-targeting or narrowing your audience by interests and demographics on Facebook).

The important thing to remember is that hotel prospecting or brand awareness marketing campaigns are not meant to show a return. They are meant to bring in new audiences to the booking funnel which works directly with your retargeting campaigns to provide a return.

Why is video advertising important for hotels?

Video advertising is important for hotels for a number of reasons, but mainly because it's THE trend in the digital marketplace right now. Display platforms and Facebook prioritize video ads over regular images and it's proven to provide more user engagement and higher ad recall rates. 

Why is email marketing important for hotels?

Contrary to popular belief, email marketing for hotels is not dead, but rather one of the best channels for directly engaging with your present and past customers. In fact, on average email returns $44 for every $1 spent. 92% of adults use email so if you aren't sending segmented and relevant emails to your lists then you are missing out on some serious revenue. Learn more about email marketing today! 

Hotel Paid Search FAQs

Why is hotel metasearch important? 

Google's domination of the search engine market share and hyper-focus on expanding its travel planning products, including hotel search, means that hotels need to optimize their exposure in this area to capture people throughout the consumer buyer journey. Optimizing your GMB listing, increasing and responding to guest reviews, and metasearch all have a great impact on exposure here. The OTAs are present and competitive on metasearch and your hotel needs to be to if they want to capture more direct bookings.

Why do I need to pay for my hotel’s own name in paid search terms? 

There are many reasons proven to support purchasing your hotel’s branded name terms within paid search. Here’s a list of the top ones:

  • Control the top position of search results for your brand
  • Be more in control of the messaging that your potential visitors might see
  • Provide users with more information through ad extensions
  • Possibly minimize negative content impacts such as poor reviews
  • Better highlight promotions, specific landing pages or need periods through extensions
  • Be present on more of the "real estate" of the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) for your brand terms by appearing both in paid results and organic, this has shown to have an impact on overall (paid plus organic) traffic and revenue
  • Increase your CTR - "89% of traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks" 
  • Take opportunities away from your competitors and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
  • Increase your PPC Account performance and overall quality score
  • Brand Name bidding is relatively cheaper than other forms of referral traffic, like OTA's, which might take as much as 30% of the final purchase
  • Users searching for your brand are often your most qualified audiences, helping to possibly uncover new customer segments
  • Can help with poor performance through organic, often getting a site to rank well organically is a more long-term strategy while branded PPC bidding can be a faster strategy to gain exposure in the SERP

Should I run a hotel paid search campaign targeting a competitor?

"Conquest" or competitor paid search campaigns for hotels can be a great tool to gain exposure to consumers who are already interested in a similar brand or product. These can be a great tactic for new hotels entering a market that need to grow their brand voice among consumers already looking to travel to the area. Conversely, these competitor campaigns are targeting branded keywords of other hotels so it is likely that people searching for these keywords have already done a lot of research and decided they want to stay at that particular hotel, so the chances of swaying them to book at your hotel are slim. 

If you do decide to target these keywords, we recommend not using the competitor's name in the ad copy but instead focus on key competitive advantages and present reasons why they should stay at your hotel instead. Historically, we do not see high ROAS for these campaigns. Success should be directed at awareness metrics such as impressions.

Hotel Website Development FAQs

What makes a good hotel booking engine?

First and foremost, a good hotel booking engine needs to be mobile-friendly. The hotel’s booking engine also needs to have the same look and feel as the hotel website so that once the guest is in the booking engine, they do not notice that they are on a new website. It should also be easy for a user to get back to the main website. Booking engines should also have high-resolution room images and the ability to easily book and access packages.

Why do hotel websites break? 

Hotel websites generally break for one of three reasons:

  1. A software update goes wrong. Sometimes it's the software sitting on your server (WordPress, a plugin, etc.) and sometimes it's the server software itself (PHP, Apache, etc.). Generally, someone clicked on an upgrade button and boom, the site breaks.
  2. A user breaks something important in the CMS. An accidental file deletion, removal of a critical plugin, or the wrong settings in a plugin can all cause a site to crash and fail.
  3. A bill goes unpaid. A lot of different pieces work together to keep a website working, from keeping the domain name registered to making sure the hosting account is paid. As employees and owners change over time, occasionally the person with the right access to the right service leaves, then when the time comes to pay the relevant fee, no one can get in to pay it. In the worst-case scenario, you might even lose control of your site completely!

Clearly there are many other factors involved, but over the years these are the most common reasons hotel websites break.

Why does hotel website tracking break? 

In our experience, the number one issue that tends to reliably break or disrupt our hotel’s tracking configuration is site updates with no notification to your analytics implementation staff. Often when enterprises are updating a hotel’s website, they're so concerned with how it will look and function as a front-facing product that they either forget to notify their analytics staff, don't think that the changes will have any effect on tracking, or in the case of full rebuilds forget to carry over key elements of tracking all-together. These can and do derail tracking on just about every level and can be easily avoided.

The second most common issue is not providing analytics staff with access to a testing area leading up to when major site changes do occur and then depending on them to change things on the fly as problems present themselves. Depending on the complexity of the hotel’s website, it can take weeks or even months to determine how your tracking platform interacts with a site update so running tests and QA measures should be exercised when pushing major site updates. This issue is less obvious and requires a more significant commitment but making that transition smooth goes a long way towards assuring that tracking is consistent.

Hotel Digital Marketing Acronym Translator

There are many different acronyms to try to keep straight between the hotel industry and the digital marketing industry. Here’s a quick reference guide to the most frequently used ones. 

CTR: Click-Through Rate

CPM: Cost Per Thousand

CPC: Cost Per Click

CPA: Cost Per Acquisition

CPL: Cost Per Lead

CPE: Cost Per Engagement

ROAS: Return on Ad Spend

CTA: Call To Action

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

UX: User Experience

CMS: Content Management System

CRM: Customer Relationship Management

GA: Google Analytics

PPC: Pay Per Click

SERPS: Search Engine Result Pages

Do you have a question we missed or do you need more information about any of the topics above? Submit an inquiry and reach out to GCommerce today!