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Hospitality Insights

An interview with online marketing expert Simon Dalley

23 May 2013


We asked online marketing expert Simon Dalley about his ideas on the current trends in online marketing. He has shared some great tips and tricks with us, so read on!


We are happy to see that more and more businesses are starting to use social media. What do think will be the new trends?
I think we will start seeing an increased personalisation and more recommendations in results, with social media channels delivering more qualified data based on previous interactions both on their network and externally whilst increasingly targeting you based on the activities of your friends and followers.


There are so many social media platforms nowadays. What social media platform(s) should companies in the hotel and travel sector focus on?
At the moment it would be best to focus on Facebook and the primary social media channels, due to the market penetration it has as well as the increasingly sophistication it’s developing in terms of virality of posts and getting posts out to the right people. Facebook’s monetization strategy including Promoted Posts also give you a great way of ensuring your content will be seen by a specific size of audience.

Twitter is a great PR tool, and if you find the right influencers you can really create a strong buzz about what you’re up to – on the other hand it can be a hard slog for not a lot of return. An idea is to invite a celebrity with lots of followers to stay at your hotel and get them to tweet about it – however, make sure it’s good PR you’re going to get.

Other than those, the other thing is Google+. Whatever you do, make sure you are using Google+ effectively; use the publisher and the author meta tags wherever possible and even if you feel like you’re not getting anything back from it, be sure to use it. If Google are using these signals, you need to be on there to give your website the best opportunity.


Websites still play a big role in online marketing. Are there any new trends in company websites?
Mobile all the way. We’ve seen our mobile audience grow from 10% in 2010 to 40% in 2013, and it’s a trend we expect to continue developing. In 2014, I’d expect that websites will be designed for mobile devices first and desktops second. It’s also clear that analytics has some way to go to catch up with the world of mobile and desktop – expect Google Analytics Universal to start giving us some surprising and potentially game changing insights in the coming years.


Of course we all want our website to get found. What are the recent trends in Search Engine Optimisation?
Citations are becoming increasingly important as Google changes the way it handles links. I predict in the future that references to a brand or a website without a link will be almost as important as a hyperlink. If Facebook manage to get their Graph Search sorted, I expect there to be a big change again and a fight back from Google which could really alter how people perform searches.


What is the most important thing to focus on when thinking about SEO?
At the moment it’s got to be content; the more content you can get out there the better. But make sure it’s the best content it can be and that it’s about well researched topics that people would actually want to read.


Sometimes you’ll have to get your wallet out to reach a big audience. Are there any new trends in (paid) online advertising?
The biggest changes at the moment are the opportunities that social media, and especially Facebook offers. On top of this there are new advertising sizes such as double height MPUs and Billboard ads which are commanding high CPMs (Cost Per 1000 Impressions) whilst some of the smaller sizes become deprecated as a result of the changing shape of viewing screen due to the mobile factor.


Newsletters have been around for quite a while and many companies are still using them. Do you think that is a good thing or is it getting old fashioned?
Newsletters are still vital to many businesses, however, they need to be personalised and useful to the audience in order to get them to keep opening them. If you don’t personalise your content to what the individual is likely to want, they’ll stop opening them eventually. We’re all getting much better at understanding what people are doing onsite, so it’s important to tap into the big data in order to maximise your audience’s potential.


Do you think there is anything that companies in the leisure/travel sector should do different from other companies when it comes to online marketing?
The leisure/travel sector is getting better, although in places it’s still held back by systems and owners/managers who are stuck in the old ways that they used to do business. We all stick with what works until it no longer works and that’s fine, but at some point if we don’t adapt it will come back to bite us. Ultimately travel and leisure is about selling the dream and selling an experience. If you can’t get that experience across to your customer, you won’t make the sale.


Do you have any final tips, tricks or wise words for companies using online marketing?
Be active; never stop or slow down. The great thing about online marketing is that you can undo something that’s wrong. If you put something out there that’s wrong, go back and correct it. That’s something that you can’t do if you’ve sent out 10,000 direct mails or flyer dropped a whole city. So offline naturally takes more time to carry out due to the time it takes to go through multiple revisions. The immediacy of online marketing means you can never, ever do enough, because if you stop and spend too much time thinking about things and second guessing how things will work out, your competition has already put something out there to steal your momentum.

At Skiddle, we’ve concentrated on developing our technology, which has enabled us to do some pretty special things in terms of online marketing. Our latest project is Skiddle’s Festival Finder that represents the most advanced festival search functionality online. It’s something that really sets us miles apart from our competition and has got loads of people talking about us. With this focus on technological innovation, you keep your audience coming back for more – although it does raise their expectations of what you’re going to come up with next!


Simon Dalley is the Head of Marketing at Skiddle Ltd. is an online leisure retailer and what’s on guide, primarily focussed on event ticket sales but also featuring other leisure booking opportunities including booking tables at restaurants and hotel booking opportunities.

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