The Ultimate Guide to Hotel MarketingRead More

The Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing for Hotels

Contents

Introduction

Are you tired of never knowing if your next facebook post is going to bring in any direct bookings? Are you stressed out keeping up with all the social media platforms that you must be on? Are you on those platforms because everyone else is? Do you look at the low click-through rate on your email campaigns and wonder any of it is worth it? If so, then read on for the ultimate guide to digital marketing for hotels.

Digital marketing in any industry is overwhelming, especially in hospitality. The day-to-day of running of the hotel is hectic. Trying to compete with the marketing power of the mighty OTA’s aw well, it can begin to feel pointless. But Fear not! This article will show you how to build a solid digital strategy. And how it can provide a roadmap to success, that you can measure and optimise.

Here’s what it includes:

  1. Define Your Digital Strategy
  2. Build Your Website
  3. Email Marketing
  4. Blogging
  5. Video Marketing
  6. Social Media
  7. Paid Advertising
  8. Analyse & Optimise

If you follow the methods in this guide, you will start to:

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s start making sense of digital marketing for hotels!

Start building your own digital strategy for your hotel

Download the Digital Marketing for Hotels Checklist

Define Your Strategy

Creating a solid digital strategy is the key to digital marketing success for your hotel. So, the largest section of this article will focus on creating one.

Abraham Lincoln once said “If I had five minutes to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first three sharpening my axe.”  Now, I’m not sure how much he knew about chopping down trees or digital marketing, but you get the picture. A well sharpened strategy will get the job done in less time and with less effort.

Why do you need a digital marketing strategy?

A good digital marketing strategy will:

Before we look at how to create a digital marketing strategy for your hotel, let’s look at what we want it to achieve.

  1. Identify your core revenue streams
  2. Prioritise which to focus on first
  3. Match an ideal customer for each revenue stream
  4. Empathise with your ideal customer and what they are trying to get done
  5. Visualise the journey they take to get the  job done
  6. Understand what barriers they face in trying to get that job done
  7. Identify what content may attract them to the website earlier on in the journey
  8. Identify what content may help guide them through their journey.
  9. Identify what information would improve their experience whilst they are a customer
  10. Identify opportunities for turning them into repeat customers and advocates for the hotel

How to create a digital marketing strategy for hotels

Let’s take a look at the steps you need to take when creating a digital marketing strategy for your hotel:

  1. Define Business Goals
  2. Create Buyer Personas
  3. Define Job-to-be-done
  4. Customer Journey Mapping
  5. Validate Assumptions

How do you define your business goals?

Let’s take a look at what your business goals might be. Increase revenue, is usually the first thing that gets mentioned. But that doesn’t us the best foundation to base our strategy on. Some more specific goals might be:

Hotels tend to have many different revenue streams. Each one may have different goals over the next 6-12 months. So, we may need to create a different strategy for each revenue stream.

Start by listing all your revenue streams. In an average sized hotel, your list may look like this:

Consider which revenue streams have the biggest impact on the business. Which have the most potential to increase their revenue over the next 12 months. Your list may now look something like this:

  1. Rooms
  2. Weddings
  3. Meetings & Events
  4. Food & Beverage
  5. Gift Vouchers

Prioritising the list allows us to focus on the most important revenue stream first. This means we can see an impact sooner. Trying to tackle everything at once will cause chaos, and you won’t see results for a long time.

From our list we can see that we need to focus on our rooms first. So what is our goal for the rooms? In most cases, the hotels we work with, tend to want to increase the number of direct bookings they take. This means a reduction in the cost of sale through the OTA, resulting in an increase in revenue and profit.

So now we know what it is we’re trying to do, how will we know if we are getting close to achieving it. To do that, we need to set ourselves a target.

The best way to do this is by using S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

Our S.M.A.R.T. goal for rooms, may look a little something like this:

Increase the number of direct bookings by 5% in 6 months

Now we need to make sure that we can measure this. You can get the number of monthly direct bookings from your booking engine. But, you may also find it useful to track it as a goal in your Google Analytics, so you can compare it with other useful data. Read this article on how to set a goal in Google Analytics.

To see if our target is achievable in the given time frame, we will need some data to compare it to. I would suggest taking the number of direct bookings for each of the last 12 months. We will then compare each coming month with last years data and see if we can increase it by 5% in 6 months.

Ideal Customer Persona

Now that we have our goal, we are going to need some customers to help us achieve it. We don’t want to attract any old person to make the numbers look good. We want to attract our ideal customer.

Not all your customers are your ideal customer. As the old saying goes, ‘you can’t please all the people, all the time’ and nor should you want to. You want to attract the customers who will benefit the most from your services. You want to attract customers who are more likely to turn into loyal, repeat customers.

An easy way to illustrate this is by using the 80/20 rule. Who are the 20% of our customer base that bring in 80% of your revenue? If you are able to answer this question, then you should have a good idea who your ideal customer is.

If we can paint a picture of this ideal customer, then we will begin to empathise with their needs and goals. This helps us to create great content that will guide them through their buyers journey.

How do you create an ideal customer persona?

If you search online, you will find an endless amount of persona templates. Many of which, ask you to fill out a tonne of questions about their likes & dislikes. If this is the first time you have created a persona, the chances are you will get fatigue filling one of these out. You might even start to question what the point of all this is. I like to start with a basic picture of the customer. Over time you can add important insights that you learn along the way.

The first few questions allow us to place the customer into a basic demographic. This will be helps us to picture the customer in our heads.

The next few questions give us an understanding the style of content they like to read. It also gives us an idea of where we can reach them online.

What is a Job-to-be-done?

Your customer’s journey to booking a room doesn’t start on your website. They go through a series of steps in their research. In this case you would be thinking that the ideal customers job-to-be-done was ‘to book a room’. Yet, that is not the full story.

Our ideal customer doesn’t jump out of bed one morning declaring ‘I must book a double room at X hotel!’ If we can understand what the decisions they need to make, then we can produce great content. If we can understand what objections they may have, the we can produce greater content.

For example, a person goes to a DIY store to buy a drill. What is the job-to-be-done in this scenario? Is it to buy a drill? No, not quite. We need to look at what they are looking to buy the drill for. Drills make holes. So, making a hole is the job-to-be-done, right? Nope, but we’re getting closer.

If you ask why they need to put a whole in the wall, you’ll be in a better position to make the best recommendation. It turns out they need to hang a picture frame. In this case, they could buy a hammer and some nails or even a no-nails sticky hook. These might be also product that we sell, or they could be competing alternatives.

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

Understanding our ideal customer’s job-to-be-done is, helps us understand their ‘Buyer’s Journey’. According to Hubspot, the stages of the Buyers Journey are:

Awareness Stage

Prospect is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity.

Consideration Stage

Prospect has now clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity.

Decision Stage

Prospect has now decided on their solution strategy, method and approach.

Delight Stage

Your customer’s journey doesn’t stop there. There are many interactions that are opportunities to help and delight your customer. The more you do so, the more likely you will turn them in to loyal, repeat customers. There are three sub-stages to consider:

So what would our customer’s journey look like? Let’s remind ourselves of the Job-to-be-done.

As a mother in a family of four,
When I am celebrating an anniversary 

I want to spend quality time with my husband
So I can reigniting lost passion.

Let’s consider the awareness stage. At this point she may not be considering a weekend away. She might be researching alternative ways to celebrate an anniversary. Therefore, to attract her into your funnel, you could write an article about ’10 Great Ways to Celebrate Your Anniversary’ . 

The intention of this article is to provide useful and unbiased information. If this is the first time someone comes across your brand, you don’t want to come across too salesy. Instead, you want to come across as helpful and trustworthy.

However, you do still need to make an attempt to move them to the next stage of your funnel. The next stage in our funnel is the consideration stage. So, one of your ten ways to celebrate an anniversary could be a romantic weekend. Then you could have a call-to-action to your next article about ‘7 Romantic weekend locations in the UK’.

As before, you will want to make this useful and unbiased. But you will still want to guide them through to the next stage of your funnel. Include some reasons why the location near your hotel is romantic. Listing some of the local attractions would be helpful too. Use a call-to-action to move them to the decision stage. This will be a link to your hotel website. You may want this to be in the form of an offer such as a ‘Romantic Weekend Package’. 

Now you have the potential customer on the offer page of your website. This is the moment where you can sell yourself. You have begun to build up some trust and rapport at this stage. They will be more open to a harder sell on the promotion’s landing page.

Refer to the details from the persona. You can highlight the features that appeal to their needs and aspirations. If they have any fears about paying the full in full, you may consider offering payment options. Such as pay a deposit now and pay the rest on arrival.

Setup Your Hotel Website for Conversions

Now that you have led the customer through a funnel to a landing page on your website. It’s primary focus is converting a customer who has been through that funnel. We now need to make sure that we have a website that is set up to help us convert.

Let’s assume that your hotel already has a website. If you haven’t yet opened your hotel and still need to get one built, take a  look at our guide to launching a hotel website.

It is important to have your own website, as opposed to existing only on OTA’s. Your website is your own digital real-estate, which you have full control over. You aren’t restricted to the OTA’s page template. So you can communicate your brand personality.

Also, if an OTA platform go out of business, you still have a your own steady stream of traffic. Full of leads that you have built up with your focused digital strategy.

Refer to the revenue streams that we identified when we were setting our business goals:

  1. Rooms
  2. Weddings
  3. Meetings & Events
  4. Food & Beverage
  5. Gift Vouchers

You will need to have a sales page for each revenue stream. Each dedicated to converting our ideal customer, or at least generating an enquiry. These pages will be the bottom of each of their own individual funnels.

It’s  essential to have a call-to-action on the page. Place one at the top and bottom of your page. That way it is clear what action you want the customer to take.

You can build up the funnels for the other revenue streams over time. Tackle them in the order of priority that we established earlier.

Once you have sales pages for each revenue stream, you just need one more vital ingredient. This is something that a lot of people forget, but it helps us to measure our conversions. Say thank you to your Thank You pages.

Why are thank you pages important?

There are many reasons why thank you pages are great. The main one is because they help you to track goals in Google Analytics.

Let’s take a look at how this would work. For example, on our weddings sales page, we are going to have an enquiry form. When a visitor submits the form, they’ll be directed to a dedicated thank you page eg. https://hotelwebsite.com/wedding-thankyou. It’s essential to block thank you pages from search engines. That way we know that anyone who lands on that url has submitted an enquiry form.

All we need to do now is use this url to set up a destination goal in Google analytics. Every time, someone lands on that url it, it will count as a goal conversion. You can now view the goal conversions with other segmented data in Google Analytics. This will give you greater insights into your customers.

Learn more about how to set up a destination goal in Google Analytics

Of course, there are other ways of tracking goal conversions, such as event tracking. But this setup can get a little more complicated. This is a simpler way to start tracking the data we need.

Another advantage of using a thank you page is that you can use them to keep people on your sight longer. Forms are often left on their default setting. Displaying a default thank you message on the same screen. As a result, a visitor will tend to leave the site as there is nothing for them to do now they have submitted the form.

If you redirect them to a specific thank you page, dedicated to the funnel. You now have a captive audience at a very specific point in their buyers journey. This is an opportunity to provide them with useful next steps, or to consider some upsells.

Email Marketing

Email marketing can be so much more than a newsletter. If ‘sign-up to our newsletter’ is your strategy, the chances are you’ve already given up on email marketing.

Email can be a vital component of your digital marketing strategy. It bridges the gap between your website and your customer’s inbox. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can include it in your digital strategy.

Sign-up for a discount, not a newsletter

People are much more protective of their email addresses these days. So, they’re not going to give it to you unless they’re getting something valuable in return. A discount for booking direct is far better than reading an newsletter each month. Plus, this way, it saves you having to write one!

Lead Nurture

How does email marketing help with lead nurture. Let’s consider the stages in the buyers journey we mapped out in our strategy. We have created some useful content for each stage of the buyers journey. This content exists as blog posts and pages on our website. We hope that they navigate through this funnel by themselves. But this isn’t always the case. We can increase the likelihood of them doing so with a nurture sequence.

What you need is a lead magnet. A lead magnet is some content of value the the visitor can download. By asking for permission for their email we can now send the download to their inbox.

We now know what they’re interested in knowing more about celebrating their anniversary. We can send them a sequence of emails that take them through our funnel. The sequence will end with a link to our ‘Romantic Weekend Package’.

But here’s the best. You can automate the sending of emails by using an email marketing platform. And there’s more great news… it’s free to set-up. There are many great email marketing tools that have great freemium packages. to get you started. Check out our list here:

Blogging for Hotels

You’re about to launch your new website. You have a blog section and you need some blog posts in it. So, you write a post saying; ‘Yay! This is our new website. Come back soon for some updates!’ And then there is silence. The blog remains empty for 2 years.

The other scenario, you do engage with your blog, and for a while you post about what is happening at the hotel. But when you look at the analytics, you see that these posts aren’t getting any traffic. You wonder what the point of the all that effort was and you stop writing blog posts. Does this sound familiar?

This is all too true for many hotel’s blogs. And the simple reason that they fail, is because they don’t have a strategy. They don’t know what to write about, and what they do write about doesn’t bring in any traffic. But now we do have a strategy!

You have created a funnel for each of our revenue streams. You are using blog posts for attraction and consideration content. Once the funnels are set-up, you can explore what content will drive the ideal customer to your marketing funnels.

Generating content ideas

We already have our the table of content ideas we created whilst journey mapping. We can now look to expand on those ideas. Start by brainstorming ideas and adding them to a spreadsheet. Your secret weapon in this activity is your sales team and receptionists. These people are speaking with your actual customers every day.  Answering the questions that would make ideal content for the website.

Another source of content ideas can come from asking our customers questions too. We can get our website to do this for us automatically too, in the form of questionnaires. Two forms of questionnaire we can use are:

  1. The Exit Survey: a pop-up that triggers when a user goes to leave the site. ‘Did you find what you were looking for today?’ can be a great way to find out if there is any content that is missing or hard to find on your website.
  2. The Post-Sale Survey: a small survey sent to a customer after they have completed a purchase. ‘What nearly prevented you from buying from us today?’ is another great way to find out where your website could be improved. You could take this opportunity to validate some of the assumptions you made in the personas. Ask some simple questions about their demographics and habits online.

There are many tools that can help us understand what people are searching for online:

These tools generate a whole bunch of ideas related to your topics. Type in some of the topic ideas form the journey mapping exercise. They will then generate a whole list of related keyword phrases. They will state the number of monthly searches these topics are generating. You can use this to decide which topics may be best to write about.

Read these articles if you want to learn more about keyword research or writing better blogs for SEO.

Once you have your list of content ideas, you want to organise them into content calendar. This will help to make your producing your content more manageable. At the same time maintaining a steady flow of content. It also gives you an opportunity to plan when to produce topical content, like Mother’s Day.

Remember what the point of these blog posts are. They should be attracting visitors to our website so that we may be able to nurture them into being a customer. So, we must always remember to give a blog post a call-to-action that leads them into one of our marketing funnels.

Video Marketing

Why should a hotel do video marketing? People love video, and so does Google. So, you should too!

Since the dawn of video on the web, people have been watching more and more of it. Let’s face it, when you click on a blog post and you see a video after the first paragraph, you’re going to click on it. It is people’s nature to be lazy whilst they are browsing and you can take advantage of that.

You can often get your message across even better with the use of moving pictures and sound. You want your visitors to imagine themselves enjoying your hotel. This is easier to achieve with a 2 minute video than 500 words of text.

Google loves video too. It showed us that when it bought YouTube. Having a video on your page or in your blog post can be great for your SEO. If Google detects a video on your page it will feature it in your search result. this can often stand out against others in your results list, even when they are above you.

You should consider YouTube as a search engine as well. When you post your video on YouTube, you are giving yourself an opportunity to be found there too. You can also perform YouTube SEO by adding detailed descriptions to your videos. Read this article to learn more about how video marketing can boost your SEO.

Social Media

Why should hotels use social media? People spend a large amount of the time online using social media. So it makes sense to meet them where the conversation is happening.

For some users, they prefer to communicate with businesses through social media. Preferring to send a DM on twitter, rather than through phone and email. So, a good social media can be essential to maintaining happy customer relationships.

Another great reason to use social media is to promote your content. Posting links to your attraction content on social media is a great way to getting traffic to your site.

Which social media channel should my hotel use?

This is a very important question. Not all social media channels will be where your ideal customer hangs out online. You will want to concentrate your efforts on the channels that work best for you and abandon the ones that don’t.

One revenue stream might be more suited to a particular social platform than another. So you may want to focus on where you are sending specific content. For example, Pinterest is commonly used as inspiration for people planning weddings. Therefore, you will want to post visual content linking to your wedding funnel.

Let’s take a look at how you might use the different platforms:

Facebook

Facebook is the great all-rounder and a great place to start. According to Statista.com, Facebook will reach 1.69 billion users in 2020. So its potential for reaching high numbers is big.

Facebook groups is a great way to find people with specific interests. You may have identified that your ideal customer has specific interests. Why not try joining some of the special interest groups on Facebook. You will learn a lot about them. Learn how to set up a Facebook group.

Facebook pages gives your hotel an opportunity to have a place where people can find you. Getting likes to your page is a great way of reaching people when you have content to promote. You can also learn a lot about your customers by posting questions and polls on your page. This is great for validating some of the assumptions you have made in your personas. Learn how to set up a Facebook page for business.

Instagram

80% of instagram users follow at least one business,  it is therefore a great way to connect with your customers and increase brand advocacy. Creating an Instagram account to promote your hotel will allow customers to experience all that happens at your hotel and interact with the content you share. Instagram enables you to track specific hashtags and trends that your customers may be interacting with. This allows you to include relevant hashtags in your content to ensure it is reaching the correct demographic. Another useful feature of instagram is that you can tag a location on your post, this enables customers to search for specific locations and see what content has been shared there allowing them to view what you the hotel have posted and any guests who have also tagged the location into their post.

Learn how to set up a Instagram account for your hotel.

Twitter

Twitter allows hotels to keep followers up to date with all that is happening. With a restricted character limit you can quickly update and inform users of all your hotel news. Again the use of hashtags is a brilliant way to attract new users to your account and to track tweet content and the most popular hashtags to use in your posts to increase the interaction rate. It is important to vary the content from other platforms so that there are unique posts on each platform for followers to engage with, it is also important to keep track of the trending hashtags each day and try to include them in your posts if possible to increase the number of impressions your post receives. There are also specific times on each day which see the highest level of interaction. Click here to see the best times to post on each social media platform.

Learn how to set up a Twitter account for your hotel.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn may not be the obvious platform for your hotel. However, you may have great business facilities. Meetings, conferencing & events could be a key revenue stream for you. Local business groups would make a great source of potential customers. Learn how to set up a LinkedIn page for your hotel.

Pinterest

Pinterest is very visual. As such it is great for planning for weddings and events. Publishing images of your spaces decorated for such events would be very useful. You could also create inspiration boards that people can follow. Learn how to set up a Pinterest account for your hotel.

Paid Advertising

Why should a hotel use paid advertising? Paid advertising is a great and quick way to guide more traffic to your site and increase business. However, it can quickly become expensive if you don’t use it carefully.

A common problem when starting out with Google Adwords is using too broad keyword terms. Whilst the high monthly search numbers are attractive, they can be expensive. Also, the broader the keyword term, the broader the intention of the visitor. Therefore, you are attracting more people who are less likely to click.

Long tail keyword phrases will attract fewer monthly searches. But they provide more qualified visitors. Therefore, you will get a better ROI for your ad spend budget.

There are many different platforms available to advertise on. You won’t know which is most effective for your hotel until you try them.  Lets look at the main three:

Here are 6 tips to remember when creating your ads:

  1. Get tracking ready
  2. Create a landing page
  3. Create a call-to-action
  4. Use A/B testing
  5. Review Results often
  6. Set budget and plan for the long haul

Get Tracking ready

If you aren’t tracking the performance of your ads then you are throwing money away. Make sure you have your tracking set up so that you are able to calculate the ROI of your campaigns.

Create a Landing Page

Visitors coming into your website from a paid ad should arrive on a unique page. This allows you to customise the message on that page to match the advert that brought them there. If your landing page doesn’t match the message of the ad, your bounce rate will be high. Be sure to block your landing page from search engines. That will make your goal tracking more accurate.

Create a Call-to-Action

The primary job of a landing page is to convert the visitor into either a lead or a customer. An effective landing page will have one very clear and concise call-to-action. When you are creating your landing page, you will need to ask yourself ‘what is the one thing I want the visitor to do next’. Then build your content around that.

Use A/B Testing

To ensure you are spending money on the best ad and landing page possible, you will want to conduct some A/B testing. Most advertising platforms will have the capabilities to run A/B tests on your ads. To run A/B tests on your landing pages, you can use Google Optimise.

In short, A/B testing allows you to create a variation of the original ad or landing page and send traffic to both. After a set time or number of visits, the ad or page that converts best will be win the test. All the traffic will go to the test winner for the rest of the campaign.

Review Results Regularly

Check your results regularly, but not daily. If you check your results everyday, you are likely to make hasty changes, as well as going  insane. Allow some time for some results to come in and check them either weekly or monthly. You could start recording the data you need in a spreadsheet. This will allow you to see any patterns in your results more easily.

Set a budget and plan for the long term

Don’t expect to have overnight success. To get the best results it will take time and a little finesse.

Analyse & Optimise

If you have applied all the steps above, you should have a good foundation for your digital strategy. Now the fun can begin!

As you track the performance of all your marketing activities, you will begin to see which techniques work best. You will also spot those which are costing you money. This allows you to make informed decisions when optimising your strategy. As well as deepening your understanding of your ideal customer with better insights.

Digital marketing is not a set-and-forget activity. It is an ongoing analysing and optimising activity. Therefore, you need to make sure you have all the right tools in place to analyse and optimise your strategy.

Google Analytics

There is no reason why any site should launch without Google Analytics. As far as analytics tools go, it is very powerful. And best of all, it’s free!

It is really effective at showing you what is happening on your website. I will cover the tools that show you why things are happening next.

However, Google Analytics can be a little overwhelming for new users. Its easy look only at the headline figures, such as page visits and bounce rates. This can leave you wondering what to do about it. To harness the power of Google Analytics, a little bit of digging goes a long way. You want to know where people are entering and exiting the site. Then you want to optimise those pages

Landing Pages

Let’s start by identifying where are important traffic is entering the site. These will be pages that are getting the most organic traffic and  paid traffic. You can find these under Landing pages. Now you can go and check these pages visually. To see if they are performing properly. Are they converting their traffic into leads or customers?

Exit Pages

Next we want to know where people are leaving the site. These are called exit pages. Some pages will naturally have high exit rates. These are usually the page after a transaction of form submission. If  the visitor is not prompted to do anything else, they will leave. Checking exit pages can help you fix any pages that are leaking traffic.

Device & Operating system

Now we know which pages are important, you will want to see them as the majority of your users do. To do this you want to check what devices and operating systems are most popular on your site. This gives us an opportunity to fix any bugs or issues that might be occurring on these pages.

Referral Source

Knowing which websites your traffic is coming from and to which pages, can be very important. Do you have any control about how you are portrayed on that referral source? Do you have a profile that you can edit on an OTA site or can you strike up a relationship with an influential blogger?

Knowing what pages the traffic is going to is useful too. You can check if the page is providing the information that that referral would expect?

Goals

Setting up goals is critical to measuring the success of your strategy. Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t track them out of the box. So you’ll need to set them up first.

So what is a goal and how do we set them up? A goal completion should fire every time a visitor does something that we want them to do on our site. So, every time a visitor purchases a room or submits an enquiry form, we want to record a goal completion.

Tracking purchases on the booking engine needs a little work. Your tracking script needs adding to your booking engine, and conversion tracking to be setup. Learn how to setup eCommerce tracking. This is the most complicated it is likely to get, so you can give yourself a pat on the back once you’ve done this. If you use a third-party tool for table bookings, gift vouchers or spa appointments, you may have to repeat the process for those too.

Setting up a goal for enquiry form submissions is easy:

  1. Create a unique form for a revenue stream eg. Weddings
  2. Create a thank you page for each form eg. www.yoursite.com/thank-you-weddings 
  3. In your form settings, redirect the form to the thank you page on submission.
  4. Stop your thank you pages being tracked by search engines
  5. In Google Analytics create a Destination Goal. (Learn how to create a destination goal in Google Analytics)

Now when someone completes an enquiry, you will get a goal completion.

Once you have all your goals recording, you can monitor the performance of your digital marketing activities.

FullStory

As we mentioned before, Google Analytics shows us what is happening on our site by showing us the numbers. FullStory takes us a step closer to understanding the why behind what people are doing on our site.

FullStory is a session recorder. This means that it records every session a visitor has on your site for you to playback and see what they do. So when, we have identified which pages are important to us in Google Analytics, we can hop over to FullStory to see what people are doing on them. This is especially useful for understanding why people are leaving on those high exit pages.

With a little bit of setup, you can create some useful segments that you can come back and view each time. This could be a segment for each of your revenue streams sales pages, as well as your high landing and exit pages. You could also add a filter that shows you only those pages being viewed on the most popular devices and operating systems.

FullStory has a months free trial of it’s PRO features, and then it records a set number of sessions for free thereafter. Learn how to create a FullStory account.

User Testing

FullStory is a great way to quickly identify issues on your website, without going to too much trouble. However, it still doesn’t give us that opportunity to ask the visitor why they weren’t able to perform a certain task. For this there really isn’t anything better than performing a user test.

User Testing is where you get your ideal customer to perform a set number of tasks whilst speaking their thoughts allowed as they do. It is incredibly insightful to hear what they say. Some things that seem obvious to you as the site’s owner can be invisible to everyone else. Simply performing 3-5 user tests can identify some quick fixes that will open the flood gates to conversions.

However, setting up user tests can be time consuming and stressful. This is where a platform like UserTesing.com becomes incredibly useful. You can quickly create a set of tasks for a segment of users. You can usually get the results back within 24 hours. You can then watch back the recordings and take notes about what obstacles the visitors are facing, but also the language they use to describe it. This can be very useful for your content creation and SEO.

I usually perform a pilot test before on a colleague before starting the test. This allows you to see if any of the questions are confusing or badly written.

If your site doesn’t yet have a large amount of traffic, A/B testing can take too long. In which case, user testing provides the best source of impartial feedback. Learn how to setup your UserTesting account.

A/B Testing

When we go to the effort of making changes to pages on our website. We really need to know if those changes help improve the conversions on that page or if they harm them. That way, we can keep the changes that improve the site and ditch the ones that don’t.

This is especially useful when you working with a HIPPO. I don’t mean actual hippopotamus with a marketing degree. Although, I would pay good money to see that. HIPPO means the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. The boss is adamant the page should be purple because it’s their favourite colour. This can prevent the best planned strategies from succeeding.

However, with A/B testing in your tool belt, you can say ‘lets test that’. I’m sure that when they see that blue converts 20% more of the traffic, they may reconsider their favourite colour.  Opinions are great, but they can be costly if they are not validated.

So what should you be testing? Once you have been through your analytics tools, you will have lots of ideas on how to improve the site. Some of your colleagues may have differing ideas on how to solve some of the issues on the site. Let’s take a look how we can prioritise what we test first and how to manage different ideas and opinions.

Build a Strong Hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated prediction that can be scientifically tested. The educated prediction is what you believe will happen if you change a specific thing on your website. This is due to the insights that you have gained from your quantitative and qualitative data. The scientific test is the A/B test.

A good hypothesis will be structured like this:

“I believe …  will result in … because … “

So that might look like this:

“I believe that adding customer’s testimonials to the weddings page,

will result in an increase in wedding enquiries,

because it reassures the visitor and builds confidence in our service.”

Prioritise with P.I.E.

In general, all pies are great. What makes the P.I.E. framework so fantastic, is that it helps us to make changes to our website that will have the most positive impact, first.

Now that you have turned your ideas hypothesis statements, it can help you to prioritise them with the P.I.E. framework. So let’s look at what P.I.E. means.

Potential – how much improvement can be made to this page?

Importance – how critical is this page to the revenue stream or overall business? Does it have valuable traffic coming into it?

Ease – How easy is it to implement the change? Not all pages are as easy to edit as others due to to technical reasons.

Give each hypothesis statement a score out of 5 for each category. Then divide it by 3 for it’s overall P.I.E. rating. Like this table below shows:

Insert table…

Now you have a way to sort your list of hypothesis so you can make the most impactful changes first.

Creating an A/B Test

What is an A/B test? An A/B test is a way to test how well a page and a variation of that page performs at completing a goal. The original page being A, the variation being B and the goal, for example, could be form submissions.

Using your testing software, you send 50% of the traffic to A and 50% to B. After a certain amount of time or traffic, you see which has performed the best. If the results are conclusive, you declare this the winner and implement the changes.

There are a whole host of testing platforms out there, but luckily, Google has a tool to help us get started. Google Optimize is free, has the basics covered and is compatible with Google Analytics. Learn how to set up an A/B test in Google Optimize.

Apply & Learn

Once you have declared a winner to an A/B test it is important that you apply the change to the site so that you can gain the benefit. It is also important that you review the result with your team and ask yourself if anything can be learnt by the result. Does it give you a valuable insight into your ideal customer? Could the change be applied elsewhere on the site to the same effect?

What if the test failed or was inconclusive? If it failed then that is good news. Without the test, you would have gone to the expense of applying the change, left it there for 2 years, and not known why your site isn’t improving. You can gain just as important insight from a failed test as you can from a winning one. You just need to ask yourself, why did it fail? Was the data interpreted badly? Was the change not appropriate? You might be able to come up with a better hypothesis next time.

If the test was inconclusive, ie. A and B converted the goal at the same rate, then what? If you feel the variation looks better and it makes everyone on the team happy, then keep it. You can apply without fear of it having a damaging effect on the performance of the site. Your HIPPO’s will be satisfied either way!

Conclusion

Digital Marketing can be difficult and stressful. Like sailing a ship, you will never get to your destination if you don’t identify where it is you want to go and plot the route to get there. Similarly, you want get very far without the aid of a compass to make sure you are staying on course.

Successful digital marketing for hotels, requires a vision for success good strategy to take you there. You also need to arm yourself with the tools that will keep you on track. Adapt and learn as you go and you will have success in no time.

Good luck, and get in touch to let us know how you get on with your digital strategy.

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