Tuesday, 16 August 2016

After You Go Live With Simplotel

Excited that your hotel is now live with Simplotel Brand Website and Simplotel Booking Engine? Well, we are too - and while we have already done a ton of things such as - clean & structured coding, proper tags & sitemaps, and search engine optimization from the ground up - to optimize user experience on your hotel’s website and make it SEO friendly, you can still increase your incoming traffic by following several activities we are listing here today.



Improve your 3rd party channels -
Good listings on 3rd party channels like TripAdvisor, Google Reviews and OTAs increase online visibility of your brand and drive more customers to your brand website. All these channels act as billboards for your hotel website and you should totally utilize these channels for online growth.

Make sure that your TripAdvisor page is updated with images and content so that you can make a solid first impression on prospective guests. Google Reviews are posted on your hotel’s Google Plus page, so make sure the page is up-to-date. Improve the info on your OTA listings as well. Also, keep track of your inventory and rates to avoid negative customer reviews.

Engage customers through content updates -
Maintain the freshness of content on your website by posting weekly or fortnightly updates that detail the happenings at your hotel and in its vicinity. Guests arriving in your city for a holiday will love to learn more about the destinations they can visit, so include them on a separate page as well. Also, you can promote your USPs - such as banquet hall facilities, diner, and restaurant on the website.

Do not forget to provide links between your webpages and multiple properties (in case you are a hotel chain) when you post new content updates.

Link your social media and blogs to the website -
Social media is an important channel for spreading brand awareness. Begin your online social media marketing by creating pages on all popular platforms, namely - Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter & Co. Keep your content in sync across the social media pages and provide links to your website.

Going one step further, you can also invite well followed bloggers to write about your hotel or resort and link those articles to your website.

Offers and promotions to convert more leads -
Online offers have proven to be effective in driving conversions on brand websites. You can experiment with promotions time to time and see which ones works best for your hotel. Also, try using pay @ hotel or partial up-front online payments - this can have a significant effect on your online conversions.

Offline and email marketing -
Personalize the stationary items, livery and other general inventory items at your resort with your brand logo and promotional messages such as - best price on your website - and honor the offer to leave a positive impression on guests. You can also place sign boards around the hotel or resort to promote your offers and promotions.

Finally, utilize email marketing to drive more traffic to your brand website - collect email addresses of your customers, and utilize this database to send out mails asking for reviews (on TripAdvisor & co.) and other marketing mailers.

Have any questions about this post? You can drop us a mail at hello@simplotel.com.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The ABC of SEO for Hotels

At Simplotel we have built websites for over 2,000 hotels, and every single time we have been asked about how we drive traffic to a website. We have been asked by those who are usually suspicious of SEO because they paid for such services in past and may or may not have seen results. And we have been asked by our customers who see a 3x plus growth in their website traffic after coming to our platform – as to how we do it. While SEO can be a deep subject, today we will attempt to outline how one must think about SEO in this post. 

At a high level SEO depends on three things –

  1. Technology and layout of the website 
  2. The content on the website
  3. Things happening outside your website
SEO for Hotels

Technology and layout of the website

In order to determine the relevance of a website for a search term (also known as a keyword) search engines have a piece of software called a Bot (derived from the word Robot) that crawls (think of it as reads) content on your website. The Bot then stores the keywords that a website is most relevant for. This is known as indexing of a website.

Unlike users, bots see the code of the website and not what users see on a website (you can view the code of most websites by right clicking on a webpage and selecting view page source). The easier this code is for the search engines to understand, the better chance you have of conveying your content to the search engines and making sure that your content gets indexed correctly. Here again there are hundreds of things that matter. These include the load time of a website, the structure of website code, mobile friendliness, proper tags and sitemaps. Detailing these is a topic for a future blog.

The layout of your website also plays an important role in search engine optimization. Clean and simple navigation, easily readable content – they all add up towards SEO friendliness. 
To get these things right a website must be built for SEO from the ground up – retrofitting these things can often mean redoing the website. The good news is that Simplotel, out of the box, takes care of all this for your hotel website.

The content on your website

Now that we have gotten the technical aspects covered, the next most obvious thing about SEO is the content of the website. If your website’s content is about ice cream cones then your site will be indexed for ice cream cone searches and not for hotels. If your content is about a luxury hotel, then you won’t be indexed for budget hotels and consequently it is unlikely that you will show up for searches related to budget hotels.

Content also comes in many shapes. It includes the text on the website, the images that you put, the links you provide and the various tags (page titles page descriptions etc.). Each one of these have a significance and how and where you place them also matters. Content that is higher up on a page matters more than the content that is below. On things like page titles, the content that is to the left matters more than the content that is to the right. How you structure your content with various Headers (much like a word document) matters. How you name your images, how you name the links – they all matter.

All content on your website should be original content – copying of content from another website hurts your traffic – as the search engines and users skip past you believing you have nothing new to say. Adding fresh and relevant content has also shown to impact the SEO of a website.

There is also data about your hotel (meta data) that you can provide on your website, it is not visible to your customers but tells the bots the location, name, etc. of your hotel. Once again, Simplotel does this out of the box for your site.  Our experts write the content for your hotel website so that it is all set up well. This is another reason why our customers see a 3x plus growth in traffic.

Things happening outside your website

After the technology and the content on the website, there are things that happen outside your website that impact search engine optimization. These include your guest reviews, your listing on Google Maps and local listing sites, your mention in travel blogs, etc. – they all matter. Here are some suggestions,

  • Verify and own your Google Plus page and make sure that the map marker is accurate.
  • Ensure that your hotel’s name, address and contact info is exactly the same on all online channels - your G+ page, social media pages, local listings and classified listings. 
  • Get good reviews by taking care of customers and encouraging customers to write a glowing review. Also, respond to your reviews on various review channels time to time.

There are few silver bullets in SEO – so you must skin it with a thousand paper cuts. Please let us know your comments, questions and feedback at hello@simplotel.com.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Phone Calls Still Drive Significant Bookings for Hotels

At Simplotel, we have worked with hotels for 3+ years now. We have learned a lot about the behavior of consumers online and about the importance of the phone channel in direct hotel bookings.

Since we began our journey we have transformed the e-commerce capabilities of thousands of independent hotels. We found that as we grow the traffic for hotels, their phone calls also grow. To learn more about what is happening on the phone channel, we took calls for 50 hotels. Our findings were insightful and are listed below.

About 10% of the customers coming to a hotel website end up calling the hotel. Given our previous experience with eCommerce, this number is high (the intent of customers coming to the website is high). Not surprisingly about 50% of the calls driven from the website are for reservations. The calls are a gold mine but about one in five calls go unanswered - causing revenue leakage.

We believe that such a high percentage of calls is driven largely by:

  1. New consumers coming online are looking for a human touch before transacting online. Bunch of the calls are to seek a further discount than the online published rates. This consumer behavior is reinforced by hotels that offer an additional discount to convert the callers on the phone.

  1. Growing traffic on mobile websites makes it convenient for consumers to call. This is perhaps a global phenomenon - research indicates that worldwide 7 out of 10 bookings from customers visiting a hotel website on mobile devices happen via phone call.

  1. Phone bookings are perhaps also driven in India by higher payment failure rates driven by additional password verification required for online transactions. With slower internet connections and the need to go through the bank website to complete the transaction can result in abandonment on that channel.

Most hotels when contacted for reservations on the phone ask the guest to send an email and then respond with a quote. This is driven mostly to weed out the callers who are just price shopping or to validate that the caller is indeed from the corporate he is claiming to be. When the guest sends an email, the front desk usually takes a few hours to send them a quote and almost always does not follow up on such leads.

If calls are monitored, managed and followed up properly our data indicates that phone calls originating from the website can generate 6 times more revenue than the website booking engine. We have also found that some hotels have a higher conversion on the website. In our findings to drive more online bookings, hotels should:

  1. Maintain parity in prices and deposit policies on the hotel website and the rates offered on the phone (perhaps even offer a slightly higher rate on the phone) and encourage guests to book on the website to free up the front desk’s time.

  1. Equip the front desk with tools that make the front desk more efficient and make it easy for them to convert phone calls better. Such tools include workflows that make it easy for consumers to pay for phone reservations online, automated confirmations and follow ups - freeing up the front desk’s time.

At Simplotel, we are glad to announce the launch of Simplotel Reservation Desk - a product that will Simplify the life of a hotel reservation agent. Using Simplotel the agent can:

  • Track and monitor phone calls - get notified about missed calls.

  • Send out hotel branded and actionable invoices and quotes to customers who contact the hotel via phone call, chat or email.

  • Optionally hold the inventory for the guest and offer phone only rates and promotions.

  • Determine the deposit required to reserve the room. Provide a great guest experience by enabling the guest to pay easily via credit, debit and net banking.

  • Once the guest pays, they receive instant and automated booking confirmation and voucher via Email and SMS.

  • Automate the follow up with the customer.

Over the years we expect more customers will book online directly without calling the hotel. But until then hotels need to manage their calls better and convert more such leads.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Driving Direct Online Bookings with Deposit Policies


 

In working with thousands of hotels, we have found interesting ways in which hotels can increase their website bookings. It turns out that the amount of payment a hotel collects at the time of booking also plays an important role in driving bookings on the website. There are several deposit options that hotels use, these include:

  • Pay 100% at the time of booking
  • Pay a percentage between 0-100% at the time of booking
  • Pay at hotel but provide a Credit Card guarantee
  • Pay at hotel - no card required while booking

We observed a significant growth in website bookings for hotels who decrease the up front deposit amount at the time of booking or switch to completely pay at hotel (i.e., no deposit required). A large hotel chain saw 50% increase in online bookings by moving from 100% advance payment to 25% advance payment. Another hotel in Mumbai saw a 2x growth in website bookings by switching to completely pay at hotel - no card required at the time of booking.

This phenomena is not surprising. By collecting smaller deposits the risk of a customer is reduced, encouraging him to book on the website. The trend is similar to e-commerce industry where 70% orders are Cash on Delivery - a customer only pays after receiving the product and takes no risk whatsoever. Pay at hotel - no card required - works in a similar way for guests booking a hotel on the website.

However, just like e-commerce which sees a high rate of returns on CoD orders, pay at hotel - no card required - can result in no shows. As a hotel you of course do not like a no show, but its impact is felt more acutely when your hotel is running full - when the room could have been sold to another guest - a no show then where you are unable to get retention charges from the customers becomes a complete loss of revenue.

At Simplotel we are constantly trying to help you get more bookings from your website. The Simplotel Booking Engine allows you to set up a deposit policy by day of week or on certain dates (e.g. off season or low occupancy dates). You can also set up pay at hotel just for last minute bookings.

Try out different deposit policies for your hotel today to see how they impact your website bookings. You are welcome to share your findings with us in the comments section below or at hello@simplotel.com.

To learn more about Simplotel call us at (+91) 8033646154 or contact us at contact@simplotel.com.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Grow Direct Bookings

Today an increasing number of customers find out about a hotel on the internet – much before they come to the lobby of the hotel. They discover and learn about the hotel using a variety of online channels such as,

  • Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
  • Hotel’s Brand Website
  • Social media such as Trip Advisor, Facebook and Google Plus
  • Search engines such as Google and Bing to learn about the hotel and choose where they are going to stay

Therefore a hotel needs to actively manage all the digital channels. The online travel agents drive significant traffic and business for the hotels. However, they are also an expensive channel – charging commissions of up to 25-30% in some cases. Hoteliers need to ensure that their direct online channels (i.e., their social media channel and website) are engaging. The social media properties and the search engines will ultimately bring people to the website. This part, in e-commerce parlance, is called traffic. But it is only a third of the problem. Once you get traffic on your website, your website should engage the customers and ultimately convert them. Unfortunately a lot of websites today are dated and do not show the property well. Customers either call and make the reservation, bounce off the website and make the reservation at the Online travel agency costing a huge commission, or worse they may book a different hotel.

Therefore to do digital marketing the first thing the hotel management must improve is their website. The website should engage the customers and make it really easy for them to make a reservation. This is easier said than done.

Most websites today were built by people who know little about e commerce or online. They don't provide much information or images about the property. They don't work on devices that consumers are using today.

Simplotel provides and easy solution:


  • A website that can be controlled by Marketeers. They can update it with no technical work.
  • A website that works well on all devices
  • A website that has all the e-commerce sensibilities (prominent booking buttons), loads quickly.
  • Modern template. If you want a different template you just choose one of our many templates.
  • Website that is optimized for search engines - that automates most of the SEO work that you do.
 
For more information send an email to contact@simplotel.com or call us at (+91) 8067335576