Hotel Industry Blog

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Business Pages for Google Plus

Bookassist's Ciaran Rowe talks about Google+ business pages and how hotels should react to this new platform.

Following its initial limited release in June 2011, the number of users on Google+ rocketed, reaching 25 million users in the first 4 weeks and hitting 40 million in October 2011. The use of Google+ by businesses was banned until this week, when Google announced Google+ pages for business .

The approach taken by Google+ is different to that of Facebook & Twitter, but includes aspects of both. Users can +1 your page, which is similar to a Facebook Like, or they can add your page to their Circles as a page that they are following, similar to following in Twitter. Users can also share the page with people in their circles.



Creating a page

Setting up a page is very straightforward. The first step is to set up a Google+ profile. This can only be done by an individual rather than a business. You will need a Google Account which can then be used to access Google+ . At the moment there is no option to share or transfer access to the page, so be careful what email address you use to set it up.

Once the page is set up, the administrator will have the option of posting as themselves or as the page. You can then can start to create a new page through the set up page. Individual hotels should set up as a local business, whereas chains could set up as a Product or Brand.




Once you add your phone number (including the area code), Google should identify your property from your Google Maps listing, so you just need to select the correct listing if there are more than one, and enter your category (lodging for accommodation providers). From there it is just a case of adding your profile picture and information such as web address and contact details.
The next step is to post information, photos & videos and try to create interesting content that will engage users. As your followers grow, you will then be able to engage with the community and reply to comments and shares.

  • Interface - So far the interface is quite basic, so their is no option to personalise your page like Twitter, nor to create landing pages as on Facebook.
  • Automation - There are currently no tools to allow automation of posting such as Hootsuite & Tweetdeck etc.
  • Multiple Pages - It is possible to set up multiple pages under the same profile, which could be a very useful feature. For example you could set a new page for a spa or leisure centre, or a page for your conference facilities, or even a page for an event such as a Wedding Fair.
  • Vanity url - At the moment there is no option to create a ‘vanity url’ so the page names can be quite cumbersome - a long string of numbers such as this: https://plus.google.com/117945956773155200439.


Getting Found

Google recommend adding an icon to your website which links to your Google+ page. (Get the badge here.) This is worth doing, as soon Google will accumulate all your plus ones from various sources, so it is better if they associate your page and your website as one. It will also allow your page to be found using “Direct Connect” which is a new search operator on Google. It allows the user to place a + before a term and see the Google plus page appear in the suggestions, eg +Bookassist . This allows a user to connect directly with a brands page from Google search. (Note: this is feature is not yet available in Europe)

Summary

As the Google+ business page is in it’s early stages, it is difficult to ascertain how useful it will become, but as set up is relatively quick, it seems to be worthwhile starting a page as long as there is someone available to update the page. This is particularly true as Google will inevitably use information on +1’s and pages as a signal for ranking on Google search.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Referral Links - Tripadvisor Business Listing

Bookassist's Martin Murray discusses the use of the Tripadvisor business listing as a referral link.

When it comes to marketing your hotel online your main goal should be to drive as much qualified traffic and revenue through your own website as possible. One way to help with this goal is through the use of referral links.

There are many sources of referral links available and in this article we will be discussing the use of the Tripadvisor business listing as a referral link.

What is all it about?

With over 50 million reviews and an estimated one in every four travelers visiting the site before travelling, Tripadvisor has become the largest and most popular hotel review website.

Tripadvisor launched the business listing back in January 2010 as a way for hotels to promote their listing and to encourage direct contact between the customer and the hotel.

For many people checking hotel reviews is the final stage of their purchasing decision so having your hotel’s contact details present will help increase your chances of a direct booking which could otherwise be gained by a third party website.

Tripadvisor business listing features

There are several features to a Tripadvisor business listing. The main three are

Contact details displayed
Your hotel’s phone number, website link and email details are displayed under your hotel’s name on your Tripadvisor listing.

Create special offers
With the business listing you can create special offers for your hotel which are then displayed throughout the Tripadvisor website.

Mobile listing is enhanced
When you upgrade to a business listing, visitors viewing your listing on a mobile device will be able to call your hotel and visit your hotel’s website directly.

Cost

Tripadvisor charge a yearly fee to upgrade to the business listing and the cost varies depending on the number of rooms your property has. The average cost for a hotel in Ireland is €1550 pa.
It is worth noting that you can you can cancel your subscription at any time and get your money back for the remainder of your subscription.

So is it worth it?

We have measured two hotels in the study below. Hotel A is ranked in the top 10% for their area while Hotel B is ranked in the top 30%.






Visits – Hotel A received 6345 visits while Hotel B received 674.

(ROI) Return on investment – Hotel A had a return on investment of 44 (for every one euro spent on the business listing 44 was made back) while Hotel B had a ROI of 2.

There are several factors which could explain the large difference in results between both hotels but the main reason is because Hotel A has a much higher Tripadvisor ranking than Hotel B and therefore gets a lot more exposure on the Tripadvisor website.

If you are considering upgrading to the Tripadvisor business listing then we recommend that your hotel should be in the top 15% for your area for the business listing to be beneficial.

Conversion

Conversion rate from the Tripadvisor business listing was quite high for both hotels.
The table below compares the conversion rate from the business listing compared to the average conversion rate for referral links for each hotel’s website.



Is it worth it?

The simple answer is yes, if you have a high Tripadvisor ranking.
The success of the business listing will mainly depend on two factors.

Tripadvisor Ranking – This is by far the biggest factor. The higher your Tripadvisor ranking the more times your hotel will be displayed to visitors. Also, hotels with a high ranking are trusted more as they are seen be of a high quality and therefore visitors are more inclined to learn more about them.
If you are interested in upgrading you’re listing to a business listing but have a low Tripadvisor ranking we would recommend improving your ranking first.

Rate Parity / Availability – The business listing may generate traffic but that does not mean that this traffic will automatically convert into bookings, which is why having a least rate parity and good availability on your own website will help ensure that any traffic generated by the business listing will convert at as high a rate as possible.

If you are interested in upgrading to the Tripadvisor business listing then please contact us at ireland@bookassist.com


Bookassist – Technology & online strategy for hotels

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Explosive Mobile Growth in Hotel Bookings

Bookassist CEO Dr Des O'Mahony shares some data on hotel booking performance on mobile platforms, showing the clear and growing opportunities in the area and some surprises in the user patterns.

Bookassist launched its mobile web app solution for hotels in late 2009 (bookassist.org/mobile) and more than 150 hotels and hotel groups are now using the solution. We thought we'd share some of the results we are seeing with usage on mobile, whether regular hotel websites on mobile or mobile web app.

Growth Trends for Hotels
Trends in our data to date strongly indicate that city hotels perform far stronger on mobile than those outside cities, in terms of traffic and in terms of conversion of that traffic to bookings. Also, the lead-in time for bookings on mobile has proved to be very short, with more than 65% of all mobile bookings we track being for within 24 hours of arrival. The necessity of having last-minute availability on mobile is clear for city hotels given this trend.

While city hotels are performing much better on mobile, it is clear from our data that other hotels are also showing mobile business growth, though with a time lag compared to the city properties. We expect to see growth continue in all sectors on mobile, which represents a very real opportunity for hotels in the coming months and years, especially with over 100 million smart devices now being sold per quarter through 2011.

Traffic Growth and Conversion
The graph below shows an example of a small European city hotel group and the evolving mobile business it has seen through 2010 and on to today (the figures have been rounded for clarity but are otherwise accurate). During 2010, the hotel group did not operate a mobile-optimised web solution up to end July, but adopted our mobile solution from the start of August 2010 onwards.

The growth in traffic during the first half of 2010 (blue graph) is attributable to the general mobile traffic growth trend in society based on the explosive sale of smart devices in the last number of years. The standard website that this hotel group used was bookable on mobile, but was not especially optimized for it, and recorded a relatively poor conversion of 1.1% to 1.24% across the six month period.



We introduced the webapp solution and saw an immediate change in conversion from mobile devices from 1.24% to 2.31% in the weeks prior to and after the launch, a clear vindication of optimized mobile strategy. The hotel group also indicated the availability of a mobile optimized solution on its online and offline marketing, helping increase the general mobile visitor growth trend from that time onwards (blue graph). Mobile advertising was also initiated, though its impact compared to the general mobile traffic growth trend is hard to quantify. Critically, the conversion continued to grow to finish the year at an impressive 2.91% conversion across all mobile platforms.

Revenue Growth
More importantly, the combination of capitalizing on traffic growth and an optimized webapp to drive conversion has had a very significant revenue impact. Bookings revenue from pre to post webapp time periods has risen from about €2,500 per month for the group to over €20,000 booking revenue per month in 2010 (green graph). This now represents a significant percentage of the group's online revenue and by the third quarter of 2011 had reached €35,000 in monthly revenue, with a conversion creeping up to 2.99%, a very welcome conversion rate for any hotel on any platform.

Overall for clients with this profile, we are seeing up to 5% of online revenue now attributable to mobile devices in 2011, from basically zero at the start of 2010.

Platform Specifics - Usage
Market figures for device sales currently show that about 50% of smart devices sold are Android-based. Despite this, only 15% of our figures show traffic from Android devices (see below). This trend is reflected in general web access data that tends to show Apple's iOS devices taking up to 80% of all online mobile traffic. It appears that since the Apple iOS devices are more of a premium product, their users are more committed users and more internet-savvy, while many Android phones are being supplied by telecom operators as their standard phones, even to users who have no interest in internet access. While our webapp is optimized for both iOS and Android, it is vital that iOS is optimized for in the first case since it represents the largest market right now.




Platform Specifics - Conversion
When we look at conversion figures, below, an extremely interesting picture emerges. Android users are converting way below the average, at less than 0.8%. iPhone users convert more than three times better at 2.5%, while iPad users convert at a whopping 8 times their Android cousins, at 6.5%. The iPad conversion in particular is strongly surprising and again reflects the attitude of the iPad use to internet usage and engagement. It is clearly vital that hotels consider targeting this platform preferentially and ensure their websites are optimized for it.



Summary
Mobile is a very real opportunity. Volume is growing, conversion can often be higher than regular web access and is definitely higher when optimized mobile solutions are deployed. iPad stands out as a clear opportunity and with the rate of sales of iPads and their dominance among travelers, it is clearly a target platform above all others. Short term booking is dominating and last minute availability on mobile is critical for successful conversion.

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