Travel and tourism marketing: 6 resources to help you improve your online review rankings

August 24, 2012

If guests like you, ask them to share that love with other travelers.

How to ask for reviews, get more and better reviews, improve your rankings on review sites, and more

Last week I wrote about the importance of paying attention to your rankings in online review sites.

This week I’ve assembled some of my favorite content explaining the value of online reviews, how they work and how to improve yours. Here goes…

1. Why hotels should encourage guests to leave more online reviews

Anil Aggarwal, CEO, Milestone Internet Marketing explains the importance of online reviews to a hotel property’s success, and how to use online reviews to benchmark how you’re doing versus competitors.

2. Five Basic Guidelines for managing your hotel’s online reputation

This post in Hotelier is one of the most succinct overviews of the subject of online reviews, and offers some good suggestions for developing a systematic approach to responding to online reviews.

3. How to respond to online reviews

Explains the dos and don’ts of responding to online reviews, is comprehensive in its approach, and provides some unconventional ideas on how you can respond to negative reviews.

4. How to improve your hotel rankings in TripAdvisor

If you want a good explanation of how TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index works, and how you can affect your Popularity Index scores, read this post.

5. Increasing direct hotel bookings with social media

Joshua McKenzie from ReviewPro focuses on how online reviews can help your search rankings and increasing sales conversion rates by increasing consumer confidence.

In particular, Joshua offers a number of novel suggestions for using online reviews to keep people on your website longer.

6. How hotels can increase the volume of their reviews

If you’ve always wondered how and when to ask guests for reviews, read this ReviewPro report.

It also offers excellent case studies on how hotels have successfully increased their reviews using some of the recommended techniques.

What have you learned about online review sites, and how to manage your online reputation? Share your experience with us.


Travel and Leisure: 12 new ways your travel brand could use QR codes

June 18, 2012

San Antonio’s River Walk uses QR codes on a self-guided tour

As specialists in 5 to 9 brands, travel and leisure clients are always asking us for advice on the latest technologies. Today I’m going to address three questions many travel and destination brands are asking about QR codes:

1.  Why should I use QR codes?

QR codes are a great way to connect prospective guests who are offline to information about your brand that is online. Just make sure your site is mobile-friendly, as people scan QR codes with their smart phones.

2. What are some of the ways hotels and destinations are using QR codes?

The key to successfully integrating QR codes into your marketing program is to ensure they offer some kind of value add.  In other words, you have to give guests something they do not yet have.

Mike Supple, Sr. Social Media Manager at Milestone Internet Marketing offers several ways hotels are successfully using QR codes to add value to the guest experience:

  • Guest Reviews: Create a mobile review page and link it to a QR code on the hotel bill to encourage guests to write a review while their memories are still fresh.
  • Restaurant Reservations: Leave a QR code on a sample menu to your restaurant, and link it to your OpenTable or Yelp page so guests can make a reservation.
  • Property Map: If you’re a large resort, display QR codes around the property and link them to a map that shows guests where they are and how to get where they are going.
  • Fun and Games: Create weekly treasure hunts linked by signs with QR codes that lead your guests through the best parts of your property.
  • Promotional Offers: Put QR codes in ads or brochures linking to special discounts only available through that QR code.

Patrick Landman from TNooze  believes guests are getting tired of having deals and offers thrown at them from every direction. Instead, he recommends that you use QR codes to provide a better guest experience. Some of Patrick’s recommendations include:

  • Use QR codes in cards in their rooms, notices on elevators, at the concierge desk and at message boards in the lobby with tips on where to dine or what to do on their stay.
  • Drive guests to a promotional landing page, not just your hotel website.
  • Include a call to action that tells guests exactly what to do. Example: “Scan this code for our latest restaurant, shopping and tourist tips.”

3. What are some interesting ways travel brands are using QR codes?

In a recent blog post, Troy Thompson, from Travel 2.0, cited three interesting ways travel brands are using QR codes:

  • The San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau uses QR technology on its self-guided River Walk tour to deliver additional content like photos, videos and historical information.
  • The Glendale AZ CVB puts a QR code on their door that directs after-hours visitors to their mobile site.
  • To celebrate National Arbor Day, New York’s Central Park  created the World Park campaign using QR codes. The campaign is explained in the video below:

How is your hotel or destination using QR codes to market to your guests? Share your examples with us and we’ll use them in an upcoming post.

Travel and tourism marketing: New research confirms importance of online reviews

March 16, 2012

6 in 10 travelers now rely on online reviews to help make their travel decisions.

More and more Americans are factoring in other travelers’ online reviews, and the more money they make the more they pay attention.

According to the third annual Access America Vacation Confidence Index recently released by Mondial Assistance USA,  6 in 10 travelers now factor in other traveler’s online reviews when deciding where to book a vacation.

With vacation spending expected to be up in the coming year, the Index predicts traffic at popular travel review and social media websites will be up as well.

So it’s important you stay on top of what people are saying about your travel and tourism brand online. And to work to influence what people write about you online. Here are the survey results:

8 in 10 people with HH incomes of $75K+ are influenced by online reviews

  • Travelers under 35 are most likely to say that online travel reviews influence their travel plans (74 percent) while those 55 and over are least likely to be influenced by reviews (44 percent).
  • Nearly 79 percent of respondents with a household income of $75,000 or more factor other travelers’ reviews into their own plans, while less than half of those with an income of under $25,000 do so (46 percent).

2 in 3 people trust other travelers’ reviews

  • Nearly two thirds of respondents (63 percent) find other travelers’ reviews to be trustworthy, while 29 percent are less trusting.
    • Travelers under 35 are more likely than those who are older to trust the travel reviews they read (70 percent vs. 54 percent).
    • Over three quarters of respondents with a household income of $75,000 or more (77 percent) find travel reviews to be trustworthy compared to just half of those with an income of under $25,000 (50 percent).

1 in 5 share their travel experiences on social networks

  • Among travelers who share reviews of their travel experiences online (24 percent of respondents), social networking sites such as Facebook are most popular.
  • Nearly one in five (18 percent) say that they share their travel experiences on social networks, more than double the proportion of those who post on travel review sites (eight percent).

The younger and wealthier you are, the more you share on social sites

  • Adults under 35 are more likely than those who are 35+ to share their travel experiences online (35 percent vs. 20 percent), particularly on social media sites (29 percent vs. six percent).
  • More affluent adults are also more likely to share about their travels.  More than a third of those with a household income of $75,000 or more (36 percent) share their travel reviews online
  • Compare that to 15 percent of those with a household income of less than $25,000, and they are twice as likely to use social networks to do so (24 percent vs. 12 percent).

Next week, I’ll post my top 10 favorite articles on how to improve the volume and quality of your online reviews.

In the meantime, tell us how these findings match up with your experience.

Travel marketing: Are travelers searching for a mobile site you haven’t built yet?

August 15, 2011

8 out of 10 Google advertisers report they haven't built a mobile site yet.

Several studies confirm that travelers are adapting to the mobile platform faster than the brands they are trying to access.

  • In a recent survey by Frommer’s, 52% of respondents said they are most likely to access travel information from their mobile devices when traveling, up from only 27% a year ago.
  • Google just reported that mobile traffic is growing at about 20% quarter over quarter.
  • eMarketer reports that 50% of all new internet connections worldwide are coming from mobile devices.
  • Yet Google  found that almost 8 in 10 of their top advertisers have not built mobile-specific websites.

Mike Putnam, Director of Mobile Product at TripAdvisor discussed that growth in an interview with Ritesh Gupta from Eye for Travel.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in site usage across mobile platforms over the course of the past 12 months. When we launched (our mobile site) in March (of last year), we had roughly one million unique monthly visitors.

Fast forward one year, and we’re now seeing more than five million unique monthly visitors.”

Rob Torres, managing director of travel at Google says that people searching for travel information using Google Mobile is growing exponentially.

  • According to Rob, “The percentage of queries coming from mobile devices now makes up 19.5% of all hotel queries.”
  • In the same interview, Torres also reported that the number of mobile travel bookings has increased 10 fold from 2008 to 2010, from $20 million to $200 million.

So what do these experts advise?

“Travel companies that do not invest in the mobile web may be left behind in the years to come as smartphones and tablets become even more ubiquitous,” says Putnam.

Torres concurs, “We see mobile websites as a no-brainer opportunity for marketers…Travel queries coming form mobile devices make up more than 15% of all queries.

Yet most travel advertisers are allocating less than 5% of their search budgets to mobile search. So there is certainly room for growth.”

Have you created a mobile landing page or website yet?  If not, when?  If so, how’s it going? Talk to us.

Leisure marketing: Haven’t run a Facebook ad yet? Maybe you should wait.

February 18, 2011

Advertisers will spend double what they did last year on Facebook ads. But are they getting their money’s worth?

Webtrends just completed a study that determines how effective Facebook ads are.

All told, advertisers will spend $4 billion on Facebook ads this year, more than double the total from last year. But is it worth the cost?

Web analytics company Webtrends analyzed over 11,000 Facebook campaigns and measured Click Through Rates (CTR), Cost Per Click (CPC), Cost Per Thousand (CPM) and Cost Per Fan (CPF).

The verdict:  Costs are up, click through rates are down.

  • From 2009 to 2010, Web Trends estimates the CTRs for Facebook ads went down 19%, the CPC increased 81% and the CPM went up 41%.
  • The CTR declined from 0.063% in 2009 to 0.051% in 2010.
  • Ad rates increased from 17 cents per thousand impressions in 2009 to 25 cents per thousand in 2010.
  • By comparison, online display ad costs range from $2 to $8 per thousand on other sites, so Facebook ads are still a good deal comparitively.

Does that mean you shouldn’t advertise on Facebook?  Not necessarily.

  • Decreasing CTR and increasing CPC rates are a typical pattern for display ad networks, because the audience is becoming more savvy.
  • Ads are growing more expensive because many of them are sold through an auction system that’s getting increasing competition as more advertisers turn to Facebook.
  • Webtrends believes companies that get a head start by adding millions of fans now are going to end up spending much less money than other brands later.

Acquiring a fan is just the beginning of marketing on Facebook.

“On Facebook, the magic of marketing happens when brands activate their fans in ways that inspire people to share those messages with their friends.”

That’s according to Facebook spokesperson Brandon McCormick who was recently quoted in an article on the subject by the Digits blog of the Wall Street Journal.

The Webtrends study also found that CTRs increased with age and gender.

  • Men and women ages 18-24 have the same CTRs, but women 55-64 are 16% more likely to click through than men of the same age.
  • The study confirmed earlier research by DDB which found that because people are on Facebook for fun, brands that are more fun to discuss on a social network do better.
  • That has translated into higher CTRs and lower CPCs for these more social brands.
  • The highest CTR and lowest CPC were registered by tabloids and blogs, media and entertainment brands, ecommerce and travel brands.

Other findings of the research:  Cost per fan, click through rates by gender and education, and faster ad burnout rates

  • The cost of advertising on Facebook to encourage a user to become a “fan” on the brand’s Facebook page is $1.07.
  • Facebook fans without a college education were more likely to click through to an ad as college educated visitors.
  • But fans who attended college are twice as likely to click through if a friend liked an ad.
  • Ad burnout is much higher on Facebook, with the typical life of an interest-targeted ad being 3-5 days.
  • Friend of fan targeting can increase the life of a Facebook ad by 2-3 times.

Have you started advertising on Facebook? If so, what kind of results are you getting? Have you increased or decreased your expenditures as a result?

You can find a copy of the Web Trends study here.

How Skittles used mob mentality to grow its Facebook fan base by 12 million people.

February 9, 2011

Skittles “Mob the Rainbow” Facebook-only campaign uses random acts of silliness to engage millions of new fans.

In case you haven’t noticed, America’s most powerful leisure brands are competing in a new kind of arms race.

It’s a race to arm their Facebook pages with millions of engaged fans.

One of the most aggressive players in this race is Skittles, which has enlisted digital agency Evolution Bureau (EVB), creator of the legendary “Elf Yourself” Office Max campaign to help win over America.

Even the Fan landing page is built to make you smile.

Together they launched the wildly successful “Mob the Rainbow” campaign.

  • Their goal is not just to engage Facebook fans, but to mobilize them by the tens of thousands to do random acts of kindness (and silliness).
  • For Valentines Day, Skittles asked its “mob” to send a Valentine to an parking enforcement officer they felt was deserving of some love.
  • 45,000 people joined the event, and a Skittles mob “representative” dressed in a cupid costume presented them (See video).

In another campaign, Skittles mobilized its mob to send a student to bowling college.

  • Skittles told its mob it would require 100,000 likes to generate a $10,000 scholarship.
  • Within a week, Skittles had reeived 150,000 likes.
  • And the student was on his way to bowling college.

A third promotion offered the winner a full-size Skittles vending machine.

Thousands of people participated by telling Skittles what they would be willing to do to win the machine.

Skittles offered a full-sized vending machine to the winner of this promo.

The results of the “Mob the Rainbow” campaign are breathtaking.

Skittles has quadrupled its Facebook fans from 1.75 million to 14 million in just six months.  And they now rank among the top 10 largest brand fan pages, according to eMarketer.

I can count 5 things EVB and Skittles are doing that other leisure brands are not.

1. They don’t just engage their fans, they invite them to participate in their antics.

2. They make it easy for fans to be a part of it all.

3.  They create random acts of kindness that fans can feel good about participating in.

4.  They make the events wildly creative and fun.

5. They reward their fans for participating with original videos, contests and free prizes.

Those are some of my observations about what Skittles is doing right. What have I missed?

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