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Marketing for the modern age: Algorithm changes don’t do it for me either – but this is HUGE

Hamish Kilburn

For four weeks, Hotel Designs is working with author and CEO of DHM, Adam Hamadache, in order to explore the minefield of marketing. In his third article in the series of four, Hamadache explores why hotels should explore a video-centric approach to their social media platforms in light of the algorithm changes…

For those of us that are not technically-minded (or gifted, for that matter), an ‘algorithm change’ by one of the big tech companies offers little in the way of stimulation. Not least because there seems to be a new one every month, with each new update promising to ‘change the internet as we know it’ or so the scaremongers would have us believe.

So when Facebook were making a ‘big announcement’ earlier this year, understandably, few paid a great deal of notice across the hotel industry. And yet, it’s probably been the biggest digital shift since those online travel agents turned up 10+ years ago. Remarkably though, nearly 12 months have gone by and it’s still relatively unnoticed by many.

The logical question therefore being: if it’s gone unnoticed by so many, was it really all that important?

The answer to that question is undoubtedly ‘yes’, and here’s why:

Most hotels, especially those at the higher end of the luxury spectrum, spend time, money and effort on keeping their Facebook pages up to date, but without a basic grasp of the Facebook algorithm change that came into effect in January 2018, a hefty chunk of that investment is being completely wasted.

“So if you happen to have 10,000 Facebook likes on your hotel’s page, but 9,500 haven’t really engaged with your content for a long time, your audience is not 10,000, it’s much closer to 500.”

At the start of 2018, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, announced that the social media platform would be prioritising ‘meaningful interactions’, meaning that as a user, you will be served posts that it believes you are most likely to engage with by way of a like, comment or share. Furthermore, ‘friends’ would get a higher prioritisation than ‘pages’ (businesses) in your newsfeed. It went further to explain that content from within ‘groups’ would also be given a higher level of prioritisation. All very logical.

To put it another way, if someone liked your page two years ago and hasn’t liked, commented or shared any of your posts in that time, the chances of them continuing to see your Facebook posts is close to zero. So if you happen to have 10,000 Facebook likes on your hotel’s page, but 9,500 haven’t really engaged with your content for a long time, your audience is not 10,000, it’s much closer to 500.

This all makes commercial sense – for years Facebook gave us all a very loud megaphone for free. We could boom our messages to a captive audience, chat with them and even sell our products and services to them. Now they’ve effectively turned down our metaphorical megaphones to a volume slightly louder than a whisper, and conveniently given us access to the volume button, but only if we’re prepared to pay for it via boosted posts and the like.

“Beautiful room pans and aerobatic drone shots that bring the product to life, sell a hotel far better than a cluster of images.”

The most notable thing however is that video posting doesn’t seem to have been subject to the same limitations in reach. Where an image or text post might reach 300 people, the same content in video would likely reach closer to 1,000, all things being equal.

That’s significant for hotels, especially at the higher end of the market, who’s products lend themselves well to this medium. Beautiful room pans and aerobatic drone shots that bring the product to life, sell a hotel far better than a cluster of images. And yet, fewer than two per cent of hotels are utilising this channel to its full potential, continuing to naively post text and images to an audience that hasn’t necessarily lost interest, they just can’t hear you through the noise.

‘Groups’ on Facebook are also a fantastic way to quieten the pages and friends competing for your customer’s attention. Facebook deems a group slightly higher ranked than a standard business page, so encouraging your followers to join a ‘VIP’ or ‘special offers’ club has proven a useful means to continue the conversation and engagement.

There of course remains the question as to whether Facebook has had its day, and whether other social channels will take the mantel of the biggest social media platform. A valid discussion point, but as of September 2018, Facebook still had 2.27 billion active users use its site, compared to Instagram’s one billion.

The world of social media will inevitably change over time, but for now, Facebook is still top dog, and hotels who invest in content for the site, must adopt a video-centric approach, or risk having their messages drowned out by the noise.

About the author

Adam Hamadache is the author of Amazon No.1 best-selling hotel book The Direct Method and the CEO of hotel marketing agency DHM. Having worked with hotels (including his own) for more than 10 years, Hamadache has created a proven marketing strategy to reduce over-reliance on expensive third party bookings. 

The first article in this serires by Hamadache explored why hotels should be ‘remarketing’ themselves.
The second article in this serires by Hamadache explored why hotels should learn all about the new SEO

Main image credit: Pexels

Marketing for the modern age: Conversion Rate Optimisation – the new ‘SEO’

Hamish Kilburn

For four weeks, Hotel Designs is working with author and CEO of DHM, Adam Hamadache, in order to explore the minefield of marketing. In his second article in the series of four, Hamadache explores a new acronym that should be on every hotel group’s radar, CRO… 

For years, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has dominated the rhetoric, and discussion around digital marketing in the boutique hotel sector. SEO of course being the process of optimising your website in such a way that moves its listing further up the rankings on search engines like Google for search terms that fit the product best. In short, SEO is about more relevant traffic to your website.

However, a new acronym has popped up in recent years, and it’s worth taking note. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) is the process of analysing website data in a bid to improve the amount of transactions achieved, relative to the volume of traffic received. Or in plain English: trying to squeeze as much business out of your website as possible.

The reason CRO – rather than SEO – should be on your radar, is best explained by the “leaky bucket” analogy. The basic premise being that your website is very much like a water bucket with lots of tiny holes in it. SEO is akin to pouring more water in at the top, whereas CRO is identifying where those holes are, and plugging them. The argument here being; CRO is the far wiser pursuit, in an attempt to keep more water in the bucket.

“The general rule of thumb is that if you keep browsers on your website for longer, the chances of them turning from ‘looker’ to ‘booker’ increases.”

An example of one of these ‘holes’ might be the image gallery page on your website, where perhaps 20 per cent of your traffic is leaving your website because the page is too slow to load. The ‘plugging’ of this ‘hole’ would be to speed up the loading time of this page, reducing the amount of people who get frustrated and leave. Simple, but effective.

Whilst this one small change is unlikely to rocket your conversion stats, the general rule of thumb is that if you keep browsers on your website for longer, the chances of them turning from ‘looker’ to ‘booker’ increases.

An advanced CRO strategy goes beyond just speeding up the load time and can involve things like split-testing landing pages – the process of serving 50% of your website’s traffic to version A of the website, and the other half to version B to determine which version converts best.

Put into practice, this might also involve the use of geo-targeted landing pages, using a sophisticated IP address tracking tool to determine the location of the web-browser, and using that information to present them a homepage most likely to serve them best. Whilst the technicalities of this can be complex, the premise of serving food and beverage imagery and copy to web-browsers within close proximity of the hotel, and accommodation-themed content to those a little further afield makes logical sense and can vastly improve conversion rates.

“And therein lies the other big problem with SEO – it’s more difficult than ever to work your way up the ranks.”

Yes, the technology of websites has moved on, but why should a CRO budget be replacing your SEO budget, you might wonder? Chances are, your hotel website doesn’t need more traffic, it just needs to convert more of it. It’s not uncommon for a 30-bedroom property to receive over 5,000 unique users to its website each month, but average one booking a day through its direct channel.

In the above website example, 5,000 unique users are needed to achieve 30 bookings each month: a conversion rate of 0.6 per cent. To achieve one extra booking per day, an SEO strategy would need to deliver an extra 5,000 unique users each month, whereas a CRO strategy would need to find just an extra 30 customers out of the original 5,000. Needless to say, it’s a great deal easier and cheaper to double your website’s conversion rate, than it is to double your traffic.

And therein lies the other big problem with SEO – it’s more difficult than ever to work your way up the ranks, let alone double the volume of traffic. Google’s become incredibly smart, to the point where the strategies that guaranteed higher traffic just 3 years ago, actively work against your website today. And who’s to say that the things your SEO agency are doing today, won’t change next year and undo all their good work?

Whilst this is unlikely, Google’s algorithms are almost certain to continue to adapt and become smarter, leaving a “traffic plateau effect” for businesses like boutique hotels, unable to rank high for the most lucrative search terms, but served a healthy and well-proportioned dose of traffic for their needs.

The point is, and has always been this: it’s not important how much traffic your website gets, rather how much of that traffic goes onto convert into a booking. CRO – the intelligent use of data and technology to convert more sales – should be prioritised over SEO based on both logical and economical grounds.

About the author

Adam Hamadache is the author of Amazon No.1 best-selling hotel book The Direct Method and the CEO of hotel marketing agency DHM. Having worked with hotels (including his own) for more than 10 years, Hamadache has created a proven marketing strategy to reduce over-reliance on expensive third party bookings. 

The first article in this serires by Hamadache explored why hotels should be ‘remarketing’ themselves

Main image credit: Pixabay