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Common vanity metrics in hotel marketing and what to measure instead

When it comes to hotel marketing, vanity metrics are numbers that make you look good, but don’t really say much or contribute to your bottom line. Common examples in online marketing include things like page views and number of followers.

The trouble with vanity metrics is they can be easily distorted and manipulated, making it seem like your hotel is performing better than it actually is. This can throw off your whole marketing strategy, leading you to overestimate the impact of certain strategies, and under-invest where attention is really needed.

We polled our web agency and digital marketing team for the most common vanity metrics found in hotel marketing, along with some “actionable alternatives” that hotels should be paying attention to instead.

Website Metrics

Website and SEO Vanity Metrics

1. Vanity Metric: Percentage Bounce Rate
Bounce rates tell you the percentage of people that visited your website and left after visiting the first page they landed on. So high bounce rates would seem to be cause for concern—except that high bounce rates are not always a bad thing.

If a consumer “bounces” after the first page on your website, they might simply have found all the information they were looking for. Also, the page might be receiving irrelevant traffic (not a bad thing in itself) that could skew the figures. Likewise, low bounce rates might indicate people are browsing your site but not finding what they’re looking for.

Relying too heavily on this metric can lead you to draw false conclusions and miss the potentially more subtle user behavior going on.

Actionable Metric: Google’s Behavior Flow Report
In the interests of really understanding user behavior, Google’s Behavior Flow is a great option. It shows you how visitors navigate and engage with your website via a visualized report, giving you a deeper understanding of which elements of your website are engaging visitors, and which aren’t.

By seeing the friction points that might be losing you business, you can tinker (or completely overhaul) the specific areas of your site to improve user experience and increase conversions.

2. Vanity Metric: Number of Backlinks
Generally, having more links to your hotel website will help to boost its organic search ranking. But a lot of that depends on the quality and context of those links.

If popular industry bloggers and travel sites are linking to your website, you’ll undoubtedly benefit. However, if your hotel website has thousands of backlinks from untrustworthy sources with minimal traffic, the metric isn’t useful at all. Worse, a lot of bad backlinks might lose you ranking position. This informative guide by Yoast shows you how to identify and fix this issue.

Actionable Metric: Referral Traffic
Referral traffic is classed as backlinks where the referral has been credited. As an example, this might involve a blog post from an online review site mentioning and linking to your hotel in the main body of the content. Credible and high-profile links like these are the kind Google like, which makes them the kind your hotel should be measuring and striving to get more of.

3. Vanity Metric: Number of Organic Keywords
Growing your visibility in search engine results requires a strong organic search strategy. But once again, this metric alone tells you nothing about whether potential guests are clicking your listing or converting on your site. Your organic keywords might be earning you top spot on Google, but if people aren’t visiting your website, this metric counts for nothing.

Actionable Metric: Organic Search Sessions
By looking at organic search sessions, you’ll more easily see the fruits of your marketing efforts. Rather than looking at how well you’re ranking for organic keywords, this metric shows you how many people are actually visiting your website based on your organic search engine position. We recommend using this metric with conversion rate stats to see exactly how many organic sessions lead to a booking.

Digital Marketing Metrics

Digital Advertising Vanity Metrics

4. Vanity Metric: Number of Hotel Display Ad Impressions
Contrary to popular belief, an ad impression doesn’t mean a person saw your ad. According to Google, “an impression is counted each time your ad is shown on a search result page or other site on the Google Network.” So your impressions might be sky high, but this tells you nothing of whether your ads are being looked at.

There are plenty of other reasons why using hotel ad impressions as a metric isn’t helpful. But perhaps the biggest is low engagement: across all ad formats and placements, display ads get an average click-through rate (CTR) of just 0.05%. It’s easy to see why obsessing over this metric is not time well spent.

Actionable Metric: CTR
Your click-through rate (CTR) shows you how often people clicked on your ad after seeing it. So if you had 1,000 impressions and 50 clicks, your CTR would be 5%.

Unlike ad impressions, this metric tells you something concrete: a person saw your ad and took action, revealing a level of interest in your message. For that reason, CTR (rather than impressions) is a far better way to check ad performance, giving you a strong barometer to judge how hard your marketing dollars are working for you.

5. Vanity Metric: Return on Ad Spend
In digital marketing, one of the metrics that gets blindly followed more than most is ROAS (return on ad spend). As a side note, ROI and ROAS are NOT the same metric.

ROAS measures the gross return you made on your ads. ROI (return on investment) measures the actual profit you made after accounting for the cost of those ads.

By blindly following the highest ROAS, you can negatively affect your total revenue. Cut back too hard on your spending by chasing a higher ROAS, and you’ll miss out on bookings to your OTA competition.

Because ROAS is a measure of the return you get based on the amount you spend, the easiest way to increase ROAS is to reduce your spend in areas that are more costly. That doesn’t necessarily mean those areas are too expensive, though.

Consider which option sounds more attractive:

  • Earning $12,000 from a 12x ROAS on $1000 spend
  • Earning $13,200 from a 11x ROAS on $1200 spend

A lot of hoteliers focus entirely on the 12x ROAS being higher than the 11x ROAS and miss out on total revenue.

Actionable Metric: Cost per Conversion
Cost per conversion (CPC) is a form of advertising where a business pays for a specific acquisition, such as a click or download. Sometimes referred to as cost per acquisition (CPA), it basically lets you work out the cost of converting a customer.

Given the variable and complex nature of revenue management, finding one exact figure for this metric is difficult, so it’s easy to see why ROAS has taken over.

That said, while ROAS is still important, hoteliers need to look at the bigger picture and aim to maximize revenue from their digital campaigns.

Booking metrics

Conversion and Booking Vanity Metrics

6. Vanity Metric: Number of Bookings
Monitoring your booking levels is clearly important. But in isolation, it doesn’t tell you anything about your profitability. For instance, if your bookings are going up but you’re providing financial incentives to get those bookings (e.g. discounting rooms, offering added extras), this metric will give you a distorted view of your profits and overall revenue performance.

Actionable metric: Revenue Per Available Room
Revenue per available room (RevPAR) is worked out by multiplying your hotel’s average daily room rate with its occupancy rate. Compared with relying on number of bookings, it lets you work out your property’s financial performance over time.

By looking at your RevPAR, you can see if your rates might be too high or low compared with your competition, helping you to set them in the optimum range. RevPAR also lets you see if your rooms are operating at a profit or loss (based on your daily costs), and reveals which room types are earning you the most.

7. Vanity Metric: View-through Conversions
A view-through conversion is counted when a user sees an advert, but doesn’t actually click on it. Again, this metric can be highly misleading. For instance, if a person sees your hotel ad, doesn’t click it, but then ends up booking with you in the future, that counts as a view-through conversion. The problem is that you can’t definitively credit that conversion to the advert, because you don’t know if the person even saw it. It’s possible that another interaction or trigger was the influencing factor rather than the ad.

Actionable Metric: Click-through conversions
Click-through conversions are far more revealing because they tell you that a user has clicked on you ad, and then made a booking as a result. This metric involves a “click attribution window” (sometimes called “lookback window”), which means when someone clicks a display banner or PPC ad, a booking is attributed to that click if it happens within a defined attribution window (commonly 15-30 days).

Suffice to say, click-through conversions rather than view-through conversions are far more useful to assess how effectively your marketing campaigns are driving bookings.

8. Vanity Metric: Conversion Rate per Session
A ‘session’ is defined as a series of interactions that occur on your website in a set period of time (30 minutes is the default). So conversion rate per session involves looking at the percentage of sessions (or visits) that lead to a conversion.

Here’s a simple example. Two people each visit your website on five separate occasions. One of those users then ends up booking a room. This would give you a 10% conversion rate. But this isn’t your true conversion rate, as we discuss below.

Actionable Metric: Conversion Rate per User
A far better measure of success is conversion rate per user. This is your true conversion rate, telling you what percentage of your overall visitors are converting. So if 100 people visit your website in a week, and 5 of them make a reservation, your conversion rate will be 5% (although the average for hotel websites is around 2-3%).

This gives you a real representation of what your conversion rate is, and gets you to focus on what really matters—getting more of your customers to convert.

The importance of avoiding vanity metrics

Vanity metrics can create a distorted view of your hotel’s entire financial performance and marketing efforts, from the impact of your PPC campaigns and room profitability to how well your website is converting.

Is your property relying too heavily on some of the vanity metrics outlined above?

Now’s the time to reconsider your approach.

By swapping misleading forms of analytics for some of our “actionable alternatives,” you’ll instantly have a far better idea of how your hotel is performing, giving you the ability to address, fix or refine the areas that need improvement.

Nate Lane

Nate Lane

Nate Lane is a senior global director of business development, product development, and agency operations with 10+ years of experience driving growth and innovation as an "intrapreneur." He's an avid mountain biker, a coffee and craft beer enthusiast, and a proud family man. Contact him at nate.lane@pegs.com.

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