Just recently, we hosted a webinar to help hotels master the art of marketing analytics. Our own experts from Travel Tripper discussed how analytics can be used in three vital areas of business: website engagement tracking, conversion optimization, and attribution & ROI.
Topics included how to better track user interaction on your website, interpret marketing campaigns with greater accuracy, and optimizing your hotel website for mobile.
Click below to listen to a full recording of the webinar or download our presentation here, and read on to see a list of the top takeaways from our discussion.
When a person lands on your hotel website, you need to engage their attention fast. To do this, it’s important to know what they’re looking for, and to understand which elements of your website create a positive or negative user experience.
When a user visits a hotel website, their primary objective is to book a room. Next, they want to find the best rate, before moving on to search for the best offer. For most users, their secondary objectives involve exploring additional areas of the website, such as Rooms, Specials, Location and in particular, the Gallery page.
An optimized hotel website makes this information engaging and easy to find. It encourages users to move from browsing to booking on a smooth and seamless journey. How do you know how successfully your own website is at doing this? By looking at your analytics.
To get a really clear idea of how users are interacting on your website, you can use a tool in Google Analytics called the Behavior Flow report. It gives you a detailed visual representation of where users first enter your site, and how they interact with subsequent pages during a visit.
The great thing about this tool is it lets you look at different pages in isolation. This means you can see how effective each page is at moving people along the buying journey. For instance, you might check your Specials page and notice that drop off is abnormally high, leading you to review the clarity or attractiveness of your offer.
You can also Behavior Flow report to analyze channel-specific traffic to your website. This includes organic traffic (received via the Search Engine Results Pages) and referral traffic (received via 3rd-party websites).
This can be extremely useful as a way of identifying which channel requires growing and where you might be best spending more time and money.
Growing your channels
Growing organic and referral channels is a long-play game that requires diversification and technical know-how. As discussed above, the data in your analytics report will help identify where to place your efforts. That might involve working with your SEO vendor to ensure your referral traffic is strong, or investing in more paid campaigns.
In terms of organic growth, you’ll want to focus on:
- Creating a mobile-first, responsive website design
- Branded content strategies (i.e. prominently featuring the name and location of your hotel on your website’s header tags, title tags, and meta descriptions)
- Non-branded content strategies (such as creating neighborhood guides and tips on “things to do” in your location)
- Technical SEO activities to ensure your site can easily be crawled and indexed by the search engines
In terms of referral growth, you’ll want to focus on:
- Getting local and relevant and high traffic (high authority) links and coverage
- Working with mass influencers and micro influencers to reach different audiences
After analyzing your website behavior flow, it’s time to turn knowledge into action. Here are the best practices to consider from behavior flow data:
- Focus on special offers that drive the user to convert
- Optimize room images and descriptions
- Cross-sell between rooms and specials on landing pages
- Respect primary and secondary objectives of the user
- Make your hotel easy to book with little to no distractions
The conversion rate of a hotel website is affected by numerous factors, including location, ADR, and rate strategy. The specific source of traffic also has a big impact.
Google Hotel Ads deliver the highest conversion rate for hotels at 4.71%, followed by Facebook Display (3.21%), and TripAdvisor and metasearch (2.34%). Based on this, you could potentially generate a better ROI for your property by using social ads, and shifting some advertising budget from classic search engine advertising to metasearch.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, conversion rates are also heavily impacted by ADR & rate strategy. At Travel Tripper, our research shows that hotels with an ADR below $150 have twice the conversion rates of hotels selling above $1,000. Hotels can also increase their conversion up to 67%, simply by offering the best available rate on their own website.
Optimizing your hotel website for mobile
Mobile has now surpassed desktop in terms of website traffic, and travelers are increasingly using mobile to book hotel rooms. In this mobile-first world, it’s critical that you have a great mobile site to meet basic expectations.
So what elements constitute a great mobile site? Fast load time is a big one. The graphic below shows that when page load times increase, so do bounce rates—quite dramatically.
If your mobile site takes between just 1-5 seconds, bounce rates increase by a staggering 90%. This is especially relevant now that 80% of last-minute bookings happen on mobile. Given that these on-the-go travelers are even less inclined to tolerate a slow loading site, having a well-designed responsive or mobile-friendly site is becoming paramount.
To capture more last-minute bookings on mobile, you need to offer a seamless and secure booking experience. Your hotel’s contact details should also be prominent; if users have problems booking online, they may want to call you direct for assistance.
Alongside great usability, aim to make your mobile experience feel personal. According to Google, 57% of US travelers believe that brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences and past behavior.
Simplicity is also a key conversion driver. Additional research by Google has shown that the probability of a mobile conversion plummets 95% when the number of elements on a page (text, titles, pages) increases from 400 to 6,000.
Overall, a mobile experience that’s fast, frictionless, simple and serves up personalized information is far more likely to achieve higher conversion rates.
Attribution & ROI
Attribution is all about how you assign booking revenue to your marketing channels, such as paid, organic, or SEO. It’s hugely important. Without an accurate attribution method, you don’t know how valuable each of your marketing channels are. Making it harder to know where to invest.
There are numerous attribution models you can use, including last click, first click, linear, and data-driven attribution, which relies on Google’s machine learning to measure performance.
A common mistake is to only look at only one type of attribution model. The “marriage model” infographic below provides a neat analogy of why you need to take a wider view.
In a growing relationship, multiple steps take place from the first meeting to getting married. Each encounter strengthens the relationship. In the same way, multiple steps lead a customer to book a hotel room. By only looking at the last encounter, you effectively assume nothing before the final click influenced their journey.
To put this into context, the graphic below shows the metasearch revenue results of four real-life properties.
Now if each of these hotels only based their ROI on the last click, they might decide to ditch their metasearch activity altogether. But as we can see, the first click attribution is having almost the same impact. So overall, metasearch is generating a lot of revenue.
The take-home message here is to look at the big picture. If you only look at the first or last click attribution, you might mistakenly cut a profitable marketing channel.
View-through conversion attribution
It’s worth finishing with a discussion about view-through conversions. These are conversions where a customer sees a display ad on the display network, but does not click on it, before completing a conversion.
View-through conversions can be misleading, and a lot of hotel agencies assign up to 100% of the booking value to this metric. Here’s an example of how this works.
A person browsing online sees an ad for your hotel. They decide that they will visit your hotel to book in a couple of weeks, but don’t click the ad at this point. This counts as x1 ad view, but $0 direct booking.
Two weeks later, that same person searches Google and sees an AdWords ad for your hotel. They click through to your website and make a $100 booking.
This counts as a $100 direct booking, x1 conversion, and x1 view-through conversion. The following week, the digital marketing agency send through this report:
The agency is claiming they’ve delivered 2 bookings and $200 in booking revenue. But the hotel’s PMS report tells a different story: it shows only 1 booking and $100 in revenue. What’s going on? The agency has attributed 100% value to the view-through conversion, AND 100% attribution to the actual booking.
This simplified example demonstrates how view-through attribution works, and how it can mislead—especially when it’s buried in a complex agency report. Being aware of how this attribution model works is especially important if your hotel uses more than one agency, and critical if you pay a commission-based model.
First and foremost, ask your digital marketing agency what attribution model they use. Be sure they’re not reporting only view-through attribution. To ensure accuracy, it’s worth looking at data from different attribution models. When you’ve got a more rounded perspective of how your campaigns are performing, you’ll be better placed to invest your marketing budget more wisely.
The way your hotel uses analytics can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Using Google’s Behavior Flow report, you can get an in-depth idea of how users are interacting with your website. Armed with the most useful data, you can see where to invest your marketing efforts, make improvements to your website’s user experience, and boost your conversion rates.
Used in the right way, analytics can inform your entire approach to marketing. As discussed, if you work with a digital marketing agency, make sure the data you’re receiving from them empowers rather than hinders your decision-making.
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