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The tricky business of naming your hotel in the digital age

Naming your hotel is no light task—get it wrong, and it can affect your bottom line. For most hoteliers, that means choosing a name that is interesting, memorable, and easy to pronounce, as well as a name that evokes emotion and portrays the right brand image to your guests.

But now that’s not the only factor. Now that the world has become a digital marketplace, a hotel name can’t simply be memorable—it needs to be searchable.

Don’t believe me? Let me give you an example. Very recently I was asked by a particularly savvy client of ours to check a list of potential new names for a hotel rebrand. The names, ranging from traditional to quirky, had been produced by a combination of an internal discussion and input from a traditional marketing agency.

I was asked to vet the names from a digital marketing perspective. Out of the 12 potential names, some very basic research ruled out 10 of them!

Why was that? Well, a simple online search showed that some of the names were already heavily in use by other hotels around the world. Others were sub-brand names of leading worldwide brands, and other names were associated with completely different industry areas.

This only left two names that had a limited digital footprint and did not overlap with competition on the internet. So why was this of particular importance?

What’s in a (brand) name

For hotels especially, the brand name keywords and all its derivatives generate the biggest source of direct booking income in search marketing campaigns. (See why hotels need to bid on their own brand names on Google and Bing ads here.) Hotels already face intense competition from OTAs bidding on their brand names, so picking a hotel name shared by other hotels or businesses can increase that competition even further.

One of the biggest areas of competition is geographic based hotel names, particularly for those hotels that use general city, street, or road names.

Take the London Hotel in New York City for example. A search for “london hotel” does not show this hotel at all on the first Google results page. Its position is instead hidden among sites for hotels in London (naturally) and other hotels named London in other countries (Greece, for example).

London hotel NYC search
A Google search for “london hotel” returns The London NYC very low in the results.

Another problematic name: The Time New York. Aside from the obvious showing of the current time when one types “time new york” into Google, the actual listing is in the sixth position on Google, hidden among many different websites about local time. And it comes after a bunch of links from the New York Times, including a top news carousel and Twitter carousel.

This is what you first see when searching for “time new york.”

Time New York search

And lower down the page, you see the actual hotel listing:

time hotel nyc search

One could argue that simply clarifying the search terms will yield the desired results. And indeed they do: “london hotel nyc” returns the hotel website higher in the results, as does the “time hotel new york.” But we know from experience that people searching for a hotel, even by a brand name, use a huge variety of search terms and often make a number of spelling errors and word mistakes in their searches. And if those varieties start to coincide with other very popular searches (“london hotels” and “new york times” being obvious examples), your hotel could be facing annoying and sometimes costly challenges when it comes to bidding for keywords.

Factor in Google’s predictive search results and close variant technology within paid search campaigns, for example, and ads for a hotel such as “the time new york” could very easily show up in searches for “new york times” if your negative keywords are not 100% accurate. And who wants to pay for ads for people searching for newspapers?

So before you shortlist a bunch of cool words and catchphrases for your next hotel launch or rebrand, do a little online research first. You don’t want to have to (literally) pay for it later.

Nancy Huang

Nancy Huang

Nancy is the Senior Marketing Director at Pegasus and expert in strategic communication, brand development, and content marketing. She is an admitted travel junkie and loves finding amazing hotel deals when booking direct. Contact her at nancy.huang@pegs.com.

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