You probably have mixed feelings about Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Booking.com. On the one hand, they bring in a significant number of bookings and offer beneficial exposure. On the other hand, they take a 15-30% cut of revenue. The truth is, despite the steep commissions, OTAs are a critical part of a property’s marketing strategy that shouldn’t be neglected. While we adamantly encourage pursuing direct bookings, it is important to invest time and energy into your OTA presence as part of a holistic approach to online marketing. Here are a few tips for making the most of your OTA profiles.
Complete all fields >> When setting up your property’s profile you should take care to complete all available fields. This includes everything from location and contact information to descriptions of rooms, facilities, and policies. Not only does this ensure your listing is included when browsers use search filters but it also displays credibility to those browsers. An incomplete profile appears unprofessional and potential guests are more likely to overlook your property entirely. And don’t forget to include a link to your website to help boost those coveted direct bookings!
Use attention-grabbing images >> There is a lot of competition on OTAs. Browsers have to scroll through multitudes of options when looking to make a booking, and it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Ensure your property stands out by including a collection of professionally captured images. They should be vivid and diverse—include photos of the lobby, facilities, rooms, and views—so the browser can imagine their entire stay with you. If you have a professional video showcasing your property, you should also include this as the use of video tours are correlated with higher conversion rates.
Update continually >> There’s no easier way to lose credibility than having out of date information online. Your OTA profile is something that requires regular (but easy!) maintenance. Setup monthly or seasonal alarms in your marketing calendar as a reminder to check and update your online profiles, ensuring information and unit inventory are always accurate and relevant. This also includes your photo gallery. New images will keep your property’s profile fresh and exciting.
Highlight special offers >> People browse OTAs so they can weigh their options. They’re looking for a reason to choose one property over all others, so make sure to give them that reason. Include special offers and promotions on OTA platforms to help snag unsure browsers. They’re yours for the taking!
Manage reviews >> Online reviews have a huge impact on sales. 92% of people read online reviews, and the vast majority consider them when making purchase decisions. It is therefore critical to both encourage feedback from guests (more reviews inspires more browser confidence) and respond to reviews promptly. While you should not be replying to every online post, choose to respond to those that require an explanation or apology as well as a few positive reviews to offer appreciation for their kind words and hopes to see them again.
Follow OTA recommendations >> Just as there are tips and tricks to optimize your websites ranking on a search engine, there are measures you can take to improve your ranking on an OTA. Every OTA uses a different algorithm and most offer suggestions on how to climb their ranks. Heed their advice and stay informed. As an OTA tweaks their internal ranking system, you should adjust your optimization strategies accordingly.
While every hotel dreams of sales dominated by direct bookings, OTAs are (and will remain) an integral part of a property’s success. Fortunately, you don’t need to choose one over the other. Improving your OTA profile can actually boost direct bookings by providing exposure for your property and bringing you opportunities to nurture loyal, returning guests. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to maximize your presence on OTA platforms.