Google Ads 101: A Hotelier’s Guide to Advertising with Google (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, we discussed how Google’s advertising service, Google Ads, works, and how to determine if it’s a platform you should be using. Part 2 will outline the steps required to begin marketing on this powerful platform.

Getting Started

Set up account >> To begin, navigate to the Google Ads site, and click the ‘Start Now’ call-to-action button. You’ll need to enter your email address and website URL. You can create a new Google account, or use one you already have.

Creating a Campaign

Identify a budget >> When starting a new Google Ads campaign, you’ll first need to identify how much you want to spend in the “Your budget” section. You’ll need to choose your currency and the average amount you wish to spend PER DAY. This value can always be adjusted later as you analyze the success of the campaign.

Select audience by location >> This feature allows you to choose to display your ads to customers from a specific location. You can identify your audience by country, region, city, or even neighborhood. For example, if a local airline just announced a direct flight to your city from somewhere else in the country, you might want to create a campaign that specifically targets that area.

Create custom audiences >> If you’re creating a display ad, you can create custom audiences based on affinity and intent. The feature allows you to enter keywords and URLs that correlate with your target demographic, allowing the system to display ads to users most likely to have an interest in your property.

Select a network >> This is where you identify what type of ad you want to create. For ads that appear in search results, choose Google Search Network. For advertisements that appear in web banners, within apps, or on YouTube, select Google Display Network.

Choose your keywords >> Next, you need to choose the terms that you want your ad to appear in the search results for. For phrases, you can choose to show up in searches containing those words in any order (called a modified broad match), containing those words in order (phrase match), or an exact match only. In addition to things like “Accommodation in X,” you should consider bidding on branded keywords as well (i.e. search terms containing your property name). This might seem unnecessary, but they’ll be cheap, and it will stop competitors from redirecting users looking for your hotel.

Place a bid >> When you’re setting up your maximum cost-per-click bid, you have two options. You can allow Google Ads to automatically manage your bid (by adjusting your CPC to get the maximum number of clicks while staying within your budget) or set the maximum manually.

Write your ad >> For the search network you’ll need to create a text ad. It should include a title and description that are closely related to your keywords. This will signal to the user that you’re offering exactly what they are looking for. You’ll need to enter the landing URL for the ad, which should take users to a landing page specific to their search query (linking to a generic homepage is not a good idea).

Use ad extensions >> There are a number of extensions available for your ad. Location extensions can be used to provide extra business details, call and message extensions enable guests to contact your business directly from your ad, site-link extensions can provide links to multiple different landing pages, call-out extensions offer you more space for text, and structured snippets let you create headers and lists within your ad.

Set up tracking >> Conversion tracking allows you to understand how people are interacting with your ad. You’ll want to set up tracking for your website, so you’ll know how many clicks are leading to a booking. This will require you to set up a conversion action in Google Ads and then copy the tracking tag onto the page of your website associated with a completed conversion (i.e. a ‘Thank you for booking’ page).

Set up billing >> Before you can start advertising, you’ll need to set up billing. Automatic billing will be taken every 30 days, or when you reach your designated budget. You may also make manual payments as desired.

Google Ads is a powerful service with the potential to offer huge ROI—if you’re using it appropriately. Make sure you’re always analyzing the performance of campaigns and adjusting them as necessary. Good luck!

A Hotelier’s Guide to the Holiday Season

You’re probably just beginning to take down your Halloween decor, but pretty soon you’ll have new decorations to put up. Christmas is fast approaching, and you need to be prepared. The holidays are an excellent time for hotels to increase occupancy, up-sell bookings, and delight guests. So, it’s time to start planning.

Here’s a quick guide to help hoteliers get ready for (and get the most out of) this holiday season.

Special packages

Like all special occasions, you should take this opportunity to curate themed packages to offer your guests. These could include things like Christmas dinner, gift-wrapping services, holiday cookies—family packages could even feature a visit from Santa.

When building packages, consider partnering with local businesses. You might not have the ability to put on big holiday events at your property, but you can still include tickets to local events and attractions in the community. Things like sleigh rides, light displays, holiday concerts, and ski passes make great additions to a holiday package.

In addition to creating new packages, look at existing ones and tweak their descriptions to give them a holiday spin. If it includes spa services, for example, you could rename it “Holiday Bliss” and invite them to “have a stress-free holiday this year.”

Seasonal cocktails

If you have a bar or restaurant at your property, the drink menu is an excellent place to add some holiday flair. There’s nothing like the smell of mulled wine (maybe next to a roaring fire) to make it feel like a cozy Christmas haven. And seasonal cocktails like peppermint martinis, eggnog, and hot buttered rum are sure to spread some holiday cheer.

Holiday events

There are all sorts of holiday events you can host at your property. They can be as extravagant or as simple as you want so long as it fits your brand and clientele. Among a long list of holiday offerings, Fairmont Empress is hosting multiple turkey dinners, will have Christmas carolers in their lobby and a life-size gingerbread house on display. Last year Woodmark Hotel invited families to decorate cookies with a local chef. So, get creative. You can hold a snowman building contest, plan a card-making workshop, host movie nights with holiday classics—whatever you think will get your guests enjoying the season.

Decorations

No holiday venue is complete without decorations. These should go up around the first week of December and can include garlands, lights, ribbons, wreaths, ornaments, and, of course, a Christmas tree.

If your property is family-friendly, consider adding an Elf on the Shelf into your decorating strategy. This popular toy can be moved every night and set up in a new and entertaining pose (look here for inspiration). And you can turn it into a contest with your guests. They can take a picture when they find him, upload it to social media, tag your property, and be entered in a contest. It’s a lot of fun for the guests and great marketing for you.

Marketing

Speaking of marketing, once you’ve planned all your holiday festivities you need to promote them. Whatever packages and events you have planned should be featured on your website and across social media channels. And consider creating a seasonal events calendar on your site that highlights your own activities as well as those in the community. Offering current, relevant information will help SEO and add value for your guests.

Once you’ve decorated your propertyand when events and activities are going onbe sure to take professionally shot photos and footage. They’ll be a valuable marketing asset this time next year.

 

The holiday season is an exciting (and profitable) time. Start preparing your property now so that you can make the most of it.

Is it Crystal Clear? How to Prevent and Manage Cancellations and No-Shows

It’s happened to every hotelier. The afternoon begins well, the transition between check-out and check-in is proceeding, rooms are being cleaned, last minute details arranged, special requests organized, and you’ve even personally handwritten a welcome note to leave on the desk of a high-profile guest. Then, the phone rings or the hours tick by. There’s been a late cancellation or no-show, and now you’re left scrambling to decide how long to wait, how to resell the newly available room, how to shuffle staffing schedules, and how to procure the no-show fee without incensing the absent guest. Hoteliers constantly navigate the balance between guest perception, staff needs, and a hotel’s bottom line, but that separation is heightened by cancellations, which innately pit the needs of the client against the needs of the hotel. Guests want freedom (google ‘hotel cancellation policies’ and you you’ll be met with blog after blog of how to avoid them), but hotels need security. While cancellations and no-shows are impossible to eliminate, two strategies can help prevent, manage, and alleviate the operational and financial disruptions they cause.

Establish Clear Policies

It’s important to have written policies for last minute cancellations, no-shows, and curtailments (when a guest cuts their stay short). These three situations are different and require distinct approaches. Each policy should be fair to the potential guest and hotel alike. Demanding full payment upfront would be considered unfair by most people, but it’s equally unfair for a guest to cancel at any moment. However, finding the middle ground between these two extremes can be difficult. So, what should you take into consideration when making these decisions? Your policies should fit your hotel. Consider the size of your property and your local market. How many rooms do you have? What are the consequences of cancellations on your operation? What policies do comparable hotels implement? While it’s not always recommended to model yourself on your neighbors, comparisons can help determine if your policies are too harsh or lenient.

Common Practices

Cancellation Window >> Most hotels set a deadline for when a guest can cancel their reservations without incurring a penalty. The most common deadline is 24 hours prior to check-in. However, you should make the decision that makes the most sense for your business. Some hotels set a 48 or 72-hour deadline, and during peak periods some hotels require guests cancel a week prior to their booked stay.

Deposits >> To take a deposit or not to take a deposit? It’s a contentious question. They have their merits and pitfalls. On the one hand, deposits ensure an earnest booking. A guest is unlikely to shrug off a reservation without proper notice if they’re already invested. On the other hand, deposits can deter potential guests. One extra moment of hesitation in the booking process can make the difference between a confirmation and a closed browser. For many, deposits make sense during peak times. When you’ve received a last-minute cancellation, how many times have you thought, ‘I could have sold that room ten times over!’?  But also, if your hotel relies on repeat and loyal guests, you may want to think carefully about their reactions before implementing a new rule for deposits. However, whether you take deposits upfront or not, it’s recommended to require a guest to give their credit card information upon booking and standard to charge a fee for no-shows or cancellations made after the deadline.

Confirmations >> Consider introducing a system that sends out reminders and confirmations a day or two before the cancellation deadline. This is often done through OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), but it’s worth ensuring you also have a system in place to remind guests who make reservations over the phone, by email, or through your website. A guest may forget to make a cancellation, and sending a reminder or confirmation makes it easy for guests to respond and can make the difference between having a no-show and reselling a room.

Tracking Cancellations >> Some hotels require guests to cancel via the medium through which the reservation was made; however, this tactic potentially dissuades guests from cancelling at all. It’s not recommended. It is, however, highly recommended that you establish an easy and effective system for tracking cancellations. If a guest calls or emails to make a cancellation and they’re not logged properly, a legitimate cancellation will inevitably turn into a no-show. Similarly, if a guest requests a later check-in time and it’s not recorded, you will be in the midst of dealing with the no-show and may have already resold the room when the guest arrives precisely when they said. A good system for tracking and logging ensures that you and your staff do not waste time dealing with unnecessary chaos.

Emergencies >> It’s good to be clear about when you’re willing to be flexible with your policies. Emergencies – like illnesses or a death in the family – are obvious examples. While they’re unpredictable and the sensitive nature means that many will need to be handled on a case-by-case basis, it’s worth taking time to consider how you will handle emergencies so as to ease their disruption to the guest and your business.

Communicate with Clarity

Once you’ve taken the time to establish clear policies, it’s essential to communicate them succinctly and effectively. Most bookings are made online, so ensure your policies are highly visible on your hotel’s website and all your OTA pages. Check in and out times should be clearly specified. Ensure your cancellation deadline and fees are noticeable as part of the booking process. All booking systems should include an ‘opt-in’ check box that requires a guest to agree to your policies before confirmation. It may also be worth dedicating a page on your website that outlines further details of your policies, including what penalties may be incurred for curtailment and the specifics of how fees will be collected. Guests should have no excuse for not knowing what they’re agreeing to. This doesn’t mean that they won’t have excuses. They will. A myriad of them. You’ve probably heard many already, but it will be more difficult for guests to escape fees if you can point to where and how they’ve been clearly communicated.

No one wants to deal with the aftermath of a late cancellation or no-show. Awkward conversations are inevitable. Arguments are possible. This is the reason you need clear policies. If someone disputes a fee or policy, explain to them why they exist. While you may be forced to confront the potential perception that you’re gouging, communicating why you chose your policies may help to ease tensions. The best way to make these uncomfortable conversations effective is to set policies that you’re confident enforcing. When guests are given clear and reasonable parameters, they are more likely to respect your business, and if they respect your business they are less likely to pull a no-show.

 

Unlocking Mobile Keys for Independent Hotels

The mobile revolution has and continues to impact the hospitality industry in a big way. According to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Survey, incorporating mobile technology into the guest experience results in higher guest satisfaction. This is no surprise considering the ubiquity of smartphones. From Googling the answer to a burning question to online shopping to sharing our experiences with the world, our smartphones allow us to satisfy our desires instantly, on the go, and have become a convenience few of us think we can live without.

When it comes to hotel stays, smartphones are unlocking a new level of self-service convenience for guests with mobile bookings, direct messaging, self-check-in and more. According to recent research by TripAdvisor, 45 percent of connected travelers would like hotels to provide a mobile app with booking functionality (yet only 16 percent of properties do), and 34 percent of connected travelers want self/mobile check-in (yet only 11 percent of properties actually provide this).

Often going hand-in-hand with self-check-in, mobile key technology (or keyless entry) is increasingly in demand by today’s guests (especially millennials), and offers significant advantages for hotels too.

What is Mobile Key?

Mobile (or digital) key technology allows guests to unlock their hotel room via an app on their smartphone. Facilitated through NFC (near field communication) technology or Bluetooth, mobile key works by the guest simply holding the authorized smartphone close to the door lock, or touching a button on their smartphone screen. Guests can even unlock their door from anywhere inside their room (like from the bed), which is handy when receiving room service.

Starwood Hotels began rolling out mobile keys back in 2014, quickly joined by the likes of Hilton, Marriott, Choice Hotels and InterContinental Hotels Group. According to Hilton Hotels, guests who use mobile keys are more likely to rate their efficiency of arrival almost 10 percentage points higher than those that check in at the front desk, and leisure travelers who use mobile keys rate their overall stay experience 5 percentage points higher than those who use traditional check-in.

Why Do Guests Want It?

Why do so many guests want self-check-in and mobile keys? The answer is quite simple: to skip the queue. Just think of the popularity of self-check-in at airports and ticket-printing kiosks at movie theaters and train stations — the same logic goes for hotel check-in. Fuelled by mobile technology, our culture of immediacy has whittled away our level of patience and given rise to the “silent traveler.”

Efficiency has always played a significant role in guest satisfaction and, thanks to the rapid advancement of hospitality technology today, the level of attainable efficiency is higher than ever. Mobile key technology affords a seamless check-in experience that enhances the entire guest experience.

Guest demand for self-service convenience doesn’t mean that guests don’t want to interact with hotel staff; many travelers will always prefer dealing with people over technology. But it’s important to offer a choice – the modern traveler wants to be in control of how they interact with hotels.

Advantages for Independent Hotels

It’s not just guests of big brand hotels that want (and expect) more self-directed experiences. Mobile technology is becoming a standard across the board. Luckily, the transition to a mobile key system has many benefits for independent properties.

Streamlining the check-in process frees up time for hotel staff to interact with guests away from the front desk, in a more natural way. And authentic experiences are a significant motivator for customers choosing an independent hotel.

It also shouldn’t be understated that offering keyless entry can save money as well as aid in efforts to become more eco-friendly. It is estimated that a 200 room property goes through 12 000 plastic keys in one year. That is a lot of wasted money (and non-biodegradable material!). Once you factor in the economic and environmental cost of key-encoding software and the envelopes keys are handed to guests in, it is not difficult to understand the momentum behind keyless entry technology in the hospitality industry.

Transitioning to new technology can be unnerving.  The time and cost associated with replacing existing locks might be a deal-breaker for an independent property. However, with WebRezPro’s interface with Lock Up, adoption is easy because properties won’t have to change existing key card locks.

People do everything from their phone these days—and they love it. Consider adopting mobile key technology to give your guests what they want and increase efficiency at your property.

A Smile Will Never Be Obsolete: How to Maximize Positive Employee-Guest Interactions

The latest J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study (2015) revealed that guest satisfaction has risen to a record high, driven by a significant drop in the number of guests who experienced a problem during their stay. The study found that staff interactions with guests have a huge impact on mitigating problems; there is a 50 percent reduction in the average number of problems experienced when staff members greet guests with a smile “all the time,” compared to when guests are only greeted with a smile “sometimes.”

Despite all the technology available to us today and the digitization of customer care, face-to-face service is still key to great hospitality.

Here’s how to maximize positive employee-guest interaction for maximum guest satisfaction.

Find the Right People. 

It only makes sense that people working in hospitality should be hospitable themselves, but I’m sure we’ve all experienced interactions with hotel or restaurant staff that we hoped were just having a bad day!

Take time to find the right people for your business. In hospitality that typically means friendly, empathetic personalities with the ability to remain calm under pressure and anticipate guests’ needs. You want staff who are willing to go above and beyond for your guests, earn their loyalty, and turn them into advocates for your property.

Cross-Train & Empower Your Staff. 

Opening this winter, Arrive Palm Springs is a next-generation hotel that aims to make guest service as smooth and simple as possible by doing away with many traditional hotel formalities like the front desk. To fulfil such a mission, the hotel has adopted an “anyone can help” attitude; recruiting employees that are willing and happy to perform tasks outside of their job description, and cross-training staff to help each other out.

We like how Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, puts it: “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”

Cross-training your staff empowers them to take responsibility of various situations, helping to ensure that customer requests and complaints are dealt with quickly and according to policy, increasing not only guest satisfaction but employee job satisfaction too.

Engage Your Employees. 

“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.” — Timothy R. Clark in The 5 Ways That Highly Engaged Employees are Different.

A while ago we shared some tips on how to increase staff engagement, which included fostering a learning culture with ongoing training and frequent feedback, sharing company goals and numbers with your employees to give them a sense of ownership, recognizing and rewarding high performance, and creating a strong team environment to ensure that all departments run together like a well-oiled machine.

Equip Your Employees with the Right Tools.

From training to software, strive to provide your staff with the tools that empower them to perform their tasks excellently — not just adequately. Take, for example, your front desk software: an efficient check-in process is crucial, but imagine the enhanced level of service that can be achieved with a system that allows reservation-specific notes and pop-ups to be set for service personalization purposes, like congratulating the happy couple checking in for their honeymoon. As another example, mobile property management systems free your staff from the front desk, allowing them to tend to guests promptly from anywhere on your property.

“Never underestimate the power of the human element. Whether it’s assisting a guest with a special request or a friendly greeting from staff members in the hallway, the people aspect plays a key role in guest satisfaction and loyalty.” — Ramez Faza, Sr. Account Manager at J.D. Power and Associates.