Google Ads 101: A Hotelier’s Guide to Advertising with Google (Part 1)

If you’ve done any marketing at all, you’ll have heard of Google Ads. The advertising service provided by Google is used by millions of businesses worldwide. Which makes sense. Google handles billions of search queries every day, so it’s a platform with the potential to reach any target market you desire. And as the tech giant owns multiple popular platforms, Google Ads gives you access to customers using YouTube, Gmail, and other sites in its network—of course advertisers want to be on it. But it’s not something you can just sign-up for and expect good results. While there’s potential to see huge ROI with the service, a mismanaged account can quickly drain your marketing budget. So, it needs to be used wisely. With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to the powerful service:

How does it work? 

Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising service. Businesses bid on the search terms that they want their ads to appear for, and then pay each time a user clicks on it. For example, a bed and breakfast in San Francisco might bid on the phrase “accommodation in San Francisco” so their ad will appear at the top of those search results. If a user clicks on the ad, the B&B pays their bid amount, but if the ad isn’t clicked on, the B&B pays nothing.

There are different types of ads a business can create with Google Ads. Search ads are listings that appear in Google search results. Those are the most popular type of ads, but businesses can also choose to use display ads (banner advertisements that appear on Gmail and other websites within Google’s network), video-based ads (which appear on YouTube), and App Ads (which appear within Google applications).

How are ads ranked?

There’s a lot of competition on Google, and you certainly won’t be the only business bidding on your chosen keywords. Where your ad shows up in relation to other businesses bidding on the same search query is determined by your advertising rank. And your advertising rank is determined by both your maximum bid and quality score.

Your quality score is a value that expresses how optimized and relevant your ad is to the searcher. The click-through rate of the ad, the conversion rate of your landing page, and how specific the ad is in relation to the search query all factor into an ad’s quality score.

It’s important to note that because advertising rank is a function of both your bid value and quality score, you can improve your rank without continuing to throw money at it. Always work on optimizing your ads first, so you don’t end up with an unprofitable cost-per-click.

Should I be using it?

Google Ads is a powerful service for businesses. But like any marketing endeavor, you should assess your budget, availability, and the platform suitability to decide if it’s right for you. First, research the average cost-per-click for your industry. And, using your conversion rates, determine a rough estimate for your cost-per-conversion. Is this an acceptable number? If yes, you should next consider the time you’ll need to invest in managing your account. For Google Ads campaigns to be successful, you need to be regularly evaluating and adapting your bid maximums, search terms, ad types, and so on. If you don’t have an employee that can dedicate at least a couple of hours a week to this account, you may want to consider working with a consultant.

Google Ads is a robust marketing tool. If you’ve decided the service is right for you, read our next blog for a step-by-step guide to getting started.

Making the Switch: Changing Your Hotel’s PMS Is Easier Than You Think

Ten years ago the thought of changing a property management system (PMS) was a very scary one for lodging operators. Working with on-property, server-based systems made changing hotel technology a complicated and expensive undertaking that was significantly disruptive to daily operations. Without the resources required to upgrade, many properties found themselves stuck with outdated systems that held business back.

The advent of cloud technology helped overcome major obstacles to switching core hotel systems, significantly reducing the cost of investment—in both expenditure and time. Offering pay-as-you-go pricing, intuitive user interfaces, free and seamless updates, professional data security, and compatibility with other hotel technology, cloud PMS make switching faster, affordable and far less disruptive to daily operations today than ever before.

And it’s just as well; as the hospitality industry becomes increasingly reliant on technological innovation to stay relevant and competitive, a smooth changeover is key.

Step 1: Make the Decision to Switch

There are many reasons why you might consider changing your PMS. Perhaps your current system is outdated and incompatible with more recent technology implemented at your property. Or maybe it lacks the flexibility you need to do things the way you want. New management coming on board might want to replace the current system just because they are more familiar with another. Or your PMS vendor may have been acquired by another company, or gone out of business.

Remnant fears or concerns over changing systems—mainly to do with cost and service disruption—still hold some businesses back from making a switch, but in the current hospitality technology climate this frame of mind does more harm than good. As the control center of your business, your PMS needs to be in top form to maximize productivity and profitability.

Step 2: Choose the Best Fit for Your Business

Hotel technology is in an exciting phase, continually evolving and innovating to enhance efficiency and the guest experience. To stay competitive, it’s important to find a PMS that meets your property’s current needs and future plans.

This means partnering with a vendor that listens and responds to the needs of its clients, and demonstrates ongoing improvement and innovation of its solutions. Consider following vendors’ blogs and subscribing to their newsletters to get an idea of ongoing product development.

Along with innovation, you’ll want to make sure your new PMS has staying power. An established, tried-and-tested solution with a solid customer base speaks volumes to longevity and reliability. How long has the vendor been in business? When was the system launched? Does their customer base continue to grow?

Do your research to ensure your new PMS will provide the functionality that you need now, and the flexibility to accommodate the way you might do business in the future. Book some free demos to assess how you would conduct daily tasks, how the system will improve productivity at your property, and how it can grow with your business. A guided demo should give you a good idea of how well the software will meet your requirements, from managing rates and reservations to running reports that generate the information you need.

Read our post on essential features to expect from today’s cloud PMS solutions for further guidance on specific functionality you should look for, such as interactive calendars, commission-free direct online bookings, automated guest communications, mobile accessibility, and more.

WebRezPro PMS’ Interactive Availability Calendar makes managing reservations easy

Look for a vendor that has existing partnerships with other reputable hotel technology providers, including online distribution channels, payment gateways, POS and CRM solutions, etc. If the vendor does not already offer integration with technology that you would like to connect to your PMS, find out if an interface is possible. Established cloud PMS providers are always developing new relationships with other hospitality solutions.

It’s also important to check software reviews for solutions you are considering. Pay particular attention to what other lodging operators say about the system’s customer support. Occasional bugs can happen in even the best systems, especially in ones that are continually innovating and improving. What matters most is how the technical support team handles such issues as they come up. Whether your property is big or small, your PMS vendor should always be there for you when you need them.

Step 3: Make the Switch

Your new PMS vendor should work with you to make the transition to their system from your old system as smooth as possible.

For example, when properties switch to WebRezPro PMS, we guide and streamline the process by offering: 

  • The ability to import guest profiles and future reservations from your old PMS.
  • A dedicated launch assistant to guide you through the changeover, every step of the way.
  • Commitment to a going-live date that works with your property’s timeline. Depending on the complexity of hotel operations, you can be fully up and running within a few days.
  • Ongoing customer support at no extra cost.

While switching core hotel systems is much less of an ordeal now than a few years ago, it still pays to plan ahead and be aware of issues that can arise during the changeover period. Switching systems is a much smoother process when you are well prepared.

From choosing a changeover date that will be least disruptive to your operations, to thinking about how to process in-house guests staying through on cut-over day, you’ll need a well thought-out action plan. If you’re in need of some direction, check out our guide to changing your property management system, which includes a handy checklist that covers step-by-step action points for before, on and after cut-over day.

If, for whatever reason, your current PMS is no longer meeting the needs of your property, don’t let unwarranted fears and concerns prevent you from upgrading to a new solution that will increase your property’s productivity and profits. If you would like to learn more about WebRezProPMS, contact us for a free, no-obligation demo.

BYOD: A Hospitality Trend Worth the Buzz

People are very dependent on their phones and tablets—especially when they travel. In fact, a recent study found that mobile devices are considered the “single most indispensable item” by travelers. That puts them ahead of essentials like a driver’s license and toothbrush. With people that attached to their smartphones, it’s no surprise that the BYOD trend is gaining steam in the hospitality industry.

What is BYOD?

BYOD—or ‘bring your own device”— refers to the practice of having employees (or, in this case, customers) access applications with their personal devices (instead of using company-owned ones). It’s a trend that makes sense. Virtually everyone is already carrying a powerful phone or tablet around with them. And it’s a device they have experience on and feel comfortable with. So why not let them use it and save on hardware costs?

How can BYOD be used in hospitality?

BYOD policies have been adopted in many industries to great effect. And hospitality is no exception. There are many ways a BYOD-friendly environment can benefit lodging operators (and their guests).

In-room applications >> Many lodging operators have equipped their hotels with in-room tablets. These devices act as control centers, with applications for lighting and climate control, ordering room-service, and making requests and reservations. They’re a great addition to any room, but all those tablets add up. If you adopt a BYOD system, your guests get the convenience of centralized control without the cost (not to mention the ongoing maintenance) of expensive hardware for you.

Streaming >> Whether it’s Netflix, YouTube, Spotify or any of the many other options out there, most people use at least one streaming service. And these types of platforms are only going to get more popular. Creating a BYOD environment means guests can access the content they know and love while staying at your property. And it’s a great opportunity to upsell. 60% of respondents in a survey said they would pay between $3.99 and $6.99 for the ability to stream personal content.

Keyless entry >> Another hospitality trend enabled by BYOD policies? Mobile keys. A simple app allows guests to unlock their door with their smartphones. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also saves you—and the environment—the cost of printing all those plastic keys (Did you know a 200-room property goes through roughly 12 000 per year?).

Mobile check-in >> Becoming more mobile-friendly is all about making your guests’ stay more convenient. And providing the opportunity for mobile check-in does just that. It’s a chance for customers to skip the queue and they welcome it with open arms.

Things to consider

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of a BYOD hotel, but there are a few things you should consider when jumping on the bandwagon.

Infrastructure >> Setting up a BYOD-friendly property does involve some initial investment. If you want to offer personal streaming in your rooms, you’ll need TV’s with streaming capability (think smart TVs, Chromecast, or Apple TVs). Keyless entry requires compatible door locks. And climate control applications have to be paired with smart lights and appliances.

Bandwidth >> Another concern with a BYOD environment is bandwidth. Relying on guests’ personal devices means free WiFi is a must, and that could put a strain on your internet service. That being said, WiFi is so important to guest satisfaction these days, that you’ll probably need to invest in as much bandwidth as you can get regardless.

 

The ubiquity of smartphones and other mobile devices has changed the hospitality industry in many ways, especially when it comes to consumer expectations. Personalization is the name of the game and creating a BYOD environment is a great step in that direction.

 

Marketing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

There are a lot of moving parts to juggle when running a hotel. From property maintenance to managing staff to ensuring guest satisfaction, it’s easy to spend all your time attending to on-site matters. While it’s obviously critical to ensure a quality experience at your hotel, you won’t have any guests to impress if you’re ignoring your marketing duties. We recognize that marketing can seem overwhelming and unwieldy (chain hotels employ entire departments for the task after all), so we’ve created an outline summarizing the platforms you need to prioritize. Welcome to our crash course in marketing for independent hoteliers!

Website

Creating and maintaining a website is the most important thing you can do to market your property. This is the first place a potential guest will go to find out more about, and judge the legitimacy of, your hotel. When attending to your property’s webpage you should consider:

Design >> Considering your website will likely be the first point of contact, make sure it looks professional. People expect sites to be visually-pleasing, intuitive to navigate and mobile-friendly. If they don’t like your page, they’ll navigate away without a second thought. First impressions matter!

Content >> As an independent hotel your strength is your individuality. Use your website to highlight your property’s unique charm with professionally shot images and personalized copy.

Functionality >> Getting a browser’s attention with your website is the hard part, so don’t miss the opportunity to turn it into a sale. Incorporate a booking engine directly into your web page to maximize conversion rates and score direct bookings.

SEO >> Now that you’ve expended so much time and effort on your website, you need to make sure people can find it! Optimize your placement in search engine results by (authentically) incorporating keywords throughout your website copy and in your meta-description.

The previous tips are essential for an effective site, but like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. If you’ve tackled the primary aspects of your website and want to take it even further, think about upping the ante with these advanced options:

Blog >> An excellent way to get traffic on your site, and inch your way up search engine pages, is to add and update content continually. Blogging can be a powerful way to keep your site dynamic and showcase your hotel’s unique personality. Bear in mind, a blog can be a big commitment and will only be effective if you give it the TLC it requires.

Landing Pages >> Using landing pages can have a huge effect on your conversion rates. Start by creating a ‘Book Now’ landing page and work up to creating pages for special packages, upselling, and targeted campaigns. You can never have too many landing pages!

If you need help designing (or revamping) your website, feel free to contact our design team today.

Social Media

Effective marketing is all about reaching potential guests. You need to bring your brand to the people, and the people are on social media. When constructing your social media presence, start with Facebook (which has over two billion monthly active users!) and then consider incorporating other popular sites as you see fit. Regardless of the social site in question, make sure you:

Understand the platform >> Each social media platform is different and should be utilized in a different way. Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Snapchat, not every vehicle is going to be suited to your marketing needs. Understand the value of each platform, choose the ones that compliment your business, and then use them appropriately.

Don’t seem corporate >> Social media is by nature very personal. People are using it to express themselves and engage with one another, so your business’s activity should reflect that authenticity. Posts can be funny, sincere or even silly, but overt advertisements will not be effective on these sites.

Engage >> Don’t think of your profiles as a one-sided conversation. Social sites are dynamic communities. Actively engage with your guests by replying to comments, liking their posts and sharing content you think they’ll like (not just specifically about your property). You may even want to consider holding social media competitions which will have users interacting with your brand (and expanding your marketing reach).

Online Travel Agencies

Whatever your opinion of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), they are an integral part of marketing for all hotels (independent and otherwise). While you should be doing what you can to maximize direct bookings, it’s a good idea to make the most out of your OTA presence. Take some time to:

Manage your profile >> There is a lot of competition on OTAs. Stand out by completing all the fields on your profile, curating a collection of professionally shot images, highlighting special promotions and keeping all information and inventory up-to-date.

Optimize your placement >> Each OTA has a unique search algorithm and will typically offer suggestions for optimizing your placement on their site. Do what you can to capitalize on this advice.

Review Sites

The internet is littered with websites dedicated to reviewing products, services, and businesses. This matters because 92% of shoppers read online reviews. While you can’t control what people post about you online, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these sites. On the contrary, there is a lot you can do to manage your reputation on these platforms. There is no way you can address every review site online, so pick the major players (like Trip Advisor) and be sure to:

Claim your profile >> The first step to making review sites work for you is to claim your profile. This will allow you to keep the information on your profile accurate and up-to-date, and add a link to your online booking engine (yay for direct bookings!). These sites also typically include analytics that you can use for your own marketing analysis.

Respond to reviews >> Claiming your profile will allow you to take one of the most important steps in managing your online reputation: responding to reviews. Every property will experience negative reviews; that just comes with the territory. But the fallout associated with a negative review can vary dramatically depending on how you deal with it. People want to feel heard, so responding (as long as you are polite) will go a long way in rebuilding burnt bridges. Offer your apologies and contact information for further concerns and communication. Remember: your responses are public and will affect the way your property is viewed by general browsers as much as the individual reviewer.

Marketing can be scary—we get that. Take it one step at a time and try not to be overwhelmed. You’ve got this!