If You List It They Will Come: A Hotelier’s Guide to Google My Business

Most people planning a vacation start with a Google search. That’s why you work so hard to optimize your search results placement with SEO strategies. And you should. But it’s not all you can be doing to make the platform work for you. Managing your Google My Business listing is an important step for staying competitive on the powerful search engine.

What it is

Google My Business is a free, online tool that allows you to control how your business appears across Google. A listing for your property, curated by you, appears on Google Maps and in the Knowledge Graph (the info-box on the righthand side) of search results. It’s like an online storefront. Users can see your property, and relevant information about it, before clicking onto your websitemaking your business more visible and more accessible to potential guests.

Where to start

The first step is to search for any existing listings for your business. While you may not have created one yourself, an unclaimed listing may exist—in which case you’ll need to claim it. Otherwise, visit the Google My Business page and click ‘Start Now.’ From there you’ll need to create an account, verify your business, and then begin managing your listing.

Managing your listing

Categories >> You’ll need to choose a primary category that represents what type of business you are. This helps Google list your business appropriately and gives you access to category-specific features. Hotel listings, for example, can add class-ratings and amenities to their entries. In addition to one primary category, you can choose up to nine others if appropriate for your business.

Business information >> This is obvious, but you’ll want to ensure all your business information is accurate and up-to-date. That includes things like your contact info and website URL as well as a description of your business. If you choose to upload a description (you should), it must be less than 750 characters and adhere to Google’s description guidelines.

Photo and video content >> Listings with photos experience 35% more clicks through to their website. So, don’t skip this step. Upload as many professionally shot photos that you need to tell your property’s story and inspire prospective guests. Within the bunch, you can identify a profile photo and cover photo so Google knows which ones you’d like to display first. Click here for Google’s full photo and video guidelines.

Reviews >> Google is always encouraging customers to leave reviews after visiting a business. It has turned the online juggernaut into the #1 review site in the world, and those reviews are included in your Google My Business listing. That’s a good thing because user feedback is significantly more trusted than traditional marketing. So make sure you are responding to these reviews as part of your reputation management strategy.

Updates >> Make listing updates a regular part of your management strategy. In addition to ensuring the accuracy of all information, and responding to reviews, you can post special offers and promotions directly on your listing. Keeping your Google My Business page fresh will help it stand out to potential guests.

Optimization >> Google My Business includes an analytics feature (called Insights) that allows you to understand how people are interacting with your listing. You can use it, for example, to determine how people are finding your listing, how many times they view it, and how often people ask for directions to your property.

Google My Business is a powerful marketing tool. Make sure you’re claiming and managing your listing to maximize its potential. And consider downloading the platform’s app to make the job as easy as possible.

A Hotelier’s Guide to Responding to Online Reviews

Today’s consumers rely heavily on reviews to make purchasing decisions. The quantity and quality of online reviews are both considered when determining what to buy or where to book. That makes them critical to a business’s success. But it’s not just about maximizing positive reviews and minimizing the negative ones (although that’s certainly important). Responding to reviews is also an essential part of reputation management. If done correctly it can further capitalize on the good reviews and mitigate the damage of the bad. Here’s a quick guide to responding to online reviews:

General tips

Use their name >> Always start your responses with the name of the customer. “Hi, Louise. Thank you.. “ or “Hello, Max. We are so sorry…” sound much more personal than beginning with a cold “Thank you …” or “We are so sorry…”. Using names tells your customers that you care about them as individuals. And it makes it seem less like an automated response.

Be genuine >> Nobody likes receiving a canned response. It feels inauthentic and doesn’t do anything to build a connection with customers. So, avoid generic statements and use language that showcases your property’s personality.

Don’t be repetitive >> It can be tempting to use the same responses over and over to save time, but people read multiple reviews when researching online. If the same phrases are repeated time and time again, they’ll notice. So, mix things up—it’ll look better for your brand.

Positive reviews

While most of your responses should be focused on negative reviews, responding to some positive ones is still important. It shows you don’t take customers’ kind words for granted, and is an opportunity to leverage the review even further.

Repeat the positive feature >> When a guest writes a rave review they usually include the specific details that meant the most to them—things like “the breakfast every morning was delicious.” Restate those details in your responses. Saying something like “we’re so glad you enjoyed our breakfast!” shows the guest (and others reading the exchange) that you’re listening to what they have to say and reiterates the positive attributes of your property.

Use your business name and keywords >> When crafting your response make sure to include your property’s name (i.e. “we are so pleased to hear you enjoyed your time at [PROPERTY NAME]” as well as other keywords. You want people to see your positive reviews, and this will help them show up in search results.

Include subtle marketing >> Reviews have a vast audience of potential customers, so don’t miss the opportunity to plug your property further. After thanking the guest for their kind words, include a subtle call-to-action. Something like “we’re so happy to hear you enjoyed your view of the lake! You should come back and see it in the winter; it’s so beautiful!”.

Negative reviews

Negative reviews aren’t fun, but they happen to everyone. And your responses say a lot to the potential customers reading them. So, you need to have a plan for how to move forward. If done well, you can significantly reduce any fallout (and a guest may even revise it afterwards).

Acknowledge and apologize >> The first thing you should do is acknowledge the experience your guest had and express your apologies for it. People tend to calm down when their feelings are validated.

Move the conversation offline >> You don’t want to turn negative reviews into long, drawn-out discussions online. After apologizing for the guest’s experience, include an invitation to contact you offline so the situation can be resolved.

Keep it short and sweet >> Nobody wants to read paragraphs of text, especially when they’re upset. So, don’t add fuel to the fire with long-winded responses. A simple acknowledgment, apology, and an invitation to communicate further are all you need.

Don’t use your business name or keywords >> Unlike your positive reviews, you really don’t want negative reviews to be popping up on search results. For this reason, avoid using your property’s name or relevant keywords in your responses.

Responding to online reviews should be a regular part of your marketing strategy. Make sure you’re doing it right, so you can make the most of positive reviews and reduce the effects of negative ones.

Be a Star Online: A 5 Step Guide to Reputation Management

Building a good reputation has always been important for business. Like almost everything else, the internet hasn’t changed that fact; it’s just adjusted how the game is played. Consumers are more empowered to voice their opinion than ever before, and they use it. Depending on how you respond to and manage the online dialogue surrounding your property, the ubiquity of reviews can be a powerful asset or an overwhelming obstacle for your business.  Because the truth is, your online reputation directly affects bookings in a significant way. In fact, a study from Boston University and Microsoft concluded that a 1-star increase online can boost demand by 26%. That’s no small effect. And not at all surprising considering 92% of people use reviews to inform booking decisions when researching hotels.

The things guests are saying about you online matter in a big way. If dealt with correctly, you can not only mitigate the potential damage of reviews but actually make them work for you. Here are five steps for managing your reputation online.

Step 1: Monitor online content

If you want to deal with your online reputation, you need to know what people are saying about you. To this end, you should be regularly monitoring the reviews (and other content) that are being posted across the web. The internet is a big place, so this probably sounds daunting.  But, thankfully, there a number of tech options out there to bear the bulk of that burden. Setting up a simple Google Alert (for free!) can send you updates whenever posts are made, anywhere on the web, using the term of your choosing (your hotel’s name is a good place to start). You can also choose to partner with providers like Hootsuite or Revinate. These solutions automatically monitor multiple platforms, aggregating and organizing review data so you can analyze and act upon it.

Step 2: Respond appropriately

Now that you have your finger on the pulse of your online mentions, the next step is to respond. Obviously, you shouldn’t reply to every single review, but it’s a good idea to offer a few kind words for the occasional positive review (think “we’re so glad you enjoyed your stay!”) and then prioritize the negative ones. And don’t be hostile or defensive. Express your sincere apologies for their unsatisfactory experience and offer an opportunity for further communication to address their concerns. Remain professional, and you have the power to seriously mitigate the fall-out from a bad review.  87%  of users on TripAdvisor indicated that an appropriate response to a negative review improves their opinion of the business.

Step 3: Leverage good reviews

As previously mentioned, the growing trend of guests sharing their opinions online can be a huge benefit to your business. The experiences of customers are much more trusted than traditional advertising material, making glowing reviews marketing gold. So use them! Whether you choose to include testimonials on your webpage or make a point of liking, sharing, and retweeting positive mentions, make sure you’re not missing out on the potential of quality user-generated content.

Step 4: Learn from bad reviews

You work hard to give your customers the best possible experience, so it definitely hurts to get a bad review. But if you choose to look ‘em in the eye and learn from it, they can make your business stronger. Of course, some guest complaints are isolated incidents (or totally unreasonable) and, in that case, you can politely apologize and move on. But other negative reviews can alert you to real weaknesses that would be wise to address. So keep tabs on the nature of your negative reviews. Are there any illuminating patterns? Once you’ve highlighted areas for improvement, take action. Your business will be the better for it.

Step 5: Encourage feedback

The final step to building a strong reputation online is to generate more content. The more reviews published online, the more legitimate and trustworthy your business appears (assuming you’re responding appropriately). So do what you can to encourage guests to post about their time at your property. This can be done in a number of ways, but you should certainly be inviting feedback in your post-stay emails.

 

A good reputation is critical to the success of any business. And in this day and age, the majority of that battle is being fought online. Follow these five steps to keep gaining ground. Good luck!

 

Five Habits of a Successful Hotelier

Whether you’ve been running a hotel for decades or are brand new to the game, reflecting on your practices as a hotelier is always a valuable exercise. Nobody’s perfect, but taking the time to consider your methods, and making improvements where you can, will get you pointed in that direction. Curious if you’re doing everything in your power to help your lodging operation prosper? Read on to discover five habits of a successful hotelier.

Focuses on communication

Hospitality is an industry about people, which makes communication particularly important. It’s not just about being professional and engaging with your guests, but also being open and approachable with your employees. A hotel staff is a team, so everyone is (and should feel) valuable. Great hoteliers have safe, open lines of communication with their employees, offer regular feedback, and often involve staff in decision-making. A healthy company culture will directly affect the experience you provide for your guests.

Knows their customers

It’ll surprise no-one that prioritizing customer relations is essential to finding success in the hospitality industry. But it’s not just about having genuine in-person interactions with your guests (although that’s certainly important!).  Great hoteliers go above and beyond by learning about and keeping track of who their customers are as individuals. With a powerful PMS or CRM, it’s possible to log details about returning customers’ interests and preferences to surprise and delight. Is a guest consistently traveling on business? Throw in free Wi-Fi or offer recommendations for comfortable workspaces. Do you know a customer’s birthday? Send them a quick email wishing them a happy day. Personalized experiences make guests feel appreciated, and go a long way in nurturing loyalty.

Assesses the competition

Lodging operators have a lot of competition. But instead of seeing that as an obstacle to overcome, successful hoteliers use it as a means to make their operations better. Make a routine of checking out competitors’ websites, social media platforms, and physical property. What are they doing well? Where could they improve? Noticing patterns across successful operators (or similarities between unsuccessful ones for that matter) can offer critical insights which may prove exceedingly beneficial for your own business.

Keeps their head in the game

Even when their property is running smoothly, great hoteliers don’t get complacent. Hospitality is an ever-changing arena, and it isn’t good enough to simply play defense. Read articles and network with other professionals to stay on top of new trends, changes in the market, and emerging technology. And be proactive about evolving and improving your business. It’s important to set long-term goals and construct a step-by-step action plan to realize them. The most successful people (and businesses) are never satisfied merely resting on their laurels.

Recognizes the role of technology

There is a lot that technology can do for a business, and a good hotelier embraces that. Property management, reputation management, and revenue management software are only a few examples of what’s available to help streamline operations and maximize revenue. And let’s not forget the marketing potential of social media platforms. A hotel that shies away from all new technology misses out on some unbelievable opportunities to improve their business.

Now, that’s not to say you should be adopting every new system that crops up. Every business is different, and using tech for tech sake doesn’t do anybody any good. What makes an hotelier successful is their open, yet discerning, consideration of new technology that becomes available.

It’s never a waste of time to reflect on your habits as a business owner. If you’re looking to improve your practice (or are just starting out and need a few tips), consider adopting these five strategies of highly successful hoteliers.

A Busy Hotelier’s Guide to Maintaining Online Reputation

In our digital world, online reputation has never been more critical to a hotel’s success. Online reviews and ratings give consumers more confidence in their booking decisions than ever before; in fact, BrightLocal’s latest Local Consumer Review Survey found that 74 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more.

Nurturing a positive online reputation is one of the most powerful marketing strategies any business can employ and most hotel operators consider online reviews important to the success of their business. During the peak season rush, however, it can be easy to lose focus on managing online reputation amid increased urgent demands brought on by high occupancy. But it’s during busy times — when service is prone to slip a little — that it is especially important to maintain a grip on what customers are saying about your property online.

For busy hoteliers, here’s our guide to maintaining online reputation at any time of the year.

Manage Guest Expectations

Avoid negative reviews (and time-consuming and potentially costly reputation repair efforts) by managing guest expectations from the outset. Property descriptions and images on your website, OTA listings, Google My Business listing and tourism association listings, etc. should paint an accurate picture of the stay experience you offer; overpromising only leads to disappointed guests and bad reviews.

Assess your property’s existing reviews and guest feedback to identify what guests love about your hotel and what disappoints them — and, if necessary, adjust your narrative accordingly. For example, if guests consistently complain about the size of your guestrooms, ensure that descriptions clearly state that your rooms are small (but cozy!). When your guests know what to expect they are much less likely to be disappointed.

Automate Monitoring

Keeping track of what people are saying about your property in such a boundless space as the Internet can be a time-consuming and inefficient task. Manually checking various review sites, OTA sites and social networking sites on a regular (ideally daily) basis is difficult to fit into a busy hotelier’s hectic schedule.

But this critically important task can be made quick and easy by setting up automated monitoring and reputation management tools to track all mentions of your property across the Internet. Google Alerts (a free service) allows you to set up an alert for any search term (for example, your property’s name), and then informs you whenever new content featuring the search term is published on a webpage. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite (free and paid versions) provide a single platform from which to monitor numerous social media channels for messages and mentions, as well as schedule posts, engage with followers and access analytics. Then there are powerful reputation management solutions like Revinate, which captures and brings together all your online reviews and social media mentions, and provides a single platform from which to manage your social media accounts, as well as access sentiment analytics.

Simple Surprises Delight

With the push toward personalized service across all hotel segments (not just luxury) to keep up with rising guest expectations, properties are striving to surprise and delight guests to increase customer loyalty and generate positive guest feedback on social media and review sites.

Personalizing the guest experience might seem like a complicated undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Modern hotel technology, including property management systems (PMS), customer relationship management (CRM) software and guest engagement solutions, makes it easy to track and use guest data to identify high-value guests and to personalize every guest’s stay with automated tools, from reservation pop-up notes to automated communications and request tracking.

Surprising and delighting guests doesn’t have to be expensive either. Think of simple gestures your property can implement to make guests feel valued. From handwritten welcome notes or welcome cookies placed in guestrooms, to free room upgrades or late check-out when possible, giving guests a little extra can go a long way with earning their loyalty and advocacy.

Automate Requests for Feedback

Every guest should be given the opportunity to provide feedback about their experience during and after their stay. Even negative comments are valuable to any property when they are warranted and highlight areas that can be improved.

While it’s important to check on guest satisfaction personally during a guest’s stay, the opportunity might not always present itself, for example, if a guest is away from the property for much of the time. Consider in-room tent cards encouraging the guest to let you know if anything can be done to improve their stay. Automated guest engagement solutions can help staff check in with in-house guests via messaging, and track and manage requests and complaints.

According to BrightLocal research, 50 percent of consumers will leave an online review if asked. A couple of days after a guest checks out they should be sent a post-stay email thanking them for staying and inviting them to leave a review online if they enjoyed their stay (providing a direct link from the email helps). Property management systems like WebRezPro allow you to set up automated customized emails or integrate with CRM solutions to streamline guest communications. PMS integrations with online reputation management systems automate the process of emailing guests post-stay surveys that can be published directly to TripAdvisor and Google at the property’s discretion.

Respond to Feedback

Apparently 87 percent of TripAdvisor users say that an appropriate management response to a negative review improves their impression of a property. Done right, management responses have the power to recover disappointed guests and your property’s reputation.

Genuine responses to reviews do take time (canned responses should be avoided) but it’s a critical part of online reputation management. Developing set guidelines on how to handle negative reviews — like Revinate’s Positive “Sandwich” Formula — can help focus and streamline this process.

While your property should aim to respond to all negative reviews (and in a timely manner), it’s not necessary to respond to all positive reviews. In fact, recent research from Cornell University implies that responding to more than 40 percent of reviews (repeating simple thank yous for positive reviews) has a detrimental effect — likely annoying review readers by distracting from the reviews themselves.

Analyze and Act on Feedback

Analyzing reviews and complaints for actionable opportunities for improvement — and implementing those improvements — are also time-consuming but necessary steps in reputation management. Online reputation management solutions like Revinate, however, can make this process much more efficient through sentiment analysis tools that analyze reviews and social media mentions to uncover specific areas of operation that need attention.

Actions speak louder than words. Nothing shows customers that you are listening to them and that you care about their experience more than acting on feedback by making operational improvements where warranted.

 

Maintaining a positive online reputation is key to a property’s success in our digital age. It’s so important not to drop the ball, especially during busy times. Managing guest expectations from the outset, implementing procedures for dealing with complaints and negative reviews, and utilizing modern software to automate processes — such as monitoring online mentions, service personalization, post-stay surveys and analytics — all helps to streamline this critical task on a daily basis, continuously strengthening your online reputation and bringing in more bookings.

 

Social Listening Tools: What are People Saying About You?

In 6 Tips for Doing Social Customer Service Right, we recommend using social listening tools (also known as social media listening tools or social media monitoring tools) to ensure you don’t miss any direct social media mentions and also to catch indirect mentions for providing excellent customer service. But what is a social listening tool, you ask? Don’t worry — no cold war technology or fancy 007 gadgetry is needed these days for eavesdropping. Here are the basics of social listening tools for those not in the know.

The What and Why of Social Listening

Social media listening, also known as social media monitoring, is used in order to find out who in Internetland is talking about your hotel — on blogs, review sites, news sites, social media and the like. Social listening tools provide you the opportunity to respond to those talking about you while collecting data that can be used for sales and marketing.

According to this article on multichannel customer service, companies who facilitate multiple communication channels have customers that spend 30 percent more than companies who only have one channel. While this article refers to direct communication such as phone, text, email and chat, social media also provides a platform for direct communication in the form of messages and comments.  In this way, social listening leads to increased guest satisfaction based on increased customer service, leading to increased revenue (see also: 8 Ways to Improve Guest Satisfaction and Your Online Reputation).

How to Get Started with a Social Media Listening Tool

In order to activate a social media listening tool, you need to have a social media presence. But what comes first, the chicken or the egg, the social media presence or the social listening tool? If you don’t have any kind of presence at all, start with creating accounts with the big social media players such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. From there, look into social media management platforms, such as Hootsuite, to manage all your accounts from one dashboard. When choosing a platform, ensure it has social listening capabilities and the ability to collect and monitor data and aggregate the results. This social listening article describes how your hotel can then use that data to help you create content for social media that is going to appeal to your guests. And here’s a hint: your guests want content that will help and interest them, not overtly sell to them.

Top Social Listening Tools

There are many social media listening tools out there, and various social media platforms have them incorporated, such as Facebook Insights. You might want to use a variety of tools in order to get a broader picture. There are numerous others, but Huffington Post has narrowed it down for your convenience: Google Alerts, Hootsuite, Icerocket, and Social Mention. These (mostly free!) tools allow you to enter your hotel’s name and receive results for who is talking about you across the Web. Remember to use common misspellings or variations of your hotel’s name.

Online Reputation Management

If all this makes your head spin, a hotel reputation management system might just be the a one-stop-shop answer for you, offering next-generation guest satisfaction by connecting you with guest review postings and social media platforms. WebRezPro interfaces with leading reputation management system Revinate to automate the process of requesting guest feedback via post-stay surveys and posting reviews online — allowing lodging operators to improve their property’s online reputation and drive new sales, with no extra effort at all!

8 Ways to Improve Guest Satisfaction and Your Online Reputation

We recently blogged about research that shows hotel guest satisfaction is at a record high. However, as hotels and other lodgings are more effectively meeting customer expectations, it only makes sense that expectations are getting higher, leading to more critical guests. The study indicated that Generation Y (who are more engaged in social media than other travelers) are the most critical group of travelers and more likely to express their opinions online. So while guest satisfaction is improving across the industry, it’s important not to let your guard down; customer service is evolving and it’s essential to keep up.

Technology is changing guest expectations (think fast Wi-Fi, iPod docking stations, hotel apps…) and is reducing the amount of face-to-face interaction between guests and hotel staff. Between check-in kiosks and mobile Internet and apps, it’s possible for guests to manage their stay without front-desk staff or the concierge. That doesn’t mean that a personal connection with guests is not vitally important, it just means that we need to start thinking about customer service in different ways. That’s why more and more properties are engaging with guests through social media before, during and after their stay to improve the guest experience and their property’s online reputation.

Guest satisfaction and online reputation go hand in hand now more than ever. You can’t improve one without working on the other. Hospitality news website HotelNewsNow.com recently published a great article about how to improve guest satisfaction and it’s no surprise that online reputation management tactics feature heavily on their list of suggestions.

Here’s a rundown of HotelNewsNow.com’s 8 Ways to Improve Guest Satisfaction (for the full article, click here):

  1. Optimize online presence – Having a website is not enough. To maximize visibility and sales your property needs to be present on OTAs, review websites and social media channels.
  2. Manage guest expectations – Don’t mislead potential guests with empty promises that will only lead to disappointment (and negative feedback). Be truthful and helpful.
  3. Be true to your brand – Always strive to exceed expectations. Impressed guests turn into repeat customers and advocates.
  4. Ask for and track guest feedback – Be proactive! Front-desk staff can ask guests about their stay and invite them to write reviews online, but with fewer guests checking out at the front desk these days it’s important to conduct post-stay surveys or invite guests to review their experience via post-stay email communication.
  5. Analyze guest feedback – Listen to what guests are saying and act on it. Gather and review all forms of guest feedback to measure and analyze for actionability. Online reputation management software is increasingly important for this.
  6. Use feedback to guide decisions – Guest feedback can be applied to decision-making in all areas and departments: staff recruitment and training, sales and marketing, investments in new services/amenities, etc.
  7. Respond to guest feedback – Show guests (and prospective guests) that you are listening and you care; respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. Express appreciation for the review, reinforce positive aspects, apologize for any issues, and specify actions that will be taken to improve.
  8. Provide social service – Use social media channels to connect with guests and provide customer service pre-, during and post-stay.