Hotels affiliated with well-established brands like Ramada, Best Western and Holiday Inn naturally get more representation than say smaller, independent hotels. This means these brand hotels tend to drive more traffic... but not necessarily more conversions.
There is a common misconception when it comes to hotel brands that believe having a site on brand.com is enough to market themselves effectively and drive bookings. Hoteliers should be aware of the limitations that this approach can have on your ability to influence potential guests to stay at your hotel. Many brand hotels mistakenly make the decision of letting the brand take care of all their marketing and maintenance. With so many hotels around the world under the same brand, how much marketing do you really think the brand will do for your hotel? The answer is very minimal. Normally, your only online presence is simply a page on the brand website with little to no optimization.
Hoteliers make the common mistake of solely relying on the brand to bring in guests. Being part of a brand can be beneficial especially because travel shoppers appreciate the consistency across a hotel brand but it can also have its disadvantages with regards to online marketing. Hotel brands tend to limit your ability to play up the unique features of your property and the target market you serve. Many hoteliers are required by the brand’s policy to adhere to specific guidelines. Branded sites often feature the same template for all hotels under that brand, which essentially keeps each hotel location from standing out and having a distinct online presence. For instance, a brand website will use the same design template for corporate hotel on a beach side resort hotel. With that said, brand sites perform a disservice for individual hotel locations and travel shoppers interested in the ultimate guest experience. To supplement your online presence with your hotel’s brand website, it is strongly encouraged that hoteliers build a separate vanity site to increase direct bookings. For hotels that are part of an established brand, here are 5 reasons why your hotel needs a vanity site:
1. Personalized Narrative & Design
One of the biggest limitations of being represented through a branded site is the inability to showcase what makes your particular hotel unique from the rest. By having a separate vanity site for your property, you will be able to have a custom designed website that will better highlight your finest amenities and showcase your property the way YOU want it to be presented. You will no longer have to settle for the rigid, inflexible and boring structure of the brand. If you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors then an independent hotel website is absolutely necessary. Remember, you’re not the only one competing with other brands in the market, in many cases you’re even competing with hotels under the same brand. So set your hotel apart from the rest.
2. Upsell Opportunity with Social Media
An independent website will give you an opportunity to get to know your guests on much more personal level through social media. It also gives your hotel the opportunity to build guest relationships and upsell through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Google +. With a vanity site, you’ll be able to embed a Facebook icon, a Twitter stream and a Tripadvisor widget; just a few things you wouldn’t be able to do on your brand site. These social media additions give visitors a sense of how much your hotel values guest engagement and satisfaction.
3. Flexible Management
Dealing with a brand can be very frustrating for many hotels especially when it comes to updating your site’s content, photos, and specials. If you need to update your site with new information on a brand site, you might be told that it will take weeks to make the updates. However, with an independent site, you will have complete control over the updates depending on which content management system is used. This eliminates that need to wait on the brand to make the updates, which again would usually take weeks.
4. You Control Marketing Efforts
Leaving the marketing up to the brand can cause missed opportunities of converting a visitor into a guest. Brand sites typically let the “brand” speak for itself. Therefore, there is no aggressive marketing going on when you let the brand handle it. However, with a vanity site, you will have complete control of your marketing, allowing you to optimize your site according to Google’s standards.
5. Results in Higher Conversions
A vanity site coupled with social search optimization or SSO 3.0 allows hotel brands to stand out in search and drive more traffic to the site. The ability to control every aspect of your site through a separate website increases your chances of securing the reservation by using various Calls to Action (CTAs) techniques like adding specials and posting enticing photos of the property. When done effectively, these CTAs will result in higher conversions.
Photo courtesy of Sam Hill Media