- Your hotel is one of many listed on Brand.com, making it difficult to stand out
- A vanity website, separate from your Brand.com listing, helps drive more direct bookings
- Let Brand.com compete with OTAs on generic keywords
- Focus on long-tail keywords with your vanity website
- Target specific buying personas (e.g. business travelers, couples) or events in your local area
- Update content quickly & easily for more agile marketing
Roughly two thirds of all hotels in the United States are chain affiliated. Being part of a chain offers many advantages to hotel owners; name recognition, access to established loyalty programs, more booking channels, and marketing resources. Not to mention, brands are typically able to negotiate lower commissions from OTAs.
But even with all these benefits at your disposal, there are still things you can do to drive more direct bookings for your hotel – initiatives which complement your brand’s efforts.
We’re talking about a vanity website, or standalone hotel website, independent from your listing on Brand.com. In this article, we examine why some travel shoppers’ book on Brand.com, why others prefer to book on a vanity site, and the benefits of leveraging both in your digital marketing strategy.
What’s In a Name?
A big advantage of being a branded property is having access to a loyal customer base. Customer acquisition may be the result of your brand’s attractive frequent guest program, a company mandate for business travel with a certain supplier, or someone may choose you simply based on personal preference influenced by large advertising budgets. Whatever the reason, brand devotees will likely navigate directly to their favorite chain’s website to book their hotel.
However, the vast majority of travel shoppers are brand agnostic.
According to Google’s 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision study, only 16% of leisure travelers are certain which brand they will book with when planning a trip. 65% will consider multiple brands, and 20% are totally undecided. For business travelers, 28% are absolutely certain which brand they will book with, while 60% will consider multiple brands, and 12% are undecided.
Most hotel shoppers choose their accommodations based on value, which is a balance between price and anticipated experience. That means 2 things:
- You need to be found on search result pages to make the consideration list
- You need to tell a compelling story to get the shopper to choose your property
Brand.com’s Strong Domain Authority
Your brand knows this and is likely already investing big bucks in Search Engine Marketing (SEM). As an established domain, your Brand.com carries a high domain authority, a major ranking signal of Google’s algorithm that influences organic search results.
As an example, Marriott.com has a domain authority of 96 out of 100, according to Moz, a marketing analytics company that specializes in SEO. Domain authority is a measure of the power of a domain name, and is one of many search engine ranking factors. A domain authority of 96 is pretty impressive, considering newer hotel website domains are in the teens or low twenties.
Choose Your Battles
A high domain authority puts your Brand.com in a good position to rank for generic, high volume search terms. Things like “Manhattan hotel” or “hotels near Chicago O’Hare.” But the competition is fierce for terms like this. Every brand, OTA, travel website and review site wants to rank for them, and will spend big bucks trying to secure that page 1 position.
Your brand is better capitalized to fight this battle. Let them duke it out with the OTAs on generic search terms, while your attention is focused on where you CAN win – by telling your story, your way.
The Problem with Generic Search Terms
Generic search terms are not only highly competitive, but they may actually yield fewer results for your property. That’s because generic search terms are most often used during the inspiration and research phases of the travel shopping journey. During these phases, travel shoppers are typically still exploring their options, narrowing their consideration list to zero in on the hotel they will eventually book.
Once they have identified their shopping criteria, they will typically use long-tail keywords to find the perfect hotel – and this is where your opportunity lies.
The Value of the Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are search terms that consist of 4 or more words. They’re more specific, less competitive to rank for, and tend to be more descriptive of their accommodation needs. An example would be, “New York hotel near Times Square with a pool.”
Over 70% of all searches are long-tail, so they present a massive opportunity to drive more traffic to your vanity website. Studies have also shown that long-tail keywords convert 2.5 times better then generic search terms. That’s because someone searching long-tail has already identified their hotel shopping criteria and is now looking for the hotel that is the best match.
As a property with a story to tell, it’s best to try and compete on long-tail keywords that are more localized to your area and reflective of what differentiates you from the competition.
Your Listing on Brand.com
It’s possible that your Brand.com could rank for some long-tail keywords too.
While this is great in exposing more travel shoppers to your brand, it’s not a direct win for your hotel specifically. That’s because your hotel is one of many listed on Brand.com. The brand has a responsibility to represent all properties fairly. This results in each listing being presented in a homogeneous way.
Just look at HolidayInn.com below as an example.
Even the dedicated property pages are nearly identical. The two Holiday Inn Express properties below have very similar attributes that don’t tell their story.
The Advantages of a Vanity Website
A vanity website, on the other hand, helps communicate your hotel’s unique story. With a standalone hotel website, you can showcase your amenities, special offers, local attractions, hotel staff, and much more, using striking visuals and keyword rich text.
It allows you to target specific buying personas with a unique value proposition. For example, you can tailor your content to target business travelers, families, large tour groups, or seniors, – whoever you want!
You can even publish ever-changing content or special offers that target events in your area (e.g. sporting events, music festivals, or seasonal attractions).
With your own vanity website, content is quick and easy to create and update. This kind of agile marketing is best managed at the individual property level.
A vanity website is a terrific addition to the digital marketing efforts already being made by your brand. With two websites working for you (vanity site & Brand.com), you can maximize your SEO efforts, target more keywords, increase exposure among travel shoppers, and improve your chances of winning more direct bookings.
A Vanity Website Done Right
The Best Western Plus Newark Airport West is an excellent example of a branded property that’s launched its own vanity website to drive more direct bookings. Its homepage features striking visuals that showcase the on-site experience.
A simple navigation and intuitive user experience allows travel shoppers to explore features of the hotel and surrounding area. In fact they have two pages dedicated to nearby attractions – one targeting Newark visitors, and the other targeting New York City visitors (Manhattan is located a short 20-minute train ride from the hotel).
This type of content helps the property rank organically for long-tail keywords relating to both locations.
The Best Western Newark Airport West even features a “Stay and Cruise Promo” on its vanity website, for those planning to take a cruise from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ. This is something the hotel simply wouldn’t be able to showcase on BestWestern.com.
The Best Western Newark Airport West is using Vizlly to power all of this. Vizlly is a digital marketing solution that gives branded properties the ability to launch their own vanity website, mobile website, Facebook Apps and third party digital brochures to boost their digital marketing efforts and complement what their brand is already doing.
To learn more, speak with one of our Vizlly specialists today.