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Hotel digital marketing: Strategy guide

  Posted in Resources  Last updated 23/05/2024

What is hotel digital marketing?

Hotel digital marketing is the practice of using the internet to promote your hotel to potential guests. A holistic digital marketing plan for hotels will include efforts that touch paid advertising, search engine optimisation (SEO), social media, email campaigns and more.

If you are tasked with marketing a hotel, you know that digital marketing is top of your list. You also know that there are just so many things – and questions – that go into comprehensive and effective hotel digital marketing strategies.

Here, we want to help you turbocharge your hotel’s growth further by demystifying digital marketing strategies for your hotel business. We’ll walk through the most popular and effective tactics and provide the examples, information and inspiration you need to take the next steps.

Table of contents

Hotel digital marketing strategy

Today’s hotel industry is often described as dynamic and competitive. From the rise of Airbnb-style operators to a global pandemic which has cost the global tourism industry an estimated $935 billion, the challenges of the last decade have shifted marketing efforts firmly into the spotlight.

More than ever, effective marketing strategies are critical for the success of hotel businesses, whether you are launching a hotel, looking to increase bookings or want to bolster your brand. In this respect digital is the name of the game, boasting affordability and potential for massive reach.

Nearly 60% of the world’s population, that’s 4.66 billion people, are now active internet users. Social media reach continues to explode, with nearly 4 billion people now active users compared to just over 2 billion in 2015.

The options and potential are endless, and with the right strategy and technology – and a little imagination – hotels can harness the power of digital to create marketing magic.

Dreaming of Paris? Step inside the Hotel de Paris via a virtual tour. Planning a trip with kids? The Life is Suite blog from Kimpton Hotels might come in handy.

How to create a digital marketing plan for your hotel

The first step in creating a digital marketing strategy is to think about your target audience. Who are you marketing to? You need to go deep, in an attempt to understand and define that target audience.

A useful way for hotels to do this is by creating guest personas that represent the people they want to see at their check-in desk. Who is your ideal hotel guest? Create a detailed and rounded picture of these people by doing some research around these questions:

  • How old are they? Where do they live?
  • Who do they live with? Who will they travel with?
  • What type of job do they do and how much do they earn?
  • What other brands do they love?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What do they read?
  • What social issues do they care about most?
  • Where do they shop for food and clothes?
  • What are their life goals? What is their big motivator?
  • What is their favourite destination?
  • How tech savvy are they?
  • Which social networks do they prefer?
  • How do they communicate at work, with family and with friends?

Next, you’ll need to define your ultimate digital marketing goals. These will be informed by broader business goals and strategy. For example, a business goal may be to boost revenue by 20% in the coming year and strengthen your brand in the millennial market.

Your digital marketing goals can then be shaped around that goal. Doubling your Instagram followers to reach more millennials and generating a 50% increase in traffic to your website may be goals that align with these broader business goals.

Once you have clearly articulated goals and understand who you’re marketing to, it’s time to get into the nuts and bolts of your digital marketing strategy. You’ll need to develop a plan that covers the digital marketing tools that will best help you achieve your goals and how you’ll leverage them to achieve your goals.

The most popular and effective tools include:

If some of these terms are new to you, or if you haven’t developed a hotel online marketing strategy before, don’t fret – each of these tools and channels is covered in detail below.

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Hotel digital marketing tactics

From blog posts to podcasts, online magazines, apps, e-books, short form video and virtual reality, the hotel and travel industry has led the way with content that inspires and provides value. Great content can help build your audience, nurture existing customer relationships, boost brand loyalty and increase bookings.

Content digital marketing can capture people at various parts of the customer journey and high quality content is a key part of other forms of hotel internet marketing, including SEO and social media marketing.

There are two steps for effective marketing. First you need to create the type of content that your target audience is eager to consume. Content that pulls people in.

Take the aspirational and inspirational travel articles in the Four Seasons Magazine, for example. Headings such as “5 exclusive experiences across Europe”, “Stay another day in Paris” and “Luxury of the workcation” are sure to tempt high-end travellers to click through for some inspiration.

For those already in the planning stages of a holiday, content gold can be found in packing lists and itinerary ideas. Visiting Perthshire in Scotland and wanting to stretch your legs? This Hiking Guide created by Gleneagles has you covered with five top walks along with tips on packing and some Scottish words you might need to know along the way.

Other great examples of hotel digital marketing tactics through content include the Intercontinental’s podcast which highlights culture in an interesting way and the informative sustainability video content which reinforces the values of the Areias de Seixo hotel in Portugal.

The second step in effective content digital marketing is forgetting the hard sell. Instead, the message of the content and any call to action is found “between the lines” or as a casual “by the way”. For example, a handy link at the end of an article about a certain destination to the brand’s hotel in that area – something subtle and useful that doesn’t detract in any way from the value of the content.

Image explaining Hotel Digital Marketing

How to find the best social media platform for your hotel online marketing goals

Which is the best social media platform for your hotel? Where will you find the biggest success in the shortest time frame?

It’d be nice to have a definitive answer, but unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet here. There is, however, an easy three-step process for working out the best answers to these questions.

1. Get familiar with the platforms

Before you can make a decision, you need to have a basic understanding of the most popular platforms out there:

  • Facebook: Still the most popular platform with 2.79 billion monthly active users, Facebook allows you to share information, communicate with guests and create events.
  • Instagram: A popular visual platform, perfectly suited to showing off dreamy destinations and plush lobbies – and encouraging guests and influencers to do the same.
  • X (formerly called Twitter): Tweet out short and snappy (280 character limit applies) updates, communications and conversations.
  • Youtube: Allows hotels and guests to create video content that informs and inspires.
  • Pinterest: Another visual platform to build a picture of your brand
  • TikTok: A video-sharing app with 689 million active monthly users, more than half of its audience under the age of 34 years
  • Whatsapp: With 2 billion users, this slick messaging platform can take guest communication to new heights.

Social media is constantly changing and evolving, so keep an eye on this one.

2. Consider your audience

Again, it all comes back to understanding the people you’re trying to reach: your ideal guests. By understanding who they are, what platforms they use the most (and why) and what type of content they like, you’ll be in a position to investigate the platforms on offer more closely and make an informed decision about where to focus your digital marketing efforts and possible budget.

3. Think about goals and practicalities

The next step is to really think about your overarching goals and how each social media platform can help you step towards achieving those goals.

There are also practicalities to consider:

  • How much time and money will you need to invest in a platform to use it effectively?
  • Do you have staff that already know and use any of the platforms?
  • How often will you need to post on each platform?
  • What integration and management tools are available?

These factors should help you decide where to focus your energy. And, remember, it’s probably better to do one or two platforms well than spread yourself thin over all of the platforms.

How to boost online visibility with hotel digital marketing campaigns

When it comes to promoting your hotel on your chosen platforms, think of the three Cs: consistency, creativity and competition.

You do need to be consistent, posting regularly, with a clear message that is consistent with your brand personality.

You do need to be a little creative, too. There is so much going on, whatever platform you choose, that you need to find a creative way to rise above the noise.

However, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time. Take a look at your competition to get ideas that inspire your own social media content and campaigns. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make sure your Facebook page’s cover image and about description are punchy and on brand like this one from SIXTY Hotels
  • Share photos and praise from your guests on Instagram via Instagram and Facebook Stories
  • Create a Facebook Group filled with “behind the scenes” insight and information about upcoming promotions
  • Tweet out testimonials
  • Create a hashtag to re-share on-brand user-generated content, such as this cute Tweet that uses #FairmontMoments
  • Live stream events, sunrises and quick tours
  • Run an Instagram hashtag competition to generate user content and increase followers
  • Create a Facebook event page to promote special occasions and events
  • Share useful content on Facebook from local restaurants, tourism operators and attractions
  • Partner with travel-focused influencers on TikTok to reach a younger audience.

When creating and implementing a social media plan, you’ll also need to consider other essentials: how often to post, when to post, how to monitor and respond to users who are talking about your brand, how to optimise your profiles, and how to lead users to booking options.

Another question to consider in creating a plan is whether influencer marketing could be a useful shortcut in achieving your goals. This type of digital marketing relies on endorsements, mentions and recommendations from individuals who have built up trust with their dedicated social followers.

You’ll first need to find influencers who are a perfect partnership in terms of your brand and the message you want to get out there. Have they worked with similar hotels before? Do their values and aesthetics align with yours? 

Is their audience made up of the type of people you’re trying to reach? You can then approach the influencer by contacting them directly via the social media platform. If they are a well-established influencer they may have specific contact details for someone who manages this type of partnership for them in their profile.

Influencers as part of hotel internet marketing

Digital marketing in the hotel industry is also known as online visibility marketing, as it’s all about getting in front of more (and more relevant) eyeballs. Boasting large, captive audiences who trust them implicitly, a carefully chosen social media influencer will grant you instant visibility amongst a very relevant group.

Why hotels should partner with influencers

Influencers can prove a key driver in digital marketing for hotels. A hotel stay tends to be an aspirational purchase; an opportunity for a person to treat themselves to a well-earned break, a bit of luxury or a unique experience.

Social media influencers are very effective at painting a hotel as a must-see or must-stay destination, and convincing their followers to go there. Whether you show off your property, your destination or your guest experience, a hotel is a business that almost seems built for social media, which makes an influencer’s job easier and positive outcomes more likely.

How to integrate influencers to digital marketing strategy

How do you integrate social media influencers into your hotel internet marketing strategy? The basic steps are as follows:

  • Understand your goals: Work out exactly what you hope to get out of your influencer engagement, and develop KPIs that define the success of your effort, whether they relate to impressions, engagements or bookings.
  • Do your research: Begin your search for influencers. Consider the three Rs:
    • Relevance: Influencers with followers who align with your target audience.
    • Resonance: Influencers who have high levels of engagement with their followers.
    • Reach: Influencers with a decent follower count (though aim for quality over quantity – influencers with thousands of followers will often deliver greater ROI than those with millions).
  • Develop a shortlist and get in touch: Create a list of potential influencers, then send personalised messages to those who tick all the boxes to see if they’re interested in working with you.
  • Craft a contract and start collaborating: Lock in your favoured influencer and outline clear terms for the engagement. Collaborate with the influencer to create the sort of content you’re looking for.

How to get started with hotel digital marketing emails

Although it may not be as bright, shiny and interesting as the latest social media platform, email packs a serious marketing punch. Statistics indicate it generates $38 for every $1 spent. That’s a whopping ROI.

What makes hotel email marketing so important? Most people these days are comfortable with email, and it allows you to communicate directly with guests in a convenient, timely and affordable way. Email marketing technology also allows you to easily personalise and target your messaging and then measure the success of your marketing efforts.

Statistics and surveys also paint a positive picture of email marketing. More than half of a sample population said marketing emails influence their purchase decision while more than half of marketers say it is the biggest source of ROI and they’re seeing engagement increase. Meanwhile, 80% of business professionals believe email marketing increases customer retention.

As you can see, it’s definitely an area that deserves your attention. To get the most from email marketing, you’ll need to cover these three key areas:

1. Building your email list

Inviting guests to join your email list during the booking process is one of the easiest ways to build your email audience. You can also add a signup form to your website, offering some type of incentive to join the list. 

Perhaps an early check-in, downloadable city guide or chance to win a hotel voucher might help your list grow more quickly.

Segmenting your lists as you add new subscribers will also be helpful when you arrive at the next step – sending emails that have maximum impact. 

The segments might be location-specific or include only previous guests, for example. So you can talk more directly to that particular segment of your list via email.

2. Crafting and sending emails for maximum impact

You want to send emails that get opened, read and actioned. Again, your understanding of your audience will help you make decisions about how to craft and send emails. Why might your audience want to hear from you? 

When do they want to hear from you?

Consider setting up personalised and automated emails that guide your guests through the pre-arrival, arrival, pre-departure and post-departure phases of their journey. Or target previous guests with seasonal offers and exclusive discounts.

When crafting your email, don’t forget to pay attention to the subject line (which will have a big impact on whether your email gets opened) and the call to action (to make it easier for your audience to make bookings and increase conversions).

3. Tracking your campaigns

Email marketing platforms make it easy to monitor list growth, open rates, click rates, deliverability, unsubscribe rates and inactive subscribers. Use these metrics to work out what’s working and what isn’t – so you can continuously tweak and improve your email marketing campaigns.

Using online reviews to improve your hotel’s digital marketing

The age-old power of word of mouth is amplified in the digital space, especially when it comes to planning a trip and booking somewhere to stay. More than 8 out of 10 people say they always or frequently read a review before booking a place to stay and more than half say they would never book a hotel with no reviews.

There’s no shortage of places travellers can go to leave a review, with popular options including:

In simple terms, there are three things you should be aiming for around online reviews:

1. Increasing positive reviews

Good reviews mean more bookings and increased profits. Nearly 8 out of 10 travellers say that, all other things being equal, they are more likely to book a hotel with a higher review rating and a higher rating has been shown to boost occupancy and revenue per available room.

Encourage great reviews by providing a service that guests want to rave about. Ask departing guests to fill in a feedback form – and then ask those that leave glowing reviews to leave one online, directing them to the platforms where you need more positive reviews most.

2. Limiting negative reviews

No one wants to stay in a dirty hotel room, and it’s no surprise that 90% of travellers will avoid booking hotels if they see the word “dirty” in online reviews.

Running a hotel business is challenging and there will always be complaints and dissatisfaction. By communicating well, though, you can resolve many complaints before they turn into a full-blown vent published on an online review site.

3. Always monitoring and responding to reviews

Whether it’s a good or bad review, responding to online reviews presents an enormous opportunity. It’s a chance to display your commitment to great customer service and reinforce your brand values.

Responding to negative feedback in the right way can help win back the particular customer who left the review and also turn things around for other potential guests who are reading the review. And, of course, responding to a positive review can add some extra shine to your reputation.

Read more about how to manage online reviews here.

Hotel digital marketing and online search

As the market-leading search engine, Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches each day. And recent reports suggest searches for hotels and resorts are bouncing back well after the pandemic, with the highest search levels in a decade.

To encourage more and better quality traffic to your hotel’s website from Google and other search engines, you need to focus on search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO includes things such as keyword research, creating great content, getting links from other sites and making sure your website is fast and responsive to all types of devices.

It’s a huge area, but the good news is that if you are doing all of the above in terms of creating great content, encouraging great reviews and communicating with social media and email, then you are already well on your way to optimising your site for search engines. And the best thing about SEO is it’s the digital marketing tactic that just keeps giving. Once you invest in SEO, the traffic that flows in organically costs nothing.

An area of SEO that is particularly important for hotels, is local SEO . When it comes to certain searches over the internet, search engines understand that the person searching wants a local result – even if they don’t include the words “near me”. So they serve up the most local results, often with a local map showing where the top results are located. Clearly, a high position in local results is SEO gold for hotels.

How important are Google hotel ads in hotel digital marketing?

While it’s a worthwhile investment, SEO can be a longer burn to get results. But there is a way to jump the queue. Google Hotel Ads, previously called Google Hotel Finder, allows you to set up a feed with up-to-date information on availability, room types and pricing so you can reach people who are actively searching for hotels like yours. You can target guests in certain locations or focus on properties with lower occupancy rates to get the best results.

Using a Google Hotel Ads strategy that delivered more traffic to emerging markets, AccorHotels lifted year-over-year bookings by 65% and grew revenue by 84%.

As you can see, digital marketing strategy for hotel businesses is a large and sometimes complex area. However, it’s also an area of enormous potential. We hope that after reading this you have the motivation and confidence to explore the best ways to promote your hotel in the digital space – and create a digital marketing plan that helps realise the potential and opportunity that’s there waiting.

Importance of local SEO in hotel digital marketing

It’s difficult to understate the importance of local SEO for hotels. Nearly all searches relating to your hotel will have local intent – i.e. include your location within the search query. By investing in local SEO, you can ensure you come up as a result whenever a potential guest types something like “hotel [YOUR LOCATION]” into Google.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of SiteMinder, the leading technology provider delivering hoteliers unbeatable revenue results. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at SiteMinder. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance and value for accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations achieve their goals.

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