There are plenty of shiny objects in digital marketing that can distract us from getting the basics right. We reached out to industry experts to see what they would recommend what the basics of hotel digital marketing are today.

  • Why it’s important for you to get the basics right
  • How much website traffic should be generated by organic search
  • What SLH is doing to continuous improve the user experience
Mark Wong Vice President Asia Pacific Small Luxury Hotels of the World

Mark Wong | LinkedIn
Vice President Asia Pacific
Small Luxury Hotels of the World

John McAuliffe: If I were new to hotel digital marketing, what would you recommend I focus on to be successful?

Mark: If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you really need to understand the science behind the digital distribution channel and the art of hospitality. The ideal combination for success as a hotel digital marketer is to have a good understanding of the e-commerce eco-system, plus customer service experience in the hospitality space. But I understand that not everyone has that mix and that’s why constant education on the job is still crucial to success.

John McAuliffe: How do you define e-commerce in the context of hospitality?

Mark: I think e-commerce has evolved from just being an online booking platform to more of a customer relationship management (CRM) channel. This is because we need a 360-degree view of our customer journey and the website is only one touch-point to interact with our customers. The way I see it, e-commerce has expanded beyond its transactional purpose (from an online store) to a more customer-centric relationship tool where we know every contact point and interaction our customers have with our brand.

E-commerce has expanded beyond its transactional purpose to a more customer-centric relationship tool.

John McAuliffe: E-commerce has clearly evolved, is the same true for digital marketing?

Mark: Digital marketing has become so much more complex. In the past, it was just about having a website. Now, we need an integrated approach to our digital assets. Our website is just a starting point. As we learn something new, something new always crops up. It’s a constant educational process in this space.

This is particularly true in Asia. Overall, we are trying to catch up to the level of sophistication of the North American space. There isn’t any curriculum that specializes in hotel digital marketing. Hence, a lot of it is on the job training or learn-as-you-go. As a result, many digital marketers don’t have the basics down.

John McAuliffe: What are the “basics” in your opinion?

Mark: I see that hotel companies are very attracted to “hot topics and trends” in the digital marketing world and tend to forget the basics of good website design, search engine marketing, and search engine optimization – the fundamental things that are taken for granted nowadays.

John McAuliffe: You mentioned search engine marketing and search engine optimization, can you elaborate on why they’re so important?

Mark: If you look at statistics year after year, they say that 70% of website traffic still starts from search. That’s significant. Yet search engine marketing and search engine optimization are being de-prioritized in favor of “sexier” social media listening and reviews, programmatic media – things like that. We need to bring it back to the basics.

For example, when I speak about hotel digital marketing at conferences, I always cite the 80:20 or 70:30 rule. What I mean by that is: the basics of the website need to be in place so that 70-80% of the traffic is coming from organic search results. We should only be paying for the remaining traffic, not the other way around. Unlike the OTAs who have the capacity to basically buy the whole search results page, most hotel brands (even the luxury ones) have very small marketing budgets. So, a smart digital marketer should focus on the basics, meaning a search engine optimized website before anything else.

The basics of the website need to be in place so that 70-80% of the traffic is coming from organic search results.

John McAuliffe: If I join a hotel as the digital marketer and I quickly find that the website isn’t hitting this ratio, what would you recommend I do?

Mark: Doing a deep dive into the analytics of your website and the user experience should really be the first step. I don’t see enough focus on analysis today. If your hotel information is not properly presented, your website takes too long to load or the user experience is just poor, you are losing potential business. All those things have to be taken into consideration in your analysis. Then you can map out the next version of the website based on what the analytics tell you.

John McAuliffe: Would you consider mobile optimization one of the basics?

Mark: Definitely. The online experience has evolved so much that it’s no longer a laptop environment. Meanwhile, agencies are still presenting laptop versions of website wireframes. They should really be presenting a website from a mobile perspective first, followed by the laptop. It’s kind of a shame we’re stuck in this desktop/laptop mind-frame when the consumers are already progressed to the mobile environment.

John McAuliffe: Has SLH put the basics in place for the brand website?

Mark: As with any website, our website is constantly being improved. We’re always testing. For example, when we launched the search bar on the homepage, we tried many different placement and design options to see which would help visitors find what they’re looking for more effectively. Adding new content is also not a random process; it is a decision based on country-specific yearly search patterns and trends.

We’re continuously experimenting different ways of enhancing the experience including balancing the hosting around the world so the website always loads instantly and launching our new Chinese website within the China firewall so that the Chinese audience can easily access it.

Again it’s going back to the basics of understanding who the primary user of the website is and applying relevant techniques to make the website more efficient and effective.

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