Digital marketing for hotels: Tips & tricks to improve direct bookings

Prabhash Bhatnagar
Prabhash Bhatnagar

SEO, SEM, SMM and Video marketing | Tips & tricks to improve direct bookings

Looking at the undeniable contribution of OTAs in today’s online hotel booking space and troubled with the rising cost of commission, hoteliers like you across the globe are doing their best to generate more direct bookings. Because direct bookings help you save on OTA commission while realising higher room revenue per booking.

However, this whole game of ‘direct bookings’ is not an easy thing. It requires a lot of due diligence pertaining to your marketing strategy. For example – OTAs are spending a lot on their advertisement activities that gives them the required visibility. That’s the reason a majority of travelers today look at OTAs while booking their accommodations. The point that we are trying to make here is that – as a hotelier, you also need to work on marketing strategies, mainly different types of digital marketing campaigns for hotels to promote your brand online so that travelers find you during their research phase.

What is digital marketing for hotel?

Digital marketing campaign for hotel refers to the promotion of a hotel’s brand, products and offerings via online platforms. Digital marketing plan for hotels includes several strategies like Social Media Marketing (SMM) for hotels and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While SMM helps you get more out of your presence on social media platforms, SEO makes your hotel website to rank higher on Search Engine Results Page (SERP). You can also consider looking at video marketing as part of your digital marketing campaign for hotel.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can strengthen the digital marketing campaign for your hotel so that you get to witness increased direct bookings –

#1 – Hotel Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Marketing

Hotel Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Marketing

You are a boutique hotel in Manhattan, United States, and you want to get more direct bookings via your website. For this, you need your target audience to visit your website. This is where Hotel SEO strategy will help you in your effort. Hotel SEO is all about the search engine optimization of your hotel website. Done with the right approach and strategy, Hotel SEO improves your hotel’s website rank (organic search) on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Take a look at the stats below that speak loudly about why your hotel website should rank on the first page of the search page –

  • About 33% of people click on the first result of the first page
  • Around 18% of people tend to click on the second result of the first page
  • Neary 92% of people click on the links (at least once) that appear on the first page
  • Only 5% of people go to the second page of results

SEO tips for hotels

Start with the right keywords

In search results, search engines promote websites with a higher ranking that provide relevant content. For example – you are a hotel that primarily serves leisure travelers, but your website content does not have keywords like ‘luxury family hotel in Manhattan’. Then your property (the website) will not rank in SERP when people search for luxury accommodation in Manhattan. So the ‘keyword’ is the key to success here.

Do a thorough research and find out the right combination of keywords that can help improve your website content. Find out words and phrases associated with your type of hotel. These keywords will be your primary, secondary, and long tail keywords. In this, you need to find out which words are mostly used in searches. Restructure your website content with keywords. Be it the overall description of your locality, star category, food, services, offerings, room types or grandeur of your property, include keywords so that it matches your potential guests’ search queries.

Also, use alternative texts to tag your hotel images – like ‘façade of the hotel’, ‘grand lobby’, ‘pool-facing suite room’ , ‘continental restaurant’, ‘pool-facing al fresco Italian restaurant’, etc. As search engines can’t read images, the alternative text allows search engines to index images more accurately.

Work on your meta description/title

Meta description/title is a tag with keywords that help search engines understand what type of hotel you are. The keyword you plan to include should be the one that users are likely to use while searching for hotels. If you are running a hotel close to Central Park in New York, your website meta description should be something like this – ‘4-star boutique hotel near Central Park, New York |Your Hotel Name’.

Make sure that the copy on your website is cleanly written. Include local SEO strategy and post content with a local focus. You may provide insights about local fairs that attract visitors to your city, write about historic places, shopping avenues that draws attention and many more.

In this context, it is also advisable to list your hotel on Google My Business.

You might not get to see immediate results out of your SEO effort. You need to be consistent with your efforts to see desired results in the long term. However, if you want immediate results, you may want to consider investing in Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

#2 – (SEM) Search Engine Marketing for Hotels

(SEM) Search Engine Marketing for Hotels

SEM refers to paid ad campaigns that are found above organic listings on search pages. Here too, you need to focus your target on a set of keywords that potential guests may use while searching for your hotel. The next step is to bid for those keywords. With Google, you need to bid for those keywords through Google Ads. Different search engines have their own ads platform. You can choose your SEM campaign on Pay-Per-Click (PPC) model in which you need to pay every time your ad gets a click.

Now, this is a great way to attract visitors to your website. But it doesn’t guarantee bookings to be done on your website. Visitors might just click on your campaign, come to your website and leave without making a reservation. This means you have to pay for those clicks without even realizing any bookings.

In this case, you must pay the utmost attention to your ad content. Simply putting an ad like ‘Manhattan luxury hotel for family’ would not help too much. If getting more direct booking is your agenda, your ad must read something like this – ‘Your hotel name, Manhattan| Book direct & enjoy 15% saving’ or ‘Manhattan luxury hotel for family | Your hotel name | Book direct & save 15%’.

#3 – (SMM) Social Media Marketing for Hotels

(SMM) Social Media Marketing for Hotels

Social media marketing hotel is another important form of digital marketing. It is the process that helps your hotel gain visibility for your brand to attract more bookings for your hotel via social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and others. Today, in this age of digital travel, a large percentage of travelers turn to social media platforms to find hotels that match their expectations.

Below mentioned stats might help you understand the power of social media when it comes to attracting more guests –

  • Around 87% of Millennials look at Facebook for travel inspiration
  • Nearly 100% of all travelers under the age of 34 visit Facebook for inspiration before making the final reservation

Let’s dive into this in detail –


Create properly optimized and engaging content and invest in Facebook ads to draw the attention of your potential guests. Set the right tone of your ads in a way that would help you achieve many things including asking your past and potential guests to like your page or making them visit your hotel website.

Prompt your in-house guests to take pictures at your property and post them on their personal pages while tagging your hotel. Run campaigns via Facebook’s video ads using user-generated content like their reviews or pictures taken at your property.

Leverage the power of Facebook’s remarketing ads to target your past guests. For this, log in to your Facebook Ads Manager, select custom audiences from anyone who visits your website/specific pages. You would also need to place your Facebook pixel code on your website to track visitors. Once you are done with all of these steps, you are ready to set up and run your remarketing campaign.

Be it Facebook, Instagram or other popular social media platforms, consistent engagement with your target audience is the key to success when you are looking at social media marketing for your hotel.

In this process, you should –

  • Use photos that are either taken by you or by your guests
  • Use the right content and the right ad for the right audience
  • Showcase your guest reviews
  • Monitor and respond to comments/review
  • Be informative
  • Upload short, yet appealing videos
  • Implement the right hashtag
  • Follow influencers and get them to promote your brand
  • Most importantly, never forget to involve your audience in everything that you do on social media platforms
  • Integrate booking engine to encourage direct bookings

#4 – Video Marketing for Hotels

Video Marketing for Hotels

For hoteliers, video as a platform has now become a popular marketing medium. You can use videos on your website and social media pages to promote your brand and services while efficiently engaging with your audience. Consider these stats –

  • By 2020, nearly 80% of all internet traffic will be driven by video
  • Adding a video to your website increases the likelihood of your website to appear on the first page of Google search by 53 times

Here too, like your website page content, you need to add a video description with the relevant keywords. This is called Video SEO, and this helps improve the ranking and visibility of your videos in video search engines like Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, etc.

Once you have uploaded your video on video sharing sites, don’t forget to promote it on your hotel website. Include the video in your mailers and be quick in sharing it via social media platforms. Remember that on Facebook, videos have 135% higher organic reach than images.

Now, having all these mediums in place definitely seems promising for any hotel. But you can’t afford to ignore the ROI factor out of it. Can you?

Like any other industry, hotels do also have a limited marketing budget. That’s where the importance of email marketing comes into the picture. Research suggests “Email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.” Isn’t it a super-high ROI?

Here are a few scenarios where you can leverage the power of email campaigns:

  • Give your hotel guests a warm welcome via email
  • Communicate with your guests, pre and post their stay
  • Share promo codes, discounts, offers, upcoming events and other valuable information
  • Share their folios and stay details for future reference
  • Ask for their reviews on your property and services

You are not done yet

Let’s assume that you have understood the importance of digital marketing for the hotel industry and have given your best towards your hotel’s digital marketing strategies. Your SEO, SEM, SMM and video marketing strategies are getting you an increasing number of visitors to your hotel website. But most of them are leaving your website very soon and you are yet to see substantial growth in your direct bookings.

Wondering why this might happen? Perhaps because your website is not user-friendly.

Don’t worry. With a little extra effort, you can handle this. Make sure that your website pages are loading quickly, and navigation speed is good. Let your potential customers know what benefit they will get if they book directly with you. Implement a web booking engine that would simplify the booking process for your audience.

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