Increase direct hotel bookings with social media
by Josiah Mackenzie, ReviewPro
Online hotel reviews are increasingly seen in the hotel industry as a key tool to monitor, measure and improve quality. But another valuable use of reviews and user-generated content is the significant opportunity to increase the number of inbound website visitors, and to convert more of those visitors into buyers.
User generated content (UGC) has been defined as any data or media that is contributed by the users of a website – rather than being created by professional journalists and editors. In the travel industry, UGC commonly includes online guest reviews, photos, videos, social networking posts, and a wide range of other digital content.
These pieces of content can increase website sales two ways:
– indirectly: by increasing rankings in search engines, bringing more traffic to your website
– directly: by increasing sales conversion rates by increasing consumer confidence
“Consumer confidence” is simply how much a potential customer trusts you. Over the past few years, a significant shift in communications authority has taken place. According to Yankelovich research, 75% of consumers do not believe companies tell the truth in their advertisements. Further, emarketer discovered that consumer reviews are trusted 12 times more than product descriptions by the company. When making a purchase decision, people are increasingly turning to people they trust and other consumers for advice and guidance.Use user-generated content for search engine optimization
For years, the primary search optimization benefit of reviews and UGC was that they provided a source of fresh content – something search engines needed and rewarded. This is still true: Content is king. But now, search engines are rapidly integrating social data to put content into context. Online reviews and UGC are an increasingly important factor in the search algorithms that determine how web pages are ranked.
– Google is emphasizing consumer reviews to reward local businesses that the community finds helpful
– Bing is reaching into their users’ social graph to suggest content they will love
Bing announced integration of Facebook data in their search results pages in a blog post that included this short description:
“Not only [will you] see the individual pages or stories your friends like, but the overall sites they like related to the topic you’re searching for.”
The new functionality will display personalized results based on that person’s social network – such as links or content their friends have Liked. When the person’s friends have not shared any content related to a search, Bing will prioritize content that is popular with the Facebook community at large. This means search engine optimization is now not exclusively all about building inbound links, but improving the overall sentiment and engagement toward your brand on the web.
Google also takes user-generated content very seriously. Their local business listing – the “7 box” very familiar to search engine marketers – is determined primarily by reviews and user-generated content. Recent Google patents seem to suggest that:
– the quality and quantity of your reviews,
– how many websites contain customer reviews,
– and the sentiment behind the customer reviews
…all play an important role in increasing search engine visibility today. If for no other reason, these factors would make a strong case for investing in online reputation management.
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