Website, content, quality images, SEO and strategic data usage all critical for success

How can operators invest in their own website/social media channels to increase direct bookings?

HiRUM’s Nikita Johnston & Anna Jefferis reveal strategies that will increase direct bookings

Treat your website and social media platforms as your digital shopfront. Your website is your chance to showcase what you’re offering, so it is important to invest in good quality images that can be updated regularly.

A fully responsive website (desktop, mobile, tablet etc) is essential. It needs to be fast and easy to navigate, with clear and engaging copy and a call to action (CTA) that suggests urgency and stands out to the consumer. Make sure you truly own your website too, so that you can update the content whenever you like. A shared backend means added unnecessary expense that your business could do without!

What are your tips for creating and managing website content?

We believe the best person to write the content for your business is you, as no one knows your property better. However, it can be beneficial to use expert help to ensure it is correctly formatted and search engine optimized. SEO is extremely important in your online space, without giving it to a specialist you risk becoming invisible in the online world no matter how good the content reads.

Are there any benefits to creating a loyalty/rewards program?

If you have an independently owned property, then we believe loyalty programs won’t necessarily benefit you. The majority of domestic travellers within Australia rarely visit the same location twice and hence a loyalty program offers them little value. Instead, perhaps consider adding value upfront (e.g., restaurant vouchers, late checkout) to increase your chances of clients booking directly with you.

What are the most effective ways to convert website traffic to guest bookings?

Your potential guest has landed on your website? Well, done! You are more than halfway to securing the booking.

Ensure your website is clean, simple to use, with up-to-date accurate information, and a clear CTA. It is crucial that your website’s booking form is simple and easy to use. We recommend also referencing the local area such as restaurants and attractions so that guests can make the most out of their stay. And of course, always ensure the price on your website is as low as the prices displayed through your other online channels.

As consumers continually get smarter, they’re likely to cross-reference your rates on other online travel agencies. Instead of letting your customer get distracted by your competitors, a good channel manager will have a rate comparison tool that helps you effectively show that your direct booking rate is the best rate.

Do you have any advice for operators implementing social media strategies?

With growing audiences using social media for several hours a day, it is a must to showcase your business where your potential customers are.

Know who your target audience is and what social channels they are consuming, this is where you should be spending your time and money.

Social media provides you with the best opportunity to sell the dream about your property before the customer even visits, so make sure you are always placing your best post forward.

In what ways can operators ensure they appear in searches with effective SEO?

It is important to understand keywords and how to use them on your website. Your website needs to be updated regularly with trending and relevant keywords to ensure it ranks well on Google. It is possible to improve your SEO ranking simply by getting the basics right, being consistent and applying Google’s best practice guidelines.

SEO can seem intimidating for smaller business owners; therefore, it can be beneficial to engage the support of a good SEO professional.

Once again, owning your own website is key to effective SEO. This enables you to engage any professional of your choice to work with you on your overall strategy.

How can operators get to know their audience better and build relationships?

By using a good property management system (PMS) you are able to access online guest data to create a guest profile and to use this to help build relationships. Using a PMS system that incorporates inbuilt guest communication, allows you to build that rapport with the guest before they even check in.

Start by reaching out with a personalised email or SMS and then continue the communication with the guest during and after their stay.

What are the best ways to spend advertising dollars?

It is best to look at your data to discover where the majority of your bookings are coming from (e.g., social media, Google) and invest your money into these areas wisely.

Use a marketing professional to help you strategically look at what your data is telling you and spend advertising budgets accordingly.

What should operators prioritise when trying to increase direct bookings?

Firstly, a decent, clean, simple to use website with good imagery is essential.

Secondly, invest in Google Hotels via your PMS provider to showcase your property free of charge in local search results and Google Maps. This offers the opportunity for guests to book directly, bypassing the OTAs, allowing you to capture more direct bookings on your website.

What can you tell us about future trends?

From what we can see when looking at the data across multiple accommodation providers, there is certainly an upwards trend towards direct bookings. Guests are getting smarter, but they don’t want to look harder or spend too much time hunting around.

Make sure your property is easily found online and remember, now is the optimum time to implement strategies to compete with the OTA’s before travel opens back up.


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