Great, Gratis and Glorious digital marketing ideas to boost direct sales

Gonzo Marketing
Gonzo Marketing

Our guest blog and interview is with Frederic Gonzalo, founder of Gonzo Marketing. With over 19 years of experience in the travel and tourism sphere, he is passionate about marketing and communications.

Frederic recently attended the EyeForTravel event in Miami as a speaker, panelist and participant to the 2015 edition of Online Marketing Strategies in Travel.

Here Frederic generously shares his industry insights and expertise with freetobook. As he pointedly states, having no marketing budget is no excuse for not having a dynamic online presence!

What is the most important trend in online room booking?

It’s about going mobile. More than 51% of travelers now research their next destination, accommodation and transportation from a mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or tablet. And more importantly, an increasing proportion of them are now booking via their mobile device: in fact, it is estimated that 25% of all online travel revenue in the US will come from mobile devices in 2015.

How can a property get more direct bookings?

1- Have a “best online rate” guarantee and feature it, big and bold, on your home page. People will shop around no matter what, but if they can have the confidence that by booking direct they will get the best deal, well… you got it!

2- Have a relationship marketing approach in place. This can be through a rewards program or simply by capturing emails from clients and visitors to your site and/or blog. Sending out regular newsletters and promotional offers to this base can ensure retention and direct booking through time.

3- Promote deals and best rates across your various social accounts. I see hotels mention a promo code for 10% off best rate… on their Twitter bio. Others do Facebook offers, or mail push to group databases. Think outside the box, and make sure you crossover information from newsletter to blog to social media.

Having no marketing dollars is not an excuse not to have a dynamic online presence.

The first step is to have a professional-looking website, and this can be done with various solutions that cost a fraction of what it used to 3-5 years ago.

Sending out emails? MailChimp is free up to 2,000 email addresses, and other providers offer similar low-cost solutions.

Social media? It’s not free, contrary to what many believe, because someone has to manage it, but you can have impact and reach on Facebook with minimal investments. It’s more a matter of having a strategy in place to begin with, then finding the resources (human and financial) to manage this new reality. Knowing 87% of travel decisions now begin with an online search, do we even really have a choice here?

15 key stats to consider:

  1. TripAdvisor (42%) is the most downloaded mobile app amongst travelers, followed by Priceline (15%), Expedia (14%) and Orbitz (13%)
  2. There are 139 reviews written every minute on TripAdvisor
  3. You lose 25-60% of visitors with each click on the mobile path to purchase.
  4. 69% of travelers begin their search online…via a mobile device!
  5. Average mobile users check their device 150 times per day!
  6. Of the average six daily hours US adults spend on digital media, 3 hours is on mobile.
  7. Twitter on Travel: in the past year, 60M tweets mentioned hotels, 21M tweets mentioned vacations
  8. 70% of followers have taken some action after seeing travel content on Twitter
  9. 70% of Instagram users have looked for a brand online
  10. 3/4 of consumers are frustrated when online content doesn’t relate to their interest
  11. In 2016, 50% of total travel sales will involve more than one device
  12. Ritz Carlton Hotel sees 18% conversions from email campaigns. Email is not dead, folks!
  13. 92% of visitors to a website will never return. Thus, remarketing is key!
  14. Only 27% of hotels send automated emails prior to arrival (and after departing)
  15. According to Google, 1/3 of people with a smartphone would give up sex instead of their phone. Sad.

Visit Frederic Gonzalo’s website for further insights

 

Google Mobile Friendly deadline

Mobile friendly deadline
Google Mobile Friendly deadline

In a candid announcement a few months back Google let the world know that mobile friendliness has a deadline. From the 21st April onwards Google will actively favour mobile-friendly websites in mobile searches. If your website is mobile-friendly it is likely that you will rise in Google search results for mobiles as those that aren’t slip down the ranks.

Mobile-Friendly tag on Google
Mobile-Friendly tag on Google

In their words “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” The Google announcement can be found here

This makes total sense, Google is in the business of delivering high quality relevant searches to their customers. If a customer is using a mobile device they will want to see mobile-friendly websites above the websites that do not look good on mobile devices. As a useful guide Google has made free tool to check if your website is mobile-freindly click here to check your website.

Mobile-Friendly websites for hotels
Get a great mobile website

Accommodation businesses should look to be mobile-friendly before the 21st April. There is help at hand with freetobook mobile website and mobile booking. Our mobile websites are continually updated for the latest mobile versions and they update when you change your details in your freetobook account.

For more information on Mobile websites on freetobook click here or watch the video below.

Google Mobile-Friendly websites

Mobile friendly website
If you get this your website is mobile friendly

If Google speaks we all have to listen and when the world’s search giant lets us know that it now labels websites as “mobile-friendly” the message is clear. (read Google announcement)

Labeling websites as mobile-friendly will help Google rank them higher for users on phones. The message from Google is loud and clear so any late arrivals need to get serious about mobile. Simply put there is now a penalty on Google for not having a mobile website.

Not Mobile Friendly
You don’t want to see this message ! It’s bad news.

Google says “Have you ever tapped on a Google Search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself looking at a page where the text was too small, the links were tiny, and you had to scroll sideways to see all the content? This usually happens when the website has not been optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone. “

 

Google now offers a free tool to check if your website is mobile-friendly. Check your website here.

Frankly, it’s frustrating to visit a website with a phone and have to scroll to find things, read tiny print and wish that your fingers were the size of matchsticks as you try to click the correct link or back track from the wrong link.

Elegant, simple, mobile booking solutions have been part of freetobook from our birth. It’s easy and low cost to get your website and booking process mobile.

Mobile websites for accommodation providers need to designed specifically for accommodation, you need something that fits your business. All our mobile sites are automatically updated when you update your details in freetobook.

 

 

Get together and win

Is your local association or marketing group doing enough for you?

Together for accommodation ownersOnline booking is just getting easier and more accessible to everyone. It’s great to see associations and marketing groups looking to improve their websites and the profitability of their membership.

Local association and marketing group websites tend to generate a lot traffic because they are the best source of local information (search engines like this), but do they really capitalise on all those visitors. If the huge growth of budget hotels and online travel agents is anything to go by you would have to say these local websites are failing to deliver what their members need most…direct commission free bookings.

together group website
together was our best decision

Why are they losing out on these bookings, because they are not offering their visitors what they want…the ability to search availability then compare properties, locations and prices, and make bookings. We all know customers want choice, value and convenience when shopping for accommodation online hence the global popularity of the OTAs.

That’s the problem, here’s the solution – get your area website set-up to take bookings for your members. To set this up quickly and cheaply you need a booking system that is accessible to all, quick to set up and easy to manage. Our solution at freetobook has been

Grow your accommodation group with together
Grow together and expand your association

simple and inclusive, the internet booking engine is free to use, quick to set-up (couple of hours) and easy to manage. Members can still run their existing booking systems if they want .. we do not mandate that they have to use freetobook exclusively and there’s no tie-ins. So the cost of entry is just a few hours time for members … a fair price for commission free bookings?

Proven benefits of working better “Together” include:

1) being able to categorically show members that they are “in profit” from their membership

2) reduce commissions paid and raise the long-term positive profile of the group/area

3) expand the membership of the group and directly increase their profitability

4) keeping bookings within the group means more bookings for all and easier referrals

Website visitors want to book online on your website and your association or group website, can you and your association afford to sit on your hands and do nothing ?

Find out more with examples of existing “together” websites

Case study of Fort William Bed and Breakfast group

Video showing how “together” can work for you

TripConnect Mobile Optimisation

Make the most of TripConnect Mobile bookings

TripConnect Mobile Bookings
TripConnect Mobile Bookings using freetobook

As TripAdvisor focuses on Mobile customers we think you should too. Earlier this year they reported there had been 100 million downloads* of their free mobile app. These customers use mobile phones to research holidays and some make bookings. If you are promoted on TripConnect you will convert better with freetobook’s mobile booking platform.

To optimise your freetobook mobile booking system simply login and select the TAB ”Plus” then “Mobile Booking”.  The “Deluxe Mobile Search” option will work for TripConnect or why not get a discount on the Full Mobile Package which includes a great mobile website.

Mobile Booking for accommodation Freetobook Plus Services

 

Freetobook’s mobile booking works on all mobiles and includes multi language booking. The mobile services work for all customers, not

TripAdvisor mobile page
TripAdvisor mobile page

just those on TripConnect, this means customers visiting your website using a mobile will also be able to use the optimised booking process.

We don’t charge for a connection with TripConnect….and that includes multi language booking in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese.

Our mobile optimised website and/or mobile deluxe search provide great value.

Watch the video below to see how great your mobile website and mobile optimised booking process can be with freetobook.

 

freetobook mobile booking engine for tripconnect and your website (youtube)

Find out more about mobile booking and mobile websites for accommodation businesses

On mobile it’s all about the booking experience, see some examples below.

mobile website for guest house

A mobile website for guest house.

 

 

mobile booking pages for hotels

Mobile booking pages for hotels.

*TripAdvisor press release 15April2014

Mobile bookings : Your 4 point check list

Mobile booking optimisation for accommodation owners

Mobile Hotel Website
Mobile Hotel Website – Torcroft hotel

Ownership of smartphones is growing and so are mobile bookings. Mobile bookings grew at 20% in the first half of 2014. Smartphones and tablets now account for 21 percent of hotel bookings with OTAs (online travel agents) taking most of the growth *

Here is a handy four point check list to tick off and make sure you are getting your share of mobile bookings. The longer you leave it the more bookings you could be losing.

1) Your website : Is your website optimised for mobile phones ? Visit your website now and find out if it automatically redirects to a mobile version. If not then customers will be lost because as they give up trying to navigate a full size version on a small screen.

Mobile traffic growth
Mobile traffic growth

2) Speed and size: Yes, this is a case where size matters, big images on your website will take too long to load on a small mobile. Customers get bored waiting, give up and go somewhere else. Mobile websites are more than 70% more likely to convert bookings on a Mobile device and nearly 50% of customers will never come back if they have had a bad experience on a non mobile website.

3) Elegant and Simple wins: You need to cut down on the clutter, remove unnecessary content and keep the most important information at or near the top of the page. One good image coupled with simple easy buttons to access the vital information leading to a booking.

4) Mobile Booking engine: There is absolutely no point in having a mobile website without mobile optimised booking engine. The booking functionality needs to work on a mobile phone in just the same way your website needs to be optimised. The booking process should be fast, simple and elegant that’s what leads to more mobile bookings. Visit your website with your mobile phone and make sure the booking process changes when you try to make a booking on your phone.

It’s not difficult or expensive to get a mobile website and mobile booking engine our technology has been powering mobile bookings for years make sure you are not missing out.

Mobile Booking for accommodation  Freetobook Plus Services
Freetobook customers can easily add mobile services to their account in the TAB “Plus”

 

 

 

Mobile websites for hotels

 

Video showing how a good mobile website and a good mobile booking should and can look for accommodation owners all over the world.

* 2014 Travel Flash Report by Criteo

Together case study – How to get a group accommodation website

How a group of B&Bs got Together.

together by freetobook
get together as an accommodation group

Keeping bookings in the community and working together with nearby accommodation businesses has never been easier or more profitable. A small group of Fort William Bed and Breakfast owners got together and use the freetobook software, here is their story.

In their own words…..

together fort william accommodation group
Fort William marketing Group get together

“Together has contributed dramatically to the expansion of the group and to the individual profitability of our members. Without exception, all of our members have gained a substantial value of commission free bookings directly and measurably.”

This is powerful stuff.

Together: provides a live booking website showing rates and availability for all of the group with direct commission free booking….“an almost perfect match for a number of reasons”.

1) All availability for the group can be accessed through a single search. “helping guests save time …. and increasing booking retention within the group”

2) By adding the group search facility to their website they “transformed their group site with almost no cost into a fully functional mini OTA (online travel agent)”

3) All members update availability using their freetobook account so maintenance and upkeep is easy.

4) The Together fees are fixed keeping each member’s annual cost to a minimum…. “we know in advance the cost of maintaining our market advantage…as the group grows individual costs go down !”

The group has gone from 8 local B&Bs to 26 members. With other guest houses in the area wanting to join as they became aware of the benefits in a cooperative approach. “As group members reduce their reliance on the OTAs … we will continue to reap the rewards of the best decision the group has made to date !”

Fort William Marketing Association Case Study with freetobook together online booking

 

freetobook together system for group booking of accommodation providers

Together the video on youtube

How to get your Google business page

Your accommodation business with a Google business page
Get your Google business page free

Now that we know all the benefits of having a Google+ Business page for your accommodation here are some quick and easy steps to getting yours. (If you don’t know why you should get a Google business page see our earlier blog – what a Google business page can do for you)

If you don’t have a Google business page you can set one up in 10 minutes.

Step 1: You need to visit the Google My Business page https://www.google.com/business/ and select the [Get on Google] button, you will be asked to login which you do using your gmail account (you will need a gmail account).

Google my business page
Google my business page

Step 2: Use the search box to find your business and claim the page, stating you are authorised to manage that business listing.

If Google can’t find your business then click [None of these match – Add your Business].

 

Step 3: When you create a business page for your accommodation you are asked for your business type. IMPORTANT – As an accommodation owner you should choose [Storefront] as your business type, this provides advantages on Google Maps and Local Search.

Google business types select storefront
Google business types as accommodation select “Storefront”

As you set up your Business page you will be asked if you wish to receive a “verify code” by mail – this enables Google to be sure you are where you say you are. You can continue to create the business page and verify later. Your “verify code” can take 1-2 weeks to arrive in the post. You should take advantage of the verify feature as it gives you more options later.

Take the tour of Google My Business and then set up your contact details, location, photos and descriptions, all of which help you thrive on the Google network. It’s as simple as that, you are now Google business ready.

Google is constantly looking for new ways to enable customers to book accommodation via their website so watch this space for news of any developments.

See our earlier blog on the advantages of a Google business page . Don’t forget to add yourself to our Google+ account, our facebook page, twitter or register for our emails.

Google business page – why NOW ?

Google business pages for accommodation owners, claim yours today.

Your accommodation business with a Google business page
Get your Google business page free

A Google business page is a big free internet opportunity for independent accommodation businesses and it’s probably the most important one.

Why? Google uses the information for Google searches and on Google maps. Millions of customers use Google maps everyday and tens of billions of accommodation searches take place on Google every month.

It’s big, it’s free and it gets you seen and it also improves your listing on Google searches. In a related blog we show you how to get your Google business page.

Craigend bed and breakfast on Google business
Craigend Bed and Breakfast Google business page

Still not convinced ?

7 reasons why you need a business page today

1) Get your page before anyone else does

Someone else might register a Google business page in your name. You want to claim what’s yours so get ahead and register it for yourself so you have control over your business page.

2) Get found on Google Maps

Google maps is massive on mobiles and at the top of searches. Millions have downloaded their map app so why not get yourself on the map and catch more potential customers. The vast majority of accommodation businesses will have websites but if you don’t, then a Google business page is even more important.

3) Google make it easy to look great

It’s not just your address and contact details. You can make your page beautiful and ensure you stand out and shine, displaying your best features. Upload your best photos, descriptions and video. Google will make it all look great with their page layout and enhanced street view.

Mobile Google business page
Craigend B&B Mobile Google business page

4) Mobile is key

Google maps is one of the most downloaded mobile phone apps in history and most mobile users make extensive use of these maps on their phone. Your business page ensures you are listed

in the mobile Google map app, next to your neighbours…. who might be ahead of you!

5) Search engine optimisation

It’s a fact, your search engine ranking is improved when you have a Google business page making it easier for customers to find and book you. Your Google business page helps your search engine ranking for various local and generic searches.

6) Use Google Plus to connect with your customers

Get a Google plus account and use it on your business page to share news and engage with customers, tell the world about what you are up to and manage your reputation.

7) Business of the future

It’s expected that Google will soon launch new ways for customers to access accommodation businesses and do bookings. Your business page will be the keystone of your visibility for booking capability in future. It’s easy and quick – so make yourself accessible now, it’s also Mobile, Social and Local…. and yes, it’s FREE!

I would like to get my Google business page show me how.

Don’t forget to add yourself to our Google+ account, our facebook page, twitter or register for our emails.

Wearable Internet Booking Engine

Freetobook glasses on the catwalk in Paris.

Check bookings, manage channels, send invoices and emails from your glasses. Freetobook looks at the Internet Booking Engine of the future with this fun one minute video !

Will the future of online booking management look something like this ? Integration with glasses or other wearable technology enables you to manage your bookings on the go.

While it’s slightly tongue-in-cheek we can see the application of wearable technology letting you know how your business is doing.