Hotel Digital Marketing:
The Most Comprehensive Easy-to-read Guide

Last updated Jan. 20, 2024

This is the most comprehensive guide to hotel digital marketing‚Ķ ever! In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need about hotel digital marketing, from running a Google hotel ad to building a hotel marketing plan and even finding a hotel marketing agency.¬†

According to an American Hotel and Lodge Association (AHLA) survey, most Americans preferred to stay in a hotel in 2023 compared to the previous year. With the demand for hotel rooms rising, competing to acquire online bookings has become more challenging. 

The question is: how can you build a hotel digital marketing strategy that’ll beat out your competition online? Fortunately, in this master guide, we’ll walk you through the steps of doing just that.¬†

Hotel Digital Marketing Blog Graphic

The Author

After traveling to 45 countries over 5 years and constantly needing accommodations, I noticed how some lovely hotels had little to no online presence and struggled to be found outside of word of mouth and direct booking. 

Having played a crucial role in helping an organization grow from 3 million users to over 5 million over a couple of years, and through graduate school at Harvard University, I’ve become very knowledgeable about digital marketing.

Having created unforgettable memories at many unique hotels and befriending owners and managers in the hospitality industry, I decided I wanted to help them by sharing my knowledge of digital marketing services so many more potential customers can have fond memories of their hotels as I do.

Nicholas Grant, Harvard University ALM

Chapter 1: Learning the basics of hotel digital marketing

Let’s start with what is digital marketing.

Digital marketing is marketing that takes place on the Internet or through other digital forms.

Digital Marketing Example

In other words, it’s any marketing that happens on a mobile phone, laptop, desktop, tablet, and so on. Hotel digital marketing is no different!¬†

According to Wordstream, a source for data and insights into the digital world, 72% of marketing budgets are used for digital marketing channels, and 55% of marketing happens digitally. 

So, operating or owning a hotel and not investing in a digital marketing strategy is like buying a ski pass for only the summer months; you’re just throwing away money and will be sad when no one is there.¬†

Vacancy Joke Graphic

In fact, over 90% of travelers research their trips online, and 82% end up making their bookings online as well. In other words, if you want people to book at your hotel, then start marketing where they are looking. 

Fortunately, hotel digital marketing is not rocket science, nor is hotel marketing in general. 

Like most things, there are many ways to achieve a goal. There are dozens of ways you can go about marketing a hotel on the web. 

Many Options for Digital Marketing Graphic

Just think about the different hotel advertisements you encounter when searching online and the hotel marketing that occurs after your stay for guest loyalty and brand awareness. 

You may recall noticing Google hotel ads and observing how some hotels show up before others in the search results when you Google hotel in {XYZ city}. Heck, you may have emails in your inbox inviting you to stay again at Apple Tree Inn in San Luis Obispo, California, and take advantage of their seasonal 10% discount or rewards program.  

Google Hotel Ads San Luis Obispo Example

Depending on what your hotel marketing plan is, you’ll want to use different forms of digital marketing. For your sake, we’ve outlined the main forms of digital marketing services for the hotel industry.¬†

Chapter 2: Different Types of Digital Marketing for Hotels

You might have heard the words “layman terms”? Basically, it’s vocabulary that all people, even kids, can understand.¬†

As we explain the different hotel digital marketing services, we will do our best to break down the hotel marketing jargon into layman’s terms for you.¬†

We’ll start with an overview of the main online hotel advertising techniques and marketing channels, and then, in the following chapters, take a deeper dive into each technique and how to master them.¬†

Technique #1: Hotel SEO

The simplest way to think about hotel SEO is optimizing your website and online reputation so your hotel ranks (i.e., is listed) near the top of the search results on Google or any search engine. We have a whole guide dedicated to hotel SEO. 

What it includes: 

On-Page SEO and Keyword Research: Creating content with strategically chosen keywords to rank for.  

Off-Page SEO: The public relations side of your business. I.e., promoting your content to others, their sites, and platforms to help build credibility and gain backlinks. 

Technical SEO: This is your site’s performance. I.e., how fast it loads, how it works on all devices (responsiveness), and whether the search engines index it.¬†

Local SEO: This is your hotel’s online presence related to a particular local. I.e., Google My Business, location-based keywords, etc.

Google Hotel SEO Example

Technique #2: Google Hotel Ads

As you’ve probably noticed, hotel ads on Google are quite different from general search or display ads. In fact, Google has created its own mini-guide for running a hotel Google ad campaign, so your pretty hotel images appear on Google search and maps.¬†

What it includes: 

Ad Campaigns: How to create visually appealing ads featuring your hotel’s amenities, pricing, and availability.

Keyword Research: Finding the keywords you want to bid on for your hotel to appear in their search results. 

Google Hotel Ad example

Technique #3: OTA Hotels (Online Travel Agencies)

You will want to expand your reach and secure additional bookings by partnering with Online Travel Agencies. Most travelers search on these sites, so joining platforms like Booking.com, Expedia, and Trip Advisor is crucial to getting in front of your audience. 

What it includes: 

Listing Optimization: Craft compelling OTA listings with high-quality images, detailed descriptions, and competitive pricing. 

Channel Management: Use tools to synchronize room availability and rates across multiple OTAs, minimizing the risk of overbooking.

OTA hotel example

Technique #4: Hotel Social Media Marketing

People want to see how the rooms and hotel look before booking, and social media like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., offer hotels the ability to showcase high-quality images and offerings to their audience. These platforms allow you to engage with potential guests and showcase unique offers.

What it includes: 

Social Media Design: Building a theme and colorway for your social media presence.

Content Strategy: Develop engaging content, including images, videos, and stories, to captivate your audience.

Promotions and Contests: Run targeted promotions and contests to incentivize bookings and increase social media visibility.

Pinterest San Diego Hotel

Technique #5: Hotel Email Marketing

Email is a direct one-on-one engagement with past and potential guests. With hotel email marketing, you can design email campaigns to promote special offers, share updates, and encourage repeat and direct booking.

What it includes: 

Use Cases: The different types of email campaigns a hotel would benefit from running.

Segmentation: How to divide your email list based on demographics, preferences, and behavior for personalized and effective communication.

Generating Reviews and Social Proof: How to create high-quality reviews from email campaigns that also impact your SEO and overall social proof.

This should give you a clear understanding of what hotel marketing techniques exist in the digital world. 

Up next, we’ll take a deeper look at each technique so that later, you can build a hotel marketing plan and execute it.¬†

Chapter 3: Hotel SEO

It’s nearly impossible to exist in today’s digital world as a business owner or manager without optimizing your SEO.

SEO is amazing for the hotel industry because the hotel bookings will be a direct booking which means there is no cost per acquisition like a Google ad or an online travel agency would have. 

There are many forms of SEO for hotels, just as there are different forms of digital marketing for hotels. 

We have a complete guide on the various hotel SEO services, but to break it down for you, SEO starts with public-facing content. I.e., everything on a webpage that users see. Here is an example below.

Front Facing Content Example

This is the on-page SEO, also known as content marketing, and it includes all that a website visitor sees and experiences, starting with your organic ad and the landing page they visit.

Your organic ad will rank for keywords you have optimized and built your content around. You will want to do keyword research to find words in your niche that are getting a lot of search volume and don’t have too much competition.¬†

When you’ve optimized your content for specific keywords and to be user-friendly, you’ll want to promote that content to get backlinks. This is off-page SEO.

Backlinks are links from other sites, and they increase your hotel’s website’s credibility. The better the quality and authority of a website that links to yours, the more authority your website will have.

Backlink Graphic

To receive these backlinks, you’ll want to leverage your knowledge and content to online magazines, news organizations, information centers, online travel blogs, etc.

Next, you want to ensure you have a solid technical SEO foundation for your hotel SEO. 

The first thing to do is to make sure that Google is indexing your webpage. You can check this by registering your site with Google Search Console. 

Google Search Console Logo Graphic

If it is not indexed, then you can request indexing within Google Search Console, but if Google isn’t indexing your webpage, it will not get any organic traffic.¬†

Request Indexing Graphic and Example

Then, you want to ensure the website has fast loading speeds and is responsive. Use this tool. Content shouldn’t take long to load, and the site should be functional and look good across all devices.¬†

Lastly, you want to focus on your local SEO so you will rank for searches like “hotels near me” or “hotels in [your city/neighborhood].”

Example of a local SEO search query and results page

There are many facets to doing this, but if you focus on getting listed on local directories, building your Google My Business profile, getting keyword-rich positive reviews, and ranking for local search terms, you will be in good shape. 

Ranking organically pairs well with running Google hotel ads because you can have two listings on the same search results page, helping you stand out from your competition. 

Chapter 4: Hotel Google Ads

You want your hotel to pop up when someone looks for a place to stay in your city, right?

Via Google’s ad campaigns, you can showcase your hotel when explorers look for accommodations on Search or Maps.¬†

These ads pop up at the top in a special section that is a little bit different than a typical Google ad. 

They come in a container shape, flaunting pics, prices, and a link to book your hotel. 

Sometimes, they even include a cool hotel feature of your hotel when a guest hovers, like free cancellation, restaurant on site, or hot tubs. 

Ads appear for different keywords or phrases that guests search for. Usually, you would group these keywords together in what is known as an ad group.  

Google Ad Group Definition from Google

For hotels, your ads will be very dynamic as prices change based on seasonality and vacancy. 

Fortunately, Google understands that for the hotel industry booking prices are dynamic, and they take that into consideration.

We Know They Know Graphic

We recommend reviewing their step-by-step guidance for creating or editing your hotel’s business profile, which will cover setting rates (you can connect them through an API so they are dynamic) and adding booking links.¬†

Long Island Hotel Google My Business Profile Example

Once your business profile looks strong, then it is time to build a campaign for your hotel in Google Ads. 

Again, Google has made hoteliers’ lives easier by creating a comprehensive starter guide showing you how to do it. Even then, it is still complex, and we recommend using an agency to set up your campaigns and find the correct keywords for you.¬†

If you want us to do it for you or optimize and manage your current Google campaigns, just reach out. 

Chapter 5: OTA Hotels (Online Travel Agencies)

Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Priceline, Booking.com, or Trip Advisor are key marketplaces and business directories on which potential guests look for accommodations. They are a traveller’s search engine.¬†

Booking.com List your property Example

Just take a look at the organic traffic (non-paid searched) these sites are getting.

Organic and Paid Search Traffic for Booking.com

In addition, OTAs spend an enormous amount of resources marketing the businesses that partner and join their platforms. 

They pay for hotel advertisements like Google ads or other digital marketing to get bookings for you. They also rank organically for keywords like “hotels in Honolulu” (E.g., your city name) because they’ve built up their SEO over the years.¬†

OTA Google search results example for local keywords in Honolulu

For most OTAs, you have the option to join and manage your account as a business listing (think of this as similar to your Google My Business profile). Trip Advisor is a great example of this.

They essentially act as a review site and hotel directory but allow you to book hotels on other travel agencies like Expedia or Priceline. E.g., the buttons link to those OTAs. 

Trip Advisor Local Directory Example

Then, of course, there are OTAs like Expedia or Hotels.com that you can book directly on. The downside of OTAs is that they can have high commission margins. 

Overall, it’s essential to use these platforms for directories.¬†

Just as with your Google Business Profile, you’ll want to optimize your listing.¬†

Include keywords about your hotel, high-quality images, detailed descriptions of amenities, features, and anything that makes you stand out. E.g., proximity to the beach, 24-hour restaurant, late checkout, etc. 

This is cool, right? But how do you manage all of it? 

If you own or manage a hotel, you’re probably using a booking and reservation software like LittleHotelier or Sirvoy to manage all of your hotel’s bookings.¬†

Channel Manager Example

Most booking software includes channel Management that connects to the OTAs and synchronizes room availability and rates across multiple platforms, minimizing the risk of overbooking.

So it’s simple: once you’ve listed your hotel on an OTA, you can connect that listing to your channel manager.¬†

Now, if you don’t want to pay the high commissions, there are still some other forms of hotel digital marketing, like social media, that you can do.¬†

Chapter 6: Hotel Social Media Marketing

When you think of social media marketing for hotels, the first thing that should come to mind is brand visibility. 

Put yourself in the position of a guest and think about all of the hotels you’ve stayed at in your lifetime. It’s hard to remember all of them, and it’s hard to remember them by name.

The goal of your hotel’s social media should be to remind past guests and show future guests that you exist.

When it comes to accommodation bookings, it’s a no-brainer that high-quality photos can make a massive difference.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook often act as portfolios for your hotel. Heck, Facebook even showcases guests’ reviews.¬†

A simple way to optimize your social media presence is by sticking to a particular theme and colorway. We suggest using the current colorway and theme of your hotel’s website and brand.

Keep it consistent.

After your front desk checks a guest in, they should get into the habit of saying something like, “Follow us on Instagram so you don’t miss out on our special holiday or seasonal rates.”

Promoting Social Platforms Graphic

In addition, they should let them know about any social media contests you have going. For example, the guest who tags us in a post with the most likes in July receives two free nights on their next visit. 

Fun competitions like this encourage existing guests to follow you and increase your social media visibility when they post to their followers. Here is a social media contest Marriot ran. 

Marriot Tik Tok Social Media Contest Example

Lastly, you’ll want a content strategy for your hotel’s social media marketing efforts.¬†

Your strategy should include:

=> How often do you post, and on which platforms? 

=> What type of content? Images, videos, etc.? We recommend short videos. 

=> What should be included in your hotel’s social media stories?¬†

=> What contests/ social campaigns would you want to run?

Once you lay out your hotel social media marketing strategy, pick a cadence for it and stick to you. Like most hotel digital marketing activities, success comes from consistency. 

Chapter 7: Hotel Email Marketing

On the topic of cadences, let’s not forget about the importance of hotel email marketing and curating a strong email cadence.¬†

When should your hotel email guests or potential guests? 

=> After they sign up for promotional offerings or membership clubs. I.e., when you have a form that says, “Don’t miss out on our seasonal rates and promotional deals” or something similar.¬†¬†

Wyndham promotion offer example

That’s a great opportunity to engage with them in an email campaign.¬†

The hotel email sequence can look something like this (or a variation of it):

1) Welcome email. Include a brief 1-2 sentence introduction and a customer testimonials.

2) Follow-up emails with unique selling points on the hotel and surrounding area. 

3) Promotional offering emails with a discount code. 

4) Follow-up email creating time sensitivity. I.e., the promotion ends in 2-3 weeks. 

After the initial promotional offering campaign ends, you can consider moving the guest or potential guest to a broader email campaign. Like this Selina seasonal promotion campaign below. 

You’ll want to run an email campaign after they have booked and stayed at your hotel.¬†

This email campaign can be treated as a recurring newsletter to keep guests engaged, providing fun and insightful information, and reminding them of your presence.

You can include a handful of things in this campaign, such as the following:

1) Updates on festivals or significant events occurring within your hotel’s city. Let people know that the Autumn Festival and Pie Contest is happening in Lake Tahoe or that Luke Brian is having a concert in San Luis Obispo, California.¬†

2) New hotel offerings, such as the addition of hot tubs, a brand new restaurant, or that you’ve partnered to offer horseback riding, etc.¬†

3) Significant hotel updates and awards. I.e., getting featured in a magazine or on the news, having hosted the University of Iowa Football team (although they mention this a while after they stay), a raving customer review, etc. 

4) Seasonal and promotional offers, such as discounted rates during your slow months or promotional offers to fill vacant rooms. 

 

Marriot Hotel Email Promotion Example

There are many more, but those are some of the basics.

You can segment your hotel email campaigns based on demographics if you’d like and send separate campaigns out.¬†

You might want to consider the guest’s location, age, and other demographics.¬†

Demographics Example

If the guest is over 60 and lives within driving distance of your hotel, they may be more responsive to promotional offerings for small local events and to fill vacancies. 

They are most likely retired, which means they can travel during weekdays and don’t have to worry about taking time off. If they live in close proximity, the only thing they need to do is book a hotel.

Utilizing demographics and segmentations to curate special campaigns like this can make a real difference. 

Performance Increase with Demographic Segmentation Graphic

Lastly, generating reviews and social proof is the most important use of hotel email campaigns because they can impact all of your hotel digital marketing efforts.

Your hotel will rank differently on Google based on what keywords guests have used for the hotel in their reviews. 

Clean keyword hotel reviews example

After a guest stays, it’s a good practice to send them an email asking about their experience. If they had a positive experience, they can be prompted to leave a review.

Use email campaign tools like MailChimp and ActiveCampaign or review tools like Reviews.io to do this. 

Include in your “request a review” a call-to-action to add keywords that you’re trying to rank for. This will help immensely.¬†

For example:

¬†“If you enjoyed the stay, we’d appreciate it if you mention how clean our rooms are. We take pride in keeping the place tidy.”

Overtime, you will want to suggest different keywords until your Google reviews cover everything that you want to rank for. 

Then branch out or repeat!

Chapter 8: Building a Hotel Marketing Plan

As you may have noticed by now, hotel digital marketing is very broad, and if you try to optimize every category, it’s going to be difficult.¬†

We recommend creating a hotel marketing plan. Start with techniques that don’t take much maintenance, such as getting listings on OTAs and local directories or implementing your review-generating email campaign.¬†

After you start with the basics, you can get to work on building a digital marketing routine for acquiring new guests.

Here is a little step-by-step guide for what to think about when building a hotel marketing plan. 

Step-by-step Marketing Plan Guide:

1) List out the one-off tasks that would benefit your hotel today. Consider optimizing your Google My Business, implementing a review-generating system, joining online travel agencies or booking engine, etc. 

2) Build a timeline for completing all of these one-off tasks. 

3) Determine which recurring digital marketing techniques you want to focus on. I.e., Google ads, hotel SEO strategies like content marketing or backlink building, social media marketing, etc. 

4) Rank them in order of importance.

5) Plan a routine for optimizing ONE of these techniques. You want to be consistent, so think weekly, biweekly, etc. Consider the order of importance and the skills/ resources you have available. 

6) Once you have successfully executed the first overtime, expand your hotel marketing efforts to other digital marketing strategies. 

If you have the budget and want to avoid the hassle of building and executing a hotel marketing strategy on your own, you can outsource it to experts like Tourism Taught. 

Bonus Chapter: How to select a hotel marketing agency

If you have reached this point and are considering hiring a hotel marketing agency, then the choice should be straightforward. Schedule a meeting with us! 

As you have seen in this guide, we have extensive knowledge and would be delighted to help you.

If you have another hotel marketing agency in mind, here are five easy steps to select an agency and vet their digital marketing service.

Define Your Goals: Clearly outline your hotel’s SEO objectives, whether it’s increasing website traffic through new content, improving technical components, or strengthening your domain’s authority.¬†

Evaluate Experience: Begin by researching and identifying credible digital marketing agencies for the hotel industry. Look for agencies that have a hotel marketing strategy and understand your target audience. 

Get in Touch: After reading this guide, you have a basic understanding of the fundamentals, so start chatting with them to vet their skills and capabilities to get you hotel bookings and traffic to your hotel website. 

Assess Strategies and Techniques: Ensure the agency employs ethical and up-to-date SEO practices, avoiding any that rely on questionable tactics that may harm your hotel’s online reputation.

Budget Alignment: Compare pricing structures and service offerings to find an agency that aligns with your budget constraints while still providing the essential SEO services your hotel needs.

Once you have found a suitable candidate, hire them for a trial period to assess their performance. If it doesn’t work out, contact us and we’ll assist you.

Conclusion:

With consistent effort and some hard work, your hotel website can attract more traffic and ultimately convert visitors into bookings.

By following this guide for hotel digital marketing, you are taking a significant step towards achieving your goals of securing more bookings.

Now, what we want to know is what technique from this guide you are going to try first. 

Let us know by leaving a comment right below. 

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