2013: The Year of Mobile, Tablets, Social & More…
As hoteliers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It seems like every week, there’s something new in online marketing that we must be doing. 2013 was certainly not a dull year, and saw significant advancement in the increased usage of multiple screens by travel shoppers. Travelers who generally booked travel plans on their desktops began booking on their mobile devices and tablets.
EyeforTravel says mobile now accounts for 20% of all travel sales
Consumers adopting the use of multiple screens – and marketers tailoring content and messages across all devices – were not the only major advancements in digital marketing this year. Google announced that they will stop passing over keyword data, released Enhanced Campaigns, and implemented the Knowledge Graph Carousel and more. Facebook rolled out a new search feature called Graph Search at the beginning of the year, Twitter debuted their vine app, and Instagram made the use of images become increasingly popular. All of these developments created the foundation for what is to come in 2014.
Multiple Screens: Desktop, Mobile & Tablets
The increase in the use of multiple screens has created a significant growth in travel searches conducted on smartphones and tablets. As a result, U.S. mobile ad spending is expected to near $9.6 billion in 2013 and account for a whopping 22.5% of all digital ad investments, according to new figures from eMarketer. Those figures will only grow in 2014. Mobile traffic to local websites is quickly growing, and now, more than ever, hoteliers should be concerned about the aesthetic appeal, usability and tailored messaging of their website across all screens. It will be paramount hotels and resorts to keep consistent branding across all devices, while customizing content to ensure travel shoppers are getting served the content they desire on each screen.
Facebook disclosed many changes this year, one of which was a new search feature called the Graph Search. This feature was created to help focus on four core areas: people, photos, places, and interests – all designed to help improve the Facebook search experience. Twitter debuted the new vine app that allows users to send six-second looped videos. With all of the new social media features released, hotels have been forced to come up with new and creative ways to use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sheraton Hotels and Resorts did just that by launching a social hour mobile platform where guests participating in a wine-tasting “social hour” at one of the 430 hotels can tweet, Instagram and share their #socialhour experience with other guests around the world. Expect these unique uses of social media to ramp up in 2014.
Natural & Paid Search
Several changes over the past year have forced SEOs to adjust. Google announced in late September that Google searches will no longer be passing keyword data to website owners. This means that hoteliers are no longer able to see the keyword data that passes over from natural search queries in their analytics reports. For several years SEOs have been using keyword data as a basis for their marketing efforts, but now and into 2014, pages must be based around themes rather than keywords with Google’s latest search algorithm named Hummingbird. Designed to be more precise and provide faster query results, the algorithm is based on semantic search, focusing on user intent versus individual search terms. This means that a natural tone centered on a specific theme (and no keyword stuffing) is crucial in page copy.
“Google’s changes are not changes in their guidelines at all, but rather changes in their enforcement of them. They have been stepping up enforcement periodically for years and years. They will continue to do so, and if you play by their rules, the changes should have little to no negative effect. We have actually seen more positive effect than negative throughout all of 2013’s updates,” said Melissa Lyons, Vizergy’s Senior Natural Search Analyst.
Google created the Knowledge Graph Carousel from the organic results and moved everything to the top of the page in a horizontal view. They did so as an attempt to bring images of hotel properties to the forefront, hopefully improving engagement of searchers. But this pushed the organic results further down the page, now showing the local listing results first – making it even more important for hotels to have a verified local listing that is fully optimized with images and content.
Enhanced Campaigns is a new type of Google AdWords campaign that makes it possible to target multiple devices in a simplified manner. This allows marketers to reach the right audience and tailor the message for the right context at the right time. This enables our paid search analysts to write smarter ads that we can optimize across multiple screens. The positive effects of Enhanced Campaigns will become even more apparent in 2014.
What’s to come in 2014?
2013 was a great year of advancement for digital travel marketing. Travel shoppers are now using mobile, tablets, and social media more than ever before, and all of these will play an even bigger role in 2014. But what else is to come? Next year will also be about big data and benchmarking for continued year-over-year growth. Sophisticated marketing plans will include measurable goals that were based on the previous year’s data. And strategies will be fine-tuned by recognizing opportunities via performance metrics. With all of the screens being used, and channels that properties must utilize, integrated platforms will now also be more important than ever. Platforms provide hotel Internet marketing companies, individual properties, and hotel management companies with real-time analytics, historical data, social media and review monitoring, the ability to quickly update website content, and much more.
Natasha Wojcik is Corporate Marketing Coordinator, Vizergy