When developing a search strategy, it’s important to have the right partners, particularly if your business traffics in infrequent customers unfamiliar with the area, and is reliant upon reviews for information. Like, say, the hotel business.
After evaluating regional search strategies for luxury hotels, research company L2 Inc. found that relying on generic search terms to garner new customers was a losing proposition, as online travel agents can afford to bid up the generic terms to generate traffic, while hotels and hotel chains have to rely on branded search terms. That’s fine for loyal customers, but when scouting for new business, many will plug in a generic term such as “hotels in [destination],” according to the report.
But there is a way to capitalize on unbranded search terms. Often, those using unbranded search terms are very likely to see TripAdvisor. “TripAdvisor appears on the first page for 99% and 72% of organic and paid results, respectively,” according to the report. (It also managed to secure 7% of the real estate in branded search terms.)
With such dominance in search results, the company encourages establishing a partnership with the site, as Marriott did in 2015. While the partnership doesn’t guarantee prime visibility on TripAdvisor, it does allow customers to go “directly from the research phase to online purchasing” seamlessly. Look for more hotel chains to do the same in the future.
“TripAdvisor will become an inevitable partner for brands as online consumers look to research, and now book, travel accommodations,” the report reads. The same advice could hold for other industries where reviews and customer input are heavily relied upon (which is really just about any industry these days).
But having the partnership is only one piece of the puzzle. You also have to be found on the partner site. For luxury hotels, L2 found brands needed to include “high-trafficked” keywords in their descriptions, develop content of their property pages, and, most importantly, improve guest review response rate and time on the platform. According to the research, the luxury hotels were only responding to 53% of their guest reviews and taking roughly a week to respond.
Additionally, brands should also play to their geographic strengths. The report found small European brands such as Hotel Belmond, Mandarin Oriental and Jumeirah were able to compete with the better-known chains by putting a priority on pairing search terms with cities in which they operate.
“These smaller brands have been able to punch above their weight class by focusing their search efforts on their regional footprint, gaining more search real estate than larger competitors,” the report found.
Again, those practices are applicable outside the hotel industry. Everyone, regardless of sector, should optimize their presence on industry-serving Web sites — particularly those that provide a service to the same customers you do — and play to your strengths.