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Is the Brand really helping you with your Hotel Internet Distribution Strategy?

You’re a branded hotel and as you scrutinize the landscape outside the lobby door you immediately identify competing brands as well as other products within your own brand in plain view. You may ask yourself what is the brand doing to help customers find my individual hotel?

Organic Search Engine Optimization has been a popular topic over the past few years To `optimize` a website simply means to build it so that it will be discovered by search engines and returned as a relevant result to potential customers driving more traffic to your website. Brands such as Marriott and Hilton have just recently implemented organic optimization techniques on their brand sites. So how do you become “Brand Optimized”?

If you have a brand site the first thing you should do is make sure you are taking advantage of all of the free optimization updates your brand allows. Many of these can be done by yourself with the assistance of your brand and should be the minimal steps you take toward your Brand Optimization. You should also familiarize yourself with all the optimization programs your brand offers and evaluate investing in the paid services as well.

Identify your keywords…. You now have the ability to make your brand site your own through content and imagery. Your content should reflect the generous use of your keyword market. Your keyword market can be viewed as the “language” your potential customers use when they are searching online. By understanding your customers search language can easily provide you with a competitive edge, even within your own brand.

There are numerous ways, free and paid, to assist you in identifying your keyword market. Once you have established the specific keywords that increase traffic to your site, you must incorporate them in the content of your property description. Does your current property description highlight your keywords, or is it more of a generic description that is used by everyone else in your brand? In addition to written content, the brands will now accept your input in providing unique Meta tags, (keywords) to optimize your site.

Keywords can only say so much…. Ask yourself are you still using stock photography on your listing? Is the only visual for your property a person drinking a cup of coffee? Are you taking advantage of the maximum amount of images that can be uploaded? Is your photography, current and unique and really shows what makes your property different?

The brands have now expanded the number of images that can be displayed and many provide you with the opportunity to upload numerous images into a photo gallery. Be sure your photography is updated and that it is a true reflection of your hotel. Check with your particular brand on the requirements for resolution and pixel size.

When it comes to “a picture is worth a thousand words”, imagine what a virtual tour or rich media can do? Most of the brands now offer the capability to add these features to your brand site. Updating your photography and content is just the beginning and the bare minimum you should consider doing. You can now improve your Brand Optimization through link popularity. Before proceeding on an aggressive linking campaign to your Brand site, be sure to check with them if they have assigned your property a “Friendly URL” This is a unique web address pointing to your brand site that is easy for your customer to read and remember.

Now take a moment to think about where you will be directing those external links? How many brand pages do you have? The brands are now allowing multiple pages per property including unique landing pages. You can direct links to the most relevant pages within your site. Have you thought about Groups? Group pages can now be customized with group or company logos and pre-populated with promo codes for ROI tracking.

Building a better Brand site…Packages, Hot Dates, Advanced Net Rate Purchasing, the brands have come up to the plate to compete directly with the Third Party Intermediaries in offering the consumer choices in making their bookings. Some of the Brand programs are structured similar to the merchant model including a minimum allocation required to participate in some programs. Just by paying the franchise fee does not automatically enroll you into these programs. Do you know what merchandising and dynamic packaging programs your brand has to offer?

Let’s talk about your competitive set. Generally speaking most properties will look at their competition outside of their brand. However, sometimes the most obvious competitors are overlooked, those within your own brand. When a consumer comes to the brand site and searched availability in your market, what other sister brand products are available? Where is your priority placement in the query? How do your photos, content and room descriptions compare. What is compelling about your hotel that will make the consumer choose you over another hotel in the brand family?

Implementing the new Organic Brand Optimization Programs will significantly impact your top line revenue with little out of pocket costs. Your brand site will not optimize itself; it takes a thorough understanding of available optimization programs through your brands and research to identify the necessary steps to make your Brand Optimization impactful. If you are not able to find the time there are resources available to assist you in your brand updates. The Brands have done a great job in providing these organic optimization programs to you, now you just have to take advantage of it!

Beyond Brand Organic Optimization…What paid search engine marketing programs are available through the brands? What do the brands think about Vanity websites? Is it profitable to have your brand manage a Pay per click Campaign? Part two of “Is the Brand really helping you with your Internet Distribution Strategy?” will explore the paid search engine marketing programs available through the brands.

Patricia Brusha is the co-founder , a newly “hatched” Internet Marketing, Distribution & Revenue Measurement Company. A Couple of Chicks Marketing and Internet Strategy specializes in using Creative, Distribution and Technology to help you reach your customers.