Hotel Seo – Digital Marketing Demystified Webinar

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Recently, TripAdvisor invited me to discuss basic Hotel SEO / SEM as a guest panelist on their “TripAdvisor Digital Marketing Demystified” webinar.

With respect to your hotel’s search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), do you feel overwhelmed? Unfortunately, for the beginner, when it comes to improving your hotel’s rankings it can sometimes feel as though the world is against you.

(Special note: What follows are my slides on hotel SEO / SEM and a breakdown of the talking points. During the presentation I only had 10 MINUTES to discuss a very complex subject. It should be noted that SEO / SEM have an almost infinite depth to them and this discussion barely scratches the surface and is meant to be a very basic introduction.)

Hotel SEO – How Search Engines Work

There are some 60 Trillion individual pages on the web. And when your potential guests start researching properties for their next vacation or business trip, SEARCH engines are tasked with parsing incredible amounts of information so that they return the most relevant and pertinent listings for peoples’ queries.

search-engine-market-share

The graphic that you see above is the most recent information (that I could find) on the market share of various search engines that people use. If you consider the online activity of your guests, and the fact that you want them to be able to find you when researching their trip, you want to have a very good understanding of what platform your guests are using. (Note: Most likely it’s Google.)

As you can see in the graphic, as of April 2015 GOOGLE is still dominating with a little more than an 88% share of the market. Obviously a huge number, as such, the rest of this intro presentation focuses largely on Google.

Incredibly, Google handles some 40,000 searches per second or somewhere on the order of 4 billion searches per day! (Editor’s note: I found daily search stats that ranged from two billion to six billion.)

Search Engines can seem like mythical and confusing platforms for many hotel owners who might struggle to understand why their hotel’s website ranks where it does, and how they might go about gaining incremental improvement.

If you fall into this camp, you are not alone.

The question becomes then, when a potential guest searches for trip planning information, how does Google find web pages that match their query and determine the order of the search results?

hotel-seo

Googlebot – Google has a “web crawler” that is known as “GOOGLEBOT. ” The GOOGLEBOT is constantly crawling the trillions of pages on the web to determine new and updated pages that should be added to the Index and it accomplishes this by following links from page to page to page. So you want to ensure that your website is well structured and easily crawlable.

Index – GOOGLEBOT processes each of the pages it crawls and compiles them into a massive database called the Index. After Google has crawled and indexed your site it can then appear in the Search Engine Results Page (often shortened to the acronym SERP).

Results – When it comes to the search results, Google, of course, has a very specific and highly secretive algorithm that decides which pages are shown in which order.

Organic & Paid search – Google’s results page typically shows 7 to 10 links to sites which fit best with the keywords and phrases that your potential guests are searching.

  • Paid search – with most all searches you might see the first few results with a little yellow ad icon or some other kind of designation. That means people have paid to rank well and the price varies depending on competition for the keyword. Paid search is the domain of Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
  • Organic search – the other search results on the listings page are known as organic search results or non paid listings. Ranking well organically is the primary driver behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Hotel SEO – Keywords

When you are thinking about SEO/SEM for your hotel, a critical component to understand is the concept of keywords. Keywords and phrases are the terms that your potential guests are typing into Google when researching their trip.

Having empathy for your audience during their travel shopping and research phase can help you to better understand what your guests are searching the internet for. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who is your target market?
  • What is that market looking for in a hotel?
  • What activities does your “ideal” guest like to do?
  • What are the words and phrases that those people type into the search engines to find hotels that will suit their needs?

The example graphic below show us that the more specific you can get in your understanding of your guests, the better your sales funnel is going to be.

hotel-seooriginal image source: customerthink.com

One word phrase – one word “hotel” is going to be extremely competitive, difficult to rank for, and it’s incredibly broad.

Two to three word phrase – a few words such as, “Puerto Rico hotel”, begins to narrow your niche down a bit, but the higher converting phrases tend to get even more specific.

Longer phrase (also know as the “Longtail”) – something along the lines of “Puerto Rico hotel with yoga” really starts to capture a specific segment of the market and tend to convert better.

Another tip to keep in mind, having your primary keywords and phrases in the text throughout your website — in your description, on your pages, and in blog posts lets search engines know what your site is about! Google is good at a lot of things. But if you don’t have information on your site about what your hotel is – then it’s going to be awfully hard for search engines to know.

Hotel SEO – Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing is the promotion of websites and increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising.

hotel-search-engine-marketing

In the graphic above, you can see the paid results highlighted. With most all Google searches you might see the first few results with a little yellow ad icon. That means people have paid to have their business rank well. If you create Google ads for your hotel you are charged on a cost per click basis every time a potential guest clicks the ad link. The price varies depending on competition for the keyword or phrase.

It’s important to note that the paid ads are ranked in the results by what is known as the “Quality Score“. Quality Score is determined every time your keyword matches a customer’s search. The components include the expected clickthrough rate, the ad relevance, and the landing page experience.

Hotel Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization — SEO — is the practice of increasing your rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results.  SEO is a component of Search Engine Marketing, and it should be noted that more than 75% of all clicks within search results are for organic versus paid links.

seo-ranking-factors

image source:  moz.com

When it comes to your hotel SEO and ranking better in the search results, over time it has gotten quite a bit more complex. The smaller graphic (in red) here shows the components that you had to be concerned with for SEO in 2004. According to Moz, it was pretty much links, keywords, getting crawled, and rankings and you could expect a pretty good spot in the search results.

However, now just eleven years on we have to think about design, press, localization, site speed, keywords, social, mobile and on and on…

But it’s important for you to not get overwhelmed and understand you can still be successful!

Hotel SEO – A quick example

As you work on your hotel’s SEO and SEM strategy, the Google keyword planner tool can give you lots of information.

hotel-seo-example

In the example “PUERTO RICO HOTELS” was entered. The results show us that people are searching for that term about 165,000 times per month and it’s competition is “HIGH”. If you wanted to bid on that phrase in Google Adwords it might cost around $3.15.

If you run an actual Google search for “PUERTO RICO HOTELS” you can see lots of ads and competition to rank highly.

hotel-seo-paid-listings

With all of the adds displaying before the organic listings, this show us that we might stand a better chance of ranking well if we drill down and get more specific about what our ideal guests are seeking.

As you can see, the search example below was for “PUERTO RICO HOTEL WITH YOGA”.

hotel-seo-organic-rankings

Notice, there are no ads and all of the listed results contain keyword “Yoga”! Additionally, if you see the results with the stars next to them, those hotels that have taken advantage of the SEO power of setting up a free Google+ business page. If you have not done this I highly recommend it.

Hotel SEO & SEM – Final Thoughts

hotel-seo-sem-thoughts

Some final thoughts for you to think about as you consider your hotel’s SEO and SEM strategy. In order to be successful with hotel SEO & SEM there are a tremendous amount of components and details that you need to understand.

Specifically, some of the facets that you want to think about would include the following.

  1. You need to have a deep understanding of your property and ideal guest.
  2. You want to focus on what you have control over.
  3. You want to maintain consistency.
  4. You want to keep track and measure what works.
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How to find a web developer to build your dream

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how-to-find-a-web-developer

(Editor’s note: This post first appeared on The Startup Project which is may latest entrepreneurial endeavor to launch 12 startups in 12 months.)

Find a Web Developer

You might have the greatest idea in the world!

But if you don’t know how to code your vision might not ever see the light of day.

So, you have a couple of options:

  1. Teach yourself to code.
  2. Find a friend or colleague who is willing to help.
  3. Hire a freelancer.

If you are considering hiring a freelancer, and if you don’t know how to find a web developer, then this post is for you.

Please note: The Startup Project is meant to be a learning process and an opportunity to share experiences. If you are a developer, or someone who has built a lot of products, then you might have a completely different approach. Your constructive input and advice for improving the following “Find a developer” process is appreciated.

Initial steps

Before beginning your research on freelance developers you should have a pretty good sense of what it is that you would like to build and the basic functionality that’s going to be required.

For example, is your idea like Uber, but for pet care? Or do you want to build out an on demand music platform for endurance athletes?

Your ability to clearly articulate what it is that you want created will have a direct impact on the success that you’ll have working with a freelancer.

Once you have a clear vision of your product in mind, you should familiarize yourself with the concept of creating and writing the “User Story.” User stories are part of the agile development process and they break down the overall platform idea into individual pieces of functionality. There are typically three basic components.

  1.  As a
  2. I want to
  3. So that

Using one of the web examples from above:

  1. As an endurance athlete
  2. I want to sign up to EnduranceRocker
  3. So that I can have great music to workout to

A more in depth definition and examples can be found on Wikipedia.

At this point in your process you might also want to draw some wireframes or rough mockups of what you want the user interface to look like.

My preferred method is to just start with a clean sheet of 8 x 11 paper. If you prefer doing the draft mockup online then there are numerous tools to choose from. Balsamiq, Mockflow, or Justinmind are just a few examples.

mockflow

Finding a freelancer

Once you’ve given some thought to what you want to create, written user stories, and made a mockup of the interface, now it’s time to find a web developer to build your vision.

Some of the more popular sites for finding a freelancer are oDesk, Elance, and Freelancer.  Because it can quickly become overwhelming you may wish to to just place a “freelancer wanted” on one of the platforms above. For the purposes of this post oDesk was used.

The first thing that you should do is type “Rails developer” in the search box.

find-rails-developr

When you have your listing of developers, I would suggest starting off by filtering the results to show only those who have a feedback rating of 4.5 – 5 stars.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 8.11.40 PM

You can also set the hourly rate that you have budgeted (even though I prefer to work off of a set price), the hours the developer has billed, and you can choose based on how recently they have been active.

Under “Tests” you might also want to select that the developer has taken the “Ruby on Rails” test and filter those who have scored in the top 10% – 30% and make them your top candidates.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 8.24.47 PM

With the field now greatly narrowed down you might like to run a “private” posting by hitting the “Contact” button on select programmers.

odesk-developer

The good thing about making your post private is that you can make initial contact and invite developers to respond to a simple inquiry like the one below.

odesk-freelancer-inquiry During your quest to find a web developer, you might find that some won’t answer and that’s great because it rules them out right away.

However, for the folks that do respond, if you find someone that you would like to work with, then send them more specifics about the functionality that you will require for your project.

If you move forward and decide to hire a developer, I strongly suggest starting off in bite-sized chunks. Most platforms today have a “Sign up”, “Sign in”, and “Sign out” feature. You might start by having your new freelancer build out this functionality first. That way you can get a feel for how they work and you can determine if you are compatible.

Also, make sure that you have a Github or Bitbucket account and have the code pushed there.

Through serendipity, my “hire a freelancer” process actually stopped here because I connected with a developer in a different way (which I will speak to in a moment) that might work for you, as well.

How I found a developer

About a year ago I was trying to learn to code so that I could build out my own products with Rails. Like most beginners, I quickly ran into an issue and realized that I needed a skilled person to help get me moving forward again.

Around the same I heard about a new startup called “Hackhands.” Their mission is to help people (for a fee) “Instantly connect with a qualified programming expert.”

Hackhands

The programming expert that I paired with was extremely knowledgeable, communicated effectively, and was able to solve numerous programming problems for me.

When I decide to pursue The Startup Project I remembered the Hackhands developer that I had worked with stating that they were going to open up a freelance Rails development practice. So, I sent an initial email with what I wanted to have built.

When I got the response I was excited to see that they were in fact doing Rails development, but unfortunately, their price was way beyond my “bootstrap” budget.

However, before moving on (and hiring someone off of oDesk) I sent a follow up email with what I could afford. To my surprise, the response was positive and I typed up a simple RFP and we began moving forward.

Stay tuned for more, get updates here –> http://startupprojecthq.com/

 

*************

Thank you for reading the first post on The Startup Project!

If you are hoping to find a web developer to create your entrepreneurial vision, or if you are a seasoned freelancer, please feel free to provide your thoughts on how the process can work out best for all parties. You can offer your insight on Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Twitter @mark_hayward.

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How “Code and Stay” Packages can Work for Puerto Rico Tourism

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Puerto Rico has tremendous year round weather!

Would you rather be freezing, working and coding in NYC or Boston all winter long? Or would you like a respite from the frostbite on the sunny beaches of Puerto Rico?

Imagine, you can get on a plane during a blizzard, wearing your ushanka, and about three and half hours later step out into blazing sunshine in shorts and flip-flops.

(Note: For those that might not know, “code/coding,” as it’s used here is meant to be analogous to computer programming/hacking, creating apps, and developing online platforms for business and money making purposes.)

There’s been a lot of not so great news coming out of Puerto Rico lately regarding residents leavingthe debt burden, and lost jobs.

But on the flipside, Puerto Rico was just voted “Best Caribbean Island” by the readers of USA Today! (How’s that for irony?)

It’s easy to see why it was voted number one! Puerto Rico has something for everybody with sandy beaches, the rainforest, world-class resorts, intimate Inns, great food, impressive culture, friendly people, and the list goes on and on.

Puerto Rico Best Caribbean Island

While there is, sadly, an undeniable “brain drain” happening in Puerto Rico, what about the “brain rush?” Specifically, those skilled and entrepreneurial minded travelers who come to the island for a week, ten days, or even for a month.

How do we connect them, promote collaboration, and knowledge give-and-take, while they’re in Puerto Rico?

Well, what you might not know — through all of the noise — is that there’s a tremendously dedicated group of talented individuals seeking to change Puerto Rico’s economic trajectory through entrepreneurship, technical innovation, and creativity.

Game changers like Marcos PolancoRamphis Castro, and Dana Montenegro, and startups like BlimpKytelabsAnt Rocket, and Piloto 151 are shaping Puerto Rico’s future economy; via one day of work and one line of code at a time.

You might be thinking, “How does the Puerto Rico Tourism fit into all this?”

To which I would answer, it all starts with a Tweet. You see, my former Launch Academy Coding Bootcamp cohort-mate, Zach Young, and I were having a Twitter conversation and he mentioned that he “keeps seeing photos posted of Puerto Rico” and stated, “I need to get out there!”

Then the “light bulb” went off and I sent the following Tweet to Puerto Rico Tourism Company as a way to start the discussion and to have them think about becoming the conduit between travelers and locals.

puerto rico tourism twitter

To their credit, Puerto Rico Tourism replied and suggested I “DM,” which I did.

twitter puerto rico tourism 2

The idea behind – (choose your name) “Code & Stay,” or “Hack & Surf,” or “Collaboration in Paradise” – packages would be to create even more avenues for information exchange, technical inspiration, and creative growth here in Puerto Rico.

Fact: Talented individuals (like Baris at Google) are traveling to Puerto Rico for vacation. However, unlike Baris, many visitors might not know how to connect or get involved with the entrepreneurial community here who are working to launch something brilliant and world changing.

That’s where “Code & Stay” packages come in. For a bit of vacation time mentoring entrepreneurs, giving presentations, or pair programming (or live coding) visitors to Puerto Rico — who are in the entrepreneurial and tech world — could get packages with reduced rates, guaranteed upgrades, or other booking incentives.

Specifically, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, in conjunction with a group like Startups of Puerto Rico, could perhaps initiate the discussion with a forward thinking airline like JetBlue, and approach hotels like the San Juan Marriott, the DoubleTree, and the Intercontinental San Juan. Or, conversely, maybe smaller boutique properties like Andalucia Guest House, Acacia Boutique Hotel, San Juan Water & Beach Club would be willing to discount room rates or offer other enticements.

You get the point.

How does this benefit the traveler, tourism, and the local entrepreneurs?

In order to be successful, all good ideas must solve a problem or provide some type of benefit(s). The following are just a few of the possible, tangible outcomes:

The visitor – Besides coming to an amazing destination, they would get a real cultural experience and have the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest and most talented folks in Puerto Rico. That’s not even mentioning (hopefully) discounted travel and a place to work like Piloto 151.

Most importantly, I believe that the traveler stands to share their knowledge, while at the same time, learning a lot and getting educated about the “Best Caribbean Island.” In the grandest of outcomes, maybe they come back and invest or create jobs here.

The Puerto Rico tech & entrepreneurial community – Certainly, with social media, the barriers of global communication have been largely dissolved. However, collaborating with someone in person on a business idea, or hearing an outside perspective on entrepreneurship, or working to solve a particularly tricky coding problem, has intrinsic value.

Even though there are fantastic tech and entrepreneurial meetups on island, sometimes it can feel as though you are working in a vacuum. Outside connection and perspective can sometimes be the antidote and solution to pushing a creative idea further.

Puerto Rico tourism – As a former hotel owner here in Puerto Rico I can tell you that these early adopters of technology and entrepreneurs are exactly the type of guest that we wanted staying with us. They are the bloggers, the Twitter power users, and addicts of Instagram who will help to grow a hotels digital presence by writing, Tweeting, and posting about the island, their interactions with the creative community, and the properties they’re staying at.

With respect to global tourism, creating a “Code & Stay” promotion is an innovative approach to marketing the island as a destination and no other location has such a program.

In closing, the above post is meant to just get the initial idea out to the greater world and to create a discussion amongst stakeholders like the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Startups of Puerto Rico, and travelers to the island.

Certainly, more thought, dialogue, and “packaging” needs to go into the “Stay and Code” concept. Please offer your input and thoughts below on how you might structure this idea for success or share on Twitter.

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Business Review Feedback Loop

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Do you own a small to medium sized business? Have you thought about how your customers perceive your business, you, and your staff from what they research online?

Because I used to own a small hotel, I’ve been thinking a bit about customer perception and how it affects what I like to call the “Business Review Feedback Loop.” In fact, I can still vividly recall some travelers showing up to our Inn and having either a huge grin or a complete look of confusion and disappointment.

The initial smile, or dreaded lack thereof, on the new guest’s face was derived mainly from the bits of information they gleaned via their online research — and their emotions came forth when reality met them upon arrival. After talking to many of our guests about this phenomena, it always seemed to come back to their perception — of our destination, the accommodations we were providing, and also of us as the owners.

If you, or any business owners you know are struggling with how this perception — and subsequent online review feedback loop — affects your business, I put this graphic together to shed some insight. (Note: Click graphic to download full size.)

business review feedback loop

You have the ability to shape your online reputation & web presence!

The graphic above is semi-specific to tourism related businesses, but if your venture is one that many people will find out about online or you regularly get reviewed on YELP or TripAdvisor, then I think it is relevant.

Essentially, potential guests book based on two key factors – perception and trust! In order to maintain a positive customer review feedback loop, there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that you are successful.

1. When a person decides to take a trip or come to your restaurant –  from that moment forward they begin to form an idea of what they think the experience will be like. For example, if I told you that you were going to Puerto Rico you might think of wide expanses of empty beaches. If it were Russia perhaps history comes to mind, or Australia maybe conjures up visions of Ayers Rock.

2. After a person has made the decision to travel it’s usually time to research the destination, lodging, and activities on the web — keyword research, content marketing, and overall SEO are critical to attracting your ideal guests/customers.

3. When a potential guest lands on your website their opinion of your property/business – and subsequent review formation – starts here! <<<< Many business owners think the review process starts when a customer leaves their business but in reality it can begin months in advance with their first interaction with your online presence and reputation.

(Note: The next steps in the graphic are meant to help you shape customer perception of your business via your online presence and greater social media activities.)

4. Your business blog is where you can share details of your story and provide useful information as visitors plan their trip. Adding elements of your hotel’s story builds trust, and your generosity with providing travel information and helpful tips further solidifies the establishment of your reputation. Transparency is key!

5. If pictures and video are worth 1000 words, then surely you are well aware that visual media is a critical component to your online presence. YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest are great platforms to focus on.

6. Social channels are your path to becoming a connection machine. Go beyond spammy posts that do nothing but promote your business and use Twitter, Facebook, Gplus, and destination forums to act like a digital concierge. Interacting can help to ensure you are attracting the right types of customers for your business and further serves to assist in building that trust connection before clients even arrive.

7. Customer experience (reality!) begins with arrival. Here’s where the perception you’ve been shaping and the story you have been sharing online is paramount.  It doesn’t matter if you offer backpacker or luxury accommodations – the vision of what the customer had in their mind must meet or exceed reality.

8. With respect to reviews and the feedback loop, departure is where many businesses and hotel owners tend to get stuck and focus solely on this interaction. Ideally, however, it would have begun the moment a guest landed on your website, blog, or other online interactions.

Keep your message consistent across all platforms and always remember that perception, reality, and overall experience go into the making of a customer review.

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Sun, Surf, and Startups – ebook highlighting Puerto Rico’s Tech & Creative Entrepreneurs

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Puerto Rico certainly has no shortage of innovation, creativity, or entrepreneurs (see: EnterprizePR).

However, during the past couple of years the island has experienced a surge in the tech startup industry. From Bar Camp to Startup Weekend, and Hackathons to a chapter of the Founder Institute — a community is evolving and the participants are going to be helping to shape the future economy.

########

Over a year ago I was sitting on the ferry traveling from Culebra to San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend a meetup organized by Marcos Polanco and Ramphis Castro. Having witnessed (from the periphery) for a few years the remarkable group of talented, driven and creative technical folks, I thought about how I might contribute to the community and help to get the message out. The ebook — Sun, Surf, and Startups — is the result of that initial brainstorming session and you can download it by clicking on the cover below (or this shortlink http://bit.ly/10I83Ux) .

puerto rico startups

 

Seemingly, everyday I learn about new people involved in startups here in Puerto Rico who are taking the global community by storm. During the last week alone I learned about Sparkative, Tommie HernandezNGEN, and Rebexa.

PLEASE, if you are an entrepreneur in Puerto Rico or are familiar with individuals not profiled in version one, put their info below or let us know about them. The sole purpose of the ebook, and its future versions, is to create an additional communication node that draws light on Puerto Rico’s tech and creative startup initiatives.

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4 Ways to Tactfully Ask Your Guests for a TripAdvisor Review

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Consultant Daniel Craig recently asked an important question in a blog post:

“Should hotels be asking guests for TripAdvisor reviews.”

The undeniable truth is—when formulating an opinion, potential guests are actively seeking to read what former guests are saying about your establishment on TripAdvisor.

And as a hotel owner myself, the question is not, should you be asking for reviews.

But, how do you go about asking guests for reviews in a tactful manner?

Simply stated, whether you own a kayak touring company, or run a hotel—you must get proactive with your reputation management. Furthermore, within TripAdvisor’s terms of service guidelines, it is perfectly acceptable to seek a review from your customers as long as you don’t offer goods and services in exchange.

However, many hotel owners are intimidated by the thought of asking guests for a review, or they don’t quite know how to go about it.

Taking the Leap and Delivering the “Ask”.

Asking customers for reviews can seem overwhelming and daunting at first. Fortunately, there truly is nothing to fear. Your former guests are eager to share their positive (and negative) experiences. (Note: Here’s how to respond to negative reviews.)

Certainly, if you have developed a comprehensive reputation management ecosystem, deliver amazing customer service, and provide a quality product then you should feel confident when asking guests for reviews.

When delivering the “ask” to your customers, understand that most people are extremely busy and don’t have a lot of spare time. Your strategy should make it as easy and uncomplicated as possible for folks to write an assessment, so where relevant include the TripAdvisor link to your profile.

Here are four simple tactics to let guests know that you are actively seeking TripAdvisor reviews:

1. Business card – on the back of your hotel’s business card let your guests know that you would love to hear about their experience and stay. A straightforward, “Thank you for your patronage. We truly value your opinion. Please take a moment to review us on TripAdvisor” will suffice.

2. Email thank you – sending a personalized thank you email to your recent guests is not only a great way to develop fans, but it also allows you the opportunity to seek reviews. At the end of your email, add something similar to the following, “We understand that you have a hectic schedule and a busy life, but if you have a spare moment, we always appreciate an honest review on TripAdvisor.”

3. Ask at checkout – guests who are leaving your hotel during checkout time have their experience fresh in their memory. Smart front desk staff always check to make sure that everything was okay during the departing customers stay. As a reminder, you should also encourage those who are leaving to provide a TripAdvisor review when they reach their final destination.

4. Widget on your website – a great display of your “social proof” is to place TripAdvisor’s review widget directly on your website. Some samples of TripAdvsor’s existing widgets can be seen here -http://www.tripadvisor.com/WidgetEmbed.

If you try any of the approaches above for your hotel, or decide to implement your own TripAdvisor review seeking method, remember to track your success rate. Tracking success will allow you to have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, which can help you to tweak your “call to action” for best results.

Have you asked for TripAdvisor reviews in the past? What has worked best for you?

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds

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How to respond to a negative TripAdvisor review

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Are you a hotelier or involved in the hospitality industry? Sooner or later chances are you’re going to get a negative TripAdvisor review:

Worst place I’ve ever stayed!

However, if you’re like most tourism business owners you are extremely passionate about your guests and are committed to providing the best experience and customer service possible.

To be sure, there’s nothing more disheartening than checking into TripAdvisor to see what’s being said about your venture only to find someone criticizing your business, your staff, or your service.

Immediately, you get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach combined with the natural human reaction to defend what you’ve worked so diligently on.

Negative reviews can leave you feeling frustrated, angered, and deflated.

Your initial inclination might be to fire back a response that attacks your online reviewer.  At this point it’s best to take a step back, and take a deep breath, as this will only serve to make the situation much, much worse.

While it might feel good in that moment, the “attack back strategy” does little to uphold and improve upon your reputation management ecosystem.

Step away from the computer, assess the situation, and accept that the review is there.

When the initial shock has subsided, it’s time to craft your response to the TripAdvisor review in a calm and rational voice. As you begin to draft your reply, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Respond in a professional manner.
  • Keep it as brief as possible.
  • Address the complaint(s) directly.
  • Make it positive in tone.

Remember, for whatever reason your guest did not enjoy her stay or experience. At this point, your number one goal should be to minimize the negative impact of the review and to maximize the opportunity to show that you are human, you care, and where applicable, that corrective action has been taken.

As an example of a negative TripAdvisor review, let’s assume that someone gave your business a one star rating and provided a written statement similar to the following:

“Horrible accommodation and dirty rooms.”

Step one – Thank the reviewer.

As difficult as it may be, here is your first opportunity to show future readers of the review that you are human and care. A simple strategy for your first sentence is to write something like the example below:

“Thank you for taking the time to review our property/business. We truly value the opinions of our customers and we apologize that we did not meet your expectations.”

Step two – Respond directly to the criticism.

If the room was dirty, a staff member was rude to the reviewing customer, or other common complaint, do your best to find out what happened. Was your business extremely busy that day? Was the employee involved having a difficult week? Or, if you notice a pattern where rooms are consistently rated as not clean or one employee continues to receive negative feedback, perhaps a larger issue needs to be addressed.

In terms of drafting a response, honesty is the best policy. Make it a point to explain to the customer that service and cleanliness is your number one priority, and state what corrective actions have been taken:

“Providing our guests with the best possible hospitality and service has always been our mission. We have addressed the cleanliness issue, and or, spoken with the employee in question. We want you to know that we truly enjoy sharing our passion for our destination with visitors and want you to walk out the door feeling refreshed.”

Step three – The closing.

Here is your final chance to assuage the situation with the angered reviewer while at the same time letting possible future customers know just how much you care:

“If you come back to our hotel/tourism business/restaurant I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you directly, so please ask for me. We hope to see you again in the future and wish you the very best.”

While the above example is generic in nature, negative TripAdvisor reviews can have a dramatic impact on your business and financial bottom line.

When you find yourself dealing with a similar situation in the future, keep in mind that your reaction to the TripAdvisor review can be more telling than the review itself.

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nal_miami

 

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The Knowledge Center by American Express

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If you are a small business owner you might like to know that American Express recently launched The Knowledge Center to help you in your journey to success!

Similar to American Express Open Forum, The Knowledge Center provides business owners with actionable content covering everything from attracting new customers and making your business more prosperous to learning how to streamline operations, manage cash flow and making your business more efficient.

The Knowledge Center American Express

Here are a few recent articles that I wrote for them that I hope you find useful:

Draft Your First Four Business Blog Posts In Under An Hour

Developing Relationships and Brand Awareness Within Your Local Community

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Pushing, pulling, struggling and fighting to…DO the WORK

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do the workSteven Pressfield has released a fantastic new book called, Do the Work, which also happens to be the latest offering from Seth Godin’s Domino Project.

Creating art is hard work. I’ve never considered myself a naturally creative person (or writer) and at times I can get frustrated with how easy it seems for everyone else. Whether you write, draw, or produce spoken word poems I think you will find value in Pressfield’s book.

Mr. Pressfield masterfully terms the struggle to create the Resistance. If you’ve ever wanted to rip your hair out because a word wouldn’t come to you, or even worse, because you’ve never actually taken action to implement any of your great ideas, then you know the Resistance all too well.

According to Steven, the Resistance is a dragon whose sole purpose is to keep you from doing and creating your great works of art and it’s a beast that needs to be met in the middle of the battlefield. No hiding, no procrastinating, no busy work and no coffee breaks.

His concept of Resistance spoke right to me. In fact, Mr. Pressfield could have been sitting down right next to me as I struggle to complete the ebook I’ve been working on for ProBlogger. Fortunately, he didn’t have to because Do the Work has been released and it has become a mini-companion for me when I work. When I feel the pull to quit, to give up, or to retreat into busy work I see the cover staring right at me!

It’s not easy disregarding that niggling negative voice in your head while trying to maintain focus and push through to the other (creative) side. But the hard facts are, if you want to create great work then you must face the Resistance, fight it, and struggle with it.

You might disagree, but I feel like the book has been released at the perfect time in our evolution. Blogging and social media are creating an environment where we all need to be in charge of our own brand, responsible for our own reputation, and the chief evangelist telling our own story that we want the world to hear and connect with.

In order for individuals to step up and take advantage of all of the possibilities that are now available thanks to social media, however, you must take responsibility and become the champion of your own message, your own work…your own art.

If you’ve been struggling with fear of failure, the productivity demons, or working to get through your first (or tenth) creative project, I think you will find tremendous value in what Steven has to say. It’s really a great framework for when you want to throw your hands up in frustration and quit.

There is no getting around the fact that you have to Do the Work. There are no shortcuts.

(Note: the above are NOT affiliate links. And if you’re still not convinced have a look at what Colleen, Pam, and Chris have to say.)

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