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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52 Business blog post ideas for you

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blog-post-ideasDo you find yourself lacking the time to come up with creative ideas for new content and blog posts? Here are 52 ideas to help get you through the rest of the year.

Fact: We all have the ability to be publishing companies now.

However, as business owners sometimes it can feel as though we’re just too busy to do anything else other than keeping customers and employees happy. Yet, now more than ever, it’s critical to be creating content that helps you reach potential clients.

Most businesses are beginning to realize that the power of blogging is NOT achieved by publishing content that promotes the hard sell of products and services. But rather, the most effective business blog post ideas are centered on helping to connect you and your potential & existing customers on a more human level that builds trust and (hopefully) leads to increased sales.

Blog Post Ideas

During the next year if you find yourself getting stuck creatively, here are 52 content and blog post ideas for you.

  1. Answer three of the most commonly asked questions that customers have about your service or product.
  2. Did you come from a completely different field (like a heart surgeon) to pursue a business passion (like opening a bakery)? What was the journey like?
  3. A day in the life post. What is a typical day, a week, or even a month like at your business?
  4. Who are your customers? Conduct a brief interview with some customers or clients. (Have you seen the success of Humans of New York?!)
  5. What have you done in your life that makes you unique, and how does that translate over to your business and serving customers?
  6. What are the tools of your trade? For example, are you using a piece of software that makes your day easier and perhaps it could help your customers?
  7. Most business owners did not get where they are at on their own — who has inspired or mentored you?
  8. Why did you choose your business location? (Or if your business is online what are some of your favorite spots to work from?)
  9. Have you done something astronomical, such as completing the Hawaii Ironman or climbing Mount Everest? Your clients would love to hear about it…
  10. What allowed you to move beyond fear and pursue business ownership?
  11. How is the reality of running a business different from what you expected?
  12. Interview an industry leader in your business niche.
  13. Do a photo walking tour of your neighborhood.
  14. How did you manage to start your business? (You might focus on practical points such as securing financing, required permits, and so on.)
  15. What causes do you care about? How has your business supported the community or your favorite charity
  16. Where have you visited in your travels? How are the places different?
  17. Do you sell a product (or deliver a service) that’s technically complicated? Boil down a critical but difficult-to understand concept in a resource post.
  18. Define your customer service philosophy in a short manifesto. (Even better if you include real life examples that display your remarkable customer care.)
  19. Conduct a photo or video walking tour of your business.
  20. Highlight the top five or ten blogs in your industry.
  21. How is your business or service conducted in other cultures? For example, are there any differences between carpet cleaners (or whatever your venture is) in New York City and London?
  22. What are the challenges you face on a daily basis?
  23. Write a humorous post about something that occurred at your business. (Remember to change names to protect the innocent.)
  24. Create a compelling challenge for a free giveaway.
  25. Highlight a new product or service that’s proving helpful to customers.
  26. A simple, heartfelt post, on why you love doing what you do.
  27. Highlight some monthly specials, promotions, or clearance items. (Note: use this type of post sparingly!)
  28. Draft a helpful post or tutorial specifically to help others in your industry.
  29. Define the origins and shipping procedure of your product. How did that coffee get to your café? Where is it grown?
  30. Explain the requirements of entry into your line of business. What type of training is required to be a web designer? Do you need certain skills to run a hotel?
  31. What are the top ten mistakes you’ve made while running your venture?
  32. What is your personal history and what are your qualifications?
  33. Why are you located where you are?
  34. What are ten must-have items in your business?
  35. Provide the most convenient routes to get to your business and perhaps list any unique or historic landmarks around you.
  36. Highlight a special customer.
  37. Feature any eco/enviro-friendly products or infrastructure that you have (such as solar panels, or low-flow, high-volume shower heads).
  38. Comparison post – e.g., if you own a restaurant, what’s the most popular dish like when it’s prepared the standard way and/or for someone who is gluten intolerant? Or why might customers want one technology over another?
  39. Describe any improvements or upgrades you have made to your business.
  40. Create a tutorial post specific to your industry, which might be a trivial task for you but could really help the readers (it might be programming an iPhone, or how to make the perfect pizza crust).
  41. What do you do during your time off?
  42. Does your family have a history in the business? For example, was your shoe store, marketing firm, or bike shop started by your grandfather?
  43. Post a survey seeking input from your customers about how you can improve their customer experience.
  44. Write a personal post and invite your customers to comment or provide their thoughts.
  45. Do a real-life product review where you use one of your services or business items for a week and report back on your findings.
  46. Highlight the businesses around you that you support.
  47. Thank every single person who has helped you along your way.
  48. Have an employee do a written or visual diary of what their day is like.
  49. Respond to a critic head-on. Don’t be confrontational, but explain your point of view in a professional manner. For example, if you’ve had a customer service issue, explain what you are doing to remedy the situation.
  50. Surprise an unsuspecting customer/client/guest with an amazing experience — like a gift certificate for a fine meal, a massage, or a shopping spree — and write about the lucky winner and how you went about choosing who would receive the gift.
  51. Ask your customers to take some photos or video of your business and post them. (Making sure to give credit to the photographers.)
  52. If you made it this far, write a year in review post highlighting your successes, failures, and plans for the future.

Whether you post once a month, once a week, or once a day hopefully you found this “content cushion” of blog post ideas helpful! If you have further thoughts or input, I’d love to connect with you on Twitter @mark_hayward or LinkedIn.

image source: Flickr/littlenelly

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3 things I would do as Manager of Digital Marketing for the Grand Wailea Resort

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The other day I was on LinkedIn updating my profile to reflect the work that I’d recently done for the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG). While I was logged in I somehow came across the fact that the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui was looking for a Manager of Digital Marketing.

grand-wailea-resort-digital-marketing

I’ve spent a lot of time in the South Pacific — living in Samoa for a bunch of years and traveling through Hawaii — and figured I would investigate further to see what the Grand Wailea Resort was currently doing as an online strategy to better connect and interact with potential guests (and ultimately to increase bookings).

When I visited the Grand Wailea Resort website I quickly noticed that they had all of the requisite links to various social sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) and noted (at the time of writing this article) they had not been too active on any of the various platforms.  In order to serve the hotel best, I thought I would offer them three things I would do immediately if I was their Digital Marketing Manager.

(Note: none of my suggestions are meant as criticism, on the contrary, I want the Grand Wailea to succeed in their digital strategy and to help their guests have an amazing experience!)

1. Conduct a thorough reputation audit

The Grand Wailea is part of the Waldorf Astoria brand, which offers, “5 star luxury travel to top destinations.” Additionally, in one of their YouTube promo videos, the Grand Wailea exclaims that they “offer unsurpassed luxury.” Which is great, and is exactly the perception and expectation I conjure up in my mind when I envision this iconic property. However, after a quick check of TripAdvisor to see what past guests have had to say about the property, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between what’s being sold/offered and what is actually meeting guests upon arrival. To be clear: the Grand Wailea has great reviews but from the one star all the way to the five star an overriding theme was “the rooms are getting tired.”

Below you will notice a four star review (awesome), and even though they had “no complaints” if you read the last line this Senior Reviewer even mentions that “the rooms are outdated.”

Grand Wailea TripAdvisor

I’m not sure if the Gran Wailea has a remodeling project in the works, or what their plans are. However, if they want continued, long-term success with the “hotel review feedback loop” then I would suggest more transparency, and perhaps even a rebranding to state that the rooms are “classically elegant,”  or something along those lines to set expectations early. In all honesty, it does not matter who your digital director is, if guests feel like they’ve been duped on the quality of the rooms, then negative reviews and comments will continue.

It’s important to note that travelers have always had a voice. Social sites like TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Twitter just allow guests the opportunity to magnify how many people can hear their opinion. Previously, it was perhaps ten friends and now (with extended networks and friends of friends) they might be telling ten thousand people or a million about their experience at your hotel.

2. Create remarkable content

The second thing I would do as Manager of Digital Marketing for the Grand Wailea Resort would be to use a keyword tool, such as Google’s Keyword Planner, to discern what potential guests are searching for online when it comes to Maui. From the information provided by the Keyword tool, and via a thorough understanding of the Grand Wailea’s guest demographic, I would develop an editorial calendar of blog, Facebook, and YouTube content that was aimed at helping visitors with useful information. (Note: the graphic below shows the results for a keyword search using the phrase “Maui family activities.”)

maui family activities

As noted in the introduction above, the Grand Wailea’s website lists all of their relevant social media accounts, but they are not updated all that frequently. Some simple posts that I would suggest they create would be “5 Great Beaches for Kids,” “How to Tour Maui with Children Like a Local,” and “10 Rainy Day Activities the Whole Family Can Enjoy.” Potential guests want to interact, engage, and feel connected to brands via their online presence and if social media accounts are just “collecting dust” then the Grand Wailea Resort is probably losing business.

3. Become a social media concierge

The third thing I would do as the Grand Wailea’s Manager of Digital Marketing would be to start using social media channels as an extension of the concierge desk. The best and most effective way to do this is to join online conversations in a non-spammy way. Two simple ways to be incredibly helpful to potential guests would be to answer questions in a destination forum like TripAdvisor’s Maui discussion board and to use Twitter’s simple search tool to communicate with travelers that need assistance.

As you can see from the screengrab below, the TripAdvisor Maui destination forum has over 46,000 discussion topics, questions, and inquiries. The Grand Wailea Resort’s Director of Digital Marketing should be replying to many of the questions as a way to build trust and to build brand recognition.

 maui tripadvisor forum

Similarly, Twitter provides the Grand Wailea Resort an almost never-ending opportunity to be the “Maui Digital Concierge” by simply connecting with those users who are seeking trip guidance and looking for insight on Maui.

grand-wailea-resort-twitter

 Currently, though, their Twitter account does not appear to be updated regularly and the majority of their Tweets are about the hotel itself. This is a common mistake made by tourism businesses and the great thing is that it’s easily remedied by following the rule whereby you are helpful 80% of the time and only promote yourself in 20% of your interactions.

For any hotel out there, simply having social media accounts does not increase business, and if you are struggling with digital marketing I suggest you get started by looking at the 21 Day Hospitality Social Media Challenge. Building trust, being helpful, and providing complete transparency wins with guests every time.

Obviously there is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done by the Grand Wailea Resort. The three suggestions mentioned here are meant to be part of an initial digital strategy that can be seamlessly implemented by them today.

I wish the Grand Wailea tremendous success in 2014 and with their search for a capable Digital Marketing Director. (Note to Grand Wailea Resort: If you would like to discuss a more in depth comprehensive digital strategy there’s a good chance I’m going to be in Hawaii in February and feel free to connect with me on Twitter @mark_hayward or via email.)

 

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How one hotel went from almost dead last on TripAdvisor to number one

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Are you still trying to come to grips with guest reviews and think it’s near impossible to improve your rankings?

A few years ago the San Juan Water & Beach Club in Puerto Rico was in need of a customer service revamp and physical overhaul. With respect to TripAdvisor rankings, at their lowest point the hotel sat almost dead last for their area of San Juan at #13 out of 14 hotels, and the restaurant actually was last. When ranked among all of the 172 hotel properties found in Puerto Rico, the Water & Beach Club was listed down around one hundred and a climb back to the top seemed unlikely, if not impossible.

negative tripadvisor review

As a hospitality professional, you very well know, if you are marketing your property (or any property for that matter) as a boutique hotel you do not want to consistently be reading reviews that have comments like “motel quality,” “not very nice,” and “keep looking!” Statements like the previous comments tend to drive a lot of business and bookings to your competition.

However, the management chose not to close the doors. Instead, according to General Manager, Jose Torres, they decided to regroup and to own their reputation. In addition to a $2.5 million dollar renovation and re-design, they started their new campaign by reading the negative comments and sentiments about the Water & Beach Club online and decided to use the insight to drive real action and change for improvement.

During their discovery phase the management noticed a theme in what the customer reviews had to say about them.

  • The property was not well kept.
  • The staff were not well trained.
  • The pool was always closed.

Armed with the detailed information of how past guests viewed the Water & Beach Club, Jose Torres says that they created a new mission with buy in from all levels at the hotel which would focus on:

  1. Remarkable service for every guest that comes through the door.
  2. Commitment to a well cared for property and clean, comfortable rooms.
  3. Continuous and ongoing training for staff.

You might think that rededicating themselves and creating a new mission might not lead to very much of a change or beg the question, “Why weren’t they just doing that before?”

But the results are unquestionable. In a little over eleven months the Water & Beach Club hotel has climbed the TripAdvisor rankings to claim the number one position in San Juan and the restaurant is in the top spot, as well.

positive-tripadvisor-review

Most importantly, when it comes to bookings and the bottom line, Mr. Torres tells me that the hotel now has the highest occupancy rate of any hotel in San Juan and they currently charge the highest rate in their track class.

The wonderful lesson to be learned from this, and other similar success stories, is that it does not matter if it’s the Industrial Age or the Internet Age, remarkable hospitality and attention to detail never go out of favor. Travelers have always had a voice and new technologies simply provide a way for their message to be amplified whether positive or negative.

If you want guests to say good things about you, then you have to give them a reason to say good things.

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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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How do you plan your week?

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Time Flies. When you plan your week do you schedule in time for blogging and social media?

For many struggling, overworked, and frazzled business owners scheduling their week doesn’t necessarily include making time for  blogging or social media. Rather, it’s done on an ad hoc basis.

Your success might vary, but for my three blogs mark-hayward.com, Culebrablog.com, and the Palmetto Guesthouse Blog I try to dedicate about eight hours each week to content creation.

Typically, I tend to work best in batches and fit in blogging around cleaning rooms, helping guests, and all the other normal “just living” stuff that we do.

Many of my blog post ideas for mark-hayward.com are derived by listening and noticing when someone is struggling with blogging or social media for their business. For me, I find it easiest to think of titles first and then I create a post around them and fortunately the titles usually come to me when I am out running or riding my bike.

When it comes to my business blogs, Culebrablog.com and the Palmetto Guesthouse blog, they are a little different. I still always want to provide some type of helpful information but when creating posts I tend to focus more on keywords and phrases that potential visitors to the island might be searching for.

In an attempt to show you what I do for my week’s plan, here’s my schedule for today, Sunday May 29. The content creation included drafting five posts for the Palmetto Guesthouse, five for Culebrablog, and three for mark-hayward.com.

Palmetto Guesthouse posts

The Palmetto posts that I am writing for the upcoming week are based on  some of the frequently asked questions that we get, which if you aren’t aware, is an extremely convenient way to come up with blog content. The following are the titles and subsequent posts that I created.

  • Do you serve breakfast?
  • Should I bring a suit and tie to Culebra?
  • Does the Culebra and Fajardo ferry get crowded?
  • Culebra bike rental
  • Air Flamenco price update

Culebrablog posts

The content on Culebrablog tends to be focused on photos that we take around the island and they can be time intensive if I also need to upload, tag, and describe each picture on Flickr. As a result of today’s work, here are the five posts I have loaded and ready to publish over the next week or so.

  • Hello from Culebra!
  • Frangipani and Clouds on Culebra Island
  • Zoni Beach Looking East
  • Zoni Beach Palm
  • Zoni Beach & Cayo Norte View

Mark-hayward.com posts

The posts for this site always include more text than the other two blogs and they take up the majority of my time. However, nothing pleases me more than thinking that there is a frustrated business owner out there and perhaps one of my posts can help her achieve a blogging or social media goal. This weeks posts are as follows:

  • How do you plan your week?
  • Ten reasons why you should write your resignation letter today!
  • Evolution of a non-writer: How I was chosen to write a ProBlogger Guide

Over to you. How do you plan your blogging and social media week?

(Note: If you haven’t done so yet, don’t forget to download the free blog motivation pdf Possibility Engine and make sure you sign up to  get the email updates.)

image source: Starmaniack*

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