Understanding Your Competition’s Online Strategy is the First Step in Topping It
In order to be successful, it is vital to know who your hotel's competitors are and what it is they do online. By going through this exercise, you ensure that you have a point of comparison and information that can be used to your advantage.
Many hoteliers, especially those new to online marketing, advertise and market blindly but are baffled when very little is achieved. A fatal mistake that many make, is to ignore the competition and consequently focus their attention in the wrong direction. In order to be successful, it is vital to know who your hotel´s competitors are and what it is they do online. By going through this exercise, you ensure that you have a point of comparison and information that can be used to your advantage. Analysing your competition´s website presence and the online marketing tactics they use, enables you to explore your marketing strategy´s effectiveness comparatively and act upon any discoveries which, in turn, will enhance your success.
There are many competitor analysis tools available online, however these can be complex to use. Here are a few simple tips to get you started without investing in technology. A full competitor analysis based on these concepts should always be conducted prior to planning your hotel´s online strategy. This way you can incorporate your findings into your strategy and ultimately plan a much more targeted and successful approach.
1. Identify who your competitors are - Brainstorm your known competitors. If you have been in the hotel any length of time, it is highly likely that the "other" hotels are well-known to you, especially the local ones. Look up their websites and make a note of their web addresses.
2. Create keyword lists - Compile a list of keywords your clientele would use to find a hotel like yours online. Incorporate your geographical location into your list - many travelers will choose destination before hotel.
3. Search online - Using your keywords list, execute some searches on the major search engines - Google, Yahoo and MSN. The results most commonly shown to your target market, will be listed on the first page. Make a note of the web addresses of the top 10 results. Going forward, consider these your top competition, along with the local "colleagues" you already knew about.
4. Analyse offerings - Visit each of these competitors´ websites and analyse their offerings. Ensure you keep notes summarising each of their services, facilities and special offers. Determine the strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of your target market - How do your offerings compare? Are your rates higher or lower than theirs? Why? What makes you unique to them? What makes them unique to you? How can you capitalize on your unique offerings? This analysis will facilitate a clear definition of your competitive advantages.
5. Compare usability & functionality - Are your competitors´ sites easier to navigate compared to yours? Determine how each website differs to yours and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each.
6. Popularity - Determine how your competitors compare to your hotel in terms of popularity. How can you find out? By downloading the Google Tool bar you can establish their Google Page Rank. Page Ranks are rated from 1 to 10 - 10 being the best. Higher Page Ranks indicate higher quality websites receiving a lot of relevant traffic. Appropriate, fresh and keyword-rich content that is updated regularly, is also a positive factor. It adds value to the site for the user.
7. Links - Identifying what websites your competitors are linked to, helps to establish the kind of reach their sites have in the online world. Remember, in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), relevant and high quality inbound links are weighted heavily in a website´s favour by the search engines. Therefore, if you find a number of great inbound links on a competitor site (and these are also relevant to your site), you should contact the website and ask if they will link to your site too. You will find them highly interested if the link is meaningful. As such, writing a quick press release about your hotel and sending it over, typically results in getting advertising for your property as well as an inbound link to your website. To scope out your competition´s links, you can use www.freewebsubmission.com
8. Keep records - Often, the most helpful way of keeping track of your findings, is by listing them in an electronic spreadsheet. Simply update the spreadsheet each time you gather new information and at the same time you are building a record that you can always refer to.
9. Keep up-to-date - Regularly re-visit your competition´s website to see what´s new and consequently keep important and relevant data in your spreadsheet up-to-date.