Those who seek easy solutions to Internet marketing are destined to suffer the consequences.
We live in a society that regularly relies on quick fixes and easy solutions. If we have heartburn, it’s easy to just take a pill. Can’t sleep? There are pills for that. Overweight? Take another pill. Not eating right? Take more pills. No matter what the problem is, we repeatedly seek a simple solution. When it comes to Internet marketing, we often look for the easy way to make more money.
How we access the Internet is changing so rapidly. As we enter the post PC era (smart phones and tablet devices are exploding in popularity), Internet marketing strategies are also shifting. Many smaller hospitality businesses are looking for “easy” solutions to their complex online marketing needs. Unfortunately, “one size fits all” marketing solutions (in the form of template websites) almost always come with severe limitations. Fierce competition within the Internet marketing arena is proving that quick and easy online marketing tools are usually not all they claim to be.
In the late 1990’s, many hospitality businesses made the mistake of blindly trusting national and local directory companies. These directories provided “low cost” template websites that were owned by the directories themselves. The websites were specifically designed to benefit the directory companies, not the end users. The result for the individual businesses was they had no actual control over their marketing efforts and branding. When they left these directories, the business also lost their website content. Sadly, this pattern repeats itself with the advent of cloud-based websites and mobile template websites.
In a trend reminiscent of the late 1990’s, there are new companies that offer cloud-based content management system (CMS) website templates that you rent on a monthly basis. On the surface, these cloud-based CMS websites sound wonderful. Claims are made that CMS template websites are easy to setup. Further claims boast that traditional search engine optimization is not needed as these websites are “magically” built to rank higher in Google. The companies that provide these websites often offer “free” mobile websites and social media pages. Guess what? If the solution sounds too good to be true—it probably is!
The truth is these cloud-based “magic pill” CMS websites have no custom search engine optimization, regardless of what you are promised. It is a fact that un-optimized websites cannot out rank websites that have custom search engine optimization (SEO). Placing a few random keywords into the text is no substitute for real SEO. Template solutions simply fail to deliver meaningful SEO results. In addition, you will not be able to change major layout elements of the design.If you do select a template website option, add custom search engine optimization to it. Do not rely on a company’s “default” search engine optimization settings!
Some template websites also double as “mobile websites.” You simply click a setting and your regular template website is reformatted to look like a mobile website when viewed from a smart phone. The problem with this “solution” is that mobile searches have different SEO standards than regular website SEO standards. Instead, your mobile website should be custom built and have a different file name than your regular website, as in m.queenvictoria.com. Unless your mobile website is different from your regular website, you will suffer in Google’s mobile search algorithm. Google awards higher quality scores to mobile pay per click for websites that are specifically designed as mobile sites. “Imitation” mobile websites (regular websites just reformatted to display in mobile browsers) are still treated like regular websites in the eyes of Google. That’s no help when trying to improve your mobile search rankings.
Finally, if you leave the company that provides a template website, you will also lose your entire website presence. Sound familiar? Overall, magic pill web companies regularly mislead people as to what it takes to achieve successful Internet marketing. Their services often come with a hefty price tag, charging $300-$1,000 a month for these types of websites. In most cases, you are much better served to buy a reasonable custom CMS website and not pay any ongoing fees. Remember, while it may be cheaper up front to rent a website, you will actually end up paying more in the long run. Don’t be tempted to drink their “magic marketing” Kool-Aid. These solutions do not include meaningful SEO.
Another popular option for “magic pill” Internet marketing is to sign up for Groupon, Living Social, Jetsetter, Sniqueaway, or other travel deal website bargains. The formula behind these sites is to give away long-term margin to gain immediate revenue. The explosion in popularity of bargain websites has coincided with the economic decline over the past four years. These websites offer special deals to consumers who are looking for travel bargains. Not that these deals don’t work (they can generate quick revenue), but they can be very costly. If most hospitality businesses just spent a reasonable amount on monthly Internet marketing, they wouldn’t need to give away the farm on special deals. In most cases, it is just bad business to ignore everyday marketing, and then trying to make up for it with high cost special offers. Special offers only yield short-term revenue results. By focusing on the basics of SEO, you help your business increase ROI on a long-term basis.
One more common (and all the rage) offering is social media marketing. Pundits advise that after tapping into the power of Facebook and other social media sites, you will make so much money you won’t even need a website. If you study where the money comes from in the Internet marketing arena, social media revenue is woefully lacking compared to Google organic, Google PPC, and local directories. For every $100,000 that businesses make from Google, you will make peanuts from Facebook. All data is not created equal. Social media data is of limited use compared to data that drives purchase decisions. People rely on Google to make purchase decisions. Google is still the KING when it comes to making online revenue for most hospitality businesses. While social media marketing can work, especially for larger businesses and for restaurants, it often produces far less revenue, than it does hype for most hospitality businesses.
It should also be noted that even traditional search engine optimization and Internet marketing techniques are not a magic pill. Those who are desperate, or late adopters, should not expect instant results from adding SEO to their website. Those who hop from company to company will also suffer. Just like with most things, good things take time. Good results come from sound techniques and patience. Keep in mind that almost 80-90% of all websites are still poorly optimized. The truth is that most revenue comes from exploiting websites that are weaker than yours. If your website is well optimized, with sound link building, and a solid PPC setup, it will succeed in most cases. The formula for success hasn’t changed--take care of the basics, be patient, and revenue will follow.
So what works best for a successful Internet marketing strategy?
- First, own your hotel website, be in control of your content, and be able to make major changes quickly.
- Second, spend your money with digital marketing on your own website and not paying those who claim that they are all you need to succeed.
- Set a minimum monthly budget of $1,000 to $2,000 for Internet marketing and mobile marketing.
- Don’t settle for a template mobile website.
- Have a custom mobile design and mobile marketing strategy.
The one trend worth chasing today is mobile marketing. More people have smart phones in the world than own cars. Tablet use is growing extremely fast. Having a custom mobile website, and a custom mobile marketing strategy, which includes mobile PPC, is a MUST. Don’t cut corners by trying to make one size fit all your marketing needs.
It’s human nature to look for the easy way out. Being impatient, reaching for quick fixes, and failing to understand the basics of Internet marketing, is a recipe for IM failure. Conversely, taking care of the basics of SEO, having a dedicated mobile website and mobile marketing strategy, and selecting the right Internet marketing agency will ensure long term success. This sound advice will make you more money from your Internet marketing efforts in 2012.