Low traffic on your hotel’s website? Referrals are your friends!
Many hotels struggle to get traffic to their websites – whether it has just been launched, during a lower season or in a saturated market but you can always count on one strategy when you’re low on those session numbers: referral traffic.
What is referral traffic?
It’s all traffic coming into your website outside of the search engine. This includes other websites, social media, directories, e-mails, etc…
Why are referrals important?
Referrals are important for your website because they bring potential customers to your hotel website from other sites that probably have the same demographics and/or interests, and people trust referrals like a recommendation.
By analyzing your list of referrals, you can identify your clients’ interests. Knowing which site they are coming from allows you to understand the information they like to read and you can use this to optimize your content and its structure, to better connect with visitors and increase the chances of converting those visitors into guests. Furthermore, you’re not as dependent on people visiting OTAs first to find your website and boost traffic.
If a user comes to your hotel website from a referral, usually, they are already curious about your product/services, and they are coming from a recommendation they trust so they are more likely to book a room.
If you look at Figure 1 below, you can see the impact referral sessions can have on boosting duplicate sessions (users who have visited the website more than once). It is very clear that these referrals can truly change your monthly income as users will tend to be interested in your hotel, and booking a room.
But that’s not all! Referral traffic also has SEO benefits. When someone visits your website from another site they are potentially clicking on a link or completing some type of social activity (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc).
Google and other search engines consider these links and social signals as positive ranking factors, as long as they are coming from trusted websites, and give those pages rank, authority and visibility. This means you will have higher visibility on search engine rankings and your pages are given more authority as they get more popular.
How can I get referral traffic and from where?
1. Press and Influencers/Bloggers – Getting an article written about your hotel is already good press if generated by popular online newspapers/magazines or influencers/bloggers. Normally the second comes from an agreement with the hotel, so make sure that they provide a link to your hotel website in their article. Make sure it actually links to your website and not an OTA where your website is listed. You can work on other pages’ positioning by asking for your rooms or special offers page to be linked instead of your home page, if it already has good results;
2. Create Press Releases – Get great referrals by creating press releases when the hotel has changes and/or news that is worth promoting. The press release should include links to any relevant pages of the website. These should also be promoted through social media;
3. Work with PR Firms – Hotels should work with a PR firm to increase the visibility of press releases and news coverage. If a PR firm is out of your budget, you can work with major newswires to help you out with press distribution;
4. Produce linkable content – Linkable content that is shareable across websites and social media. This may be time-consuming but the links you can receive from people posting or re-sharing can really help your hotel’s brand name and SEO rankings;
5. Social Activity – You should have good content posted on social platforms regularly. Not only on your social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), but also on social forums. A good long-term social strategy goes a long way for your content to be “spread” on the internet. Content shared with these followers has a higher likelihood of being read, shared, and linked to and from other sites;
6. Show partnerships online – Contact your partners and propose online mutual cross-promotions by linking each other’s websites and recommending them;
7. Local Attractions and Businesses – Once again, the mutual sharing and promotion of websites comes in handy. One way this can be done is by suggestion the business to promote a “suggested accommodations” page on their site with a referral to your hotel. This is especially helpful for your SEO if the referral is from a site with .edu, .gov or .org as they have high authority on search engines. Try searching Google for “hospitality directory + cityname” or “business directory + cityname” (replace cityname with your hotel’s location) to obtain a list of directories to use;
8. Online Business Directories – Find online directories where your hotel can be registered. You can also contact your local tourism office to be included in their listings.
Finally, it’s important that you do not pay for these links and make sure they are placed in websites/platforms that are relevant to your industry/hotel otherwise search engines could penalize your positioning rather than improving it. For example, Forbes’ website was caught selling links to other websites and received a notification from Google to stop this as they were manipulating Google’s PageRank for different businesses. BMW and Newsday also suffered Google’s “wrath” in the past.
By maintaining a good referral strategy, with a long-term orientation you can really make a change in terms of online visibility, the amount of useful traffic your website receives and, ultimately, your most important metric: Room or Service reservations. Moreover, you are not dependent exclusively on OTAs to show your hotel website to the online world.
Junior Hotel Digital Marketer, GuestCentric