Category Archives: Boutique Hotels


Website marketing for boutique hotels

Does my hotel website even need to run PPC? In short, yes.

Our cannibalization between SEO & PPC.

Blog contribution from BLLA Inner Circle Club member, VIZERGY (Written by Bill Jefferson)

When running a paid campaign (as in pay-per-click advertising, or PPC), Vizergy often bids on terms that we rank well for naturally (from our search engine optimization, or SEO, efforts), and we may lose some natural traffic to paid traffic.  This phenomenon is referred to as “cannibalization.”  Because of this, some of our clients feel strongly that bidding on brand terms and terms they already rank naturally for is unnecessary.  But we’d like to dispel this notion.

What We Wanted to Know

Assumption: We don’t need to bid on brand terms (my hotel name) because someone looking for my hotel will find me anyway.

Proposal: Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are bidding on your brand, so someone looking for your hotel may end up on the OTA website instead of your website. The best case scenario here would be that the shopper still books with your hotel, but it would be through the OTA, so you’re forced to pay a commission.  Worst case scenario, the shopper sees a better deal with another hotel on the OTA and doesn’t book with you at all.

70 % of people don’t know where they want to go when first looking into booking a trip. Source: Google/Ipsos MediaCT US, August 2013

Assumption: Bidding on terms that we already rank for in natural search is a waste of money.


  • Natural rankings can drop and fluctuate from time to time.  Then where will you be?
  • You aren’t the only hotel ranking in natural search, and paid search gives you more real estate on search engine results pages. The more real estate the better.

But instead of just telling you facts, we decided to test it.

What We Did

We picked a fairly new client, and with their permission, paused their paid campaign.  We didn’t look at any traffic data from before we paused the campaigns; we wanted to start fresh (and we didn’t want to get cold feet if/when we saw the traffic drop).

To prepare for the test, we allowed two weeks with no paid campaigns running while we built very specific campaigns.  The data collected in those two weeks provided a baseline – no paid traffic, all natural traffic.

We built one brand paid campaign and one non-brand paid campaign to run, and the non-brand campaign contained only high-traffic phrases (exact match) for which we ranked very high in natural search.

Part 1 – Running Non-Brand Terms Only in PPC

Running Non-Brand Terms Only in PPCAfter the two-week period of running no PPC ads to establish a baseline, we launched the non-brand campaign and let it run for two weeks.

We saw pretty much what we expected.  On average, the natural traffic went down a little over 3%, while the PPC campaign added almost 12% to our overall traffic.  Very impressive, considering the relatively low number of phrases for which we were bidding.

Part 2 – Running Brand Terms Only in PPC

Running Brand Terms Only in PPCWe then paused the non-brand campaign and waited a week to launch the brand campaign, to get back to the baseline. We then ran the brand campaign for two weeks. The results of Part 2 of the test surprised us greatly.  Any difference in natural traffic was negligible when compared to the baseline, but PPC added over 8% to the overall traffic.  After the two weeks, we paused the brand campaign for a week and then ran it again for a week, just to double check.  We saw the same results.

The Outcome

Google Carousel Search - Hotels in Atlanta Ga Bidding on brand appeared to take almost nothing away from natural search, while adding significant numbers to overall website traffic.  So we started digging into why this might be.

The culprit turned out to be a combination of the Google Carousel and OTAs.

What we found was, when a shopper does a non-brand search (like “hotels in Atlanta”), the hotel appears in the Google Carousel.  When the shopper clicks that listing, instead of being taken to the hotel website or Google+ listing, Google automatically does a SECOND SEARCH.  This second search automatically runs a brand search for the hotel and serves up another page of results where paid ads for the hotel are listed at the top of the page (the way paid ads are always displayed).  The result is Google has added an extra step in the natural search process that increases the likelihood that a user will click on a paid ad to get to your website, rather than a natural search result.

We knew this is how the Carousel has operated since day one, but what we didn’t realize was how many OTAs were bidding on our clients’ brand names.  Many even had ads that appeared, to the average searcher, to be an ad for the brand itself, not an OTA.  By not bidding on brand terms in Part 1 of the test, we were losing a lot of traffic that originated from a non-brand search.

Google Carousel - Second Search

Spending a few days spot-checking, we found this to be the case for all of our franchised (Marriott, Hyatt, etc.) clients and many of our independent clients.

What This Means for Hotels

Vizergy Pie Chart - Visits by Channel in 2014For hotels (especially franchise properties), bidding on brand terms and phrases is now doubly important because, thanks to the Carousel, brand searches can now originate (and often do) from non-brand shopping phrases. Your property brand terms have become one of the least expensive advertising channels, yet the most valuable. By not investing in paid search ads hotels can risk missing out on both natural and paid search traffic to their independent website. If an OTA has paid search advertisements on your brand name, and an online travel shopper clicks on the Google Carousel opposed to the search results, then that shopper is directed to the OTA instead of going to your property. The result is the shopper being more likely to book with the OTA and your property could potentially lose the entire booking. And with OTAs bidding on your brand… don’t you think you should too?

How To Build An Emotional Connection Through Social Media For Your Hotel

Guest blog post by Cierra Savatgy-King of Pigtail Media, relationship-based, social media marketing for the hospitality industry.

Made them feel quoteThere was a recurring topic at the Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium a few weeks ago: the experience doesn’t begin when your guests walk in your hotel lobby, it starts digitally.

How does a hotel build an emotional experience through digital connections on a computer where you can’t hear, smell or feel? Just like any boutique hotelier can agree, the tiny details make a difference in how you can make someone feel. Let’s take that idea and think digitally about it:

Find “emotional connections” or “emotional touch-points” on the hotel property 
Hoteliers are the first to understand that guests connect with details of your hotel and that is what they remember. Make sure your social media marketing team is doing its due diligence and asking what your staff is witnessing everyday; what do most people talk about? What do most people notice when they walk in hotel doors? What do people chat about positivity on online travel agencies? These answers can be a great base for discovering what focus will bring an emotional connection over social media. 

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This above photo (left) is a great example of how you can take a simple photo paired with a creative caption and ignite a memory of what your experience is like. The photo on the right is a great example of listening to what your guests are asking about during their experience and bringing it online to keep them connected.

Find your voice and tone
Before posting anything on social media, it’s imperative to determine your brand voice and tone the accounts will emit. Come to a conclusion (and build a plan) with your social media team that solidifies the voice and tone in every single post. Be sure that it is aligned with how your staff engages with the guests everyday.

It’s not always easy finding ways to portray a feeling in 140 characters or less. A great exercise is to hold a brainstorming session with your social media team where you group together a piece of content (something you want to post) and the emotion you want someone to experience. Then work together to determine the exact chosen phrasing you would use accomplish that. Capturing those examples for future reference and going through this exercise helps the entire team stay extremely focused on providing the experiences on social mediums.

Here’s an example of how the same type of content post (a Happy New Year post) coming from two different brands with very different targets, can make someone feel completely different just by the chosen phrasing.

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Responding to comments and questions
How does your staff manage negative comments in person? Are there certain processes set in place for specific questions to quickly be delivered to the manager able to answer? What about questions that are frequently asked, positive and negative?

You’ll want to have your social media team or individual sit down with your customer service management team to determine how to answer frequently asked questions and the appropriate way to answer them. It’s also imperative to build a process for those unique questions or situations so that the team managing your social media presence knows exactly who to contact to receive a perfect answer that stays brand centric. That efficient process can mean the difference between an unhappy customer going viral, to a customer who feels acknowledged.

Create photos and videos that showcase your hotel
There is no better way to transport someone through sight and sound. Showcasing your hotel through photos and videos that capture elements that bring “emotional connection” (See above) can invite people to envision the experience.

For example, if you’ve ever been to Jackson Hole, you know that a moose sighting is quite the experience. Guests frequently share photos on social media when a moose is seen out their window. The Rustic Inn (above) does a great job capturing this experience and bringing it online for those wishing to be there.

Whatever you share, always remember that you are making someone feel something: let it be the emotional connection that your hotel provides… and let social media be an arm that grabs them from afar. 

About the Author: Cierra Savatgy-King is founder of Pigtail Media, relationship-based, social media marketing for the hospitality industry, including hotels & boutique hotels, tourism & travel, dining, entertainment, and music. You can follower her on Twitter at @CierraJesperson.

Life and all it holds for us in this industry

I have been remiss in keeping up with this Blog.  No excuses, so here I/we are again to talk about life.

What brought me to talking about life was an email from one of my staff about the passing of a leader in travel and tourism who I have known since my first day working in the industry with Carlson Travel.

Michelle Morgan, CEO at Signature Travel, worked tirelessly over so many years in the industry and made a terrific number of contributions to travel agents and suppliers to travel and tourism.  I remember her brilliance at Carlson with fond memories.  She was always so creative and so committed to whatever project she was working on.

We always hope, through our careers, that someone will notice the good that we are doing and hope that we can achieve this recognition during our time alive on earth.   Personally, I know so many people in our industry who give of themselves, of their capital and of their heart to helping others.

I make it a goal to ensure they are not forgotten and are celebrated in some way during their lives.  If you know of someone who deserves to be celebrated, you may email me for recognition here or enter them into our AWARDS for Person of the Year, or Hotelier of the Year.  Here is the link:



Frances Kiradjian
Founder and Chairwoman

Passionate hotel owners (BLLA Video)

There is nothing like coming into contact with an independent hotel owner in the boutique, lifestyle or luxury category.

Their passion shows in their eyes, in their every movement and in just about everything they do online or off.

Why is that?

Basically, they are on their own, making decisions about everything including what/where/when & why. Their sounding board is either themselves, trusted friends and family or consultants and business associates they choose to work with.

They get into the business and some become passionate only after they’ve opened the hotel and see first-hand their vision come to life.  “It’s like birthing a baby,” says Tim Dixon, owner of the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee.  The heart and soul of these properties mostly are tied into an owner, even if the hired designers and architects take a lead position.  They don’t have a rule-book with strict policies and procedures to follow.  They are the P&P’s at the end of the day.

On their own — reminds me of the ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) tagline “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own!” In today’s world of traveling, it’s kind of nice to have someone backing you up in case you need help or advice or just a sounding board to help you make the right decision so you aren’t floating around out there without a safety net, wasting both time and money, and with so many choices online, this is not hard to do!

For boutique & lifestyle hotels, they also need that back-up, that sounding board, that one place to find experts and relevant information to help them through the thick and the thin of hospitality ownership in this special category.

That’s where BLLA comes in. The association’s mission is to raise the awareness of boutique & lifestyle properties everywhere on earth. Not an easy task. But one that is becoming more and more urgent and necessary. With new global property owners joining everyday, the larger number of members will mean that our voice gets louder and louder.

No matter who you are, if you believe in our mission, come join us today.