Category Archives: Hotels

Japan – u lu tu ra book ;)

Last week I attended the International Digital Forum in London. The IDF is a largely unknown but fantastically excellent gathering of internationalisation specialists, where typically some blue chip companies, as well as OBAN Multilingual will take the stage and talk about their efforts, their struggles and what they have learned from their attempts to either expand, or optimise their operations in various countries and foreign languages.

I almost never get enthusiastic about events. However, IDF seems to have managed to become an exception; one of the main reasons for my enthusiasm (and why I am definitely inviting my hotel clients for the October encore) is a combination of truly cutting-edge information on what is important in an international arena, and the immediacy and honesty of the speakers (this time it was OBAN, Fujitsu and Wiggle).

Unlike the “look-at-me” presentations that one gets to attend so often, the speakers were refreshingly honest about what they learned from each market. In fact the snippets of accumulated wisdom (usually on the back of entertaining misunderstandings) make IDF an event that is as much fun as one can have at work (at least without breaking some important rules). I basically cannot recommend it enough.

One of the most interesting and entertaining parts of the day was when the head of marketing at Wiggle spoke about their success in Japan, the truly intelligent and unique efficiencies in their operations (that clearly played a significant role in their enviable growth), but also the truly funny occasions where things didn’t go quite as planned.

As Far East languages are very often a central point in our discussions with our customers, I stayed after the event and spoke to some of OBAN’s managers about Japan…
I thought that this time round, instead of giving you the load-down of the details, I might as well just show you a small highlight of what I think was the main point: Cultural differences going beyond the language itself.

The example below shows how someone as well-equipped and proficient as  mighty INTEL understands that not all markets should be treated the same.

The link here, will open a new window that will show you INTEL’s advert of what they have coined as Ultrabook laptop computers (think MacBook Air, and you are there).

Now, the link here, will show you how INTEL had to slightly change this Western world advert to better connect to their Japanese audience…

Food for thought!

Best,

Yannis Anastasakis
CEO ehotelworks
www.ehotelworks.com
@ehoteworks

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Filed under Cultural Optimisation, eCommerce, Hotels, International, Marketing, Multilingual, People, Sales Strategies

A Greek Lesson

I think that one of the overwhelmingly consequential stories of 2011, was that of the Greek financial and social issues. The topic has been covered very thoroughly by the world media, so I am guessing that just like me, you will have mixed emotions about my fellow countrymen as a whole.

On the one hand, the irregularities (ranging anywhere from innocent mistakes all the way to blatant stealing – from both Europe, but also from the poor to give to the rich) have happened within the country itself. Unquestionably it has been the Greeks making their own bed (albeit messing up everyone else’s as a result) and that apportions blame squarely and wholly somewhere within the country.

On the other hand, under several very misguided and very unfair governments for almost 30 years now, it is typically the “non-thieving” hard-working type of Greek (majority) that is paying a very disproportionate price for all the irregularities that went on. Which is also hard to forget…

To use some culinary parallels to explain my views: whatever your position on the matter, I believe that the whole mess can be boiled down to a few key ingredients that have been cooked by certain people (from what in Greece is now called “the elite”) for almost three decades; unfortunately these were the same people that also happened to be in control of the books which were also thoroughly cooked.

From these few ingredients, the one that is very easily underestimated is complacency. And in my experience complacency is a very contagious disease.

“The Greek physics law of Inertia” – AKA the Greek version of “mañana”

The one thing for which I will dare to “throw a stone” to my countrymen is that us Greeks are pretty much governed by some cultural imperative, similar to the physics law describing inertia. When we aren’t doing anything, we are very likely to maintain our state and continue not doing much. (Incidentally, although much more rarely, the opposite also applies: when we somehow find ourselves in motion, we can find it difficult to stop). All this can make us relaxed company and great party friends, but in business it can be a disadvantage…

During the autumn of 2007, when our BABEL Multilingual product was still in its infancy, I was starting talking to hotels about multilingual versions of their websites, and international marketing packages. Knowing that Greece attracts people speaking foreign languages in their millions every year, I did some research in new hotels in the country that were more likely to use and benefit from our services.

Amongst many potentials, I remember finding a wonderful candidate. It was a five star property with some 450 rooms, in a prime location in Crete, near an airport (but far enough) and by a superb sandy beach. The hotel was independently owned, and only on the second year of its operation – which to me it meant that there would normally be a lot of room for growth of business. To cut a long story short, this property’s vital statistics made them an excellent candidate. According to my guestimations at the time, they could find themselves generating some pretty impressive profits within the first season of using us. I couldn’t wait to talk to them..

Unfortunately, my initial enthusiasm quickly evaporated by the hotel’s lack of a booking engine on their website. In fact, there was no way to make a reservation at that hotel, other than calling them, or emailing them and hoping for the best. Obviously there is very little point in pursuing, finding and getting visitors to your website from abroad if you don’t have a way to convert them to customers!

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the issue of booking engines, I should briefly highlight here that for such a property having a booking engine is an absolute necessity. I don’t want to send anyone to sleep talking about a the different pricing models of agencies and the comparative costs; so let’s just say that in a country like Greece, a decent-sized independent hotel of this type on its second year of operation, would easily pay the equivalent of 30% for a reservation in commissions to all manner of agencies. Forgetting about the numerous benefits that further enhance the argument and necessity for a booking engine, I will just mention that when someone books a hotel on the hotel’s own website, the commission costs for that hotel would drop to anywhere between one and five per cent. It is relevant to mention here that agencies already squeeze hotels as much as they can, and as hotels have costs associated with servicing a room, bookings over the hotel’s own website represent a staggering benefit in  profit levels – a 25% reduction in commission payments could be very nearly the entire profit on a room sold!

So why on earth would anyone not have a booking engine – I hear you ask. I didn’t know either and I was too curious to let this go, so I decided to find out. I picked up the phone, got through to the General Manager, and basically asked the question.

Well, someone would have to manage it..” – came the answer.

[What? As opposed to bookings from agencies that are OK to be left unmanaged?!!]

I was shocked. That was a prime example of (these days already hard to find) old-style Greek public-sector complacency having permeated the private sector. Of all the people to show such lack of interest in the hotel’s well being, to hear such a blatant statement of laziness from a General Manager… To me, that was just wrong.

A year after this conversation took place, the financial world imploded. Today travel agents control the business for that hotel (and so many other hotels like it) and have forced the General Manager to drop her prices and increase the commission she pays to them. The owners were probably far too removed from the day-to-day decisions to identify the missed opportunity, and have now fully blamed the Greek corrupt elite for their misfortunes. Complacency and lack of understanding are a poisonous mixture for a business.

Following that incident (and a few more like it), and seeing the  suffering of Greek hotels in these trying times for Greece, I have quickly developed a strong aversion to complacency. It is therefore with considerable worry that I share with you my suspicion that this affinity to a “mañana” approach to life is not entirely alien to Britons either…

Having worked with hotels from all over the world [and aware that I have no other evidence than our own contacts with the markets (hardly a statistically acceptable sample)] I would suggest that British hoteliers are on average less keen to move forward with international marketing than their international counterparts.

Despite us being a firmly UK based company, today only 23% of our clients are located in the UK – the rest are based pretty much everywhere else around the world. The hoteliers around the world to whom we sell our services seem to be much more aware that hoteliers sell to travellers and that these days travellers don’t come from the hotel’s neighbourhood, and they don’t always speak the neighbourhood’s language.

Looking at the flickering lights of the world economy today, I am strongly advising hoteliers to go after international business even if they do well domestically. Every incremental demand point is of benefit not only to the hotel’s pricing and yielding flexibility. It is also another point of safety in an unsafe world.

If the pessimists of this world are correct, there is a lot of pressure for everyone in the not too distant future, and it will be only those who are prepared that will stand a chance to thrive.

Thank you for reading,

Yannis Anastasakis

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Filed under eCommerce, Hotels, International, Marketing, Multilingual, Return On Investment, Sales Strategies

China is now the world’s largest smartphone market

Recently, I have been asked by sevearal hoteliers to build Chinese versions of their websites.

Given our rather unusual performance-related payment model, I have been doing some digging around, to find out more on the potential of growth from that particular market. A few days of research, and a visit to the excellent 1st International Digital Forum, I am delighted to report that it is mostly impressive news.

I was prompted to write about the Chinese market when the BBC reported yesterday that the Chinese smartphone market finally caught up, and even overtook (by some 1 million devices sold) the USA market last quarter. This is obviously a significant milestone, and one to which we should be paying attention. The smartphone market is both extremely young, extremely fast growing and extremely significant in every measurable way. For many, it represents the future of not only computing, but the internet as well. And that means the Western world is left in an “interesting” place…

When Neil Mawston, Executive Director of Strategy Analytics, was asked to comment on the news that the smartphone market of China is now bigger than that of the US, he said:

“China has become a large and growing market that no hardware vendor, component maker or content developer can afford to ignore”.

Source: BBC.co.uk

If hoteliers are to compete for internet business from China, they have to roll up their sleeves and get to work!

The internet for the Chinese people is dominated by a company called Baidu – pretty much as Google and Facebook dominate the markets here. Given the size of the internet market over there, and the pace of growth of Baidu (in multiple markets), one cannot conceive to look at the Chinese audiences without looking at what Baidu does.

The company has been on the news a lot lately. It launched back in September Baidu Yi – its own version of mobile operating system (like Google has Android over here), which will do everything that Android does, with some nice iPhone iOS-like add-ons. Also, Baidu has also just announced its partnership with Dell, for Dell to run Baidu Yi on their mobile devices sold in China.

Looking a little further, we see Alibaba (one of the world’s biggest internet conglomerates) launching its own mobile OS in Chinese, found on their own K-Touch mobile smartphone, whilst every other mobile phone provider is making up their minds on how to enter the market.

In fact, only two days ago the US Agriculture secretary visited China to boost trade agreements between the two countries, and Japan announced the merger of its Osaka and Tokyo exchanges in a bid to compete with China.

It seems to me that everyone knows where growth is set to take place. The importance of the Chinese market is now more prevalent than ever, and the trend will not be changing any time soon. Whilst most of the western international markets are at a plateau – or even spectacularly declining (like the economy of my home-country), the words “boom”,”growth” and “development” seem to be permanently associated with the extraordinary economy of China.

The “leap” from a growing economy of billions of inhabitants to a source market that potentially generates additional travellers to our hotels does not require a particularly strong imagination. Where there is boom, there is money; and where there is money, there is a potential source market.

With travel restrictions having been greatly lifted, the Chinese are now allowed to book their flights and accommodation pretty much as the rest of us do. Hence, there is a growing potential in this vast, exploding source market. Although traditions and habits will probably need some time before they start tentatively changing, a tentative change in the Chinese travel patterns, is a tsunami of change for the rest of us.

Every additional 1% of the Chinese people that book their holidays or business trips over here, will represent 14 million additional travellers. That is very nearly one Chinese person for every international tourist that has visited London in 2010!

This is the time for hoteliers to look East and see an opportunity for growth. It is for that reason that I currently strongly suggest to all my clients to consider not only building a new website in Chinese; I also prompt them to ensure they are working with a booking engine that has embraced the mobile internet space – preferably through an app-like booking environment.

With thanks for reading,

Yannis Anastasakis
CEO
BABEL Multilingual

——

If you are interested in seeing some examples of our work in Chinese website re-building, please just visit us here.

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Filed under Cultural Optimisation, eCommerce, Hotels, International, Marketing, Multilingual, Search Engine Optimisation

New Babel Multilingual Product designed to help hotels go to the world

After a lot of discussions, test, design and re-design, the two teams that have the understanding and resources to make a truly exciting and excellent product happen, have finally done it. I am delighted to announce that BABEL Multilingual, the new form of international e-commerce marketing for hotels, is now available for hoteliers to get… and if the conditions are right, we will do this for FREE… well, almost!

Almost a decade ago, when I first met with the guys from OBAN in a presentation they did at the Sussex Innovation Centre, I had one of these light-bulb moments. Whilst the rest of us were battling to convince hotels that spending some money with Google for some track-able advertising was a good idea (again, this was a decade ago and the market was very, very different) OBAN were talking to their blue chip clients about the end game. Proper internationalisation projects where everything is done on a per country basis, with thorough and creative local research techniques that would help identify what the search engine AND cultural requirements of each country were, and use all this information for home-grown websites, talking to each customer in his or her language, from within his or her country… why hadn’t I thought of that??!

OBAN and I hit it off right away. These guys were wondering why they had such success with global giants around the world (think BMW, governments and tourism departments of Holland, Spain, Abu Dhabi etc.), yet when it came to hotels, there seemed to be some barriers… We looked at it back then, and we pretty quickly figured it out. The level of sophistication required for boldly investing some serious money to gain a well-worth it international presence, seemed to be firmly in the court of the large chains – those with international presence in the first place. Any single hotel or small chain, which would typically invest under 10K a year on their entire website effort for their .com and .co.uk versions were very unlikely to invest with such commitment…

I immediately knew there was a gap in the market there… hotels are natural targets for foreign customers. And searches from other countries, in other languages will always yield… well… “other” results. An international version of a hotel’s website, living and growing within the target (source) country HAS to be a good thing to have. And having it sooner rather than later, HAS to be a good thing, as age is generally a factor that helps you with your organic listings extremely significantly. I know that if a hotel places a .de version of their website properly in Germany, they will have what is called “early entrant benefits” for many years to come.

There was definitely an opportunity there… Fast forward to today, and I am delighted to say that I genuinely believe we have come up with the answer.

How does it all work?

  • BABEL is a product where we take the hotel’s website and we re-construct it – using OBAN‘s awesome services – in foreign languages and for a foreign audience.
  • First we look at each hotel individually in terms of price, style and location. We then make a call on where we think there is an opportunity for them internationally (given existing AND projected international tourism trends).
  • Then we send the guys at OBAN‘s various international offices the hotel’s existing URL, and we ask them to evaluate if the website will work in that market.
  • Each of the international offices will then re-construct the website from within that country to match both the online behaviour of the guests (e.g. the terms they are using to find a hotel) but also their cultural requirements (I always have fun explaining to hoteliers why their website is going to be having slightly different colours for a Chinese version..).
  • The hotels typically approve any suggested changes right away and we crack on with buying the correct URLs, hosting a site locally (or simulating local hosting – depending on the market) and then fine-tuning the text.
  • We then get the booking engine sorted. Pre, post and confirmation e-mails – as well as modification and cancellation confirmations are translated alongside with room and hotel descriptions. The entire experience has to be strictly seamless.
  • We finally launch and we generate traffic and reservations from these countries.. and there is the kick. A hotel typically won’t have paid anything until that point. They are only asked to pay a commission on the value of the reservation, once the reservations start going through, and only for a period of time. When we have been paid for our work, the then established and well producing sites are returned to the hotels and the reservations from abroad become free!

The real excitement for me is that this has never been done before. Hotels paying on a CPA basis for an established, thorough and otherwise very expensive multilingual expansion and localisation service is a completely new thing – and seeing it move from a glint in my eye a few years ago to a real, working concept that generated revenues for the hotels – where they didn’t have anything before – is just extremely rewarding!

With thanks for reading – and don’t be shy to give us your feedback and thoughts.

Yannis Anastasakis
www.ehotelworks.com

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Filed under Conversions, eCommerce, Hotels, International, Multilingual, Search Engine Optimisation

The Arch Hotel in London now speaks fluent German

We are delighted to announce that eHotelworks have now created a truly exciting opportunity for one of its newest hotel clients, The Arch Hotel in London.

The Arch Hotel London .de

The Arch Hotel now speaks very fluent German, and can be found in Germany

The Arch is no ordinary hotel. 88 wonderful rooms, excellent public spaces and meeting rooms, and a genuinely impressive record of looking after guests. With the property being open for just over a year now, the Trip Advisor reviews are placing it firmly on the top of London’s elite hotels.

Earlier this year, the Arch joined eHotelworks in being part of BABEL Multilingual, a revolutionary opportunity for a select list of hotels to compete with online travel agencies for reservations from abroad coming directly to their own website.

Yannis Anastasakis, eHotelworks’ CEO, commenting on this opportunity said:

Unlike every other translation that you see hotels undertake, this property had the chance to get its first international language created through our BABEL Multilingual solution. That definitely means no ordinary translations! Using Oban Multilingual‘s extensive experience in cross-country on-line traffic and in creating content and designs that are both search engine and culturally optimised, TheArchLondon.de is enjoying a locally-focused presence in Germany, and is already well on its way in getting significant international exposure for the hotel.

Through the Babel Multilingual product, the Arch had its current official website re-built – rather than translated. Respecting the look and feel of the original pages, the content of the English pages was re-created from scratch to match the terms that German people use when searching online.

The end result is that the new website was made to be search engine friendly – which brings more visitors – but also consistent with the online habits of German visitors. With the right kind of promotion in Google.de, the Arch will have a great opportunity to compete directly with the likes of Hotels.de, and LastMinute.de – who so far had very little online competition from independent hotels for cross-country traffic.”

The Arch Hotel London's German Website

Possibly the most exciting element of the Babel Multilingual product, is that hotels receive the service of their international page re-construction without any up-front costs.

Uniquely, eHotelworks offers the entire range of content and url research, website hosting, website re-construction, cultural optimisation and localisation on a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) basis. Hotels are charged a commission on incremental reservations only when the international websites have generated reservations for the hotels.

To find out more about potentially getting your hotel’s website re-constructed without up-front costs, you can contact us here.

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What I wish my iPhone could (and will) do

The future is not impossible to predict. A quick look at where influencing technologies are heading is usually the recommended first step in any effort to unlock its secrets. And there are no examples of obvious future trends that are as vivid, (or as appealing to a technophile such as myself) as those coming from Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch new operating system.

The iPhone OS3 doesn't seem like much, but it WILL change the way we do business

The iPhone OS3 doesnt' look so different.. but the hidden tricks, and most of all the open communications protocol it offers, will change the way customers interact with you.

The iPhone is a peculiarly ignored medium for reservations and guest interaction; and almost never seen as a different segment in internet business segmentation – even from the most aggressive and methodic specialists. Possibly a slightly uncomfortable subject for CRS firms (who usually educate on what they can deliver and forget to talk about the stuff they can’t do) even the most obvious features of the trend-setting platform (because that is exactly what it is) are frequently ignored. Look around (on the net) and see the signs.

There are many examples of full Flash websites without an html alternative… which will not work on an iPhone, making the expensive choice of full Flash design less high-end than what it might have looked on paper… (and don’t expect any great improvement with Microsoft’s Silverlight technology either)

With the new iPhone and iPod Touch related developments around the corner, there is a lot more that is coming our way that should worry us. A lot more than just presentation and usability of our website on such a great demographic (who do you think can afford an iPhone?).

Alarm bells starter ringing about a month ago when Apple invited developers (people that write applications for its Apple Store) to talk to them about the tools that it is now giving them for the next operating system (3.0) for the iPhones and Touch iPods. In their presentation (tailored to the less technically minded person – so don’t be shy if you don’t know your class from your object, and do watch it here) they didn’t fail to point out that their market is just superb. And growing really, really fast.

A few facts of interest:

In less than two years, a completely new and different – and in most places rather very expensive – phone is being sold to over 80 countries around the world.

Just in the 12 months of 2008, Apple sold 13.7 million (yes, million) iPhones and another 16.5 million iPod Touch units. That is a combined 30 million units (did I mention these things don’t come cheap?).

If you are not already getting interested in the size of this market, maybe I should mention that there is over 50 thousand individuals and companies working to produce independent applications for these two machines.

And today, there are well over 25 thousand applications for it.

And over a billion (yes, billion) downloads that have taken place by iPhone and iPod touch owners by the end of last month (in about 8 months since the shop where you can buy them went live).

Given that the iPhone is invariably one of the most expensive phones to buy (yes, I know I mentioned this before, but it is important enough) there is probably a lot of mileage in the demographics behind it. I don’t think there is data for it, but I suspect that in their majority, people that have an iPhone also have money to buy a hotel roomnight somewhere. And that makes them oh, so very interesting to us…

So we know that this technology is here to stay, and we know which way it is going to go (from the presentation Apple did, telling us all about it). And in my personal view, there are a few interesting factors that will make this market an arena for differentiation and profit of those of us that find the means to tackle it early.

The main changes are:

  • iPhone will now allow in-application purchase.
  • It will allow for push technology to be taken advantage of, and
  • peer to peer over Bluetooth is going to be supported.
  • Stereo Bluetooth is going to be supported, and
  • maps can be widely used by everyone who is writing an application for the iPhone.

All in all, if successfully implemented, the way that we interact and relate to our customers has just been opened up to endless possibilities for dramatic, and really cool changes.

In-application purchase means that if you are making a booking over your iPhone through an “App” dedicated to the job, you don’t need to browse a hotel’s website in order to buy add-ons. And third parties with their technology and budget requirements fulfilled, (companies like Expedia and Travelocity, but also hotel chains and representation companies) will be able to offer add-ons dynamically, at any stage of the booking (before or after) and without giving their app customers any extra work to do in the process. In fact, it should be easier for the consumer to be offered and to buy add-ons over the phone, rather than on his or her computer. Naturally, these add-ons can also be free, allowing for post booking customisation of the stay (something not dissimilar to what BA does with their offering to their customers the ability to choose their seats and set meal preferences. Not dissimilar at all in fact – just much, much, much cheaper to develop).

Push technology means that a firm with an app handling the booking on the customer’s phone, can now send messages to its customer without needing to know their mobile number (although consumer permissions will be needed at some stage – so I suspect a new process of licensing will be introduced in the app purchase process). So, in our example of a hotel chain, if the reservation happens through an app, it is easy for the hotel to send all sorts of interesting stuff (calendar notes, location pins, important news etc.) to the consumer – without the need for anyone to be reading e-mails, or agreeing to being sent texts (that are both expensive for the sender, and apparently massively annoying for the consumer). No resistance in “pushing” messages to consumers is in itself a huge subject, but it should suffice to say here that we expect it to provide a new channel to consumers’ mobile phones. Consumers that would otherwise decline receiving that message (at least through text) are now going to seek them..!

Bluetooth peer to peer – using Apple’s brilliant Bonjour – could mean that when a customer is in range, the iPhone can register them with reception, and even receive a key to open the Bluetooth enabled or docking port equipped door of their room.

When in the room, the customer won’t even have to take the earphones off to listen to the TV (thanks to Bluetooth Stereo). The customer could in fact use the iPhone to control every electronic item in the room, from a specially adapted interface for the lights, to radio clocks, to channels on the TV, to ordering room service or booking a table without talking to anyone. Even feedback can be given on the spot – giving you a greater chance to fix the problem before you read about it on TripAdvisor!

Sounds like science fiction? It shouldn’t. Because the hardware is here, and the platform on which the required software (Apps) can be developed is here. The only thing that is needed at this stage is time for the development and the market forces to kick in. And yes, initially these services will be offered separately – one imagines that it will all have to progress from one App per service; customers will have to dock their phones rather than working with them wirelessly. But things will move on and improve as hotel chains will start standardising their software.

So the future looks bright… bright, apple shaped, on a back-lit touch screen hand-held with automatic dimming and a platform that – barring minor annoyances – is better than all of the rest of them.

Yannis Anastasakis

eHotelworks

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An SEO guide to blind dating

I was reading a really amusing article the other day, which was explaining the similarities of link-building with picking up girls in a bar! Beyond the obvious entertainment value – and the obviously interesting advice on picking up girls – the article interested me because it spoke volumes about a typical webmaster’s approach to SEO efforts – and consequently the approach of organisations. It firmly reminded me that there is no business like hotel business, and this is particularly obvious when it comes to hotel website search engine optimisation.

Getting off-line relationships to online benefits

Getting off line relationships into online benefits is actually easy if you are a hotelier

I know you can easily look for the term on Wikipedia, but I thought I should do the polite thing and give you a very quick definition – which should save you reading through multiple paragraphs.

Link building is the process of getting as many in-bound links to your website as possible.

Why people bother with it? Because this is one of the most efficient ways of having your website coming up higher in search engines when someone is looking for somewhere to stay in your area. (I hope you are not missing the irony here. The more it is easy for your website to be found without the use of search engines – because it has links to it from many websites out there – the more search engines will make sure you are easily found through their own listings).

There are obviously many ways to build links. You can buy them (either in the form of advertising or simply as a listing), you can agree to place reciprocal links with a partner company (so you get one from their website and in return they get one from yours), or you can do something clever, like publish a really amusing blog that will be copied by many companies and individuals on their website (the internet world can be remarkably polite like that). My favourite, and the most elusive way to build inbound links is to achieve a PR feat (e.g. get someone famous to do something noteworthy in you hotel) which means that a lot of people will write about you, and hopefully will provide links to your website as well.

So, campaigning to get reciprocal links was the subject of the article in question, and the advice was focused on what you and I would call fist-impression sales tips; all about making the right moves and sending the right signals. And it was generally good advice…mostly.

Don’t overdress or under-dress, don’t use corny lines (equivalent of “did it hurt when you fell from heaven” is – apparently – completely out of the question, but then again can you imagine someone saying anything equivalent on a cold-call and not being arrested?) and even “play it disinterested” (it is completely beyond me how you can go and speak to a girl in a bar and then pretending to not be interested in her – but then again I am by far no expert on the subject).

The very interesting detail? This was an article written by a webmaster and addressed

to other webmasters. And that is where it all gets a little worrying.

Beyond the innocent, and well timed tongue-in-cheek approach, the article confirmed the inevitability of lost opportunity from applying general SEO principles to our industry. Because even the sharpest webmaster out there will miss the bigger, better picture of “doing it right”. A hotel company with its staff working in synch, taking advantages of the existing skill-set and focusing at becoming efficient in getting business to grow from all channels should not have IT people doing sales calls (because that is exactly what link-building calls are).

This is an important area for growth, and it should be treated as such by allocating the most skilled people to work on it. And I am probably stating the obvious but there is no better person than a sales person to do a cold call. Even if your webmaster is exceptional in his interpersonal and social skills, in this world you can’t buy experience. Just like you don’t want your accountant to take reservations however quickly they learn (which, incidentally, is the equivalent of letting your PMS company power your web booking engine), you also don’t want your IT manager to do your sales. Not because t

hey wouldn’t be able to deliver, but because they are going to miss opportunities and because they are going to create opportunity costs (quite frankly they should definitely have better things to do).

When your sales representative is visiting a local company to discuss a contract, or if they are on a maintenance sales call, they could easily suggest a firming up of the relationships by establishing a reciprocal link. They will be coming back with positive answers at least as much as they will do with negative ones, and as far as links go, you could do much worse on the quality front. Links with corporate accounts’ websites will be there for a long time (at the very least for the duration of your rate agreement). And this is a link from a company that will most likely have a high-value website (as companies with travel policies tend to be larger an better recognised names, with decent presence on the web).

In conclusion, please don’t rely on your webmaster’s charm to build links – however elegant personality they may have. They might be fabulous at picking up girls from a pub but they are very unlikely to be your best producers in terms of effort vs. results.*

Yannis Anastasakis

eHotelworks

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Filed under eCommerce, Hotels, Link Building, Sales Strategies, Search Engine Optimisation