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Book Direct Strategies – The Real Threat – Mirror Marketing

So I bet if I ask you what your main concerns are when battling the OTA’s there would be two responses –

  1. the level of commission
  2. the strangle hold of rate parity

Well I kid you not… you have actually more to worry about. Let me point it out – in the small print I mean…

Mirror Marketing – the fancy term for bidding on your name on the search engines. Yep, you know the way these pesky OTA’s always seem to appear above you on Google when you search for your own hotel brand name – that is Mirror Marketing.

Screenshot 2016-06-28 10.32.02

(the search term here entered into Google was ‘Ritz Hotel London’)

So right above your own brand name, the OTA’s are claiming that top spot. And guess what, not all our customers realise that they are not on your own site and are in fact being pushed off somewhere else.

I recently conducted a survey in a fantastic 4 star resort hotel.  Every guest who booked through an OTA was identified before check-in and asked (politely of course) on arrival, why they had chosen to book online with another online provider and not with the hotel directly.  Overwhelmingly most guests confirmed that they didn’t even realise that they were not on the hotel’s own website.

Now that may seem crazy to us, but don’t forget, the link the OTA’s are using with our hotel name at the end, takes a customer right though to information and availability on that specific hotel and NOT a search page with multiple hotels.  So it could be within the realms of possibility that a lot of these people – if they are not frequent travellers, actually don’t understand the world of online travel agents and might just think they are booking directly. In short, we are all suffering in the name of mirror marketing.

But the fact is this: you own your own name… your brand… your identity… your customer service and your guest satisfaction, so why do we allow these OTA’s to use what is effectively our reputation to outshine us on Google? And let me make one thing abundantly clear – all these juicy commission cheques we write each month are not paying for the CEO’s Maserati or the posh, shiny offices in Silicon Valley – both of which they may have, but in fact the commission you are paying is actually funding their Pay Per Click campaigns to bid directly against you. You are actually paying them to outshine you on Google!

Now as you know from previous blogs,  I am not against the OTA’s. They provide us with marketing and customer reach we might never be able to achieve but shouldn’t we control what happens to our own brand online?

We also all know that the Google landscape has changed and will continue to change.  The room for paid ads has dropped with no advertising appearing on the right side now at all and only 3 ads instead of 4 at the top of the page.

And if we go back to The Ritz example, you will see that Google is presenting so much information about our own hotels right at the top of the page that often guests don’t even need to come to our own site.  Key information is right there – upfront and central, so we are again losing traffic to our own site.  It is almost as if Google wants to keep our customers right where they want them. You think?

 

Screenshot 2016-06-28 11.13.56

Then you have the Meta-Sites (something we will look at in future blogs) and they are then hogging the next prime real estate.  So where are you? Under the fold (meaning your customers need to scroll down the page to find you) if you are lucky, and if you are paying for that first page visibility. But please don’t be under any illusion… unless you are paying for the privilege, even on your own wonderful name, you seriously risk not appearing on the first page at all.  And what does that mean? Well ask yourself when you shop, just how often do you search for anything past the first page?… and there you have your answer.

Make no mistake, this is something that we can all challenge with the OTA’s. Read the small print and challenge those clauses in the contract.  Maybe it is time we all stepped up and were brave enough to be counted. You in?