The near future of digital marketing for hotels

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Adapting is important for the health of a hotel's online presence-those that fail to adapt drown in the sea of information available to guests, while those that do adapt ride the wave of innovation to success. Here is my prediction for some ways digital marketing will evolve in the near future.

Apps vs. Search
Apps are fun. When Apple's App Store reached its 40 billionth download, we were told search was dead, and it's all about apps now. This ended up being a false prediction. While apps are still used, search engines are still the first stop guests visit while making travel plans. They may play loads of casual game apps on their smart phones, but when it comes to booking travel, they prefer to use web browsers instead of apps.

Responsive Design
With each new year, we're told the age of mobile browsing is upon us. This is only a slight exaggeration for 2013. While most guests still browse the Internet from desktop PCs and laptops, both tablets and mobile smartphones are today used every day by the majority of Internet users to perform common tasks like shopping, making dinner reservations, and making travel plans.

Because of this, as we all know, it's imperative that hotel websites become optimized for mobile and tablet devices. Until recently, the best solution was to hire an agency to produce a build-to-order mobile and tablet website. While functional, these customized solutions made it difficult for hotel owners to update their mobile website content, to keep it up-to-date with their website content. Also, build-to-order solutions often age poorly, as we discovered when Apple increased the height of their iPhone 5 screens last year, making otherwise beautiful mobile websites like Sun-Maid look short and unfinished.

Instead, the future of hotel websites is responsive design. Web marketing built with responsive design will adjust automatically to fit the screen size of the device being used, reducing design costs, and making them future proof.

On a similar note, static websites-websites built once and never updated, or only updated at additional cost-have already become an outdated technology. Instead, savvy hoteliers are investing in software-as-a-service solutions (SaaS), built on the concept of , to service their digital marketing needs.

The idea goes that it is better to subscribe to an evolving utility computing technology service that advances over time to keep pace with technology, than purchase a build-to-order website that ages the moment it is published. Utility services are nothing new. Instead of digging wells, we subscribe to a water utility. Instead of building a fire pit and burning our trash, we subscribe to a waste management service. These services can do the job far better than we ever could. We're not experts in those fields, so instead we hire experts who keep up with the technology to provide the service for us.

SaaS has been catching on like a wildfire over the past few years, with Salesforce, Zendesk, and even Adobe adopting those business models. Digital marketing for hotels has lagged behind, but the tides are changing, and the future of SaaS for hotels is inevitable.

As frustrating as it may be to some, our reliance on search engines like Google to aid discoverability isn't ending anytime soon. Google is still the first resource guests go to when planning travel. However, their algorithm is constantly changing, and the search engine optimization strategies (SEO) of five years ago no longer function. While Google still looks at a website's backlinks, SEO will evolve in two major ways:

Google and other search engines will look at a website's social graph when ranking it. This became evident when Bing integrated with Facebook, and Google responded by inventing their own social network, Google+. In the future, Facebook 'likes', Twitter 'tweets', Google '+1s' and possibly signals from as  of yet non-existing social networks will be woven into Google's algorithm, becoming important to focus on as part of an SEO strategy.

Validated Identity
The days of anonymous Internet activity are quickly vanishing. Google's CEO Eric Schmitt spilled the beans recently when he divulged that Google's authorship markup has officially become an aspect of their ranking algorithm. The authorship markup tells Google more about the individual or brand responsible for a website's content. Google is more likely to rank websites that have validated authorship or publish markup installed, compared to those that don't. In the future, all websites will be tied to an online identity, with stronger identities able to place more ranking power behind websites, and newer identities having to earn authority.

The world of digital marketing changes from month to month, and the future is exciting. I hope you pick the most knowledgeable digital marketing professionals to help you market your property.


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