Hotel SEO Case Study: Strawberry Fields

We reveal how SEO and Adwords campaigns helped Brighton B & B Strawberry Fields to increase their hotel bookings.

The brief

Earlier in my career I was marketing manager at VisitBrighton, the tourism organisation for Brighton and Hove. I then moved on to run the digital marketing for Pierre & Vacances Centerparcs Group and then eventually set up ADMAN. Given my tourism and travel background I was thrilled to be asked to help Brighton B & B Strawberry Fields with their marketing. Owner Sharon had been successfully running this popular 3* Bed and Breakfast for over 5 years. But the hotel market is dominated by online travel agents (OTA’s) such as Booking, Expedia and Lastminute. If you run a hotel, it’s a given that you need to list with these websites to survive. The OTA’s are incredibly aggressive in their marketing and charge hotels a large commission on bookings. Faced with ever increasing commission bills, Sharon asked me to see if I could help Strawberry Fields retain their direct bookings and even better, increase them.

What we did

SEO

Strawberry Fields has a basic but perfectly functionable website. The designer had used some SEO keywords but there wasn’t a strategy or analysis behind the keywords that were used. My first job was to analyse Strawberry Fields’ existing SEO performance using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster and then I used Google’s Keyword Planner to create a list of keywords (also called search queries) which were relevant including data such as how many monthly searches there were for each keyword and their competitiveness in terms of other websites bidding to appear on Google ad placements for each term. I grouped the keywords and then agreed with Sharon which groups were a priority including relevant niches for Strawberry Fields such as Hen Parties and Group Bookings (they have 27 rooms including their Fruity Suite which has a private area for groups of up to 16).

I then made changes to the website to make sure Google identified the Strawberry Fields website as being relevant for the priority keywords. I also identified a number of quality websites with relevant content on the priority keywords and secured listings and exposure on these websites for Strawberry Fields. As it is only one B&B, ‘Local SEO’ is very important. Local SEO means targeting the right business keywords plus a local identifier, which in this case is ‘Brighton’. Example local seo terms for Strawberry Fields are ‘Brighton Hotel’, ‘Brighton B & B’, and ‘Brighton Guest House’. Creating quality listings on local directories such as Google Maps (called a Local Business Listing), Yell and Yelp is an important part of Local SEO. Strawberry Fields was already well reviewed on TripAdvisor, but I encouraged Sharon to secure more reviews on her Google Business Listing too.

Adwords

At the same time as optimising the Strawberry Fields website we set up an Adwords campaign. Though you have to pay for Adwords, you pay per click, Google encourages you to test it out by offering £75 for free when you spend £25 or £150 for free when you spend £150. In most cases spending £200 – £300 is enough to see if there is potential in the market. In the case of the hotel business there is considerable evidence showing the value of using Adwords in combination with SEO. This is because the OTA’s use Adwords to appear when customers are searching for your brand name, in this case ‘Strawberry Fields’, essentially stealing your direct business. So it’s important to defend your direct business by running Adwords for your brand keywords. If you have a bit of extra budget Adwords can also create additional business from ‘generic’ keywords like ‘Brighton Hotel’. With Strawberry Fields we have had most success targeting their specific niches.

To make Adwords work it is essential to track performance. For Strawberry Fields we do this using a mix of conversion and e-commerce tracking. This allows us to see which keywords are producing the most bookings and enquiries and so we can optimise our budget accordingly. It’s also useful to look at visitor data for each keyword, like how long users spend on the site, how many pages they look at and so on. The same tracking mechanisms can be used to measure how your SEO campaigns are performing and indeed all other digital marketing channels.

Results

ADMAN has been working with Strawberry Fields for over a year and a half now and I’m pleased to say the campaign is working very well. Before we started the campaign Strawberry Fields was only listed on Google for 82 different search queries and only had 18 of those queries on the first page of search results. Now they are ranked for close to 700 search queries, with 268 on the first page including our top priority keywords. SEO traffic to the website has doubled. Together with the Adwords campaigns we have been successful in driving more enquiries and bookings direct to Sharon and her team. When we started working with Strawberry Fields the balance of Direct to OTA business was 40% to 60% and increasingly heading the wrong way. I’m delighted to report that we have reversed the trend and direct bookings are now over 50%.

Most importantly Sharon is happy:

‘’Nick has helped Strawberry Fields outperform the market in both occupancy and direct revenue in Brighton’s hyper competitive B and B environment. We are delighted with results and in particular with Nick’s practical and pragmatic advice about how to make the most of Strawberry Field’s marketing spend. I am thrilled to see the return on our investment, not just on the immediate return but also by building a solid profile that will reap rewards in the medium and longer term. I cannot recommend his approach highly enough for a business looking to develop their online marketing strategy.‘’

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