How To Scope Out Your Competitors

By. Kim Armour 31st May 2013
As a hotelier, you do not need to go undercover at your competitors’ properties to discover their online marketing secrets. With the online investigation skills I’m about to share with you, you will be able to uncover your competitor’s online marketing and selling strategies without resorting to cloak and dagger tactics. It’s not only incredibly important to continually monitor your hotel’s online performance and marketing strategies, but it’s just as crucial that you keep a watchful eye on your competitors. Learn to keenly observe the competition so that your hotel is ahead of the game and constantly seeking out additional opportunities to maintain a competitive edge over other hotels in your market.

9 Professional Investigation Skills to Master

Let’s start easy. Instead of manually searching for all the information about your competitors, have that information automatically sent to you directly. Watching your competitors is as easy as checking your inbox.

#1 Set up Google Alerts.
When hotels in your comp set are being talked about online, you’ll know it! Create a Google Alert for each of the top competitor hotels in your market. Choose your settings for how often you want to receive notifications of activity, and the news will come straight to your email. These alerts can help you monitor your hotel’s online reputation, as well as keep you up to date with the competition’s new landing pages, special offers and other updates.

#2 Sign up for eNewsletters from your competitors.
Want to know what exclusive specials and deals the competitors are offering? Do they have a special event coming up? Hear it straight from the source. A more advanced private eye would be mindful of the email address they submit. An @Hilton or @Marriott email submitted to a Holiday Inn may raise a flag and they could purposely remove you from the email list. Perhaps use a less suspicious address such as your personal Gmail account. Digest the eNewsletters and determine if the special event, deal, or news is a similar tactic your hotel needs to capture bookings and remain competitive in the market.

 Now that we are intercepting the competition’s messages, let’s cross the border and visit their web pages to investigate further.

#3 Regularly review hotels’ brand or independent websites.
Plan these frequent online visits to take note of a couple key items. First, review the hotel’s keyword strategy. From the pages meta content and the copy on the page, you can determine the different keywords for which the hotel is striving to rank in the search engines. Do they have a well developed strategy? Perform a manual search on Google. Are they ranking on the first page of Google’s search results for these keywords? Are these keywords your hotel wants to target as well? Second, look for creative special offers as well while you peruse their website. Is there a special offer your hotel is missing and should have available as well? Can you offer more intriguing and valuable offers to the guests? It is likely that shopping the competition will spark your own creativity to generate new enticing hotel packages.

#4 Run a mobile search for the competition.
Take out your nifty high-tech smart phone device and run a search for your competitors. Find out who has a mobile-friendly website and is capturing mobile searchers. If all your competitors have a mobile friendly website, then your hotel is missing the opportunity of competing and attracting these searchers who are booking with the competition from their mobile phones. Or rather, if none of the competitors have a mobile strategy in place, your hotel could be at a great advantage with a mobile-friendly website. Your hotel would be in a position to convert the majority of mobile searchers to book at your hotel with the user-friendly mobile website. Furthermore, investigate the current traffic to your website. Are a good portion of the visits arriving at the site on a mobile device? If this is true, the hotel is already in need of optimizing their mobile strategy so that users can easily find information about the hotel and make reservations. Ask yourself, if your hotel does not already have an optimized mobile website, is it time to get one now?

#5 Get social with your comp set.
“Like” other hotels in your market on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. This will help you stay current with their daily messaging, offers, events and promotions available on these channels. Gain key insights into what the competition is doing well on social media and what their weaknesses are. If the market is super active on social media with special promotions, contests and highly engaging visual content, be sure to match and go beyond this level of activity and special offers to garner interest in your hotel on social channels. Likewise, in a market with weak social media influence, take the opportunity to really stand apart for the competitors with a strong social media strategy to be highly engaged with fans and effectively establish your hotel as the authoritative voice of the area.

#6 Monitor rankings on TripAdvisor.
It’s not just your rank on TripAdvisor you need to care about, but the other hotels that are listed above you. Your goal is to be #1, so how do you get there? Are other hotels responding to guest comments more often than you are? What are guests actually saying about the other hotels? Do guests love their service? The price? The free breakfast? The free Wi-Fi? Look for these signals as ways to better improve your hotel on property, which will ultimately influence your online performance and improve your ranking on TripAdvisor.

 Pull your cap down and push your collar up as we dive into a closer look at the competitor’s online performance; and we begin at Google.

 #7 Run regular searches on Google.
Search both broad phrases such as “Chicago hotels” and niche keywords such as “hotels near Navy Pier” on Google. Detect who is ranking above your hotel organically. Notice which hotels are appearing at the top of the search engine results page for paid ads. Identify who is ranking in the local results. Click on the local listings and observe how hotels are optimizing their listings and how you can improve your hotel’s Google+ local listing or Bing Places listing. Focusing on the niche, more targeted keyword phrases, you will discover which hotels are providing more content with enhanced landing pages. Use this intel to better develop your hotel’s content strategy. Determine if there is a need for additional landing pages to compete with other hotels in the market targeting searchers coming to town for particular events such as the Taste of Chicago or to visit nearby attractions such as The Art Insititue of Chicago.

#8 Use Bing Link Explorer to take a good look at the competition’s link profiles.
When doing so, we are looking for authoritative sites to request similar links. It’s important to link build for SEO purposes, as these in-links are a strong source of boosting power in the search engine results page. Of course while you are looking for linking opportunities, you are also getting a peek at the hotel’s group and corporate business. You can tell which conferences and big events are being held at the hotel among other business partners. Use this as a sales tool to grow your prospect list and potentially steal business from the competition. Bing Link Explorer tends to provide a more complete and recent list of links, but another tool worth trying is SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer. After all, every good spy has more than one trick up his or her sleeve.

Put on your polarized Ray Bans before you take your snooping to the next level! The final test to complete your investigation of competitor hotels is a reconnaissance mission to visit their property.

#9 Visit physical comp set hotel properties.
You may already occasionally visit the competitors, but next time, be mindful of these clues for strong online marketing strategies in place. Does the hotel have a decal on entry door reminding guests to check in on FourSquare or Facebook? Is there an option to sign up for the hotel’s eNewsletter at the front desk? Does the hotel encourage guests to review them on TripAdvisor after their visit? Are there QR codes in on-property flyers or collateral directing guests to connect with the hotel online? Be very aware of tactics the hotel is taking to make physical visitors become virtual visitors connecting and engaging with them online. These on-property marketing tactics that help hotels develop a strong online relationship with guests will ultimately create loyal fans who are likely to return again. Let the competitors’ on-property marketing tactics inspire creative marketing efforts for your property to also convert your current guests at the hotel into online guests on your hotel website and social media channels while blowing away your competition.

Congratulations on completing your online marketing spy course!

Now, put your online investigating skills to action and start enhancing your internet marketing strategies to go above and beyond your competitors.


About Kim Armour

Kim Leveque was named after Kimbo Slice, and the resemblance is obvious. From 9 to 5, you will find Kim diligently fighting the competition for her hotels, winning SEO battles through social promoting, content writing, PPC advising, blog posting and more. Kim is Managing a portfolio of Embassy Suites brand hotels across the nation, Kim virtually jetsets

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