//PRO TECHNOLOGY TIPS

Convert bookings with Google's Rohit Dhawan

Rohit Dhawan is the former lead product manager at Facebook, and currently Senior Product Director at Google. I’ve known Rohit for close to ten years through mutual friends, from back when I spent a year in Mumbai, India. At the time, I was consulting to Channel [V] and MTV India, and I was lucky to have a diverse group of friends – with some in acting, advertising and design and others in tech and software.

I recently spoke to Rohit as he drove home from work in Silicon Valley, where he now lives and works.

He told me: When attracting the right guest audience for your business, you need a basic understanding of how a sales funnel system works. At the top of the funnel is where you talk to guests who may be interested in having a holiday in the next month, six months or next year. You attract their attention here through the right branding and messaging for your business.

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There are various touchpoints and channels you can use to speak to a wider audience at the top of your funnel. Your social media posts, paid ads, blogging and content all should work together to stand out and put you front of mind for a guest thinking about their next holiday. You want to show them you are the ultimate brand and experience they desire.

Branding is generally the focus at the top of the funnel, but you also want to focus on the lower funnel. The bottom of the funnel is the stage where potential guests have done their research and are ready to make a booking. Again, there are multiple touch points and you should measure which is most effective to your business. However, when analysing which channel and method are the most effective, keep in mind that some of the touch points and messaging at the top of the funnel most likely influenced their decision.

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You have to think through what someone is searching for – a place to stay, to book or a particular experience. Think about all the different types of searches or places they would go – like Google, Expedia, TripAdvisor – you need to make sure you are there.

When it comes to lower funnel conversion, the user journey toward booking needs to be as clear and simple as possible. Your advertising can then perform really well and you can easily measure what the conversion rate is.

Tools such as Adwords Conversion Optimizer and Optimizely help you drive the maximum conversion rate by allowing you to experiment with different kinds of layouts on your website.

If you’re spending money in advertising, it’s not cheap to be doing something every single day on any platform. Instead think about getting in front of your target audience once every month to once every three months to stay relevant and top of mind.

When it comes to SEO, you can actually achieve a lot yourself without any costs. SEO is an investment in terms of making sure you are set up and if you are highly ranked, then there’s nothing like it, especially compared to paid ads.

When deciding how much you should invest, it’s a bit of a cat and mouse game. If you talk to Google, they will say as long as your website has interesting content and it’s mobile friendly, then Google will take care of the rest. There’s also a lot of books and professionals, in terms of professional services, that you can avail yourself of to help you with your SEO and get you higher ranked.

However, before seeking the expertise of a professional, the first thing I would do is to look on Google at some of the available webmaster tools to make sure you have done whatever you can. You need to make sure your website has certain keywords and is enabled for Google to call you – which you should be on by default. Next look for material online that’s relevant to you finding the right professional services or books to take you to the next level. A professional will essentially give you the same information you can get by reading a book but they will take the worry and time out of reading it and working it out yourself.

You’ll also need to understand the difference between ‘head’ keywords and ‘long tail keywords’ in relation to SEO keywords and pay per click (PPC). Sometimes the best keyword search terms can come from your previous guest insights and what they have been searching for, rather than using more popular tools such as Google Keywords.

You’ll also need to make sure you have the most relevant and smart creative, messaging and call-to-action and, of course, make sure that everything is consistent with your brand. If you don’t have the skills or confidence to do this in house, consider outsourcing to an agency or consultant.

You must make sure all your data and tracking tools are in place so you’re collecting all the relevant insights from the beginning of your campaign. You’ll need to measure the performance of your campaigns to know what is and isn’t working.

When it comes to attracting your guests at the top of the funnel, you want to be relevant to your audience. You don’t want to annoy them. If you get a user to like your page, showing they are interested in your business, and then you start posting content that isn’t relevant to them, you risk losing them. For example, posting ‘here’s what we served for breakfast’ or ‘here’s what we are serving for dinner tomorrow night’ once in a while might be ok but you wouldn’t want to post that kind of content on a regular basis, if at all. You should be thinking of more relevant content than that.

My final advice is for hoteliers to really look at their website. I often see hotels with very rich media websites. These take a long time to load and are not very mobile friendly. They might look good if your guest has a fast internet connection, however they tend to break and don’t work across all devices.

Flash-built websites don’t convert well. They tend to break easily during the customer journey and some of the gadgets get in the way of a guest trying to make a reservation. Instead, work out the key things you want your user to get out of your website. They’ll want to look at great pictures, read reviews, the description about your destination and be able to book. The more upfront and centre you have this as a call-to-action, the better.

PRO TIPNick Bonney