What to Know About Optimizing Your OTA Advertising Strategy

By: O'Rourke Hospitality Team

Hoteliers know how critical advertising is to the success of their hotel’s digital marketing strategy, but with so many options available in terms of advertising channels, it can be difficult to decide where to invest your time and money. 

From Pay Per Click (PPC) to metasearch marketing to display advertising, hospitality marketers have a range of tools at their disposal. One option that has stood the test of time is Online Travel Agency (OTA) ads from platforms including Booking.com, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Priceline.com, among others. The OTA industry is expected to top $1 trillion in 2022, making them an essential tool for hospitality marketers.

Hotels often rely on advertising from OTAs to enhance their visibility and drive more bookings. While they come with commissions, they can be an important marketing tool. But OTA advertising is only as effective as hoteliers make them. 

Whether your hotel already runs OTA ads and is looking to improve performance, or you’re considering adding the marketing tactic to your mix, there is a lot to consider. By following these best practices and utilizing a management solution for your digital advertisements on various channels, you can ensure your hotel’s advertising investments are paying off.

 

1. Make sure your hotel has the best OTA fit

With so many OTA options available to hoteliers, it’s impossible to be everywhere. Depending on their budget, most hotels will choose a few OTAs to focus on. The factors that determine which OTA platforms you should use include budget, commissions, and traffic volume. 

OTAs typically command commission rates between 15-25%, but their visibility is unparalleled. The two largest OTAs, Booking.com and Expedia, spent roughly $5 billion each on marketing costs last year, money that goes to Google Hotel Ads and other channels to drive traffic both to their home page and specific hotel listing pages. It's important for hospitality marketers to consider their budget as well as the commissions and traffic volume of various OTA channels, keeping in mind that certain OTAs have a higher commission than others.

Many hotels will run OTAs on the larger platforms such as Expedia, but as you look to optimize your OTAs or find the right channels, you should consider: 

  • Audience: Above all else, hoteliers should have their target audience and location in mind when choosing an OTA. Some OTAs are better fits than others. For example, Expedia is often considered to be a better option for 5-star and luxury hotels. For smaller OTAs, see what types of hotels are listed.
  • Commission Rate: It’s important to understand the commission rate when going into an OTA relationship. Commission rates can vary depending on your hotels' room type and seasonality, so hospitality marketers should consider how this impacts their bottom line when choosing a platform.
  • Channel Manager Compatibility: A channel manager is a tool that allows hospitality marketers to access and manage their listings across multiple OTAs from one interface. This ensures all room rates & inventory are accurate, as well as making it easy for hoteliers to see which channels are driving more bookings. A marketing agency can help with this more technical piece.

Finding success on OTAs is about quality over quantity. When hotels spread their advertising budget across too many OTAs just to establish a presence, it can end up hurting performance. It’s important to identify the best OTA fits and focus on those few.

 

2. Keep your hotel listings optimized and up-to-date

One of the best ways to keep your hotel ahead of the competition is to optimize its OTA presence by ensuring your listing is complete and continually updated.

Think of your hotel’s listing on an OTA like you would the booking page on your website. Does it answer all of the questions a prospective guest might have? Is it clear and concise? Does it tell your hotel’s unique story? Some OTAs will actually look at the content and makeup of your property listing to determine how and to whom it will be shown. Expedia, for example, has a Content Score to ensure travelers are getting the best information. 

Expedia’s Content Score outlines three principles

  • Provides a best-practice amenity checklist, ensuring your listing is complete 
  • Ensures policies and fees are clearly stated, helping set expectations
  • Compares your content to local competitors, revealing possible gaps

If your hotel’s OTAs aren’t performing to expectations, take a look at your listing. Use your listing description to tell your property’s story and make sure you have the following covered too: 

  • Property Amenities: These can include property-wide offerings such as high-speed Wi-Fi, breakfast options, a pool and spa, on-site parking, an airport shuttle, and more. 
  • Room Amenities: For each room option, it’s important to lay out the amenities. Tell potential guests what entertainment options are available, any special bedding options, bathroom features, or mini-bar or room service options.
  • Hotel Policies: Make sure your cancellation policy is clearly stated. Given today’s environment, it’s also important to highlight your hotel’s health and safety precautions and guidelines.

 

3. Stand out with unique and vivid photos

As much as anything, travelers want to see your hotel. Photos are one of the most important aspects of an OTA listing and advertisement. Vivid photos can increase click-through rates, which is helpful for hospitality marketers to stand out when they're competing with other hotels in the area. To do this, hospitality marketers should include high quality images that show their hotel's location and amenities clearly — show off the entire experience. 


Include bright, high-quality images that show the location of your hotel as well as its amenities. Yes, guests want to see where they will sleep, but they also want to receive an expansive tour. According to Trivago, OTA listings that include high-quality images receive 63% more clicks than those with low-quality photos. Photos to include: 

  • Room Photos: Hotels should include at least four photos for each room type as well as a look at the bathroom for every room option. 
  • Hotel Lobby: Showcase what travelers can expect when they arrive at the entrance of your hotel as well as the lobby and common areas. 
  • Property Photos: Show the outside of your hotel as well as the surrounding area. In addition to room amenities, it’s important to showcase the hotel’s overall amenities including restaurants, pool and fitness areas, and more. 

Overall, a rule of thumb is that a small hotel should have at least 20 photos

 

4. Implement a review and reputation management strategy

Implementing a review and reputation management strategy is important for hospitality marketers to help potential guests make informed decisions when looking for the best hotel possible based on what's most important to them in a travel experience.

While OTAs are great for visibility, they also allow guests to leave reviews — both good and bad. According to one study, 95% of travelers read reviews before booking a hotel. But hotels can stay on top of this important aspect by being responsive, even to negative reviews. Meanwhile, a TripAdvisor study found that 65% of respondents were more likely to book with a hotel that responds to guest reviews than one that doesn’t. Reviews are a critical part of the decision process, and if your OTAs are suffering, it’s another place to look. 

The right OTA strategy or optimizations for your hotel will depend on the size of your budget and who your audience is. Finding success with OTA advertising takes a sound strategy and time. Like any marketing tactic, the results can ebb and flow and marketers must be ready to follow the data and make adjustments to enhance their campaigns. 

You can reach out to us if we can answer any questions about OTA advertising or how it might fit into your budget. In the meantime, visit our Resource Center for more hospitality marketing insights.

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