2021 promises continued volatility for tourism and hospitality businesses around the world as rolling lockdowns and rapidly changing restrictions create both disruptions and opportunities. Here are five critical and completely free digital marketing tasks that your business or businesses in your destination need to be on top of.
Watch the 10-minute summary video here:
#1 – Claim all your business listings
This seems obvious, but Miles Partnership has audited over 100,000 business listings across 238 destinations around the world and found between 25% and 40% of the business listings in a given destination are unclaimed. Focus on claiming business listings on platforms with the biggest footprint first. In order of importance, that’s Google My Business (GMB), Apple Maps, Facebook and TripAdvisor. Particularly in North America, you should also check Yelp plus any locally important sites in other parts of the world. Focus on these priority platforms first – particularly GMB as this affects how you appear across Google’s critical search and maps products – and then move onto the other priority platforms. Each of these platforms have a different process for claiming and offers different functionality but claiming these listings means you have direct input into how your business appears – for free.
#2 – Update your hours.
This has become critically important in a pandemic world. When restrictions are put into place or lifted, and each time your community goes into lockdown or comes out, the very first thing you should be doing is updating your business hours even if they haven’t changed. Or maybe ESPECIALLY if they haven’t changed. Once someone finds your business listing online, the very first thing they’re going to ask is whether you’re open or not, and if it’s not completely clear that you are open – right now – they’re going to look for somewhere else. This is particularly relevant for both Google Maps and Apple Maps, where people are making decisions about where they can go within the day, hour or even few minutes. More importantly, Google listings now show the last time you updated your hours, up to a couple weeks out. Basically, when restriction levels change, if your business listing doesn’t say your hours were updated recently – you’re losing customers.
#3 – Check relevant attributes.
One of the key responses to the pandemic from the platforms referenced above is the addition of tags or attributes to more accurately denote what services your business offers. For Google, these new attributes include Delivery, Dine-In, Curbside Pickup and No-Contact Delivery, as well as expanded service offerings for Online Classes, Online Consultations and Online Estimates. Facebook added support for similar attributes including Online Services, Delivery and Pickup. The important part to note here is you can’t rely on the platform to accurately detect these for your business, you have to manually check them on (or off) depending on what you have available. Using these attributes significantly affects the number of places your business shows up – including obvious searches such as “takeaway” (see right). In addition, if you have curbside pickup, and you haven’t checked the correct attribute – you’re not showing up when someone searches for curbside pickup near them.
#4 – Add fresh pictures.
One of the key components of any response to any crisis is reassuring customers. One of the best ways to do that is to show them up-to-date pictures of what your business looks like right now. That doesn’t mean you have to post new pictures every time a restriction level changes or your community goes in or comes out of a lockdown – but it does mean you should have a plan to update images at least once a month. The photos don’t need to be professionally shot – most modern smartphones will do – and you can post the same four or five photos across all the platforms once a month. In addition to providing confidence about your business, there’s another reason you should already be doing this. Our experience with direct management of business listings shows that adding four to five images per month is good for a 10% to 30% lift in exposure for your business. It appears that image recency and frequency is a strong signal to search engines that someone is actively managing a business profile.
#5 – Communicate consistently.
Then lastly, you should be communicating frequently and consistently with your customers. Focus on your most important platforms (e.g.: Google and Facebook) but ideally share updates across multiple platforms because you don’t know where potential customers are looking for information. Google (see Posts example at right), Facebook and Yelp offer free options for posting updates, including COVID-19 messaging that typically has more prominent placement. You can customize your messaging for each platform if you have a compelling reason to do so – but you certainly don’t need to. Be sure to use your own analytics codes where allowed and include engaging images and/or videos. Similar to images above, make a plan to post new content at least once a month – once a week is better.
Here’s a quick checklist:
Claim your business listing on Google, Apple Maps, Facebook, TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Update your hours every time restrictions get updated in your community.
Check that you have the best attributes selected for your business services.
Add four or five photos every month.
Add a new post to all platforms once a week.
Miles Partnership has a variety of educational and support programs for destinations and hospitality businesses that are designed to directly address these and other important digital marketing needs. Let us know if we can help your organisation! See: https://milespartnership.co.nz/destination-optimisation/