In simple terms, “deep linking” is the creation of a hyperlink that bypasses your website’s home page and points to a specific landing page or function on your website.
Hospitality business should for sure be making much wider use of deep links in their digital strategy as it not only reduces friction by taking the guest to where you want them to go, it can also, if used properly, increase direct conversion rates quite dramatically.
Deep Links for Offer and Packages
Driving increased direct sales is perhaps the most important issue beyond the COVID crisis and you should be using every trick that the OTA’s use to drive more sales through your booking engine including the regular use of deep links.
Deep linking is all about reducing friction and taking the customer from where they are to where they (or you) want them to be. In booking terms consider your Facebook post for a late summer two-night break – you highlight the break, drop in a nice graphic with the offer on it and link to your website. Enough?
No. You must make it as easy for the customer to book as you possibly can.
Deep linking will take you directly to the offer and reduce the time and effort the user needs to go and find it on your webpage. Even better is that the deep link can take the user directly to the offer in your web booking engine allowing them to book the particular offer immediately with no messing about with room, offer or date selections.
You should be using deep links for specific room rates and packages which will transport the user from your promotional content directly to the booking page for the packages you are promoting - REDUCING FRICTION and increasing conversion.
Your booking engine deep links should be used to link directly to the package on your booking page: -
- From a promotional page within your website
- From a blog article your Facebook or Twitter pages
- From your outgoing emails
- From incoming links on partner sites (attractions, Destiantion marekting partners, golf course partners, theatres and media)
There is simply no questioning that by deep linking the offer it increases conversion – it cuts out clicks through cluttered web content, removes the need to search for room types and packages and drops the potential buyer right into the purchasing process for the package they have been just reading about with no background noise from other types of room rate.
Once you do it once you simply repeat. Like everything else you need to put some work in but the reward is increased conversion for those promotional packages and reduced OTA costs, so the small amount of marketing activity is more than worth it!
- Plan the offer
- Load price and availability
- Create a landing page for the offer
- Communicate the offer
- Review and adjust
Plan your Offer
At this stage plan out the supply side of your offer. It is critical to plan out all of the elements of your offer and package not only to maximise room sales but rate and generate secondary revenues. Consider your target sales for the offer.
What rooms? What dates? What does it include? Minimum stays? Midweek or weekend? All room types or just some? Room Only, B&B or DBB? Add-ons such as golf or attraction entry? In room extras such as flowers, chocolates or Prosecco? Price?
Who is the target? Is it going to be a public price (that is available to all through your booking engine) or is it going to be a private promotion restricted only to those you send the deep link to? Who is it aimed at? Local business? New or previous customers? Social media or direct mailing?
Manage timings for offer – not only the dates available but a start and end date for the promotional price. Expiry dates focus the mind and a very short window can often stimulate immediate purchases through the Fear of Missing Out!
It is an idea to create your own Promotional planner (or request ours – Plan B have an A4 template that you can use to simply map out your promotions) as it builds a stronger planning process and checklist mentality.
Load Price and Availability
Once you have the logistics of your offer in place load it into your PMS or booking engine for each room type you are offering. Create a well written sales pitch for the offer with bullet points of what the offer includes. Include appropriate imagery in the offering and be clear about the price and date restrictions and emphasise the limited availability and short booking period.
Your booking engine should be able now to create a Deep Link that will take you directly to the packages or group of packages that you wish to promote. This deep linked URL is now ready to for linking to your website landing page and all of the distribution channels you wish to place it on.
Create a landing page for your offer on your own website
Whilst you can link directly to booking the offer from all of your channels with the booking engine’s deep link you should also consider whether you wish to create a landing page in your website that outlines the offer in full. For all public offers we would certainly recommend this and create a promotional page for the specific offer or offers. Normal good practice for the page would be followed with strong headline images, headlines, punchy introduction to the offer, more details content and your call to action – in this case your deep link to the booking page. This works on multiple levels but gives you valuable page content and SEO opportunities that can be built on.
Special Offers Page
Set up a dedicated Special offers page on your website. Firstly this gives your “deal seekers” a place to land on your website and secondly you can then capture their interest in the package and with a single link use Price Groups to take them straight to the booking page for the specific offer. There is no doubt that a Special offers page using direct booking links can greatly increase your site conversion by making it easier for the visitor to find what they are seeking.
In Site Promotion
Through the use of in site promo boxes or Puffs you can direct the guest to the type of reservation they wish to make. For example, if you are offering Special DBB rates link directly to a price group that lists only your DBB; Advance Purchase? Valentines? Festive Packages? Declutter by pushing the site visitor DIRECTLY to the appropriate grouping of packages for their needs. Make it easier for them to BOOK DIRECT every time.
Your accommodation may have different sections or pages for each room type – standard, deluxe or suite – a proactive site will use deep links to direct the visitor to your booking engine by room type. In practice you now have two deep link options to communicate to
- The direct link URL to booking the specific package and
- The Landing page URL to reading the full detail before then going to booking the package
Experience will tell you what works best for you but use both to see what levels of click through you get
Communicate the Offer
Now you can start communicating your offer to your target audiences across your selected media.
(It may sound obvious, but it is not – communicate the offer firstly to your team. Not just your front of house but everyone front to back. Whatever method you are using to communicate with your staff ensure that your offers and promotions are made available to them. If you speak with them through an online social media group ensure you furnish them with the link to encourage their buy in. Their distribution and affinity is a strong tool and makes them feel part of the deal!)
Use your preferred email marketing software (ConstantContact is ours) to create a standard offers mailshot
• Create Email Title
• Use images, graphics and titles related to the offer being promoted.
• Create short interest piece of a sentence or two maximum.
• Create a call to action button with your Deep Link – “Read More” or “Book Now”
• Select distribution lists
• Send and monitor opens and click throughs to establish which offers work and which don’t.
Your mailing list is still a powerful and important direct marketing tool for B2C promotions as invariably the list consists of either former guests or those who have expressed an interest in you. They are not cold and whilst they may not open every email you send, they are less likely to regard you as junk mail if they think they may visit you again in the future.
Regular exclusive “mailing list only” offers builds loyalty and increases chances of mail being opened and therefore converted. It also helps build your list if the guest feels they are getting preferential communications.
It is covered in other briefings but do not create a post in Facebook and then link back just to your homepage. If you are talking about your afternoon teas link back to the page on your site detailing afternoon teas and likewise if you are promoting a two night special break offer link back to either the landing page or the direct booking deep links. It works and is worth a few extra seconds of your time to reduce the friction to your customer and increase conversion.
Once you have created your Facebook post you can start the job of sharing the post with your Facebook Groups as that is where you can maximise your reach. Not using Facebook groups to widen your audience? You should be!
Like Facebook you want to share the deep link to your Twitter followers. Create the teaser text and link to your landing page or booking deep link again. Encourage sharing by emphasising limited availability and time driven nature of the offer.
Link building has always been one of those smoke and mirrors processes that terrifies people but if understood it has clear benefits for all and sharing you deep links rather than your homepage URL will undoubtedly assist in your drive to improve direct bookings.
Your deep link is not only valuable to your potential direct customers but also to your local tourism industry partners and indeed media. Your social media strategy should be heavily built around promoting appropriate deep links in your groups, pages and posts.
In addition, share the link with appropriate text to local industry partners who may wish to share the offers to their own clients – golf courses, attractions, travel operators, local press, travel websites and most certainly to destination partners, local marketing initiatives and your business manager at VisitScotland.
Spend the time building a list of shared industry partners and you will undoubtedly reap the benefits of widened distribution of your deep linked offer.
Links and Downloads
For further reading and support visit our training site at www.brigadoonhotel.co.uk