The Importance of Hotel Name Consistency Online

I was recently working with a guesthouse located in the Swiss alps which had been struggling with its online presence. They were quite a traditional, family run business, which relied a lot on word of mouth and on general offline marketing activity. Most people who stayed there would have recommended the place to friends and family, and then the guesthouse also had a lot of restaurant business too, as it had a restaurant on site. This was mainly event based business, so small groups going for social occasions and suchlike.

There were problems with the website and other online profiles (TripAdvisor etc) but for the purpose of this article I’ll focus on their biggest issue; their online citations. On one major citation (Booking.com) they were listed in the German language – guest haus xyz (I’d like to keep their anonominity here). On one of the other biggest online travel sites TripAdvisor, they were listed in Swiss; Gaste haus xyz. On their official website, they listed themselves as Guest house xyz – so the English translation.

I thought it may be easier to find their correct name by looking at their website URL. This didn’t help; they had 2. One was guesthousexyz.com and one was gasthausxyz.ch (The Swiss local domain prefix). So at least they understood that they were branding themselves differently for different markets already… just I felt they were going about it the wrong way.

First big question; who are they marketing themselves to?

In situations like this I’d firstly look at which market makes up the majority of their business. Unfortunately it wasn’t that clearcut; there was a real mixture as it was quite a varied type of guest that stayed at the property. Chinese, Australian, US, German & Swiss holidaymakers were the most popular guests at the guesthouse.
If for example German & Swiss bookers made up 90% of the business on the books then I’d say it would make sense to just stick to a German translation of the brandname – so guest haus xyz. However the split wasn’t this easy, and still by sticking to this name they could be ignoring / confusing big markets from English speakers.

What did I Advise?

In this instance I advised that they switch to the English version of their name, and that they stick to that one name across all sources. Guest house xyz was decided upon, so the other versions of the domain were redirected and guesthousexyz.ch was used – I recommend that if a hotel is located in a specific country, it adopts that countries domain extension, unless in exceptional circumstances.

With the hotel name decided upon, I advised upon the renaming of the Booking.com and TripAdvisor listings as a matter of urgency. There then followed the difficult task of renaming the Facebook profile, which was under yet another name, and then to correct other social networks.

One of the big issues with online citations is that if 1 or 2 variations of a brand name is used, you can be certain that other online sources will start listing conflicting data too; afterall they won’t know the correct name of the hotel either. That leads to a lengthy and drawn out process of trying to fix all of the incorrect citations that exist online.

Why do Citations Matter?

The biggest issue with inconsistent brand names online is that it leads to confusion with the customer. The average hotel booker will consult approximately 30 websites as part of their holiday booking research, with a typical initial research process listed below:

Google > Hotel website 1, Hotel Website 2, Hotel Website 3, Google > TripAdvisor > Booking.com

When the customer finds a hotel that takes their fancy (eg it’s in the location they want to go and ticks other boxes) they will likely then search for that hotel name in Booking.com and TripAdvisor.com. If they can’t find the same hotel, they may click on a simliar listing where they risk losing that customer. They may find it frustrating that they can’t seem to find the hotel they’re searching for, and change their plans – afterall they’re looking for justification in making their booking if on TripAdvisor or Booking.com (checking images, customer reviews, etc).
To put it midly, it frustrates the customer and can lead to lost bookings.

The second biggest reason that online citations matter is that Google (and other search engines) read these brand names and use each one as a signal or “vote” for each hotel. The most mentions your hotel has, the likelihood it will have a better ranking or higher authority. By having conflicting hotel names, it works against your brand. So, not only does it confuse the customer, but it also confuses the search engines, working to limit the position of your hotel website in the search engines.

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