Friday, 23 July 2010

How Safe is Your Hotel Name Online?

We've been doing some work for a client this week in trying to get their hotel "brand" tidied up.

It was when doing a search for their property that they noticed that in the Google sponsored links section someone was bidding for their term but also using a URL that would make anyone think that they were clicking on the official hotel website.

Once you clicked it the URL pointed to a hotel reservation booking system with a very inferior representation of their hotel. But with the URL in place and the hotel's logo, colours and on-line availability it was clearly trying to pass off in the first instance as the official hotel website to sell rooms.

Now okay, you may think well it's distribution and a potential room sale so why should I bother? Well this hotelier quite rightly was very bothered. And quite rightly.

You've developed you're brand through time, your name is important to you and how it is represented on-line should bother you too. This hotelier has made the decision to go down the route of increasing his direct business through his own website as it costs him less in commission charges and improves the communication he has with his client and potential visitors.

Having that undermined by someone hijacking his trading name is therefore a clear attempt to make his direct business into indirect business. Encouraging the customer to click what they think is hi official website. Nothing thereafter tries to tell the site visitor otherwise.

We've heard this referred to as mirror marketing before and it's dangerous for the hotelier;
  • Increased commission
  • Lost Bookings based on First impression of the site
  • Loss of control of your brand
This is different from your normal third party distribution where it is quite clear that the customer is clicking on a hotel sales company and there are unfortunately plenty examples of where it's happening. A perfect example; I recently drove past The Purple Hotel outside Glasgow and noticed it was closed. I then searched Google to find the background to its demise and came across a site with the hotel name in the URL.

Clicking on it revealed a page with the hotel branding, colourschemes, the hotel logo, full details and an availability checker. It quite easily passes itself off as the hotel website and we assume it will remain live until the URL is up for renewal.

You really need to assure yourself that your business is protecting itself as best it can from such mirror marketing. It may even be going on with one of your third party booking channels without your knowledge.

We recommend that on a regular basis you go on to Google simply type in your own business name and check who's trying to be you!
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