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  1. #1
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    HotelsByCity = Leaks, leaks and more leaks - Shame
    Such a shame. Hotels By City dot com seems to have a nice program, especially for someone wanting to break into the hotel/hospitality game. They appear to have a nice payout structure for the average (community niche?) site focusing on small city and town hotels. They also have a booking engine and great inventory provided by one of the "big boys" in the industry.

    But, unfortunately, they also have a site that is full of leaks. There are (LEAKS) phone bookings being "pushed" in the header of each page and on the bottom of many pages. There is a 160x600 skyscraper with banner ads (LEAKS) on the right of every page - with advertisers like Best Western Hotels and Capital One Credit Cards. Some site pages are even filled (MORE LEAKS) with the maximum three AdSense units. Looks like a lot of "hard earned" visitors will be sent there only to "click away" with no credit for the affiliate. To the "un-savvy" affiliate, that is.

    Such a shame...

    OK, HotelsByCity, will there be a change to this setup? Soon?
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  2. #2
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    From HotelsByCity.com New Program:

    Quote Originally Posted by hotelsbycity
    Were hoping that the experience we have had as an affiliate will help make our program more effective for our partners.
    Apparently not.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  3. #3
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    Links taken down. What a waste of time

  4. #4
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    HotelsByCity new 'Affiliate MicroSite'
    Hey Guys,

    Sorry for the delay in responding. Just so everyone is clear, we are fully aware of the leaks on our site, but I think it is also fair to consider that our site was initially setup to maximize revenue for our internally generated traffic, through SEO, and SEM campaigns.

    Realistically, their is no way we can compete in PPC head to head with the likes of hotels.com, and expedia.com without maximizing every lead (through advertising, phone conversions, etc.)

    We also run a very succesful, travel writers network, and those writers depend on revenue from the "AdSense" ads mentioned above.

    Now that we have succesfully launched an affiliate program, and seen some of our affiliate partners convert very well, we have started to build an "affiliate specific" microsite. The site will be focussed exclusively on hotels, not featuring any other product, it won't have any phone numbers listed on initial landing pages, and you won't see any triple adsense units either.

    This site is scheduled for launch mid next week, and I will be sure to update the forum here once it's up. At that time we will welcome feedback from everyone, as it is truly our goal to make sure we have the best affiliate program.

    P.S. along with the new microsite, we are also launching a more streamlined GUI for affiliate partners to access our text links, banners, search boxes, and more...

  5. #5
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    We also run a very succesful, travel writers network, and those writers depend on revenue from the "AdSense" ads mentioned above.
    I no longer know what to think anymore!

  6. #6
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    Hey Mr Sal,

    The Adsense Ads won't show up on the new affiliate site, because it won't have all the same content. The new affiliate microsite will be used as a strictly transactional website.

    As for what to think about the program. The way I see it, any good program has to change as new requests come up, this is a new request, we are changing what we do to accomodate it. Hopefully this will give you confidence in the program.

    Feel free to post if you have any other unanswered questions.

  7. #7
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotelsbycity
    ...Sorry for the delay in responding.
    No prob. I posted on Saturday - and only us affiliate types work all weekend.

    ...we are fully aware of the leaks on our site, but I think it is also fair to consider that our site was initially setup to maximize revenue for our internally generated traffic, through SEO, and SEM campaigns.
    That may be true. But fair? Leaky sites are not good for affiliates. Perhaps you launched your program a bit prematurely???

    Realistically, their is no way we can compete in PPC head to head with the likes of hotels.com, and expedia.com without maximizing every lead (through advertising, phone conversions, etc.)
    Why not? Your inventory and booking engine comes from Expedia's (who owns Hotels.com) main competitor, and includes chains that they don't have such as Holiday Inn and Intercontinental. Plus YOU don't spend millions of dollars on TV ads for brand recognition. You CAN compete with a viable affiliate program that is developed to be good for both you and your affiliates.

    We also run a very successful, travel writers network, and those writers depend on revenue from the "AdSense" ads mentioned above.
    Exactly how or why does this apply to affiliates, except to dilute any traffic we may send?

    ...started to build an "affiliate specific" microsite. The site will be focussed exclusively on hotels, not featuring any other product, it won't have any phone numbers listed on initial landing pages, and you won't see any triple adsense units either.
    If you eliminate all of the "other" good parts of your site it will be a lot less appealing for affiliate visitors that are sent to it. That may (will?) have a negative impact on conversions.

    ...scheduled for launch mid next week, and I will be sure to update the forum here once it's up. At that time we will welcome feedback from everyone...
    At risk of being presumptuous I thought I would provide some observations "while" you are developing your more affiliate-friendly site.

    Note that I DID join your program before I headed off to Think Tank two weekends ago. I redirected some type-in traffic from some old "travel" domains and even scored a couple of HotelsByCity bookings. Then I examined your entire site and, after realizing the many leaks, quickly pulled most referrals before leaving on a week-long cruise vacation - with NO COMPUTER. But, as of Saturday I am back in the saddle, so to speak - and thought I should provide some feedback.

    Note also that the only reason I took an interest in your program is that you chose ShareASale as your network. That puts you several steps above most other hotel programs out there.

    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
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  8. #8
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    Hey Beachy,

    We do 1000's of sales a day, and understand the industry standard conversion rate to be 1-2%. Some very targeted campaigns that we run will convert at 3-4%.

    As an affiliate you shouldn't expect conversions much higher then this, since that is an industry average. Once we launch the new 'affilite microsite' our affiliate partners will have the option of using our main site, or the new microsite. This way each affiliate can A/B compare their traffic on both sites, and see which one works best for them.

    A few things to note:

    1) we are not partnered with expedia.com (but rather World Choice Travel)
    2) the travel writers have nothing to do with affiliates, we use those "content" sections of our website to drive traffic into the website, very little of our traffic visits the content, if it comes from other sources ex. PPC campaign, affiliate banner.
    3) We run close to 400 travel websites, all of them with different content, some strictly transactional, some content rich. (the conversion rate across all of these sites, fluctuates very little)

    If you have any other suggestions, we are more then open, I will repost here in a few days, when the new microsite is ready.

  9. #9
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotelsbycity
    ...A few things to note:
    1) we are not partnered with expedia.com (but rather World Choice Travel)...
    Actually, Expedia's "main competitor" to which I eluded is Travelocity, who acquired World Choice Travel a few years back, and is now a part of the Sabre Holdings organization. That is why you have outstanding inventory and have the IC Hotels Group props that Hotels.com and Expedia seem to "neglect" (for want of a better word) .

    I will keep an open mind and take a look at the new "microsite" when it is ready. I am very happy with my current suppliers, but have always had the attitude of not putting all of my eggs in the same basket. I was one of the original affiliates of Lodging.com and got to see, first hand, how botched up things can get when companies change hands. On the other hand, Travelocity's acquisition of WCT turned out to be a very good thing.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  10. #10
    Outsourced Program Manager
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    funny, no one mentions Accomline or Planetholiday ( who uses Agoda) which are the other 2 biggies out there.

    In the hotel online game he that offers the lowest price to the guest gets the sale. :-)
    Richard
    Affiliate Marketing Manager AMWSO
    Digestinol, Luxe-Design


    Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. Pablo Picasso

  11. #11
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard - AMWSO
    funny, no one mentions Accomline or Planetholiday ( who uses Agoda) which are the other 2 biggies out there.
    I would guess it is because the payout for Agoda, is so low :-(

    If you do less than 49 sales a month (which is still alot) you only get 35% commission, and you have to wait until the guest departs from the hotel, before you get paid.

    I believe the big benefit to our program for the majority of the affiliates here is that you get paid for every sale, right away!

  12. #12
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard - AMWSO
    funny, no one mentions Accomline or Planetholiday ( who uses Agoda) which are the other 2 biggies out there.

    In the hotel online game he that offers the lowest price to the guest gets the sale. :-)
    About Agoda - What HotelsByCity said - plus the fact that neither of them have good US inventory. Example, Agoda has a directory listing for Ocean City, MD (a major east coast resort town - one where I have a second home), but the only hotel listed is in a town 25 miles away. My sites for OCMD have at least 25 hotels, with the majority of them being right on the ocean.

    Lowest price is good, but does not always get the reservation. Two of three suppliers that I use in that niche destination offer a lowest price guarantee, but I seem to do better there with the one who does not.

    Unfortunately, Accomline seems to be rebating a portion of the travel agent fee (commission) to the shopper. Definitely not good for an affiliate arrangement.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  13. #13
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beachy
    On the other hand, Travelocity's acquisition of WCT turned out to be a very good thing.
    Hmm... Not sure I agree 100%. I enjoyed working with the smaller, more responsive WCT before they were purchased. Didn't see a lot of benefit coming out of the acquisition.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  14. #14
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    Hello Everyone,

    Just wanted to update you on our new "affiliate microsite" as promised we have designed a site that contains only one product "hotel reservations"

    To see the site visit:

    http://reservations.hotelsbycity.com...deals/10020068

    we will be adding links into the SAS back office, so affiliates can decide whether they want to show links to our Main site, or the new "affiliate microsite"

    If you have any feedback please feel free to provide it here.

    thanks,

    Andrew

    Note: 1 link in the footer still exists to book by phone, we are working on eliminating that number.

  15. #15
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    Got it!

    No more phone number, so this site is ready to go.

  16. #16
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    I like it!

  17. #17
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    As promised here is the link to our new affiliate link builder, to try it out just enter in your shareasale ID.

    http://www.hotelsbycity.com/affiliate/shareasale/

    Our goal was to simplify the process of getting links to our program.

    Feedback is welcome, as we are trying to build a better program.

  18. #18
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotelsbycity
    As promised here is the link to our new affiliate link builder, to try it out just enter in your shareasale ID.

    http://www.hotelsbycity.com/affiliate/shareasale/

    Our goal was to simplify the process of getting links to our program.

    Feedback is welcome, as we are trying to build a better program.
    Congratulations hotelsbycity,

    I just took a look at most of the links builder on that link, and I like what I saw.

    I was not planning to join hotelsbycity until January because I still have some other work to do, but it looks like I might have to do some overtime in the next couple of weeks.

  19. #19
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    thanks mr. sal,

    when you get going, please contact me if you need any custom creatives built.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotelsbycity
    As promised here is the link to our new affiliate link builder, to try it out just enter in your shareasale ID.

    http://www.hotelsbycity.com/affiliate/shareasale/

    Our goal was to simplify the process of getting links to our program.

    Feedback is welcome, as we are trying to build a better program.

    It looks great. Thanks.
    Need to add the links back...

  21. #21
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotelsbycity
    As promised here is the link to our new affiliate link builder, to try it out just enter in your shareasale ID.

    http://www.hotelsbycity.com/affiliate/shareasale/

    Our goal was to simplify the process of getting links to our program.

    Feedback is welcome, as we are trying to build a better program.
    I checked out the "link builder" and did a couple of trials (not bookings) and the clicks did track through to the SAS interface. Very nicely done.

    You certainly have an easy program with which to work for someone getting into the travel/hospitality vertical. It seems like an ideal way for someone with a community site to break into booking the local hotels in/near their community to better monetize that site. Or someone with a travel-related but not a specific geographic niche, for example, following kite festivals along the East Coast (as I do), to sell hotel/motel rooms to those travelers.

    That's the Kudos - here's the concerns...

    However, I think affiliates would do much better had you kept the "full content" site and just removed the leaks. The micro-site is workable, and should convert fine if a very good pre-sell is done by an affiliate. The full site would convert/sell a lot better - minus the leaks.

    It seems like you are tying to be all things to all people (ex: using AdSense to pay your content authors) and it will make for a cumbersome program. If you want Hotels By City to become a great affiliate program - it should be developed for and focused on affiliates only. As you said, you have plenty of other sites producing thousands of bookings per day; that is where you can (should?) pursue your other avenues.

    But, you are the merchant and I am just a plain ol' affiliate - so that's just my 2-cents.

    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  22. #22
    Newbie hotelsbycity's Avatar
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    Hey Beachy,

    I understand your concern with our site, but it's a little unrealistic for us to change hotelsbycity.com to be exclusively an affiliate site. We've worked on this site for years, trying to build brand, and perfecting the buying process.

    It's kind of like saying to travelocity.com now that you guys have a CJ affiliate program, you should focus your whole site on being affiliate friendly.

    What we are trying to do is balance both worlds using one site. Ultimately the site doesn't need to be built with the affiliate or the merchant in mind, if we want to be successful the site should be built with the customer in mind.

    This is why we created 2 paths:

    1) our main site "hotelsbycity" is good if you are running a generic campaign, and just wanted to send that traffic through a site, you would send it here, because we have built a business on converting those visitors into buyers.

    2) If you have a customer who you have directed down a specific path, who you feel is qualified and ready to buy, then you would send that customer to the "MicroSite" to complete the transaction without any distractions.

    In reality I think what we have created here, is far superior to what most major brands are offering in a link, and banner affiliate program. (that coupled with our industry leading payout) and I think we have a pretty solid program.

    We will however continue to welcome feedback, as we strive to make our program better.

  23. #23
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    I realize this thread is about 8 months old, but just wondered if anyone had recently clicked through their links? I only had one up, but after receiving an email telling me that I had none up I clicked through to be sure it worked. It went through just fine, but on that landing page there was an interesting link to see the top ten...etc. That takes you to another part of the site where the links are no longer SAS, they are pricelinepartnernetwork, ZEDU and traveladvertising links and clicking on their "Travel Affiliate Program" link shows links to sign up with Priceline on CJ. Get a branded travel site, then you can sign up to be a merchant at SAS maybe. If a visitor buys in the first screen, you get $10, if the visitor clicks through, there aren't any more SAS links. I would prefer the AdSense leaks myself. How is this site a SAS 'Exclusive'? I guess because it excludes SAS links after the first directory change. book.hotelsbycity/ is not the same site as hotelsbycity/ Take a good look.

  24. #24
    Outsourced Program Manager
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    Hotels by City
    Hello all;

    I just want to clear up some things for everyone before this gets out of control. I and Amwso took over the program in May and saw that the site had leaks and asked Andrew to give us a NEW site without any leaks. He set up a new url for us within a day or 2 and i sent out a newsletter telling all affiliates to Please go in and grab a banner or text link with the NEW url (http://book.hotelsbycity.com) You can check this url and see there are no leaks.

    Then about a week later we had Andrew design a new data feed and once again i asked affiliates to please check their links and make sure they point to the new site.
    It appears some affiliates did not change their links over and i truly apologize for any misunderstanding.

    Andrew has listened to the affiliates and to us and we hope to drive this program forward and with your help make it a very good booking engine for the customer and affiliates.

    All the best,

    Richard
    Richard
    Affiliate Marketing Manager AMWSO
    Digestinol, Luxe-Design


    Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. Pablo Picasso

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard - AMWSO
    Then about a week later we had Andrew design a new data feed and once again i asked affiliates to please check their links and make sure they point to the new site.
    Richard,

    I just checked a few of the text links on SAS, they are still pointed to www.hotelsbycity.com where there is a huge banner on the right bar leaks to other sites.

    You asked affiliates to "make sure they point to the new site", I understand that can be done by "Create a Custom Link to a Page". However, would that be helpful to clear the confusion if you can change the text links on SAS to point them to the new none-leaking site?

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