Hotel Online  Special Report

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More Hotel Web Site Hints, Tips, and Tricks - Unwrapped

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By: Neil Salerno – June 2006

When it comes to boosting web site sales, search engine optimization (SEO) has become the first and last choice by many web marketing companies. It seems that SEO has become the current Rx prescription for non-producing web sites. In itself, SEO can be very beneficial, but it is certainly not the cure-all that some web marketers claim. 

The ironic thing about search engine optimization is that it actually needs to begin with the structure of the site itself. Applying SEO to an improperly designed hotel web site is like adding high-test gas to a car that doesn’t have an engine or transmission. It’s still going nowhere.

Designing a functional web site is not rocket science, but there are some fundamental design necessities to produce a marketable web site. Don’t get caught up by web designers who want to create a work of art instead of a hotel web site that sells rooms. Don’t think that a hotel site only needs to look good. Flash elements are still a bad idea and entire flash web sites, a new trend, may be great for museums and art galleries, but terrible for hotel web sites.

There are still many web designers who don’t understand the purpose of a hotel web site. In their eagerness to make an attractive site, many completely ignore the interaction between search engines and web site content; how they must compliment one another. Text content sells rooms, yet many designers treat it like an after-thought. Text is what search engines see in order to rank a web site.

There are just a few key components of a well designed site; 

  • thoroughly researched and well-thought-out Meta Tags; 
  • a simple site navigation theme; 
  • well written sales text; 
  • a good link strategy; 
  • a good booking engine; 
  • use of low density photography; 
  • and knowledge of how consumers choose hotels. 
It’s amazing how many sites violate one or more of these essentials.

Many hotel web sites today are producing upwards of 30% to 50% or more of their hotel’s total room business. Some hotels claim even higher production numbers and yet, on the other hand, there are still many hoteliers who are facing dismal production but love the “look” of their sites, so they do nothing. 

Many hoteliers have allowed themselves to get hung up in the technical subterfuge of measuring the effectiveness of their site by “hits”, “unique user visits”, and other technical jargon used by web designers who know little about selling rooms online. I can’t count the number of web sites, I’ve reviewed, that are completely dysfunctional from a search and/or sales stand-point, but get a descent number of “unique users”.  The problem is they don’t book many reservations.

The average hotel web site converts less than four reservations from every one hundred visitors; many even fewer. A well designed site can increase conversions by two or three times. The true measure of a well designed web site is the number of reservations it generates. A good booking engine will give you the “look-to-book” ratio of your site. If it’s only average, you can do something about it.

I hear from many hoteliers, who have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the development of their web sites that are now very unhappy with their site’s production. They have web sites that are attractive brochures instead of sales productive web sites. As a result, many of these hoteliers are frustrated with and disappointed in their site’s ability to generate business. 

The fix doesn’t have to cost a fortune and the return can be very cost effective.

Take a lesson from the bright people managing franchise web sites. During the past few years, several franchises have invested time and energy to improve the ability of their sites to capture reservations. They have made their sites more user, search, and navigation friendly; reduced the number of clicks to make a reservation; improved their booking engines; and enhanced their sales message through well-written text. 

As a result of their efforts to improve the market ability of their web sites, many franchises have significantly increased overall production. Making your site sales worthy is the first step in marketing your web site. 

Ok, you’ve improved your web site, it’s now optimized to “sell” reservations; and your new booking engine is integrated into your site and ready to capture and track new reservations. Now, it’s time to apply search engine optimization, right? Well, not exactly.

A very effective way to prepare your site for SEO is to create a good “link strategy”. Search engines like Google and Yahoo place a strong emphasis on links within, to, and from your site when it is ranked. When choosing a designer, check-out their knowledge of links and how strategic links can be effectively used on your site. 

Populating your web site is similar to populating your hotel. Greater popularity of your site generates even more popularity. Sometimes, a temporary boost from pay-per-click sites like Google and Yahoo can give your site that added popularity needed to improve your rankings by search engines. They will work with your budget, so it doesn’t have to be open-ended. They can place your site among the first four search results.

It may sound too simple, but I am surprised at the number of people who haven’t yet learned to utilize the “signature” on their emails. A link to your web site along with a brief message is simple to create and can be beneficial.

Marketing your web site includes marketing on-your-web-site. If your current booking engine doesn’t accommodate the booking of packages, it’s time to change engines. People love packages; especially simple packages with popular elements. At the very least, they provide an additional choice for visitors.  

If your hotel accommodates group business, include a “request for proposal” page on your site. If planners visit your site, give them an opportunity complete an electronic RFP to get a quick response; it’s only common-sense.

Use your site to develop a data base of the users who visit. One way to accommodate this is a simple email newsletter link to which users can register. A simple award of some kind can enhance the popularity of this link. A good site designer can easily build this for your site. Use your new data base to further market your hotel. 

Location is still the number one criterion for choosing a hotel. Simply listing your address is not enough. What are the room night generators in your area? Descriptions of and links to these generators can multiply your chances for getting bookings. 

Meet with your sales and/or front office team to review the text details on your site. They know the “hot buttons” which your guests share. It amazes me that so many sales and front office people have no clue as to what is on their hotel’s web site, yet they are the most guest-knowledgeable people in the hotel.   

Pay keen attention to what rates are offered on your site. Are they current, are they at parity with rates offered at the front desk and other channels, and are they competitive with your neighbors? Rates should never be developed in a vacuum. If your deserved position is to be number one in your market, let your rates reflect that position. This is especially important for independent hotels; your rates will define your hotel. People don’t shop rates, they shop value.

Download and print your web site, give it to peers, friends, and family and get their viewpoint. You will gain a completely different viewpoint when you see it in print. Is the text in priority order; does the text sell; is it up-to-date; is it accurate? The devil is in the details; your web site deserves your attention.

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Contact:

Neil Salerno, C.H.M.E., C.H.A.
The Hotel Marketing Coach
www.hotelmarketingcoach.com
NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com
607/331-3626

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Also See: Nine Tips to Create a Dominant Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Your Hotel Web Site: If It Ain’t Broke…Break It! / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Independent Hotel Web Sites - Marketing Winners…and Losers / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Tired of Hotel Sales Training That Excites… But Doesn’t Change Anything? / Neil Salerno / April 2006
Hotel Web Site Productivity…The New Way to Measure Your Site’s Effectiveness / Neil Salerno / April 2006
Hotel Revenue Management. . . The Way I See It / Neil Salerno / April 2006
Hotel Web Site Lookers & Bookers; Want to Convert Lookers on Your Web Site? / Neil Salerno / March 2006
Hotelier Rebuts Article Concerning Third-party Online Aggregators / Neil Salerno / February 2006
Great Opportunity for Independent Hotels - Cash-in on Electronic Sales / Neil Salerno / January 2006
Some Hoteliers Still Don’t Recognize the Benefits Derived from Third-party Listings; Shame, Shame, Shame on You! / Neil Salerno / January 2006
Online Hotel Rating Sites Driving Anxiety into  the Hearts of Many Hotel Managers / Neil Salerno / December 2005
Hotel Web Site Priorities –Some Do’s, Don’ts; Why the Heck Did You Do That? / Neil Salerno / November 2005
The Best Hotel Sales Director I Ever Met; What Do The Good Ones Have in Common? / Neil Salerno / November 2005
The Best Hotel General Manager I Ever Met / Neil Salerno / October 2005
What’s your eMarketing Proficiency? Using Electronic Marketing Tools / Neil Salerno / October 2005
When Times Get Tough…Get Tougher! Sell Harder Before You Cave-in on Rates / Neil Salerno / September 2005
The Web Site Conundrum…Are You Winning the Electronic Marketing Game? / Neil Salerno / August 2005
Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My; The Hotel Yellow Brick Road is Less Scary than It Used to Be / Neil Salerno / August 2005
Running Dry on Good Hotel Ideas? It’s not What You Know - It’s Who You Know / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Revenue Grabbing Tips for Independent Hotels; Start Thinking Like the Chains / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Web Basics That Really Work…Content is King / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Supplier Sites versus Online Travel Agents; The War Chronicles / Neil Salerno / June 2005
New Hotel Technology Surround Us; Yet Face-to-face Selling is Still Most Productive / Neil Salerno / June 2005
The Internet…The Great Equalizer For Independent Hotels / Neil Salerno / June 2005
Third-Party Booking Sites Still Dominate Internet Sales;  Why Do So Many Consider this Bad? / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Now That Online Hotel Booking Is Here to Stay, New Challenges Emerge / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Independent Boutique Hotels Can Compete With their Big Box Neighbors / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Who Are Your Most Important Guests? We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! / Neil Salerno / March 2005
New Consumer Hotel Booking Preferences - They Love the Internet…Now What? / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Who Would Have Thought - Today's Hotel Marketing Necessity Is Also its Best Value / March 2005
Time For a Hotel Web Site “Make-Over”? Methods for Building a Successful Web Site Change / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Create Impact by Developing a Link Strategy For Your Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Steps to Develop Your Hotel's Presence on the Web / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Five Hotel Internet Marketing Myths - Busted!/ Neil Salerno / January 2005
How Does Your Hotel Web Site Measure-Up? 2005 Will Be the Internet’s Most Productive Year so Far / Neil Salerno / January 2005
Are You Being Out-Hustled By Your Competition? How to Dominate Your Hotel's Market Set / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Why Are Some Hotel Companies Plagued By Management Turnover? Is This Systematic of Poor Performance? / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Basic Components of a Hotel Website: Current Weather, Flash Animation, and Virtual Tours?? Plain Talk About Internet Sales / Neil Salerno / February 2004
Don’t Compromise Your Goals In 2004; Five New Year’s Resolutions You Will Want To Keep / Neil Salerno / January 2004
No More Whining About Third-Party Suppliers; You Control Your Own Fate On The Net / Neil Salerno / December 2003
Six 'Maxi’s' Guaranteed To Boost Hotel Sales / Neil Salerno / November 2003
It’s Time To Take Back Control Of Rates & Rooms - But Is The Enemy...Us? / Neil Salerno / November 2003
Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get! / Neil Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesn’t Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? It’s Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... You’ll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelier’s Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003


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