Hotel Online  Special Report
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..Production Benchmarks for
Your Hotel’s Web Site
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How well is your Site Performing?

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By: Neil Salerno August 2006

After performing literally hundreds of web site analyses, it amazes me how many hotel web sites are either totally or partially dysfunctional. There are so many sites which are not in-step with even basic search engine requirements; sites with poorly written text content; inadequate navigation; dense photography too slow to download; and sites which are not designed to sell rooms.

Benchmark – Number of monthly reservations

If your site is producing only a few online reservations each month, stop consoling yourself by believing that people are visiting your site, but calling your 800 number to make a reservation.  Now let me say right now that I don’t buy that web master pretext.  It’s a lame excuse why your site is not producing more reservations. 

Many unschooled web designers, as well as some owners and managers, think that a web site is simply an online brochure and, therefore, they design the site that way. As long as it has pretty pictures and cool moving stuff, it should be fine. This is smoke and mirrors; a hotel web site should be designed to induce your site’s visitors to make reservations online; your site is a selling piece. 

Among the many reasons why you need a functional “selling” web site, is that a properly designed web site will generate reservations online, relieving your busy front desk, it’s a means of tapping into the new online travel market, and reduces a hotel’s overall cost of reservations sales.

Sure, some site visitors will shop and compare hotels on the Internet, then call to make a reservation. That will always be true. But, the fact is that the number of people making reservations online is growing exponentially; the new breed of travelers is Internet focused and wants to complete their transaction online. Plain and simple, if you’re not getting at least 30% (50% for independent hotels) of all your reservations directly from your site, it’s time to fix it.

Benchmark – Your “look to book” Ratio

Take a close look at the number of people who visit your site as compared to the number who make a reservation; this is your site’s look-to-book ratio. Your web master can provide this data to you. Stop accepting the number of unique visitors, alone, as a measure of the success of your site. If your site is not “converting” at least 5% to 7% of visitors into reservations, something is not working properly. 

Many web designers who only know how to make a site look pretty and don’t have a clue as to what elements are needed to sell rooms. You should not judge your site by how cool it looks. Excessive flash content on a hotel site is still evil. I see hotel sites with poor sales text content and with navigation that is so poor that it totally confuses their sales message, but the sites sure look nice; as if “looks” mean that much. 

Benchmark – Poor Technical Design

There are many sites with poorly selected Meta Tags or with none at all. Meta tags describe the content of your site, and establish key word/phrases for search engines. Key word/phrases are then reinforced within the text of your web site; all key words/phrases should be carefully researched. Key words and phrases will determine which search results will be displayed.

There are also many sites with no apparent link strategy to boost the site’s popularity; backward links can improve visibility substantially. Instead of selecting a designer by how attractive they can make a site, look for a designer who can make your site technically sound. Don’t judge the designer by the size of their company; some very expensive site designs are ineffective too. If the designer has no hotel sales experience, choose a new web designer. 

Benchmark – Search Engine Optimization

If your site is not performing well, stay far away from anyone who’s first suggestion is that search engine optimization (SEO) is the answer; chances are that your site’s design is the problem. Sending more visitors to a dysfunctional web site that doesn’t have the right sales information will not solve your problem. 

Your first step should be to have someone perform a detailed page-by-page analysis of your site to find the problems. This will help you determine how much tweaking your site needs. There are many criteria which determine the functionality of your web site. Your site’s design should conform to search engine and hotel sales requirements.

Benchmark – Your site’s overall design

If your site has a poor search engine ranking, it could be because of all those cool morphing photos and all those “moving” things you love. The scary thing is that many new web site designers are using flash elements because they look cool, but too much flash will doom your site to failure. It’s simple; search engines cannot “see” flash or graphics of any kind. They only read text; if your text is poorly written, it simply won’t sell rooms. 

In case you are wondering why your site must conform to search engine requirements, consider that, in the Internet world, there are now more web pages than there are people on Earth! Finding web sites is increasingly more complicated and difficult. The ultimate success of a web site is dependent upon the site’s ability to be found by the user. Its ability to be found is dependent upon the site’s design. 

It is truly a shame that many owners and managers don’t see past the “look” of their site. The functionality of your web site goes far beyond how your site looks. We’re not talking rocket science, here. You can have a great looking site that works well to generate reservations; It deserves your time and attention.

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Contact:

Neil Salerno
Hotel Marketing Coach
www.hotelmarketingcoach.com
NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com

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Also See: Hotel Web Site Lookers & Bookers; Want to Convert Lookers on Your Web Site? / Neil Salerno / March 2006
More Hotel Web Site Hints, Tips, and Tricks - Unwrapped / Neil Salerno / June 2006
Nine Tips to Create a Dominant Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003


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