Hotel Online  Special Report

Hotel Web Site Lookers & Bookers; Want to
Convert Lookers on Your Web Site?


By: Neil Salerno – March 2006

Experts say online travel bookings are still on the rise and, according to recent reports; an increasing number of online travelers are turning to supplier sites to book reservations. This is great news for our industry, but, as hoteliers, are we taking advantage of this increased traffic?

The growing popularity of search engines on the net has focused new attention on the need to make certain that your hotel’s web site conforms to search engine guidelines and is designed to convert more of this added traffic into new bookings. This new focus on web design and the monitoring of bookings, and not just unique visitors, is the essence of web site optimization. 

Applying sound hotel marketing principles to a web site will convert more lookers into bookers. In short, it gives a site more bang-for-its-marketing buck.  It’s true that a good search engine optimization program will increase the number of visitors to a site, but it has little value unless a higher percentage of them are converted into reservations. 

How many visitors does the average web site turn into reservations?  

To answer this key question, I turned to a friend, Joe Hyman, president of Secure-Res, one of the most prominent hotel web site booking engines in the US. Joe was among the first innovators to recognize that hotel web sites needed an on-line solution to convert site visitors into room bookings. Joe recognized that this new breed of Internet travel shoppers want and expect an instant reservation confirmation that only a real-time booking engine can provide. 

This makes even more sense when one considers the look to book ratio on the average hotel web site. According to Secure-Res, with their more than 1200 client hotel sites, the average percentage of lookers to bookers is 3.48%. Out of 100 visitors only 4 will actually make a reservation; and remember, this number represents hotels using a great functional booking engine. We can only imagine the poor number of conversions without a good booking engine, or those that have none at all. An increase of merely one or two percent could produce huge returns. 

Franchised hotels with their own web site , but which use their franchise booking engine risk even more loss to “bleed-through” by linking to the many other hotel options on the franchisor’s site. For Independent hotels, a good booking engine is absolutely essential, no matter what size of the hotel. 

If you are not currently tracking the booking effectiveness of your web site, start doing it today. Why be satisfied with only knowing how many users are visiting your site? Is your site converting visitors into reservations? I shudder when clients respond with the number of unique visitors, when asked how their web site is performing. I don’t know of any banks that accept deposits of “unique visitors”. Booking efficiency is much more than counting “unique users” or other web site data.

It just doesn’t make sense to rely solely upon increased traffic to a site without first optimizing the marketability of the site itself, There are still many hotel sites with poor layout and navigation, poor use of graphics, and worst of all, text which doesn’t encourage better search engine rankings, and doesn’t sell hotel rooms or encourage the making of reservations. 

Reviewing the effectiveness of a hotel web site is a marketing function. It’s important to understand how your marketing message is being delivered; and that it’s not simply a matter of providing as much information as possible about the hotel. Many hotels provide too little relevant information and/or too much detail about unnecessary information, which confuses navigation and muddles the entire sales message.  

There are also technical issues to be considered. Is your site set up to conform to the ever-changing “rules of engagement” required by various search engines? Search engines read text not graphics. I would wager that most hotel web designers spend much more time selecting and placing graphics or flash elements; and too little time on writing effective text. 

Most Common Errors

Most site design errors are pretty common-sense issues. Some designers forget that the mission is to sell rooms; not simply to design a pretty web site. The most common errors are:

  1. Poorly written and ineffective text
  2. Too little information on the hotel’s location; sometimes none at all
  3. Lack of a good visual representation of the hotel’s facilities
  4. The use of inappropriate and excessive use of flash elements
  5. Lack of research in the development and placement of meta tags and key words
  6. The choice of a poorly designed booking engine; or none at all
  7. Lack of a functional link strategy
  8. Lack of conformity to search engine requirements
Converting your site from an ineffective one to a productive site simply requires a modest investment in the form of a web site review from a qualified hotel web marketer. Most reviews will provide a “map” of the web site elements, which need to be improved. In most cases, it is not necessary to create an entirely new web site. The process can preserve the general “look and feel” of your site, while improving its performance; a win-win situation.

Stop simply measuring the number of unique users that are visiting your site; converting more lookers into bookers can make substantial contribution to your business model. 


Neil Salerno, C.H.M.E., C.H.A.
The Hotel Marketing Coach

Also See: 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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