Hotel Online  Special Report

Independent Hotel Web Sites - 
Marketing Winners…and Losers


By: Neil Salerno – May 2006

Just about every month, I hear from independent hotel owners and managers with questions about marketing their properties on the Internet. Their questions cover many aspects of Internet marketing; web site design, how to improve traffic to their site, pay-per-click and other forms of electronic advertising, online booking engines, developing a link strategy, or simply, how to work with third-party aggregators and the GDS. 

Most of these owners and managers are less concerned with the technical aspects of what needs to be done to improve their site; they are more interested in getting it fixed and how much will it cost. Take heed, it shouldn’t cost a fortune and is almost always very cost-effective; with a return-on-your-investment measured in weeks to just a few months.

There are thousands of hotel web sites that range from really great to really poor, in design. During the last 15 years or so, many hotels jumped on the bandwagon to have a presence on the web. 

In those early days, few people knew how to design an effective hotel web site; many of them were designed by the hotel’s “in-house” techie, the owner’s niece or nephew, some local ad agency, or a host of technically oriented but unfortunately, not hotel marketing oriented, designers. 

They made pretty web sites, but lacking conformation to search engine requirements and good marketing techniques, they were very ineffective. The results were a disaster and very discouraging for most of these hotels. The “build it and they will come” theory just doesn’t apply to hotel web sites. 

There are some designers who tout your site’s successes by reporting the number of unique visitors or, even worse, the number of “hits” your web site receives. Very simply, you need to be more concerned with the number of reservations that are made from your site. Basically, it’s the number of “lookers” to “bookers” which counts, unless your bank now accepts deposits of unique users. How well does your site convert lookers into bookers?

The Internet has become the great marketing equalizer; it’s a sales tool which works well for hotels, large and small; independent or franchised. More than that, the Internet is the only tool which allows smaller independent hotels to compete with their bigger-box competition. The Internet leveled the entire playing field. 

Before the Internet, the primary incentive to join a franchise was the enormous marketing power and massive exposure which was wielded by most of the franchises; their reservations contribution. Today, that incentive is somewhat diminished. Now, small and large independent hotels can get needed world-wide marketing exposure on their own; at a far lower cost than that of a franchise.   

There are many owners and managers of small hotels who feel that Internet marketing is financially out of their reach, but they couldn’t be more wrong. It doesn’t take a fortune to gain a presence on the net, but there are some important rules, which need to be followed. It all starts with the design of the web site itself. A well-designed web site follows search engine guidelines, is easy for visitors to navigate, and has text and content which take visitors towards the ultimate goal; to make a reservation. 

Everyone agrees that a hotel web site needs traffic to produce business. With the ever-increasing use of search engines, the search ability of the site is critical. Many people don’t realize that the design of the web site has everything to do with its ability to be found and ranked by search engines. There are many criteria which are used by search engines to “rank” a site. Your site’s conformation to these criteria is essential. 

Perhaps the most common error is over-designing the site itself. Many technically oriented, as opposed to marketing oriented, web designers tend to overwhelm the site with flash, fancy opening pages, complicated moving elements, and morphing photos; with little time and effort spent on the most important part of the site…its text content. 

Text content is so important because it is the only thing that search spiders recognize when ranking a site for search results; key words/phrases and search relativity. Secondly, text is what closes sales; not photography. Good representative photography creates interest, but text sells. Your site is not an online brochure; it’s a sales piece. If it doesn’t sell, what good is it?

It’s easy to spot a web site that was developed by a techie; simply read the text. Poorly written text is the most common error. If the site is full of flash and fancy moving photos, that’s another tip-off; makes for a pretty site, but doesn’t sell hotel rooms. Optimizing the design of your web site is the most important first-step to improve your Internet reservations production. Content is king. 

Ok, you agree, what’s the most logical next step? Hire a hotel marketing professional to review your site and specify changes to optimize your site’s production. Most professionals charge very little for a site review and usually suggest very cost-effective improvements. Beware of those who might suggest search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising, and/or adding flashier cool-stuff to your web site, until your web site itself has been optimized. Spending money to get more people to visit an ineffective web site is a waste of money; fix it first.


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

Also See: 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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