After performing literally hundreds of website analyses, it amazes me how many hotel websites 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; and sites which are not designed to sell rooms or anything else for that matter.
If more website designers were held responsible for the production of the sites they design, our industry would have much better online results. The goal should be to develop a collaborative relationship with your site’s designer for the revenue production of your site.
Benchmark – 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. Let me say right now that I don’t buy that old webmaster pretext. It’s a lame excuse why your site is not producing more reservations. Don’t kid yourself; until your bank accepts the number of site visitors for a deposit, you need online reservations.
Many unschooled web designers, as well as some owners and managers, think that a website 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 website 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” website, is that a properly designed web site will generate reservations online, relieving your busy front desk. It’s a means of tapping into the 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 – “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 webmaster 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 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” means that much.
Benchmark –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 keyword/phrases for search engines. Keyword/phrases are then reinforced within the text of your web site; all key words/phrases should be carefully researched. Keywords 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, seek 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 one that does.
Benchmark – Search Engine Optimization & Link Development 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 real problem. Sending more visitors to a dysfunctional web site, that doesn’t have the right sales information, will not solve your problem. How many “relevant” visitors are visiting your site?
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 – 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 website 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 websites is increasingly more complicated and difficult. The ultimate success of a website 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 website goes far beyond how your site looks. We’re not talking rocket science, here. You can have both a great looking site that works well and one that generates reservations. It deserves your time and attention.
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