After performing literally hundreds of website scans, I am amazed at how many hotel websites are totally or partially dysfunctional. There are so many sites that aren’t even up to basic search engine requirements; sites with poorly written textual content; improper navigation; and sites that are not designed to sell rooms or anything else for that matter.
If more web designers were held accountable for producing the sites they design, our industry would perform much better online. The goal should be to develop a collaborative relationship with your site designer for revenue generation from your site.
Benchmark – Monthly bookings
If your site produces only a few online reservations each month, stop consoling yourself that people are visiting your site, but call your 800 number to make a reservation. Let me say right now that I’m not buying that old webmaster excuse. It’s a lame excuse why your site isn’t generating more bookings. Make no mistake; 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 just an online brochure and therefore they design the site that way. As long as there are pretty pictures and cool emotional stuff, you should be fine. It’s smoke and mirrors; a hotel website should be designed to entice your site visitors to make online reservations; your site is a selling item.
Among the many reasons you need a functioning “sales” website is that a well-designed website will generate online bookings, which will relieve your busy reception. It’s a way to tap into the online travel market and reduce a hotel’s overall booking cost of sales.
Of course, some site visitors will buy and compare hotels on the Internet, then call to make a reservation. It will always be true. But, the fact is that the number of people making online reservations is increasing exponentially; the new generation of travelers are internet-centric and want to transact online. Simple and clear, if you’re not getting at least 30% (50% for independent hotels) of all your bookings directly from your site, it’s time to fix it.
Benchmark – Look-to-book ratio
Take a close look at the number of people visiting your site versus the number of people making a reservation; this is the look-to-book ratio of your site. Your webmaster can provide you with this data. Stop accepting the number of unique visitors alone as a measure of your site’s success. If your site isn’t “converting” at least 5% to 7% of visitors into bookings, something is not working right.
Many web designers only know how to make a site look pretty and have no idea what elements are needed to sell rooms. You shouldn’t judge your site by its appearance. Excessive flash content on a hotel site is always a bad thing. I see hotel sites with poor sales text content and navigation so poor that it totally confuses their sales message, but the sites look good; as if “look” meant that much.
Benchmark – Technical design
There are many sites with poorly selected Meta tags or none at all. META tags describe the content of your site and establish keywords/phrases for search engines. The keywords/phrases are then reinforced in your website text; all key words/phrases should be carefully researched. Keywords and phrases will determine which search results are displayed.
There are also many sites with no apparent linking strategy to increase site popularity; backlinks can significantly improve visibility. Instead of choosing a designer based on 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 his company; some very expensive site designs are also inefficient. If the designer has no experience selling hotels, choose one that does.
Benchmark – Search Engine Optimization and Link Building
If your site isn’t performing well, stay away from anyone whose first suggestion is that search engine optimization (SEO) is the answer; chances are your site design is the real problem. Sending more visitors to a dysfunctional website, which does not contain the correct sales information, will not solve your problem. How many “relevant” visitors visit your site?
Your first step should be to have someone do a detailed page-by-page analysis of your site to find the issues. This will help you determine how much tweaking your site needs. Many criteria determine the functionality of your website. The design of your site must comply with the requirements of search engines and hotel sales.
Benchmark – Global design
If your site is ranking poorly in search engines, it might be because of all those great morphing photos and all those “moving” things you love. The scary thing is that many new web designers use 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 coins.
In case you are wondering why your site has to comply with search engine requirements, consider that in the world of the Internet, there are now more web pages than there are people on Earth! Finding websites is increasingly complicated and difficult. The ultimate success of a website depends on the ability of the site to be found by the user. Its ability to be found depends on the design of the site.
It’s a real shame that many owners and managers don’t see beyond the “look” of their site. The functionality of your website goes far beyond the appearance of your site. We’re not talking rocket science here. You can have both a great site that works well and a site that generates bookings; It deserves your time and attention.
Neil CHME, CHA Salerno
941 822 0662
Hotel marketing coach