As consumer purchasing behavior has shifted more towards shopping on the internet, having an effective website is more important than ever. Whether you are the owner of a small lodge, hostel, guest house, inn, bed & breakfast, or hotel with less than 50 rooms, a custom hotel website can increase your operation's performance, yield direct bookings, and produce greater long-term financial growth. Travelers of tomorrow will spend more time and money researching a site before traveling to a destination. With that your website will need to help them find you, capture their attention, and create opportunity so your customers can make direct bookings through you. By making an investment in developing a hotel website, you're on your way to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Hotel Websites Today More than ever, today's hotel websites need to be functional both for the hotels and the visitors. The design and purpose of your hotel's website can greatly affect your potential and existing visitors' online experiences and ultimately tap into your target markets. If you simply think website traffic will determine your marketing success, then you'll need to think again. The effectiveness of your website should be measured based on the following two major issues: Conversion rates: Is your website converting lookers into bookers? Website optimization: Is your website driving visitors to your site? First, your website is a sales tool; therefore, speed and quality of the site's accessibility will affect your users' satisfaction. The site needs to offer a simple, easy-to-use navigation scheme and a good link strategy in addition to site attractiveness. Second, your website needs to include technical and marketing principles to attract bookings. These would include well-written content, keywords, sales text, technically acceptable photography, researched and carefully chosen search terms/phrases, workable description, and Meta Tags title. Third, you should develop and utilize the website to its full potential. You will need to incorporate a functional reservation booking system or inventory management system. Additionally, your site needs to include a medium that establishes e-Relationships, one-to-one communication, or a form of interactivity with the users. Fourth, the website needs to provide the optimal paths to maximize sell-through and conversion rates. Your website needs to be user-friendly especially in the number of steps to make the actual reservation. The key is to maximize usability and minimize bailout rates. Marketing through your Hotel Website According to Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, the least expensive way to receive bookings would be through hotels' own website and online reservation booking sites. Reservation requests that require handling by email or phone can become a significant cost factor. By automating the reservation process, you're on your way to increasing efficiency and reducing cost. Additionally, reservations that come from online or offline travel agents often incur a 10% or more commission on each booking. Google reports that the average traveler visits 22 different websites over the span of 9.5 research sessions before making a travel related booking. This means you need to have a website that is effective in predicting, responding to, and connecting with customers' needs. Your next guest may use an online travel website to discover you, but they are also likely to search for hotel websites after the initial discovery in order to shop for other hotels and promotions. Through a functional website, you will give your guests greater opportunity to spend their money directly with you instead of through a middleman. Now...that is what we call earning more without spending more. Download the complete Whitepaper >> Click here for FREE DOWNLOAD Hotel Size does note Matter The only time when hotel size matters is when you have oversold your hotel. As you evaluate your website strategy, you just need to think about the following two questions. First, "Who can tell a better story and describe your hotel better than you." Your hotel website allows you to describe your rooms, amenities, and nearby attractions that you believe to be the most important for your guests. Whether it is a small hotel with 20 rooms or medium hotel with 65 rooms, you can update your hotel information and change rates on the fly. The second important question is, "Are you ready to confirm more online direct bookings." Your hotel website can provide immediate results and bookings around the clock. Once in a while, you may even get more bookings than you can handle. Direct bookings from your website cost far less than reservations coming from a travel agent. Not every hotel website performs the same, therefore you want your website to be competitive whenever and wherever possible. Encourage User Generated Content - Guest Reviews Utilizing user-generated content allows you to establish e-Relationships and create interactive opportunities with readers that would inspire more people to want to know about your property. Cornell University recently released the results of a study that showed a hotel can yield great benefits from guest reviews on the accommodations. Guest reviews on review-sites or hotel's blog site can provide insight for you to improve your services and products. As the hotel gets more reviews, your hotel will become more recognizable. You can also share the ratings and reviews through other online and offline media to promote your property. The bottom line is that on your website you need to encourage user-generated comments about your property. Ideally, you want your hotel name to show up on travel site such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and CitySearch. Designing Your Site - For You and Your Guests There's so much to consider in order to blend your needs with your guests' needs into one effective website. Having photos on your website will generate interest about your products and services. You also need to have searchable text and stimulating content. Your users will find it hard to ignore a hotel website with nice photos without reading the text. So, focus on texts to highlight the most important features of your property such as location, property type, and services. Does your site read like it was written by a techie? Do you have typos that give a poor impression of your product? Do you have words in the text that search engines can't see? If you answered yes then it is time to give your content a makeover. The first two to three paragraphs should include a number of keywords/phrases to increase searches. You also do not want to overdo it or you could be accused of spamming. Write as if you are talking to your visitors. Additionally, you need to focus on sales then features and benefits. Talk plainly! Making Your Website Sell There are a number of reasons to have a hotel website, and the most important reason should be providing real-time online reservation bookings channel. Sell...Sell...Sell...your website needs to have photos and content but most importantly a booking system that allows you to maintain rates and room inventory. Websites with no booking system, just contact information or an email button is a sure way to lose out on potential bookings. Once you have the framework for your website, then you can shop for a booking system/engine that charges a flat fee each month with no commissions or booking fees. Attaching a booking system to your site is a minor expense because you'll be better positioned in the marketplace and to capture many direct bookings that you could be missing. Booking Button Location...Location...Location...A nice website with the booking button behind many layers of pages is less effective than if the booking button is on the homepage. Having the "check availability" button on the homepage will maximize your sales strategy. For instance, in 2013, Hotel San Jose in Austin, Texas and The Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island were recognized with great hotel websites. These websites have rich media, booking buttons on the homepage, and are considered to be user-friendly. Booking Engine to Use A hotel website with a booking engine gives customers the opportunity to "Book Now". One size does not fit all when choosing the booking engine to use. Sirvoy hotel booking system and RezOvation are two systems that offer abundant features for small to medium sized properties. While you may want features like Facebook integration and revenue management, your website will also need to have a hook that creates a reason to book now, such as one of the following: - Free breakfast, meal, or dessert - Complimentary upgrade upon check-in if available - Discounts on hotel parking and local attractions - Free use of spa or fitness room - A gift certificate for the restaurant or future stay Social Sharing Buttons One way to get the word out about your property is to optimize your website for social media. You would also want to extend your reservation and front desk services by encouraging your guests to connect with you through social media. A lot of times, you visit a website and there are social networks buttons. The top five social networks are Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Yelp, and Google+, which they have become a dominate force in pushing information and pictures out through various social networks to the public as well as capturing people's attention to visit a website. With all the social media buttons out there, your first step is to determine whether you want social media follow buttons or social media sharing buttons/links. Here's the thing with decisions. You know how to make the decision, you just want to feel sure about it afterward. The decision here is going to be so simple that you won't have to contend with going with your gut feeling or listening to your heart. In a Nutshell As a hotelier, one thing that you have to love about a custom hotel website is that the website can do so much for you. At the current pace of technology, nearly everyone you know or ever met probably owns a desktop, mobile phone, laptop, or tablet. You ought to believe that shopping for travel and hotel products on the internet is an unbelievably popular thing to do. The key is that you need to find time and resources to work with a graphic/website designer, booking engine company, SEO experts, copywriters or content writer, photographers, and people who know how to write code and tell them what you need. The secret to an effective hotel website is combining all the elements that we have presented in this guide. Here is a short recap: - A simple and visually appealing site with concise messages and a user-friendly navigation system and booking system that reduces reservation abandonment rates. - An information system that will tell you about your target markets, keywords or phrases that will bring you more customers, and types of amenities and services that work for your property. - A manageable website so you can utilize the sales tool for its intended purpose: Sell...Sell...Sell... - Once you have crafted a functional website then focus on strengthening connections with potential and existing customers and distinguishing your products and services. You can do these by a combination of social and digital media, online and offline promotions, and the use of technologies. - Lastly, put on your travel hat. Find your site through a search engine. Book a room through your website. Evaluate your overall experience. Examine the features that your website has to offer. Write a blog about your products and services. These are some of the tasks to perform to ensure the effectiveness of your website. The more closely you look at your site from the customer's point of view, the more likely your website will generate more direct bookings. And when that happens, you are on your way to filling more rooms and turning more one-time guests to repeat customers. Download the whitepaper at Customer Alliance