by Neil Salerno

Hotel sales and marketing has changed a lot in recent years. A decade ago, we dreamed that the Internet would become a new, exciting, and cost-effective, way to produce needed room business. For some hotels, that dream became a reality; many hotels report 50% or more of their total room business is now coming through their web sites. But, for many other hoteliers, the dream is fading.

Every week, I hear from hotel owners and managers who express their frustration with the lack of sales results from their web sites. Almost universally, their disappointment stems from the fact that their sites were set-up for failure by improper design by web masters who simply don’t understand search engines or how to sell rooms on the internet.

An all-too-common experience

I spoke to a hotel owner the other day who expressed a fairly typical account of her experience with the Web. She spent $5000 to have a site designed for her hotel and an additional $7000 in search engine optimization efforts; all with just mediocre results. The designer never spent a day in the hotel industry and the site reflected it. They designed a beautiful brochure; but a pretty bad selling piece.

This experience is too common in our industry. All too often, we have the blind leading the blind; hoteliers who judge their sites by how good they look instead of how well they work and site designers who know nothing about hotel marketing or how search engines work. Some of them are even designing entire sites in flash; a certain recipe for disaster.

There are some excellent designers out there; people who know how to apply all the necessary elements to produce a marketable hotel web site. Using some due diligence to find the right designer is well worth the investment of time and effort. Do they know as much about hotel marketing as they know about building a web site?

But there are still many wrong designers who charge exorbitant fees and have no clue how to build an effective hotel web site.

Here’s how to determine if you’ve found the wrong designer:

- When a designer tells you that all you need is SEO, as the first solution to your non-productive site, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer wants to produce your site in flash because it looks cool, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer uses more graphics than text content, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer suggests using cute terminology for site navigation links, like “lobby” for home page, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer has placed lots of outgoing links prominently on your home page, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer thinks that the number of “unique visitors” or “hits” on your site is the true measure of success, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer charges $100 per hour, but passes the design job on to a $15 per hour associate, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer uses the same title and description tags on all your site’s pages, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer wants to use words like “cost” and “price” in your site’s text, instead of “rates”, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer spends more time and effort on cool graphics instead of writing effective sales text, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer forgets to put your hotel’s address or location on your site, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer tells you that you don’t need a “real-time” online booking engine, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer is wearing a beanie with a propeller on top, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.
- When a designer thinks “link strategy” refers to sausage, you’ve probably found the wrong designer.

The actual content of your site is extremely important from a search and a sales information delivery standpoint; it’s a two-step process. It’s wonderful that good sales content will result in more visitors and more reservations from those who visit.

Would you, no could you, be content with only converting 3 or 4 reservations from every one hundred visitors to your site? That’s about average for most hotel web sites with a booking engine. The mission is to increase the number of visitors and to increase the percentage of visitors who make a reservation directly on your site; now you’re cooking.

The Internet is not simply hype; your hotel site can produce a substantial contribution to your overall room revenue. For those of you who have read some of my other articles, you can now find all of them on my web site; give me your feed-back, I’d love to hear from you.

You can contact Neil Salerno at Hotel Marketing Coach