By Max Starkov Recently, a major player in the industry announced the launch of their new $399/month service for “DIY” hotel websites. In the past, there have been many attempts to help hoteliers create a quick and cheap website presence, dating back to 1997 and GoDaddy. The main premise of this approach is that all hoteliers need is a website, and that any website would do: choose from a few design templates, slap some photos, add thin, unappetizing descriptions and textual content with no SEO value, add a booking engine widget, and voila! There you have it! This is exactly what $399/month buys these days. Unfortunately, in this multi-channel, multi-device world we live in, a property website built using the “DIY” or “quick and cheap” approach cannot possibly serve as the “heart” of the property’s direct online channel efforts, as the main hub of the property’s multi-channel marketing campaigns across the three screens, or as the property’s main engagement platform with the uber-connected online travel consumer. Over the years, here at HeBS Digital we have had a number of hotel clients who have been damaged “beyond repair” by previous DYI or “quick and cheap” website vendors. The lack of any digital marketing and direct online channel strategy, a non-existent merchandising strategy, thin content, abundant anti-SEO best practices, and the absence of robust analytics to track revenue sources and ROAS of digital campaigns has all added up to a sad story repeated with each such new client. The good news is that with almost all of these cases, we were able to double their website revenues within a year. The property website should do more than just look nice, feature the property logo, photos, and a few pages with descriptions of services and amenities. It has to provide the right balance of excellent design and state-of-the-art technology enabling a robust merchandising strategy to convert lookers into bookers and help shift share from the OTAs. It has to be user-friendly, search-engine-friendly, multi-device friendly and customer engagement-friendly. This website has to be customized to best reflect the hotel brand, describe the hotel product and properly address the hotel’s customer segments. This is why the difference between a DYI or cheap template website and a comprehensive website with complete merchandising and customer engagement capabilities that accommodates the features below could be measured in hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in lost website revenue per year. At minimum, the property website should include the following capabilities and features: - Either Full Responsive or Adaptive Design for the three screens (desktop, mobile, tablet) - Complete content control of the property website (visual, promotional, textual) via cutting edge content management system (CMS) - Comprehensive Dynamic Content Personalization to serve personalized promotional, visual and textual content to users based on feeder markets, purchase intent and demographics - One-to-One marketing capabilities to target valuable users and past guests with unique offerings - Advanced Merchandising Module to convert lookers into bookers - Deep and relevant content that complies with latest SEO best practices - Reservation Recovery Module to win back abandoned bookings - Custom Design Themes Module to update the look-and-feel (design) of the hotel website with the click of a button - Multi-Language Module, enabling foreign language content across the entire site - Full integration with the property’s CRM, CRS or PMS to make use of the property’s big data - Full integration with the property’s social media profiles to push hotel promotions, packages, events and happenings to enhance the property’s social media presence - Feature comprehensive web analytics like Adobe Analytics to give the property the complete picture in terms of purchase behavior and website revenue sources All of the above, complemented by a robust multi-channel marketing strategy and cutting-edge digital technology, is the essential mix needed to boost direct online channel revenues and shift share from the OTAs to the hotel website. There is very simple litmus test as to which property may be a good candidate for a “DIY” or “quick and cheap” website service: If the property is OK with furnishing its rooms with closeout-sale furniture, mattresses, sheets and linens, or buying carpeting from Carpet Liquidators, then perhaps a $399/month website service is a good choice. Hoteliers are managing multi-million dollar properties. They have fiduciary responsibility to maximize the property's direct online channel presence, boost direct revenues, and lower the costs of online distribution. They simply cannot do that with a DIY or “quick and cheap” website. Related Link: HeBS Digital