Hotel Website Design Ideas

If you build it, they will come…not!

About twice a week now I am contacted by a hotel General Manager or Marketing Director who has seen some of the recent research figures for hotel internet revenues that says something like: “In 2007 hotel revenues from the internet were 50.0% of all hotel room revenues…”.

The conversation very quickly gets to “I’ve just checked my on-line revenues and they are nowhere near that. What can we do?”

Naturally, the first thing I do is look at their web site. Some are visually stunning, especially on a high speed connection…beautiful “flash” movies (loading, loading, loading), navigation buttons that do pirouettes, music…and usually a mega investment has been made (please give me the name of that sales person, I have some sand that I would like them to sell for me in the Middle East) and barely an extra room night to show for it.

Why? Because the site turns up on page 17 on Google, Yahoo! or MSN when you search for a suitable keyword or phrase (usually “destination + hotel” eg “Sydney hotel” is the most popular search term in most cities).

70-80% of online activity is people searching for something…all those lost souls who are eager to buy your hotel rooms, if only they could find you…in fact in one recent case, when I was searching for the prospective client’s hotel by it’s very own name, their web site turned up way back on page 8 of Google. You and I both know that when we search, if it ain’t on pages 1 or 2 or at a pinch page 3, we’re just not going to look further…and neither does anyone else.

If you retain nothing more from my article please remember this: search engines are blind to images (and deaf if you play music on your site) and especially can’t see “flash” movie files or the text in those fancy navigation buttons (these are images too)…a search engine is a code and text driven binary agent that reads written instructions and words…so without the right code in the “back” of your site and the right text and density of keywords on the “front” pages of your site you just won’t turn up in the first few pages of search results.

Don’t get me wrong…there IS a place for great visuals and dynamic, inspiring content AFTER you have got them to your site. The overuse and abuse of these dynamic elements is indeed a hurdle to your search engine results, but once the user has arrived, then you need some “bells and whistles” to convert them into a sale (more about conversion in one of my next articles).

Some web sites I see, even for premium properties, are just dogs that were last updated in 2003 (because every time they want a change their designer charges like a wounded bull); and lots of others are in-between but because the sites are not actively managed, they still don’t turn up in the first few pages.

Believe the research data! With 25% of revenues arriving via online channels and a further 25% being influenced by their online experience but booking via another channel, you just have to get your head into this space. Can you imagine what would happen if you ignored your convention market or stopped dealing with the travel industry…as a first step, sign up to receive our regular articles (www.hotelmarketingworkshop.com), so you can start to develop your knowledgebase in this vital area.

Over the next couple of articles I’ll address some of the other questions that I usually ask such as: what e-mail marketing they are doing and how, have they investigated the Pay-per-click options at Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search Marketing or MSN (coming soon) or how easy is it to book on their site. I’ll also touch on conversion but let’s focus in the short term on driving traffic to your site.

So, what can you do? Invest in the Search Engine Optimisation of your site…the art and science of maximising a web site’s ranking in the natural Search Engine Results for a key phrase. There is a lot to understand but if you visit our web site you will find some very useful tips and specific things that you can do to optimise your hotel web site or of course you could give me a call or send me an e-mail and I would be more than happy walk you through the basic principles.

And you know what? I never get calls from hotels that have a smart, well designed but not too “tizzy” site. One that is edited in-house utilising a user-friendly Content Management System. Sites where you can easily navigate around without needing a helmet lamp and pick, that have fresh, recent content and special value-added packages; where you can actually book in real-time through a secure connection and get an instant confirmation. And when you need to make an online enquiry, it is easy and doesn’t ask for my shoe size and twenty other compulsory fields before begrudgingly sending off the data, only for it to take two days for someone to respond…

These sites already turn up in the first few pages, offer a great user experience and these hotels actively manage their online presence…they are well on their way to achieving and exceeding those 50.0% of revenues online that the research people are telling us and, pardon the shameful plug but, quite a few of them are our clients…

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