Top 6 Tips to Enhance Your Lodging Website!
by Caylin Sanders of EscapeMaker.com
1. Improve Booking Functionality
Hotel Interactive recently reported that bookings are down, not because people aren't traveling, but that visitors are using websites to do the research and then calling to make a reservation. Why? Guests are having problems with booking interfaces and need additional questions answered that are not addressed on your website.
Solution: Beta Test! Make sure you beta test functionality regularly. Offer gift certificates (you choose the amount) to random potential guests who will surf your site for glitches and errors in your booking process. Until the problems are fixed, direct visitors to your phone number instead of wasting their time on a process that isn't fully functioning. Remember - wasting someone's time is a cardinal sin in this day and age!
2. Offer a Unique Value while Maximizing Online Visibility
The traveling public has been reduced to a swarm of bees looking for the sweetest honey. Let's face it - even if people DO come to your website to book, you know they are going to visit several other consolidator websites to see if they can shave a few bucks off the rate. It has become a game, and a way for people to boast about the great deal they got because of all the research THEY did. When you ask how they found you – they say “The Internet” or “Google.” Chances are, they visited many more sites to get info on you – these are just the 2 easiest answers.
Solution: Of course it's smart to spread your inventory over many channels and you don't want to undercut your allies too much. But if you are trying to increase brand loyalty, we suggest offering something of little or no monetary value that can only be obtained by booking on YOUR website. Keep it simple.
If I have to choose between saving $2.00 on the room rate on another site OR booking with you and getting discounts to the local zoo, a free behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel for my kids, and a guaranteed ocean view - I'll pick your website every time! And that costs YOU nothing -- just an idea.
Also, most people use search engines to start and then get redirected to other niche websites based on their keyword phrases. Be sure you are advertising on a multitude of low-cost niche sites - as you never know where someone will find you!
3. Answer Transportation Questions
Many times people are trying to reach you by ground transportation, but there is no information on your website as to how to accomplish this. Once a guest is dropped off at the train/bus/ferry station, do you provide a shuttle to your property? Is there taxi service? How far is it to walk to your property - REALLY? How far to civilization, stores and attractions? These are questions that both business travelers without a car as well as leisure travelers trying to “go green” or take a car-less getaway need answered.
Solution: Do the Research! In addition to maps and distances, provide links to bus and train schedules and phone numbers for local taxi services. Better yet, provide a complimentary shuttle or pick-up. This is guaranteed to make your wheel-free customers return!
4. Answer Entertainment Questions
Ok, you are providing the bed and the breakfast and the hospitality….but what is there to do around your property for the other 16 hours of the day? ...and NO, in-room movie rentals do not count! Often guests will call to find out about activities and events.
Solution: Post your local convention and visitor's bureau calendar or at least link to it. Make sure to post YouTube videos of your most popular entertainment options – or link to the videos. At the very least, offer discounts or attraction passes to guests. Make sure you describe distances to these attractions and events accurately. Offer a complimentary shuttle to your main attractions. Get your fellow local attractions and event organizers working together with you on packages! No man is an island -- especially in this economy!
5. Manage Your Online Reviews & Reputation
Some might underplay the importance of reviews, but this will directly affect your reputation both good and bad. NO reviews are almost worse than bad reviews. These days, no one books anything if it doesn't look like SOMEONE has stayed there and took the effort to write about it.
Solution: Google yourself and look for any mention of your business. For negative reviews, turn into a positive and go on the "E-Offensive." Post replies to your critics to show you tried to resolve the situation at hand. Rather than ignore visitors aesthetic complaints, make sure to post updates on your site about new improvements, design and other upgrades to show you are making an effort to improve your property.
Regularly post new photos with adequate lighting and blue skies -- and photos that show actual people enjoying themselves around the property. Good photography can debunk a multitude of misconceptions!
6. Mobilize and Get Social!
More and more consumers are either surfing or researching vacations using their mobile phones. They check Facebook and Twitter updates obsessively looking for the next tasty tidbit!
Solution: In your next redesign, make sure you optimize your site for mobile app viewing. In the meantime, convert your graphics with text to just plain old text so important information can be viewed. Also, SOCIAL MEDIA -- it’s an elephant you can’t ignore anymore -- set up your social media network and start a following – there are bookings to be made in those little Tweets!
Caylin Sanders is President and CEO of EscapeMaker.com – an online guide to LOCAL lodging, vacation rentals, events, weekend getaway and day trip destinations within a day’s drive or train ride of New York City. The site allows advertisers to pay-as-you-go, upload unlimited copy, photos and packages, view a stat-tracker and manage keyword phrases.
For $10.00 in FREE click throughs on EscapeMaker.com, visit http://www.escapemaker.com/gg to test out the service and start promoting your hotel, B&B, vacation rental or attraction to your target audience today!