Creating a new website for your hotel is an exciting time.
You’ve thought about it long and hard and you’ve decided…it’s time for a refresh!
Or maybe you’re making your hotels very first website.
Either way, the possibilities and opportunities are literally endless.
Technology is amazing in the doors that it can open for us small business owners and the new audiences it can help us reach. And your new website is going to be at the forefront of that effort.
So what are some things you should be thinking about when you’re starting to consider your new hotel website?
Here’s some points you’ll want to keep in mind.
Getting Your Branding Right
Who are your typical guests?
Understanding your audience and knowing who your target market is, is one half of the marketing battle.
Think about who your typical guest is. Understanding this will help you brand your new site correctly so you most appeal to the right type of person.
Here are some key questions you should ask yourself:
- How old is my typical guest?
- Why do my guests visit this area? What do they do while they are here?
- Are my guests usually business or leisure travellers?
- What’s the typical income level of my guests? Are they budget or luxury travellers?
- How long is my average room booking? Are people vising for weekends, weeks or longer?
- What do my guests typically like to do? Are they into the outdoors, history, nature or something else? Is there a common theme?
Once you’ve built up a picture who your guests are, you’ll be in a much better position to work out how your brand can appeal to them, and what you can do to help them make the decision to book with you over your competition. Which leads us nicely onto point 2…
How can I make sure my new hotel website appeals to the right people?
Now that you’ve spent some time researching who your typical guest is, it’s time to work out how your new website is going to appeal to them.
Think about everything you know and everything you’ve learnt about the type of people who come to stay with you. What are they into? What makes them tick?
If they are into nature and the outdoors, make sure your new website reflects and highlights all of the beautiful scenery and wildlife spotting opportunities all around you. Use a green, bright color scheme and great images to showcase the area you get to call home. Give people information about all the great outdoor things there are to do in your area. Give them a reason to come and visit you.
If your guests are predominantly older, think about how you can make your new hotel website as easy to use and read as possible (we’ll cover accessibility in more detail a little later on).
Getting your brand voice and your wording right is an important part of letting your future guests know what’s important to you as a business. Work with a professional content writer to make sure your site is conveying the right type of message and that your content is strong, compelling and effective.
Think about what strategic online partnerships you could form with other like-minded businesses in your area who cater to similar personas. The right partnerships help to strengthen both you and your partners brands and reinforce your greater purpose and goals to your visitors.
How are people going to find my new website?
This one sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked.
Remember the old adage “build it and they will come”?
Well, it is when it comes to the internet, at least.
And the web is littered with countless websites that just didn’t think about how they were going to attract visitors.
As you build your brand online, you’ll want to think about the kinds of information people are looking for. Then work out a way to give it to them. When you boil internet marketing down, that’s really all there is to it.
Because the best, most thought out brand in the world, is pointless unless people know about it.
When you’re building your new hotel website, think about how you can pull in visitors.
You’ll almost definitely want to create a blog section on your new site, for example, so you can have a place to tell people all about your local area and answer their questions about what to do in your town and how to get around.
You’ll also want to integrate social media into your new site as much as possible. Make sure you have prominent links on your site out to your main social media channels to make it nice and easy for users to click through and find your profiles.
How can you build trust in your brand?
The internet can be a fickle old place.
If your new website doesn’t look slick and professional, there’s a pretty good chance users aren’t going to trust it.
And if they don’t trust it, they’re not going to book on it.
Make sure your sites design is a great one and that every aspect of it functions exactly as the user would expect it to. Don’t make your users work to figure it out. If they have to think, you’ve lost them.
Take basic security measures (more on this later) and make sure users know about it. Use trust badges from your payment processor, reinforce the fact that your site is secure and encrypted with SSL technology.
Showing users that you take their data security seriously, builds trust and leads to better conversion rates.
Getting The Technical Stuff Right
How will your new hotel website connect with your central booking system?
These days, room bookings can come from a lot of different sources. We’ve got 3rd party booking sites, online travel agents, old fashioned telephone bookings, direct bookings on your own new website…the list goes on.
If you use a central booking system to manage your hotel reservations, making sure it syncs up with your new website is a must.
Having rooms showing as available when they’re already booked quickly leads to double bookings, and not listing them as available at all is a sure fire way to miss revenue.
There are a lot of great booking engines available now that can help you manage all of your bookings in one simple and easy place. These can be used to sync up with your website and manage your listings on all the usual booking sites in one swoop. Most of the good ones can also sync up with a lot of the common Reservation Management Systems, so you may be able to simply hook it into your current system.
Laying good foundations for your SEO
Getting the groundwork right from the get-go will save you a lot of time and money down the road.
SEO is a rapidly changing business. But the basics of it are always going to be the same.
So do your future self a big favour, and make sure that the SEO foundations you build your new site on are solid ones that will stand your site in good stead. It’s much easier to get these things right from the beginning than to go back and correct them down the road.
I’ll be releasing a much more detailed post soon all about best SEO practices for hotels, so check back soon for that.
In the meantime, this infograpgic from Brian at Backlinko is an excellent starting point.
The guys over at Moz have also built up a great set of resources on some of the more fundamental onsite SEO elements.
Make sure your new site is accessible and responsive
I’ve seen a lot of studies on this, with some fairly wild ranges of statistics, but they all basically come down to this…
Mobile and tablet devices are accounting for ever larger percentages of internet usage.
Some sources say that as much as half of all internet traffic in 2019 is from mobile and tablet devices. I’d bet there’s a pretty good chance you’re reading this on a mobile right now.
These users now account for such a large portion of overall internet usage that major search engines like Google have even made a websites performance on mobile devices a part of their ranking algorithm. So a website that doesn’t work well on mobile, will likely find itself ranking further down than its competitors. Or if your mobile user experience is really bad…not ranking at all.
What does this mean for your new hotel website?
Well, it means you need to think about how your new website is going to look and function on those smaller screen devices.
On the smaller screens of mobiles, tablets, phablets, ipads and everything in between, space is at a premium.
Think about how the display of your site, its layout, the sizing of your text, the positioning of the various elements on the page is going to need to chance as the size of the screen changes.
Make sure text is big enough to be readable, buttons are big enough to be clicked on and far enough apart to avoid users clicking the wrong one.
Think about your navigation, and how that’s going to work. You may want to use a hamburger menu for example.
Having a website that responds and displays differently and more effectively on different screen sizes is an asset that will only help your hotel for many years to come, as the market continues to be flooded with mobile devices of ever differing screen sizes.
And let’s not forget accessibility.
You’ll want to make sure that your website is as accessible as possible for any users with visual impairments. Whilst they account for a small portion of users on the web, the way in which they interact with the internet is completely different, and you’ll need to keep that in mind when developing your new website.
This group of users often use devices known as screen readers, which read out the content of a web page for them.
One way in which you can help these users, for example, is by using alt tags on your images to help them understand what the image is about.
Making sure your website is as accessible as possible for all users is also a big part of Googles ranking algorithm. Hint hint.
Getting the right hosting
The place where you choose to host your website plays an important role in how it will perform.
Choose a provider with good ‘up time’ – this is the percentage of the time when their servers are up and running as they should be and the sites hosted on them are accessible on the internet. All servers go down from time to time, that’s just life. But choosing a good hosting provider with good redundancies in place can help you minimise the downtime and lessen the impact.
Good hosting providers also have good infrastructure, which means your new hotel website will load faster.
Page load times are a critical part of the complex science of conversion optimisation. Slow websites make less money. That’s a fact that’s been proved time and time again. Check out this post for example.
And if you’re still not convinced then this post on hubspot is a brilliant collection of statistics gathered from 12 real life case studies where some of the biggest companies on the web have improved their page load speeds and seen better conversions as a direct result.
The servers where your website is hosted also play a big part in keeping your site and your users secure, and we’ll talk more about that in the next point.
These days, major data breaches are so commonplace they’re barely even news any more.
That’s a pretty sad state of affairs if you ask me.
As businesses who hold data on people – often sensitive data – and take payments from users, as you will likely want to do on your new hotel website, we have a responsibility to ensure that data is secure.
Taking some basic standard security measures will get you a good chunk of the way there.
Here’s some things you’ll want to think about:
- Install an SSL certificate to keep your web traffic encrypted
- Use a reputable hosting company with secure servers (see point 4 above)
- Use strong, unique passwords for all the back end elements of your site, including the database, ftp details and any CMS
- If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, take basic WordPress security measures to keep your site safe.
- Use a good payment processor or payment gateway provider to handle your sensitive credit card details. I’ve long been a fan of Stripe for this, and their fees are some of the lowest around too.
Voice search – are you ready?
Have you noticed an increasing number your friends and relatives getting smart speakers set up in their homes recently?
They’re not alone.
In fact, the prediction is that up to 55% of all US households will own a smart speaker of some kind by 2022, as the 3 major tech players (Amazon, Google and Microsoft) battle it out for market share on what is likely to be one of the biggest newly emerging marketing channels of the next decade.
I’m not exaggerating, these 3 are clambering over themselves to get their devices into peoples homes. Take Googles recent team up with Spotify for example.
They’re giving away the Google Home Mini completely free to any Spotify users. And have you noticed how Amazons Alexa is almost too cheap to be profitable? That’s because the money, is in the long term.
But what does all this ‘big tech war’ mean for you as a hotel owner?
Well it means that more people are going to be using smart speakers to search for information online. And it means that you have a golden opportunity to be the site that provides it to them.
While there’s no direct benefit that comes from helping the smart speakers to answer their users questions, there’s branding and marketing value to be found in consistently being the website that users hear in their research phase, as being the source of their answers.
For example, if you run a hotel in York, you may decide that you want your new website to contain lots of information, facts and advice about York. You’ll be answering peoples common questions about the city, its history, things to do there, how to get around etc etc.
When more and more users are asking these types of questions to their smart speakers in the coming years, and their smart speaker keeps on responding with “According to Matts Hotel in York, York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe.” you can bet there’s a good chance they’ll check out your hotel when they get to the accommodation booking stage of their trip research.
As with most things marketing, it’s about finding out what people want and then finding ways to be the one who gives it to them.
Make sure all of that brilliant informational content you’ll be producing has the technical markup to help smart speakers and crawling devices to understand and use it.