There is hardly a hotel left in the world that does not have a website these days – if there are any at all. And as nobody can find them online, any that don’t might as well not exist when it comes to tech-savvy tourists. However, while most hotels have a website, that is not the same as saying that each hotel is equally geared up to attract guests online. Some are clearly better than others and if a proprietor is left wondering why the occupancy rates are behind their competitors, the quality of the site may be a major part of the reason.
What does a site need?
The first thing anyone wanting to assess their website’s performance needs to do is to consider its basic purpose. The first thing it must do is boost the hotel’s awareness, which having a site achieves. However, it is important to consider SEO, even if the days when a few keywords shoehorned into the text early on to boost search engine rankings have long gone. Nonetheless, if someone is looking for a hotel in a particular location, it will be worth highlighting that in your introductory text, along with mentions of key features such as it’s location near a beach, a station or a major tourist attraction. The site also needs to make the hotel attractive. That means highlighting all the features and services on offer – this is a real chance to blow your own trumpet. Don’t forget the old adage that “a picture tells a thousand words”, as attractive images showing spacious rooms, comfortable beds, pretty gardens and fine views will all help. Don’t forget to include testimonials too. If you can honestly quote the experiences of real customers who have had a great time, or state the marks given on a site like Tripadvisor (assuming these are impressively high, of course) then do so, as there is nothing like a recommendation. And if you don’t have many of these, then improving your website is the last of your concerns! Once attracted to a hotel, the chances are the tourist who has searched online for it will want to book that way too, so you need to make sure your online booking service is working well. Don’t forget to display your phone number and email prominently, however, as many will need or want to check out details or resolve an unanswered question before they go ahead.
How to monitor success
Whether you think your website already fulfils the above requirements, or you are seeking to embark on a redesign of the site, there are a number of tools out there that can help you monitor your success. While occupancy rate is the ultimate barometer of how attractive your hotel is, particularly in comparison with your rivals down the road, a range of services can assess the extent to which your success or failure is linked to your website. Bounce rate is one of the ways of monitoring performance, as is the conversion rate. The first of these tracks how many people log on to a site and very quickly leave. A few may be explained by internet user error; for instance if you are based in St Ives, Cambridgeshire and they were looking for a hotel in the Cornish version. Mainly, however, a high bounce rate is the result of people logging onto a website and swiftly deciding they don’t like what they see. That is a clear sign of a poor site. Conversion rates monitor what proportion of site visitors actually make a web booking. The overall rate is less than four per cent, which is not surprising as many people will want to shop around, but if you fall a long way below this you may be doing something wrong. Do much better and things are clearly going well – and it will show in your occupancy rates.
Routes to success
In an age when content is king, recent studies have shown that marketing is increasingly more successful when it is based on interaction with customers. This means one of the best ways that a hotel website can attract people is by including content that is interesting, fun to read, and encourages interaction. This could help bring in customers in the first instance, but as ever, it is just as important to bring them back. If the site encourages ongoing interaction with people who have stayed at your establishment, that can build the sort of relationships that reduce the odds on them going elsewhere the next time they are visiting your locality. So, by being innovative, hoteliers can do much to help ensure they have attractive websites. And by deploying or hiring the available web tools to see how they are doing, can assess whether they really are on the right track.