How to Turn Your Hotel Website Into a Money Making Machine

Is your website just a glossy brochure or a money making machine? The answer will be in your site analytics and one very powerful but simple formula.

Traffic x Conversion = Revenue

Traffic. This is the number of unique visits to your website.

1-10 visits per day are easily achievable with minimal work.

100 visits per day for a small to medium business that is well promoted.

1,000 visits per day for a large company through branding or offering something extraordinary.

Conversion. This is the rate of unique visits that turns into a paying customer

2.35% is the unremarkable rate of 75% of websites

5.31% is achieved by the top 25%

11.45% is the average conversion rate of the top 10%

So what does it take to create a highly efficient website for your hotel? Hint! It’s not a very expensive web designer.

I have been looking at thousands of websites of hotels, guest houses and campsites recently and my conclusion is they all fall into the same formula of online brochure. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I’ve been in the Hotel Industry for 30 years so I know how hard it is to keep up with technology and the increasing competition and since I became a digital marketer I have learned and tested an incredible amount of knowledge as to how to use online resources to make money.

Based on all my years of experience and results here is my checklist for any Hotel Professional who wants to take their business to the next level by creating a revenue generating website.

· You have 8 seconds to make an impression on potential clients with your website.

· It must download in less than 3 seconds or statistically you have already lost 40% of your visitors.

Part One

The most valuable Real Estate is the first part of your website that is seen by the visitor before they scroll down. This is where you keep or lose your potential client and I strongly recommend you invest your time, money and creativity.

1. Good Visuals. We process an image 60 times faster than the written word. Not all hotels are created equal and many do not have an attractive exterior. An image that creates an emotion such as a smiling face or a comfortable bed can often be more effective to engage your visitor. A recent study by PUSH, using technology that followed the users’ eyes when looking at a website, showed that pictures of the rooms and facilities were looked at most.

2. Contact Details. Do not hide them in the corner or worse, force the visitor to scroll down in search of your details. This is where you should invest in a good web designer. Have your contact details clearly on display and incorporated into the design. This is especially important for the mobile version of your website.

3. Appealing Headline. Good headlines work. They have been the back bone for selling newspapers for centuries. They need to be emotional not factual. For inspiration search through the testimonials of your guests.

4. Clear Easy Menu. Think Apple. For those of you who are used to using Apple products such as the I-phone and then return to an android system, you know exactly what I mean. The menu must be clear logical and run very smoothly. The attention span on the internet is much shorter so if the navigation of your website is not smooth you will lose visitors quickly.

5. Clear Call To Action. A clear call to action is the difference between your website being a glossy brochure and earning you money. There are 2 ways to engage your potential clients.

First is the possibility to Check Availability. I have a personal hatred for Book Now on hotel sites as 9 times out of 10 I’m not ready to book there and then. Check availability is a softer approach which will incline the potential client to give you their details so you can continue marketing to them even if they don’t book straight away. Test the changes in wording on your own site to compare which works best for you.

Second. Permission Marketing is the game changer for the companies earning a lot of money while others are just surviving and so far I have not seen it in use anywhere in the hotel industry. Most of you will have a Sign Up to our Newsletter somewhere on your site but I can guarantee through experience you are not getting large crowds of eager potential clients signing up, if any!

So how are the internet marketers making their millions and they are! You offer something of value to your potential client in exchange for their name and email. An example would be a free report or video. Build up your list of potential clients and then email them regularly. If you had a list of 500 names and 10% booked. That would be 50 extra clients at no extra cost.

What can a hotel offer as a free give away? It depends on what sort of establishment you run. A touristic city center could make up a PDF file of all the best tourist attractions to see in the city. A hideaway hotel in the mountains could offer a detailed list of all the trails with maps. Where the food and beverage side of the business is stronger, the barman could make a video of a cocktail you offer or the chef could create a video of a dish clients could make at home. The possibilities are endless. Depending on how well this is done you, will capture the details of between 5 and 55% of all the visits to your site.

6. Endorsements always instill a sense of trust. An award you have won, magazines you were featured in it all helps. No awards no problem, testimonials from happy customers will do the job.

Part Two

7. Text should be clear and concise. Many studies have been done on this subject and the results are clear. Black or blue lettering on a white background works best as it is much easier to read especially on mobile devices.

8. Video. Where ever you can, add video. As a rule of thumb 2 or 3 video snapshots presenting guest rooms, suites, restaurants etc. lasting no more than 12 – 45 seconds are most effective and can be reused in promoting your establishment through Social Media.

An interview style video if you have a charismatic personality works well presenting who you are. It should be no longer than 3- 5 minutes.

Good use of video can also boost your rating with Google search engines especially if you concentrate on using Search Engine Optimisation Keywords with the video. Webpages containing video are 53 times more likely to appear on the first page of Google.

Professional looking videos can be quickly made using just a smart phone.

9. Blog. I recently reviewed one of my original blogging sites from when I was just starting out. It has a sum total of 6 blog posting and was so bad I abandoned it. However it has been getting well over a thousand unique hits per month. That is the power of blogging. In my experience it is the best form of free advertising for good quality clients I have found.

The other important fact with blogging is it lets Google know that you are still in business.

What should you blog about? Everything and anything that is going on in and around your hotel, town and region. Why do your clients come to stay at your hotel, what do they visit? Write about that.

10. Social Media Connections. These are essential these days but often misused. Firstly what does not work. Using Facebook just for promoting your business and special offers loses your customer’s interest very quickly.

Social Media works best for what it was created for. A platform where friends interact socially and share content (images or information) that interests them.

The best results come from content that generates engagement by comments. To build the relationship with your customer it is essential to reply.

It can be hard work building up Likes on a Facebook Page but if you do not interact with your clients on a regular basis your posts will stop appearing in their newsfeed.

11. Mobile. Most of you are already aware that Google changed their algorithms. The reason they have done so is because 52% of travelers are now using smartphones to research their trip and this will continue to increase year on year. 60% of mobile users want to book that night or the following night.

Another interesting trend that Google has uncovered; of the 30 billion annual mobile searches, more than 1/3 are local. Though for some of us who have been in the hotel industry for many years this is not surprising as we have watched the lead in times to bookings become ever shorter.

Your website must now be suitable for mobile devices. If not Google will penalise your rankings and more importantly your potential clients will go elsewhere.

Your mobile site has to be clear and simple to use.

I have noticed there is no Call Button on most mobile sites. Your clients are on the move, if they have to search for a pen and paper to write your number you’ve lost them.

In conclusion use this check list along with the analytics of your website to either change your website completely or simply add a few extra changes. The internet offer an enormous potential if you understand how it works and use it to your advantage.