Website must-haves for your accommodation businesses in 2014: Part One
The standards of hotel and accommodation websites have changed significantly over the past few years, and are continuing to do so. The way that travellers research, explore and book accommodation has evolved, and even the smallest of establishments need to keep up with the changes. As the online face of your business, your website to assure visitors that they have come to right place, and inspire them to stick around.
In this three-part blog series, we outline some of the fundamental features and functionality your website should offer to reach and convince potential guests.
Large, inspiring visuals
Gran Hotel Benahavis combines striking photographs of the hotel with key marketing messages and special offers.
Your website should have large, good quality photographs of all your rooms, services and facilities. Strategically use your photographs across your site – on your home page, room pages, blog posts and galleries. Add captions and description to your images to ensure that your visitors have context when looking through your website’s content. When adding videos, we recommend streaming them from an existing platform like YouTube and Vimeo.
Why it’s a must-have: Today’s traveller wants to be shown, not told.
Recommended reading: Aim and shoot: Photography tips for B&B and Guesthouse owners
Mountain View Manor leverages their blog to give visitors a peek into the homely and personal character of their guest house.
Running a blog does not necessarily mean that you need to spend hours of your time writing poetic marketing messages or editorial pieces. The value of your blog lies in being able to publish frequent and relevant content to your website, whether it is about a local event in your town, a new service you offer, or even your own personal travel guide for guests. Your blog can help position you as a leading hospitality provider, and above all, increases the opportunity for your website to be indexed and ranked by search engines.
Why it’s a must-have: A blog is the easiest way to keep your website’s content fresh and up to date. It also holds SEO value.
Recommended reading: 5 Ways Blogging Can Boost Your Travel Business and Blog ideas for hotels, guesthouses and B&B’s
Clear integration with (or links to) online availability and rates
Using a NightsBridge booking widget, Rhonda’s Manor encourages availability and rate search across their website.
A poorly placed link to your booking system can cost you business, so ensure that your website’s booking button is clear, visible and attractive. You can further encourage bookings through a search form, allowing visitors to enter their desired check-in and check-out dates, and to search for availability based on their personal needs.
Why it’s a must-have: Don’t make your visitors second guess the purpose of your website. You primary goal is to convert them into guests.
Recommended reading: Springnest adds NightsBridge booking widget to client websites and Facebook applications
Online reviews or guestbook
The feedback, testimonials and reviews of your guests are the most powerful marketing tools you have – so be smart about how you add them to your website. Your guests value the opinions of their fellow travellers when making booking decisions, and with the right tools, you can use this to your advantage. A simple way to get started is to explore TripAdvisor’s suite of free online marketing tools, including badges, awards, review snippets and ‘rave reviews’ which can easily be added to your website. Alternatively, you could add a dedicated guest book page to your website, showing off your most recent and best reviews.
Why it’s a must-have: Over 56 million people use TripAdvisor to research and review travel products each month. Travellers trust the experiences and opinions of their peers above other sources of information.
Recommended reading: Responding to reviews on TripAdvisor – a practical guide for hotels
Social media integration that makes sense
Gran Hotel Benahvis shows a strategic approach to the social integration on the hotel’s website with a subtle, yet effective combination of links to their social media profile’s, third-party tools (like Facebook’s Like Box) and customised social sharing options.
While there are definite benefits to linking your website to your social media accounts, it should be done in a way that serves a real purpose. Before pasting a colourful buffet of social media icons on every page and open space on your site, think about its value and purpose. It is important to understand the difference between encouraging visitors to explore your social network accounts, and encouraging them to share your product and content with their friends, via their social network accounts (typically through “social sharing buttons”).
Why it’s a must-have: Social media is a powerful communication tool, but will yield the best result when approached strategically.
Recommended reading: The social icon overkill: How to successfully integrate social media on your hotel’s website