Websites that Work: Seven Elements of an Effective
At conference after conference, innkeepers tell us that 80%-90% of their
reservations are generated by the Internet, with many bookings coming
directly from their own websites. They know that an effective website is
essential to generate these reservations, yet have many questions about
cost, results and reliability. Here are some key points:
What are the most important elements of an effective website?
Although there are some notable exceptions, website design is not rocket
science, despite the astronomical prices some companies charge. While truly
creative custom websites are appropriate for some high-end properties, most
properties will do well by focusing on these
- Professional, up-to-date design: Any website more than three
years old needs a fresh look. At a minimum, add new photos. Other
updates can include enhanced navigation or a complete new design.
Antiques enhance your décor; an “antique” website will not deliver the
reservations you need for profitability.
- Consistent navigation: Easy-to-read links to the inside pages
of your site should run across the top of every page on your site (under
the header template) or down the left-hand side of the page.
- Uniform template: The top of every single page of your site
should have a design template that includes the following information:
- Inn name
- Toll-free phone number
- Book now button
- Marketing slogan that indicates the inn’s location
- Great photos: Spend as much as you can on the best possible
professional photography. Combining appealing photos with an effective
website generates reservations almost immediately. Large photos can be
optimized for the Internet so they load quickly; with most users now on
high-speed connections, there’s no need for the tiny thumbnails of the
early Internet. When hiring a pro, ask to see their online portfolio of
inn pictures. Interior shots are tricky; rooms must be appealing without
being over-staged or made to look larger then they are. Take seasonal
exterior shots yourself so you have photos of your inn in all seasons –
with spring blossoms, summer greenery, fall foliage, Christmas
decorations, winter snow, and so on. Remember, if your guests tell you
that your inn is much nicer than it appears on the Internet, you are
losing business every day.
- Good SEO: A knowledgeable web designer will create website
pages that will get you coverage on Google and other search engines by
building your website with SEO built in from the ground up. This
includes appropriate use of keyword density, meta and alt tags, page
titles, and other specific strategies. Your website is not an art
project; it’s a marketing tool designed to deliver reservations … lots
- Strong call to action: Never make prospective guests click
through multiple pages to find your phone number or reservations page.
The point of your website is to generate reservations, so make it as
easy as possible to do just that. In addition to a toll-free number,
have multiple links to a real-time booking engine, or you will miss
reservations from a large percentage of travelers.
- Reliability: Chose a company that offers reliable hosting and
promotion services, with a responsive support staff available to make
changes and answer questions.
How much should I spend?
Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Unless your nephew is an experienced,
licensed plumber, you wouldn’t trust him to install your new $20,000
whirlpool and marble bathroom that just happens to be over the antique
crystal chandelier in your dining room, would you? By the same token, your
website designer should be a specialist in the B&B industry, and with a
track record of proven results creating websites that are not only
attractive, but easy to navigate, turn lookers to bookers, and come up well
in the search engines. If a friend or family member promises to build you a
website for free, consider that a “free website” may cost you tens of
thousands of dollars in missed reservations. In fact, a November 2006 study
by DoubleClick and ROI Research showed that the source that most influenced
Internet users to make an online airfare purchase was the website (33%), more than word-of-mouth (9%) or online ads (6%).
- Analyze your marketing spend: Average gross revenues for B&Bs are $150,000
annually (PAII Operations Study, 2004), and the average total marketing
spend is $24,000 (PAII Marketing Study, 2006), or 16% of revenues. If 90% of
your reservations come from all Internet sources, then consider allocating
90% ($21,600) of your marketing budget to Internet marketing. Of that 90% of
reservations, how much revenue is generated by your own homepage?
- Understand your conversion rates: It’s not just the number of “hits” your
website receives, but the revenue that results. Tracking software will tell
you how long people stay on your site, and how many pages views per unique
visitor. The longer they stay, the more pages they visit, the more likely
you are to convert a looker to a booker. On the other hand, the higher your
bounce or click-away rate, the lower your conversion will be. For example,
if you have 1,000 monthly visitors and you get 20 reservations, your
conversion rate is 2%. If the average reservation made from your website is
two nights at $150 nightly, your monthly gross is 20 x $300 = $6,000. If you
improve your website and increase the conversion to 3%, you’ve increased
your monthly gross income by 50%, e.g., 30 x $300 = $9,000. That’s an extra
$36,000 per year!
RezOvation, BedandBreakfast.com’s sister company, is proud to announce the
launch of its website design, hosting, and promotion program, tailored
specifically for our industry.
RezOvation designs cost only $499 for a five- to seven-page website.
Just sign up for our monthly hosting, tracking, promotion, and marketing
package for only $199 a month (12-month commitment required).
Design: Choose from more than 100 different design combinations. Pick the
ones you like, and select the layout, colors, fonts and copy for amazing
- Manage: Once your website design is completed, hosting, promoting, and
tracking users to your website is worry-free. RezOvation provides a single
point of contact for all services for a fraction of the rates charged by our
- Updates: Call or email us once a month to update rates, add specials, or
change photos at no extra cost.
- Host: We secure your website with high-quality, unlimited bandwidth
hosting. We set up your hosting account and register or transfer your
domain. All accounts are hosted on double-redundant servers at our top-tier
hosting facility for ultimate reliability and dependability.
- Track: Google Analytics is the most accurate and easy-to-use package on
the market. We will set up your account and code your website so you can see
exactly where all of your guests are coming from, what they are looking at,
and – most importantly – who is booking.
- Promote: We incorporate organic SEO (search engine optimization) coding
right into your website. We’ll use the same type of optimization that has
proven to work at BedandBreakfast.com. Want to use PPC sites? We will set up
accounts, complete with targeted keyword lists and bid amounts, on the three
main search engines – Google, Yahoo and MSN – based on similar methods used
successfully at BedandBreakfast.com.
- Communicate: IntelliContact makes it easy to email past and potential
guests, and is included at no extra cost. We’ll set up the account, help you
import your contacts, and train you on how to do regular email marketing.
- Connect: Two LogMeIn Pro accounts allow you to access your PC, with all of
your applications, from anywhere on the road. Need to take a reservation
while you’re on vacation? Easy – just log in and enter the information
directly into your PMS from any Internet-connected computer.
RezOvation design, hosting, and promotion suite is the most affordable
and easy-to-use set of services on the market. Let RezOvation take the worry
out of website design and maintenance. We'll show you how we can make your
site look great, sell more rooms for you, and save you money. Contact us
"LOVE YOUR SITE! Best gift around for my loved ones." -- Lisa S.
the inns that participate in the gift certificate program, just
log in to your Home Base, or
for more information.
soon ... watch your email inbox for more information.
BedandBreakfast.com, RezOvation and Expedia, Inc.
are hitting the road to bring you current and comprehensive information
about Internet marketing, online reservations, yield management, and
property management software.
Click here to see upcoming Intensives and
Online Trade Show
Visit our newest vendor members!
Click here to view our Online Trade Show. Are you a vendor?
Click here to get featured!
Featured Property and
Inn of the Month auctions are easy, affordable and effective ways to drive
traffic to your website.
To update your entry, check your traffic statistics, and renew your membership,
please log in
with your property ID and password. Don't like your password? Once you're
logged in, click "Membership," select "Change Password," and choose another that's easier to remember.
"We thoroughly enjoy having a Silver membership with BedandBreakfast.com. We
got so many reservations from your site, that we had to turn away three
people for every four that called last summer. No kidding." -- Capt. Sean
Sullivan, BnB On The Water, Sag Harbor NY
Inns for Sale
Innkeepers' Info Center
info? You’ll find lots of educational
articles on our site for your convenience.