Hoteliers are constantly searching for the perfect balance between direct sales and selling rooms via wholesalers and online travel agenсies. If you use those sales channels too extensively, you become dependent — you have to keep up price parity and pay commissions.
However, a hotel’s official website may become its main sales tool. Large hotel chains have proven this model with recent marketing campaigns, for example, Hilton’s catchy “Stop clicking around” ad campaign. With direct booking promotion, the InterContinental Hotels Group increased its online revenue by 7% on desktops, and by 32% on mobile devices.
Travelers have also started appreciating the benefits of direct bookings. Official hotel websites usually have lower prices, and they more often have special offers and exclusive discounts that are not available when booking through other channels.
Your main weapon in getting more reservations through your website is design and SEO. Let's go through the basic points.
Improve the hotel website
The website isn’t just the face of your hotel, but also the most effective booking tool. It definitely should have a neat design and original branding. A unique site with an understandable structure and clear brand positioning will help you distinguish it from competitors’ websites.
The following website elements are must-haves:
Tell visitors about your hotel in detail. List the services that you provide, plus room facilities and buildings, if there’s more than one. To make it easier for guests to find you, include a map with one or more routes leading from the nearest highway or main thoroughfare.
A great website should anticipate guests’ questions and answer them before they ask them. You can ask hotel administrators to come up with a list of frequently asked questions and use it on your website.
Do not limit yourself to typical hotel information, which is usually so boring and commonplace that nobody reads it. You can provide the traveler with a lot of valuable information: little-known facts about the city and country, plus local sightseeing and entertainment tips. Add event calendars and interactive maps.
Use a lot of pictures, photos and videos, because visual information is very important when website visitors are thinking about booking. We recommend putting at least 100 high-quality photos of the hotel, and at least 8 photos of each room type to help people decide if it’s what they’re looking for.
Help users find your website on the internet. Most guests aren’t exactly brand loyal when it comes to staying in hotels, so they probably won’t search for a hotel by name. This can actually work to your advantage, especially if you’re a lesser-known hotel. So, if you add the right words and phrases and create specific pages, it’ll bring genuinely interested users to your website.
To attract customers, you must think like a potential customer; for example, imagine what words you would type in a search engine when setting out on a trip. Here are a few basic steps for a better SEO strategy:
- Make a semantic core. It includes all the requests that lead a user from Google right to your site.
- Create landing pages for the most popular requests.
- Create separate targeted pages with special offers.
Add guest reviews. Before making a purchase decision, 88% of buyers look at the company reviews. Real guest reviews increase the credibility of your hotel.
Be sure to work with negative reviews too. Every once in a while, an angry customer will show up and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you respond politely and in a timely manner, you can do some moderate damage control. On the other hand, when 100% of the reviews are positive, it may look suspicious.
A booking engine is a key part of any hotel website. This component brings direct sales. Therefore, it should be accessible from any page of your website, convenient to use, and not overloaded with information. Too many fields may confuse a user, and may even make them reconsider completing the booking.
Make sure that your booking engine fits the rest of the website’s design and looks good on mobile devices without distorting the design or layout:
Up to 43% of travelers are looking for accommodations from their mobile devices. In short, it’s suicide to neglect the mobile version of your website.
Obviously, you can’t include all the rich features of the web version, but the mobile version should include all the key elements so users can plan a trip and book a room. Pay especially close attention to the booking module. Filling in all the fields should be easy, and there shouldn’t be any issues pressing buttons, even on small smartphones.
Increase your website loading speed. You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to conduct inspections. It has a set of tools and reports that’ll help you identify and solve problems with loading pages.
When looking for a company to create a website for you, we recommend that you find a contractor that has already made websites for the travel industry. Check their portfolio and request website sales data. Make sure to use an open CMS (content management system) like WordPress. If you need to change something in the future, you can do it yourself.
No Flash, of course; HTML only. Don’t use text directly drawn in pictures, because Google has a hard time deciphering it for proper website indexing. Use CSS instead to display text superimposed over images, and to use various text styles.
SEO website optimizationSEO, or search engine optimization, helps to bring your site to the top of search engine feeds.
Major search engines, including Google, change their algorithms more than 500 times a year and introduce new features and capabilities every week or so. Any little change may affect search results, so a close-up look at the quickly changing SEO trends gives you an advantage. Regular monitoring and rapid adaptation to changes are the keys to SEO success.
These SEO trends are of the utmost importance:
Your website’s content is what converts visitors into customers. Write interesting, relevant text and add cool pictures. It’s good for search engine rankings when visitors are engaged for a longer time with your website and view more pages. It’s also important to reduce the bounce rate (when users leave the website after visiting just one page). Search engines monitor these values and raise or lower your site ranking accordingly.
Website on mobile devices
Google algorithms give penalties to websites that are not mobile-friendly. With each and every website update, test it on mobile devices. It should look good on smaller screens and you should be able to book a room easily. Check how your website responds to different screen sizes, and test it out on a number of smartphones and tablets. You can also use programs for this task, such as Screenfly.
Research mobile users' behavior, track their engagement, and find problematic parts that cause clogs in the purchase funnel. Make the respective changes to improve these factors.
Check your position in search engines on a regular basis and study how new content releases affect it. Track all the important factors using these specialized free tools:
- Google Analytics lets you see how visitors find your website: by direct requests, using some keywords in their requests, via links on other websites, etc. Compare the keywords’ popularity and stick with the most effective ones.
- Google Search Console helps you measure your search traffic and performance. You’ll understand how Google sees your pages and what needs to be done to improve your site ranking.
Don’t skimp on website and online marketing. Buy nice or buy twice: if you cut corners on your website promotion, you’ll have to pay resellers and OTAs. If you have a well-designed website, and users can easily find all the necessary information, you’ll get more direct bookings.
We don’t urge you to stop using PTA services completely, but restricting it to a certain degree might be a great idea. If your hotel’s website becomes your main sales channel, your profits will increase drastically.