Marketing Websites for B&Bs, Guest Houses, Hotels, Self Catering and Backpackers
The Purpose of Accommodation Website Design
Simply to generate revenue by persuading visitors to the website to contact you.
By providing a website that answers all your visitor’s questions quickly.
You have six seconds to grab your visitor’s attention and the download time should be the same. Your visitor will not spend 20 minutes on your website appreciating the fancy graphics. You already know how competitive this market is. It is one of the few areas in South Africa that is as competitive as overseas.
All your visitors are in a tearing hurry – accommodate them.
A good accommodation website design will show:
- What facilities you offer
- What there is to do in the area;
- What services you offer;
- Always, what the price is;
- How can he contact you?
- Where are you?
Forget the tired marketese (‘nestled in’, ‘home from home’, tropical garden, ‘sun drenched patio’. ‘scrumptious’ etc.) and keep the copy short. Use bulleted lists. Keep to under seven items – people forget the first when they get to the eighth. If you need more, make a second list.
Tell your visitor about the common areas – garden, lounge, patio etc. and the bedrooms – and include people in the common areas – it’s not the Marie Céleste. Ladies are interested in the bathrooms so show them one or two.
Show others enjoying themselves. Photos are important in this market so use half a dozen either as separate photos or as a slideshow.
Tell them if there’s air conditioning, fans, tea making, TV, radios, telephone, hair dryers, offstreet parking, clothes dryers, car security, well lit location, WiFi etc.
What There is to Do
Don’t wait to hear when they are packing ‘Well, if we had known that there was so much to do we’d have stayed a couple of days extra’. Tell them what there is to do before they set sail.
Don’t just use a Google map. Get one done professionally that gives your operation visibility and that also includes all the major attractions within 100kms.
Put together theme excursions – kids, history, wildlife, birding, scenic, cultural etc. that will take them on a day’s round trip. Put something together for a rainy day. Don’t waste space on huge photos of buffalos – they know what one looks like even in Birmingham.
Include things like picnics, onward bookings, local bookings, car wash, laundry etc.
A Good Accommodation Website Design
An Example of a Good B&B Website: stluciaguesthouse.co.za
The design can be anything you like so don’t place too much emphasis on it – although we like it. Concentrate on the content of the home page.
- Business name and tagline
In real text so search engines can index it. Plenty of keywords here. Search engines place emphasis on what is at the top of the page as they assume it is a title and therefore represents the content of the page.
The domain – stluciaguesthouse – describes what and where the place is. Google uses the tagline as the search title often – ‘Simply St. Lucia’s best Guest House’.
Should be of good quality and at the top left. Can also be a link back to the home page if the site is large.
- The Menu
Keep the number of items small and relevant to your visitor’s search – Home, Accommodation, What to Do, Contact.
- The TGCSA Rating
Put the number of stars – not the single star with four tiny stars under it.
- Contact Details
Must be in a prominent position and on every page. Do not force the visitor to go to the Contact page. Give them a phone number and email link.This particular example caters for overseas tourists by using the international codes and also provides a map for the cartographically challenged.
- Contact Form
Not essential on every page but can be useful.
- Page Title
Not ‘Welcome’. This is very important to Google so use it – ‘Our Guest House’. Keywords!
Space is limited on the home page yet in this business, visuals are important. In this case I use a small clickable of the operations, bedrooms and a couple of other things.
Fad du jour is a huge ‘slider’ slideshow right at the top of the page and occupying the full width. In this case, make very sure that these photos are persuasive enough to justify their position – words are the things that make or break websites. There are lots of alternatives.Sliders cannot possibly give you all the information that is on this page – and they slow it down.
- Introductory Paragraphs
The first is full of keywords and very simple but search engines need it. The second is less so but is still informative.Both the visuals and paragraphs are at the very top of the home page.
A link to a customized map drawn specially for the operation.
Google maps are fine but only complementary.
12. Booking Engine
13. General Area Information and Activities
Keep them less than 50 words with a useful graphic and a link to the full page.
14. Personalized Paragraph
15. Summary of Main Features
16. Common Symbol
Put the main ones just under the content.
19. Photo of Area
20. Star Rating
A pseudo rating but perfectly in order.
How – 2?
The page above displays the what?, who?, where? and how much? that visitors require to make a decision. Remember that visitors come to sites like this to make a decision – ‘Do I contact them or not?’.
Remember that most visitors will end up on your website through Google which means that you already have half their attention – they are looking to stay in St. Lucia. A page laid out as above will provide them with all the information they need – and very quickly. Note that there is no ‘marketese’ in there.
The purpose of the page is to keep their attention. However, you have to be on Google to be seen on Google. Page two of Google is visited by only 5% of those that visit page one. Further down than page two is not an option.
So, how to get on to Google?
Before you start development, do some homework on the competition. Pull up their websites and go to ‘View page source’ – or similar in your browser. There will be a bunch of code for that page but at the top will be ‘Title’, ‘Description’ and ‘Keywords’ tags. Select them, copy them and paste them into a blank Word document. Do this for several of the websites that are at the top of the search ranking so you’ll end up with a Word document with around ten.
This is what they think they are. Take a close look because you may well pick up some good keyphrases to help you make your choice – particularly if these sites are doing well on Google.
This example can be improved. There are more than the allotted 70 characters in the Title. Visitors are not interested in what you call yourself at this point. They are interested in what you provide. The word ‘accommodation’ is too broad. Most visitors have an idea of the type of accommodation they are looking for.
The Description tag is a copy of the Title tag – bad idea! Use it to amplify the content of the Title tag.
The Keywords tag – strange entries – map, home hospitality?
With the exception of the Title tag, which is very important, the other two play no part in search ranking. The Description tag is only there to persuade visitors to click and for that reason is very important.
Climbing Up Google
Providing your website is linked to from another website already on Google, Google will find you in a few days. You may see your website in position 197 but don’t worry. Over the next three months or so, it will percolate up.
Eventually, it will stop and this ranking is pretty well where it will stay so we need to give the site a boost.
- Cut the kak – lay out the page as above and avoid commonly used terms.
- Identify your major search words
– in this case guesthouse and st. lucia. Google gives very different results for ‘guest house’ and ‘st’ can be ‘saint’ or ‘santa’ for the Europeans. The full terms should be used.
- When you have done this, we include these in the code of the pages. Invisible to users, search engines will find these terms.
- If you don’t have a domain, use one that describes what you do and not who you are. ‘seashells.co.za’ means nothing. One of our clients is Sea Cottage but his domain is ‘beach-cottage’co.za’ which is what he is and he does very well out of it. Try and include location information as well.‘stluciaguesthouse.co.za’ is only about a year old (as of writing). The domain should long since have been taken and no one thought of it but is ideal as a domain name.
- Metatags –Title tag
– very important. ‘Simply St. Lucia’s best guesthouse’ – both persuasive and informative. You have 70 characters to get your message across. Google uses these characters to rank your website. Description tag – ‘St. Lucia Guest House is a secluded bed and breakfast and a cozy alternative to a St.Lucia hotel.’ The black text on the search result. You have 160 characters to get your message across here. Keywords tag – not seen in search results but still used by a few search engines.
- Get some reciprocal links from similar businesses. ‘Backlinking’ is used by Google to establish a website’s authority. The more, the higher the authority – in theory – and the more the weighting given to the search ranking. Unfortunately, it’s got ridiculous and Google has taken action.
- Download speed
– a minor factor in search ranking but Google does use it. Make the site quick for your users too.
- Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Consultants.
We use a free UK service that works well. They have promoted stluciaguesthouse.co.za from position 40 to position 4. Remember that if your website looks like a pig’s dinner, search position is not going to be fully utilized.Websites must be user friendly as well as have good search position. Our experience covers search optimization from the moment Google arrived and for most websites in South Africa, great content and a friendly design is enough to propel websites to the first page – even to the top – with the exception of the tourist trade. Anyone who looks at search results often will see the same websites at the top all the time. They are not necessarily good websites but they are old and the older websites get very sticky.
- If you do check your website position in Google often, remember that Google uses your search history to customize the search results. The ranking of your site in your computer is not going to be the same ranking that a visitor looking for the same search terms for the first time will get.Your operation will be artificially high in the list.If you use Chrome browser, use Incognito browsing that ignores your browsing history. Even better, use anti tracking software to hide your habits from Google.