I have viewed the websites of many New Hampshire and Vermont lodging properties and have found many cool, interesting sites and some boring, difficult or outdated sites. Where does your site stand? Now that summer is over, take some time to review your own site, compare it to others, and work to improve it. Here are some items to check for:
1. Correct Information. One NH motel has a good website design, but the e-mail address on the home page is incorrect. Another resort has a link to their menus. Clicking on “Breakfast” leads to their dinner menu. “Dinner” also leads to the dinner menu. I guess I’ll have the Prime Rib for breakfast. Check your info, rates, links, etc.
2. Up-to –Date Information. Get rid of your 2009 ski packages or 2009 spring wedding specials. Are your rates, descriptions, packages, and special events up to date?
3. Dead Ends. Does your site lead to dead ends? Every page should have links to additional pages. “Contact Us” and “Book Now” should be on every page. Don’t let your potential customer go to a page with no additional page links. This gives them the option to go back to the previous page (which is now old news), or leave your site. Don’t give them this choice!
4.Keywords, Search Engine Optimization, Meta-tags, Adwords. Work with website design experts to make your site more visible to people searching on the web. Hotel/Motel searches are one of the most competitive themes on Google. Pretend you are a potential customer and search for lodging in your area. Where does your business come up in a search?
5. Google Analytics. It is important to know how people are getting to your website and where they are going on your website. Which pages are most often viewed? How long do viewers spend on each page? Where are you getting referrals from? Google analytics and other similar tools can help you understand how viewers are using your site.
6. Appeal & Functionality. Is your site easy to navigate? Informative? Are the room descriptions and prices on the same page? Or do viewers have to bounce around the site to get this info? Can the consumer book easily online? Your site should be as easy and informative as possible for the consumer. Does the quality of the website reflect the quality of your business? A blurry picture that you took yourself might suggest that you also fixed the plumbing leak yourself to the same standard. Your website is a reflection of your business!
Websites should be only one part of your online presence. Social media and blogs have become essential. The following chart shows the overall online activity for various segments of the tourist industry. Keep in mind that this shows “activity”, not direct bookings or inquiries.