It has always surprised me how many small businesses and hotels thrive without a website, especially in this day and age where a technologically advanced website can become the most powerful marketing tool available. Sure there are websites created by franchises according to the brand, but to have an independent website can put thousands of more dollars a month in your bank. An independent website will be feature rich with buttons for social media sites, dropdown menus with links that take you to local restaurants or entertainment sites, or the newest trend of a virtual reality tour of your business using Google Cardboard. Let’s face it. Without marketing, a business cannot succeed! 

The most important reason to have a website, is of course so people can find you and the service you provide. More than anything else, you need to set yourself apart from the hundreds of other businesses that are selling the same thing you are. Social media links are definitely the best way to do that. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram are the top social media sites that are used today to showcase businesses. These links will not be featured on franchised websites. The websites that your franchised brand automatically sets up for you serve a specific purpose. They of course, will generate revenue also and position your hotel from a branding perspective, but the site itself will not market your property specifically. This is where having an independent website generates additional bookings and revenue, in particular with the social media links. Social media generates a much needed buzz that is integral in the marketing of your business. On these sites, you can post blogs, pictures, testimonials, even humorous or inspirational quotes to attract customers to click on your site. We all know that every click on your website can turn into a sale and if a guest is reserving a room through your site, then you are saving on paying high commissions to third party websites. 

Another reason to have an independent website is to build credibility for your property and also for your brand. If you have your own website, then customers will have the impression that you are bigger and more successful then you may actually be. That is the beauty of the internet, you do not need to be a huge company to level the playing field; you just have to appear to be. Your ability to customize a site with professional photography and personalized blogs will give customers more reasons to research your property than just a simple photo of a room and lobby. 

I cannot stress enough how important impressive content on your site can be. Simple is not the way to go here as far as marketing your property goes. Take the time to research a web design company that has proven successful content writers. What you write or say about your business will be the reason a click turns into a sale. There is an art to writing content; a few well written words can tell an entire story about your business. 

55 percent of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a website before either making a decision to continue on or to find a new site. You have a better chance of engaging a customer if your website has bright colors and lots of features that are attractive to the eye; it gives them more of an insight of your business and lends to the credibility of your property. Dropdowns with options for dining, entertainment, photo galleries, virtual tours and special amenities will help customers know that your business provides everything they may need. For example, Google Cardboard is a new feature that can be integrated into your site and will allow guests to view your business with a 3D virtual reality feel without the expensive price tag. Designed by Google, it is used with a cheap cardboard head mount, that can be easily purchased online, and your smartphone to virtually immerse yourself into another world, or in this case, into your business. Remember, if your site looks boring or unattractive, then you can be sure customers will find a better site to buy from. 

Now that we know how important it is to have your own website, let’s look at the top things to look for in a web design company so that you can get the true value for your money spent while receiving a top notch money making website. 

  • Find a web design company that offers a resume of services that can increase your sales and bookings. There is so much more to it than just creating a website. 
  • Make sure the company you hire knows everything about your industry. Ask questions and find out how invested in your industry the owner is. This goes a long way in ensuring that you are getting the greatest bang for your buck!
  • Look for a web design company that can be your one-stop shop. Part of the stress of new websites is the website maintenance and management. There are companies out there that will take that off your plate for low monthly fees. (Mobile applications, search engine optimization and social media optimization are also important features in the web design and marketing process). A large majority of online shoppers’ browse from their smartphone. If they cannot effectively and efficiently view your site or read about your business from their phone, then you are losing customers. Mobile applications are extremely important and integral for increased sales.  Make sure your web design company specializes in that. 
  • Research the website of the web design company you are looking to hire in depth. How does it look? Professional? Easy to understand? Feature rich? This is how you want your site to look. If the web design company's site does not attract you then they may not be the best choice. Look for examples of sites created with links and read testimonials from other businesses that have used their service. 

Remember, as you are shopping online for web design companies to create your site, customers are also using the same concepts to shop for services that your business provides as well.