Direct Website Traffic Equals More Online Bookings

Many hospitality professionals ponder the questions: Why do I need a private website? Why can’t I rely on the corporate brand site and let bookings come in through OTAs?

Adopting a "direct is better" corporate strategy with the primary goal of generating more direct online bookings will not only direct customers to your website that offers them more feature rich options, but will also save you the costs of high OTA commission fees. It is extremely important in the hotel/hospitality industry to have direct website traffic. Having your own website and booking engine gives hotel owners supreme control over their image, margins and rates. While you can also do this with outside channels, you do not have the same leverage as you do with your own site.
If you are an independent or small hotel with little or no brand coverage, then it is so important to be able to stand on your own, especially when the economy is experiencing a downturn, as it is now. We all know the internet is a strong playing field, but it’s extremely overcrowded. Hotels can level the marketplace by bypassing OTAs and creating a strong presence through social media marketing and of course, through direct website bookings. If you have a branded hotel, you know that all the websites in your brand look alike, but do all the hotels cater to the same clientele (all business related or tourist attraction properties)? Having your own website, allows you to create a custom site that caters visually to the type of guests you are trying to attract, whether it’s for business travelers, leisure, school related events or just guests passing by. This is not a one-size-fits-all type of industry and to leverage the field, you have to find the best way to reach your guests directly.

Now that we know how important it is to have direct website traffic, how do we increase our bookings? There are a few options that will help to increase traffic and hopefully convince you of the importance of converting to a direct website for your property. There are many companies that specialize in hotel web designing, marketing, photography; all the elements that are integral to successfully attaining increased direct online bookings. So let’s get started!

#1) It is most important to have a website that is visually attractive and highly optimized. Take advantage of the fact that there are no rules or limitations. Have a professional photographer come out and take pictures of your property, breakfast area, guests laughing, swimming pool, anything that will visually catch the eye. When you are trying to bring visitors to your website, you have just a few seconds to catch their attention before they decide to move on. Use bright colors, visually captivating images, and lots of feature rich links to turn visitors into guests.

#2) Optimize your website for mobile usage. There is a huge percentage of travelers that Google search for hotels and restaurants right from their phones. If your website is hard to read, book and click on from a cell phone, you are losing guests – lots of them. Travelers Google search for hotels while on the road, in a restaurant, from their beds (a few feet from their computer even), and sadly, even while driving. Your site needs to be as easy to access from a smartphone or tablet, as it would be from a desktop or laptop.

#3) Reputation management is absolutely integral to increase bookings and to keep customers that would of have stayed with you from running to the competition. When you type a hotel’s name in a search engine, you will not only get the hotel, but also TripAdvisor and other reviews on the property. It is important to respond to all reviews in a positive way, even the negative reviews. And if possible, use an ORM (online reputation management) service. ORM services have the ability to push positive reviews up and even deter negative reviews which can be financially damaging to businesses. A negative review on Facebook or TripAdvisor can ruin your image, deter bookings and possibly ruin your business.

#4) SEO (Search Engine Optimization) sounds quite techy but it’s actually really simple. SEO is just a method to increase your page ranking so that your hotel website appears at the top or close to the top of a search list. When you go to a Google search engine (and for example, type in Palm Springs Hotels), you want your hotel to pop up at the top of the list, that’s where SEO comes in. Having a strong organic presence is integral to drive visitors to your website, and without it, your hotel can become virtually invisible. Make sure your Web designer specializes on SEO and can offer strategic ways to put your business to the top!

#5) The content itself needs to be well written and optimized. This ties in with SEO, having content that not only attracts customers to read more, but also having keywords and phrases that pop up in search engines (content optimization). Remember the words you read can paint a picture all on its own. Find a content writer that specializes in the hospitality industry.

#6) It is so important to always be one step ahead of the competition. One way, and perhaps the best way, is through social media optimization (SMO). SMO helps create a buzz about your hotel by giving customers access to your property though social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It allows potential guests to see current campaigns, booking promotions, pictures of events and blogs about your hotel. When creating your website, it is definitely important to find a Web designer that offers SMO services so that you are always one step ahead in the marketing game.

The bottom line is to use sources that will best drive guests to your property. Design a website that is linked to all social media outlets that will give a greater reach to a wider audience. Do not get bogged down with the technicality of words like SEO and ORM. These are basic yet important tools that will help you get increased direct bookings. Find a one-stop-shop Web design company that will do so much more than just the website – that’s your first step to turning your losses to profits.

Hoteliers, the time for complacency is over. It is time now to focus, drive and increase bottom-line profits by shifting share from the OTAs to the direct online channel.