This year the 2017 AAHOA Convention was a huge success; not just for the thousands of hoteliers that attended, but also for the hundreds of venders that participated in the trade show. While conventions such as these are supremely famous for bringing together hoteliers and management companies from around the nation together in one platform, the primary focus of the AAHOA Convention is to educate on the newest hotel trends and offer classes that teach how to get the best out of various marketing tools. One of the biggest questions that came up at the convention from hoteliers this year was about their website and how to get the best out of it as a major marketing tool. Now that hotels have finally made the push to create private non-branded websites, hoteliers are left not knowing how to get the best out of them to drive the online bookings as was expected.

One of the major reasons your website may not be driving online bookings is the way it was designed. It’s not enough to just create a website, but it must be custom designed for each individual property and the services they provide. The core purpose of a hospitality website is to first visually, then through the content, showcase the reasons why your hotel is THE hotel to stay at. After all, that is what marketing is all about and this is not the place to cut costs in your marketing budget. When created the right way, your website can and will be your number one marketing tool! Here is a quick and easy checklist of must have items for your website that will help drive more bookings for your hotel.

  • Memorable Web Address – this one is the simplest of course. Create a URL for your website that customers can easily remember. An easy to remember website is probably the first stop for a repeat customer as opposed to a site you must do research on to find because of how long or complicated the wording is. Repeat business is always a core revenue source.
  • The term SEO (optimizing your site for search engines) seems to confuse people, but really it’s quite simple. When you google something like Hotels in San Francisco, a list of hotels in San Francisco will pop up. Now the goal is to get your hotel in the top ranking on that list so customers see you first without scrolling through a long list. This is where a lot of hotel websites fail; they do not have strong keywords that search engines use to find your site. Make sure you have strong keywords on each page of your site that will direct customers to you. The other and equally important way to get customers to find you in search engines, is to have strong backlinks on your site that direct customers to you. For example, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow you to create an account and post your backlink there.
  • Having clear and easy to find dropdowns with informational pages that showcase your hotel is paramount. Customers want to know what amenities you have in an easy-to-find place. If your hotel is in a tourist area, then guests will want to know what to do in town and where to eat. Have a separate drop down for that. Do not lump all your information in one dropdown. Think about what you look for when you are booking a hotel, especially when you are on a weekend getaway or vacation.
  • Photos, photos, photos!!! Post lots of pretty photos of your property, of breakfast, of lobby décor, of the palm trees out front, of anything that will attract customers to your property. We love photos that draw us in. More important than anything else, make sure your site is mobile friendly so that customers can see vibrant photos from their cell phone, as we know, that is where our millennials are booking.
  • Updated content – Create a website that has content that is regularly updated. Update with weather status, with events in town, with updates to your hotel, with updates on new additions and renovations, or even with new pictures/videos of you and your staff and guests. Post video testimonials that are updated on a regular basis so that customers can see, hear and feel recent happy guest experiences. Be current!

To me, these are the main things that I think rank highest on how to make your site work for you. Other obvious things are promotional discounts and social media engagement. These are staples of any website. Find a web designer that will regularly maintain your site and update with changes as needed. Your site can and will be a marketing tool if you just take the steps to audit your site for the main things customers are looking for and expecting from a customer’s perspective.