When talking about how a hotel website should be built to attract more customers and direct bookings, usually the discussion ends up mentioning the exact same features and attributes that have been told for decades.
Including, but not limited to:
- Site speed
- Good images
- Good online booking engines
- And so on and so forth
But what's beyond that? What are the secrets and hidden gems that still remain untold?
We are going to share with you the 6 keys to creating a high performing hotel website that gets more bookings.
Ready? Let's start.
1. Copywriting: Speak the "You" Language
Let's make a bet. Open any hotel website (not yours), randomly. Just pick one of your choice and let's assume you are one of the potential guests of this hotel.
Now, pay attention to the copy of the homepage, like their descriptions, their titles, the subtitles. Don't look at what they say (content), but how they say. More specifically, does it seem like this hotel is talking to you, directly, by addressing you, specifically?
No, right? Because they are talking in a "we" language.
Here's what I mean:
This is an actual hotel website homepage description. It's a pure compilation of WEs.
We here, we there, we are the best, we are the ones... we, our, us.
And even worse, this hotel doesn't talk to YOU, who is ultimately reading those lines. They refer to their visitors, their customers, for example: "[hotel name] welcomes guests of all abilities".
Or again: "Our property descriptions aim to allow any visitor..."
Instead, how would it sound to replace that boring we-language with a more compelling and addressing YOU-language.
For example: "Our property descriptions allow YOU..."
This is a classic mistake many businesses and hotels in general fall into. I call it "the ego trap" because it's when the hotels' ego overcomes the real purpose of serving their customers.
If you are serving your customers, your customers come first, not you, nor your product (aka your hotel). And customers, like all human beings, care only about themselves, and not a thing about you.
So speak their language. Check this out:
Imagine you are visiting this hotel's website and read this: they are talking to YOU. They are addressing YOU directly, not "our guests...".
Doesn't this sound more compelling, appealing and enticing?
2. More Data? No, Better Decisions
Let's assume (once again) that you are a marketing manager at any given hotel and your boss assigns you a budget of, let's say, $10,000 with the ultimate goal of getting more online bookings.
These are the options:
- New website (or revamp the existing one)
- Paid Ads on Google or Facebook
- Campaigns on Metasearch engines
How would you invest your budget?
To answer this question there are potentially two approaches. Either:
- You decide based on your feelings. In other words, your gut will point you in a direction that sounds more reasonable to you.
- Or you look at your data, hoping to get some insights.
I think you'd agree the second option sounds more.. right, more logic.
However, can you tell which KPIs will determine your decision?
Here's the point: everybody talks about data. Especially the word "Big" Data sounds so fascinating to many.
Yet most times we fall into the trap of not knowing how to make use of the data we already have and we go out looking for some additional data.
Or, even worse, we make the wrong decision because we misinterpret what numbers are trying to tell us.
A gut-based decision may point you to invest your marketing budget in some Metasearch campaigns, for example, Google Hotel Ads, because you think you need more traffic and, with more traffic, consequently, more bookings.
Now, let's assume that your hotel website, together with the booking engine that you pay a lot of money for, performs as low as a 1% conversion rate.
Would you still consider investing in Metasearch engines campaigns?
Maybe not, because the investment needed to bid on Meta is usually way higher than what it would cost you to put forth some Conversion Rate Optimization tasks.
Or maybe yes, because the number of Sessions on your site is definitely too low, thus you need some more consistent traffic.
Or maybe not, again, because your data tells you that you have a lot of new visitors, but very few returning visitors, hence investing in some remarketing campaign may get you a better ROI.
You see? Data is like any given language, like English, Italian, Spanish: would you understand if this post was in Italian? If you know the language, clearly yes, otherwise you'd know nothing of what we are talking about.
3. Remarketing (or Retargeting)
Tomæto, Tomato. Remarketing, Retargeting. They are the exact same thing. Google calls it Remarketing. For Facebook it's Retargeting.
Either way, do you know that Retargeting (yes, I use the Facebook way) is by far the most powerful, efficient and cost-effective paid marketing weapon in any Hoteliers' hands?
And do you know that roughly 80% of the hotels all over the world do not do any Retargeting (yes, I use the Facebook way)?
And that one of the reasons why so many hoteliers do not do any retargeting is because they don't know what retargeting is about?
Retargeting simply means marketing to those who are already familiar with you and your hotel, because they have recently visited your hotel website, or Facebook page, without completing the booking though.
A potential customer who didn't turn into a booking customer is anyway more appealing and easy to deal with than a total stranger.
What are the odds of a new visitor booking your hotel in the first place, meaning the very first time he or she lands on your website?
Very slim. Statistically, less than 3%, with this value getting slightly higher with business travellers.
However, the fact that these visitors leave your site after their first visit doesn't make them not interested in your hotel and your services.
They likely need a little bit more time. So rather than pushing, pushing and again pushing, all the time, claiming that potential customers turn into booking guests in the first place, what if you leave them space and time to come back to you at a later stage?
With no retargeting though, chances are high that you will fall forgotten out of their minds in a matter of minutes after leaving your site.
So this is, in simple words, what retargeting is about and how it can serve your main purpose of getting more (direct) bookings.
Furthermore, retargeting is even more powerful and effective now, in these difficult times, for the very simple reason that the scepticism resulting from the pandemic makes the customer journey longer in terms of booking steps, even though shorter in terms of time.
4. Less is More. And Bigger is Better
The human brain can deal with 5 to 9 pieces of information at a time. Quite limited, isn't it?
Yet, hoteliers (and all professionals in general) feed their prospective customers with such a huge amount of information, that it would be impossible for anyone to digest.
It's as if you're trying to store 10 Gigabytes of documents, files, images, videos and other stuff... in a 3 1/2-inch floppy disc.
Take the following example:
And compare it to this:
Isn't the second hotel providing more digestible information?
There are 2 factors that play a big role here:
- Information Overload. This is the effect users get when seeing (not reading) a screen like the first one. It's too much stuff, thus people tend to stay away from too much information.
- Big as opposed to small fonts. The second hotel makes the description easier to read by simply using bigger fonts, with a good line-height space between the lines, and plenty of empty/white space all around.
Always remember, that before reading your content, people see it. And that's the first barrier to entry: the smaller the font, the more difficult to get into the reading mode.
5. Get the lead first
The desire to travel is literally skyrocketing after all that we've been through in this last year, so is scepticism though.
People want to travel of course, but fear and doubts make people consider different options multiple times, in the attempt to feel 100% sure that wherever they decide to go, whatever hotel they decide to stay at, is the right choice.
From a Marketing-Revenue perspective, this means a shorter booking window, but more booking steps.
In other words, users may tend to book more last minute, but at the same time taking multiple visits to your website before converting.
Thus, even more so now, claiming to convert new website visitors in the first place may not be the very best move.
Instead, it would be better to work on hooking them, by giving them a reason to come back to our hotel site at a later stage, when they'll feel more ready and closer to the booking.
Translated: get the lead first. Using, for example, a lead magnet.
There are multiple ways of doing so. Logically, the very best way would be to get prospects' email addresses, so that you can further nurture that lead for free.
However, asking for an email address may also be too big of a barrier at times.
So what to do?
This is one of the best usage of Retargeting campaigns, just as we discussed a few lines above, in combination with data tracking.
In fact, smart retargeting always requires a solid strategy.
For example, if you properly track visitors who spend a relevant amount of time reading an article on your site that talks about family activities in your city, you might tag those users as family.
When you will then retarget to them, you'll be presenting them your best solutions for families, like a family package, a family room, any sort of family-related activities your hotel is capable of delivering, that is of value for that specific target.
Of course retargeting comes at a cost, but again, converting prospects who are already familiar with your hotel because they previously visited your website, is going to be way cheaper and more effective than trying to convert perfect strangers into bookers at first sight.
6. Testimonials (other than Reviews)
If we would all make an effort to look outside of our beloved Hotel Industry, in the attempt of seeing what other sectors and businesses do that we could adopt and replicate, we would all hugely benefit from it.
One of the things that many managers and business owners get obsessed about (rightly) is Testimonials.
The Hotel Industry, instead, has Reviews.
So what's the difference between Reviews and Testimonials?
First, reviews are very generic, whilst testimonials tend to go in-depth talking about a very specific product or service the customer received.
Secondly and probably more important, reviews are hosted on 3rd party sites. In our case, OTAs, Google and Metasearch engines sites.
Instead, Testimonials are owned and published on your hotel website.
What's even more important is that you don't necessarily need to ask your customers to leave you a testimonial, even though this would be a great thing to do.
In fact, you can easily take 3rd-party reviews and turn them into testimonials.
There are many different ways of doing this and I will likely share an in-depth SOP on how the best approach I would suggest taking, however take a look at this hotel:
This hotel created a dedicated page on their website, listing some (not all) of the best testimonials from their past customers.
It doesn't really matter whether the original review was given to some other site, you have all the rights to take that review, eventually just a smaller part of it, and paste it on your site, too.
Furthermore, it doesn't have to be a dedicated page. Actually what I would suggest is to place 2 up to 3 testimonials on the homepage of your website.
I wanted to show you this particular example because it's the best way to show you what testimonials really are: your Why.
Why should people come to your hotel?
Linking your WHY to social-proof, by far the most potent mental trigger of all, is not just easy, it's absolutely smart.
Page speed, mobile-first, content, good image quality, responsiveness, design... the importance of all these things remain unchanged.
As said though, we didn't want to simply list a bunch of same-old-same-old features that have been told thousands of times already. Instead, we wanted to give you some more practical suggestions that are neither techy nor difficult to understand.
Your website is, has been and will always be the central point of your digital strategy to get more revenue and more direct bookings.
Take care of it and you'll immensely be rewarded by your fellow customers.