Direct website traffic and conversion are critical – and you have maximum control over your own website, presentation, information flow, images, rates and margins. All hotels small or big, independent or part of a chain have the ability to drive direct bookings through their website. It does, however, require a lot of diligence and application to influence

Here are the top 10 areas to consider

1. Navigation

Check on your website navigation. Can a prospective booker easily find the information they seek? Ask a third party to give you feedback. As the owner, manager or marketer of a business, one tends to have a far greater understanding of the product – this translates into your online presence too. However, this is not greatly helpful for a newcomer who has no information whatsoever on your boutique hotel.

2. Functionality

Check if your website functions the way it is meant to do. This depends on the audience that you are trying to get to use your website and their behaviour. Try and understand the devices that your audience use to access your website. Which browser are they more likely to use? And what are the internet speeds in the target markets like? And is the audience technology friendly?

3. Booking Path

How easy is it for your website visitor to complete a booking and receive confirmation? Is it easy and done in a few steps or are there many loops that they have to go through?

Keeping the path to completing a booking simple, fast and effective is key to generating more direct bookings.

4. Accessibility

Very often accessibility for websites is described as the steps taken to ensure visually and otherwise, disabled web users are able to use your website. But equally importantly, for us, it includes other areas like use of Flash and Java scripts. 

5. Social media interaction

Mar­ket­ing through social media is a way of build­ing rela­tion­ships with the cus­tom­ers dir­ectly – however proper engage­ment is critical for it to be effective. Ensure that the social media icons are easily visible and where possible, invite website visitors to follow you on Twitter or like your Facebook page. This invitation, however, works only if you have excellent content.

6. Content & Images

Using good quality and appealing pictures on your website is of the utmost importance to create a good first impression especially as a boutique hotel. To reinforce your message, the picture should show people experiencing and enjoying your accommodation/activity in its proper setting. Moreover, the people in these images should match your target group (for example, not ideal to use images of families if your target group also includes business travellers)

7. Promotional opportunities

Ensure that the website is regularly updated with the latest promotions. Dynamic and relevant content is important. Equally importantly have a mechanism to capture the contact information of interested parties.

8. Website structure for SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important; however, it is an area that is not very well understood. And this is understandable as its effectiveness is hard to prove, and the approach to SEO techniques have to constantly adapt to changing requirements of large search engines like Google.

SEO’s real relevance lies in bringing quality traffic to your website. A key emphasis of SEO is creating keyword-rich pages that are relevant to specific searches. This, in turn, allows web visitors to find the exact content they were searching for. And thus leading to relevant enquiries and improved conversion in terms of bookings at your hotel. The increase in voice search requires changes to the way content is drafted.

9. Mobile ready

Traditionally companies used to design websites mainly with the desktop user in mind. Over the last few years, there has been a sea change in how hotels and OTAs are responding to the customer preference of mobile-first or a multi-device approach. Another important reason is that mobile is increasingly becoming the last minute reservation channel. Having a mobile optimised website and booking engine is critical.

10. Languages

Hoteliers are always faced with the chal­lenge to reach out to a wider audi­ence. To achieve global growth and reach inter­na­tional audi­ences, the hotel’s con­tent mar­ket­ing strategy needs to match the diversity of your online audiences.

Loc­al­isa­tion and trans­la­tion can be crit­ical to an effect­ive over­all global mar­ket­ing strategy for your hotel. However, if you are an independent boutique hotel, you will need to prioritise what matters the most. Mil­lions of words are pub­lished online, every minute, with the inten­tion to build brands, sell products, evoke emo­tions and cre­ate reactions.