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
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.
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.
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)
Here are some tips for improving website content to help drive more visitors:
- Optimize for SEO – Research relevant keywords travellers use to find boutique hotels in your location and optimize pages and content around those words. Provide quality meta descriptions.
- Add geo-targeting – Include geographic keywords in the copy to show up in searches for the specific neighbourhood or city where you’re located.
- Update blog frequently – A blog is a great way to generate fresh, keyword-rich content. Post regularly about local experiences, events, and seasonal happenings.
- Feature user-generated content – Sprinkling in guest photos, reviews, and testimonials adds authenticity. Just make sure to get permission.
- Share new room/property photos – Adding new visual content pages gives search engines more to index while keeping the site looking fresh.
- Curate local area guides – Provide robust guides to the top restaurants, bars, shops and attractions around the hotel for visitors. Update regularly.
- Spotlight awards/accolades – Add pages that showcase recent awards, press features or accolades earned by the boutique property.
- Create video content – Video tours, local experience videos and promotional clips can engage visitors. Include transcripts for SEO.
- Partner with influencers – Collaborate on sponsored posts with travel bloggers/influencers who align with boutique brands.
Focusing on useful, constantly updated content optimized for SEO and geo-targeting can help boost discovery and drive more qualified traffic.
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.
Here are some additional tips for crafting promotions and offers:
- Offer exclusivity – Create VIP packages, limited-time offers, or promotions that make guests feel special. For example, a “Stay Longer, Save More” offer or an exclusive rate code sent in a members-only email.
- Focus on experiences – Go beyond just room rates by featuring packages built around food/wine, spa treatments, recreation activities, local attractions and more. This plays into the boutique experience.
- Leverage partnerships – Partner with local restaurants, wineries, shops and activity providers to create compelling bundled packages and deals, adding value for guests.
- Promote occasions – Curate offers for anniversaries, birthdays, honeymoons that include romantic touches like champagne, late checkout, desserts, etc.
- Highlight seasons – Tailor promotions based on seasonal attractions like ski passes in winter or vineyard tours in fall. Time them to seasons and holidays.
- Use urgency – Limited-time flash sales, last-minute deals, and expiring offers can create urgency. But don’t overdo it.
- Share user-generated – Alongside professional photos, incorporate guest photos on-site to showcase experiences. Add social proof.
- Personalization – Use data like past stays or special occasions to provide customized, relevant offers when possible.
The key is to match the distinctive vibe and amenities of the boutique property while providing genuine value. Focus on conveying the unique experiential aspects.
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.
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.