This article is a short summary of why you may want to consider your own website, not everyone needs or is prepare to have their own site hopefully this helps out.
Hotel owners and managers, the are many reasons why you should have your own site but start off as right as possible!
My top reasons:
- Your own site can be more comprehensive than a brand site, emphasize what you want, show more of what you are about.
- You can have many landing pages, private and public. Capture weekend getaways, sports teams, boaters by creating good phrases and pages.
- Digital marketing is almost impossible to use without your own site, branded hotels cannot use trademarks in ads.
- Integrated into most mobile APPS.
- With CMS it can be updated by almost anyone that has used a word processor, blogs are very popular SEO tools on sites. see how easy it is
- Offers new search opportunities other than a hotel and price.
- Provides you far more comprehensive analytics FREE, it's possible to pinpoint a group coming to town.
- Create HTML email directly from your site, link reader back to desired content on your site.
- Does not list all your competition on the same page.
- Offers guest service that cannot be done on brand sites, RFP. Authorizations, Credit Forms, etc.
- Great place to send groups considering your property
- Can be used as an extranet for standardizing forms, training etc. "Everyone on the same page"
- And of course media, not just brands photos, the number one reason people come to visit.
What if you do not have a web developer
There are many good alternatives out there were non-developers can create a site. "Remember it will be a boutique site (images mostly) and like most hotel sites it will be very costly or impossible to get it to ranked on phases like Hotels in Area" You will still need a variety of landing pages like Outdoor Events In Area, attractions, etc. SEO is still very important. And remember my favorite quote "If it's free you are the product" I do recommend some of these sites frequently when they do not have other requirements requiring unique design features.
Other solutions could be sites offered from the third party sites like booking.suite. These type of sites are normally costly but do offer you some of the benefits of the mothership, and can be more visible in some situations. They are not magic! You still need to keep it current and meaningful or it's a waste of money! Designate someone creative in your organization first to keep the site fresh. It is still very doubtful you will get a top landing page like hotels in the area, just too much money being thrown that in that direction! Hotel seekers will most likely need to key your hotel's full name to discover the site. Note: People do not type the full name of a hotel on search unless they plan on staying with you anyway! so you are spending more for the same dollar. the real advantage is many brands allow a link directly from their site allowing you to showcase.
I personally believe that these sites provide a small fraction of the benefits of developing your own site(s) with few revenue rewards. If you're like most smaller hotels and don't employ a developer, digital pro, creative people or just don't have the time it may be a good alternative. Do your math, if you think your new business revenue will be double your monthly cost then go for it! (if they are typing your name to find it I promise it's not new revenue, just paying more for the same dollar)
What is new revenue on the internet?
Put simply it is someone who has no idea where to stay, however, they will know exactly what they are looking for! Don't quote me but I believe the average consumer will search 12 sites prior to making a new decision on where to stay. These folks have already qualified the type of hotel and area and may open each one that fits their criteria seeking additional media and information, at this point cost is not a major criterion. They will get specific on search phrases like hotels with nightclubs in the area, or hot tubs, lake view, etc. these consumers will work hard to find a boutique site if available. Once they decide or narrowed it down they will begin to price shop using popular sites like Expedia. That's new business, With these folks, I don't care where you are on the Expedia list top or bottom you will not be considered unless pre-qualified. The other type of new business is the conversion from one brand to another. The conversion is often decided by the hotels boutique web site.
What you are offering plays a big role in whether you need to spend on your own website
If your hotel offers nothing but price and is branded, you have no need have a site, your brand, and third parties provide all you will need for a price. Boutique sites are great if you offer something unique and want to emphasize that amenity. A pool in an area where every hotel has a pool is not unique, your hotel has an acoustic act on weekends in the pool area is unique, your pool is indoor/outdoor is unique, A midscale with a blues bar is unique. Note: F&B has it's own massive marketing channels.
If you do offer something unique and want to market it remember this! Incoming quality links are a very significant factor in google rank, branded hotel owners have few good choices of quality sites to add incoming links because the brands are already paying or connecting to the best links. What to do? Keep your eyes open for good quality links like local interest, CVB'S, etc.
Even small events can be listed on hundreds of free sites linking back to your site showcasing your cool pool, with cool people having fun listening to music. Event listings open up a whole new marketing avenue. My experience is 99% of hotel owners never pursue this, the ones that do are often scale it way up! Don't like music or Tiki bars try offering free meeting space to a local winery for a wine tasting have a benefit for a local charity and promote it on free event sites, the community will thank you! think outside of the box and be creative!
What to not to expect from your site:
First off do not expect your site to compete with the brands or big third parties and expect to rank high on searches that include the word hotel and your area unless you are independent. Why? because most brands by contract own the property address required for google places, the number of incoming links for third parties is enormous, and of course, big dollar spends to keep rank! Google may rank you here to see how you compare in hits to the others if you do not compare with let's say booking.com you will be de-ranked. Not good odds here!
The other situation is, let's say you spend weeks working on the best keywords, phases and they are perfect and you end up on the first page of hotels in your area, with all the surrounding competition links like google carousel you may not ever get hit. If you don't get hit google will de-rank you forever. So the ranking may not last a day even with perfect keywords/phrases.
What you are competing with on key hotel searches
- Paid ads are from companies with spends in the hundreds of thousand dollars to maintain rank and market share.
- Google places (your address) are owned by your brand in many cases.
- The organic results are from thousands of incoming links on the sites listed.
- Google or Bing does not allow using trademarked names without permission.
So if you think your SEO can compete with this, it's your time and money!!!!
Does this mean we are out of the SEO ball game? NO, IT MEANS NEW AND BETTER OPPORTUNITY!
Use your SEO to gain rank other attractive landing pages, the ones your competitors are not on! For example, if your brand is close to a major state park, feature that on a separate page, then when someone planning a day trip and searching for the state park your site may show up as well. HANDY!
Remember this before you get crazy, search engines are more and more using geolocation, so what you see may not be what others see, Google and Bing provide tools for this, if you try and google it you may never see your page resulting in great frustration or wrongful termination! That's why we have analytics and other tools.
"Stay away from the big spenders and you will find opportunity"