Is your cool B&B site cool enough for 2012? Six tips.
For many years you could have a website for your bed and breakfast and be happy with it. But as with most of these things: times change and what once was a cool website, might not be so cool anymore in a world with Facebooks, smart phones and increased competition. So here are six tips for your 2012 website.
1. Be there, in the search results
Being there on the internet means that you need to be found: only then you will have the opportunity to convince your guests to stay with you. That means you need a website that has the ingredients to be ‘understood’ properly by search engines. If it is not, your chances of ranking high are slim. There are three things that determine how well you rank in search engines: (1) proper coding of your site according to today’s standards, (2) texts that are pleasant to your guests and contain the search terms that people will be using to look for a property in your area and (3) ‘authority’ of your site, meaning that the more incoming links and references you have from reputable sites (including B&B directories), the more likely you are to end up high in search results.
NOTE: Your web agency
If you hire a professional web agency they should know how all this translates into an effective website. If your website guy isn’t familiar with these terms, he is not your guy: W3 compliant coding, responsive web design, Meta tags, proper formatting of headers, Micro formats, a dynamic site map, page load times, search engine friendly URL’s.
NOTE: do it yourself, now!
Don’t forget about a very easy to set up (and free) presence on Google Places (the results you often see with the map markers on the first page of Google). With ten minutes of your time, you can be in there, too.
2. Be there, on the devices your guests use
And when creating a site today, you need mobile versions: looking good on a computer just isn’t sufficient with the sharp increase of people using smart phones and tablets to surf the web. Today 10-15% of search comes from mobile devices. Traditional sites are just not easy (and sometimes impossible) to use on mobile phones or tablets: because menus may just not click, and texts are impossible to read on the smaller screens. If you are creating a site, it would be a waste of money if you are not ready for the smart phones and tablets. You can test to see how your site scores in mobile compatibility on GoMo by Google.
3. Be there, on the places where they hang out, like Facebook
Being a host myself in Amsterdam, I’ll admit that I hated the first few reservation requests that I received through Facebook. They screwed up my neat little system of my calendar and email… But then, times change, and I realized that I had to, too. So I created a Facebook page for my Korenbloemen Studio in Amsterdam, and now happily share information about last minute deals and post cool pictures of the city… And welcome remarks and bookings. If my guests spend a lot of time on Facebook, I’d better join them.
4. Have three things on your homepage, four actually
Once your potential guests get to your site, make sure they immediately understand three things: (1) the location of your bed and breakfast is right for them, (2) your service level is what they are looking for (basic/luxury) and (3) you offer value for money. And then there’s a fourth one: does your homepage provide them with the confidence that they will be able to find all the information they need easily. If there is a clutter of your hobbies, recipes, and links to all the sites you are listed on, there is a fair chance they will abandon your site. You may have just a few seconds to convince your guests that your site is where they actually may want to book a room. For them it is just two clicks to get to another search result if you haven’t convinced them in those few seconds.
5. Think global
"Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! Fremde, etranger, stranger. Glüklich zu sehen, je suis enchanté. Happy to see you, bleibe, reste, stay!" It may not be true for some B&B’s, but it sure is for all locations with an international appeal: talk to your guests in their own language. Yes, the work to maintain your site in multiple languages increases, but then: it may well pay off.
6. Liven up your site
With recent changes in Google, sites with news and updates are favored over static ones. By offering tips and news about upcoming events in your area, you kill two birds with one stone: Google will like it, and so will your guests. My guests like to know about the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh museum when coming to Amsterdam, but love my insight tips about the small museums, restaurant recommendations, the local specialty shops and the neighborhood cafes. They can warm up for their stay on my website with my tips, and I of course offer a print out for them when they arrive.
Hugo Lingeman was the co-host at Maes Bed and Breakfast in Amsterdam as early as 1994 and now offers a private rental studio in the historic centre. As an entrepreneur he developed the Avvie B&B Calendar (including an iPhone app for innkeepers to manage their reservations) and he is the co-founder of Stinngo, a new service for B&B’s to create and maintain their own professional B&B website. Stinngo will be launched shortly.