Several weeks ago we posted our concerns over the significant drop in BBOnline traffic (referrals) following their site redesign late last year. When we heard from BBOnline, the response was disconcerting, so we posted further concerns.
More recently online innkeeping forums (both public and private) have had active discussions about the drops in BBOnline traffic to inn websites. Significantly, while the exact amount of traffic loss varied from inn to inn, no innkeepers reported gains or traffic staying constant from year to year. Losses ranged from about 65% to over 90%.
Like many inns, historically BBOnline has been a very significant referral source for our Bed and Breakfast in Freeport Maine. As a result, we made additional attempts to contact BBOnline, to let them know what we had seen, and that others had observed similar traffic drops. That resulted in a request to have a conference call with a BBOnline Product Manager and a BBOnline Customer Service Manager.
We had a very pleasant conversation. We chatted about several issues, including the challenges of changing the old site (let’s face it, it was long overdue for a facelift) to a more modern look, the ability to update your own listing and photos, and the challenges of keeping search placement high after such a change. BBOnline’s parent company, Internet Brands, has gone through site updates for other of its brands, and felt they had procedures in place to avoid the type of problem that we’ve seen as customers of BBOnline.
The BBOnline representatives acknowledged that they were aware of some significant search placement losses, including for many who had spoken up on the innkeeping forums. They have already made changes to try to recover lost placement. More changes are coming. Indeed, we have seen some indications that BBOnline may be showing up a bit better in the search results, but it may take time to regain the lost ground.
One of the things BBOnline is examining is the way the various pieces of the new templates display the information to Google, to be sure it comes across as a coherent web page, and not just a group of component pieces.
To their credit, BBOnline is not blaming Google’s recent Panda or Penguin updates for the lost placement (these have certainly caused a lot of grief for a lot of websites, including some in our industry). However, they did comment that they are continuing to look into various areas related to that, to try to validate that they didn’t run afoul of some Google rule or algorithm change.
It seems that BBOnline is actively working to rectify this problem, as they do understand how important it is to innkeepers that they show up well in search. They also feel they can add significant value for innkeepers by designing their pages to funnel the user toward the property’s availability and/or booking engine pages, and are working to improve this.
It was really encouraging that the attitude from BBOnline is one of recognizing the problem, telling what they’ve begun to do to rectify it, and describing some additional steps they plan to take to improve things.
It will take time to see results in our referrals and bookings, but if they are successful, we should begin to see improvement before too long.