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BBOnline – Bouncing Back? Or Not?

Last April we first posted our concerns about the sudden drop in traffic from BBOnline to our Bed & Breakfast in Freeport Maine. Our traffic had dropped 95% for the first several months of 2012 compared to the same time frame in 2011. Other innkeepers reported similar drops. We followed up that article with another, detailing concerns about an email response to our inquiries about the traffic drops, then a third article about a more encouraging telephone response from BBOnline staff. [pullquote]Is BBOnline bouncing back?[/pullquote]Now that our busy season is three-quarters over, we wanted to see where things stand with BBOnline. Are they bouncing back and returning to their former spot as one of our top B&B directories? Or do they continue to languish at the bottom, sending us only a trickle of the former traffic? Bouncing Back? We began our inquiry with Compete.com, which provides traffic analysis. This type of analysis only works well for sites with heavy traffic - smaller sites usually have too little traffic for Compete to be of use. As the accompanying graphic shows, BBOnline's traffic plummeted in November, 2011, but didn't hit bottom until January 2012, but seems to have recovered well in March and April, then dropped again from May through August of 2012. This coincides with our observation in our third article, in June 2012, that there were some signs at that time of a BBOnline recovery, but it was too early to draw any conclusions. However, since the summer months are usually the highest web traffic months for B&B's (even when you take into account different seasonal traffic in areas where the weather patterns are opposite), we really need to see how this "bounce" relates to other B&B directories. Looking at Compete.com for BedAndBreakfast.com, BnBFinder.com and ILoveInns.com (the other directories have…

BBOnline Responds to Traffic Drop – And Seems to Care!

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…

BBOnline – Now We’re Really Worried

Recently we posted about a very significant decline in the amount of referral traffic we had observed coming from BBOnline.com. Several innkeepers posted in the comments, some noticing similar drops. Some, like ours, have been enormous, while others have been "only" 40-50% (during a time when referrals from most other directories have increased!). We have not heard from anyone who has observed anything other than a significant drop in referrals. As we had mentioned, we had written to BBOnline to ask if they were aware of this, and if they were doing anything to rectify it. Since the article appeared we have received a reply, which scares us all the more. [pullquote]To say that the reply from BBOnline is disappointing is an understatement.[/pullquote]To say that the reply from BBOnline is disappointing is an understatement. Since we have no desire to be seen as attacking BBOnline, and we do not intend to embarrass the writer of the email, we'll only share excerpts of the reply. Our original email to them was simply a report of our Analytics, showing the huge dropoff in referrals dating from the time of their website update (December 7, 2011), and asking if they were aware of it, and asking for assurance that they were working on a solution. Disappointingly, the reply was more notable for corporate sales-speak than for content. BBOnline's Response, Point-by-Point 1. We have taken many steps to improve the SEO of the site. BBOnline states that their "brand new features", constant changes of the way listings appear, and tracking of user behavior has improved the SEO. Wow, where do you start? It is true that many articles on SEO best practices will talk about keeping your content fresh, but other than that, where is the genuine SEO work? Are title and meta tags…

What’s Going on at BBOnline?

Some years ago we had a conversation with a BBOnline staffer who indicated that a website redesign was being planned, but it could be quite some time before it was completed. At the time, BBOnline was one of the most significant sources of traffic referrals to our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast, so we were anxious to see the site updated, and also to see some more modern features added, such as innkeepers uploading their own photos, changing their own text, etc. Be careful what you wish for. A New Website Last fall we received an email indicating that the site redesign was nearly complete, and inviting us to try out the "beta" version and provide feedback. Pleased that this was finally looking like a reality, we uploaded photos, changed text, and generally did most of the things other directories have allowed for years. There seemed to be a number of quirky features, and broken items, so we dutifully made a list and emailed it off, in hopes that the items could be corrected when the site was released. The first clue that all was not well at BBOnline was when there was no response to our feedback email. Not even a "Thanks, we got your email." Nothing. Oh, and when the site rolled out, most of the glitches we had identified were still there. Now that gives you a special feeling, doesn't it? Regular readers will know that we're a bit committed to analytics (OK, obsessed, then!), so it will come as no surprise that we checked our analtyics about a month after receiving the December 7, 2011 email from BBOnline announcing that the new site had been rolled out, to see how the new site was doing. That was an eye-opener! We were looking at maybe 5 referrals…

Getting the ‘Word of Mouth’ Recommendation

Closing the circle in this series on the process guests use to book lodging properties is what WIHP Hotel Marketing calls the Second Moment of Truth - the arrival of the guest at your property. We have already discussed the four-step booking decision process, how the guest becomes aware of your property (the Discovery or Stimulus step), how guests make the decision to visit your website (the Zero Moment of Truth), and the process of deciding to book with your property (the First Moment of Truth). In this article we consider the guest at your property (and beyond). [caption id="attachment_408" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Ready to share?"][/caption]Just as the process begins with the discovery of a property to be considered, by using "word of mouth" -- review sites, social media, or recommendations from "real" friends and family, the guest will become the recommender. Their reaction at your property (the Second Moment of Truth) will determine whether they recommend your property positively or negatively (or at all). How do you get word of mouth recommendations that will bring more guests? If review sites and social sharing are the sources of discovery, then we definitely want our guests to have a positive experience, and to share that experience. How do we go about doing that? 1. The Positive Experience People usually have a good experience when it meets or exceeds their expectations. Conversely, when the experience falls short of their expectations, it isn't usually a good experience. How are expectations set for prospective guests? Proceeding through the booking process we've been discussing, some expectation is created by the initial recommendations or reviews. These are refined further by the visit to your website and booking process. The Second Moment of Truth is when the guest arrives at your property and learns whether or not those…

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