Can Your Website Visitors Really Trust You?

Should your website or blog have a privacy policy? Why would you want to have one? Are there any laws that require a privacy policy? Do small businesses (like bed and breakfast inns) need a privacy policy? What should my privacy policy include? Having a privacy policy is not something most small businesses think about when they think about content for their website. But should they? The short answer is yes. Why have a privacy policy? [caption id="attachment_550" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/mynetx/"][/caption]As of this writing, for most small businesses (there are exceptions for some businesses in health care or financial services industries, or if you collect information from children under 13 years of age), no US laws require that your website have a privacy policy. Don't stop there, however, as there are other considerations. 1. US Efforts to Regulate Internet Content. In the US legal arena, the federal government continues its efforts to regulate internet usage in a variety of ways. As these efforts continue to change, it would not be surprising to find that they result in either mandatory privacy policies, or provide additional protection for sites with privacy policies. If that should happen, having a reasonable and appropriate policy in place will be a very good thing. 2. Efforts to Regulate Internet Content by Other Countries. Since many (perhaps most) B&B's serve guests from other countries, and their websites are seen in other countries, the laws of those regions or countries may come into play if you collect data (including booking information) from citizens of those countries. 3. Privacy Expectations of Visitors. Despite study after study showing that the majority of people using websites are concerned about their privacy to some degree, many websites do not have a privacy policy. Studies of the "Top 100 Websites" show…

How Safe Is Your Website Or Blog? 3 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep

Would you know if your site had been hacked? Could you restore it if it had been hacked? These three steps will help you prepare for the worst. If you follow technology news, it seems that high-visibility websites are being compromised (hacked) with astonishing frequency. Even to the point where at least one hacker group is using the threat of its hacking as a political weapon. You might think that big sites, like major corporate sites or government sites, are so well protected that they can't be hacked. You would be wrong. But what about the little businesses? If anything, they are less likely to be secured against threats, both because the business lacks the resources, and because the hosting company controls the security of the site. So, what is a business to do to protect itself? [caption id="attachment_507" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Photo credit: renaissancechambara on Flickr"][/caption]While there are steps you can take to make your website more secure, this post is about things to do to be certain you can quickly get the site back on line if something does happen and it is hacked, or otherwise damaged (such as by your hosting company improperly restoring the site from its backup - as recently happened to the site of our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast). Here are three steps you can take today to make it more likely that, whatever the cause of website troubles, you can reduce the pain of having to restore the site. 1. Preparation: Make sure your host has regular backups It seems like a no-brainer, really, but check with your hosting company. Are they doing daily (nightly) backups? Most hosting companies use what are known as "virtual web servers" - several (many) websites are hosted on the same physical machine and actually have the same…

Pinterest: Not Just YASN (Yet Another Social Network) for B&B’s

We've been hearing a lot of buzz about Pinterest lately, but surprisingly little of it comes from within the Innkeeping community. I say it is surprising, because Pinterest seems almost as if it was made for innkeepers - it is easy to use (we jumped in for our Freeport Maine B&B, and were happily pinning away in minutes), plentiful graphics grab the attention of the visitor, and it is so addictive that users stay connected for a long time. According to comScore, Pinterest ranks just behind Google+ in number of visitors, and third (behind Facebook and Tumblr) in the amount of time a visitor spends on the site. This is very impressive for a site that is not yet open to the public (you can join using a Facebook login, or you can request an invitation on the Pinterest home page). So what is Pinterest? Pinterest describes itself as a virtual pinboard, but we think it is being far too modest. From where we sit, Pinterest is a fantastic tool for sharing interests, or ideas, with others. It seems to be a combination of bookmarking sites (like StumbleUpon, Digg, or Reddit) with photo sharing sites (like Flickr, Panoramio, or Photobucket), with the added ability to comment, share, etc., that you find on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Why do people share? The reasons for sharing seem as varied as the backgrounds of the people sharing. Some are sharing their own memories or activities, much like other sites. But since Pinterest allows (even encourages) sharing of sites you visit (they retain info attributing the original source), you can also share your interests, dreams, and ideas. Why would an Innkeeper use Pinterest? There are several reasons to use Pinterest. First, as Heather Allard notes, "If you had the opportunity to make your business…

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…

Conversions – Getting Your Website to Do Its Job

This is the fourth article in a series examining how B&B guests proceed through the decision process for booking a stay. Based largely on research from WIHP Hotel Marketing, the first article describes the four-step process for booking, the second describes how a guest discovers your property, and the third examines how to provide information to get the guest to your website. This article discusses how to get the conversion - to capture the booking - once the guest has come to your site. What is the purpose of your website? Have you ever given that some thought? Is it to (a) show off your beautiful property, (b) get people to call you for more information, (c) get people to call to book, (d) get people to book online, or (e) other? For most lodging properties, we would venture to say that the primary purpose is to get people to book online, and, secondarily, to call to book. Is it doing those things well? The Guest Arrives at Your Website Our guest has decided where they want to go for their getaway, they have discovered your property (and, probably, up to 10 others), they have done some initial research and learned a little about your property, and have now arrived at your website. WIHP calls this the First Moment of Truth. What happens in the next few seconds will determine whether you get the booking or not. [pullquote]You have between 3-7 seconds to convince the visitor that your property has what they want.[/pullquote]For years analysts have been telling us that you have only seconds (reports we've seen range from less than a second, to about 10 seconds) to convince the visitor to continue with your site. The data for lodging websites from WIHP indicates that you have between 3 and…

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