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…

How to Provide the Information Guests Want

Our first post in this series provided an overview of how guests find and book a lodging property, based on research from WIHP, a hotel marketing agency. The four step process assumes the future guest has selected a destination area and then proceeds through the steps of (1) discovery of a particular property, (2) seeking information about the property to see if it is a good prospect (the zero moment of truth), (3) the guest on your website (the first moment of truth), and (4) the guest at your property (the second moment of truth). Our second post discussed the process by which a guest "discovers" (or learns of) your property as a possible place to stay. Our topic today, then, is the "Zero Moment of Truth," or the time when the guest has decided on a location to visit, has learned of your property as a possible place to stay, but has not yet seen your website, and wants to find out more about your property. [pullquote]Around 80% of searches for more information are on a search engine. Ignore that at your peril.[/pullquote] The findings from WIHP indicate that nearly three-quarters (72.9%) of all prospective guests will look for your property on a search engine. Another 9.6% will look on a mapping website. Since most (but certainly not all) mapping sites are affiliated with search engines, this amounts to around 80% of all searches for more information going through a search engine. That is a statistic to be ignored at your peril. Another 7.3% seek information from a review site (such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.). After that the numbers fall off radically for travel guides (3%) and social media sites (0.8%). Just a side note - if you're counting on your social media sites (Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) to…

Attracting B&B Guests: How does that work?

A few of you may have noticed that we seem to have taken a bit of a hiatus over the past several weeks. In fact, our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast had a very busy summer, and there wasn't much time for About the Inn writing. Now that our busy summer and fall foliage seasons are behind us, it appears things will be back on a more even keel, and we hope to be able to publish more regularly. How do you attract B&B guests? In the past several years, most smaller lodging properties have become aware of the importance of attracting guests through an online presence (oddly, though, some still seem to question the need - or maybe they question the long-term viability - of an internet presence). Gone, or nearly gone, are the days of buying print or television ads in huge volume, in hopes that a few visitors will be enticed to become guests. For the smaller properties, in particular, this is a good thing, as few can afford the high prices charged for print advertising, let alone the several additional orders of magnitude for television campaigns - all for ads for which there is little hope of tracking their success, and for which industry analysts say the return on investment (ROI) is very small indeed. So, then, all a small business needs to do is find a way to slap up a small website, and all the marketing is done, right? Unfortunately, many small properties seem to have adopted exactly that strategy, and are beginning to pay the price in reduced occupancy. Print media (with the exception, to some degree, of direct mail), and for that matter television, tries to sell by sending an uninvited message to a large, but generally arbitrary, audience. The primary reason…

How to use Google +1 (and should you?)

Yesterday Google announced that the +1 button is now available for any website to use (just like a Facebook 'Like' button, or similar buttons). It raises two questions: Should you be using it? How do you use it? Both questions are easily answered - though most articles on the topic have not really dealt with them as much as emphasizing the "buzz" (no pun intended) or the absence of a "need" for another "Like" button. Should you use it? The short answer is "YES!" Yes, it is yet another social media thing. Yes it is similar to others. But get real. As Lisa Barone has pointed out, the practical effect of the Plus One program is to put everyone in the position of using the button, or being left out. The consequence of being left out is not known yet, but it seems likely that it will have an impact on search placement in some way. How do you use it? To use it you will have to create a Google profile if you don't already have one. If you have a login for GMail, iGoogle, or any other Google service, you probably already have a Google profile. The instructions to use the button are simply cut-and-paste, if you have access to your website. Copy the first line of code (below) and paste it either inside the <head> tags of your page or near the bottom of your page, before the <body> tag closing. Here is the code: <script type="text/javascript" src="http://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> Copy the second line of code (below) and paste it in the page where you would like the button to appear: <g:plusone></g:plusone> There are various options for the size and layout of the button, the link it should "like", and whether or not to display the count of "plusones".…

3 Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation – Good, Bad, and Ugly

Will your failed effort to repair your online reputation sink your business? Stories about bad (and occasionally good) reputation management efforts have become all too common. Still, businesses often don't get it. You can run, but you can't hide! You can't avoid the impact to your reputation by staying away from social media - you just don't know what's being said about you (whether positive or negative). We all make mistakes, so the best thing to do is plan how to deal with them. Three recent situations illustrate all three types of reputation problems, and make good lessons on how to (or how not to) deal with them. The lessons from these stories apply to businesses in any industry, whether large multinationals or small, local businesses. The Bad This is kind of a double lesson. Part 1: First, 7-Eleven posted a joke on their Facebook page that was mildly unkind to mental health. Not a very politically correct thing to do. Especially since this didn't just show up for a few people, but to the over 700,000 people who "Like" their page. They deleted the post, but that didn't stop people from talking about it on their Facebook page. No doubt the post was largely unnoticed due to the attention of the news media being captured by the disclosure of the killing of Osama bin Laden. If it had attracted a lot of attention, it could have been a PR nightmare. Part 2: Next Peter Shankman posted about the 7-Eleven post, commenting about its being in poor taste and pointing out that 7-Eleven may have dodged a bullet because "Monday happened to be a very active news day". Shankman was criticized by some of his readers as being too "politically correct", and so posted a follow-up the next day, explaining…

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