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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid on your Hotel Website

In General on August 22, 2010 at 14:39

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid on your Hotel WebsiteAs someone who has been building hotel websites for the last 10 years, i’ve seen my fair share of mistakes — i may even have made some of them in the past! Avoid these issues, and you’ll be on your way to an effective website that persuades visitors to become bookers.

Mistake 1: No Balance
Some sites are all images; other sites are all text with lousy images. Try to strike a balance — visitors have different drivers, needs, and motivations: some will be won over by great images; others may not care, they want the facts. A well balanced site should cater to both of these needs, and appeal to both user groups.

Mistake 2: Poor Navigation
Don’t make it hard for people to find what they want! We know that visitors want Room information, a Gallery of photos, Rate information, location details, and reservation details. Make sure these are all easy to access from any page with one click, don’t hide them, buried in a different section (and don’t be tempted to use a tricky mouseover menu to access them).

When you do have a clear navigation, don’t be too cute (or sophisticated) with the names — follow conventions, make it easy for people to understand. Remember that many users accessing your site will be using English as a second language, and they may miss the signposts if they are at all unclear.

Mistake 3: How Do I Book?
I saw this recently with my review of the Top 100 hotels, many of them made it very difficult for the user to work out how to book. In the absence of a clear Booking or Reservations link, i was forced to look in the Contact section, or the Rooms page, to try to work out how to book. Come on, don’t make it so hard! It doesn’t matter so much if you don’t have a fancy booking engine or a contact form, or a plain old email address, just make it crystal clear to the user on EVERY page how they can book.

Mistake 4: Poor Pictures
Ok, so i said to have a balance, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and people want to be impressed. Invest in some good images, and you won’t regret it. Some users are even starting their hotel search on Google Images, and many sites, particularly those with good images, are seeing a lot of traffic coming from Google Images.

Mistake 5: Stale Content
Visitors to your site want to see something current, want an indication that things are happening at your property, so fresh content is a must. A site that was updated a year ago, with old news or outdated package information will sound warning bells: is the hotel still in business? Does the owner/GM really care about what is happening? Keeping the site up-to-date gives the user confidence, and tells Google that they should pay attention to your site, boosting your ranking. News, offers, testimonials, all these help to keep the site looking fresh.

Mistake 6: Hiding your Content in PDFs
Still, too often, hotels are putting useful content online in PDFs — this will be missed by a lot of users. Content needs to be shown in HTML pages, that can be accurately spidered by Google, and viewed within the context of the site — it shouldn’t be necessary to open another program to read about your property. PDFs should be used as a complement, a takeaway for visitors who want to share with a friend or family member.

Mistake 7: Don’t be scared of Product
Some hotel marketers are still afraid of showing product, believing that their brand or concept is enough: this is quite arrogant most of the time, and the majority of buyers will make choices on basics, such as the room, the view, the pool, etc. Show them the product, and sell to them this way, rather than trying to create the fantasy of a lifestyle that may not appeal to them, or may not reflect the reality of the property.

Mistake 8: No Analytics
You NEED to be able to see what people are doing on your site, and these days it’s easy. Your web developers will certainly know how to add Google Analytics, a great, free solution, which allows you to track all kinds of great information — which pages interest visitors, how long they stay on the site, where they come from (which sites send them, and what country are they in). This information allows you to tune your website and product offering so that it can be more effective. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!

Mistake 9: Broken Links
Nothing says you run a poor operation link a broken link. Fine, a broken link on an expired package is not the end of the world, but a broken link to important information on your site (which i ran into a few times when looking at the Top 100 hotels) is a real problem.

Mistake 10: Using Too Much Flash!
Beloved of designers the world over, the Flash intro is a self-indulgent barrier to people finding the information they need on your site. Flash is great when used correctly — in the context of your website, embedded in the page, not something that people are forced to sit through. So many people find this a turnoff, that they leave the site before you’ve had the chance to convince them that your hotel is right for them. Flash should serve as an enhancement, and should not be a requirement — think of all those people sitting on couches planning their next trip on an iPad.

So, check your website, call up your developer, and make sure you’ve got the basics covered!

What do you think? Have i missed something? Let me know!

Anthony Green – August 2010

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  1. If you embed or link to google maps, don’t show a wrong location.

  2. I was reading this article today about the decline of web browsers. When do you think the hotel industry is going to react to this trend and what is the future? Some hotels start to think about developing apps but nothing solid yet.

    • Well, building an app is expensive…plus, as much as i love Chris Anderson, i think he’s wrong here, the web browser is what unites everything and everyone…better for hotels to work on more solid mobile sites…

  3. […] Green on the Top 10 mistakes to avoid on your hotel […]

  4. Some very good points. I would say however that the balance between text and images needs to be about 70% towards images. When someone is booking a hotel he needs to see what he’s going to get. And no amount of text can replace the visual. The images need to be large so as to create emotional impact and they need to be pro photos. Bad pics are a killer for any hotel site.

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