Tips for a Successful Hotel Website Redesign – Part 4

You have now launched your revamped hotel website and believe you can sit back to enjoy the proverbial fruits of your labor. Well don’t go into your happy place just yet. In this last part of our series, we will be discussing some post launch follow-ups of your hotel website redesign.

In your redesign process, you made sure to:

  • Have a plan that could turn your visitors into guests.
  • Have landing pages encouraging prospective guests to explore further.
  • Have a website that reflects your hotel’s voice

You confidently launched your new site and now there are some last checks to ensure all is working, linking and presenting as you had planned.

hotel website redesignHotel Website Redesign Post Launch Checklist

You can start with giving one more look at your hotel website for any server errors, broken and inbound links, CSS errors, no index tags, PPC ads and tracking codes.  Then you will also need to:

  • Update your Sitemaps file to see if search engines found new web pages and/or errors on your website
  • Check your analytics & webmaster tools for bounce rates and stats on your new site
  • Optimize for SEO (internal & external links, keywords etc)
  • Periodically check rankings: Re-indexing by search engines takes time
  • Review your site’s performance in various browsers for desktop, smartphone and tablet
  • Re-test web forms and emails sent by scripts. (The last thing you want is a frustrated potential guest who can’t make their way to you or where you are directing them!)
  • Check search results after search engines have re-indexed your site
  • Check re-indexed pages for improvements or a drop from your previous numbers.

Your hotel website is your strongest marketing tool. You want it to have a positive impact with the goals you set as well as the features and functionality your guests will appreciate. These last checks will give you a chance to fix any last minute issues before they start to affect your rankings and cut into your ROI.

If you have just joined us, please read the first three parts of this series:

Hotel Website Redesign – Part 1

Hotel Website Redesign – Part 2

Hotel Website Redesign – Part 3

Hotel Executive CEO Interview: Dj Vallauri

Human Powered Websites are the Future

CEO INTERVIEW: DJ VALLAURI, LODGING INTERACTIVE FOUNDER & CEO

There is no doubt that, as consumers, we are always looking for solutions that save us time. Time is the one factor in our daily lives of which we never seem to have enough of. Large consumer brands such as Amazon, Best Buy, Comcast, and many others understand this important human factor and take advantage of opportunities to return “time” back to consumers. But how are they doing this and why haven’t hotel brands followed suit?

Recently Benedict Cummins from HotelExecutive connected with DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President, to discuss his vision on human powered websites and why he believes they are the future for the hospitality industry.

Benedict: DJ, your agency has been in the digital marketing space for over 15 years now, offering hotels the tools and services to drive direct bookings via their websites. As it relates to hotel websites, how have things changed in the past few years and where are things headed?

DJ: Hotel websites have come a very long way in the past 15 years. Hotel websites are no longer considered “brochureware” but rather are active sales tools operating on a 24/7/365 day a year basis. Most recently new technology developments have occurred in the area of making desktop websites more manageable and effective on mobile devices. One specific example of this is the responsive adaptive technology. The majority of hoteliers have come to understand the importance in providing consumers with an exceptional online browsing experience via their mobile devices. As a result, the majority of hotel websites today are properly rendering on mobile devices. The hospitality industry has never been known to be on the cutting edge of technology But when Google introduced search engine ranking penalties for non-mobile friendly websites, I believe this pushed the hospitality industry to make the proper investments in responsive website technologies.

Benedict: Yes, mobile technologies have certainly affected the entire Internet and not just the hospitality industry. But is it all about technology or is there more? How do you see the hotel website evolving in the next few years?

DJ: That’s a great question, but let’s step back for a moment. The hospitality industry is all about being hospitable towards people. We’re about the human-to-human connections we have with our guests. We’re about providing experiences our guests will remember for a lifetime and will hopefully share with their network of friends and families either in person or via social media channels. The experienced hotel operator clearly understands this concept of “humanizing” their property. Operating a property with this mindset clearly provides a competitive advantage for those General Managers that “get it.” You see, it’s no longer about the technology. The technology is purely the price of entry today. The hotels that will win over the next 24 months will be those that introduce the human elements of real-time engagement via the technology. In other words, leveraging the technologies available to better engage and build relationships with their guests via human connections. Hotel websites have traditionally been a one-way conversation that hotels have with their potential guests. A website visitor simply clicks around the website to search for the information they need. Sometimes they’re successful but most times they’re not. The website of today and the next 24 months, flips this model upside down and enables two-way conversations between the hotel and their potential guests, in real-time while they’re online.

Benedict: That’s interesting. Can you please elaborate on this?

DJ: The hotel industry has always been slow to adapt new technologies, but what I’m going to discuss is not new technology. In fact it’s been around for over 15 years. I’m specifically referring to live chat technologies. As consumers we’ve been using live chat for many years. When we visit websites like Amazon, Comcast, American Express or nearly any major online retailer, we find online live chat to be very efficient when we’re in need of a little more information than most websites can provide prior to making a purchase. Live chat has always felt comfortable to consumers because it’s certainly easy to use but, most importantly, it allows us to control the conversation and interaction on our own time. As I mentioned earlier, time is one asset that we have very little of these days. Why would someone go through endless telephone IVR prompts only to be put into a holding queue?  Now when you consider how consumers use their mobile devices… today’s consumers are “attached” to their mobile devices nearly 24/7 and certainly their mobile devices are always nearby and within easy reach. And those mobile devices are always connected via broadband to the Internet. It’s only been recently that live chat applications have been made totally mobile allowing consumers to “ask questions” anytime and on-the-go. Such power in our pockets… it’s very exciting.

Benedict: So are you saying that live chat is going to flip the hotel-consumer engagement model?

DJ: Yes exactly. When we researched the market viability for a fully managed live chat service we found that, of 2500 hotels in North America, less than half of 1% had a live chat widget on their website. This equates to only 12 of 2500 hotels that had live chat enabled on their website. This got us very excited as it confirmed the market opportunity for us. It would be our challenge to come up with a cost effective business model and service to address the market need. This is why we developed our fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat service for the hospitality industry. Our model is to license the best live chat platform available on the market and to hire US based live chat agents and put them on our payroll. We certainly looked at outsourcing our live chat agent services to existing companies in the Philippines but felt the quality of service we could provide through them would not be acceptable. So we now have our own live chat agents, on our payroll and part of our company. This decision has proven to be the right decision for us and our hotel clients.

Benedict: So your live chat service is completely managed for the hotel? How do your agents know enough about the hotel?

DJ: Yes our CoMMingle Live Chat service is fully managed and we handle all the live chat sessions for each property. During the onboarding process, our agents are trained on the property information as well as the specific voice and tone the property is seeking in their customer live chat engagements. Additionally, we have other training programs to ensure our agents are as knowledgeable as they would be sitting at the property. Also because our live agents are 100% dedicated to the operation, we have instilled our own core customer service values and salesmanship. The entire process is very efficient.

Benedict: What about all the talk of artificial intelligence and robotic chat bots. Do automated chat bots offer an even more efficient live chat model for hotels?

DJ: Well one thing that became entirely clear to us when we launched our live chat service for hotels was that you cannot automate, nor should you, a conversation between a potential guest and a hotel. We have seen live chat engagements turn from a simple question about the destination to actually making an online reservation and assisting the future guest with spa reservations as an add-on sales opportunity. Our agents are not only working to provide the highest level of customer service while someone is browsing the hotel website, but they also act as what we call “assisted sales agents”. Meaning, our live chat agents can assist in closing business. They share sales materials such as floor plans, catering menus and wedding package information with potential customers via the live chat session. Our agents truly act as a sales support team when someone is in the buying mode. Chat bots can be effective when consumers are looking to book point-to-point air travel, a simple conversational string that can present airfares and flight options. But trying to automate hotel live chat sessions is like trying to automate a telephone conversation; it simply cannot be done. There are too may variables involved just as there are with telephone conversations. Why don’t you try the Expedia Messenger chat bot for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Their chat bot experience is not so great, and I’m being polite. Besides this issue, try telling a hotel General Manager that a chat bot will be engaging with their potential customers. Trust me, you won’t get far with that conversation.

Benedict: But can hotels just add their own widget for live chat to their website? Why do they need to outsource this?

DJ: They could and many hotels have tried exactly this in the past. But the issue within our industry is having the qualified staff available to handle the live chat engagement and staffing has always been a challenge for properties. We heard from General Managers who have tried to handle live chat on their own and they’ve all echoed the same staffing issue. You see live chat volume will vary from day to day and week to week. This makes it practically impossible to staff at the property level with one or two dedicated people.

Benedict: So clearly you’re very bullish on live chat for the hospitality industry.

DJ: You can mark my words, live chat will become as ubiquitous as the online hotel booking engine has become today. This will happen very quickly, within the next 24 months or sooner. Live chat is what all consumers want and, with zero learning curve, it is even more certain that live chat will become the norm very quickly.

DJ Vallauri, Founder & President of Lodging Interactive, has been proactive and successful in all his social media initiatives over the last five years through CoMMingle. DJ saw the void of participation on social media from individual hotel properties and in 2010 CoMMingle was born.Through his insightful projections, CoMMingle has become a successful division of Lodging Interactive solely dedicated to social media marketing, social customer service and reputation management for the Hospitality Industry. Every industry’s social media needs are different and DJ understands the needs and challenges faced by hotels. Mr. Vallauri can be contacted at 877-291-4411 ext 704 | Lodging or dj@lodginginteractive.com

The Hotel Business Review is a weekly journal of best practices in hotel management and operations and is available at www.hotelexecutive.com. HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review.

Tips for a Successful Hotel Website Redesign – Part 3 of 4

You took care of your backups, laid out a plan and redesigned your hotel website according to your objectives and what you had mapped out. That’s great! But before you launch your hotel website redesign, you will need to do some final checks of your updated site to ensure the transition to launch goes smoothly.

hotel website redesign

Hotel Website Redesign Pre-launch Checklist

You’ve taken care of the basics but some final checks before launch should include:

  • Making sure all your tracking codes are up-to-date and working.
  • Ensuring your AdWords and PPC campaigns are updated.
  • Checking that 301 redirects are working.
  • Verifying any email addresses connected with your site are working properly.
  • Removing any robots.txt tags you might have temporarily used while in the development environment.

Your hotel’s pre-launch checking phase will ensure the minimal amount of hiccups when you actually launch your updated site. You want to avoid problems with CMS systems and be certain that you are not sending your guests and future guests to pages with broken links. In other words, avoiding pitfalls that will adversely affect your hotel SEO rankings or AdWords quality score.

 5, 4, 3, 2, 1……Launch Time!

 Your website is your biggest marketing and sales tool. So it would be well worth your while to spend the time rechecking all aspects of your updated website before it goes live. After all, your objective during a hotel website redesign is to avoid any downtime, cost over-runs and lost rankings – all while protecting traffic.

In our next and final installment of this series we will be discussing some post hotel website redesign checks.

Tips for a Successful Hotel Website Redesign – Part 2

Lodging Interactive - Tips for Hotel Website Redesign

In the first part of our hotel website redesign series, we discussed the importance of backing up and recording all the features of your old website. Now comes the all-too-important and often neglected part — planning!

Think of it this way: A hotel website redesign is like the remodeling your home kitchen. You wouldn’t want to start ripping up flooring and tearing down cabinets without a clear vision of what you want your new kitchen to be, right?  Of course not! You would start with a plan for demolishing your old kitchen with as little inconvenience as possible and have set ideas in mind for your soon-to-be remodeled kitchen.

Planning Your Hotel Website Redesign

Like remodeling your kitchen, planning your hotel website redesign will make for a successful transition to your updated website. Preparation is the key. You will need to ensure you have enough resources, clearly define problems and make decisions.

Your plan should consider email accounts or server changes, eliminating duplicate content, URL structure, 301 Redirects, giving a once-over for missing titles, and using multiple browsers to check your site to name a few. Oh – and let’s not forget having a good SEO strategy! A good plan will become the blueprint that will help make the most out of your new online presence without losing the value found within your current site.

Of course the best of plans will have one or two kinks to iron out so make sure your plan includes putting your old site back up while you fix the issues. You also wouldn’t want search engines to find your site while you’re in the middle of development. So protect your site by working on it locally and use a password to keep anyone from catching wind of what you are planning.

Also, you will have to take into account time, budget and functionality in your hotel website redesign but you will first need to consider: Who is your target audience, what you are looking to accomplish and where it would be best to make the changes. After all, you will want to get the most efficient, cost effective results and reap the most benefits in creating online opportunities, improving conversions and increasing rankings in search engine.

In the upcoming third part of our series we will discuss launching your redesigned website. See you there!

Lodging Interactive Offers Hotels All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

PARSIPPANY, NJ – March 6, 2017 Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced it is offering all-inclusive digital marketing packages for hotels and resorts.  Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has been exclusively serving the hospitality industry and helping hotel clients maximize their direct online booking opportunities.

 Hotel All Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

“With the introduction of our all-inclusive digital marketing packages, our innovative approach in hospitality digital marketing continues to evolve,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President.  “For more than fifteen years we have created award winning services for our hospitality clients with our CoMMingle Social Media Marketing Service and most recently our CoMMingle Live Chat Service for hotels leading the pack.  Now, we are the only digital marketing agency that brings all the required pieces together into an all-inclusive digital marketing service platform for hotels.”

 Lodging Interactive’s all-inclusive digital marketing packages include:

  • Modern website designs to maximize direct booking opportunities
  • Professional in-house website copywriting services
  • Complete website management services
  • Dynamic website content delivery and personalized segment targeting
  • Hotel Search Engine Marketing (SEO & PPC)
  • Annual Digital Marketing Plan creation
  • Social media marketing & engagement services
  • Reputation management services for guest review sites and OTAs.
  • Live Chat fully managed services, 7 days a week
  • Dedicated, first-rate customer service and ROI KPI reporting

Hospitality Digital Marketing

“Effective hospitality digital marketing is no longer just about having a new responsive website and launching organic Hotel Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and a Facebook page,” added Mr. Vallauri.  “Today, the smart hotelier understands it takes more of a commitment than this to drive direct hotel bookings.”

A recent 2017 Travel Website Behavior Study showed that consumers, between the ages of 18-34, visit an average of 4.6 unique websites prior to making a hotel reservation.  This is down from just a year ago.  As a result it has become extremely important for hotels to impress their hotel visitors with personalized and targeting content and live chat support to answer any questions they may have in the booking process.

Hotel Digital Marketing Packages

Lodging Interactive’s all-inclusive digital marketing packages offer hotels the complete solution for a fixed monthly fee. The hotel digital marketing packages are designed to attract qualified visitors, show them personalized and relevant website content, provide real-time human powered live chat support to close the business, ongoing social media engagement and follow-up online reputation management and guest review responses.

For more information and to receive a price quote please visit Hotel All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Programs or call 877-291-4411ext 701.

About Lodging Interactive:

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner, and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

 

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Lodging Interactive Handles 200,000 Guest Review Responses

PARSIPPANY, NJ – March 1, 2017  Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced that it has responded to over 200,000 guest reviews for its hotel clients.  Since the launch of its CoMMingle service the agency has worked with numerous iconic 4 and 5 star independent properties as well as branded properties representing global brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham, to name a few.

 

“The continued growth of our CoMMIngle reputation management service can be attributed to the “white glove” service we provide to every guest review we write for our hotel clients,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “As a fully managed service we understand the hotel’s reputation is at stake with every guest review we write and the importance of responding in the hotel’s voice and persona.”

 

Unlike other services that outsource the writing of guest reviews to third world countries, Lodging Interactive continues to invest heavily in its CoMMingle operations team based in the USA.  All guest reviews are responded to with custom responses and adhere to the high standards set by the many hotel brands the agency services.  The CoMMingle service monitors and manages all guest reviews posted on review and OTA sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Yelp, Google, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, Facebook, and Google.  Additionally, CoMMingle also monitors and responds to major hotel brand website guest reviews.  The CoMMingle service is offered 7 days a week and provides daily posting of hotel management responses.

 

“According to research provided by TripAdvisor, 68% of consumers will book a room at a property that responds to reviews versus one that doesn’t,” added Mr. Vallauri.  “And as the volume of guest reviews continues to increase on a year over year basis, property human resources will continue to be insufficient and will be unable to handle the volume and workload involved in responding to all guest reviews.  This is precisely why we have made significant investments in our infrastructure to ensure we can accommodate the growing volume of guest reviews.”  

 

CoMMingle reputation management offers guest review monitoring and management response services in 12 languages.  “As a global service, CoMMingle recognized the need for a multilingual approach to a world audience of our clients. Offering response service for reviews of various languages, addressing past guests as well as focusing on the potential future guests of the same language demographic,” said Rosella Virdo, CoMMingle Managing Director.

 

CoMMingle reputation management services are offered to hotels, resorts and restaurants.  For more information and to receive a price quote please visit www.LodgingInteractive.com or call 877-291-4411 ext 701.

 

About Lodging Interactive:

 

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

 

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner, and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

 

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

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