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Hoteliers Need to Own Their Property Website

HotelSiteXPRESSOwning, not renting, a modern, innovative and affordable hotel website is possible.

The hospitality industry has seen a number of agencies offering hoteliers a low-cost, low-budget website that they can rent. It has been widely noted that these agencies, which promise all of the bells and whistles associated with investing thousands of dollars and development resources, often leave hoteliers in the lurch after the deal is done.

Why? A number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is that agencies that rent hotel websites do not provide hoteliers with true ownership of their content which becomes problematic as explained below.

It should come as no surprise that a hotel’s digital assets should be owned by the property, however, the subject of digital ownership seems to be overlooked by hoteliers doing business with rental agencies. Hoteliers’ ownership should reach past the physical ownership of their property to include their digital content and here is why:

Ownership Means Freedom

Not only do hoteliers have the flexibility of controlling their content, but they have the flexibility of taking an owned website and choosing which vendor or agency works with their property. An owned website that is not built using a proprietary Content Management System (CMS) gives hotel owners total freedom to take their website and work with any number of vendors. A hotel will not be confined to stick with the agreement strictly on the grounds that their website will cease to function if they opt to take their business elsewhere. Unlike websites that hotel owners own, properties cannot take their rental websites with them.

A CMS totally exclusive to any digital  agency is only useful when the relationship with the vendor is strong. Outside of the relationship, if a hotel wishes to move to a different agency, they would be forced to start from scratch or pay a hefty amount of money to convert their site into one which can be moved to another digital agency. That is an exceptional amount of blind trust and control being placed in the hands of the digital agency, with hoteliers having little to no recourse if they are displeased with the service or product they receive.

Ownership Means A True Investment

While low cost and minimal fees are an appealing draw, rental websites are a classic example of a scenario in which one gets what one pays for, but in this case, possibly even less since the ownership of the site and what hoteliers are putting funds toward is not theirs at the end of the day. This doesn’t even take into account the additional shortcomings seen from rented hotel websites such as no search engine optimization, little service or support following the initial set-up, a limited number of site pages, photos or content and so on.

Website Ownership Can Be Affordable

At Lodging Interactive, our award-winning website development team does not believe in holding hotel websites hostage. To offer the industry an alternative solution to renting a property website, we’ve created HotelSiteXPRESS. HotelSiteXPRESS is a website design solution, beginning at just $425 per month, that offers hoteliers high-quality, responsive sites built using WordPress Content Management System that they 100% own. These sites can be up and running in less than 10 days and are the property of the hotel owners who can manage them independently of our service, if they choose.

“Investing in the creation and management of a hotel website should be an investment, the extent of which is to be determined by each property owner individually. However, this investment, no matter how large or small, should result in owning the digital assets of that property. Don’t give away the rights just to save a few dollars when there is a fair, affordable month-to-month solution that allows hoteliers to own their websites completely,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President.

To learn more, visit the HotelSiteXPRESS website or contact us for additional details on why hoteliers should steer clear of renting a website for their properties.

Lodging Interactive Launches HotelSiteXPRESS

We are pleased to announce HotelSiteXPRESS – our affordable, month-to-month website solutions.

Lodging Interactive - HotelSiteXPRESSToday Lodging Interactive announced the launch of HotelSiteXPRESS, an affordable website design solution for hotels. HotelSiteXPRESS provides hotels with a unique website ownership opportunity versus lengthy rental programs offered by competitors.

This is the latest endeavor for our New Jersey based firm, which saw a need for an affordable website solution upon hearing of the difficulties many hoteliers faced after signing up for lost-cost rental websites.

“HotelSiteXPRESS addresses a marketplace need for smaller properties that want to upgrade their website presence but don’t have large budgets to do so. The service also enables the properties to own their websites, versus having to be stuck in long term website rental agreement,” said DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive.

“Each HotelSiteXPRESS website includes a responsive design built on a WordPress Content Management System (CMS) providing hoteliers with complete control of their websites,” added Vallauri.

While other vendors lock hoteliers into multi-year agreements, HotelSiteXPRESS offers month-to-month agreements, starting at just $425 per month. A streamlined onboarding process provides for quick implementations within 10 days. HotelSiteXPRESS is also booking engine independent, which enables hoteliers to select their preferred booking engine without being forced into expensive booking engine solutions.

Features of HotelSiteXPRESS include:

  • Modern Hotel Themed Designs – Hotels select from large, visually appealing site designs.
  • Mobile-Friendly – Sites are responsive and render properly on all devices.
  • Low, Monthly Fee – Fraction of traditional site design, starting at just $425.
  • Easy CMS – Includes WordPress CMS, intuitive system for site management.
  • Fast Setup – Websites can be up and running in less than 10 days.
  • Owned by Property – No renting of the website. Hoteliers own it outright.
  • Search Engine Optimized – Sites are optimized for Google, Bing & Yahoo.
  • No Hidden Hosting Costs – Hosting costs are built in, so there’s no added fee.
  • Google Analytics Included – View real-time site data from the website dashboard.
  • Booking Engine Integration – Integrate any booking engine.

Hoteliers have the option of choosing from nine website designs (with more coming soon), created specifically for the hospitality industry and built with the WordPress Content Management System. This allows hotels the flexibility of modifying their content while not being held captive by a proprietary content management system that is exclusive to the agency the hotelier is working with.

“We set out to provide modern, responsive websites that look great across all screens at a price point smaller properties can afford,” says Vallauri. “HotelSiteXPRESS also provides hotels ownership and should they elect to, the flexibility to host the website themselves without the need of an agency.”

In addition to creating a new website for their hotel, hoteliers can also add a number of premium, al a carte services that include Search Engine Marketing, Display Advertising, Social Media Marketing, 24/7 Social Customer Care, Email Marketing, Video Production, and Reputation Management, all provided by Lodging Interactive’s award-winning team.

For a live demo and to learn more, please visit the HotelSiteXPRESS website.

#AskDJV Show – Special Episode – Are Vanity Hotel Websites Doorway Pages?

In March, Google announced that they are taking the initiative to shut down “doorway pages”. While this is great news in the world of search results, it is causing confusion among hoteliers, specifically franchisees of branded properties.

Many brands are taking Google’s recent focus on “doorway pages” and confusing property owners by saying that their vanity websites fall into this category. We’ve produced a special episode of the #AskDJV Show to let property owners and franchisees know that this is absolutely not the case. Your vanity website is not, by Google’s own definition, a “doorway page”.

Doorway pages are sites that are set up to game the system. Doorway pages provide no real value to users and utilize unethical practices like “keyword stuffing” in order to achieve search engine rankings and take visitors to another website. Google says “[t]hey are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination.”

A property’s own proprietary vanity site offers a wealth of information to site visitors — from hotel policies to nearby attractions and everything in between. Watch the special edition of the #AskDJV Show for more information as well as how you as property owners can respond if your brand tell you that you are required to shut down your vanity site because it is a “doorway site”.

What hoteliers need to know about “doorway pages”:

– They are spam pages that have zero content or value for users and acts as a gateway to another page.
– They are landing pages that act as a funnel, offering little to no new web content for site visitors.
– They use “spam” techniques to gain high search rankings like keyword stuffing and black hat SEO.
– Vanity sites offer relevant content that site visitors find useful, thus they are not considered “doorway pages”.

Push back against your brand’s attempt to classify your vanity site as a “doorway page”. Explain that you are spending your own money, outside of the franchise fees, to promote your property and drive more business to the brand website. After vanity site visitors select your property, they are taking to the brand website to book their reservation, not some other OTA.

Continue to evolve and market your property against your competitive set. You need to differentiate your hotel from not only other brands, but sister brands under your own brand’s umbrella. Property owners, you should still utilize vanity sites to differentiate yourself and share what is unique about your guest experience. This is particularly important given that your property’s page on your brand’s site is built from database driven content and looks exactly the same as every other branded property listed there.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I’m happy to help any branded property better understand the truth about “doorway pages” as well as why your propriety vanity site is essential to your business and the furthest thing from one.

– DJ Vallauri
Founder & President, Lodging Interactive

Lodging Interactive Wins Communicator Award for Hotel Website Design

Lodging Interactive, the digital marketing and social media engagement firm exclusively serving the hospitality industry, has a new distinction that we are proud to add to our multiple website design award wins in 2015.

Our New Jersey based agency, which has provided customized website design, reputation management and social media marketing services to over 750 properties in 45 countries, was selected as a 2015 Communicator Award of Excellence winner in the Websites – Hotel and Lodging category for our design of the Marriott Pleasanton website.

Lodging Interactive - Communicator AwardJudged by the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts (AIVA), the Communicator Award received over 6000 entries in 2015 and gives out two distinctions with the Award of Excellence being the highest honor. According to a press release, the 21st Annual Communicator Awards “is the largest and most competitive awards program honoring the creative excellence for communications professionals.”

The Marriott Pleasanton website, features a responsive design, dynamic content and strong visual appeal. The site adds the 2015 Communicator Award to their other recent honors including a 2014 Horizon Interactive Awards – Silver Award and 2015 Interactive Media Outstanding Achievement Award.

“We are thrilled once again to receive recognition from The Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, and proudly add this award to the recent industry acknowledgements Lodging Interactive websites have earned,” said DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive. “We are grateful to AIVA for recognizing Marriott Pleasanton’s website as one of the ‘best’ in the industry and share these honors with our team of highly skilled web experts.”

To learn more about the recent design achievements of the Lodging Interactive web development team or for additional information on our robust, customizable website design solutions tailored to the hospitality industry, visit our website.

April 21, 2015: Google Mobile Ranking Affects Hotels

Google Mobile Ranking Algorithm takes effect today.

You have heard it called “Mobilegeddon” and the “Mobile Ranking Showdown” and even “SEO-Pocalypse”.

Everywhere, the sky is falling as the “Chicken Little of SEO” appears in Google’s latest Mobile Ranking update.

What does it mean for your hotel website?

Why will this affect your hotel search engine rankings?

It should come as no surprise (to anyone with a website) that Google would eventually penalize website owners who are not up to date with the latest technologies, and here’s why:

  • Google’s mantra “Do No Evil” means they are looking out for the site visitor’s best interest. Is it in your best interest to find a website that you cannot see with your Mobile device? Of course not!
  • If you do not have a mobile website or are not in the process of designing one, you are missing out on more than one fourth of the global population (2 Billion Consumers Worldwide) according to eMarketer:

emarketer_MJBlog

  • If you look at the Global Digital Snapshot, there’s more to mobile rankings than just your website. Social media plays a huge part in driving site traffic. If your website is not responsive or designed for mobile, you are losing your chances to increase direct bookings, keep your current market base as well as gain overall market share.

was_MJBlog

What should you do if your hotel website is not mobile?

  • Create a responsive or mobile website. While there is no guarantee that it will help your Search Engine Rankings, you have to update your website to include the larger audience or you will be left in the dust.  This is no longer an option, but a MUST HAVE in the digital world of today.
  • Include social media marketing in your current strategy. Gone are the days when Social Media was an option.  Your guests want to hear from you and they want to be able to get instant responses (or as close to it as possible).
  • Remember that SEO is paramount. After all, you don’t forget how you found this article. SEO is essential to the implementation of your new mobile website design and higher search engine rankings.

While no one can guarantee you high search engine rankings, you will be guaranteeing that your competitors with mobile-friendly website will have the upper hand in at least one way. Don’t fall behind the standard when it can be prevented. Follow the above steps and contact us today. Lodging Interactive will help you stay in touch with your current guests and help you garner new ones as the digital marketing landscape changes.

Catch DJ Vallauri Livestreaming on Meerkat & Periscope!

You know DJ is on Twitter and on YouTube where he answers your questions each week on the #AskDJV Show, but did you know you can catch DJ livestreaming his adventures on Meerkat & Periscope?

Follow Lodging Interactive’s Founder & President on Meerkat by simply clicking the button below.

DJ Vallauri on Meerkat

 

Search @DJVallauri in Periscope to follow him there!

Oh, and while you are at it, follow Lodging Interactive on Twitter too!

FREE AUDIT: Is Your Hotel Website Ready for the Upcoming Mobile SEO-Pocalypse?

Lodging Interactive offers free mobile readiness audit and recommendations for your hotel website.

Hotel Responsive Web DesignIf you’ve kept up with Google, you know that the SEO-Pocalypse is coming! April 21, 2015 is the day of reckoning, the day Google will roll out changes to its mobile search results algorithm.  Starting April 21st, Google will expand the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact on search results.

Bottom line: Your hotel website needs to be mobile ready. If it’s not, your website’s organic search engine rankings will be negatively impacted.

For a limited time Lodging Interactive is providing hoteliers with a free Mobile Readiness Website Audit.  Visit the audit link to submit your website and Lodging Interactive’s Search Engine Marketing team will provide your readiness website audit and recommendations within 24 hours.

Mobile Readiness Audit – Submit Your Website

“For the last two years we have been advising properties to budget for responsive website development. Unfortunately, properties who have not budgeted for this day, will now be forced to reallocate funds towards making their websites fully mobile enabled, it is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ it’s a must-have,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President.  “It’s not too late to move forward, however the clock is ticking as we approach Google’s deadline of April 21st”.

To learn more about our responsive website designs for hotels, visit the our website or call 877-291-4411.

Why Aren’t Hotels Responding to Guest Reviews Online?

Hotel reception with bell

Hotels that respond to reviews see an increase in overall review ratings and booking
inquiries. The benefits are well documented, and yet hoteliers still are not responding.

If a guest fills out a comment card on-site, emails a hotel’s customer service address or even calls to share their frustration or praise about a recent visit, hotels know to read the card, answer the email or return the call. So why, in an age where everything is done online and the majority of consumers rely on travel and hotel reviews before booking a trip, do hoteliers still miss the opportunity of responding to online reviews?

Ideally, hoteliers would pre-empt a negative experience before it ever made it online, while a guest is on-site. Realistically, that is not possible to do each and every time, for each and every guest. When hoteliers are unable to provide the experience that meets or exceeds a guest’s expectations, taking advantage of posting a management response is an important step in protecting a hotel’s online reputation. This step, however, is something only a small amount of hoteliers do with an average of just 36% of hotels responding.

Hotel guests can post reviews of a stay to over 100 review sites, according to the 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Study, however, hotel management is barely responding to two of the largest review sites online. 56% of hoteliers offer replies to TripAdvisor reviews and just 17% respond to those that review their experience on Expedia.

There is ample proof from a variety of studies that it is in a hotel’s best interest for hoteliers to respond to the online reviews that their property receives. Often boosting a hotel’s rank or rating, bookings or booking inquiries and even justifying an increase in room rates.

Consider these guest review statistics:

A 2014 TripAdvisor study noted a connection between the rates of management responses with the average review rating a hotel receives. Properties responding to over 65% of the reviews they received saw an average review rating of 4.15.

Is this because guests magically experience only positive stays? Not according to the researchers at Boston University who deduced that perhaps the most impactful result of providing management response is that, “consumers with a poor experience become less likely to leave a negative review when hotels begin responding.”

This can be seen across the industry where 75% of reviews are four- and five-star reviews while less than 10% are one- and two-star reviews, according to the 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report. Do not be fooled though, while one-star reviews make up the lowest percentage of all reviews, the number of total reviews are increasing and the volume of both one-star and five-star reviews are seeing the biggest surge.

While hoteliers aren’t responding to reviews, it seems that they recognize that they should be and are taking steps to begin penning replies. According to Ipsos and TripAdvisor’s 2014 TripBarometer Report, six in 10 hoteliers say that investments in reputation management would increase in the next 12 months. The commitment to invest is a new way of thinking for hoteliers who may finally be ready to reap the benefits of replying to reviews by providing management responses. This is the second largest increase in investment priorities, only surpassed by small renovations – a list of property refreshes likely taken from what guests point out in negative reviews.

Hoteliers cannot afford to neglect review responses any longer, especially if their competitive set is making plans to reply to guest reviews. Hoteliers that understand the importance of management responses and how essential it is to invest in them, but may not have the time to take on the task can look to Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle Reputation Management services as a complete solution for handling review responses.

We provide a personalized approach to management responses that hotels find to be invaluable. CoMMingle Reputation Management monitors, collects and researches reviews and provides suggested responses for approval by hotel management. We also post the approved responses to the review sites as a feature of the service. Contact us or call 877.291.4411 to learn more.

Lodging Interactive Expands Reputation Management & Social Media Marketing to Restaurants

In honor of Lodging Interactive’s recent expansion into social media marketing and reputation management services for restaurants, we’re sharing helpful tips on marketing your restaurant and how to capture the attention of potential diners online.

The belief is that the food, ambiance and service offered at a restaurant paints the picture of the dining experience at that establishment. However, as is reflective in the number of restaurant reviews online and how much stock consumers put in them, a digital presence on review sites and social media channels is just as important as the delicious smells wafting from your restaurant’s front doors.

CoMMingle for RestaurantsHow to Market Restaurants Online:

Digital marketing of restaurants is most effectively handled as a strategic, multi-pronged approach. The approach ideally involves a strong and consistent social media presence as well as professional, helpful responses to restaurant reviews on sites that offer management the opportunity to reply. There are also countless other avenues to consider as well, including: a blog, sharply designed and well-timed email marketing campaigns targeting loyal diners or potential customers looking for the latest special or coupon, app and online promotions, contests, promoting participation in local events, establishing hashtags to name a few.

The digital marketing aspect of promoting a restaurant can often be a secondary thought. But creating the same intimate, casual or fine dining experience on social media that can be expected at your restaurant is essential to standing out in an industry of numerous options, typically searched for with little lead time and often sought out by nearest location and via mobile device.

If resources are limited, and they almost always are, the two areas you should concentrate on are your restaurant’s social media channels and responding to diner’s reviews.

Social Media Presence:

Accounts on large social sites including Facebook and Twitter may seem obvious, but less obvious platforms can also raise awareness of a restaurant.

Consider image-centric platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to showcase quality images of dishes or share recipes as well as video-based channels like YouTube and Vine to offer a “behind the scenes” look.

Establishing these accounts is just one piece of the pie. Regularly scheduled postings that share specials and discounts as well as local write-ups and upcoming events will help to gain the following restaurants desire for long-term success. A restaurant’s following is found by posting information on social media, but it is maintained and flourishes by posting quality content that doesn’t always sell.

“Social media has shaped a new way for consumers to interact with businesses,” says Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media at Lodging Interactive. “It is actually the old way of interacting, person to person. Over more than the last hundred years: from telegraphs, telephones, beepers, cell phones, smart phones — each progression in technology has made the connection more personal.  The social media and review sites have soften the digital world to bring the human touch back to what has driven technology.”

Not only will followers be given a glimpse of a restaurant’s style, cuisine and philosophy on social, but it also provides a platform for your customers to post quality content on a restaurant’s behalf. Encourage diners to share their experience and they’ll quickly become social media champions. Considering that 49% of people use Facebook when searching for restaurants, the positive buzz on social media can be more influential than your most strategically placed, thoughtfully targeted ads.

Restaurant Reviews & Online Reputation:

Social media lets patrons informally share their take on a restaurant with their followers, with Facebook reviews going a step further by putting this feedback directly on a restaurant’s page. Review sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon are resources for diners searching for where to eat, when to eat or even a particular cuisine. They provide information like price point, menu and location, details that are essential to the decision-making process for the mobile user, 95% of which conduct restaurant searches. These sites are also home to positive and negative feedback from guests that is considered just as trustworthy as a personal recommendation by 79% of consumers. Reviews, however, have the potential to be far more impactful based on their considerably greater reach than traditional word of mouth.

Consider these statistics:

  • 53% of 18- to 34-year-olds report that online reviews factor into their dining decisions. Source
  • 58% of consumers searched restaurant ratings online in 2014, making it the top-searched industry. Source
  • A one-star increase in a Yelp rating leads to a 5 to 9% increase in revenue. Source

Managing these reviews should be a priority. Negative reviews are opportunities to reach out and connect not only to the reviewer, but the greater audience of readers. Address positive and negative feedback and monitor business listings for reviews that violate site guidelines. Restaurateurs need to be aware of what is being said about their business online and have a process in place to look into reviewers’ comments and respond accordingly.

“Restaurateurs put much effort into their menus, atmosphere, quality of ingredients, service and so on,” says Virdo. “Is your restaurant showcasing who you are in the digital world where your guests are speaking and sharing things about your restaurant and food?”

“Restaurateurs and hoteliers should create what they can maintain, manage and grow,” says DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. “That may be a restaurant with an enticing atmosphere and menu that turns a one-time diner into a loyal patron, but that may not be social media and that’s where we come in. CoMMingle for Restaurants is a significant resource for restaurant owners as well as hotels that have established, flagship on-site restaurants with their own following.”

Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle for Restaurants can create and execute an innovative social media and reputation management strategy customized for your restaurant. The experienced digital marketing strategists that provide solutions for your hotels will cultivate your restaurant’s online presence.

Contact us to learn more.