A Real-Life Look at the Downside of Renting a Website for Your Hotel

I had such a sad telephone conversation with a General Manager yesterday. It was so sad and disappointing, in fact, that I wanted to share it with you here. Let it be a cautious tale about renting a hotel website…

The conversation started with the GM just looking to get some information about whether Lodging Interactive might be able help him drive more business and booked revenues into his hotel.

You see he proceeded to tell me he had his “new” website created and launched about 8 months ago and ever since the first month his search engine rankings and subsequent direct online bookings had dropped. He was now only getting 1-2 bookings per month!

To make matters worse, and just as I figured, his hotel’s website was nowhere to be found within Google search engine results. He told me that prior to his “new” website, his old site always ranked well and booking volumes were very good.

So I asked him, “what happened?”

What happened was that he signed with a vendor that promised him a fully optimized, latest technology website. A website with full content management so he could manage the site himself.

And the cost for this “new” site? He is renting it for $100 per month.

He invited me to log into the website’s Content Management System with him to take a look around and see if my firm could help to optimize his site. I jumped at the chance to look under the hood of how a cheap and ineffective website worked, or this case didn’t work.

To our mutual horror we confirmed there was no onsite optimization and the website was only ONE PAGE. Wait, his previous website had over 20 pages and now he had only one page?!  What’s that all about?  So we poked around to see where additional pages could be added.  No such luck. The GM was stuck with his one page website.

So here was a one page website with no optimization, a proprietary content management system that won’t allow him to add new pages, no search engine rankings and 1-2 bookings per month. He asked me what he should do. Unfortunately I had to deliver the bad news.

There was nothing he could do except throw away this disaster of a website and start again from scratch with a proper website design and build. I could sense tears running down his cheeks as he expressed concerns on how to tell his hotel owner.

All in all, the GM did technically get what he paid for — I guess that is the good news if there ever was any in this story. Probably less stellar news for the GM is that when he tells the hotel owner what he’s uncovered about the low-cost, rental website he bought into, the owner will likely be looking for two things: a new GM and a new website for his property.

#AskDJV – Episode 15: Social Customer Service

It is week 15 of the #AskDJV Show! In this week’s episode, I am talking about how you convince your General Manager to give you the resources needed to properly manage your social media marketing and social customer service opportunities.

Want more #AskDJV? Visit our website to view all of the episodes we’ve posted.

You can also check back here each Friday for the latest episode.

Do you have a question for me?

Tweet me @DJVallauri using the hashtag #AskDJV, and your question could be featured on the show!

Thanks for watching!

#AskDJV – Episode 14: Social Media Marketing & Social Customer Care Collide

In Episode 14 of the #AskDJV Show, I talk about why social media marketing and social customer care are colliding.

Want more #AskDJV? Visit our website to view all of the episodes we’ve posted.

You can also check back here each Friday for the latest episode.

Do you have a question for me?

Tweet me @DJVallauri using the hashtag #AskDJV, and your question could be featured on the show!

Thanks for watching!

Why We Love These Twitter Engagement Tips (and You Should, Too!)

Hoteliers: Learn how to get more out of your social efforts with some of our top Twitter engagement tips.

Twitter Engagement Tips

With over 288 million active users, it is imperative that hotels know that they can’t take a backseat approach to this ever-growing social channel. It isn’t enough to simply have a Twitter account anymore. We are in an era of instantaneous and immediate. Twitter users are frequently taking to their computers, tablets and smart phones to share ideas, reviews and learn more about the businesses they deal with. In the hotel industry, the difference in your Twitter engagement strategy can be the difference in converting Tweeters into guests.

Not sure where to start? Try out our favorite Twitter engagement tips.

  • Feedback: Always reply to people tweeting to or about your hotel. Never leave a question unanswered or an issue unresolved. People love not only to be heard, but they value the connection with a real, live person at the other end.
  • Follow: Follow influential Twitter accounts and retweet their content. You don’t need to always recreate the wheel – but you can increase your brand awareness simply by following those who have something to say that pertains to the travel industry, your city, local attractions, and more. Simply retweeting content from influential users can increase your property’s visibility to a host of new Twitter users. Be sure to give credit back to your source.
  • Share: Use the right kind of content at the right time. Warm weather destination while the rest of the county is dealing with a cold snap? Use it to your benefit and tweet out a sunny image poolside at your hotel with some fun hashtags.
  • And Reshare: Have a successful tweet? Congratulations! Now go out there and reshare your own tweet! Tweets have a fairly short life expectancy – resharing what works for you can often reach a new audience of people that will enjoy your tweet as well.

Twitter can be a powerful social network for your hotel. Response to guests and future guests, as well as increasing your brand awareness through social engagement, can help create new fans of your property.

Want more on why engaging on Twitter is vital to your property’s success? Download our white paper.
Learn more about our 24/7 social customer care service, SocialVoices, on our website.

SEO for Hotels: Not a “One Time” Thing

When Can I Stop My Hotel’s SEO Campaign?

“SEO is dead.”
“It’s all about link building.”
“We’re ranking well in the Search Engines, let’s drop SEO.”

Have you ever caught yourself saying those things? We hear it often. Every time you write a new piece of content, redesign your hotel website, talk about online reviews or reputation management, SEO is there in the background.

As a decision maker in your hotel, it’s normal for you to think about the expense of SEO as it relates to your bottom line. It’s often the last piece brought on board in a hotel and usually the first piece that people feel they no longer need. Before we can discuss stopping your SEO campaign, let’s take a look at the other ways SEO affects your hotel:

SEO for Hotels– The Silent Marketer

Most people can “see” SEO in your content, but do you know that SEO goes beyond what is visible to the human eye? Take a look at the different departments that are affected by SEO:

Graphic Design – SEO is there, in the naming of your images. It may seem like a silly question, but think about it – your graphic design team relies on your SEO team to help make your images more meaningful to your site visitors.

Web Design – Your web development team takes their navigation from your SEO. In addition, your SEO team works hand-in-hand with your web development team to create the proper code for search engines and humans alike. They are here in your Heading tags, your Internal Links, your Local SEO and your analytics. They are also tell the search engines which pages to crawl in your website and redirects the old pages to the new ones.

Social Media – You can guarantee that your SEO team is working with your Social Media gurus. When you write a new blog post or content piece for your site, these are shared in your Social Media. When visitors come to your site, they can share your content on social media channels. Anytime you use Social Media, you also have a piece of SEO right alongside it, working together to make your hotel a success.

Hotel Bookings – When your front desk is receiving phone calls, when forms come in requesting wedding information, when people want to book a reservation for your restaurant, or learn more about your specials, SEO is present. Invisible in this role, your SEO team helped generate these leads or inquiries. They did competitive research, worked on your content pages and choose the keywords your target market will use to find you.

Hotel Deals, Restaurants & Venues– Your SEO team works with your account managers to design a strategy for all of these areas of your hotel marketing. What keywords should you use? Are they seasonal specials? Is your competition also marketing the same type of venues? These are all things your SEO team takes into consideration when you talk about hotel deals, restaurants, weddings and corporate events.

Video – Does your hotel create videos to help sell your property? Your SEO team is optimizing the videos, assisting with the titles, descriptions and keywords used in your videos.

Do not underestimate the power of SEO and don’t think it something you can do for your property just once and experience success. Any ongoing investment, the long term effects of SEO far outweigh the short term, as it takes time to build your online reputation and brand.

As a hotelier, you may not need to know the minutia of what SEO does, but you will notice a huge difference in your overall website traffic without one. The truth is, your SEO campaign is never finished and continually adds value, even when you don’t see it in the foreground.

Learn more about our SEO services or read about the times when hoteliers must use SEO.

Demystifying the Concept of Renting Your Website Versus Buying Your Website

I often hear of hoteliers deciding to “rent” their website versus paying a developer or agency to create a site. Most of the time hoteliers are presented a slick sales pitch for why “renting” a template-based website is in the hotelier’s best interest. This is so far from the truth that I want to clarify for those who might still be confused about “renting” versus buying.

Website Design Based on Prefabricated Templates

Your hotel is unique. Your service is unique. These are items that separate you from your competitive set. Why would anyone think that your website shouldn’t be unique as well; uniquely emphasizing your points of differentiation? Yet the “rental” sales rep assures you that having your hotel website look like hundreds (thousands?) is ok and the new way to design websites. Really?

Proprietary CMS Provides Ultimate Control

This is truly laughable. Having a proprietary Content Management System only assures you will never have control of your website. Remember your website ONLY works with the back end CMS. If one day you decide to leave this vendor, your website CMS cannot go with you. At that point your website is rendered useless and all the costs you sunk into it are for naught. Always select an open source platform CMS such as WordPress. Open source CMS platforms ensure any agency can operate your website in the future. If you’d like to test what I’m saying, ask the “rental” agent who owns the digital assets that make up your website? Watch out for the fancy footwork on this one.

Renting Your Website is the Lowest Cost Solution

This, in fact, may be true as startup costs are minimal, usually a few hundred dollars. After all you’re just selecting your website from prefabricated templates remember. Ongoing, you only pay a small “rental” fee and you’re good to go. But any smart hotelier will know that you get what you pay for in life; there is no such thing as a “free lunch”. So ask yourself, or better yet the “rental” agent, considering the low monthly fee how much time will be spent on marketing and identifying ways to drive business to your website? The answer is clear to me, not much time as no business can stay in business if it’s not making money. Time is money.

Interested in learning more about investing in you website?
Read about Lodging Interactive‘s website services or contact me.

#AskDJV – Episode 11: Benefits of Having a Social Media Marketing Strategy

In this week’s episode, we are discussing the benefits of having a social media marketing strategy.

Want more #AskDJV? Visit our website to view all of the episodes we’ve posted.

You can also check back here each Friday for the latest episode.

Do you have a question for me?

Tweet me @DJVallauri using the hashtag #AskDJV, and your question could be featured on the show!

Facebook Ads: Your Do-It-All Sales Solution? Think Again…

Don’t get the ROI of Facebook Ads confused with the effort to develop a content rich
page where your hotel engages with fans. Want the payoff? Do the hard work.

Facebook AdsFacebook Ads: Do They Work?

Facebook, still the first choice of social media platforms by the vast majority, is considered a king of social media. It is also a helpful place to build your hotel’s social media presence and engage your guests as well as manage your online reputation. However, it is not a one-stop shop. If you are looking to Facebook as a vehicle for acquiring new customers via ads, then we suggest allocating your resources elsewhere.

Sure, you may be asking — why shouldn’t I put money into Facebook ads for my property if companies, from small business to Fortune 500 giants, are doing it?

Facebook: Good for Branding, Not Customer Acquisition

The majority of buzz about Facebook should revolve around your page, not ads. The smart guys at Pepsi, Nike or Shell understand that the value behind Facebook is when it is used as a branding tool, not a customer acquisition tool.

While an incredibly effective customer retention and engagement tool, Facebook shows a much lower return on investment as a customer acquisition tool than most brands may think. Facebook is a place where users connect with those they already know, as opposed to a platform like Twitter or even Groupon where users are more likely to connect with new people or try new brands.

Just as you wouldn’t invest all of your efforts on social media on Facebook alone, ads can’t be the only thing you do on Facebook. Best as part of a complete marketing campaign, Facebook Ads are not useful as a “quick fix” for finding customers, nor is it an effective stand-alone platform. If you wish to take part in Facebook Ads for your hotel, you should know when to use them, how maximize their impact and how your other digital marketing efforts can support them.

Why Facebook is ineffective as a customer acquisition tool.

  • Few, if any, qualified leads/new customers if privacy settings are set to friends only.
  • Expensive way to advertise
  • Low Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

If you are convinced that Facebook ads are the best direction for your brand, the most important questions hoteliers should ask before launching Facebook advertising include:

TimingWhen should we use this?
GoalsWhat do we hope to achieve?
EvaluateHow will you measure its success?
Supporting InitiativesHow will you support the campaign across other channels?
AudienceWhat are the right investment decisions based upon your target demographics?

Investing in Facebook Ads only and thinking you will be bombarded with new customers is an unreal expectation. If you have a robust marketing strategy that includes a dynamic Facebook page with well-crafted content written for your target audience, then your Facebook efforts will be effective in supporting your goals of furthering your brand’s recognition. Then and only then, you may be among the few that can consider ads, but even then… you know where we stand.

Think PPC is a better fit for your hotel? We do!
Check out our “Back to Basics PPC Blog Series” for helpful hints on getting started.

Visit our website for more on effective paid advertising, including details on Lodging Interactive’s PPC and SEO services.

#AskDJV – Episode 9: Why Content Marketing is King

Content is king.

In this week’s episode of the #AskDJV Show, I explain why you should start thinking like a media company.

Want more #AskDJV? Visit our website to view all of the episodes we’ve posted.

You can also check back here each Friday for the latest episode.

Do you have a question for me?

Tweet me @DJVallauri using the hashtag #AskDJV, and your question could be featured on the show!

Lodging Interactive’s #AskDJV Weekly YouTube Series for Hoteliers

Our weekly video series #AskDJV features Lodging Interactive
Founder DJ Vallauri answering hotelier’s questions!

PR - AskDJV - 11415Today we announced our latest initiative in providing expert advice on social media, website design and digital marketing to the hospitality industry — a weekly video series titled #AskDJV. Featuring Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President, DJ Vallauri, our weekly YouTube series answers Internet marketing questions commonly asked by hoteliers.

View the series here.

Videos in the #AskDJV series:

Purchasing PPC Ads for Your Brand
How to WOW Your Customers
Properly Managing Your Social Media Presence
Responding to Positive Reviews
Maintaining Ownership of Your Social Media Accounts
The Importance of Responsive Websites
Closing out Guest Complaints Online
Who Controls Your Online Brand?

Subscribe to our YouTube channel or visit the #AskDJV page on our website to watch the videos. You can also check in here each Friday for the latest video!

Hoteliers can pose their own questions on Twitter, which could be featured on the #AskDJV Show, by tagging @DJVallauri and using the hashtag #AskDJV.

We would love to hear your feedback — give DJ a shout on Twitter or contact us to let us know what you think!