When was the last time you have updated your hotel website? Last week? Last quarter? Maybe a few years ago? The internet evolves quickly, so just setting up your website isn't enough, if you want a constant stream of direct bookings. Your guest experience doesn't start at the front door of your hotel — it starts on your website.
Let us show you 7 easy ways that you can use to optimize your hotel website. Most of these can be done in-house and can already give you a boost in your conversion rate.
1. Storytelling — how to capture the attention of your site visitors
Everybody loves stories. A perfect story creates images in our heads, and we can imagine what is going to happen next. While it is tempting, to just put hard facts about your boutique hotel on your website, storytelling will ultimately increase your conversion rate.
A simple approach is using photographs that your guests can relate to emotionally. Instead of just showing an empty hotel room, show a picture that tells a story. If your hotel focuses on family getaways, show a family that enjoys their stay. Complete your page with texts that describe more than the amenities of your rooms. Take the time to really capture your visitor's attention by telling the story of how they will enjoy the stay at your hotel.
Why does this work?
On a psychological level, these images trigger emotions that put your guests right into the center of the story you are telling. Think of a TV ad for a new car. Usually, the manufacturer won't show you a salesperson describing all the features and specifications of the car, they show you a real and relatable person experiencing the vehicle: sports cars racing each other on the highway, a family going on a holiday in a spacious minivan.
This helps us to process information quicker and leads to us remembering about a product because we now connect an emotion with it, rather than just plain facts.
2. Reviews, reviews, reviews — use your hotel's reputation
You know it: reviews matter. If you look at the most-booked hotels on OTA platforms, they all have one thing in common: the amount of reviews is significantly higher than those of the competition. The internet gives consumers the ability to compare prices, share their thoughts, and give recommendations.
This is great. Your guests don't have to rely on their neighbor's experience at their last holiday anymore. If they want to know about your guest experience, they can simply look you up online.
Why is this important for your hotel website? Reviews on Google, Trustpilot, and other platforms are one of the keys to local SEO, according to SEO (search engine optimization) experts. This means the more positive and raving reviews you receive, the higher you rank in Google's local searches, such as the Local Pack.
3. Social proof — people want to know they are not the first
The second reason you should collect and curate reviews is psychology: people want to know that they are not the first ones to use a product. They are looking for validation — "social proof". Most websites on the internet use this concept. They show reviews and testimonials, or present the number of people who follow them on social media.
If you go to our home page, you will see, that we are using this concept as well. In the header of our page, we are prominently showing the testimonial of one of our customers to let potential clients know they are in good hands.
Therefore, don't hoard your reviews on Google or Booking.com. If you have raving testimonials about your guest experience, use them on your website. Ideally, include them in the booking process of your booking engine to show your site visitors that there are other people who enjoyed their stay at your hotel.
4. Use high-quality photographs — the right way
High-quality photographs for your hotel website? Yeah, we are not the first ones to tell you about that. Showing off your hotel from its best side is great. It gives your guests the opportunity to experience your rooms and public areas from the comfort of their home. However, you want to do this the right way.
Many times, we see hotels use photographs that are simply too large for the intended purpose — both in file size and dimension. Even for a full-screen gallery inside your booking engine you do not need the 6000x4000 pixel photo your photographer has sent you. Why? Page speed!
Page speed determines the time that your pages takes to load on your website visitors' devices. Your goal is always to make that as small as possible. Think of your own experience: When you click on a link, and it takes more than 1-2 seconds to load, you'll just leave the page, unless it is absolutely crucial.
There are many factors that influence page speed. The easiest is saving your images in the right dimensions and compressing them. To compress images on our own website we use a free service called TinyPNG. Some content management systems also have the ability to adapt the size of your photographs automatically, if you have a responsive website.
By the way: improving page speed will not only delight your guests, but will also benefit your search engine ranking.
5. Proper use of meta tags
Speaking of search engines, let's talk about meta tags. Meta tags are little snippets that describe your page's content. Usually, they don't appear on your website, since they are embedded in your source code. Search engines use these tags to determine what your page is about, so you can rank for the right topics.
There are generally three types of meta tags that are relevant for you and can influence your SEO ranking:
- Meta Keywords: These are keywords that tell search engine what kind of content they can expect. These are generally not shown in search engine results, but are still captured by Google & Co.
- Meta Title: As the name suggests, this is the title of your page. It is not only used in search engines, but also in your browser.
- Meta Description: This is a short description or summary of your page. It is used in search results and should explain what specifically the page covers.
Most content management systems have the ability to change these tags on a page-per-page basis. If you are not sure how to do this, let us know — we might be able to point you in the right direction.
6. Make your website more accessible
To briefly stay in the world of search engine optimization, let's talk about accessibility. While this is a topic that is often viewed as "optional", we want to encourage you to pay close attention to it. Accessibility on the web describes the ability to use or benefit from a website. You might not be aware of it, but your website might actually shut out some guests.
Hotel websites are generally photo-heavy and convey information through pictures and design. Yet, some users are visually impaired and use screen readers and assistive technologies to browse the internet. Therefore, images have an attribute called "alt text", short for alternative text.
This text can be processed by screen readers and gives visually impaired users the ability to experience your website in a similar manner. Pay attention when you upload the image in your content management system: I guarantee you that you will have the option to enter an alt text there.
Using alt texts is only one aspect of accessibility. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, have a look at this Beginner's Guide to Web Accessibility by deque.com.
7. A responsive website
Last, but not least, here is the conversion killer #1 for hotel websites: not having a mobile compatible website. According to statista, around 54.8% of global website traffic has been generated by mobile devices (not including tablets) in the first quarter of 2021. This means, that you are practically shutting out half of your website visitors by not providing a responsive website, that adapts to your guests devices.
So, does that mean that you need a second website? No! Most modern websites are built responsively, meaning they adapt to the device they are viewed on. In 2021, your web designer should not charge you extra for this optimization, as it has been "best practice" for years.
By the way: one of Google's biggest ranking factors is a mobile compatible website. If you have seen a decrease in organic traffic in the last couple of months and your website or booking engine is not optimized for mobile devices, this could be why.
By using these tips, you are well-equipped to increase your website's conversion rate and direct bookings. Let us know if you have any questions or you need help implementing.