From an online booking standpoint, Streamline has put us at the top of the class here in Steamboat
Resort Lodging Company
Who doesn’t want the perfect website? I have spent years going to a conference called PubCon (www.pubcon.com). If you have never been there, you are in for a treat. We have a lot of preconceived ideas about what we should do in order to make our websites convert bookings. We also tend to ignore the potential benefits of social media. This conference sheds a completely new light on the world of online marketing. Every year it is something new. They talk about Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…… The list doesn’t stop.
Let’s get back to the perfect website. People always ask me the same questions. How should I built my website? Can you make our website look just like this? How can you get me to rank higher on search engines & do you optimize websites? I need to get more bookings on my website! Do I need social media? I would like to address each of those topics today and just give you a clear understanding of what each of these entails.
How should I build my website?
Well, we have a few sites that we need to look at. We should always try to ride the wave, not go against the wave. Let’s look at Google, a simple search bar that does not intimidate. Intimidation is a very big part of online conversions. Then you look at a website like Craigslist. If you just open the site, you would think a 4 year old built the website. However, it works! I have always asked myself why. Then I did a study on one of my websites. I had two massive images that said, CLICK HERE FOR X and CLICK HERE FOR Y. On the top right hand corner, I had a little search bar for people to search. I thought I discovered the key to conversions. Everyone that I brought in for testing went to the small gray bar on the top right. We will discuss this further as we get into the other questions. There is no right or wrong about building your website. The reason is the following. Craigslist has created a negative stigmatism in the travel industry. Too many scams. A beautiful website creates and defines the image of your company. If I had to make a decision, I would say that the Craigslist style website would work the best. However, I am just like everyone else, I cannot let go of that branding! I am determined to do a study one time. If you recall, VRBO used to be a mini Craigslist. All of us unit owners and property managers hated it! I felt I got more leads back then. However, that is not considering the fact that they have grown at an exponential level. So in closing, decide if you are trying to brand or get bookings. I would make this decision on traffic. If your traffic is low, BRAND. If you have a lot of traffic, give a Craigslist layout a chance and make the comparison. You might be surprised. But most of all, make sure your website is responsive. Meaning, it is mobile friendly.
Can you make our website look just like this?
Of course… But be very careful. Most designers I have worked with have some percentage in their back pocket. If it is 10% different. If it is 20% different. Well, just like anything, use the website as a starting point and put creativity into it. Don’t take the risk. People DO NOT like having the website they spent 50K on building, existing on some other website. Especially in the same industry.
The most important thing to consider is copyright protection. When Facebook tried to take on German social network StudiVZ and copying its design, the results in court where in Facebook’s favor. The action was dismissed as the design of Facebook was not considered to be particularly unique and because rebuilding individual functions doesn’t fall under copyright law. Do not directly copy and paste a website. Stay away from copying direct lines of code from other websites. If you hire an independent firm to build a site, in most cases, you have nothing to fear from copyright infringement. Take heed though. Stay on the side of caution. We all know that most travel websites are going to be very similar. It is just saving the website, the building out your website from their exact website. This saves their code, their structures, their entire flow. If that is your plan, you could and probably will be confronted with a seize and desist letter. If you use the components and creativity on the website to create your own website, you are in good shape. My recommendation to those looking to build a website is to stick to templates provided by their property management company. We have some amazing templates that are geared at conversions. Also, you can purchase the rights to WordPress designs, which are amazing. Once you purchase the license, it is yours to do as you wish.
PLAY IT SAFE!
How can you get me to rank higher on search engines & do you optimize websites?
I have spent my entire online career, since the beginning of Google, building websites that challenged the algorithms of Google. It has been amazing watching their changes and their algorithm updates over the years. What worked yesterday, does not work today. In the olden days, you could hire a company for $250 a month and get amazing results. You could literally purchase a domain name with the keywords you wanted to target and #1 ranking was just around the corner. ANYONE who promises you great positioning in Google today as part of a package or a monthly fee is just using smoke and mirrors. Don’t be fooled….. I can rank a keyword, which has absolutely no search volume. You will be extremely happy. You will be #1. And you will get no traffic as a result. That can be accomplished with some old fashioned tricks. What good does being #1 for a result of 0 traffic provide you? Conversions are already low. Getting 1 visitor a year is going to be practically worthless. That is assuming you get one visitor a year.
I don’t want to go into detail regarding Google’s algorithm changes but let’s just make it fairly simple. If you have a brand and you spend money to promote that brand, you will rank well in Google. If you can use Google Local to your advantage, that is one way to steal some traffic away from the major brands. Simply create a Google Local account and make it a point to get a link every month from a travel related website. That is pretty much all you need to do. Then, hope that you are not competing against big companies with a massive budget.
This may surprise you but look at these statistics from Google
Results on page 1 are clicked on 71.33% of the time:
Within Page 1
Result #1 is clicked 34% of the time. Unfortunately, these are your best bookings. They find what they want and purchase.
Result #2 is clicked 14% of the time. Not bad, but you are getting into the shoppers now.
Result #3 is clicked 10% of the time. This is a bit surprising and it has gone up over the years. This is because people are going past the brands looking for the deals now.
Result #4 is clicked 7% of the time. Shopper’s delight.
Result #5 is clicked 5.5% of the time. These guys have asked for quotes on results 1, 2, 3, 4….. 😉
Result #6-10 is clicked 3.7% of the time. When you take into account the amount of traffic for a keyword (THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO CONSIDER), this can easily be close to 0 most of the time.
Results in Google are not accomplished by companies that do not specialize in positioning. Results in useless keywords can be accomplished by anyone. You do not need to pay a company to achieve those results. Don’t be fooled. I have ranked Google for peanuts in the past. These days, I spend over 100K a year for major search terms to outrank websites like VRBO, Homeaway and many other vacation rental industry monsters….. This is not an exaggeration. If you happen to be in a pocket where there is no competition, congratulations….. But you are a rare case. If you are #1 for Destiny Vacation Rentals In Front Of The Beach, please let me know when you get your first visitor. This is just something to be proud of. But it will not get you the ultimate goal, which is traffic.
I stay away from false promises to clients. We are a property management software company. Ranking 3,4,5,6 for a keyword term is not going to get you the result you expect. Don’t fall into the trap. Search Engine Optimization Companies specialize in search engine optimization. Property Management Software Companies, specialize in just that. No matter what they say.
I need to get more bookings on my website!
Me too!!!! This is where Pub Con comes in. I encourage you to go to the show. I will go through some small crazy changes, which will surprise you. These are just some ideas to get more bookings.
REVIEWS, REVIEWS, REVIEWS. If I did not mention this, REVIEWS.
Do I need social media?
Do you want to get more bookings? Social media helps. It helps with branding. It helps with showing that you are on top of the game. Every single social media channel brings some credibility to your website. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are a must. Then, spend some time working to get the following up. At first, don’t worry about the quality of the followers, worry about the impression you will create with a high number of followers.
Now, will these social media channels get you bookings? Maybe. This is speaking for today.
Will this social media move prepare you for what is coming? A social revolution? YES. Remember, the next wave of online bookers are the Facebook generation. Be ready to wow them before they get there.
Facebook also offers great and inexpensive techniques to market specific travel niches at a very low cost, in comparison to Google.
Do you need social media to survive? That is a fairly strong statement. Do I recommend social media and interaction with social media? ABSOLUTELY. Post an article every week or two. Send it out through those social media channels. Send small quotes about your area and things that are happening. Show people that your destination is exciting. You do not have to bombard them. You just have to remind them that their next trip should be at your destination.
The best conversion tactic I have ever found with social media is creating competition……
I want to wish you good luck in your online endeavor and I hope you found this article useful….
– Carlos Corzo, CEO