How to Boost Occupancy with Your Website

March 24, 2015

As we move into the travel shoulder season, most lodgings experience a drop in occupancy. While there's not much anyone can do to change seasonal travel trends, optimizing your website is an effective way to increase room sales throughout the year. Even the slightest increase in yearly occupancy can greatly improve your bottom line.

Step 1: Get Found

When it comes to search engine ranking, content is king. Google's ever-changing algorithms always reward websites with fresh, relevant content. By content, we don't just mean pages of well-crafted text; content encompasses telling your story through a variety of media, including compelling images, video and blog posts. With almost 70 percent of leisure travelers and 80 percent of business travelers turning to their smartphones to research travel, it's also very important to optimize your site for mobile devices. Here are some guidelines for getting your website found:

  • Responsive Web design. Responsive design not only provides an optimal user experience whether your site is being viewed on a desktop, smartphone or tablet, but Google likes responsive sites too, ranking them higher in mobile searches. Now, Google is even tagging websites as mobile-friendly in mobile search results to help users find better Web experiences.

  • Good content. Content drives search. It's simple really; your audience wants useful, engaging content, so search engines look for sites that provide that - content that is relevant and fresh (frequently updated) and focuses on the needs and wants of your customers.

  • Social media. Google likes popular sites, so if your audience is engaging with your social media posts through likes, shares, retweets and comments, etc., there's a good chance your ranking will rise. Your website and social media pages should work hand in hand; make sure you link social media posts back to your website whenever possible, and consider embedding your social media feeds directly into your website.

  • Blog. A blog is a great way to add fresh content to your website (remember, search engines love fresh content). Not to mention, frequent blogging allows you to show off your property's charming personality and your local expertise.

  • SEO. (Search Engine Optimization.) Keeping up to date with good SEO practices and frequently auditing your website with SEO in mind is key to getting found.

Step 2: Convince Your Customers

Getting found is half the battle, but your website really needs to shine for your audience to stick around. Like getting found, convincing your customers hinges on great content. It also depends on attractive design and ease of use. Here's what your site should have to hook your customers in:

  • Good design. The animated GIFS and garish colors of the early-Internet era are a major turn-off. These days, travelers expect modern, professional design that portrays the character of the property. Current design trends emphasise storytelling through big, beautiful imagery that inspires an emotional connection with the audience, and simplicity that promotes intuitive navigation — your visitors shouldn't have to hunt information down.

  • Fresh & complete content. Your website should be a one-stop-shop for up-to-date information about your property, so take the time to add upcoming and current promotions, update photos and videos, and do a little blogging. And, as touched on above, make sure your content is well-organized and easy to find; key information like rooms and rates, amenities, location, promotions, and image and video galleries should never be more than a single click away.

  • Personality. To really engage your audience, strive to convey the experience of staying at your property, through visual design, photos, videos, and text. Highlight your property's strengths and what sets it apart.

  • Optimized user experience. Sites that are slow to load and difficult to navigate turn users off even faster than animated GIFs and garish colors. Your site needs to load fast, look good and offer intuitive navigation whether it's accessed on a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. This is where responsive design, again, is a must.

  • Interactive map. Location is usually an important factor for travelers choosing where to stay. Make it easy for customers to locate your property by embedding a Google map on your website. Google maps can showcase your location by also pinpointing nearby attractions and restaurants, and offer the ability to zoom in and out.

  • Clear calls-to-action. Provide clear calls-to-action on all pages of your website. Your property's phone number, email address, email sign-up button and social media buttons can be consistently displayed within the site header or footer. Your online booking engine should also be featured consistently and prominently throughout your site.

  • Customer testimonials. Approximately 80 percent of travelers worldwide consider reviews important when making hotel booking decisions. Therefore, including guest reviews on your website is a great way to build credibility and prevent prospective customers from leaving your site in search of testimonials. Reviews can be added to your site manually or via a TripAdvisor widget.

Step 3: Close the Sale

Your website is ranking well in search engine results and visitors are sticking around! That's fantastic, but you still haven't sealed the deal. The customer likes what they see and is ready to book, but they don't quite make it through the booking process... Why? According to a SaleCycle survey, a combined 22 percent of travel bookers abandon bookings due to complicated booking processes or technical issues. Here's what your website needs to close sales:

  • Seamless online bookings. To convert lookers into bookers, you need the right online booking engine. The booking widget should be easy to find, prominently displayed in the same place on every page of your site. Online bookings should offer users a simple and logical flow (in as few clicks as possible), presenting all necessary information up front (room descriptions, rates, availability, promotional packages). User- friendliness is extremely important - on any device - so, needless to say, your online booking engine must be mobile friendly. It should also feature your branding and, ideally, the look and feel of your website, to gain the user's trust.

  • Dedicated landing pages. For any special campaign that you promote via social media or pay-per-click advertising, link to a dedicated landing page on your website that provides the relevant information. Sending customers to your homepage where they have to hunt the information down will likely result in a high bounce rate, and you don't want that.

Once all the key elements are in play, it's important to keep an eye on things. Central to your digital marketing strategy, your website has the power to be your business' most effective sales platform, so it's really worth the effort. Rather than set and forget, regularly check your site for broken links and outdated content. And use Google Analytics to track website visitors (demographics, where they are coming from, page views, time on site, where they exit your site, etc.) to pinpoint areas for improvement.

If this all sounds a bit much, we can help!


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