From Queer Eye to Marie Kondo, the start of the new year is all about makeovers. The new year is the perfect time to make a fresh start. So what about your hotel website? The digital landscape moves quickly. Best practice suggests hotels should revamp their website every two to three years (on top of minor annual updates). Why? It’s more than just appearances. Important changes to SEO, functionality, and industry standards directly impact your online bookings. So, you want more bookings? Maybe it’s time to redesign your hotel website! Here’s how to know when it’s time and what you should do about it.
Does your hotel website need a redesign?
In a nutshell, a hotel website should engage, inspire, and motivate your guests to book. If your direct online bookings are lagging, that’s a strong sign your website needs some work! But does your website need a little housekeeping or a complete renovation? Here’s what to look for:
If it has been two to three years since your hotel website has been designed or overhauled, you’re due for a makeover. There are a couple of main reasons for this. First, new tech and best practices emerge quickly so every couple of years, you’ll need some updates. The second reason is that web designers seldomly design websites from scratch anymore because doing so is not necessary and would be very expensive. Instead, templates or themes are used as a foundation paired with various apps for customization. But as the template ages and more apps are added, designers need to “patch” the website to keep it functioning smoothly. Over time, too many patches will slow down the site or cause glitches. Glitches equal friction, and friction equals lost bookings.
Performance and Search Engine Ranking
Website performance and speed mainly refers to the time it takes for your website to load and display all your images and content. According to this 2019 article, the average website takes 10.3 seconds to load. Meanwhile, Google’s Pagespeed Industry Benchmarks from way back in 2017 indicate that people are impatient! Anything over 10 seconds results in a 123% bounce rate—and that number is surely much higher in 2022. Use this handy Google PageSpeed tool to find out how your hotel website ranks or ask your web designer.
If you have a very poor ranking on Google, measure your site speed and ensure all the regular SEO tactics (like alt tags) are being followed. But if it’s a case of lots of patching, it’s time for a makeover.
Low Conversion Rates
Are your direct online bookings low? If so, it’s probably due to a combination of all the above. If no one is coming to your site, then that results in fewer bookings. Or perhaps you are bringing sufficient traffic but it’s not resulting in bookings—that would be another reason a website makeover is in need. In addition to ensuring your website is mobile-friendly (since a majority of bookings are made from smart devices), there are several practical ways to increase direct bookings that you can tick off your list with a website redesign.
How to redesign your hotel website to increase bookings
If you’ve decided that it is time to redesign your hotel website, here are the essential components you won’t want to overlook.
Meet Best Web Design Practices
Do your research into the latest best web design practices and hotel web design trends and run those ideas by your web designer. If starting from a template (rather than from scratch) look for reviews and ensure it’s current. From there, ask yourself, what are all the capabilities you need from your website? Specializing in website design for hotels, our talented web design team at World Web Technologies has the expertise to recommend the best performing hotel design templates and applications to fit your specific needs and vision.
Optimize For Search Engines
A new design is a fresh start for your SEO. Ensure all images have alt tags and all meta descriptions include your keywords to start. Visual alt tags are not only important for SEO but also for use by screen readers (for those who need visual assistance) and so should be descriptive and relevant to the image and page content.
Adding new images and video? Awesome! Ensure they aren’t too large and cause your site to slow down. The size and resolution will depend on where and how a visual is displayed on your hotel website. If you’re planning on updating images on your website yourself down the road, ensure you have the ideal dimensions and resolutions. Consult with your web designer to cross all the SEO essentials off your list.
Make it Google Friendly
Related to SEO, Google’s Core Web Vitals algorithm ranks websites based on performance: content load speed, interactivity, and visual stability. These are all components of a pleasant user experience. And if your website doesn’t fit the bill, then down you go in the rankings. A new site with properly sized visuals and no extraneous code on the backend will ensure your site is up to speed. Read more about Google’s Core Web Vitals in our blog post about Guest-centric web design.
Personalization is very much the future of web design. Ask your designer to recommend apps that can leverage predictive analytics about web visitors to serve the web content that is relevant to them. If that is too complicated or out of your scope, pay attention to ways you can serve up relevant content to your core customer segments. For example, offer packages designed for your specific types of guests. Or design a quiz based on the guest’s interests or purpose of visiting and suggest packages and rooms based on their answers. It’s an easy way to set yourself apart from competing hotels but most importantly, delights your guests.
Brand, Visuals, Storytelling
A word about content: when redesigning your hotel website, remember to keep on brand. The ‘new this’ and the ‘flashy that’ are easy distractions from what’s important: booking rooms. Consistent branding—through website colors, visuals, language, and storytelling—builds trust among new guests and loyalty among return guests.
Everything about your hotel website redesign should reinforce your brand’s story through visuals and thematic brand language as well as clear calls to action. Every piece of content should reinforce the type of experience guests can expect while deepening their trust in your hotel.
In addition to you sharing your hotel’s story, don’t overlook reviews as a way for your guests to share their story as your story! Highlight testimonials on your website as an impartial way to entice bookings.
Compete with OTAs
This is a big one. While OTAs are essential for extending a hotel’s reach, commission bookings are less exciting. Bringing guests to book directly with your hotel is ideal. With increased effort invested into your SEO and site appearance and performance, you’ll surely inspire more direct bookings. But you must also ensure your online booking engine is geared to maximize conversions. Make sure your online booking engine is fully integrated with your PMS for real-time availability and rates, and is mobile optimized—or risk offering a sub-par booking experience that will drive guests elsewhere.
Add an FAQ
While you should be anticipating guest questions and answering them within your web content, don’t neglect your hotel FAQ webpage—and if you don’t have one, get one. Not only does it make it easy for guests to find the answer they need quickly, but adds excellent SEO text to your site.
New Web Tech
In addition to the basics above, we’d be remiss not to mention some new website tech to consider or keep in mind for your next website redesign! Exciting applications include AI chatbots as your virtual concierge, augmented reality for virtual property tours, and heat maps to track clicking behavior and learn more about what is working for your site and what may need updating next time.
When it comes to redesigning your hotel website, our best advice is to connect with a web designer who offers current hospitality website design experience and is up-to-date with relevant requirements and technology. Then, keep that relationship going! Don’t wait for online bookings to do a downturn before making changes; make web design a part of your annual maintenance schedule to keep your website running like a well-oiled virtual machine that keeps the bookings rolling in!