The ultimate goal of every hotel is to be independent of OTAs and generate a significant amount of direct bookings each month – and websites are there to help them achieve that.
But, of course, it’s more complicated than just having a website.
Hotel websites you see that are bringing in direct bookings are not doing that by a lucky chance, but by having a strategic structure that is leading site visitors towards making the desirable booking decision. Every element, section, and content of those hotel websites is intentional and they all work together to achieve that goal.
So in this article, we are going to look into the anatomy of effective hotel websites, and what elements they all have.
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1. The purpose of hotel websites
Every website needs to have a specific, clearly defined purpose.
If you try to design a website that does everything – chances are it will do nothing well. It will be confusing for your visitors, and they will leave. If this happens, you’ll have lost them forever.
To find your website’s purpose, answer the following questions:
- Why have you created a website for your hotel?
- Is your website helping your business to grow? If yes, how? If not, why?
- What is your main business goal?
- How can your website help you achieve that goal?
The best websites focus on creating specific, strategy-focussed outcomes.
Having this level of clarity in what you want your website to do helps you to make better decisions about the design and the content of the site.
2. Impactful headers
People don’t browse websites like catalogues or books these days, they come looking for specific information and inspiration.
They want to know what you’re all about quickly – and I mean quickly. You have fractions of a second to make the right impact and capture their attention and curiosity.
This is why the header of your website is so important – it’s the first thing that visitors see when they land on your site. Think of it like the top section of a newspaper – it needs to be easy to understand and trigger curiosity to read more.
3. Mapping out a customer journey
When someone lands on your website, what do you want them to see first? This is really important, as it leaves the first impression on your visitors and makes them decide whether they will stay on the site to explore more or leave.
And to make it even more challenging, as I mentioned above, you only have a few seconds to pique their interest and keep them interested. So this should be well thought out.
When you have their initial attention, what do you want them to do next? Do you want to show them special offers now? Or maybe hotel facilities before you move on to special offers?
Your website should take every visitor on a journey, that will end with them booking a stay at your hotel. And there’s no one way to map out an effective customer journey that will work for all hotels. Instead, you need to understand your audience, use storytelling, and use call-to-action buttons in a strategic way.
Understanding your audience
The best way to understand your audience is by creating a customer persona. This is a fictional character who represents your ideal customer and has key characteristics, wants and needs of your wider market of customers.
We have a step-by-step guide on how to create customer persona profile(s) for your hotel on our blog, so you can check it out if you need help with it.
Using storytelling effectively
How do you capture your reader’s attention and make them curious to stay on your hotel website, and explore more? The answer lies in using storytelling, and all the best hotel websites tell a compelling story.
To effectively implement storytelling into your hotel website, you need to:
- Be clear about the experience you create for your guests
- Use evocative, appealing language and copywriting
- Have a clear identity and a point of view
The best hotels invite their guests into their own stories. Their guests can see themselves enjoying the amazing facilities, exploring the city and tasting the food.
Aim to do this with your website content – from the imagery you choose to the text you write and include.
Don’t make it all about your hotel!
This might feel strange – because it’s your website after all – but when visitors land on your website they are not really interested in how old your hotel building is, when you opened the hotel, how many rooms you have, or who works there.
Don’t get me wrong, you can use all those interesting facts, but use them only as a way to enhance the experience your guests are going to have at your hotel.
Remember, they are only interested in their weekend away, holiday or trip – and whether you have the right option for them.
So make sure everything on your website is useful to your visitors and pulling in the right direction – towards the direct booking.
Clear and strong call-to-action (CTA) buttons
Imagine you are in a clothing shop and you want to buy something but there’s no one behind the register – the same feel for visitors if you don’t have CTA buttons on your websites, they don’t know how to buy.
Every website needs to have strong and clear call-to-action buttons, but there’s a fine line between having just the right amount and too many.
You don’t want your visitors to have to search for them, but you also don’t want to suffocate the website with them either.
Also, you need to include both direct and indirect call-to-actions. With direct CTAs, you are inviting your visitors to book their stay – so for example, those would be the buttons that say “make a reservation”, “book a room”, or “reserve now”.
With indirect, you keep building the interest of all the visitors that don’t want to book the stay now but could be interested to do it in the future. So for example, these CTAs could be something like “subscribe to the newsletter”, “follow us on Instagram”, or “learn more”.
When you look at some of the best hotel websites, you will find that all of them have extensive blogs with new articles published regularly.
A brief look at a TripAdvisor forum will give you an idea about a wide range of topics and questions travellers are asking and researching.
What you want to do is provide answers to their questions and position yourself as a hotel and local expert who they can completely trust and rely on, not only when it comes to accommodation but their entire trip.
When you provide up-to-date travel information, local tips and recommendations, respond to current trends fast, and help your audience travel stress-free – you are becoming a resource that they can trust and build a bond with.
Even better, your blog will start to draw in more visitors from Google searches – for example, a guest searching for “Best Beaches in Paphos,” or “Top-10 Instagrammable Sites in Berlin” may discover your hotel via your blog if you’ve created some great content around this.
We have written an entire article about why your hotel website needs a blog, so if you still have doubts, you should check it out.
5. Functional and easy-to-use booking engine
To be able to accept direct bookings, you need to have a functional booking engine that will make it easy for visitors to book their stay.
This will be ideally on a separate page, where you can also place FAQs and all important information about booking. But if you want to keep your website smaller, you can have it as a section on the homepage – it’s just important that the engine is working flawlessly.
It’s also important to make it as easy as possible for people to make the booking.
If you ask them to send you an email in order to make the reservation, or you have an engine that is only showing the availability of the rooms but is not supporting the payments as well, you are not going to generate direct bookings that way.
You also want to make sure that availabilities of the rooms are integrated and synchronised across all OTAs as well as your website. So for example, if someone books via your website, you want to make sure those dates for that specific room are not available any more on any OTA where you have listed your hotel.
You can integrate many good booking engines into your website, and I will write a list of the ones I recommend using in a separate article.
6. Guest reviews
To get a guest to book, they need to trust you and you need to remove the risk associated with them doing so as much as you can.
So you should use your website to demonstrate that others have had a great experience with you.
Reviews are the perfect way to do this – they show that other guests have enjoyed stress-free stays, so visitors feel reassured that they will too.
If website visitor sees you’re getting good, genuine reviews, that reduces the risk that they are taking on if they decide to book a stay at your hotel.
Let’s set your hotel website up for success!
Whether you want a brand new site, or to improve your existing one, you are in the right place.
From small, family-owned businesses to travel behemoths, we have worked with countless travel, tourism and hospitality businesses over the years. We’ve taken their websites to the next level – and we can do the same for you!
Get in touch with us and let’s turn your hotel website into a booking machine!
Five Ways To Increase The Number Of Direct Hotel Bookings
Five Reasons Why Your Hotel Needs a Blog
The Key Ingredient to Creating Effective Travel Websites
Five Tips for Writing Room Descriptions For a Hotel Website
Until next time,