Welcome back to our series on developing your hotel Internet marketing plan! Last time we identified your ideal customer. Now let’s figure out where on the Internet you’re most likely to catch their attention.
With so many web hosting services and design options, there’s a combination out there sure to fit your skill level and budget. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to handle the legwork, here are basic steps to get your hotel’s web site up and running.
- Buy your hotel’s domain name.
Decide what your hotel’s URL, or domain name, will be (www.HOTELNAMEHERE.com, for example), and then purchase it from a domain name service. Don’t be afraid to shop around to get the best deal. The basic cost to reserve your URL won’t vary much from site to site, but the price of multi-year renewal deals and add-on packages definitely will.
Package deals typically include multiple email boxes, extra storage, security and privacy options, shopping carts, email newsletter list set-up and maintenance, and perhaps a discount if you choose to host your site through the same provider from which you purchased your URL.
TIP: Once you settle on a URL and go to a domain name service to reserve it, buy it immediately. Remember that everything you do on the web leaves an electronic trail and rest assured, someone is watching. If you get distracted or get cold feet and decide to come back later, you may discover the domain name you want has been snapped up by someone else who’ll “generously” offer to sell it to you—for an inflated price.
- Pick a service to host your site.
It’s probably simplest, especially if you’re doing it yourself for the first time, to choose a domain name service that will also host your site as part of the package. You can choose a separate site, but it’ll add a few more hoops to jump through.
- Design your site.
Many hosting services provide templates that walk you through the process of creating a basic web site. This can be useful to get your hotel’s basic information in front of web-surfing customers until you can get a snazzier site developed.
If you have some skills and are really adventurous, there are a variety of software packages available – some for free – that offer a user-friendly way to do it yourself.
Search the web and you’ll find a plethora of web site designers eager for your business. Again, shop around and peruse each designer’s portfolio before settling on one to suit your needs and budget. Your target Internet audience will probably want to be able to read about your hotel’s amenities and book a room in as few clicks as possible; a web designer familiar with the hotel industry and online reservation systems like SABRE will probably be a good choice, particularly if you have zero web design skills.
- Pay attention to stats.
Install a statistics monitor on your site, and you’ll have detailed information at your fingertips, like where your site visitors are located, what site they came in, where they go when they leave your site, whether they come back, and more. Information like this is highly valuable to tweak your overall online hotel marketing strategy.
“Social media” instantly brings to mind three words for most anyone who has spent any amount of time on the web: Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Fortunately, all three can be integrated with your web site, and once you get your feet wet, you can venture out to explore the possibilities with other up-and-coming outlets like Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest.
Love it or hate it, Facebook is the go-to site to start your social media adventure. Since the interface frequently changes, there’s no point in trying to explain it here. However, it’s important that once you register with a profile, that you create a separate page for your hotel. The reason is simple: profiles are limited to a certain number of friends, but pages can have an unlimited number of fans.
A Facebook page is a wonderful way to interact with past and future customers. Guests are often eager to post comments and photos of their stay, and you have an instant audience for newsletters, photos, videos, announcements, and special deals or packages.
Twitter is, in essence, micro-blogging in 140 characters or less. Browse the site for an astounding education on how to use it for marketing purposes. Best of all, it can be set up so all your “tweets” will automatically post to your hotel’s Facebook page.
A free blogging service like Blogger or LiveJournal is one choice, but there’s a downside—taking readers away from your main web site. These days, a blog can be integrated into your main site, keeping your potential guest engaged in your territory. The key is to keep posting fresh content so visitors will come back often to see what’s new.
Let’s say you want to advertise your small or independent hotel in on a print travel magazine’s web site or on a travel review site. Go to the web site and look on the home page for a link to “advertise” or “advertise with us.” Click that link, and look for a few vital pieces of information:
- The magazine’s audience profile and site statistics such as the number of page views per month
- A “rate card,” which is simply a list of advertising rates and packages
- Ad specifications or guidelines for creating the ad (size, resolution, content, etc.)
- Contact information for a representative who can guide you through the process
If you have any basic graphics skills at all, you could create and submit the ad yourself; otherwise, the magazine’s staff will be happy to help.
Coming up: Part 3, “Define Your Message.”
Ready to get started? Contact us today!