25 – Why Your Hotel Needs a Vanity Website

by | May 15, 2019 | Suite Spot: Hotel Marketing Podcast

In this episode of Suite Spot, we tackle the trending topic of vanity websites in the hotel industry. TMG Website Analyst Stephanie Courtois joins Host Ryan Embree to share best practices on how to create and optimize the perfect hotel vanity website for your property.
Stephanie and Ryan cover important steps for building a hotel vanity website, from picking a URL to ensuring the site is responsive and ADA compliant. Stephanie also discusses why it is critical for hoteliers to have vanity websites for their properties. Stephanie concludes the interview by offering tips to hoteliers on how to leverage website analytics and how she shows ROI to her customers.
To learn more information about creating a hotel vanity website for your property or to submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.

 

Episode Transcript
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

Ryan Embree: Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check in and we check out what's trending in hotel marketing. I'm your host. Ryan Embree.

Ryan Embree: Okay. Hello, and welcome everyone to another exciting episode of the Suite Spot. I am your host, Ryan Embree and today we have a very special edition of the Suite Spot and personally very excited to welcome in our guest today. Now if you're a current website customer of Travel Media Group and are partnering with us, then her voice will sound very familiar to you and that is Ms. Stephanie Courtois and she is our Webmaster. Is that correct?

Stephanie C.: Yeah, I'd say so. I've heard that term used. I don't mind it.

Ryan Embree: So Stephanie, you pretty much handle everything that has to do with our hotel partners' websites, and we've been wanting to get you on the Suite Spot to really kind of talk through your process with hoteliers when they start creating a website, you know, maybe some dos and don'ts, best practices and kind of your process when it comes to just vanity websites overall and what you do to optimize them. Now for those listeners that don't know, Stephanie, I thought what we could do off the beginning, uh, to welcome you to the show is kind of get a better sense of your background at Travel Media Group and really just the history of your professional experience.

Stephanie C.:Yeah, absolutely. So I actually started on the advertising side in content creation and branding. So that's really kind of where I got an interest in just communications and just digital marketing in general. So with my bachelor's I got in advertising. I kind of use that mindset to go start at Travel Media Group on our product team, and I was a product administrator. So essentially I had hands on with all of our digital products, social media, respond and resolve, all of that wonderful stuff, and I was able to be hands on. So I managed account creation and just making sure that everything was done to deadline and helping out where any departments were kind of struggling a little bit. So with that said, I also included websites and I felt a very natural gravitation toward websites. It really spoke to me because I was able to do content, and editing, and design, and just really know good photography and really, um, marinating all of the elements into a position. And I eventually moved into that role. So now I am a Webmaster, as Ryan likes to say. And I manage all of our Travel Media Group websites and really get to dive into each property and I get to learn more about each hotel.

Ryan Embree: Awesome. So I thought again, what would be valuable for our listeners to hear is maybe kind of the process, uh, the first maybe couple things that happen when it comes to creating websites. So let's say I'm a hotelier, I've signed up with Travel Media Group to build my perfect vanity website, and I give you and your team a call. And I know one of the first things that you do when creating website is picking a URL. So what advice, can you give me a hotelier or listener about picking out the right URL for your hotel website?

Stephanie C.:Yeah. So like you said, the domain is kind of the first step in starting that process. So a good thing to keep in mind when selecting a domain, so just make it easy to type and remember. So if you're telling a guest what your URL is that they can remember easily and that it's something that's quick to fit on business cards or any kind of marketing collateral that you have and just something that really just represents your property well. Um, with that said, also target your area. So using your city in the actual domain name can really help localize it. Also try to avoid hyphens and numbers in most cases. Of course there's exceptions for certain franchises that have numbers in the name where that's appropriate, but just generally, try to avoid it. Also use keywords such as hotel, inn, resort or any real type of accommodation that represents your property. In addition to that, like location identifier, kind of will create that perfect domain.

Ryan Embree: Awesome. And I'm glad you brought up keywords because I think everyone has probably heard the phrase at least within the past decade that content is king. When it comes to digital marketing, you know, organic search, SEO, these are all terms, but content and keywords are those terms that get thrown around a lot. Could you kind of explain how you would explain to a hotelier, you know, what type of keywords, or how are keywords helpful in building a website and why are they necessary?

Stephanie C.: Sure. So jumping back to what you said, content is king. That's absolutely true. So having a healthy amount of content on your website just really provides an opportunity to describe your hotel to your guests. You control the message, so however you want to highlight it and whatever you think is prominent about your hotel, you can put that at the forefront of your content. So just even starting with the messaging. But diving into keywords through that content when you have a nice amount, you can do long-tailed keywords. So "hotels in 'city, state,'" or "hotels with pools near SeaWorld," or anything that you think would be really, highly attractive to a potential guest. Just really, nicely fitting those in the content, making sure that they're spread throughout but not, you know, overdoing it and just making it seem like it's just an SEO website and not something that reads really cleanly. So it's finding a balance between having a good amount of content, good keywords, but not kind of overdoing it and making your client not be able to read something.

Ryan Embree: Right because at the end of the day, you know, content is king, but at the same time, you know, you don't want to overwhelm your user with information that they're not going to read. The point of that website is for that traveler to book with you. So if you just kind of throw everything on the wall to see what sticks when it comes to keywords, that's not going to be a good user experience, and ultimately that might not lead to a booking.

Stephanie C.: For sure. And, I'd say people search like they speak. So when you write out your content, you want to make sure that it flows well. But like you said, keeping those keywords, it's just all about balance.

Ryan Embree: So let's turn our attention to user experience. I feel like responsiveness now has become the norm when we talk about travelers being able to pull up on their cell phones, iPads, different devices. I know Google has kind of made that the standard when it comes to website, is they need to be responsive. But one of the things we've been talking about or hearing about rather is ADA compliance for websites. How do you and your team communicate with hoteliers about the importance of ADA compliance and how do you ensure that their website is compliant?

Stephanie C.: So just to even start really ADA, the American Disabilities Act, it's really put in place to ensure that everyone has equal access to book, and that's really what it comes down to. Legal stuff aside, you want to make sure that you're making everyone at your property feel welcome and that they have the same ways to book as everyone else. So that's kind of the main goal, which I try to stress, and just kind of from a more humanitarian standpoint. On the legal side, you want to make sure that you have enough information about your accessible rooms, talking about roll-in showers, grab bars, shower seats, enough room between the bed and the wall so that a wheelchair can pass through. Anything that someone with any type of disability, whether it be mobile disability or hearing or visual, that they can enjoy that room as easily as possible.

Stephanie C.: So providing the more information, the better. There's not too much information. You can't really overshare the amount of accommodations because everyone is different and they can have a variety of different requirements to book that room, so you want to make sure you cover all your bases so that everyone has that opportunity. Also, not just the information on the website itself, your booking engine, it needs to compliment your website. So if you have a king bed accessible room on your vanity website, there needs to be a king accessible room on your booking engine. That's something that usually falls more on the hotelier rather than the vendor. But you want to make sure that that gets to be same as your vanity website. Also, more on content is the actual development of the site. So for your web developer, you need to make sure that it's built in an accessible manner for people with visual and hearing impairments. So making sure you have appropriate alt tags, there's contrasting colors, the font is readable, in a good enough size and if you have any type of video content that there's closed captioning. So things along that line that really makes sure you're kind of catching all angles.

Ryan Embree: And you and your team facilitate in this plan, you reach out to them, you get this information from the hoteliers and then kind of implement it into the website during the build. Is that correct?

Stephanie C.: Yeah. So in our on-boarding process, we send out a questionnaire that kind of goes over each of the elements that could be not necessarily accessible, but we want to make sure we detail those out. So we ask each hotelier to fill that out. And we keep that in mind when we're building and writing content for the site. So once we get that information in and we're building out the site, we make sure that we have those ADA rooms listed on the rooms page. We also have an accessibility toolbar widget,. So you'll have a little icon that looks like a wheelchair symbol, you're able to click on that and it's going to give you a menu of options where you can increase text size, difference of contrasting colors, you can make sure links are underlined and you can really just kind of customize it to your visual means.

Stephanie C.: Also there's a button on there that says accessibility statement and that's going to bring you into your website accessibility page. That page is accessible via the rooms listings and it's also on the footer of the site so it's everywhere, so very visible. And there it's going to detail, again, what those ADA rooms and amenities are like having a pool lift, and making sure there's ramps, and accessible parking and anything you can think of that's ADA related. It's on that page. So in addition to the matters that we've taken to make sure the development is compliant like I had said earlier. So we try to cover our bases as much as possible.

Ryan Embree: So it sounds like you got almost everything covered as far as you know, the accessibility goes, which is super important when it comes to this, because you said it, not just the legal ramifications, but also you want to be accessible. I mean this hospitality industry is to be hospitable to our consumers, right? So you want to make sure your website is going to be accessible to any traveler that comes across it. I'm sure a lot of our listeners here are a branded hotel. You know, I heard it a lot when I was a digital marketing specialist and consulting with hoteliers. And I'm sure by the time they get to you, they've already seen the value of, of what a website can bring for their business. But what do you say to those hoteliers that maybe are listening now that say, you know, my brand provides me with a webpage. I don't need a vanity website.

Stephanie C.: Yeah, like I had mentioned earlier, when it comes back to content, you control that message. Your brand is going to have a few bullet points, a little about your listed attractions and it's just a single page. So you really get to dive deep about what your hotel offers and really make your customer understand why they should choose you. And you can frame that in your own way. So that's also a difference between a multipage website versus a single brand page on the SEO side. So having back links to different attractions and like I had mentioned, all rooms, amenities, a contact page, there's more things for a Google search to pick up as opposed to a single brand page. And also on your brand page you're going to have your other branded competitors on there. So if they don't find something, you know, if it's a Choice property, perhaps you know, they'll be able to look at other Choice properties in that particular area as opposed to a vanity site, which is strictly your property.

Stephanie C.: And when they go to book, it's going to go to your booking page specifically. So there's a little bit less competition occupying more search on it for a search result on Google. And also if you even want to, you can advertise promotions and specials. So let's say you're running a 10% off holiday special, there's usually not really seeing too much of that on a brand page or they might not get to you in time. So with a vanity site you can put a pop up, a banner, you could have your own specific page just for packages and promotions or really anything kind of sky's the limit. Just whatever your imagination can think of and what do you want to promote to your customer.

Ryan Embree: So it's a space that you can tell your own story.

Stephanie C.: Yeah.

Ryan Embree: There's less competition there, and it also helps you organically, you know, move you up. Google and other search engines are going to like the fact that you have that vanity website for your business. So there's a lot of positives and going and supplementing essentially with a vanity website to your business. With brands, obviously there's a lot of brand changes and when it comes to hoteliers making changes to their rooms, constant renovations, we're in an industry where things can turn on a dime for a property. How do you and your team handle changes when a hotel, when let's say I'm a hotelier is changing from one brand to another, or I've just completed some renovations, or I'm about to go under renovations and I need to uh, make those, those changes on my website. How do you guys go about handling that?

Stephanie C.: So the sooner we get that information, the better, especially if it's a brand change. Um, as soon as you kind of hear word of that, just to let us know so we can start getting the ball rolling on that. So if you're changing from one flag to another, likely we already have all of the logos and branding and kind of know how to sort that out. If you're going independent, just making sure you get the logo, and booking engine, and all those elements that we wouldn't have, you know, as accessible as a brand. You get that to us. And the good thing about the way we do things is that maintenance and changes are complimentary. It's part of your package. So we'll make them as soon as you need them, pretty much as much as you need them. There's really no full limitations. Like if you need a minor change, you get new photos, anything of that nature we'll take care of it for you. So just reach out to the team, your client support specialist, or me directly and we'll be able to help you out with that.

Ryan Embree: And another part of that program that a lot of our hoteliers take advantage of is the data that comes with that through our dashboard when it comes to hotel websites. Why is it important to know statistics that our dashboard provides? Like not just for your team to optimize the hoteliers' page, but also important for the hotelier to be looking at ,and how can they leverage that data.

Stephanie C.: So bottom line is you just need to understand what's working for the hotel. If you don't see any type of analytics, you don't know how it's performing, where your traffic's coming from, how long people are staying there, it's a guessing game. So that's a real way to kind of put numbers to it. So for traffic source, how people are finding your website, are they coming up more organically through social media, the referral links, knowing what's working for your property, finding what your weak spots are, and knowing how to improve upon that so you have a really well rounded traffic source. Additionally, session length, how long they're staying on your website, being able to understand what the drop off point is, if they're staying for 30 seconds, two minutes, 10 minutes, knowing how to address that, make those changes, working with us to kind of figure out what we can do to improve upon it. Um, and we can even get more in depth analytics. So we have our dashboard, but we also even have Google Analytics as well. So if you see something on there that doesn't seem quite right to you or you want more information, we can even dive deeper than that and really understand what's going on with your website and what we can do about it.

Ryan Embree: And one of the most important pieces of data, especially for our hotel owners is ROI. So how do you show proof of performance for a of hotel vanity website that was created by you and your team?

Stephanie C.: So we track conversions. So for us what that means is any time a book now button is clicked, which redirects them to your booking engine for your brand page or an independent booking engine. Um, we also have a calendar widget on all of our sites, where you're able to actually click the dates and enter in certain fields, which will be prefilled out, once you land on that booking page. In addition, we track clicks of phone numbers on mobile devices. So all of that counts as a conversion because we brought a customer to contact your property in some way, shape, or form. So we're able to track that. Again, we do stuff with Google analytics and Google tag manager to kind of narrow it down to a science of what we're looking for and have a percentage kind of nicely displayed for you within our dashboards. You can really understand what it is that we're able to do for you.

Ryan Embree: Well I think it's really important that you brought up the click-to-call because one of the things that we've noticed, I'm sure you've noticed as well is travelers, the way they book hotels is different. You know, every single traveler is different. So maybe they do feel more comfortable calling you over the phone on a phone number that they found on your website via their mobile device, than they are putting their information into your website or a booking engine. So having call-to-actions at every single point of your website and almost always funneling them towards a booking, no matter if it's calling, no matter if it's, you know, an online booking, you're covering your bases there and putting yourself in the best position to capture that traveler. Alright, so the last question, Stephanie, is, you know, I really want to put you in the shoes of a hotelier and I want to ask you, you know, you're a hotelier, you're building your website, you've got the knowledge that you do now, why don't you share some do's and don'ts when you're creating this website so that our listeners can give some insight and some advice.

Stephanie C.: So I guess just to start, focus on telling a story about your hotel that helps people understand the type of experience that they're going to have. So, kind of jumping back to that content and making sure that you're really talking about your property prominently and telling your side of the story that maybe necessarily your brand doesn't do in the way that you'd hope. So the don't on that element would be just don't oversell it. So you want to make sure your property sounds nice, but you don't want to overdo it. So when a client or a customer gets to your property, they are a bit disappointed, or they didn't exactly know what they were getting into, or the type of property that you actually are. So making sure you set realistic expectations, say really great things about your property, but don't overdo it. Also, invest in a photographer.

Stephanie C.: So you're investing in a website, you already have that ball rolling, but photos speak volumes to the property. We're a very visual society, social media, website included. So you want to make sure that you get a photographer. So, you may think that your iPhone or any type of smart view, how can take really great photos and honestly they really can in most settings. But what you can't get with that is the eye of a photographer, so someone that knows the angles and lighting, being able to straighten out, you know, a wrinkled bed ruffle or know how to block a mirror and how to edit those photos after they're taken. Really kind of showing that professional element. So you have a professional website, you want professional photos to really compliment that.

Stephanie C.: And lastly, this is something for our independent hoteliers. So if you do get a vanity website, which definitely as an independent property, is an absolute must, you can't really avoid that. You want to make sure you have a booking engine. It seems kind of self explanatory, but we have some of our clients that are a call only property and while that's totally fine, you can have at least start a website just to get something online and start that digital presence. It's absolutely better than nothing but to take it to that next level, you want a customer to be able to book with you online so they find you online, make the reservation online process payment and get a confirmation email because that's the type of society that we're in. People want instant gratification in addition to digital communication. So while some people are comfortable picking up the phone, not everyone is and you don't want, you want them to have both options and not deter people who don't want to pick up the phone and call you.

Ryan Embree: Amazing. Love the tips Stephanie, and really appreciate you coming on today with us.

Stephanie C.: Thank you for having me.

Ryan Embree: Like I said, have been really looking forward to this episode and sharing everything that you and your team do. If you are interested in partnering with Travel Media Group and Stephanie and her team and getting a vanity website started for your property, you can contact us, call us or text us (407) 984-7455 is our number. If you have any questions about websites, we'd be happy to answer those as well. Again, Stephanie, thank you for coming in today. Thanks for having me and we will see you next time on the Suite Spot.

Ryan Embree: To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon and content support by Priscilla Osorio. I'm your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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