Is it a crucial part of Online Marketing to have a professionally designed website? This question can often be overlooked, but while I have been working in the Promotion Department for Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc., it is apparent that an essential part of marketing depends upon an appealing website. It affects the ability for promotion to bring optimal results. The goal of Promotion is to bring traffic to client’s website. Blizzard is very successful meeting this goal with expert tools to target relevant traffic. Unfortunately, some of our clients experience a high bounce rate, meaning relevant traffic are coming to their site homepage and then leaving. Tracking a client’s bounce rate confirms that while promotion is important, it is half the investment when implementing Online Marketing. The technology of the internet is dynamic and continually changing, and it is therefore crucial to stay current with the marketing trends, including continual updates to website design. Impression and perception are the cornerstones of Online Marketing, therefore when updating your site, the following ten steps contain information that will give your website the leading edge, and help develop it into a strong marketing tool representing your products and services.
- Developing a clear and consistent Header/Logo Navigation System. It is important to convey an image that is simple and concise for your customer to remember and relate to your business. This includes keeping the navigation buttons, color scheme, and content simple for the customers to remember and support the brand image. If your site has outdated images and colors or does not flow from one page to the next, the visitor can get the sense that your property is outdated. According to Web usability expert, Jakob Nielsen, a good navigation system should answer three questions:
- *Where am I?
- *Where Have I Been?
- *Where Can I Go?
The top portion of your website is prime real estate and should feature a visually appealing header/logo navigation system with eye-catching graphics. Your navigation buttons, as well as, the name of your inn has good positioning at the top portion of your site. Another important part of navigation is positioning contact information and reservation links in a prominent place, making it easy as possible for your website visitors to book. The links to your online availability calendar, reservations page, and contact information should appear prominently on every page of your website.
- Online Availability and Online Reservation are vital for hospitality related website success. As the average Internet user becomes more experienced in booking travel online, their expectations for services provided on hospitality sites become more sophisticated. A growing number of potential guests expect to be able to book travel completely online and if they are unable to do so on your website, they will move on to a competitor that offers such services.
- Easy access to Room and Rate Information. Besides your homepage, the page with your rooms and rates plays a primary role in converting website visitors to booking guests. Ideally, your Rooms page should include a photo for each room and a short description that includes rate information. A direct link to your availability calendar or booking engine is also highly recommended for these pages. You want to show your potential guests exactly what to expect and make booking one of your rooms quick and easy.
- High-Quality Photographs with the proper lighting, set-up, and angles are a dynamic part of marketing your property. Appealing photos are critical to the success of your website; professional photography is a key ingredient to showing off your property to prospective guests. To catch people’s attention you need beautiful, high-quality photographs of your property with the proper lighting, set-up and angles. We recommend that you use a stellar photo of the exterior of your inn, complemented with attractive shots of your guestrooms, common areas and grounds. It is crucial that these photos make a great impression! Another aspect of photos is the design layout of pictures on a website. There are new and popular ways to display your photos. One specifically is highly recommended to implement to your site, which is the Flash technique. Many homepages flash several pictures at once, this giving you the ability to show your guests more than one aspect of your property in a short time period.
- Paint a picture with Homepage Text, blend descriptive text and useful information to illustrate exactly what you offer. Make sure to include approximately 250 words of keyword-rich descriptive text, carefully crafted to draw your target audience in so that they want to book! Give visitors a good overall description of your property; the services that make you stand out from the competition, and a brief description of activities and attractions of the surrounding area.
- A Sitemap is an index of all pages contained on your website that is linked directly from your homepage. The sitemap helps search engines index all of the pages on your site and can be optimized to help improve the organic search engine performance of those pages.
- Maintaining Website Professionalism will help authorize your product and services to your customers. Although music and animation may seem to be a fun aspect of a website, it is important to maintain a clear and concise image simple to remember, and one that will validate your products and services.
- Adding a Tracker to your site is a beneficial way to track your return on investment with implementing Online Marketing. This will help you see what a promotions and a new design can do for your site.
- Continuous Content Building will help your site in organic free listings on search engines. The search engines will spider your site every time something new is added. The search engines will see that your site is being maintained and updated. An example of continuous content building is to add a guest comment page where there is continuous text added to your site.
- Increase Link Building will not only help promote your site, but also help your site be seen as a more influential site. Don’t be afraid to link to other sites and have them linked to you. Linking to relevant local listings in your area will especially help the search engines see you as a strong part of your community and increase your relevancy, therefore influencing your website ranking.
Gloria Farmer – Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc.