Starting a B&B? Your Website, Your Most Important Marketing Tool

I’m focusing on the ‘shop window’ for all Bed and Breakfast businesses – their website.  I appreciate that many of you will be up to the mark on all the complexities of setting up a website; however I still meet so many people who need help with some of the basics and so this is being written rather as a beginners guide.

Getting Started

The important part when you get started is realising that not only does your website need to appeal to the target market of potential customers but it also has to be attractive to search engines so that your potential customers will get to see your site; after all who bothers to visit a site if it doesn’t appear on the first page of Google.  So getting it right from the start is vital.  Bear in mind your website should last from four to five years, establish a budget that reflects its lifespan; and establish in your own mind a clear idea of how you want it to look, the best photographs you can obtain, and text within the site telling your potential customers exactly what you have to offer.

Next Step

So where are you going to go to get all this set up?  My advice is to have a good look at several sites offering similar accommodation to yourself and show the ideas you particularly like to your website designer to give them an idea of what you’re hoping to achieve.  Remember too that your site must be adaptable to view on both tablet and mobile devices.  If you need help in finding someone to host and design your new site then telephone the owners of sites that appeal and ask if they’re happy with the service provided by their web hosts, you could also talk to them about costs too.

It’s all in the Content

It’s really important to use a company who is available to help you through every part of building and hosting your site, they too must really want your business to succeed.  The site needs to be built with a content management system (CMS) with the hosting business being able, where necessary, to provide tuition for you to keep the site up to date.  Over the lifetime of a website there will be numerous changes that you’ll want to make, updating prices, adding new photographs, writing blogs, and posting special offers, with CMS you can then update things whenever you need to without any additional expense.  Ensure an ‘Access Statement’ is on at least the first page, this helps you meet your obligations under the 2010 Equality Act and can be a marketing opportunity particularly if you have accommodation suitable for disabled people.  An on-line booking system will need to be included on every page within your site; my experience is that of the several to choose from it’s easier to use one where you have the option to accept or decline the booking on receipt of the request.  Some offer additional marketing for your business with links to popular sites such as Late Rooms and Last Minute, bear in mind too that commission is charged.

Going Live

Once you’re happy with your website you now need to ensure that it can be seen by your potential customers.  People will be typing key, for example ‘B&B Bath’ words into Google or Yahoo and you need your business to be seen.  You can raise your profile using Google Adwords or ‘pay per click’ (PPC) advertising.   When using key words to search for accommodation these sites are found down the right hand side of the page, or at the top of the page in front of  a highlighted background.  Payment is made only when customers click onto the site, advertising can be managed down to the time of day, or when in the week you would like your advertisement to appear and a daily rate can be fixed in advance.  If at first you don’t succeed then it’s possible to change your keywords.  It’s a great way of advertising and it is possible to do yourself.

Reaching Out

Then there are ways to optimise SEO, your website host must be able to help you here with page Title, Description and key word tabs for every page on your site.  Google’s spiders like content rich and regularly updated sites which is where having a blog comes into its own; blogging is also a great way of keeping your customers up to date with new aspects to your business.  Building links into and out of your site makes an impact on SEO so consider using Facebook, Twitter, You Tube which will give you strong site links into your website.  This type of social media only costs you your time and fairly soon you become adept at using your mobile to keep things up to date.  It’s possible to build further outgoing links on your blog and within the other content pages such as in your own pages of ‘what to do’ and ‘where to eat’.

Is your site is working for you

To check your progress the most important tool at your disposal is Google Analytics.  Easy to use and giving you so much information: traffic sources, visitor numbers, popular pages, the time spent viewing,  the type of devices are being used to view your site and keywords used to find your website.  All of which can be broken down into weekly, monthly or other time frames of your choice

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