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by Susan Tucker

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s why your website is undoubtedly one of the most important assets your organization can have. For any given property, your website is a virtual front door and face to the world. If it scares off a new visitor at the get-go, their quick reaction is to scamper away and head out to a more welcoming destination. However, if you have a deliver thoughtful, engaging and relevant content not only will you pull them in, you’ll likely have them converted into raving fans.

Are you scaring away potential guests or giving them the sweet stuff? Let’s find out.

WEB DESIGN FOR HOTELS

Since the inception of social media and the interactivity it brought, a website can no longer be an online brochure, nor can it sustain as its own island. We now need to consider integrating search, social media, content, blogging, and so much more with our websites. Gone are the days where all it took was a URL, fancy Flash graphics, and an expensive advertising campaign to temporarily boost traffic. The world in which we live now has become a much more interactive place, and your website should reflect that.

The reason for this shift is largely due to changing buyer behavior. Today’s buyer wishes to consume information when they want and how they want and often-times without the involvement of a sales person. And more importantly, they want to be educated and not sold to. Websites and new forms of inbound marketing content (such as podcasts, blogging and social media) have become a considerable factor in the buying cycle.

So, what design features does your website need to have in order to stand out? Here are a few ideas.

Build Your Design Around Your Personas

Your website is not for you. It’s really for your guests, customers and prospects. If you don’t speak to them in their language and address their needs, then chances are you’re never going to achieve good conversion rates.

So who are your customers?

One way to identify them is through the creation of personas.

Personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on analyzed data.

The more data you have on your customers and prospects, the more dimensional and useful your personas can be. In terms of data, we are talking about demographics, online behavior, primary quantitative and qualitative research if you can get it, and educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

Let’s say you are a marketing manager at a hotel and the goal of your website is to increase your reservations. Who do you want to attract? Your personas could be an independent business traveler, a corporate travel manager, an event planner, a vacationing family, and a couple planning their wedding reception.

Here are three ways to help build your personas:

Segment By Demographics

Research your existing customer base to identify the most common buyers of your products and services. Assign characteristics your guests – travel habits, age ranges, family status. Then start grouping them, based on commonalities. You will begin to see several personas emerge.

Identify Their Needs

Once you organize your loose groups, look at their needs. What problems can you solve for them? What kinds of information are they most interested in? Do you see any trends emerging? Now your personas are started to get a little personality.

Develop Behavior-Based Profiles

You have their basic information and you have identified their needs. Now it’s time to learn more about their behaviors. How do they interact online? What do they look and how active are they in social media? When they are on your site, which of your products do they spend the most time researching? Now you can start putting a name to the personas, like Event Planner Patty, and start relating to them as human rather than names on lists.

Once you’ve developed meaningful personas, you can start building pages for them, and create messaging that they find relevant.

Optimize Your Site For Search

Redesigning a website is not like creating a “Field of Dreams.” Building it does not automatically mean that people will come.

Here are some search engine optimization tips to help get your site found:

Document Your Most Search-Valued Pages

Make sure you know which pages have the strongest SEO juice, the most traffic, inbound links, and keywords rankings. Then if or when you move any of these pages, make sure you create proper 301 redirects so you don’t lose any of that value.

Create A 301 Redirect Strategy

Some would say this is THE most important step in terms of retaining traffic and rankings. We recommend creating a spreadsheet that records and map out your 301 redirects.

Do Your Keyword Research

Determining what keywords to focus on can seem overwhelming. To get started, pick one or two keywords or keyword phrases for each page. Then apply on-page SEO tactics, such as internal link building and optimizing your header tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.).

Convert with Calls-to-Action

You want to drive your visitors to take an action. That could be downloading an eBook, signing up for a VIP program, opting in to receive special offers and booking online.

The call-to-action is just that – the element or elements on your website that gets visitors to actually interact with your site.

Every page can offer the opportunity for a conversion, so when planning your design, make sure you are thinking how calls-to-action can or can’t be integrated on each page.

Here are some tried and true examples:

• eBooks and whitepapers
• Contests and promotions
• Product purchases
• Email newsletter subscription
• Member program
• Contact us

So make sure you give your visitors plenty to do when you redesign your site. Give them well thought out and relevant calls-to-action so you don’t lose them.

Plan for an Ongoing Content Strategy

In the world of inbound marketing, less is not more, especially when it comes to content.

Ninety nine percent of the time a 100-page website ranks higher than a 10-page one that covers the same market. And a 500-pager beats the 100-pager and so on. The key though is keeping your content fresh and constant.

That’s why it’s so important to build a strategy that’s all about adding more and more content to your website over time.

Here’s some ways you can do it.

Blogging

Starting and maintaining a blog is one of the most effective ways to keep an on-going flow of great content. And it gets you results. Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors and 88% more leads than those who do not.

Public Relations

PR is much more than writing and posting press releases. But that doesn’t mean you don’t write press releases. When written with content and search in mind, press releases can do wonders for your search optimization.

Outsourcing

You only have so much time in your day, and creating content takes time. So think about outsourcing some of your content generation.

How your website looks is important. But more important is how it works. When the two work hand in hand, it is a thing of beauty. Because the website is such an important element in any company’s marketing, your design has to be thought of in terms of the entire marketing plan. It needs to integrate with all of your online marketing efforts – email, social media, lead generation and nurturing, PR and advertising.

About Susan Tucker

Susan brings her experience and enthusiasm as Director of Digital Strategy. A certified Inbound Marketing professional, she believes consumers should not be “sold to” but that they should find value in brands that are providing the products and services they are seeking. Outside of work, you can find her chasing her boys on the ski slopes or watching them on the sidelines of the soccer field. For more information, on Lure Agency, visit www.lureagency.com.

Contact: Amber Berg

amber@lureagency.com / 619.273.5100 Ext. 4

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