It’s a tough world out there for bed & breakfasts, guesthouses, and boutique hotels these days. Between aggressive chain-hotel pricing and the mammoth new-comer that is AirBnB, attracting guests can be a struggle, even for the most established listings. In order to compete in this increasingly tricky market, your hotel needs a killer website, one that lovingly showcases your accommodations while making it easy for guests to book. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the best ways to create a high-converting, gorgeous website for your B&B or guesthouse – without spending a fortune.
People care about praise
Booking accommodations tends to be a process fraught with anxiety; few guests are willing to gamble on an independent hotel’s quality without some sort of third party assurance, and when seemingly more reliable chain options abound.
That’s why one of your highest priorities when considering your website’s architecture should be to showcase any praise, awards, or accreditation your hotel has earned. Get a great write-up in a newspaper or travel magazine? Place a quote from the article on your home page. Did a guest leave a particularly touching comment in your guest book? Use their quote as a headline, or as copy between images. Did you receive an award or special accreditation? Ask the organization responsible to provide you with their logo or award badge to place on your home page. If you’ve yet to score praise by way of awards, look into local accreditation that you can apply for.
Remember, though: Any third-party quote you wish to place on your site must be pre-approved by the author.
For most guests, planning a stay in a B&B or guesthouse is linked to a special occasion, whether an anniversary or a weekend getaway to marvel in seasonal colors and fare. In large part, creating a successful B&B website has to do with what happens after it has been designed: Keeping it updated to reflect changing seasons and moods, and making sure that you are appealing to what your customers are looking for at an exact moment in time.
Creating a seasonal website needn’t be complicated. Oftentimes, a simple change of headlines (from “come have a glass of wine on our patio” in summer to “cozy up by the fire in our library” in winter) will suffice, along with images that reflect the charm of your establishment at any time of year.
One independent hotel that has done a great job of appealing to all seasons is the Fogo Island Inn, an eco-hotel situated at the eastern-most edge of Canada. Famous for its “7 seasons”, the Inn’s photography and website reflect this perfectly with interchanging images of summer to winter.
Invest in great photography
If you invest in any help for your website, make it a professional photographer. We humans are visual creatures, and great images on your website will go a long way in convincing potential guests to make a reservation (why else would AirBnB offer free photography services for all their users?). For hotel owners that live in climates with several seasons, ask a photographer – or at the very least, a photography-buff friend – to shoot images of your property year-round. Make sure to have them capture not just interiors, but what exists around your property, whether it be gorgeous hiking trails, a home-away-from-home pub, or a perfect little cafe. In all cases, try to have your images appeal to what potential guests are looking for in your setting, whether it’s wild nature or cosmopolitan chic.
The Internet is not synonymous with long-attention spans: Potential guests want instant reassurance that your Bed & Breakfast has the right qualities for their getaway, and like any website, this usually means narrowing the focus down to a couple basic value propositions.
Don’t make your guests scroll through an essay on the history of your house before they’re able to see photos of rooms or availability, and more importantly, make sure not to hide your “call to action” behind multiple pages or confusing headlines. You have a limited amount of time to convince potential guests of reserving a room with you, so make sure that pricing, amenities, and other details are available as soon as a visitor arrives on your page. Most importantly, leave plenty of space for your visitors to navigate your page. Even the best hotels seem to fall prey to overwhelming their visitors with information, and more often than not, this crowded, messy environment will repel guests.
Connect to Social Media
More often than not these days, word of mouth is spread via social media. Subtly let your guests know that they can “check in” to your location (and snap away) by keeping up with social media. Adding social media widgets to your website is simple with IM Creator’s drag & drop editor. Simply link your existing social accounts to the widgets already present on a template, or add new ones via the “Widgets” list in your editor.
A Case Study in Great B&B Website Design
Wiggley Bottom Farm is a cottage retreat just outside of Healesville, Australia, a cozy and pet-friendly spot nestled amongst rolling hills. They’ve also designed a brilliantly understated, crisp, and informative website, which is acing it at attracting clientele.
Let’s take a look at what makes their site work so well:
- Availability on Every Page: At the bottom of every page of their website, Wiggley Bottom has placed a “check availability” button alongside an easy-to-use reservation calendar – a great way to add a bit of urgency to site visitors’ navigation.
- Showcasing What Makes Them Unique: Every B&B, guest cottage, or boutique hotel has something special to offer guests, and in Wiggley Bottom Farm’s case, one of those things is their decidedly pet-friendly attitude. Alongside information about their property and guest cottage on their home page, a crisp photo of a dog lets visitors know that Wiggley Bottom welcomes pet-owners – a rarity amongst most guest cottages. Try to pinpoint what makes your hotel stand out from the rest, and use element as the key to your site.
- Simple, Succinct Copy: Wiggley Bottom Farm have nailed their website’s copy, with simple, easy-to-read descriptions of amenities, their location, and local attractions. When writing copy, make sure to use simple, evocative words that provide readers with an instant sense of what you’re describing. Because so many online readers simply skim, make sure to use plenty of keywords that are commonly used by hotel guests, such as “retreat”, “privacy”, and “getaway”.
- Big, Bold, Beautiful Images: Bright and airy rooms, green pastures, local wine tasting, and a relaxing farm atmosphere are the visions conjured by Wiggley Bottom Farm’s stunning professional photography. Photos are shot using a wide angle lens in order to capture as much of their spaces as possible, and have been chosen to reflect the varying moods of the farm’s surroundings (from autumnal leaves to starry skies). Best yet, the colors evoked in Wiggley Bottom’s images have been mirrored in their website’s savvy organization, with varying natural shades used to break up content and ease a visitor’s navigation.
Abandoned motel room – 3206 Ontario Highway 2 – Pittsburgh Township at WikipediaCommons