DIGITAL HOSPITALITY BLOG

The 6 Most Important Questions to Ask a Hotel Web Company

Entertaining bids from multiple hotel website companies? Here are some key questions to thin the herd

by Joe Pooley | July 17, 2017

When I was 17, I figured I’d saved enough dough flipping burgers to get myself a car. I narrowed a shortlist of cheap old rides from the local auto ads and proudly presented it to my dad. He said I’d be crazy to buy any of them. I saw fine looking cars at a cheap prices. He saw complex machines with inherent expenses, deficiencies and liabilities.

I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know what I needed.

Most hoteliers know what they want from their hotel website: direct bookings and lots of them. What’s less clear to them, often, is what that website needs to get them there. Like having a good mechanic along when car shopping, here’s our guide to examining a hotel website product before you hand over the big bucks.

1) Will You Own or ‘Rent’ Your Hotel Website?

Ever a repository of sage advice, my dad also told me never to rent anything when I could afford to buy it. Increasingly, hotel website companies are moving away from selling one-time website development services towards bundling everything in a monthly ‘subscription’ package, often including website, CMS, reservation system, distribution platform, ‘SEO’ services, etc. In this case, you’re essentially renting your hotel’s web presence. If you decide to leave the subscription you risk leaving all of this in limbo. If you’re considering this option, make sure you understand the terms of the contract before diving in. You may also want to calculate the overall amount invested over a 4-year subscription period (the typical lifecycle of a website) vs. paying up-front to have a website built for you.

2) Templated or Custom?

Buying a website with a templated or ‘stock’ design can be a very quick and cost-effective option. What it doesn’t do is give your hotel any sense of unique identity—which can impact your bottom line. After all, good marketing is storytelling. When a visitor lands on your site, they should get a vivid sense of the experience of your hotel and the surrounding area. With dozens of other hotels and AirBnb listings nearby, you’ll want to give them immediate and compelling inspiration to book at your property. Custom design allows for greater creative freedom to achieve this.

3) Can You Track Reservations Data?

A hotel website can be a significant investment, so it’s fair to want to see a commensurate return on investment within a reasonable time frame. Ask any potential hotel web company what their mechanism for tracking website results is. Will they track the number of completed bookings generated from your site? Will you have access to this data? How often will they report this data to you?

4) Who will be Your Point of Contact?

Seeking out web services for your hotel shouldn’t be a retail transaction. It should be an ongoing and productive relationship. Your web presence is not static. Conventions change, your hotel changes and your goals change. You’ll be more successful if your web company is there to help you through these changes. Ask whether you will have one point of contact for questions and updates or whether you will simply contact a ‘support’ line. Also ask if there will be charges for changes, updates or consultation.

5) Is Content Included?

The written content of your website is instrumental in determining how Google indexes and ranks your website for key search terms (not to mention impacting the way guests perceive your property and their likelihood to book). Ask whether your web company will be writing the website copy in-house and what their strategy is for including SEO keywords.

6) How Can You Edit Information on the Site?

Most hotel website vendors will offer some kind of content management system with their websites. It’s important to understand exactly what these systems allow and what is involved on your end to edit and add content. In our experience, hoteliers typically require less than 12 updates to core website content per year. At this rate, it can often be cheaper to have the changes made for you, rather than paying extra for an advanced CMS.

Whichever agency you ultimately entrust with the digital future of your hotel, you'll want to make sure they're firing on all six of these cylinders (because I just had to take that car metaphor one step further). For helpful advice with no pressure, feel free to give me or any of our team members at Digital Hospitality a call. We're always here to help at 1-888-717-6615.

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About Joe Pooley:

Joe Pooley is senior communications strategist at Digital Hospitality, where he helps hoteliers make sense of Internet Marketing.