What should be on your guesthouse website?
Whether I'm planning a holiday trip and looking for places to stay en route...
....or whether it's 3am and I'm dead tired just outside Laingsburg, desperate for a place to sleep...
there are certain basics that should be on your accommodation website if you want me to stay:
Prices and Specials
Before you tell me how fantastic your guesthouse is and how awesome your facilities are, I need to know if you fall within my budget. As much as I might want to stay on an exclusive five star luxury guest farm, I don't want to waste my time and yours by getting all excited about it, only to find out when I call you that my budget allows the choice of the family staying one night with you or a week somewhere a bit less luxurious...
At 3am, price is even more important. It doesn't matter where you import your mattresses from or how many feathers are in your duvets. I want to know what it's going to cost me to close my eyes and be horizontal for five hours.
If you've got a special on for Valentine's Day (for example) let me know immediately by putting it right on the front page.
Given the choice between a guesthouse with rates on their website and one that doesn't (so you actually have to call / email them just to find out if this is even an option), chances are most people will go with what they see and forget about the one that doesn't give them the answers they need right away. Not many people have got the time or patience to copy down the contact details of a number of guesthouses and then phone them in the morning to find out what they charge...
Besides a description of your general facilities (swimming pools, Dstv, internet connection, air-conditioner, fridge, kettle etc), give a detailed description of the beds available in each unit.
"Sleeps four" isn't enough. Are there four single beds, 2 bunk beds, two double beds?
Put up recent photographs! Show each unit separately - the layout of the room, the bedding arrangements, the decor, the bathroom. Showing people what you have to offer does a lot to boost your credibility online.
Booking details and Opening hours
- Can I book directly online and get an immediate response - yes, we can help / no, sorry, we can't?
- Can I talk to a real live human being about making a booking? Is she available to talk to and take my booking at 3am?
How do I get hold of you?
From an informal survey among people I've spoken to who've tried to find accommodation online in the past year, the most common complaint is that they "couldn't find a phone number!"
A contact form is good and well, but when you're planning a trip, you don't want to sit around waiting for an email to find out whether a particular B&B has got space for you or not. Most people want to pick up the phone and get an immediate answer. And at 3am, a phone number on your site is absolutely essential if you want to make that sale.
Many of the accommodation directories I've visited looking for places to stay in South Africa, give sufficient info about a guesthouse but to actually contact them is a frustrating process. More often than not, there's no phone number and only an online form.
One the one hand, I understand that the sites want visitors to book through them as that's presumably part of their model to make money. On the other, I just want to find a place to stay as quickly as possible...
To have to hunt for contact info on a guesthouse's own website - only to find the most important bits missing - is enough to ensure I click away immediately. What's the point of having a website for your guesthouse if it doesn't help you make sales?
Where are you?
Ok, so I can afford you, I've spoken to you and you've got space for me... now how do I get to you? Make it easy for everyone - from techno-phobes to techno-whiz kids - by giving as many details as possible:
- Your address (the good old-fashioned way: street number, street name, suburb, town/city)
- Your GPS co-ordinates
- A link to Google maps or an embedded Google map
For people to be able to find your guesthouse website, search engines (like Google) first need to be able to find you.
Google can only read words that show on your website as text. It can't read words that are part of pictures and it can't read PDF's. If you want people to be able to download all your info in a PDF, make sure the PDF is an additional option and not the only way to get your info.