Hotels are constantly evolving, and the hotel industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. It's not uncommon for hotels to invest heavily in new renovations or extensive marketing campaigns to stay ahead of the competition.
But while hospitality marketers know the importance hotel website design can play in their marketing initiatives, investing in the website can sometimes take a back seat. A redesign or brand-new hotel website might sometimes feel like an unnecessary investment when many guests continue to book, but a hotel website is any hospitality marketer’s No. 1 salesperson and its design and functionality can actually be a huge ROI generator if done correctly. A hotel website is the first impression and so much more.
Not seeing the performance you expected from PPC ads or metasearch marketing? It could all go back to the website page those travelers are landing on. Disappointed in your hotel’s SEO performance or keyword rankings? Website design and functionality could be playing just as big a role as content. The bottom line is, a hotel website ties all marketing tactics together and an unengaging, low-performing, or old website can impact more than user experience.
In order to maximize revenue from a hotel website, it’s important for marketers to judge performance and decide when they need a new website. A new website can help give your hotel an added advantage over the competition and it should be a priority if you’re looking to stay ahead of the curve. There are many signs that should be looked at when determining whether or not your hotel needs a new website. Here are five of the most important.
1. Your hotel website has low engagement and isn’t driving bookings
The first warning sign of a hotel website that needs improvement is low engagement or a decrease in bookings. Of course, there is seasonality to bookings in the hospitality industry, but hospitality marketers are always looking at the data — and data can highlight these warnings.
One of the easiest ways to determine whether or not your hotel needs a new website is low engagement. Google’s 2020 Travel Customer Journey study found that 47% of travelers decided not to book on a website because of unmet needs (compared to 26% due to price). Does your hotel website highlight your offering? Is it easy to navigate and use? If you notice engagement issues with your current website, it might be time to invest in a new site design.
Hospitality marketers can utilize data to determine what works and what doesn't work when it comes to driving bookings. This is where hospitality marketers, SEO experts and digital marketing strategists must work together to determine whether or not they are getting the best ROI with their current online strategy. Knowing your hotel website has issues and determining the best route forward in a potential redesign are two different things. But there are three key factors that hoteliers can look at to better understand the data.
Website Usability Testing: The best way to see if travelers are able to easily interact with your hotel website and if they’re making it through the customer journey is by conducting a website usability test. You can utilize heat-mapping data (or work with a marketing strategist to help) to determine where users are clicking and how they’re moving on a particular page or across the site. This data can call out design or usability flaws that could be impacting engagement.
Core Web Vitals: While usability testing helps hospitality marketers observe real-world use of their hotel website design, Google’s Core Web Vitals offer a glimpse at behind-the-scenes factors that can impact your search engine rankings (but also impact real user experience). By testing your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you can see what design and coding factors might be slowing your website down or impacting performance.
ADA Compliance: Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) isn’t an engagement metric, per se, but it does impact user experience and is critical to evaluate your hotel website’s current design. In 2020, there were more than 2,500 lawsuits against companies for ADA website compliance. Optimizing website design for people with disabilities — including for screen readers, contrast ratios, and more — is a major trend in 2021, and marketers should review their hotel website’s ADA outlook when making website decisions.
2. Your hotel website takes too long to load
Everyone knows how annoying it can be when a browser spins while trying to load a website. People don’t have much patience for a slow website. Your hotel website’s speed can either become a big advantage or a major pain point for travelers.
According to Google, 53% of websites are abandoned if a user has to wait more than three seconds for the web page to load. As hospitality marketers think about investing in a new marketing strategy or online channel, or as they evaluate the performance of campaigns and their website, it’s important to consider how long it takes your current website to load. There’s a reason Google’s Core Web Vitals are almost exclusively focused on speed.
There is a long list of causes for a slow-loading website. Some may be simple fixes, but a long list of issues could signal that it’s time to invest in a new hotel website design. Some include:
Images: Images are generally the easiest speed fix. A speed test of your website may call out oversized images that aren’t properly optimized for the web. There is no exact number, but Squarespace recommends keeping website photos under a file size of 500 KB (and many developers aim much lower). It may seem simple, but large stock images or unoptimized photos can drastically slow loading time and have major implications on rankings used by Google.
Plugins: If a hotel website has too many plugins, it can significantly slow down page speed. It’s also important to ensure your website is using the newest and most up-to-date plugins. Out-of-date plugins can have both security and website performance implications.
Outdated Technology and/or poor hosting: Websites are only as good as the technologies they are built on. If your hotel is built on an old or clunky CMS, or if your CMS just needs to be updated, it can not only make your job more difficult but also lead to website issues. Where your website lives is also important. If your hotel uses a slow hosting service, it can make everything run slow.
3. Your hotel website isn’t optimized for mobile devices
There is no doubt that the world has transitioned to mobile-first. According to Google, 79% of travelers completed a booking after doing research on their phone. A hotel’s mobile website experience is paramount today and will only continue to increase in importance.
The No. 1 mobile factor to consider is speed. If a hotel website is slow on desktop, it’s almost certainly worse on mobile, especially when taking into account travelers attempting to load a website on cellular networks. Mobile page speed is crucial for user experience, which is why Google switched to mobile-first page indexing in 2020.
The second factor to consider is whether your hotel’s current website is responsive. A responsive website scales to a user’s screen size and is incredibly important for any website. Since the ultimate goal is to drive bookings, it’s essential that your website is easy to navigate on mobile, from research through the entire booking process.
4. Your hotel website is cumbersome and difficult to scale
A hotel’s website is arguably the most critical component in any hotelier’s digital marketing strategy, so it should be scalable. When a new page needs added or changes need to be made, no marketer wants to constantly rely on a developer to assist.
Modern CMS platforms, including WordPress, allow hoteliers to build out their hotel’s website faster and more efficiently. When a developer is needed, a more robust CMS can allow for better integrations with third-party platforms, virtual tours, and other website features that are becoming more prevalent and sought-after in the hospitality industry.
5. Your hotel website is more than 3 years old
The Internet is an ever-changing environment, so staying on top of a hotel’s online presence takes serious effort and intentionality. Hospitality website design is an investment. A hotel might spend anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000 on a website project depending if it’s a refresh or overhaul, but it can offer an impactful ROI.
There is no exact time period, but an industry rule of thumb is that a hotel website design (or most any website for that matter) lasts for roughly three years. It’s impossible to always be current with every changing website trend, but ongoing website design refreshes or a new website can help. A new website design can help hospitality marketers utilize modern technologies such as responsive web design, which will ensure fast load times when a traveler is looking at information from a hotel's site on any device they may be using to find you.
To stay competitive in the hotel industry, it's important for hoteliers to plan ahead. A new website can help a hotel stand out from the competition and make sure potential guests know who they are before they even walk through your doors.
Considering a new website or looking for a little inspiration as to how to improve your hotel’s site? Download our 5 Steps to Make Your Hotel Website Your #1 Salesperson eBook.