Website design trends change regularly and given the importance that your website has of converting browsers into customers, preferably direct, updating your website may well be on your radar. The key question though is whether your current website needs some fine-tuning or you should be investing in a brand new website. This article should help you answer that question so you can assess which is the best course of action for your hotel: a new website design, or perhaps just a tidy up.
A good place to start is by running a quick SEO analysis to understand if there are any underlying issues that are currently inhibiting the amount of organic traffic you receive. There’s lots of these tools out there but we recommend Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer. It’s free for starters, and will give you a really in depth look at things like, critical errors (highest impact on your SEO), warnings (less impactful but often easily fixed), broken links, backlinks.
After this quick analysis, if your website is pulling up dozens (or hundreds!) of critical errors, you may find that starting again with a fresh design and build is easier or even more economical than investing in having them all fixed.
If your website was created for you more than five years ago, now might be a good time to change. Even if you feel the design hasn't dated and still looks slick and is converting well, if your website isn’t continually maintained by a professional, there’s a good chance that it’s not operating at its most efficient.
Most commonly we see hotel websites with huge image files having been uploaded, serving to slow down the speed of the whole website. As a general rule, your website should be changed every 4-5 years.
Gone are the days when hotels should have to pay through the nose for basic editing. If your website needs a tech specialist to add and remove offer pages, tweak the text or update images, it’ll be worth investing in a new website with much easier backend editing.
There are all sorts of simple page editing solutions now available for websites across all the major platforms and the importance of having non-techie members of your team able to edit the website easily cannot be understated. The alternative is spending money each time to a web agency to amend the website’s content, or worse, having a constantly outdated website.
The speed of your website on a mobile device has become a really important factor in the last few years, not least because of Google’s Core Web Vitals Update (see below) which for the first time has put the user experience as a core ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. But also because website users are becoming less and less tolerant of slow-loading websites.
No one, after all, can bear that dreadful spinning loading wheel for much longer than a few seconds. To test this, we recommend Google’s own mobile speed test which will tell you how long your website is taking to load on both a 4G and 3G connection. But, importantly, does a slow loading mobile site warrant a completely new website? Honestly, probably not.
There’s often some quick tech fixes that can be done to speed things up, and you may well find on deeper inspection that it’s the hosting that’s slow, rather than the website itself.
Responsive design refers to your website’s ability to adapt the styling to match the size of the user’s screen. So whether your potential customer is viewing your website on a laptop, a tablet or a phone, the quality of the design and functionality should not suffer. An easy way to test this is by opening up your website in an internet browser on your desktop computer and resizing the browser slowly.
If it’s responsive, you should see the webpage adapt its content and top navigation bar as the browser window gets larger and smaller. Responsive design is not only important for the user experience, it has also in recent years become an important part of Google’s search algorithm, deeming that websites that are not mobile-friendly are less authoritative than those that are, which inevitably leads to lower ranking in search results. In short, if your website isn’t responsive, it’s time to invest in a new one that is.
This came into place in January 2021 and is important because Google announced it six months before moving it forward (which they rarely do). There are three core web vital metrics and they relate to the user experience offered by your website, both in terms of load speed and browsing experience:
LOADING: Largest Content Paint - this is the time it takes for the largest element on the page to become visible from when the user requests the URL. This is often an image or video. ‘Good’ is classed as less than or equal to 2.5 seconds whereas ‘Poor’ is classed as greater than 4 seconds.
INTERACTIVITY: First Input Delay - the time it takes for a page to become interactive. ‘Good’ is classed as less than 100ms and ‘poor’ is anything greater than 300ms.
VISUAL STABILITY: Cumulative Layout Shift - The amount of unexpected layout shift of visual page content. ‘Good’ is less than 0.1 and ‘poor’ is greater than 0.25.
A good way to test this is with Google’s own page speed insights tool. By simply entering your website address into the analysis, you’ll see how your website is faring on these all important metrics. A ‘does not pass’ result doesn’t necessarily warrant a new website in itself, but it’s worth noting that if all your metrics are appearing heavily in the ‘poor’ grading, having a web professional run a more detailed analysis is an important next step.
The conversion rate of your website is the number of users that complete the desired course of action, which is most commonly to complete a room booking but may also count as things like booking a table, buying a gift voucher or requesting a wedding brochure.
Conversion rate % = (number of conversions / users) x 100
This metric is important because it will give you a very real understanding of how your website is performing at turning browsers into buyers. Unfortunately hotel conversion rates vary wildly with luxury properties typically seeing conversion rates around 0.5% and budget brands such as Travelodge can enjoy a conversion rate as high as 3% or 4% (boosted by their ability to only serve customers directly, and not through online travel agents).
As a (very) general rule of thumb, converting 1 in 100 (1%) is a good place to be but if yours is substantially lower, you’ll likely find that conversion rate optimisation strategy would produce better results than a new website build. CLICK HERE for more information on how conversion rate optimisation works to improve direct bookings.
You can find your website’s bounce rate in a tool like Google Analytics, normally on the main dashboard. It refers to the percentage of users that arrive on your website and don’t venture beyond the first page. As a rule of thumb, you’re aiming for a bounce rate of less than 40%.
If yours is a great deal higher, it may be that your website is loading too slowly with many users getting frustrated and leaving before the site loads, and/or it could have something to do with the content that users see is not suited to their needs. The bounce rate is a metric to watch closely as it will give you a good indication as to whether potential customers are giving your hotel consideration to book when they find you.
Does a high bounce rate warrant a new website? Probably not. If the design is not dated, chances are you just need some fine tuning rather than a brand new website.
Chances are you don’t need to invest in a new hotel website if you have slow loading speeds, are not currently achieving a ‘pass’ on the core web vitals update or you have a higher than average bounce rate. These things can normally be improved at a fraction of the cost of a new website design.
If your website is older than 5 years, is not responsive or has limited editing capabilities without technical support, it’s probably time to invest in a new website. If you’re in this camp, you’ll find our ‘7 considerations video’ a helpful resource before embarking on a new website. If you’re ready for a chat about a new website project, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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