7 Critical Steps To Take Before You Build Or Migrate Your Website
It must be that time of the year. The February “I hate my website” blahs.
Your website is your property’s cash register. Whether your website has 30 pages, 300 pages, or hasn’t been updated since your first-born university grad finished grade 8, we have good news: in the online world of hotel digital marketing, there is always an opportunity for a refresh.
The hospitality industry is a market where visuals and experience are everything – especially online.
But before you decide on your next website developer, Digital Marketing System (DMS), consultant or creative agency, it’s critical to move through the following steps:
1. Understand your goals: How does your website improve your overall marketing efforts?
Your property’s website is your point of sale. How will it support all of your marketing efforts like search, social media, offline marketing, and review management and brand awareness?
I too have undergone a website refresh at ideahatching.com. What I wish that I had considered before I changed my WordPress theme, and then subsequently had to comb through 7 years of posts to update broken links and long lost plug ins, was what I was going to do with it when I was finished.
2. What functions to you expect your website to have and why to you need those functions to improve conversions?
Do you need a blog? Do you want to integrate social content to your website? Do you need a property content management solution to allow you to distribute images and video’s to other digital platforms? How clear is your path to booking?
This is an important exercise as the website DMS you choose will need to have the flexibility to work with your ecommerce solution, mapping functionality (if applicable), social plug-ins, and other functions of your website.
If your mandate with a hotel website redevelopment is to improve conversions, then your chosen developer or platform will need to accommodate by having all of the tools and functions you will need to meet your objectives.
If you are limited in resources to manage updates and creative changes, you will need a platform that is easy to update and manage without a team or agency support.
In my case, what I needed what a WordPress theme that was not different than the original theme I had used. A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal.
3. Document current website performance for future benchmarking
Use a tool like Google Analytics to understand what is working and what needs improvement with the new website.
Look at a typical month, as well as a year over year comparison over a period of time and identify key metrics that include:
- Number of unique visitors per month bounce rate (this should be under 40%)
- Time on site (2 minutes, or preferably more, per user session)
- Current SEO keywords used to find the site
- Percentage of overall traffic coming from organic search
- Device usage breakdown – this illustrates how much of your traffic is coming from desktop, mobile or tablet devices. This is important to know when re-designing a website or moving to another platform. You must design for your user.
4. Website asset inventory
- Create a site map, or road map, of all pages of the website
- Inventory your website assets that include content pages, images, videos, blog posts, etc.
- Using Google Analytics, determine high performing content pages, and highly indexed pages in search, and ensure you have a site map of all pages in the website
- If you are migrating to a new website platform, create a 301 re-direct plan to give your new website developer or platform provider. This will ensure that you carry over pages that were indexed in Google to the new website
TIP: Many web designers miss this important step. Ensure that a 301 re-direct strategy plan is completed before you pull the plug on your current website. If you are working with a SaaS platform, make sure that there are resources available to assist you with this as you make the transition.
Source – Flickr
5. Checklist – Must-have functionalities for best performing websites:
Template designs and SAAS based hotel website platforms are both cost effective and proven. Design and layouts become recommended templates because they have been used successfully for other similar businesses. Remember, the website has to be functional and visually pleasing. Consider this when working with your next website developer. New design is not always the best route to take.
Prepare an action list for the new website. This should include items such as:
- Mobile-optimized website options included (This should not be an add-on as any website and theme today must function well on a mobile device)
- Mobile responsive design option
- SEO plug-in or DMS platform that is SEO friendly (every page of a website should have unique on-page keywords, and backend meta data to show the search engines the site is relevant and should be indexed for those keywords)
- Rich media asset manager: Check for storage, ease of use
Note: Some photos and video asset managers are cloud-based, and some may be included as part of a full digital marketing platform where photos and videos can be pushed out to the website, as well as other digital marketing platforms including social media, and other online directories. Ensure you have taken the steps above to understand what you expect from your website to understand what you need to efficiently manage your content
- Easy-to-use DMS: A website that is easy to update on the fly – with or without a designer or programmer is easy to find. Simple website updates should not incur additional costs to update on a regular basis
- Google Analytics plug-in or place for the code: All websites should be tracked via Google Analytics. This is a universal and free analytics platform
Note: Make sure that your analytics is set up under your property Gmail account so that you may carry your analytics data with you if you migrate to another website again. If you are working with an agency to support you with analytics, ensure that you have a second Google Analytics code added that is your own.
- Social media plug-ins and share tools
6. Once the website is live:
Ensure that the 301 redirect plan has been applied so that none of the pages on the previous website become “broken links.” Google does not like broken links and will penalize your website for them.
Verify your website with Google and BING search console. This will give you access to your SEO tools in Google Analytics, and also may speed up the re-indexing of your new website in search.
7. Benchmark Improvements
Measure your new website month over month to benchmark improvements in search visibility, user engagement (metrics like time on site increases and reduced bounce rates) and increases in sales.
A website is never done. Continuously optimize and adjust your website content based on best performing content pages, successful content shares in social media that drive traffic back to the website, user feedback and of course – increases in sales.
Want to learn more about creating visually-compelling websites that drive bookings? Download this scorecard.