Building a Bed and Breakfast Website

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After having built websites for so many other clients over the years, it was quite a treat to get to plan out and build a site for my family’s new business. Usually, when I’m building a site for myself, I’m building a marketing site (obviously). But this time I was in an industry I was particularly familiar with: Tourism.

Researching the Tourism Industry

The first step to any marketing plan is to do some research. We need to know who our target market is (who are our customers) and what makes them spend their money. There are a number of ways to get that information. Some tactics apply to any industry, others are only available for specific industries. Take this first one, for example:

The Alaska Visitors Statistics Program

Fortunately, we have a tourism association here in Alaska that spends lots of money on that research and then gives it to us for free!

The Alaska Visitors Statistic Program is a comprehensive research report that is well organized and helps you find every detail about the people who are coming to see our fair state.  This is an invaluable tool for figuring out why people are coming to Alaska, where they are going, what they are doing, and how they get here. 

With those questions answered, it was a lot easier to build a website that would appeal to the personalities that would be visiting.

Ask The Tourists

As nice as that is, however, there’s nothing that’s quite as successful as just talking to the people you already have! You’re current client base is a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped. They can tell you all about what they like about you and why they came.

So that was the next step in our process, we talked to our guests. That was easy anyway since we were making breakfast for all of them, and boy do they like to talk! And it wasn’t long before we started hearing the same topics crop up over and over and over again (like our delicious breakfasts, people love it).

Choosing the Platform

Once we felt we had a good baseline for how our guests were making their decisions, it was time to build the site. But before we could do that, I had to look at the technology side of things. There are lots of options out there to help you build a site, depending on your skill level and pocketbook. 

Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, etc.

There are actually quite a few website generators out there that allow you to just slap together your own website with a few clicks of a button. “You don’t need to know anything about websites!” they say. 

Of course there are lots of inherent dangers in using those.

  1. They own your website. If they choose to raise their price, or don’t treat you well, you can’t take your website with you if you leave. You’ll need a brand new one.
  2. They nickel and dime you. Sure, GoDaddy’s $5/month plan sound great at first. But then if you want to use the website builder, it’s extra. Need more space? Mo’ Money. Want to use that pretty design instead of the cruddy one they start with you? Open your wallet. And it never ends.
  3. They are not nearly as easy as they pretend to be. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me to help them with their Wix site, only to find out that we can’t do something so simple. Once you really flesh out your site, you find out just how limited you really are.

Honestly, i could go on. But I’ll save that for another post. Suffice to say, this web developer is going to develop his own site.

WordPress Premade Tourism Templates

Twenty Seven percent of the entire internet runs on a WordPress installation now. It’s awesome, because I love using it. It’s also awesome because that means there are SO many plugins and themes available for free to choose from. And lots of people online who are willing to help if you know where to ask.

Now, normally, I build my own site from scratch. But in this case, I actually needed my website up fast. Very fast. So I decided to use a premade template. So I carefully selected a safe place to get a template and downloaded it.

NOTE: It’s important to note that lots of free templates out there are actually really dangerous and full of virii. Please only use reputable sources like the WordPress repository built into WordPress.

Writing Content for Tourism Websites is Fun!

My wife and I soon discovered how much fun it is to write content for our BnB. We’ve written content for lots of different websites out there, but we hadn’t written one for our OWN Bed and Breakfast before.

We decided to be quirky and fun. And that’s actually really important for just about any business. Your company needs to have a distinct personality. When you find out what your clients are looking for, then use that as the personality of your company. 

Example: Many people are nervous about doctors. So build a site that makes you look friendly, hospitable, and comfortable if you’re a doctor. 

In our case, we’re a Bed and Breakfast. And everyone wants to know about US, the Alaskans who live here all year long! So we put ourselves front and center on the site and told our stories. We also made sure our house looks warm, clean and comfortable, and highlighted our delicious breakfasts. Those were the three main things our customers were looking for.

Results From the Bed and Breakfast Website

So did it work? Oh You Betcha! We went from a 60% occupancy the first summer, to nearly 95% occupancy the next! It was highly successful. Not only that, but the percentage of people who booked through our website instead of on other platforms increased too! Considering that those behemoth marketing platforms (like Expedia and the like) take around 20% of a cut per booking, it really mattered to us that they started booking through our site.

For us, the only marketing we really needed to do at that time was just a new website, and that by itself was a huge help. But a website is just a foundation. It’s critical, yes. But there’s so much more to work on in the world of marketing. So eventually, I’ll be writing about some of the ways we’ve used Social Media, and Search Engine Marketing & Optimization to bolster our little tourism website.