Your Hotel Website: How to Rise Above the Crowd

By Tema Frank CEO, Frank Reactions | January 27, 2012

I plan to be in Crete for a conference this spring. My husband and I love Greece, so we are thinking of bringing our children along, and stopping in Athens for a couple of days on our way to Crete. Not knowing where to stay, I started with a Google search for "hotels Athens". Google returned 1,510,000 results. Gee, that narrows it down. So what will make me decide which results to click on?

Obviously, results on the first page, or first couple of pages, are the most likely to get looked at, so search engine optimization of your site and/or search engine advertising are crucial. But let's assume for a moment that you've done that successfully, and landed on the first page of results. Now what? The listings all relate to hotels in Athens, Greece. None of the headings particularly stands out over the others. All but one heeded Rule #1 of search engine advertising: make sure the search terms (in this case, "hotels" and "Athens") appear in the title, because they'll be highlighted when the results appear.

The next thing people will naturally look at is the description below the header. For most major cities, the first few results of a city hotel search will be comparison or ratings websites. Apart from paid content on those sites, you've got little control over how you appear within those sites.

But in smaller centeres, and sometimes even in major cities, people will search using terms that give your hotel a chance to pop up on the first page. For example, if I were going to give a talk at Stanford University in California, I might type in "hotels Stanford University". Two of the top three natural listings are for specific hotels. This is when page description tags become crucial. The description tags are words that you can instruct your website designer to enter on each page to provide a description of what the page is about. It is your way of enticing viewers to open the door a little further, and come check out your website.

It is in writing those page descriptions that you must find a way to differentiate yourself. You've only got a few words in which to do so, so make every word count.

Think about what makes your hotel special. Why would people choose it over a competitor? What are the key pieces of information they will want to know? It may be price. It may be luxury. Maybe location, history, views, amenities, pet-friendliness, .... whatever. Just make sure you know what it is, and use it to make your description stand out.

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Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.