Savvy hotel GMs manage a lot of stuff — vast influxes of vacationing families, cleaning rooms, and ensuring those morning eggs are cooked just right. The last thing you need is something else to take care of!
When it comes to your hotel website, we all know it would be easier to “set-it-and-forget-it” and skip the monthly fee marketing agencies charge for website maintenance contracts. Here’s why you, savvy GM, should pay an agency to take care of your hotel website.
Set and forget worked in 2007. Back then, in the dark ages, websites didn’t require very much attention. Businesses hired a developer who wrote the code, added the content and launched the site. If you needed an update, you paid your developer to execute it, and you only made changes when something in your business changed.
Website maintenance wasn’t a thing. People weren’t worried about keeping their websites secure or having one second load times.
A lot has changed. Most importantly, you no longer need to know how to code to build a website. The rise of the Content Management System (CMS) software like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix have enabled the masses to create websites and update content without knowing how to code. Your grandpa can now build a website and publish his ideas for everyone to read (yes, there are pros and cons to this).
Innisfree Hotels‘ In-house marketing agency uses WordPress for our hotel websites. WordPress is an online, open-source website creation tool. Open-source means that anyone can use or modify the WordPress software and everyone can use it for free. WordPress is the most used CMS program today and powers 29% of the websites on the Internet, and 500+ new WordPress sites are launched daily. The White House, CNN, Spotify, Microsoft, and The Rolling Stones all use websites powered by WordPress.
Some other hotel marketing agencies use their own proprietary CMS when they build websites for their hotel marketing clients. This isn’t optimal. If you fire your agency, you’ll have to create a new site from scratch. With a platform like WordPress, you own website, not your agency.
How WordPress Works
WordPress websites have three parts. First is the core, made up of the hundreds of files that support the essential functions of every WordPress install.
Second are the plugins. These are pieces of software that can be added to a WordPress website to extend functionality. There Are 48,500+ WordPress plugins with more being built by programmers every day.
Our team built a custom plugin for our hotel websites that integrate our franchise booking engines and date pickers. We also use a plugin called Gravity Forms that enables users interested in booking a wedding to enter information such as name, date, and email address into a form that is auto-forwarded to our sales teams.
The final part of a WordPress website is the theme. The theme supports the front-end design, including layout, font, colors, and so on. There are tens of thousands of WordPress themes that can be freely downloaded or purchased from developers.
Most larger businesses hire a developer to build them a custom WordPress theme. Our in-house agency built a custom theme we call ‘Beachfront Hotel’ and all of our hotels use it. We make regular updates to our theme and rebuild it completely about every three years. Using the same theme for all our hotel properties enables us to build websites quickly and economically.
WordPress websites require an ongoing maintenance program. Here is an outline of what our agency does to keep our websites happy and healthy.
If something goes wrong, and it inevitably does, websites can become slightly messed up, irreparably broken, or gone. We back up our websites monthly, so if the worst happens, we can restore our sites from the most recent backup.
Our in-house marketing agency also updates our WordPress themes and plugins every month. Because WordPress is open-source, anyone can update the core code anytime. New features are continually added, bugs are fixed, and security holes are plugged. When updates occur, the component parts, such as themes and plugins on individual websites, need to be updated as well, or your website functionality may break or become vulnerable to evil-doers.
Another critical component of website maintenance is monitoring and optimizing load speed. Load speed is so crucial that monthly speed tests are essential. Consumer expectations regarding website speed are escalating. Consumers expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less, and 40% of these will abandon their search if a website takes more than three seconds to load.
When a user visits a web page from a web browser (like Chrome), a ping is sent to the website host asking the server to send over the website content files. This is called Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and browsers must submit an HTTP request for every file on your site.
Therefore, the more files we have on a site, the more HTTP requests our browser must make. The more requests there are, the slower the site will load. Large files slow things down even more, and high definition images and videos are the worst culprits. Hotels marketers love high definition images and videos!
Our marketing team regularly analyzes how many HTTP requests our websites must make to load, and sometimes we need to make hard decisions about what content is essential. For example, recently we learned that our website weather widget was slowing our sites down but decided it was worth keeping.
WordPress is a database-driven CMS system, meaning that all of the content on our site (such as pages, blog posts, and pictures) is stored in databases. Over time, databases become bloated with junk, including old pictures and deleted posts that slow down our websites. We have a protocol for regular database cleanups.
Our in-house agency also checks our websites for 404 errors every week. A 404 is URL indexed on search engines that no longer exists. For instance, when we delete a seasonal landing page, sometimes that link continues to appear in search results. Google penalizes websites with 404 errors.
The team fixes 404 errors by implementing a 301 redirect which points the dead URL to another page on the site.
We also audit and fix broken links on our websites monthly.
Our marketing team regularly reviews website content with our property GMs to ensure it is accurate and up to date.
Phew… that’s a lot, huh? One less thing for you, savvy GM, to worry about.