Booking websites

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Lea Ann's picture
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10/11/2013

My hubby just came back from a workshop for aspiring innkeepers. They suggested that we choose 3 sites to sign up for. We had already signed up for our state association.  They suggested booking.com, bbonline or bnbfinder. What are your thoughts on doing this? Did you see increased traffic from doing this? Was it worth the money?

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08/18/2011

You probably won't make much money, if any, directly from listings on BBOnline or BnBFinder.  Personally our biggest benefits from these two sites are:

BBOnline: Ability to insert your own links back to your site within your listing.  Having links from bigger sites helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimization - getting your website rank high in search engines).  Of course if you get to the point where your website is frequently getting linked to either because people like your content or you are partnering with other businesses/associations having one extra site linking to you won't matter much.  It can sometimes help a lot at first though before you have built up links elsewhere.

BnBFinder: Unlike BBonline you get no 'search engine credit/value' out of links from their site.  They unfortunately do not link directly to you which means Google will not associate the link with your website.  We benefit most from BnBFinder because of their Guest Favorite award they give out each year.  It is a nice award to use it in our marketing.  Probably not as helpful to a new inn though as it has taken years to build up our reviews on bnbfinder.  I imagine it would take years to get enough reviews to earn the award (not sure the exact criteria, but seems to be based on having a lot of reviews with very high average rating).

Booking is a completely different type of site, commissioned based travel site.  Worth giving a try at least to see how many reservations you get through them.  You have very little control over your content though.

 

The most important first step though, as others have already shared, is to make sure you get listed on all the bigger local sites such as Google Local/Google+, Bing Places for Business, Foursquare, etc.

Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

Bing Places for Business? Foursquare? Hmmm. I better get busy!

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OnTheShore's picture
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08/28/2011

As a  business, you may eventually find yourself listed on all kind of business directories (for free, whether you initiated the listing or not). Whenever you can you want to take charge of these listings to make sure that the information is complete, correct, up-to-date, and consistent across listings. You can start by searching for your business name, business phone number, and/or street address, and see where you already turn up. Many of these listings will have a link somewhere ("are you the owner of this business? claim this listing.") that you can click on to claim and take charge of your business's listing on that site. This allows you to make edits.

You could also go directly to some of the larger business sites (manta.com, hotfrog.com, merchantcircle.com) to see if you are listed on them yet, and if not go ahead and submit your information. These business directory sites won't necessarily get you reservations directly (although we did once get a guest via hotfrog!), but they do provide exposure and link-love that could help your SEO.

Then the travel and review sites -- TripAdvisor.com, Yelp.com, InsiderPages.com, Yahoo travel ...  Again, you will probably eventually find yourself listed on these sites whether you want to be or not, so you might as well take charge of your listing, and learn how to manage it and respond to reviews.

Now on to the map sites -- make sure that you have a Google+ page and thus get listed on Google Maps. Also look into getting your business is listed on MapQuest.com, Bing Maps, Apple Maps, etc....  I haven't totally mastered this yet, but all of these are served by a few big geographic data companies -- the same ones that provide business data to Garmin,TomTom, and the automakers, for their automobile GPS units...

Finally, social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest.....  You can take this as far as you have time and inclination -- just know that these are all sites where you need to be participating in a regular and on-going way in order to get any advantage -- you can't just create a FB page and forget about it, for example.

All of the above are free*, they just take some (a lot?) time and effort. You can do it all in one big push or you can take your time and find/claim/create/update one listing per week (or whatever). Whenever I find a listing for my business, I create a bookmark for it in my browser (especially bookmark your "dashboard.")

*nothing is totally free -- once you've registered with all these sites, you will likely get e-mail from them on a regular basis.... but you can probably create filters in your e-mail program to shunt these e-mails to a dedicated folder (like maybe the trash?) rather than cluttering up your inbox.

Also all of the above assumes that you have a decent website in the first place.

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Highlands John's picture
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04/16/2010

Before you rush out and join three sites I recommend you get onto goog le and enter the searches that you think prospective guests are most likely to enter and see what sites come up. That'll give you the best idea of where to invest your energies and money. 

And you need to do this once or twice a year because things change.

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happykeeper's picture
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12/11/2008

This is just one opinion. I'm sure you'll choose well for what fits your particular situation.

  • One fee directories are dying a slow death.
  • They are being replaced by booking sites that extract much more money from you. MUCH MORE.
  • Personally building your business takes time. You probably already have all the essentials like online reservations, a good website, etc etc, and you are probably doing a great job. Word of mouth (this includes reviews)  is slower, but will be your most important factor later on.
  • You need to reach some critical mass with the gorilla. TR ad More than anything- this is a must. The sooner the better
  • There are ways to pay to have someone else build your business in the meantime. (Commission sites)
  • You can also pay the gorilla. 
  • Our state has a massive tourism site, so that is important for us.
  • Partnerships are a great thing if you can pull them together.

Final analysis  Save your money on directories- pay a commission site if you need to - and get your five star portfolio going. We had not used a directory in several years and then jumped back in with bedandbr.com as a diamond member. It was free to try it. So far, it's a bust. Even with all that extra exposure, directories just can't compete. It's probably headed out the door before the year's end. We tried booking dotcom and the resies came in and hundreds of $ of commissions went out. We were lucky enough to not need to do it, so we stopped. We may go back at some point if we need to drive revenue again.

You all can feel free to disagree or agree. I know everyone of us has a different story and set of realities.

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2cat_lady's picture
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09/24/2014

I signed up with booking.com near the end of august because my reservations were starting to dry up. Keep in mind I only opened this year so I didn't have any repeats or word of mouth. Had only two reservations for September. Then, when I signed onto booking.com, I basically filled up for September. Really surprised. Not crazy about paying the commission, for me 15%, but better than making zero dollars. Only one issue with a no show with them, but I could have gotten that regardless. 

Lea Ann's picture
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10/11/2013

We opened officially in mid august.

2cat_lady's picture
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09/24/2014

Wow! You jumped right into the fire, didn't you? We would have liked to open last fall actually, but everyone dragged their feet on permits and licenses. I actually had my final inspection when I went away to visit my girls and on DH was home alone. I made sure everything was set up and he charmed the official that came. She was super nice and understanding and gave us great suggestions to make sure we got the rating we wanted. Have you been busy? I found it helped that I started slow. It gave me a chance to work up to having a full house ( four rooms) without getting over my head since I'm a one woman show. I'm now going to take the opportunity to switch my kitchen and laundry room around because I think I know what will work better for me for next season. 

Lea Ann's picture
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10/11/2013

We took possession of the house on 31 January, renovated and opened. We have rented 10 nights this month. Next month will be a good month for us since there is a church having a revival and they booked all 4 rooms for 8 days. 

2cat_lady's picture
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09/24/2014

Green with envy! I only have six rooms booked for October. Had a full month in September. November will be quiet but I'm thinking we'll get the family traffic in December. The port just down the hill from us does a boat lighting where all the boats dress themselves up for the season. People come from all around to see the sights. Last year it kind of bombed. Had power outages across the island so they cut it short because everyone had to cut back. Almost glad I wasn't open back then or I'm sure we would have had dome cancellations. Just got the back up generator hooked up too. At least now we can make sure we can get hot water and people can flush!

Joey Camb's picture
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04/02/2010

get blogging - keep a camera or if you have one one your phone great also - take pictures of everything you can write it up later! bo o ki ng.com is great to get money coming in, but make sure you get the email addresses into your database to try and get repeat commission free bookings later as many don't realize book take a commission which in turn is really passed onto them.

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gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I do most of my marketing as "target" marketing. That means, since I know I get motorcycles and horses (used to get rail-trail but that tapered off) and I am trying to grow an Elopement segment, I place ads on sites and magazines of those interests. I DO, however, think there should also be a "shotgun" site - he shot the shotgun and the pellets went all over - and I chose bnb finder  as the least expensive of them in the "big boy" category. bedandbreakfastdotcom is too expensive and did nothing for me and bbon line just did nothing. beddotcom is a booking site that charges commish and I have not heard much good from the Brits where it started - it is like bedandbreakfastdot com, many re convinced they would not survive without them.

Keep in mind, I am small and in Podunk. I rely own my Assoc, my own site, and my targets. Oh, I am listed free with our CVB.

Lea Ann's picture
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10/11/2013

We are like you. We are 8 miles north of the interstate and we have a community college in our town.

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

IF you can get listed with the college to house their speakers, great. Do not bank on reservations from the college though. Parents weekend, moving day (twice a year - in and out), and graduation - all might fill you up but it will be a long empty space in between. Ir will be feast or famine.

Suggestions: take a ride (DH rives & you write) start at your house with trip odometer at zero. Each turn write distance & time traveled, direction of turn, and onto what street/route # (landmark if any that will be long-lasting). Then go home and write it up (mine is in a table) in WORD and save. Do this for anything that would be of interest making a circle - returning to your house by a different route. I have covered bridges with wineries, covered bridges with State Wildlife Center (noting other points of interest such as historic sites, antique shops/malls, and museums at whatever mileage and time). I have motorcycle daytrip routings where they do not cross the same piece of pavement twice. All of these can be modified to turn-by-turn up to a point and then deviate to something specif the guest is interested in. I can print these off whenever needed. Put together packages with 3 or more items (so they cannot break it down as how much for each thing - ie the room costs $$$ and this costs that. By having a third thing price is not obvious. I used to charge $50 for dinner for 2 but it was buried with the room, a packed lunch, dinner, and the routing (Intellectual property worthy of fee) so there was no complaint because the total value was there.

Look around for things in your area of interest and tout them. YOU are the place to stay but you have to tell them WHY they want to come to your area. I created my city s a destination to the point the CITY started marketing the City. which helped me also.

Good luck. You have the Internet at your service. When I stated, the Internet was just getting started. If I had 6 reservations in  month, I was ecstatic.  Now I want more - but still am happy if I get 4 nights in January.

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