It has been already 3 years since I stopped working on my affiliate (commission based) business (mostly) in finance industry in Czech republic and moved to Iceland. I would say, there is big (in e-commerce even enormous) competition in all online markets, so if you want to succeed there, you need to have really good websites and marketing.
I was very surprised, when I see how are Icelandic hotels surviving in world of internet. In my opinion, there was (and probably still is) a lack of online marketing.
Hotels are not using options to promote themselves, they haven´t integrated booking engines and some of them even don´t have websites.
But I hope, the times will change now, when people realize, they cannot afford to pay high commissions to OTA´s like Booking and Expedia.
Because of this, I make a list of ideas which can (in my opinion) help even the small hotel or guesthouses to get more direct bookings and other positive effect in long term.
Fast, mobile friendly website with good user experience
The way how can you compete with big OTA´s is in simple, fast loading website design made for the best user experience.
For that, you can actually use simple CMS (content management system) WordPress with some simple free template.
What should be important for you is to make it mobile friendly site, which loads fast (the best is up to 1 second), has all the necessary information and lead your visitor to your booking page.
That can mean photos in professional quality, simple navigation, not so many choices (to make easier for customer to decide), call to action buttons, pop-up windows with discounts, offers etc.
Some tips for your webdesign:
- Proper description of your amenities – show and describe as much as you can about hotel. Tell them, how is the breakfast, what´s included, how are the vegetarian/vegan options in you restaurant. Search in your e-mails and reviews and look for things, which are for your customers the most confusing.
- Use CTA (call to action) buttons – place booking buttons on every page on important places and make it always as easy as possible for the visitor to book an accommodation at your place.
- Connect your website with booking engine
- Best price guarantee – show your visitors, that the prices for direct booking is not higher than the OTA´s prices. Let them compare the prices with Booking/Expedia offers, so they will not leave your website.
- Use pop-up windows with your discounts and offer – if you have something, what should really get visitors attention, put in on pop-up window and show it every time, when visitor go to your website.
Good example for us can be homepage of hotel Aurora next to Keflavik airport. We immediately see important information about the location, proof of quality (disinfection), booking button and discount code for direct booking.
Optimize website for Google search engine
SEO (search engine optimization) can be the cheapest way, how to get direct booking. Your goal is to be visible on first position in search results for keywords, which are relevant for your business. But it doesn´t have to mean, that you should fight for keywords like “your location” + “hotel” (for example “Selfoss hotel”). There is usually a lot of competition, so you need to be smarter and think about keywords, which are forgotten by the OTA´s and big hotels.
Try to be successful with keywords like:
- accommodation in selfoss iceland
- lodging in selfoss
- hotel south coast iceland
- south iceland accommodation
- where to stay in selfoss
- place to stay in selfoss
- best place to see northern lights selfoss
- cheap apartment selfoss
Maybe you think, it´s impossible to beat Booking.com, Expedia or Tripadvisor, but there exist some successful examples.
Let´s check the hotels in Keflavik. For example on first position if we search for “Keflavik hotel” is website www.kef.is, not Booking.com.
The same goes with keyword “Keflavik airport hotel“, where we find (after featured hotel snippet) website www.hotelairport.is.
Website Stayinvik.is is another great example of successful website, which is fighting with big OTA´s, it´s ranking on first position when we search for “hotel vík í mýrdal“.
So I believe, the reason, why are so many OTA´s in search results is not because they are so strong and authoritative, but because most of the hotel´s website are just weak, not well-designed and have no idea, what to do if they want to be visible in search engines.
Create content related to your business
One way, how can you help your website to be more visible in search engines is to start writing a blog.
You can write articles like “The best place to watch northern lights in South Iceland“, to get visitors and make them be your customers.
Check the Hotel Rangá blog to see the example – https://www.hotelrangablog.is/
Another benefit of the blog is, that you can inform your customers about places nearby, help them make travel itineraries or share your story and make a connection with them.
Let them see, who are you and what´s your story – don´t sell the place to sleep, but all the experience.
Use the online chat and social media
When we speak about your story there another tip. Be more personal. You can easily and for free install a Facebook Messenger chat, which will appear on your website.
Then you can start to use social sites the way, how they should be used – to communicate and connect with people.
Don´t use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram just like another place, where you can sell your accommodation. Instead of it, show your followers how you live, what they can experience and what is behind the curtain.
Offer something more
If you don´t want to have lower prices than OTA´s, but you still want to attract your customers, you can offer them extra services like:
- free parking
- pick up/drop off
- free breakfast
- discount for restaurant
- late checkout
- room upgrade
Don´t promise, show proofs
Online reputation is absolutely important and plays a huge role when people decide, which accommodation they´ll choose.
Always be honest and show your newest reviews on your hotel´s website. Try to avoid situations, when people need to check reviews on Booking or Expedia and after book a room there.
Use e-mail marketing
Email is the way, how you can be in contact just with customers, you need. Filter your contact to groups and send special offers (for example weekend packages) to locals.
The same way you can make emails for visitors from abroad who already visited you, for example:
- inform them about the new facility and amenities
- show them the best spots and photos of northern lights
- create for them itinerary with “hidden gems” they probably didn´t see…
From my point of view, there are definitely ways, how you can get more direct bookings through your website and we can find some very good examples of Icelandic hotels or guesthouses, that are doing a great job. I believe that the results of their work and focus on details are already having positive effects.