Smartphones and the Internet have transformed how people search for travel and accommodation options. It’s not enough to simply have a website. With more competition, it is essential that your B&B stands out online. Here’s how to market it…
Words: Jade Brennan
At the outset, it’s important to understand how people search for and decide on accommodation online, and to make sure your B&B is wherever they’re looking.
A professional-looking website
A professional website gives a place credibility. Make sure that it is easy to use, the information is correct and up to date, and that your contact page has an email address, telephone number and a link to your Google Map location.
It’s worth investing in a professional photo shoot of all the rooms and surrounds of your B&B – as not only would you use these images on your website, but on social media platforms and directory listings.
It’s also essential to make sure your site links to your social media platforms (that you regularly update), such as Facebook or Instagram, which is very popular for travel.
Top tip: If you don’t have the budget to hire a web designer, use free sites like wix.com or WordPress to create your own. They are easy to use, look professional and if you get stuck, there are loads of free tutorials available online.
As most people search for accommodation on their phones, it’s very important that your website is mobile friendly (responsive). This means that your site looks good on a smartphone and on a desktop. Make sure that whoever designs your site picks a responsive template to do so.
Have a place on your site where you link to tourism boards, blogger reviews, companies that offer tours, activities, emergency contacts, and any other useful information as this is what your guests will search for.
Optimise your site for Google search
Most travellers start their accommodation search online by typing in search terms like these into Google:
- B&B “place”
- B&B near me (with GPS enabled)
- B&B “place” “insert service – cheap, wifi, TV, pool, bath”
b and b has 559 000 000 search results
b&b has 171 000 000 search results
bnb has 60 400 000 search results
You want your B&B to appear on the first page of the Google search results, as this will give you maximum visibility – not many people click through to the second page of search results.
“Where’s the best place to hide a dead body? The second page of Google.”
You need to decide what search term you want to appear on page one, or to rank for. In less competitive places, ‘B&B [place]’ will be easier to rank than say in popular destinations like Knysna or the Karoo.
If you happen to be in one of these areas, then try ranking for ‘B&B’ [place] or ‘B&B [service]’ as this is a longer search term and probably less competitive.
How do I get my B&B to rank?
- Make sure you use the search term you want to rank for on the most popular and important pages of your website or in your description (if on a directory).
- Install an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) plugin like Yoast on your website – this free tool will tell you, in simple terms how to make your site more visible to search engines.
- Consider setting up Google Adwords and trying your hand at some pay per click advertising – you know, those ads at the top of Google Search results? There are lots of small digital agencies that could assist you with this if you get stuck.
Top tip: if you’re on page one of Google, don’t forget about your site’s meta description. This is the little blurb that appears in the Google search results that will entice people to click through to your site. For example:
Get social media savvy
As most consumers nowadays spend the majority of their time online checking their Facebook or various other social media platforms, it pays to be where they’re looking.
Start with Facebook. If you don’t have a Facebook page, it’s easy (and free) to set up one for your business. People are then able to check in, post pictures and message you directly on Facebook.
Once you’re up and running, regularly updating your page with photos of your establishment, interesting happenings in your area, or promotions around special dates like Valentine’s, it pays to try your hand at some Facebook advertising, which you can do off your credit card.
With Facebook ads, you can target your potential audience according to their location, age and interests to keep your advertising costs low. The ROI of Facebook advertising is really affordable – you can see results from as little as R100.
Instagram is also another great platform frequently used by travellers. It’s all about the visuals, so only use this platform if you’ve got good quality pics of your B&B and surrounds. On Instagram, you could become the authority on what’s happening in your town.
Directories and reviews
SA Venues is an online platform offering accommodation, hotels, attractions, events and things to do at your fingertips. It allows users to deal directly with service providers, meaning there are no booking fees.
Airbnb is an online marketplace that enables people to list, find, then rent holiday homes or B&Bs for a processing fee. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries.
Airbnb allows you to find new travellers that wouldn’t usually be aware of your B&B. You set the price and decide who can stay and who can’t and all bookings are handled online.
Listings are free. Guests pay a 6-12% service fee to Airbnb and you receive a pay-out which is your nightly rate minus a 3% hosting fee.
Top Tip: Increase the popularity of your establishment by striving to become an Airbnb Superhost. Superhosts:
- Get at least 10 trips to their listing in a year
- Respond to guests quickly and maintain a 90% response rate or higher
- Get 5 stars on at least 80% of their reviews
- Honour confirmed reservations and rarely cancel
South African directory site Safari Now receives over 1 million visitors a month, and the customised search function ensures that people will easily find your B&B. Like Airbnb, listings are free.
While guests are able to leave reviews on Airbnb and Safari Now, the world’s biggest travel site Trip Advisor dominates when it comes to online reviews.
Reviews can make or break your B&B. Online consumers are increasingly relying on reviews to make decisions. Google has also recently started showing the highest rated B&B’s at the top of search results.
Offer incentives at check-out for people to leave reviews on Trip Advisor such as discounts, free meals or a bottle of wine. Because reviews are public, it is important to monitor your reviews as well as respond to negative reviews immediately.