Your home page needs to be optimized for both search engines (SEO) and for conversion. This post walks you through the anatomy of a perfectly optimized bed & breakfast website home page, complete with an infographic.
Your bed & breakfast website home page is the first thing people see when they visit your site. Research shows that the average internet user sticks around a website for less than 59 seconds. People judge your entire site, and by an extension, your entire property, by the quality and content of your home page. Think of it like the welcome mat that will entice visitors to step inside and explore some more… or cause them to “bounce”.
The Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Bed & Breakfast Website Home Page
See below for more detailed information
Your home page needs to make a powerful impression right away, without requiring too much attention or careful reading. Your home page should be clear, well-organized, and informational. Visitors should be able to give it a cursory glance and feel so intrigued that they read on, explore the other pages of your site, and hopefully, make a direct booking.
This is easier said than done. To help you master this essential page of your site, we’ve broken down the anatomy of an effective home page. With these building blocks in place, you will be well on your way to creating a home page that grabs visitors attention and welcomes them to learn more.
1. Clean Design & Great User Experience
Many people feel tempted to make their homepage as “busy” as possible with the hope that this will draw visitors in and entice them to linger on your page. This is not the case. Simple is always better. Do not incorporate music, pop-over windows, widgets with scrolling text, prominent social widgets, excessive text, or too many columns. This makes your homepage look way too cluttered and distracts from the ultimate goal of your site: to showcase your property and encourage visitors to stay on your site long enough to make a direct booking.
2. Consistent Navigation
Your navigation bar is the roadmap visitors need to properly explore your site. It shows them where to go to look at rooms and pricing, read up on your amenities, research your location, and hopefully, place a reservation. Your navigation bar should either be on the top or left hand side of the page. Don’t change its location from page to page.
3. Call to Action Button to “Check Availability” or “Book Now”
The primary call to action on your website should be a button located in-line with the main navigation on every single page of your website in exactly the same place. User studies show that the most effective places for this button are the top right hand corner of your website or the left hand side, if that’s where your website’s primary navigation is located. Use a good contrasting color to really make it pop.
Before visitors read a single word of text, they are going to look at the images you have displayed. That means the home page of your site should be image heavy. You’ve probably heard us say this before: you are selling your destination, not just your accommodations. Include high-quality images of both your location and your property. Your homepage should have “hero” images-the banner image positioned front & center on your page-as well as a small gallery built into it. Use inspirational and “aspirational” photography. In other words, your photography should inspire the visitor to stay with you. Be strategic about it. Select photos that immediately convey to the visitor the experience they will have if they stay with you. Don’t settle for one lousy photo of the front door of your property. Showcase the destination and the experience.
The home page can also be the place to include a video, but only if it is a really great one. If you have a good overview or commercial video, embed this on your home page as well. Remember: it shouldn’t just be a slideshow set to music. These types of videos offer very little engagement. If you chose to include a video, it should be closer to a commercial than a basic slideshow. An effective video would be 30 seconds long.
5. Welcome Statement/Overview Text
Provide a succinct welcome statement that highlights your property’s unique selling proposition (see below) and entices your visitors to explore further. Include a headline and/or subheadline combination that elaborates on your home page title tag. Include your property name, accommodation type (ie – bed & breakfast) and location along with a descriptive adjective or two (romantic, historic, etc). Don’t hesitate to include bullets as well. You could also include a contextual call-to-action button to view your rooms/accommodations. This statement doesn’t need to ramble on and explain every little thing about your property. Nor does it need to detail your hotel policies. 100-300 words is plenty. So is more. So is less. It all depends on your property, your page layout, and what works.
6. Formatting: Headlines and Bullets
Your homepage should be skimmable. It needs to provide potential guests with all the information they need without requiring too much careful reading or concentration. The best way to ensure this is by using headlines, subheadings, and bullet points. This keeps your site clear & easy to read and prevents users from feeling bogged down in too much text. In addition, long bullet lists are correlated with good rankings.
You can link to a trusted review source like TripAdvisor or Google on your home page. Showing that you have received positive reviews on one of these sites is very important. Research shows that 76% of customers are willing to pay more for a hotel or bed & breakfast that has received positive reviews. Visitors put a lot of trust in what past guests have to say about your property, so showcasing positive reviews is almost as important as the text you write yourself.
8. Industry/Badges/Social Proof
“Social proof” doesn’t mean social media widgets. Social proof means providing concrete evidence that your business is trustworthy and respected. Whether that’s a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, a badge showing your membership in the chamber or industry association, or even a BBB or AAA rating, including these “social proofs” goes a long way to show potential guests that you are a trustworthy and well-regarded property.
9. Contextual Calls to Action
Within the text you write, be sure to incorporate buttons such as “View Accommodations” or “View Wedding Packages,” etc. These will encourage visitors to click onto other pages of your site and explore further. People will stay on your website longer and maybe even click along further to make a direct booking.
It is important to keep in mind that visitors to your website are at different stages in their journey to making a booking. Some might not be ready to book a stay quite yet. Have a signup form for your email newsletter. This gives you an opportunity to stay in touch and drive a direct booking later on.
11. Contact Information
This may sound obvious, but always provide your contact information and make sure it is clear and easy to access. Even if you have a “Contact Us” page on your site, this vital information should be on your homepage as well. That means providing your phone number, email, and address. A map doesn’t hurt either. Your phone should be click-to-call and email should be clickable as well.
12. Social Icons
We also encourage you to link to your social media profiles, but a word to the wise: these logos should not be prominent parts of the page. Make them subtle so guests can find them if they look for them. Furthermore, only link to social sites if you are active on them. Don’t send someone to your twitter account if you haven’t posted in 2 years. However, if you regularly post to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, this can also a vital tool in encouraging potential guests to choose your property.
“BEHIND THE SCENES” AND TECHNICAL/SEO
1. Have a Unique Selling Proposition
Use your home page to showcase what makes your property and its offerings unique. Is your property a romantic escape? Then I better see lots of pictures of loving couples having a romantic time. Do your guests flock to your property as a gateway to the outdoors? Or to visit a certain local attraction? Display this your home page and reflect it in your overview text. If you aren’t doing something to set yourself apart then you become just another accommodation who has to compete on price.
2. Mobile-Friendly/Mobile-Responsive Design
The home page, and all pages of your website, should work great no matter the screen size. Google is using the mobile version of your home page to determine rankings. Make sure your home page passes Google’s mobile-friendliness test and that all your content is accessible on a mobile device. Click here to see if you pass.
3. Optimized Page Title & Meta Description
Every page on your website should have a UNIQUE page title and meta description.
- Page Title: Your home page title tag is key to your rankings. It must be under a certain length (currently 600 pixels or 60 characters-including spaces-maximum). We typically encourage a combination of your property’s name, accommodation type, location, and if there’s room, an adjective. The adjective can entice a click and set you apart from the other results on the page.
Example page title: Example Property Name, a Romantic Bed & Breakfast in Bend, OR
- Meta Description: Meta descriptions do not influence rankings at all. This is your opportunity to write an ad for your property that appears in the search results. Our basic advice is to describe your property, highlight your unique selling point, and include a call to action. There’s been quite a bit of experimentation by Google lately. Traditionally your meta description should be less than 160 characters (including spaces) but we’re seeing Google include descriptions as long as 300 characters. The optimal length will vary for your property.
Example meta description: Situated in a historic building and neighborhood, our deluxe B&B rooms and suites feature modern amenities and kitchenettes and are close to dining, shopping and nightlife. Book direct online!
3. Bot Accessible / XML Sitemap
Search engine crawlers should be able to easily crawl your entire page. Do not have multiple URLs for your home page (ie – www.yourwebsite.com and www.yourwebsite.com/index.html and m.yourwebsite.com). Also be sure to have an XML sitemap of all your website’s pages (typically located at www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml)
4. Great Booking Engine Experience
Your booking engine should work just as smoothly as your home page. Users will leave if it takes too many steps to book or get the desired information (like availability and rates for a certain date range). This is especially important on mobile devices. Your potential guests use their mobile devices during the research phase to learn more even if they end up booking via phone call or desktop later on.
It doesn’t stop with the home page – the rest of your website and online marketing needs to be optimized as well. Get our checklist for driving more direct bookings online.
More free bed & breakfast marketing resources available at https://odysys.com/learn