Ok, so we’re going to be a bit biased here as making accommodation websites is our business – but read on, because we’re going to give you some solid arguments as to why you should think twice before considering making your own website for your accommodation! (and this includes the “free” website builders that come with some booking systems or channel managers).
BTW, we don’t judge anyone who wants to make their own website, however, we have a large number of customers who came to us after having tried to create a website, and then for a myriad of issues, opted for the professional option! This article is not about DIY-bashing, but to illustrate the problems we have seen with DIY websites, and compare these with our own services.
Let’s first take a look at the Cost:
DIY WEBSITE: If you’re happy to not place any value on your own time (and it will take you many, many hours to make your website), then a DIY website can be considered very low cost. You are also in control of the amount you spend, and you can choose hosting or services that suits your budget.
PROFESSIONAL: Our websites which whilst aren’t hugely expensive, does mean spending out actual cash instead of paying with your own time. Take a look at our pricing here.
What about the end result? How does your website look?
DIY WEBSITE: Imagine the scenario… you see a lovely-looking template on certain sites like Wix, and think “I’d be happy with that for my website” and go for it, only to discover that these templates look great with the demo content, but when you try and add your own info and photos the end result is, how to put it delicately, not how you envisioned it! This is because demo templates are created to look amazing and often the images used have been specially altered, cropped and resized to fit perfectly in the set areas. The reality of swapping in your own images and text can drastically change the end result. It’s also really common to see incorrect menu items, where owners have tagged on extra pages, and made the menus/navigation more complicated or just plain “wrong” (to give you an idea, your contact page link should always be the last item of your menu bar.)
Oversized images is another common mistake; uploading huge images will make your website pages load very slowly and this will make a lot of site visitors leave your website as quickly as they arrived!
PROFESSIONAL: In the same way that you would probably feel happier going to a car mechanic to fix your car rather than fix your car yourself, many owners instantly feel happier having a professionally made website. With us, an owner can relax, safe in the knowledge that everything has been done correctly. As accommodation sites are our specialty, our owners know that they’re in very safe hands. Over the years, we have learned what makes a great accommodation website; from the navigation, to creating the right journey to lead your website visitor through your site, ensuring that they can learn as much about your accommodation as possible. We include “Call To Actions” throughout the site, from the header areas, main content areas and footer areas, which entice your site visitor to do something such as call you, email, or check availability.
We create layouts to suit your niches and main selling points, so instead of you trying to fit your information into a set design as one would with a DIY template, we ensure that all your best values are showcased perfectly to your visitors.
We use premium plugins and software to provide high end functionality and design, that would cost a single user a lot each year (to purchase and licence fees), which we include for our customers as part of our monthly service fee.
Mobile and Tablet Websites
DIY WEBSITE: Ensuring that the website looks and works well on a mobile device is hugely important, and we often see DIY websites that have incorrect mobile versions, with columns not filling the width (or over-filling) the width of a mobile view etc.
PROFESSIONAL: We are aware that over HALF of your site visitors will view your website on a smartphone or tablet, so we take great care in ensuring that it looks brilliant, loads well, and is easy to navigate. We also include an amazing MOBILE ACTION BAR – these are 3 prominent buttons that are fixed at the bottom of your website (on mobile-view only) – to allow your site visitor to easily CALL, EMAIL or BOOK (or check availability). Find out more about our Responsive Websites.
DIY WEBSITE: It’s really difficult to add the same level of extra functionality to a DIY website. Adding things like: Booking systems, review widgets, mailchimp newsletter sign up, creating posts can all be very difficult to implement on a DIY website. If you’re building it yourself, you also don’t have anyone to ask for help either!
PROFESSIONAL: We provide a huge amount of functionality; from our Easy Edit system which allows you to easily edit text and photos, to the integration of 3rd party booking systems, as well as other 3rd party systems such as Mailchimp integration, which will allow you to start collecting contacts for e-marketing purposes. We already mentioned our Mobile Action Bar, which makes it really easy for your mobile users to get in touch or book.
We also provide off-site functionality – one of these is providing a free-of-charge, online digital guestpack for our owners. This can be password protected if required (eg if you are including sensitive information such as Wifi password).
In addition, we have recently created a system that we liken to Instagram, but it’s just for your own website, called our Photo Blog. It’s photo-based, so no need to spend hours typing out a lengthy post, and the beauty of it is as follows: People love seeing other people’s photos – which is why Instagram is so popular. Displaying great photos as a photo blog on your site, along with a little caption provides interest for your site visitors, increases your site interaction as well as visitor retention.
In addition, each photo post can get auto-posted to your Facebook page which saves you from needing to add any social posts directly on your Facebook page.
The value of the photo blog is that it will improve your website SEO: each photo post essentially becomes a website page. Over the course of a year, if you add one post a week, you could easily have added at least 50 new website pages to your website. Google and other search engines love big sites as well as new content being frequently added, so the more you post, the better for your website’s SEO!
We can also embed a host of other widgets eg Reviews widgets. Most booking sites will provide a review submission function to allow guests to leave a review, and we can add a widget to the site to pull these in. Repuso is an extremely handy 3rd party service that allows you to combine all your channel’s reviews and showcase them beautifully; i.e. bring in reviews from Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor, VRBO, Airbnb – all the big sites that allow reviews are included. We simply embed the widget and your reviews are beautifully presented on your website! These reviews are verifed reviews so greatly increases trust.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is what lets Search Engines such as Google know what your site is about. You would be amazed how many sites we still see where little to no SEO has been done. There is quite a lot of SEO that should be done to a website, these include a good page title and description. To give you an example, if you have a self catering cottage that sleeps 2 in Lyme Regis, Dorset, then the page title (which is not visible on the public site, but found in the page structure) should be something like “Holiday cottage, Lyme Regis, Dorset – sleeps 2” – and even better if it includes any niches you have such as dogs welcome. Whereas the majority of the sites we see that are made by owners are just using the page title in use, i.e. “Home” ! As you can imagine, “Home” is not very useful for search engines!
DIY WEBSITE: Knowing how to add the meta data (Page titles, descriptions & H1, H2, H3 tags etc) can be a daunting task. If you’re making the website yourself using a theme and diy hosting, then chances are most owners won’t add any SEO.
PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE: A good web design agency will ensure that as much on-site SEO is carried out. We ensure that page titles, descriptions and Heading Tags (H1, H2 & H3) are in use on all pages. If it’s a new site we submit it to search engines (to get the site indexed) ensure that a valid Sitemap is in place, and lots more. The result is a site that can be found for organic searches within a minimum timeframe.
ONGOING COSTS: Hosting and Performance
To have a website you need to have hosting. Hosting is essentially a server (a large computer) that houses all your website’s files. A domain name is also required, which brings the user to the server destination.
There is so much to say about hosting. When you see the wonderful hosting promotions where hosting can be obtained for under £10 a month, it looks very enticing however hosting platforms differ hugely. Be very wary, often cheap deals are for the first year only, and then increase in price.
DIY WEBSITE: If building a website from scratch, you will have the choice of any hosting provider. But for single sites, you will be using what is called Shared Hosting. This is a server that will host hundreds of other client websites alongside yours. The downside of this is any disreputable sites hosted on the same server could blacklist the server address, and this could impact your own site, especially if you are using server email. Shared servers often have low limits on the resources, which often means sites will load slower than a dedicated server. Other issues include difficulty in restoring backups – eg IONOS offers this facility but in practice is very hard to implement.
PROFESSIONAL WEBSITES: Over the last decade we have tested nearly all the top hosting providers, and were never quite satisfied until we found our current provider. Our main criteria is security and performance. We use WP Engine, one of the world’s leading hosts, and we are extremely pleased with their service. We have our own Dedicated server, which allows us to have only our own websites on there. We provide daily backups, extremely powerful hosting – which allows our sites (which are very comprehensive, and therefore quite “heavy”) to perform beautifully. We would highly recommend them as a host. To have a dedicated server is hugely costly, and would only benefit web design agencies or large corporations.
Our monthly service fee includes not just this powerful hosting (that is not available to DIY single sites), but also includes domain name registration, SSL certificates (which encrypts your sites), incredible security as well as daily backups. These backups allow us to roll back a site to a previous version, should it be necessary.
And of course, our monthly service fee also includes our amazing support. We are here to help our owners do the best they can with their website and we do this in quite a unique way. We create custom videos for our customers that really help show our owners exactly how to do something, and if preferred, we can also carry out any work on an owner’s behalf, at our hourly rate. We get such positive feedback on this method of teaching. It’s so much easier to visibly see how to do something, instead of a written email, or even verbally over the phone.
Our monthly service fee is not expensive, and is comparable to the cost of DIY hosting, especially when you also include SSL and domain registration.
Getting Direct Bookings
For many owners, getting direct bookings is the reason they have a website. We have recently written an article on the art of getting direct bookings, which you can read here.
DIY WEBSITE: To increase the likelihood of your website getting direct bookings, you need to be confident that your DIY website delivers the right appearance, includes the means to view availability (and ideally, book online), provides trust that it is legitimate accommodation, and of course, most importantly, can get found on search engines. Recently we had an owner come to us who had been using a DIY website made by a friend (who made it on a Mac). They weren’t getting any direct bookings at all, and it was due to the website not being indexed, and had no SEO at all. It actually looked quite nice but was lacking any true functionality. It was essentially just a brochure, but a brochure that couldn’t be found unless you had the website address link already! By the way, if a site isn’t indexed on a search engine, this means that if you were to put in the website address in the search box (not the address bar), then it would come up with no results. A search engine doesn’t know a site exists, until it is indexed. This is particularly problematic to new owners who have no online presence.
PROFESSIONAL WEBSITES: We can’t speak for all agencies, but we fully understand the process of how to get direct bookings, and this article link gives you more in-depth information. When a customer comes to us who has an existing website, and wants to increase their direct bookings, we take a good look at all areas to see how we can improve things for them. For new owners, we give them good advice on not just the website but many other aspects and advise on the right order to do things. This will ensure that they can get direct bookings right from the off!
There are likely many more aspects that can be discussed, but we hope we covered the main ones.
We feel that one of the key problems that many DIY owners will experience is that they are totally alone with their website. If something goes wrong, they have to hope that their hosting company can assist them. Hosting companies can only really help with server related issues, eg if a plugin updates and breaks your site, but if you accidentally delete something, or there is an issue with your theme, they may not be able to help you.
We would only recommend an owner creates their own site if they have some experience with hosting, DNS, website design and optimisation.
It’s not going to be a surprise to learn we don’t recommend DIY websites…after all, if you want your website to get you bookings, why risk potentially losing out with a DIY website that may lack search engine optimisation, indexing, ease of use, functionality and more.
Our Standard website setup cost is less than a week’s stay yet can earn you that sum many times over in its first year, and do so for many years to come. In fact, our websites are not just future proof, but we retain our customer base by offering our customers a brand new website at any time, at HALF the cost of a new website. The way we see it, it’s easier to keep a customer than to find new ones, so our main focus is to keep our own customers as happy as possible!
We hope you enjoyed this rather long article, if you have any thoughts on it and want to drop us a message please do!