An Extensive Guide to Perfecting Your Self Catering Website and Listings
This guide offers actionable steps for B&B’s, Guest-houses and Self-Catering owners to improve their online presence and presentation.
Following these steps will increase your revenue.
We recommend reading through the full page and included links, then using the quick skip option for reference later.
Get ready to stand out from the crowd.
Improving Online Visibility With A Self-Catering Website
Only a small percentage of people who see your property will book. You need to be seen by as many people as possible to maximise your occupancy rate and reach your full potential. You need to be visible wherever people are looking for accommodation.
If you only use Airbnb, you are missing out on a growing audience of potential customers searching online looking to book directly with businesses like yours. These customers search for accommodation on marketing platforms like VisitScotland, VisitEngland and VisitTheUSA.
Creating a website for your business allows you to be present where these customers are undertaking their travel research. Making sure your business is listed on local travel sites and information forums is the perfect way to connect with more customers.
Some benefits of your own Self-Catering website –
– You can more than double you potential customer reach with a website and listings on free local travel marketing platforms.
– Customers are now looking to book directly to avoid booking and commission fees. They want to book directly on your website.
– You’ll tap into a different type of customer many of whom are looking for longer stays, rather than the average 2/3 night booking.
– You can take more control of your business and terms and conditions with your own direct website bookings.
– Much less worrying about unfair reviews on travel platforms like Airbnb!
Why You Need a Website to Compliment Your Airbnb
Online Travel Agent’s (OTA’s) Downsides
Exclusively, using OTA’s like Airbnb and Booking.com means you have to give up a certain level of control. You have to accept their terms and conditions, and you will not have the same level of flexibility as someone who can accept bookings directly.
Another potential issue here is cash flow. When a guest books – even a year in advance – you won’t receive any money until those guests check-in. With your own website however, cash will arrive at the time of booking.
This cash flow benefit of direct bookings is a fantastic incentive to optimise or kick start your own website with booking capability. The sooner you do this the better.
Below you will find information on adjusting your website to maximise your potential.
Keys to Self Catering Website Success
Use Your Great Reviews to Help Write Great Descriptions
Everyone knows great reviews help build trust and confidence with your future guests. However, great reviews provide an amazing opportunity for you to understand your guest’s profile (Age, Nationality, Interests) and uncover the things they love about your property that you should be shouting about.
Understanding who your guests are and what they love allows you to write descriptions and take photographs that showcase what your previous customers have already told you they love. This will attract similar happy customers looking for these same things.
Here are some snippets of 5-star reviews for a property in the Isle of Skye.
- ‘..a lovely location just a short walk from the village’
- ‘…So many nice day trips and eating places close by.’
- ‘…Well worth a visit: fabulously equipped, spotlessly clean, comfy beds and within a few minutes walk of great restaurants and a short drive to some must-see sights’
- ‘Modern, spacious. Excellent location and view.’
- ‘…light, sparkling clean and super comfortable’.
- ‘…everything you would ever need, from games, books & maps of the area, toiletries & towels well equipped with coffee machine’
You don’t need to spend hours writing a description, just stitch all the highlights from your reviews together as one paragraph.
Using the language/terminology your guests use is an easy way to make sure you are communicating in a way that will appeal to future guests. You will end up using the tone of voice of someone enthusiastically describing your property – and this is a perfect way to make a connection online.
Great photographs sell.
Bluntly, if your pictures are now taken correctly, are poorly lit, seem unclear or dated – you will really struggle. It gives a bad impression as its a relatively simple fix and a bare minimum guest expectation.
Trying to sell accommodation without great pictures is an uphill battle. The sector has now become more competitive with reduced demand due to COVID and the cost of living crisis. Guests can afford to be pickier, so will always gravitate to the most visually appealing properties.
There is an art to taking a great photograph of your property.
Some tips for a great photograph –
- A good digital or phone camera nowadays is a must
- Make sure you take your pictures in daylight, or when the natural light in your property is at its best.
- Make sure you have all the lights and sidelights on when taking photos, even in the daytime.
- Focus pictures on the aspects of your property your guest’s have commented on in their reviews.
- Look at other B&B’s that you think look fantastic, copy their images and style for your own property.
- Once you have taken the photograph, increase the brightness of the photo in the editing settings on your phone/camera. Bright pictures will catch the eye.
All listings need one image to be used as the listing ‘Title’ image that will be seen as potential guests are scrolling through accommodations. Select this image carefully, it should be bright, eye-catching and focus on any aspect of your property that makes it unique. A dull/boring title image is not going to stop anyone from scrolling by.
Having a photographer take pictures is expensive. However, excellent photo’s of your property is one of the few expenses with a guaranteed payoff and is also a once in a blue moon expense.
Descriptive Listing Titles
For listing titles, again look to your reviews for the standout aspects of your B&B. Pick one or two stand out aspects and include these in you property title.
Heres an example, using earlier reviews seen above.
‘Modern, Sparkling Clean, Perfectly Located Rooms Near Great Restaurants In Skye’
Whilst not being particularly poetic, it will immediately grab a potential guests attention. Giving as much punchy information as possible in your title will attract guests looking for these aspects in their stay.
Guests already know what they are looking for, doing what you can to showcase YOU are what they are looking for using your title goes a long way.
Giving the location also gives completely new guests unfamiliar with the area easy information on where you are without having to dig this information out.
List Every Single Amenity – No Matter How Small
From hairdryers to travel cots and high chairs, list every single amenity you offer. Although it may seem small, many guests have specific requirements for what they will need that can become deal breakers.
Not listing that you have an amenity that a guest might be looking for will mean you can lose out on that sale.
Nowadays, guests can search for ‘B&B’s/Self Catering with travel cot’ – if you have a travel cot, but don’t have a travel cot listed for your property, you won’t even appear in these search results. It takes some time, but list EVERYTHING.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) For Self Catering Businesses
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a term thrown around often when discussing websites. Sadly, it has been made overcomplicated and often terribly explained.
It’s simple. SEO is the process of making changes and setting up your website, so that it is more understandable to search engines. Search Engines are constantly reading your website to pick up changes and understand what your page is about. When a search engine understands the information on your page – your page can be displayed higher up in results and you will be seen as relevant to that person Google search.
SEO is a continual development of your website to ensure you are using the right headings and keywords that are most relevant to what your business offers. This means search engines will know exactly what your business does and display your page to the right people in search results.
When a potential customer makes a search that fits your business, Google will know to show your website in the results to that customer. Google only cares about showing the most relevant results to their users. You need to use your website to describe your business in a way that makes you as relevant as possible to customers searching for what your business offers.
Here are 2 examples of a description you might see on a website.
- Our rooms are in the most perfect location on the island, nearby all the main sites.
- Our Isle of Skye B&B is close to Portree, the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing.
In the first example, the wording is very vague and could describe anywhere. It’s not specific or relevant to Skye – so this description will not help when customers are searching. Although it may seem obvious to you that you are talking about your location, search engines don’t think this way. You need to write your descriptions in such a way that it’s obvious what you offer, even out of context.
The second description is far better. It explicitly states what the business is, where it is and states places nearby that may interest visitors.
This second description will mean this website will show up in multiple searches for
- Isle of Skye B&B
- Skye B&B accommodation
- Accommodation close to Portree
- Accommodation close to Storr
- Accommodation close to the Quiraing
It can feel a little robotic writing so literally. The best thing you can do is thread these relevant keywords into your website in a natural way. However, if writing is not your strong suit, it’s much better to be literal than vague.
SEO Timescales and Webpage Authority
Unfortunately, even when your headings and descriptions perfectly describe your business, it takes time for Google and Search Engines to read through and trust your website.
As your site becomes more established and visited by more users, Google begins to trust your site.
As Google’s trust for your website grows, so will your ranking in the Search Results and you will begin the slow journey to the front page.
The way Google and other Engines display their results in their rankings is based on a blend of the most trusted and most relevant websites.
The rest of this article describes what you can do today to start this process of building relevance and trust.
Improving these aspects on your website will in turn improve your SEO and then your ranking.
Improving Your Self Catering Website
If you are not website ‘savvy’ the best thing to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org – David can look at your website and help you identify areas on your site that can be improved and offer support in making these changes.
Having your own website opens up opportunities to list your property on alternative marketing websites, blogs and media that is not reliant on Online Travel Agents. This is the only way to get direct bookings for your property and take cash when bookings are made.
There are a few things to think about when optimising your website for the widest possible reach and to improve your Search Engine Optimisation to increase your Google ranking. You may be able to make all or some of these changes on your own.
- Website Speed
- Website Copy, META descriptions, Webpage Headings
- Register your business with Google & Bing
- Use a consistent business name across all Social Media platforms and websites.
Understanding your website speed is a fantastic first step to making improvements to your website.
A slow website will cause your visitors to leave if the page does not load quickly enough for them. Search engines can spot this. If customers visit your site for only a few seconds then immediately leave because it’s too slow, this can be damaging to your Search engine ranking.
There are a few ways to check your website speed but the best option is to use a website called GTMetrix.com. This will give you a score from A to F on performance and give you a page speed loading time. You can watch a short tutorial here for more information on how to use GT Metrix – https://bit.ly/3n0cnyg
From this test, you’ll see quite a few ‘technical’ jargon phrases that you may not understand – ignore these for now and take a look at the Speed and Overall Grading Score. This will give you an idea of how you are performing and give some insight into how extensive the changes required will be.
In reality, any site loading in under 3 seconds is most likely fine. You will want your site as fast as possible, but 3 seconds is a good reference. Anything more than 3 seconds likely requires further investigation.
The two main culprits for slow website speeds are –
- 1. Large Images
- 2. Too many Fonts and Icons
For images, it’s best to try and keep these below 200kb in data/memory size. An image taken straight from your phone or camera and uploaded directly to your website will be too large in data size. That’s because the image quality is just so good.
Larger great quality images unfortunately take a long time to load. It’s best to ‘compress'(reduce the data size) of images before uploading them to your website.
For more information on compressing images take a look at this information here – https://kinsta.com/blog/optimize-images-for-web/
Too Many Fonts and Icons
It’s best to stick to one font across your entire website and simply amend the font size for headings etc.
The more fonts you use the slower your webpage will load. Take a look at your page and determine how many fonts you are using. It may look great, but it doesn’t help your webpage perform well.
If you are using too many icons this can also slow down your website. Keep icons to those that are strictly necessary. Icons include things like Facebook and Instagram Logo’s, and other things like icons for email or phoning.
Actions To Improve Your Website Speed
- Check your webpage speed on GTMetrix. If the page is slower than 3 seconds check image data/memory size and the number of fonts on the web page.
- Check to make sure the images on your website are smaller than 200kb in memory size. Multiple large images will really slow down performance.
- Check to make sure you are not using too many different fonts styles. Amend fonts to be consistent wherever possible.
- Unfortunately, there are multiple reasons a website might be slow, but these are a good first check. If your site is still slow – it’s worth contacting David – email@example.com
Self Catering Website Copy and META (Google) Descriptions
First things first – a META description is the description you see on Google underneath the website link in the search rankings. You can amend this on the settings of your website. The process for amending this is different depending on the platform you built your website on (WordPress, Wix, Squarespace etc).
The best way to discover how to do this is on youtube. Search the following but only for your own platform
‘wordpress/wix/squarespace edit meta description’
This should be a very simple process following along with the instructions and shouldn’t take more than 1 hour for all website oages.
This META description is incredibly important, as this is the first place Google looks to understand what your webpage is about. As discussed in the SEO section of this article, your description must be highly relevant to your business.
Google search your property and take a look at the short description Google is displaying below your link, this is your META description. From here you can decide if you feel it is relevant and specific enough to best describe your property.
This description should include keywords such as your location and your service or at least some variation of this.
Some other examples could include –
Isle of Skye accommodation Portree/Broadford/Kyle etc
Isle of Skye accommodation
Isle of Skye accommodation cheap
Luxury accommodation Isle of Skye
Isle of Skye B&B
All the writing, paragraphs & descriptions on your site must also include keywords like above. Especially in the first paragraph on the homepage. You should consistently reference the you business location, services, places and activities nearby.
The more you fill your website with relevant related narrative that fits your business the better.
Webpage and Paragraph Headings
The headings used for paragraphs and sections on your website are known as H Tags or Heading Tags. Much like META descriptions discussed above, the headings you use across your website should be descriptive of your property.
Depending on the platform your website is built on, the process for setting up H Tags can differ.
As above youtube is the best place to find information on how to set up H Tags on your website for you specific platform.
Search youtube for;
‘wordpress/wix/squarespace H tag set up’
These videos will take you on a walkthrough of how to set these up.
The headings you use on your site, again – should use keywords relevant to your property and the Isle of Skye. Here are some example H Tags or paragraph headings you could use throughout your website –
- Perfect Isle of Skye B&B
- Cozy B&B Accommodation In the Isle of Skye
- 5 Star Isle of Skye Accommodation
This may seem a little generic – but this is the best way to ensure google understand your page and delivers your page to its users.
To check the H Tags that are currently being used on your website – copy https://www.seoptimer.com/h1-checker/
This will give you all the headings currently being used on your site that Google is using to understand your page. If these are random or don’t accurately describe your property you should update these.
You may see you have multiple headings listed as H1 to H6. H1 & H2 are the most important. You should try to only have one H1 tag and the rest of your headings should be assigned as H2 – H6 in order of importance.
Self Catering Website Copy Actions
- Search for your Property on Google and read the description of your property underneath the link in the google search results. Does this accurately and specifically describe your business using relevant keywords? If not, update this description.
- Does your website copy (on-page website wording) consistently make reference to relevant accommodation, activity and place keywords? If not, make your on-page descriptions more relevant to your businesses and Skye.
- Use seoptimer.com to check what webpage headings your website is using. Are these relevant? Make sure they are.
- Check the Meta Descriptions and H Tags of your competitors – borrow from them.
Self-Catering Website Backlinks
A backlink is a link created when one website links to another. Backlinks are also called “inbound links” or “incoming links.” Backlinks are important to SEO.
The best way to build trust from Google is to get other websites to list your business and place a link on their page to yours.
For example, make sure you get your property listed with VisitScotland. This will create a link from VisitScotland to you. Google sees that as being highly trustworthy because VisitScotland is an established authority that wouldn’t link to a scam website. Better yet, a listing on Visit Scotland’s website is free.
The more links like this you can get from REPUTABLE sources the better your website will perform in Google Rankings.
You want to have a link to your webpage from as many relevant places as possible.
Due to the value of having your website listed on a reputable website – many listings pages charge per year to have your property listed. This is basically a marketing cost, so should be considered.
Register Your business with Google & Bing
Registering your business on Google and Bing is essential.
Again on Youtube, there are helpful walkthroughs for how to do this.
You can register your business on Google using this link – https://www.google.com/business/
The process can take several weeks as a code will be sent to your address to prove you own the property.
You can do the same with Bing here – https://www.bingplaces.com/
Bing is used quite extensively in various places around the world so worth including.
Use a Consistent Business Name Across All Platforms and Websites
As the heading suggests, for consistency make sure your business is exactly the same across all platforms, websites and listings. Use the exact same spelling and address everywhere.
Different spelling, names or wordings on different platforms will be seen as a separate business.
So, if your business is called ‘The Quiraing B&B’ – this should be the name used everywhere. Changes on separate platforms to Quiraing B&B or Quiraing Accommodation will throw off Search Engines and make your business more difficult to find.
The Sum Up!
Following all the steps above will massively improve your businesses reach and give you the best possible chance to maximise the number of stays in your property.
If you need any further help, a website audit or more specific tips for your business please contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org