How to choose Bed and Breakfast Directories to be listed in.
If money were no concern, you could simply keep paying to be listed in more and more directories until you had 100% occupancy. Unfortunately for innkeepers, advertising money is not in abundance. Decisions have to be made and money has to be spent wisely and effectively. So how do you decide on what directories to be listed in.
There are 5 rules of thumb for deciding whether to pay for a listing in a bed and breakfast directory.
- Does it / will it send you a significant amount of potential guests?
- Does the B&B directory show up well in search engines?
- Is the bed and breakfast directory designed for innkeepers or travelers?
- Does the directory link to your B&B's website?
- Does the directory make unreasonable demands?
Does it / will it send you a significant amount of potential guests?
If you are already listed in the directory, look at your web site tracking statistics. How many visitors did it send to your website in the past year or past month? Make sure you know the timeframe for the statistics. If the directory sent you 100 visitors in a month, that's not bad. If it sent you 100 visitors in a year, that's awful. One nice way to compare directories, if you belong to more than one, is to look at the cost per click. If the directory costs $200 per year and they only sent you 100 visitors a year then your cost per click is ($200 / 100 clicks) = $2 per click. Compared to a directory that costs $400 per year but sends you 1000 visitors a year, the cost per click is ($400 / 1000 clicks) = $0.40 per click.
CAUTION: Many directories when they are starting up, offer low sign-up fees (something less than $75). These seem attractive, but since they are new they often don't show up well in search engines. This means they don't have much traffic to send you. In some cases they may only send you 20 visitors a year so their cost per click is often considerably higher than the more expensive but better established directories.
So, if you are already in a directory and you have a webtracker, the decision is fairly easy. Keep the ones that send you a lot of traffic and the ones with lower cost per click. What if you aren't in the directory or don't have a tracker? (Let me take a moment here to strongly suggest you get a tracker.) Go look at the tracker from a b&b that is in the directory. The best way to do this is to go into the directory and navigate to the page that your listing would appear on (state, region, or town), then start clicking to jump to some of the other B&B's that are listed there. (If there aren't many listed there, it is sometimes a good indication that the directory is too new to be of much help to you.) When you go to the other B&B websites, keep your eye out for a tracker graphic. It's usually a little square image like this that sits at the bottom of the page. This particular tracker is free, so a lot of people use it. It is very likely that one of the websites in the directory for your area is using one. So, go to their site and look to see if this graphic is on their home page. If you see it, click on the graphic. It will take you to their tracker information (that's the drawback to a free tracker, anyone can see it). Make note of two things, How long has the tracker been counting? Usually this has the heading of "counting since". If it has been counting for three days, that may not be of much help. If it has been counting for a year or more, that will help. Now look for a listing called "referrer tracking" This will show you how many visitors came from which page. Or in other words, how many people did the directory send them? Look through the totals and see how many visitors were sent by the directory you are evaluating. If the tracker has been running for more than a year, and the directory you are evaluating only sent 20 visitors, that's not so good. I suggest that you look at the trackers from a few B&Bs listed, to get a better idea of the amount of traffic a directory sent. If you look at just one tracker, there is a chance that the B&B just joined the directory a week ago, even though the tracker has been counting for 3 years. If this were the case, the number would be understandably low.
In general, you don't want to spend money to be listed in a directory that doesn't send you traffic. If they are a free directory, then being listed can't hurt, but if they charge you to be listed and don't deliver visitors, that's bad. Remember, $20 for no traffic is a lot more expensive than $400 for a lot of traffic.
Does the bed and breakfast directory show up well in search engines?
This question is partially addressed by the first one, but they are somewhat related and it is important enough to be looked at separately. Most navigation on the internet starts with the search engines. If the bed and breakfast directory you are evaluating doesn't show up well in search engines (and by "well" I mean on the first page for common searches) it likely is not going to deliver the kind of traffic you need. You need to do a little homework here. Go to Google, Yahoo and MSN and do searches for bed and breakfasts in your area. Examples: Albany bed and breakfast, B&B Albany, accommodations Albany NY... The directories that show up on the first page of the results are the ones you want to consider joining. If you don't see them, they probably aren't worth considering.
CAUTION: Beware of directories that claim they show up number one in search engines, make sure you verify that they show up for your area. It may be that they show up on the first page for "hawaii bed and breakfast" but that doesn't help you at all if your B&B is in Colorado.
Is the B&B directory designed for innkeepers or travelers?
Recently a lot of less than honorable people have started up directories to make some fast money. They create a simple directory with the hope of charging innkeepers to be listed. They get so focused on getting the money from innkeepers, that they forget what the innkeepers want. The innkeepers want to attract guests. The problem is that many of these poorly thought out directories focus on attracting innkeepers, not on attracting guests for innkeepers. Look at the home page of the directory. If it is more concerned about trying to convince innkeepers to pay for a listing, they really don't know what marketing is. The home page for a good directory ought to be 99% dedicated to providing a service to travelers and guests. At most there should be one subtle link about being listed or advertising with them. If they aren't focused on attracting guests, they just aren't serious about promoting your B&B.
Another indication of a directory's seriousness about providing a service to travelers is the number of B&B's they have listed. If they are a directory for the entire United States and they only have a total of 100 B&B's listed, that is really sad. No serious traveler would find the site helpful, so they won't continue to use it. If it lists 50 states and any of them have no inns or B&Bs listed, look elsewhere. If it lists individual cities or towns and many are empty, it's a sign of not being very helpful to travelers.
Does the directory link to your B&B's website?
A lot of directories offer a less expensive listing that provides no link to your website. If you don't have a website, this might be worth considering. However, if you have a website, you want to provide people who are already on the internet looking though the directory the shortest path to your website. Rarely is someone who is already on the internet going to call just on the basis of your phone number being listed, especially if the other listings all have links to websites where they can see what the place looks like. The only time they call the ones who are listed with no website is when they are desperate, because the places with website links are already full. Appealing to the desperate traveler with no options left is not really a marketing plan.
Does the directory make unreasonable demands?
Asking for money may be reasonable if the directory can provide guests. However there are a few things that I think are unreasonable.
- Link back to us from your home page - Never link back to a directory from your home page. In general it is bad marketing advice to put any outgoing link on your home page. Don't send visitors away from your site before they have gone in and looked around. It is okay to link back to them if you want to be associated with the directory, just do it from some other page farther inside your B&B's website. Don't do it from your home page. The reason they want a link from your home page is that in terms of the major the search engines, a link from your home page carries more value (pagerank) than a link from a page farther inside your website. In fact, if you link to them from your home page, you are giving them some value that now can't be passed on to your other pages. Many of the directories that ask for a link from your home page, will accept one from a different page if you ask them. They realize that a link from an interior page is better than no link. And to truly put this in perspective, they aren't giving you a link from their home page, and you're paying them.
- Advertisements for other B&B's on your listing - I've noticed this on several directories, even on some of the major ones (and they don't ask you first, they just do it). If part of the fee you pay to be in the directory actually gives you a page for your inn, look at the kind of page you would get (look at yours or someone else's) Many directories use advertisements through Google or Yahoo that appear on the page that you have paid for. If they are not set up correctly, it is possible that advertisements for other B&B's in your area will appear on the page you paid for. This means that the directory is making money from your membership fee, AND they are making money from advertising your competition. It's a win-win for them, and a loss for you. If they do this, it is an indication that they are more dedicated to making money than they are to promoting their members. If it is already happening, it is worth asking them to either replace the ads with something that is related but not direct competition (like restaurants or activities from your area) or remove the ad completely.
Choose wisely. A good directory can be well worth the cost of the listing.
Here are some national directories that have a proven track record
Other national directories with potential to compete
There are two sources right now for reviews of directories
- www.innkeeping.org has a nice review scheme and allows other innkeepers to comment on the reviews of each Bed and Breakfast Directory.
- www.innstar.com has been around for a while and has some good information. The sample is rather narrow as the innkeeper who is doing the reviews only has one room.
Also be sure to look into State and local directories for your region. Many times these can be very effective and can out perform national directories.
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