Bed and Breakfast Blogs as a method for promoting your B&B
Recently a lot of Bed and Breakfast marketing companies have been selling innkeepers on the idea of creating a "Blog" as a way to promote their inns. The marketing company makes a bit of money by setting up the blog for the innkeeper, and then the innkeeper is supposed to use the blog to attract more visitors. The problem is that once the blog is installed, many marketing companies leave the innkeepers with no solid advice on what makes good blog content, and this is where many innkeepers end up doing more harm than good. The remainder of this article offers tips for effective B&B blogging, including do's and don'ts.
In its basic form, a blog is nothing more than a collection of articles, thoughts, journal entries or tidbits of information posted to a web page or a collection of web pages. It is really the content of the blog that makes a blog valuable. Content is what separates a Financial Analyst's blog from Skippy's blog, the teenager down the street. However, what makes a blog different from other websites is that it can be written by someone who knows little to nothing about making web pages. The blog software takes care of putting the writing on a page and allowing the author to classify what kind of information it is. Blog software turns anyone who can write some words using a keyboard into a publisher and author. Ahhh... the innkeeper with a head full of all kinds of great travel information as publisher and author, that's the great idea and great power of a blog.
Bed and Breakfast Blogging - Innkeeper as local guide
B&B guests have long known that the local area knowledge that an innkeeper possesses is one of the things that make the innkeeper so valuable to a B&B stay. Consider how many times you have sent guests to some cute little restaurant, waterfall, winery, antique store or other valuable experience that they never would have found if not for your suggestion. Imagine each of those and many more tidbits of information in your head, now provided to potential and incoming guests by way of your blog. If it is in your area, make a blog posting (an article or story) about it. It doesn't take long, one posting a week or more and pretty soon you have a huge collection of postings about your area, all attracting search engines and people leading them to you and your B&B.
B&B Blogging - Positive Effects
- Search engines favor fresh content and a blog is an easy way to continually provide fresh content.
- Search engines favor one topic per page, and this is how blog content is often arranged.
- Human visitors favor information they can trust.
- Potential guests favor B&Bs run by knowledgeable innkeepers.
- Guests like information about the area they are visiting or contemplating visiting.
- Promoting your area not only brings more guests to your door, it brings more guests to your area.
- Promoting your area businesses means they are more likely to promote you. (Tit-for-tat, karma, pay it forward...)
- In many cases, links from blogs are seen as a link from an external site which carries more weight with search engines than a link from within your site.
- People read blogs, but skim websites. It is true that many people don't read websites, they sort of skim them. This is especially true of sites that look like advertisements. We glance at them the same way we glance at advertisements in a magazine. Articles, on the other hand, are read, because there is value in the words. Blog postings that read like articles are more often read.
B&B Blogging - Do's and Don'ts
Here are a list of Do's and Don'ts when it comes to Bed and Breakfast Blogging. In case you want to see an example of effective vs ineffective B&B blogging, visit both the and the The Lost Inn makes many common mistakes
|Do write about good things to do, see, taste, and explore in your area.
||Don't write negative posts about something people should avoid. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't put it in writing.
|Do start with restaurant recommendations (one restaurant per post). They are a great topic to start with because every guest who stays with you needs to eat.
||Don't start with small items that fewer people would be interested in. You can always write those later when you've done some of the more popular topics.
|Do commit to something sustainable, like 1 or 2 posts a week.
||Don't get so excited that you make several posts a day, but soon burn out.
|Do categorize your entries so if you are writing articles about antiquing, dining, and wineries a person can easily find all articles on a given topic.
||Don't put all your posts on one page that scrolls down forever.
|Do include a link back to your main website with every post - keep it subtle.
||Don't put links to your own B&B within the article itself.
|Do use the "soft sell" approach by letting people know you have a B&B or are an innkeeper.
||Don't cram it down readers' throats by mentioning it in every post.
|Do use positive descriptive language when it is warranted.
||Don't exaggerate the language on every post to be so positive that it is not believable or reliable. Providing good usable information does not equate to being syrupy.
|Do write about anything remotely related to travel in your area.
||Don't go crazy writing about the events in your life that only close family or friends would be interested in.
|Do create a category that relates to your side business if your side business could potentially bring you guests. (If you are an innkeeper that also restores Harley Davidsons, trains dogs, makes jam, builds fine furniture, restores antiques, runs a gift shop...) These ties can be important for boosting both your B&B and your other business.
||Don't create a side business category if your side job is more likely to scare guests away (Mortician, Septic Pumping, Cattle Castration...).
|Do put some care into spelling and grammar.
||Don't go crazy editing your work. Blogs are supposed to be a bit free flowing and people will overlook minor stuff.
|Do stay on topic within a given post.
||Don't ramble all over the place.
|Do link to the restaurant, museum, antique store, etc. that you are reviewing in your post if they have a website.
||Don't put the link first thing on the page, let them read your article first by provide the link near the end of it.
|Do create categories around your interests if they are at all compatible with B&B's (baking, crafting, woodworking, wine tasting...) Blogs can be a great method of posting new recipes or other tips.
||Don't create categories around interests that most potential guests would find creepy (road-kill taxidermy, water torture...)
|Do use meaningful titles for each posting. Example: "Shan-grilla, a nice relaxed grill"
||Don't get so clever that the title becomes meaningless. Example: "Chow Down"
|Do put a bit of your own personality into your posts.
||Don't turn your blog into your own personal whine fest. Remind yourself, it is not about YOU. That's what personal blogs are for. This is a B&B blog to promote your area by providing a service to potential guests.
|Do write about things that have some longevity to them (restaurants, museums, special shops, annual events and festivals...).
||Don't write about some one-time event (going out of business sale, 50th anniversary celebration...).
|Do keep posts about annual events generic in terms of dates, otherwise the post becomes out of date each year and needs to be updated. Do link to the event website to provide the updated dates.
||Don't let posts that have become outdated remain on your blog (restaurant reviews for restaurants that have closed, descriptions of events that don't happen anymore...).
|Do call it something else related to what it is. (Visitors Guide, Innkeeper Recommendations, Regional Tour, ...)
||Don't call it a BLOG, the term has too many negative connotations to some and is meaningless to others.
|Do think about adding / refining categories as your blog grows. When you have only 3 restaurants listed, the broad category of "dining" is sufficient. When you have reviewed 30+ restaurants, then you may want to make sub-categories to group them by style or price.
|Do include photos of the place you are reviewing in your article whenever possible. They do not have to be as high quality as the photos you should be using on your main site. You can snap them yourself with a digital camera.
|Do be very cautious about writing about specific guests. There are privacy issues and you don't want to give the impression you are a gossip who will reveal info about guests as soon as they leave. You can write about what "Guests have enjoyed" (keeping it generic), but don't write about what "Peggy and Walt Smith from Muncie Indiana did." Peggy and Walt may have given you permission to write that, but other potential guests may not know that.
Setting up a Blog
When it comes to blogging set-ups, there are a lot of choices, but they generally fall into two categories.
- Hosted - Meaning it is set up on someone else's web server and they take care of the software for you. Hosted solutions are the easiest to get started with, because somebody else takes care of all the set-up. Some are free while others have monthly fees. Free is nice, but you don't have control over the advertising that shows up on the pages. The free sites also have fewer options with less control (this will likely change) Examples: blogger.com, typepad.com, wordpress.com
- Self-Hosted - Meaning it is on your web server so you own it and don't have to show any advertising. Blogging has become so popular now that many hosting companies will include a blog as a free item they will install for you. Others may charge a small setup fee. Customization of the look and feel, category creation and other options they leave for you to work out. The software is generally free as it is created with an open-source license. Examples: Drupal, WordPress.org
Video addresses hosted vs self-hosted blogs.
I have no affiliation with WebProNews.
Regardless of whether you choose a hosted, or self-hosted blog, all the writing and creation of pages is done within a web browser, so it requires no extra software on your computer. As a result you can write your blog pages from any computer in the world as long as it has internet access.
Configuring a blog for being B&B specific can take a bit of work. It doesn't have to look exactly the same as your website, but it should compliment it by using similar colors or images. There are some standard features of blogs you may want to disable. For instance, blogs have the ability to let other people comment on your post. This could be nice if guests comment about how they liked a particular recommendation, but those end up being overrun by posts from people (and robots) that drop links to pharmaceutical, gambling and other websites that you would not want to be associated with. Deleting all this spam can be a full-time job all by itself. So a B&B blog should probably have the ability for anyone to leave comments disabled. A hosted blog or one installed by your hosting company may be "free," but it should be considered that it will take you, or your webmaster, time to get the blog set up in a way that suits your purposes. Remember that free rarely ends up meaning free. The costs associated with customizing the blog to suit the needs of a B&B can be well worth it.
As a web designer focused on marketing Bed and Breakfasts I see a blog as a very good investment, but only if you are willing to provide the real value by authoring the content. Paying someone a few hundred dollars to install and configure a blog that you use to create 30 posts or more a year is money that is extremely well spent. If set up well it would pay for itself very rapidly in increased traffic to your website and help convert website visitors to guests. Spending several days setting up a "free" blog that you then post 2 posts to before getting fed up with it, is a huge waste of time and effort and will result in no gain to your business.
Here are some sample blogs along with some info about what product or hosting is being used. Some of these are GOOD examples of B&B Blogs and some are BAD examples of what are supposed to be B&B blogs, but are ramblings of innkeepers with no focus on the audience. You should be able to spot which is which.
Blogging software (runs on a web server not your home computer) is changing rapidly and has many options. Here is a good site to help you compare the options.
I hope this info helps you to consider the power of a B&B travel blog to support your Bed and Breakfast marketing efforts. -Steve
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