We are building a Bed and Breakfast, when should we build our Bed and Breakfast Web Site?
This is a great question. Typically it only takes a good site a week or two to actually get "indexed" or read by the major search engines. The problem is, it takes a while for these pages of the site to mature enough to actually start showing up in the more common (more competitive) searches. Current estimates are that a site won't start to mature until it has been around at least 6 months. I would say, plan to have it built at least 6 months ahead of when you plan to open, but a year ahead would be even better. The earlier the better.
How does a web site mature?
There are many reasons that web sites seem to mature.
- They get more incoming links from other sites (called backlinks) which gives the site more value. The basic model is that every link to your site is a vote for your site. The more votes, the better you show up for any given search.
- There are indications that the major search engines (particularly Google) have a "sandbox" that prevents new sites from ranking well for competitive terms. There is still a lot of speculation on how the sandbox actually works (whether it works on age of the site, age of the backlinks, or age of the domain registration) but indications are strong that it exists in some form. Current theory suggests that the sandbox lasts for 6 months.
- The value that any page earns (Google calls it pagerank) is passed from one page to another by links. It currently takes search engines at least 6 months to (several pagerank updates) to fully evaluate what value a page should have. These values are in a constant state of change, but they seem to at least become stable after 6 months.
What considerations are there about starting a site before we open?
There are only a few considerations and they mainly come down to customer service.
- Recognize that your site will have to be changed right before you open.
Examples of changes you will need later:
- You will need to add room photos that may not have existed before.
- You need to adjust descriptions that may have missed the mark (example: you may have said room number 1 has a Jacuzzi tub but upon construction you decided to go with a standard tub)
- You will want to add directions on how to get to your B&B that you may have wanted to keep secret during construction.
- You may want to add your reservation system and contact info.
- Be sure to clearly indicate that you are not open for business yet and indicate when you expect to open or begin taking reservations.
- Determine whether you want your address and phone number listed on the site.
- If you have no specific reason to avoid putting your address on, I suggest putting it on there. It will help with "local search" results.
- If you are planning on getting a new phone number for the B&B, then you should wait to list a phone number until you have the new one. You don't want the wrong number associated with your B&B.
- Listing your address and phone number before you are open will likely lead to people popping-in or calling for more info. Some can lead to good exposure, so its not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you are ready for it.
- Create a page that lists other bed and breakfasts in the area, links to their web sites and provide phone numbers for them (example B&B referral). Make sure most of the pages from your website steer people to this page and refer people to it if they happen to call or email you. It seems like you are giving business away, but trust me, you are providing a service people will remember, and you are actually building a page that will bring you more traffic than it sends away.
- Incoming links to your site are critical to it showing up well in search engines. When your site is up, even if you are not open yet, start requesting links from local businesses that might be related (restaurants, tourist attractions, visitor service providers...) This is a great way to not only increase your web site's performance in the future, but to introduce yourself to other businesses and begin the kind of local networking that can be very helpful.
I hope this helps get you started. I don't suggest going the easy route for a web site. Be very cautious of having your friend or relative build you one. If they don't specialize in marketing web sites and Bed and Breakfast web sites, they will likely cost you traffic and opportunities. Whatever you save in the startup cost you will likely spend many times more in having to advertise more, use pay-per-click, or join more travel directories. A well designed web site is an investment. A bad web site is a burden.
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