Inngenious B&B Web Site Promotion

Should my B&B website link to other attractions in my area?

Hi Steve,

I was just reading an article by an Inn marketing couple that suggested we shouldn't make links to other web sites because we shouldn't give people a reason to leave our web site. What are your thoughts?

Joan K. - Pennsylvania

Dear Joan,

I read the article and it makes me shake my head in disbelief. I think this sounds like advice for innkeepers from someone who knows nothing about why people come to bed and breakfasts. It's a slick marketing strategy that treats potential guests like trapped morons. It operates on the idea that if you trap people on your web site and offer them nothing of value, that they will stay there and reserve a room. Web surfers definitely know how to click a back button if a site is not helpful. When constructing your web site you have to keep in mind that the web site represents the innkeeper as much as it does the inn. As innkeepers, we know that people stay with us because of our helpful insight and knowledge of the area. For most travelers this is of more interest than the huge victorian windows or circular staircase or whatever is the star feature your particular inn. The article claims that most potential visitors know the area even before they visit your web site. Don't accept this at face value. I know from my own B&B that more often than not, potential guests have little or no knowledge of the area. They rely on the innkeeper to help them get the most out of their visit. An innkeeper wouldn't dream of not sharing information with their guests, it's just not in our soul to be like that. Your web site is an extension of you, the innkeeper. It must share information and be helpful.

A list of area restaurants that you recommend is of far more value to people than a list of restaurants that a chamber of commerce or visitors bureau puts together. A chamber or bureau has to list everyone who pays dues, regardless of quality. Your dining page only has to list the restaurants you have complete faith in. This page has enormous value to your potential guests because many guests are "planners." They like to plan out where they are going to eat each night. Such a page also has value for attracting guests. When a web page has valuable content and is optimized well for search engines it tends to show up well in searches. So when someone does a search for restaurants in your area, they find your page and your recommendations, which means, they find your inn. The dining page on my own web site brings in more potential guests than my paid listing with a major Bed and Breakfast directory. It takes a short time to make and it pulls in visitors at little cost. Eventually it gets back to area restaurants that you are recommending them on your web site and they begin refering guests by word of mouth and by the internet to your B&B.

The dining page is only one example. A list of parks and links to their info, wineries, or any other attractions that your guests would be interested in is a great resource and will extend your helpful personality through your web site. That is what attracts guests, not baiting them and only giving them information after they make an availability inquiry as the article suggests.

Personally I find our guests fall into one of two categories, they are either "planners" or they are "explorers". A good collection of area resources helps them both. Our planners arrive with pages upon pages that they have printed out directly from our web site and their itinerary for their visit mapped out. They know what they are going to do and when, and they can relax because they have it all planned. We helped them to do it and we didn't have to lift a finger. The web site did it for us. The planners are happy and we are happy. On the other hand, the explorers don't plan ahead, but they do appreciate helpful suggestions on the spur of the moment. So at breakfast when they ask about area restaurants for dinner, we print the list directly from our website (so it becomes a tool for us too) and give it to them as we make our suggestions verbally, that way they don't have to take notes or be alert for the fine details.

If you haven't guessed it by now, my advice is exactly opposite to what the article suggests. Offer as many great resource pages on your web site as you can. It will benefit your guests and you. From the search engine point of view it makes it much more likely that your web site will be found for a broader variety of searches.

There are however, a couple words of caution.

  • Avoid putting links to other web sites on your home page. You do want to encourage people to venture into your site a bit more before you give them other things to look at. It also helps distribute your home page's value (often called page rank) to your other pages before you go giving it away to other sites. This warning also applies to links to chambers of commerce, B&B associations, and web site design and promotion companies. There should be no outgoing links to other web sites on your home page.
  • Whenever possible, don't just give a list of links. Add some meaning to the link by giving a bit of information. The kind of information that only a knowledgeable innkeeper can give. Show them you really know the area.
  • Don't annoy local businesses by writing bad things about them or cautioning people not to visit a certain restaurant or attraction. If there is an attraction you wouldn't recommend, simply leave it off your list.
  • Have any outgoing links open in a new window when they are clicked on. That way the person visiting your web pages doesn't leave your site by clicking on a link. They visit the page you suggested and when they close the window, they are back at your site.

I hope this helps you with your B&B web site design decisions.

Steve Wirt

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