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Every innkeeper understands the importance of curb appeal and how it can attract potential guests to a bed and breakfast. Maintaining that curb appeal often means hours of pruning, painting, weeding, mowing and planting, paying attention to every minute detail.

Did you realize that creating the most attractive first impression of your business extends far beyond your front porch?

How is your website’s “curb appeal”?

Your inn’s website is your open house. “This is your face, your invitation to the world,” said Fred Pierce, president and co-owner of BnBWebsites.com. “If it’s a nice, fancy invitation, you are more likely to go. If it’s an ugly invitation, you’re not, unless you know them.”

Think of the favorite websites or blogs you frequent for your own enjoyment. Why do you return to those sites time and time again? Likely it is because of quality content, eye-catching images, appealing and colorful design and maybe even some incentives to return (eg… discounts, recipes, freebies or giveaways). Keeping those favorite sites in mind, take a fresh look at your inn’s online presence.

Unsure if your website is helping drive traffic to your inn, or worried it might be driving people away? Seek out honest opinions. Just as you would want honest feedback about a flaw in one of your rooms, you need to be open to an unbiased assessment of your website.

Pierce has met countless innkeepers who mistakenly think their website is great. “So many customers say ‘People tell me they love my website,'” he said. “What about what people are not telling you? Or those people who never stay at your inn because of an unattractive website?”

Pierce often refers to this phenomenon as the Ugly Baby Syndrome, so effectively and famously portrayed in this classic clip of Seinfeld.

Be honest with yourself, he said. Your site may in fact be an ugly baby. But with a little facelift, that ugly baby can become a beautiful toddler. Here are some ideas to get you started on the makeover.

Grab Attention

Your website should instantly capture a web surfer’s attention. “If you don’t grab their attention and spark some sort of emotion right away, they will go somewhere that does,” said Pierce. “Even if your B&B is nice, your site needs to do your property justice.”

Visually appealing websites make good use of color (but not too many colors) and easy-to-read fonts. Be sure to gind backgrounds and colors that will enhance rather than detract from the message or theme of your site.

Huge Photos

Incorporate large photos that spark emotion. Don’t forget the food photos either! You are a bed and breakfast so make sure to have food photography on your home page, something that makes you hungry just looking at it.

Concise Content

Johnson Mill’s website is a great example of a website that effectively uses color, grabs attention, is concise in its descriptions, and encourages a call to action.

A good website has content that is concise, organized and current. Make sure that content is easy to skim by using subheadings, bullet points and short paragraphs. Also, please run spell check! Typos are just embarrassing.

Be sure to continually update the content. You won’t want to be advertising last winter’s seasonal specials in the middle of July. Prioritize some time to freshen up your site every two to three months.

“The homepage is there to catch attention,” Pierce said. “So many people throw everything on their navigation pages and it’s overwhelming.” A good example of a simple yet appealing homepage is Johnsonmill.com.

Usability

Easy navigation is vital for a successful website. First make sure all your links, videos, slideshows, signup sheets and social media connections all work. Start clicking everything to make sure.

A well-designed website works on many devices including a computer, tablet, or mobile device and across multiple browsers. This will come in handy for smartphone travelers who discover your inn thanks to your great mobile website.

A Call to Action

Every website should have a call to action — a reason or motivation for a visitor to click further on your site and either learn more about your rooms, signup for your newsletter or, better yet, book a room.

One way to enhance your bookings is by creating a prominent button (a round button is most attractive and will stand out more) where people can click to make a reservation or send an email booking.

Learn from Others

Borrow inspiration from similar websites. Here’s a list to get you started:

Want an Unbiased, Knowledgeable Critique?

Pierce is always willing to offer a free, honest website analysis — no strings attached. For more information about BnBWebsites.com or to request an analysis, email info@bnbwebsites.com.

Ready for a Redesign

If you are ready for a website makeover and want to turn the project over to a professional, Pierce offered up advice for selecting the ideal company.

  • Find a company that will give you a realistic time frame whether it’s a redesign or building the site from scratch.
  • Research their other website designs and maybe even talk to owners of those sites for references.
  • It’s best if you can find someone who has experience building B&B websites — they will more effectively incorporate SEO within the site.
  • Don’t pay too much. The average website from BnBWebsites.com is about $1,500.
  • Realize there will be a return on your investment. You’ve got to spend the money, but not a lot of money.
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