I revamped a hotel website using WIX and here's what happened...
On December 15th, 2016 I launched the new website for Cafe con Leche, a hotel in Nicaragua. The co-owners, Marc and Manuel, who happen to be brothers, gave me free rein for the project.
355 days or pretty much one year later, what’s the outcome? What were the results? Does the site show up on the first pages of a Google search? What’s the best platform (CMS) for a hotel website?
Full article // Reading time - 8 minutos
A surfer from Bordeaux comes to stay
The other night (November 17, 2017), while I was doing my shift as a receptionist-barmaid at Cafe con Leche (because I work there from time to time :) ), I was chatting with Mehdi, a surfer from Bordeaux who works in the restaurant business and Marc, the owner of Cafe con Leche. When Marc asked him how he heard about Cafe con Leche, he replied: “On the Internet! I was looking for somewhere to stay in Popoyo because I know that it’s great for surfing, and when I went on the Cafe’s site, I was sold”. Then he said something like “the place seemed mellow and there were lots of activities in the area. It won me over. I booked 10 days there.”
Cha-ching! 10 days at $25 each, in the dorm rooms.*
A French tourist in a Quebecker’s hotel in Nicaragua. How did that come to be? Well, it all boils down to great online presence.
Let’s rewind a tad. Mehdi, the surfer from Bordeaux. He wanted to relax, to get away and surf in another country and had enough money to travel moderately well. His friends spoke highly of Popoyo, a spot with some great waves for surfing.
He went online, in other words, he started searching on Google.
He typed something like: “surf hotels in popoyo”. He looked at 5 or 6 hotels on the first and second pages of the Google results.
Among those, Cafe con Leche showed up.
He compared. He probably analyzed a few photos, checked out which activities were available and compared the hotel’s location to the surf breaks. Cafe con Leche stood out from the crowd. He then visited Cafe con Leche’s Facebook page (he thought...this looks like a cool place and they are active online, in fact they just posted something yesterday). Maybe he even read a few reviews on Tripadvisor. Yep, everyone seems to like it.
At that very moment, Mehdi says to himself (I’m guessing): “Ok, I think I want to go here! It seems like a good fit for me and the cost is pretty much what I had in mind. I’m going to book it.”
Mehdi said it first and I’ll say it again: “the BOOK A ROOM option makes it easy to reserve a room, you just punch in your VISA card information and you’re all set.”
“I would definitely hire the woman who did your website!”
Aw thanks, Mehdi. :)
*Medhi stayed at Cafe con Leche for one whole month, he liked it so much.
I just want to say that guests like this and their kinds words warm my heart. It’s what makes my job so fulfilling.
This isn’t the first time and surely won’t be the last time this happens.
It’s really incredible that the Internet can open so many doors to the world and lead to amazing experiences like this one. Oh and just so you know, Cafe con Leche is located here:
Drolette’s humble beginning
Drolette originated thanks to a strong desire to move to Nicaragua and make the town of Popoyo my home. After visiting Popoyo in July 2017 with two friends, I went back to my position as web strategy consultant at Québec en Forme but things had changed for me.
My perspective on life had changed.
I had only one thing on my mind: go back to Popoyo, work there and live the life that I truly wanted. Its not that I didn’t like my job, I had a job that I dreamt of having before graduating with a Master’s degree in Communications.
It’s just that I had reached a point where I felt that I had done everything I could for the organization. The wind was blowing me in a different direction and I felt the urge to change, I needed to move and to grow.
So for 3 months (September through November), I adopted a new routine. Up at 6:00 a.m., drink an espresso, read a bit of Paulo Coelho, write down my goals for the day, get dressed, go to work at QEF (Québec en Forme), go home, run 10 km, eat and work on my project for the future.
You could say that everything I did, said and thought came back to my dream, that goal I had set for myself.
My friend Marie-Michèle was my cheerleader throughout this adventure. Every 2 weeks, often on Sunday evening, we got together for a drink and talked about our respective projects until about 10:00 p.m. How were things progressing? Good ideas and bad. Quite honestly, without Marie, I wouldn’t be in Popoyo standing at my computer, writing this blog post in a hut.
After many talks full of great ideas and a little red wine, the idea for Drolette was born.
At that time, Drolette was just a piece of paper made up of circles, arrows and steps that I needed to take.
Today, it’s a reality. I work for Drolette and boy, it’s something else. I still get goose bumps when I really stop and think about it. Ok enough with the sensitive side of the story, let’s get back to how to develop an effective hotel website, this recipe I tested over the last year. Yes, there is in fact a website and what a website it is! And you, my lucky readers are going to get a glimpse into the magical world of creating a website, right here on the Drolette blog.
My first hotel website
In December 2017, my plan was to stay one month at Cafe con Leche. The deal: board and room in exchange for working at the front desk and as the barmaid.
But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to feel really useful.
I noticed that the Cafe’s website was operational but didn’t reflect the hotel’s warm ambiance and its amazing location (the hotel is right on the shore of the Pacific ocean).
I asked the two owners (who are the brothers picture below) if I could recreate their website.
Yes, please! Go right ahead!
And that’s how it all began.
I decided to use my breaks while working at the front desk to learn how to develop a great website.
The first thing I discovered: Cafe con Leche used WIX. Oh great! All the bloggers and web “gurus” that I knew wanted to set fire to the WIX platform. WIX = the LADA of the CMS world. Its biggest problem: bad SEO.
Not wanting to give up right away, I did a little investigating of my own.
I read the latest articles about WIX and its SEO. You could say that the criticisms were a bit less severe than they once were. I asked my geek friends (like Bernard Prince) and nobody could say for sure. Nobody wanted to speak up. They just didn’t know the platform well enough. On the other hand, I did confirm that people had preconceived ideas about the platform and I was one of them!
WIX: the platform that I grew to love
I decided to work within the WIX platform and I was pleasantly surprised. Everything could be moved around easily. I’m not a trained web designer or anything and I managed just fine.
I would even go so far as to say I liked it. The responsive design was easy to use too.
But what about SEO?
Well, it wasn’t anything to write home about. But I had a feeling that with a lot of research and the right keywords, the final product would be satisfactory.
I needed to work logically.
I could connect Google search console and Google Analytics. The translation of the site into 2 “mirror” languages worked well.
Download time was good.
WIX: perfect for hotels
Was WIX actually convincing me that it was a good choice for a hotel?
When I found the reservation function, I just knew that I had hit a homerun.
The reservation module was built intelligently and was easy to use, both for the customer and the hotel. You can even link your PayPal account.
The reservations are then synced into a calendar. You could also easily take care of walk-ins by entering them manually into the system.
Last but not least, I tested its synchronicity with other hotel websites, like Booking.com and Expedia. I’ll come back to that in another blog post.
In the end, I would recommend WIX for hotels mainly because of the reservation option and I can honestly say that the SEO works well, if it is well implemented*. I’ll tell you more about that in my next blog article.
Please beware my lovely readers! You won’t see the results from effective organic search* after 1 day. It will take at least 2 months, if not 3 to 6 to see the results on Google.
THAT’S SO LONG!
That’s why it’s so important to optimize the organic search of the website to the max so that you give yourself plenty of time to make sure that Google finds you quickly.
Oh and just so you know, I am not affiliated with WIX in any way and I am not sponsored by them.
Results after 1 year - Cafe con Leche
From the time that Cafe con Leche’s website went live on December 15, 2016 it had 7,298 visitors.
The SURF page was the most popular page, while the page “5 best surf spots in Popoyo” and the description of the surf breaks brought traffic to the site. So 38% of the visitors came from the website’s back door: the SURF page rather than the main door, meaning the “home page”.
In 2017, 730 customers stayed at Cafe con Leche.
90% of those customers booked online, 10% of them were walk-ins
So there were 7,298 visitors on the website, 657 people booked online, which is the equivalent of 9% conversion.
Before getting really excited about that number, I researched the average conversion rate and found 4.3% for the travel/tourism industry. Conclusion: the conversion rate was EXCELLENT!
I think it’s best to compare your conversion rate with your own numbers, year after year. If you have access to the data for other companies in the same industry as you, all the better, you can compare and adjust accordingly.
Ultimately these statistics have to be analyzed with the owners, based on their business goals.
In this case, at the end of the day what matters is that the hotel is full.
Cafe con Leche had an increase of 36% in the number of guests from 2016 to 2017 and enhancing their online presence had a big influence on this number.
WHY DROLETTE IN PARTICULAR THOUGH?
Well, since you asked...
One thing that’s really important here is that I decided to work with people who were passionate about what they do for a living. The kinds of people who are dedicated and hard working. Another thing is that I shared the same values as them and their company inspired me. I want them to be well known by the people who are searching. Like in Google ; ) Wink wink.
When the website is live, then the real fun begins!
Now what if Café con Leche’s website didn’t appear on the first 2 pages of the Google results when our good friend Medhi was looking for a hotel close to some surf spots in Popoyo?
Well, quite frankly, nothing! He wouldn’t have come.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS? It’s a great thing to put your website online. You can be proud and it can look great. That’s all really great but...
In the end, you can’t just have a really amazing website. What you want is a really amazing website that is representative of your company’s image and that can be easily found by those looking for you.
That’s why it’s so important to have the right content.
Your services have to be visible and it should be created according to the public’s potential search criteria.
A great way to brainstorm on these criteria is to create a bank of keywords that you can use to integrate the appropriate buzzwords into your content.
One of the first things you need to ask yourself when writing your content is: what are the “keyword expressions” that people use in their search to find us?
And there are tools that can help you with that:
- Google Trends
- Keywords Finder
- Google webmaster
- For example, I asked myself if people searched for "Bed and breakfast nicaragua" and if yes, was it more popular than "hostel nicaragua".
And this is what Google Trends explained:
The red line is...flat.
Obviously, I opted for hostel nicaragua ; )
Then you need to make use of the tools that are available, ask the people in your network, validate, search again, do a few tests, then do more tests and adjust accordingly.
You really need to sink your teeth into SEO.
Optimizing website SEO: Wordpress VS WIX?
What I discovered after one year of using WIX is that regardless of which CMS you use, Worpdress, Squarespace, WIX or something else, what’s most important for attaining quality organic search in Google is how the website’s content is developed.
If you really want to improve your position in the search results, you need to have the best possible content on your site so that Google likes you.
Then there are a few other things to consider.
Ok. Ok. But yes, design and user experience are also important.
I think it took me 2 full days to recover from seeing this lovely surprise comment on Facebook. I have no idea who Michael Chenier is but I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
You could say that I too, have a special place in my heart for the Café con Leche website.
François, who everyone here calls Marseille, took some spectacular pictures of Cafe con Leche. Beautiful photos are important no matter what the context but they are really crucial for hotels. It’s the way people “get a feel” for the place.
You have to think strategically, not just aesthetically.
Here is a short list of the other elements I focused on when optimizing SEO for Cafe con Leche:
- Presence on Tripadvisor
- Presence on Google Business (especially, Google Maps)
- The company’s projected image on the site and elsewhere (high quality images)
- Presence on blogs or other external links (linkbuilding)
- Optimize the offer (packages, promotions)
- Optimize management of social media
I promised myself I would get back to you with my best tips for these elements in future blog posts.
Yesssss my dearrrrr!
In conclusion, what can be said about working with such passionate people?
I admit it.
I’m sold on Cafe con Leche. I love the spot, the people and the energy.
And what is really great is that I can show you that I’m not the only one who holds such a high opinion of the place. For that, I can rely on the reviews and comments of the guests.
They are pretty darn happy I would say!
Well, I’ve covered quite a few topics here. And yet there is so much more to say.
I’ll be back to discuss this topic in not too long:
11 ways to make a really good website (for hotels but also for any sites that are the same size).
Oh and one last thing! If you know someone who wants to create a website but doesn’t know where to start, tag them in the comments!
I would be happy to help!
Hasta prunto muchachos!
Marie & the awesome help of Traduction M