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Does a glamping business really need a website to get bookings? Episode #056

Does a glamping business really need a website to get bookings?

It is estimated there are over 700 million websites in the world so how can a glamping business, eco-resort, or unique hospitality owner possibly stand out from the crowd and get noticed?

glamping business startup

In this episode, I talk with Malcolm Freeman, Director of Oxygen Graphics, a company that helps glamping businesses get up and running with their websites, digital assets, and overall online strategy to generate an impact.

The Importance of a Website for Glamping Businesses: Insights from a Digital Expert

This episode is packed with nuggets of gold for anyone wanting to get their business noticed by customers online and attract guests.

As well as talking about the top 5 elements that need to be featured on a glamping website to attract bookings, we also discuss:

  • The biggest struggles faced by hospitality hosts online today
  • How to get your website to do the hard work for you
  • What elements must be included in a unique hospitality business website
  • Why you shouldn’t be relying on Facebook to promote your business
  • How guests expect to book their glamping stays
  • The website content balance that works in the industry
  • The time involved for the owner when getting online
  • How you can avoid losing bookings to your competitors
  • The likely cost of getting a website developer involved in your project
  • What Web 3.0 is and how it will impact unique hospitality in the future

Contact Malcolm Freeman at Oxygen Graphics:

The Glamping Business Podcast Shownotes

Additional Resources And Links Mentioned

Listen to The Glamping Business podcast here:

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If you have something inspiring to offer the world of Glamping and Unique Holiday Rentals then get in touch with Sarah Riley and share it on the Podcast. For more information contact Sarah here.

Listen to previous episodes here:


Sarah Riley: Websites play a vital role in attracting guest bookings for hosts. But what are the most important elements to have on a website for it to make the most impact possible Well, I had an opportunity to speak with Malcolm Freeman, the Director of Oxygen Graphics, and he does all kinds of websites and other projects for hosts and owners of all kinds of accommodation. So he very kindly gave us his time to share with us what he thought was the most important thing that people should think through when they’re designing their websites. So welcome to episode 56. Glamping and unique holiday rentals are surging in popularity with the growing desire of customers to book holidays that deliver an experience. They are also the new business of choice for those wanting to improve their work-life balance. So how do you build a strong business like this that gives you the life you need and a great investment I’m Sarah Reilly, and I want to share what I’ve discovered after being immersed in this industry for over 20 years to inspire you to find out more about what’s going on. Welcome. This is the business of glamping and unique holiday rentals.

Sarah Riley: So thank you, Malcolm, for joining me. It’s really kind of you to give us your time because I know it’s something that small business owners really struggle with, is understanding the importance of a website, and particularly with accommodation bookings, holiday bookings. It’s quite a revelation to see a lot of my clients when I speak to them about the fact that they are actually running a business that will be 50% online. And, and they ask me to explain that. So of course I explain by saying, well, when someone finds you, they will choose their holiday. They’ll book their holiday, they’ll pay for their holiday, they’ll get information about how to check in, and that’s all before you’ve even met that person. And all of that’s happening beforehand. And then of course, they come to the establishment, they have their wonderful holiday and they leave and they might come back and put a review online and everything else. So, so much of that process is happening online and it, for many people, that is an eye-opening understanding, cuz they haven’t had that before. And, and with some businesses relying on platforms like Facebook to run their entire business and to gather their bookings and everything else, I mean, what would you say to a business owner who is relying on that kind of thing Just one platform for their business bookings

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah. Well, yeah, I see that quite a lot. in other industries as well. startup businesses, you know, they probably don’t put the investment into a website, because they don’t think, think it’s important, but it is one of the most important parts of marketing that you can invest in. And, you know, having a website compared to just having a Facebook page where people interact, it’s very, fast paced. There’s no credibility earned from a Facebook page, so you should be sending them off to that landing page at a minimum or a full website so that you, the com the customer can learn a little bit more about your business and find out, you know, is there credibility there Is this a legit company You know, what is it that they’re offering further from what they say on their Facebook page It’s amazing.

Malcolm Freeman: how many people just rely on that And, you know, they’re, they’re sort of, they’re sort of sort of reaching a peak of what they can achieve from traffic engagement, new customers, because, you know, marketers will tell you that you’ve got to have a, a marketing mix that, that involves lots of marketing activities. But if we just take the online, world, you know, there’s not just your social media. There’s your, Google My Business, there’s your Google Maps, there’s lots of various platforms to have your business, listed on as well as your own website. The thing with your own website is your in full control. You know, you’ve got the ability to set out your store, you’ve got your, you can set the journey for the customer. So how do they, first of all, what do they see when they first land on your website Where do you want them to go after that What do you want them to do to make contact with you And obviously share all your information such as your prices and your booking process. So you are in full control. And that’s great because you can then tweak and refine that based on feedback or based on analytical, information to get the better experience and the best out of your website presence. And that’s much stronger as a marketing investment as just relying on social media platforms.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. And, and more so as well in my industry, which is glamping, unique holiday rentals, and also, you know, helping people to get into this industry is, is around direct bookings. Because yeah, in this industry there’s a lot of middlemen, middle women, middle businesses, which are the OTAs, the online travel agents, and they offer the host, an easy way to get bookings, but they take quite a large commission plus tax out of that. Whereas if the host was focusing on gathering direct bookings, it would be an instant saving, an instant increase in profits, and therefore for the host, much more reward for the effort they’re putting in. Now, how much of a role, from your opinion, does having your own website and your own systems of marketing play in gathering those direct bookings, is it really possible for someone to instantly start increasing their direct bookings by having their own website

Malcolm Freeman: Absolutely. there’s, there’s, there is a place for these OTRs and, you know, it’s, it’s across, again, other industries. You know, take the takeaways for example. You’ve got the, you know, the in between men that are now taking that order for the takeaway. And it’s, it’s really about ease. And having the app on your phone and credit card details are stored. you know, for example, you know, you know, you can go on there, you’ve got a wide selection, you can get a gist of what the accommodation would be, whereabouts it is, location wise tend to have offers and deals which may not be actual offers and deals, but they look like deals. And you can reserve sometimes and most of the time without any commitment. so that’s very appealing to some people. But, but coming from a glamping, accommodation, side, you, you, you know, if you set up and invested a lot of money in your site, in your facilities because you offer a unique experience, would the OTRs like or others really pass that sort of feeling and that experience on through a, a small listing

Malcolm Freeman: and that may become, gathering different types of customers, customers that are not, wouldn’t appreciate or take the full experience from your site or your accommodation, or services. So you then, you know, you’re dealing with customers that you may not want to deal with, whereas again, your own website, will, will, will sort of sell the story. We’ll introduce the people that run the site, you know, having good photography, some video, so you really get a feel, on what to expect, an expectation of what’s to come when I come and stay with you guys. and that’s really what people, you want people to buy into. You don’t want people, people to buy into just, oh, it’s just accommodation that will do that looks nice, let’s, let’s go and let’s go and miss Skip. so yeah, there is a place for them, but having your own website and having your own booking facility is a must.

Malcolm Freeman: And they don’t have to be, big systems. They don’t have to be overly expensive and very complicated. You know, you can now integrate third party booking systems through your glamping manager type software that you have, or you can have your developer or your website coming, build something specifically for you. There are lots of pros and fors, sorry, fors and against for each system. Sometimes if you integrate a third party system, you’ve got limitations, you’re not fully in control, and there is an ongoing monthly cost. Whereas if you develop your own initially, it can be a big investment, but you are in control and you can develop that further tweak and refine it in the future. And obviously you don’t, overall you should save some money because you’re not investing the monthly cost.

Malcolm Freeman: Customers these days, expect to be able to book online. And I know, and I’m, I’m sure you have Sarah, when you go and find a venue, and it may be, it may be an, an accommodation, it may be some cows, if it’s on an O T R or if it’s on another directory website, a broker type website, I will always go and put that name in that accommodation hotel into Google and go to their own website. So it’s like a driver. I’ve even done this with Amazon and eBay, where you know who the seller is, and then you can go direct, because you’re right, sometimes these companies will add a premium, a commission, and sometimes the, you know, that that is more than what the price, the hotel or the actual website would sell it, the service for. So website important for presence, people searching, going to, and obviously the expectation of being able to book is a must. Mm-hmm. . And it’s, and to get a successful booking website is about clear and easy to understand information navigation and a, a a, a very straightforward process to check out. The worst thing you want to do is confuse your customers about what’s the price, what season are we in, what the extras, oh, I don’t understand this. Mm-hmm. And as soon as they don’t understand, it’s one click away to turn off and go to competitors, or even back to the O T R. Mm-hmm. So yeah, bookings a massive, plus point for accommodation websites.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I’m always telling my clients that confused mind always says no. And, and it’s so true, isn’t it, that when someone has all these different options, all this information, and it’s not very clearly set out, and it’s, there’s so many buttons to press to get here, there and everywhere, then someone’s just gonna get distracted and move on, and yeah. That’s the last thing that we want to have happen, isn’t it So, what do you think is the biggest Yeah, absolutely.

Malcolm Freeman: Human cause, human h has changed over the, over several years, whereas when websites were just information giving, I think they call it Web 1.0 mm-hmm. Cause we just read websites. Mm. And at the bottom was a phone number. And we rang now with the influx of social media, which is Web 2.0, with the dynamic, elements that we can interact with, with information at our fingertips. Mm-hmm. We’re now speed readers with speed information digesters. Mm. And when we come to actually wanting something, we haven’t got the time. It’s naturally in built into us to say, I wanna search thing, I wanna find it, I wanna buy it. Not, I wanna read all about it, and I wanna know what the, benefits are and stuff like that. I just want it. So that’s where we’ve changed in our, in our nature as humans. And, and it can be detrimental to us sometimes because, you know, we’ve got some great websites, some great contents, some look great media, but we just don’t spend the time looking at it.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And I, and I know this is probably gonna be a conversation for another day, but, you know, web 3.0 is coming along well, it’s here now, but not every is embracing it. And, so for someone who’s still kind of on the web 1.0 thinking and strategy, we’ve gone into 2.0, we’re now into 3.0 and 3.0 following on from what you were saying there, is that not only can we read it and write it, but we own it. That’s web 3.0. that, that, it’s a really exciting time, but it’s not going to really work unless we’re already there. We’re already in it. We’re already on it, and we’re already building our business on strong foundations that we own. that’s the key, isn’t it And, and if we have a business on a, a third party platform, like Facebook, for example, we don’t own that. That’s rented land. What if Facebook suddenly decides they don’t like us, and they, they cut all ties with our business and we’re thrown off Facebook. And that has happened to people. Yes. Suddenly our lifeline to get bookings from guests is gone. You know, or maybe someone is a very competitive person in our area and they’re throwing out adverts here, there and everywhere. If we’re not in multiple places, then we lose access again.

Malcolm Freeman: Absolutely. Yeah.

Sarah Riley: Through our marketing. But

Malcolm Freeman: Facebook would change the algorithm. You know, Facebook could, suddenly you’ve got a business page, which you’ve set up for free, you post for free followers, come along, you haven’t paid anything to Facebook. So then Facebook may decide, well, we’re not gonna show you as much because you’re not paying us any money. So, and that, and, and I know that happens, if you are paying, you’re likely to be more visible. And if you’re a business, you’ve got to entice people to follow you rather than you go and follow them. So, yeah, it’s not, you know, you’re in, you’re in the, the law of Facebook, and they could change that anytime they wanted.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. And I think really social media is a very different thing, and that should be kept separate and great

Malcolm Freeman: Advantages.

Sarah Riley: Absolutely. It’s very, very important. And it does lead to nurturing relationships. Those relationships can turn into customers, but it very rarely leads to a direct sale. The direct sale tends to happen on a website, a booking portal or a booking platform. but I’ve actually seen in the past where people have paid for, adverts, and the advert has directed the person from, say, a platform like Facebook onto an o t a online travel agent’s website, like, Airbnb. Oh, wow. And, and so they’re paying for the traffic to go to their website hoping that that person that was sent there will buy from their page. Not realizing Airbnb’s just taking commission from anyone. They have no loyalty to you specifically as a, as a host. And so they’re gonna serve lots of different adverts for other properties mm-hmm. similar to the one that you’ve just paid to have an advert to, you know, to, to put people onto Airbnb.

Sarah Riley: So it’s crazy what’s happening. I always, whenever I’m on Facebook or a different platform, I’ve served an ad, which is in my, industry, I always follow it, and I always see where they’re going, what they’re doing. And, and it, it is really surprising, actually, how it directs people to a very badly design website or, an online travel agent. And, and it’s, yeah, crazy. But, you know, these are struggles that small business owners have because, you know, they, they weren’t maybe trained in marketing, they didn’t understand it. They haven’t done it for very long. They’re really good at the, at being a host, at building a service, you know, their services on the ground. They’re great at all of that. But all this other stuff. Now, I’ve had people say to me, I wanna be a host. I don’t wanna be someone who’s, you know, starts a marketing online and doing a website and everything else. So what, from your experiences of working with GAMP businesses and small business owners and everything else, what do you think are the biggest struggles they face in this kind of arena

Malcolm Freeman: so the biggest, the biggest struggle is an overall strategy and marketing plan because, a lot of, a lot of people understand they ne they need to do marketing. So they need to have their social media, and they need to have their website. They need to have a flyer. but there’s no joined up thinking. so especially with social media, actually, you know, like I said, it has its advantages if you use it properly. If you’ve got your USPS and you’ve got your marketing, taglines and headings, you know, they can be used across marketing to, to really sell your business. and that’s where the joint up thinking comes along, because what you put out on social and where you direct ’em to your website needs to be aligned. Where you put your advert in the, magazine with a QR code, again, needs to be aligned to the website.

Malcolm Freeman: And if you’ve got, you know, your message on your back of your business cards, or the, the tagline that you say, when you are pitching a networking event, if all that can be aligned to a common or a set of common, hooks, marketing headings, et cetera, and you get, you get a sort of alignment and, co what’s the word I’m looking for, consist consistency. that’s one thing that people throw when you do scatter gun. Oh, we’ve got an event. Let’s post that. Oh, we’ve got, a discount. We’ll post that. It, it just becomes messy. and you’re not really selling the, the USPS of your business. And, and also the feelings, the emotions as well that you get with attending your business or using your business services, they need to be plugged into there as well. So that’s the one thing I, I, I find with people that don’t have a strategy mm-hmm.

Malcolm Freeman: That comes with expenditure into a marketeer, a market, a marketing clan. and that can take time, that can take money. one thing that I, you know, if you can imagine, imagine a spider diagram where you’ve got your business in the middle. you’ve got your sort of website. Let’s say it’s in the middle, and you want to drive traffic into that website because you’ve invested a lot of money. Your website’s really tip top. It’s got good information, it’s got good photography, good video, it’s got a good booking system. You then, you know, you need to then drive traffic to that in all these different various ways. you don’t, you maybe don’t want people to call you all the time. So if you can get your website to do the hard work for you in answering all the questions, dealing with the bookings, people just registering, just to stay in touch with you.

Malcolm Freeman: So in the future, if they want to use you, you then won’t get all that admin burden as a business owner to be doing the same thing over and over again. So one of those lines could be your OTRs OTRs are good, you need to register on them. They do drive traffic and they do drive bookings, but essentially they want to be on your website, drive to your website. You’ve got things like, marketing, print marketing. You might send out a flyer, you might, put adverse posters up in the local area. and then you might have email marketing. So you know, if you can draw off all these different lines into different activity, essentially you wanna all be driving traffic back to the website mm-hmm. , and then your website works hard for you to drive those bookings and that revenue.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. So one of the things I suppose a lot of small business owners fear when they’re getting involved in this kind of project and, and often is, you know, as well as money, obviously being a fear and having to spend money, this is the other one. And, and it’s time. You know, how much time is this going to take me I ha I don’t have time for this. I have to, you know, run my business for the customer. I have to, you know, add your excuse here. but time certainly seems to be one of them that comes up. So how much time is involved in setting up a website, would you say

Malcolm Freeman: so the, yeah, so Rome, Rome wasn’t built in a day is the, is the phrase. And, that is quite apt for marketing and also your business. You know, just because you have a website and invested thousands of pounds doesn’t mean that it’s instantly gonna be a success and drive bookings and generate revenue. So, and that’s because there’s, there’s 700 million I think, websites in the world. there’s quite a, quite a lot of competition out there. And there’s the whole thing about searching optimization, how you get found. But going back to the question about time, first of all, you need to, if you were to, employ the services of a professional web design company, for example, they’re not just gonna say, oh, you’ve got a glamping business. Leave it to us. We’ll, we’ll create you a website. You need to be involved in that process.

Malcolm Freeman: you need to be able to brief the company in with, you know, what you, what you want people to think of your business. And what do you think the feelings that, evoke when you deal with your business These are gonna come from brand values, company values, personal values. Why did you set up a business in the first place Where’s your passion And all these things need to come through to the marketing, especially the website. And that’s where you need to invest time in thinking about those things and writing down, you know, the vision, the values, and even a mission statement for your business. Once you’ve got those nailed, you can easily explain to companies that are creating things, marketing for you, what the business is all about. From then you need to then plan with the company, what pages, what’s the website journey, what’s the interaction, what’s the core to action, what do you want ’em to do

Malcolm Freeman: And then obviously share, you know, how to make the booking process easy with the extras, the options, the, the availability, which can sound complicated, but it can be drilled down into a simple format for the customer side. Mm-hmm. , there’s also something about content as well. Content is a very crucial part website. it’s not only, not only do you need the right amount of content and the balance of keywords for search engines, but it also needs to be readable for the human. Google has changed recently the way it looks at content. Mm-hmm. According to their information, they can tell whether it’s written for a human or for a search engine. So content writers around the world are changing the way that they write content, but still have enough focus on keywords, but written for the human as well, which, to be fair is not difficult to do because it should be like that anyway.

Malcolm Freeman: Mm-hmm. So yeah, time wise, you know, it could take, it could take about four weeks, I’d say, to design and develop a, a good size website with a booking system. but you probably need to do a couple of weeks prep beforehand. And, and after that period of time, it doesn’t stop there. That’s the mistake people make is, whew, that project’s done. I’ve got through that. My website’s live. No, now you need to go and tell everybody. And that’s where you go back to that spider diagram and you look at the different marketing activity that you’re going to do, obviously aligned to a strategy, and then the common marketing headlines, and then you start doing the marketing. Now, some of the stuff you can get set up straight away, you do it once, it’s there for the rest of the time. other things, you need to have regular activity, such as email marketing.

Malcolm Freeman: If you’ve got, I mean, this would probably be for existing businesses, not startups, but if you’ve got an existing client base, you maybe wanna touch base with them once a month on email just to tell ’em what’s happening, what events you’ve got going on in the area, things to entice them to book again at your site. and then there’s other things like advertising on a regular basis coming up to, high season and stuff like that, that you need to do. And again, that’s why it’s important to have that plan, have that 12 month plan where you know where your down times are, you know, when your high, volume periods are on what you’re gonna do beforehand to, to make sure you’re making the most out of that activity.

Sarah Riley: And because this industry is so seasonal, I really like to see, or I, I really like to give myself personally winter projects. Yes. And so if someone is, you know, in the process of setting up, you know, we’ve got autumn and winter ahead of us now, it’s actually a great time to get these kinds of things in place. Absolutely. personally, I know that there’s other times that you’ll have to do it, but it’s great for a winter project. You’ve got time to really focus on it, really study it, and then launch it in the spring and, and well before spring and, and spring. And it’s, it’s great to have something that you can start a new year with. Mm-hmm.

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah.

Sarah Riley: So it, is there a band that you can kind of say, oh, is a a a website for, an accommodation business, holiday business, a unique holiday rental is likely to cost between X and X Is there a band that you can say,

Malcolm Freeman: yeah, you get kind of, what we don’t do is we don’t do packages. because, every, every client that we see, has a different requirement. And obviously it’s not, it’s not an out the box solution mm-hmm. , that would be detrimental to the design and also against competition. If you, you, you are, I’ll tell you where, where it does happen. It happens in the estate agency world where the software providers who, you put your home, the estate agent registers the home and the pictures and the information, it goes out to all the portals. The people that develop that software tag onto the end of that, oh, we’ll do your website as well, but the estate agent next door to each other will have exactly the same looking website because they use the same software. That’s where there’s lack of personality.

Malcolm Freeman: Mm-hmm. you know, all they’re doing is listing the homes. So you don’t get a feel for the, the, the business or the estate agency, and it doesn’t attract you to want to use them. Mm-hmm. So what we do, we, we, when our designers bespoke designs bespoke, and the features and the integrations and the interactions are all bespoke based on that business. Mm-hmm. , you know, for example, if you’ve got a glamping business, which is, you know, taking you back to being in tune with nature, you know, because of the setting, because of the location, because of the things you can do, then that aspect, and this is going back to brand values, would be integrated into, into the design of the website. So, you know, colors, graphics, the way things move, maybe some interactions from moving dynamic paths. you know, that’s, that’s where we’d get that information from a design brief mm-hmm. .

Malcolm Freeman: And then obviously we’d make sure that could be built in a, in a functional way, if we were taking a standard, I dunno, five to eight page website, five main pages that is, you know, homepage about us accommodation, booking information, local area, contact us blog, and then with the booking system on there as well. Well let, let’s remove the booking system from now. If it was just the brochure style website given information, then you’re looking at around, anything from 1200 pound, up to 1500 pound plus the mm-hmm. , if you then, added a booking system. Now there’s two ways you do this. The third party integrations. Mm. So you’ve got your software that runs your glamping business or camping business, and they’ve got a inter, they’ve got a portal for the website. They’re really good that there’s nothing wrong with them.

Malcolm Freeman: we use quite a lot. they give you all the services, for a very small monthly fee. We like ’em, they’re great and they’re easy to integrate into the site. We obviously have to, review which one it is and look at the documentation, but it could be anything from a couple of hundred quid up to 500 quid, depending on how complicated it is to integrate into the site. In comparison to that is when you develop your own booking system, one that we develop and have all the notifications and the information about optional extras, you’re talking around seven 50 to a thousand pound. It got to balance out the integration to the website and how much it costs per month, and what benefits I get features compared to one off fee, that, that I control and own and don’t have to pay those monthly fees on top as well.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. . So if someone goes through that process, how much would they need to know at the end of that, how to operate a website You know, is it quite simple to have that handover Is it a bit more complex Is there a bit of training involved You know, how does that work

Malcolm Freeman: We, we give, we give, training on all the websites that we, develop. So it’s, up to an hour, which is, which covers generally everything you need to know about our website. Majority of the websites that we develop are on WordPress. And WordPress is quite a popular platform around the world. so you’ve got access to, lots of resources on WordPress through, YouTube, through WordPress website itself. There’s lots of help, but we go through, how to edit pages, how to manage your content. we talked about, posts and articles, if you’ve got a blog and what’s the best, practices on how to post and what to include, how to manage your imagery as well. Making sure you don’t put too, too big an image on there, which then slows down the site. And obviously if there’s a booking system or something more interactive, we go through a specific part of the training where we go through how to manage this and what happens when the customer books just again, so they’re in full control.

Malcolm Freeman: you know, like for example, you know, setting the availability in a calendar, you know, which is really important, you know, when you get the booking from an O T R is being able to do that on your website straight away. Mm-hmm. and that’s what we go through. And we’re always there for supports as well. We, we do, we do offer a three month support, period of time where customers can call us and, you know, anything that they’re not aware of or forget during a training, we’re able to, to help them with that. And then after that period of time, it’s always wise to have a care package, which you have someone like us, for example, who just looks after the website, make sure it’s always updated, make sure it’s not, the plugins are not out to date mm-hmm. , and you are in peace of mind that the website’s always staying live and working functionally.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Really, really important to do those updates. I, I’ve known many examples where people haven’t done the updates and then those updates are often security updates, and that allows hackers in the back door of their wonderful website and then suddenly their websites not there anymore. . So, yes, it, yeah, the care package, I think is, is a great,

Malcolm Freeman: One thing to consider Sarah, is that, websites have a lifespan of three to five years. so if you’ve got a website that’s heavy on plugins Mm. which, you know, booking websites tend to be Mm. You’ve got multiple occasions where the book, the plugin can be outdated mm-hmm. , you’ve got the theme that could be outdated, and you’ve got WordPress that could be outdated. You know, the wrong combination of those, conflicts will cause a website to, to not work properly. And it would only be, you know, maybe a contact form’s not working and someone’s inquired and you’ve lost the inquiry. You never know that that that’s happening unless someone’s looking after the website. So yeah, if you’ve got a website that’s over, say four years old or even five years old, there’s a very high chance it’s not working properly and probably you don’t know that. So, yeah, keep an eye on it.

Sarah Riley: So what are the most important elements to have on a hospitality business website, especially one that’s offering unique services What, what would you say are the top five I know there’s lots of elements, but say your top five.

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah. Yeah, I did. Yeah. I got, I I got top five and, and you’re right, there are, there are lots and lots of things to consider. So I tried to, condense this down into some really easy to understand and, and, and easy to implement, factors into your website. so the first one really is having great photography. it’s a must really for a glamping site, to get professional photographers in that are catching the accommodation on sunset or even sunrise. You know, it, it sets the scene, it gets people having a little warmth feeling about this is the type of thing that they will experience. And that can go through to video as well. Having video walkthroughs or a little show reel that plays as you land on the website doesn’t have to be too, too big. It can be 30 seconds to a minute.

Malcolm Freeman: and, you know, once you’ve got those, they’re assets, you know, great photography can be used on social media, can be used in your, your printing can be used on your email marketing. And the same with video. Video can be uploaded to YouTube. YouTube being the second biggest search engine in the world after Google search mm-hmm. . and that’s another way of using those assets to bring more traffic to the website. make sure you’ve always got people in your pictures, you know, that are interacting, that smiling, that bring energy into what could be an empty photo. So yeah. And, and, yeah, just have a balance of not doing, doing too much overkill of these are, these are happy families enjoying facilities. Try and throw some scenery in there as well. So yeah, it’s great photography, great video. Set the scene on your website. That’s the first tip. And number two, so,

Sarah Riley: No, I was just going to say that if you book a photographer who’s worth their salt, they will be able to guide you through that whole process anyway. They’ll be able to say, have you thought about this, that, that angle, this time of day, you know, because of the sun and the angles of the sun and, and this beautiful scenery and blah, blah, blah. So if they really know what they’re talking about, they will be able to guide the host to make sure that those, photographs are the best they can be.

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah. And, you know, you, you probably book them for half a day or a day. your website will only need, I dunno, 20 photos maybe, excuse me. But then if you get the photographer to a bank of imagery, you can then use that and have that for further down the line in other market activities. Mm-hmm.

Sarah Riley: And it makes the marketing so easy as well, because you don’t have to think about it. You’ve got this, these assets all lined up for you. and, and again, if the, the photographer really knows what they’re doing, they’ll be able to get the style of photography, which is perfect for, say, the central spread of a glossy magazine because you’ve been invited to be part of something like that because of your marketing efforts Absolutely. And everything else. So, it, it, these are assets that will continue to pay dividends time and time again. I should know, my husband is a photographer, so I know all about the importance of this element and how it really does partner so, so much and so well with the whole website, with the marketing and everything else that the, the host needs to do. So what was your number two

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah, so, number two was a clear navigation, you know, through, through a well-structured menu mm-hmm. , you know, making sure, one of the frustrating things is, having, let’s say an old website. We’re talking web one, web 1.0 yeah. Where you’ve got a, a fixed website, and what people have tended to do is put more information at the bottom of the page, more information at the bottom of the page, and you have to scroll down and you can’t find the information. So a clear navigation is always key and, structure it well so that, you know, if someone wanted to find something, they don’t have to look too far. So, for example, FAQs are always helpful, so make sure that’s clear on the menu structure that you can, oh, FAQs, booking information, you know, it is right there, within your, I view, you might want to think about putting like a, a search bar on your website, you know, where people can put, deposit score, you know, search for information.

Malcolm Freeman: I think that would pull up direct links to the information on your site. and just making sure that no matter how many pages you’ve got, you’re using friendly URLs, which is the address. So don’t overcomplicate the structure of your website. and I say that because it, it comes back to optimization. If Google can clearly understand the structure of your site, homepage comes down into main pages, main pages come down into Subpages and subpages come down into detail pages, that will be a good architectural setup for your site. And that, that helps with SEO searching optimization.

Sarah Riley: So what’s number three,

Malcolm Freeman: updating regularly so, you know, you, you built your website, you’ve got your content, it’s all great, it’s all, correct at the time. but a good website is a website where customers come back to, updating a blog, for example, is a really good, tool for helping gain more traffic. the reason for that is, your website’s got your, your common content, the content that explains about your business, what your features are, your benefits, and why you should come to this business. But there are loads of side shoots about, you know, things that are going on in the local area and niche services, niche clubs that you’ve had come and rented accommodation. you know, certain, you know, it’s coming, the, the knights are drawn in, so the, the wood, the, the fire pits out and the barbecues are out.

Malcolm Freeman: so you wanna update that on a blog, and that’s the perfect, application to do that. Not only are you putting fresh content on your website that Google likes to see, so it says, oh, this website’s been updated, we like this. You are increasing the number of pages. You’re generally talking about keywords and factors that help the optimization to get found in Google, but also you’ve then got content to put onto your social media. I’ve written a new blog about the night’s drawing in, time for barbecue season, whatever it may be, but then that’s a driver of traffic from your social media, and you’ve killed two birds of one stone there by content on social media, content on your website, new traffic on the site as well.

Sarah Riley: Yeah. I often say to people that, you know, Google, their biggest priority is to make sure that the users of the Google Google platform are having good quality, great content that serves their purpose for the searches that they’re doing online. Yeah. And if you are creating these great, interesting blogs with quality material in it and great key wording, it is going to, be served to the searches by Google because they wanna give quality content to the people searching the web. So, you know, it’s, so many people say to me, but I don’t see the benefit of a blog, why should I have a blog And so these are the reasons why. So I won’t dwell on it more, but I think it’s, it’s really important to have that in mind that it is worth the effort. It is worth the time to put into that, that information sharing. Thank you. And your next one.

Malcolm Freeman: Yes. So, next one is, so we might have talked a lot about optimization and seo, but in this, this day and age, it is a, it’s a massive thing with websites. So you, you know, you’re designing development and the look and feel of your website is ultimately the important factor. But like I said, Rome wasn’t built a day. It’s then you’ve gotta consider SEO o now you don’t, or you don’t have to hire an SEO expert. There is a massive advantage in doing so, but there are things you can do yourself. and the next point is about building links. So building links is, it can be seen in two ways. You’ve got back links, which is a, another website in the worldwide web that has your website address on it. This is an SEO tactic, so I’m not gonna talk too much about that because Google’s changed recently where it’s quality over quantity and get, to get the quality back links, you tend to have to pay some money.

Malcolm Freeman: So I’m gonna, I’m gonna leave that, but I’m gonna talk about building links such as local citations and Site A citation is a website that displays your company details. So consider things like Google My Business, that is a must. You must get your, your business registered on Google My Business. It’s a, a place to put your profile. It’s a place to put a pin on a map, it’s a place to have your Google reviews attached to, and most of the time it comes up in the search above organic listings. Mm. so it’s a very good driver of traffic. Mm-hmm. But there are other citation, that you can build as well yourself. So local directories, you might have a local, business directory or a business hub. if you can get yourself registered on those, submit your business. Mm-hmm. These are all links that are being built, which essentially tell the search engines that, oh, this website’s here, here, here, and here, and they’ve got look like they’re trusted.

Malcolm Freeman: If you’re trusted through Google, you get more authority. And that’s how you appear higher up the, the search engine results. so yeah, I would always go and free listing, Thompson Local Yelp, you’ve got your Airbnbs and your booking dot coms. If you can, then look, the, the key here though is consistency and accurate information. Mm. If you make sure you’ve got the, the bio, the short bio, your address, your website, your services, your categories, they’re all aligned, is a massive plus point. And your benefit from a, a good sort of spread of, of authority and trust across the web.

Sarah Riley: Yeah. And this is something we were talking about actually in my startup and Grow Club last week, that it doesn’t have to be a huge job because once you’ve got that text drafted you Yeah, I shared over a hundred links of directories last week. They literally just need to find someone who’ll do a, a bit of freelance work for them, you know, for a couple of hours to go round and, and use the links to just copy and paste that information. And you’ve got your business, listed. And one of those things that I wanted to mention as well about the Google My Business, page listing, so, so important for the new trend, which has been happening for years now, but is really starting to take off when people are saying, when they’re using search engines, they’re putting glamping near me. Where is the glamping near me Where’s a great glamping near me Or where’s whatever, you know, a unique cabin near me, it, these near me searches on, Google are essential. And if you don’t have your business in these local directories, it’s not, Google is not gonna know that you’re a local business and won’t, you know, give that information to the people searching the web. So yeah. Really, really valid point.

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah. Local, local SEO is a must. And, you know, it’s, I know you, you know, you might get some from the local area, but if you can build that trust and credibility locally, it then stretches nationally. So, yeah, absolutely. Good

Sarah Riley: Point. So, so is that the five or is there another one No, one more. There’s one more.

Malcolm Freeman: final one, number five. and this is, this, goes against, goes with what we talked about earlier about the marketing mix. use your website, as part of a bigger marketing plan, bigger marketing campaign. You know, think about all the activity you can do in in marketing that is, you know, all aligned to a strategy, all aligned to consistent messaging. And that might be across print, it might be exhibitions that you go to, or events, it might be email marketing. Make sure that you’re doing all you can without, you know, spending too much money. Make sure it’s all within, you know, reasonable fees, to attract and engage with your potential client base.

Sarah Riley: Have you got any examples you can share of businesses that have done this really well in unique holiday rental space

Malcolm Freeman: Yes. So, several years ago we were approached by, Jules and David Mold of Meadow Field Glamping. and they, they, ran a working farm and had a, had a new business venture where they would, from their fields for a couple of, safari tents, which would house I think six people in each. So they came to us and they, at the very start of their business wanted an identity and a website, to start off with. And we helped them. We, we basically developed a, brand identity for them, which included a logo and some brand assets, and then went through to build them a website. Now it was amazing sort of project because there were so many great things going on at the farm, and the safari tents were, you know, so unique and the setting which they put them in.

Malcolm Freeman: So having great photography, having great write-ups about the, you know, the people, you know, David and Jules and the family and the working farm and the story behind why they’ve done this, was all caught onto the website. And it was just great to be immersed in their sort of journey in developing that business. since, since, you know, building the website for them, we’ve, we’ve managed to do other marketing for them, such as, you know, signs, s e o at the very beginning of the website, launch adverts for magazines, and even recently printed umbrellas for the guests to use within the, within the tent. If they’re going out, it’s a rainy day. So it’s all, it’s all aligned, it’s all branded. so it is, it’s been an amazing experience for them and, we’ve loved seeing them sort of, you know, get bookings, have people, stay and also get some really good feedback from the website that we’ve created for them.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. And having, I, just literally, was a speaker at the glamping show in the uk, couple of weeks ago and, managed to book a stay at Jules and David’s place, Metfield Glamping because, it’s very, very close to where the show happens. And so I had, I have experienced her facilities myself. And I would have to say the attention to detail is, is amazing in her services, but I think also is reflected in the fact that they have really put time into their website and to make sure that their online, presence is, is there for the guest as well from the website to the app that people can download to their phone that says everything about the accommodation. You know, all of it is, is works like clockwork. And, I think it’s a fantastic example. I would definitely recommend people go and have a look at me Field glamping website, for sure. And, that’s

Malcolm Freeman: We do for, Jules as well. Sarah, it’s worth mentioning is, Jules just hasn’t just sat there and said, my website’s complete now, I’ll leave it and carry officers. Mm-hmm. She’s really conscious about, making sure the website is up to date being improved, being worked on as well. So we are going right through a round of updates. So, and this is about taking feedback from your guests. So, you know, you might suddenly start thinking, why am I answering this question all the time Why are they always asking impair Are they always asking, is there, you know, hot water or, you know, whatever, you know, whatever it may be, that feedback you’ve got to take and then say, right, that’s gotta go on the website. Mm. So then she, we were always doing like a review, seeing how things are going, look at the analytical data, and then making changes to make that website perform better. So don’t just rest on your laurels and go, that’s fine, I’ve done that. Now, always come back to it every now and again. Maybe it’s a six month period, maybe it’s a year. Make sure you come back and look at ways and pages that could be improved.

Sarah Riley: Mm, absolutely. Again, this is something that I recommend every host does, regardless of whether they do their own website or, or they have someone else helping them like you. it is focus it in, in the down quieter months, you know, the shoulder season or certainly the winter months to actually focus on, on, you know, what you can do about every part of your business, including the online element. And having a little review of everything at that time is great. It allows you to fix some problems before you start the new year. And I think it’s a, a good thing to have in your actions and to-do list for sure. and great if you can actually do it with someone like yourself, because it means you’ve got the extra support there and direction to help you understand where you need to go. So what can people do if they wanted to get in touch with you or find out more about what you do How do people get in touch

Malcolm Freeman: so we, we offer free consultations. So if there’s any of your, listeners that are looking at, maybe upgrading their website or starting a website, we offer free consultation and that’s something we can do remotely. So we can join upon a Microsoft Teams meeting. It’s about an hour long and, we have a chat, we understand about your business, we get some insights, look at the requirements, suggest some ideas, from our experience, and then can go away and produce a proposal for that to book that pro consultation. You can go onto our website, which is ww dot oxygen uk, and on the top right hand corner you’ll see a button that says Book a meeting. And from that section there, you can then choose the book, what type of meeting you’d like, and you can choose a date and time, which, basically aligns with my availability. so it’s quite easy to do quite a, a, a, a simple process and I get a message to say that you’ve booked in. And then at that certain time, we’ll then join the teams meeting and we’ll, we’ll be introduced to each other.

Sarah Riley: Brilliant. Cause there was a slight glitch then, as you said, the web address, I’ll just repeat it again. So that’s, So hopefully, if someone is feeling a bit lost and then in need of some support or assistance, then that free consultation sounds like a great idea. They can certainly, you know, reach out to you, at any time and, I think that’d be really helpful. So thank you so much for that. That’s really amazing, Malcolm. I think, you know, it, it’s for someone like myself and someone like you who, you know, I, my business is online, I work online, I work with people all over the world. And so for me, this kind of thing is just not hard. It’s not, you know, it is, I’ve done this for many, many, many years. Yeah. but for other people, this is not their natural strength.

Sarah Riley: And that’s absolutely okay. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that it’s your, not your natural strength, but knowing that there’s someone out there like yourself who is able to give them advice and push ’em in the right direction is, is great because this is a bit of a minefield. You know, I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about companies that have stung people, you know, or them, they, not even companies, they’re individuals posing as companies saying that they can provide X, y, and Z online. And it just seems to be an area where people are stung occasionally with bad work, shoddy work or, you know, even dare I say it, fraudulent work, you know, bogus work. So I think having a, a face to a name and a place people can go to in this industry is really important. I’m assuming you don’t just do uk you do other people in, in different locations as well.

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got, clients over in America, that we service, built websites for and online stores for. So yeah, that’s absolutely fine. And we, with today’s technology mm-hmm. we can be , we can be like this face-to-face and you know, you know, handling a project without a problem.

Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. There are no barriers or b boundaries anymore. You know, we have no borders. There are no countries anymore. It’s just the world. Yeah. That’s the whole idea of the worldwide web, isn’t it So

Malcolm Freeman: Connecting people.

Sarah Riley: Yeah, absolutely. And, and I’m really looking forward to, you know, diving into more in the future about, you know, web three and the consequences of that in terms of this industry and other industries too. But that is definitely a conversation for another day. Maybe we can have in the future. Trying to make that something that is easy to understand and won’t completely freak people out, I think will be the challenge.

Malcolm Freeman: no. So we won’t be with r VR headsets then

Sarah Riley: No, no. Definitely not. No real people having real conversations, even though it might be online. ,

Malcolm Freeman: We, we laugh, but the, there are elements of the travel industry that are using vr. You know, when you go to book a cruise, people that will, you know, the travel agent will give you the headset. Why don’t you have a look at the Queen Suite It might be something you want to upgrade to. And obviously that’s part of Web 3.0.

Sarah Riley:  Absolutely. But there are so many different elements of Web 3.0. and you know, is yes, that is definitely another conversation with a big cup of coffee on the side. I would say , just to keep the whole gray matter buzzing. But thank you so much for your time today, Malcolm. It’s really fantastic. It’s a pleasure. And look forward to chatting again in the future.

Malcolm Freeman: Yeah. Thank you very much, Sarah.

Sarah Riley: Thank you.

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