Create a UK holiday website

How to create a website for your UK holiday home

If you want to set up a website for your holiday accommodation (holiday cottage, apartment, villa, guest house or bed and breakfast), the first question on your mind might be whether it is a good idea to put the site together yourself. You could get your hands on a copy of Dreamweaver (or similar software), and use it to make your own website. Alternatively, you could buy web hosting from a company that includes a free site builder in its hosting package. The site builder will have a number of templates that you can choose from to create the pages for your site.

But is the DIY approach a good idea? If you don't know much about web design (and that includes having at least some familiarity with things like HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP), and if you are going to rely on your website to find new customers for your business, then the DIY approach is almost certainly a bad idea. The main reason is that although it is very, very easy to get something resembling a website up on the internet, it is difficult to create a website that will actually do what you need it to do to bring in those new customers. The chances are that you will end up with a holiday website that gets few visitors and that converts even fewer of those visitors into customers.

A professional holiday website

Even those of us who are committed to the values of self-reliance admit that some things are best left to the professionals. One of those is dentistry, another is web design.

Note that the cost needn't be prohibitive. It is possible to find an excellent web design service that will pay for itself in less than two weeks.

What about a content management system (CMS)?

A CMS is a system installed on a server (not on your PC) that enables you to add to and make changes to the content of your website without having to bother with any of the technicalities of web page code. Many web design services will, if you wish, set up a CMS tailored to your needs, with a colour scheme, graphics and layout that suit both your taste and the materials you will be displaying.

You should consider using a CMS if you are going to want to add to or significantly change the content of your site frequently (say more than once every two months). Bear in mind that if you have never done anything like creating a blog some patience will be required while you find your way around the CMS. They aren’t very complicated but there is a learning curve. You might need to read through one or two online tutorials to get the most out of your CMS.

You should also be aware that the CMS will impose certain limitations on how you can present text and images on the page. You need to be happy working within those limitations.

Rather than have a content management system made from scratch it will usually make more sense to use an open source or commercial CMS, modified to suit your needs. An excellent open source CMS for a holiday website is MODX. Another alternative is to use Wordpress as a content management system, and there are a few inexpensive holiday website themes available for Wordpress.

Choosing a professional UK web design service

There are a number of things to look out for when choosing a UK web design service. Here are a few points to bear in mind (not in order of priority):

1. Avoid web design firms that charge extra for features that are standard parts of a business website (things like contact forms, for instance).

2. Make sure you know how much leeway there will be in the design process if the designer is going to begin with a template.

3 Sometimes a template or a sample website can look great but then look much less great once the sample content has been replaced with your photos and text. In this event, make sure you can alter things without being charged extra.

4 Your website will advertise your business email address. Make sure the designer encrypts this to protect it from automated email harvesting systems (spam).

5 Later on, after the website is up and running, you are going to want to update information (and perhaps images) on the site. Check to see how much this will cost.

6 Last but definitely not least is the vital issue of the search engine optimisation (SEO) of you UK holiday website. This should be part of the initial web design package, otherwise optimising the site later will involve expensive alterations. At the very least there needs to be a careful discussion with you about the most important key phrases people will use to find your holiday business, and then a meticulous inclusion of those chosen key phrases in the parts of the page that the search engines pay most attention to.

A properly optimised UK holiday website

The process just mentioned is sometimes referred to as on-site SEO. It is vital, but insufficient on its own. A page with all the right key words in all of the right places will still not be picked up by Google and the other search engines if it does not have any incoming links. Building up a network of valuable incoming links is the second stage of the optimisation process, sometimes referred to as off-site SEO.

Again, the initial web design package should include the creation of enough incoming links so that, at the very least, the key pages on your site acquire an acceptable position in the search engine listings for the chosen key phrases.

Be realistic about the ranking of your UK holiday website

Building up the network of incoming links takes time, so if you are looking for a low-cost web design service you can’t expect the designer to create all the links you might need to get onto page one of the search results. It is unrealistic to expect a brand new site created in just a few days on a very tight budget to immediately go to the top of the search engine list.

However beautiful your new holiday website is, you will probably need to use traditional forms of advertising or paid listings with agency websites, at least in the beginning, to attract sufficient custom.

How to move your holiday website up the listings

Providing the site has been built with good on-site optimisation, there are a number of easy steps you can take to move it up the search engine listings and so get more visitors. Without worrying about any technical jargon you can improve the network of incoming links, which will then translate into a higher listing with Google and the other search engines.

Bear in mind that some incoming links are better than others. Links from very popular sites are more valuable, as are links from sites full of content that is directly relevant to what you are promoting.

From the outset, you should see link-building as a long-term project. It is something to be done gradually over a period of time - something to come back to regularly and with patience. Therefore, you should set your sights on seeing your holiday website rise gradually in the listings, rather than vainly hoping it will shoot from obscurity to the number one spot.

Creating really effective incoming links

Lets say you have a holiday cottage called "Fog on the Tyne" at Whitley Bay - a 5-star cottage for 6 people (dogs welcome). When you create your incoming link you will usually be asked for a title for the link, perhaps also for a brief description, and maybe a category or tag, too. For each of these you need to highlight the key phrases that potential visitors might be using to look for your cottage. They probably be won't be searching for "Fog on the Tyne", so you don't want to highlight that. A good title would be:

Whitley Bay holiday cottage for 6 - dog friendly - 5 star self catering

Take a similar approach for the description, adding more information and putting the less searched-for terms (like the name of the cottage) at the end. When specifying tags or categories, the owner of the "Fog on the Tyne" would stick to phrases like "whitley bay holiday cottage" and "whitley bay self catering 5 star" or "dog friendly cottage whitley bay".

Where to start

Finding the best sites to create incoming links requires a little thought, imagination and research. We have found that the following places are generally good places to start.

Bookmarking sites

There are many bookmarking services now on the web. You need to register with them (for free) and then you can bookmark the most important pages on your site. This plays a dual function. Each bookmark functions as an incoming link and each is a means by which your website could be found by interested visitors who use the same bookmarking system. Here is a list of some of the bookmarking services.

digg.com
folkd.com
stumbleupon.com
delicious.com
reddit.com
bookmarks.yahoo.com
buzz.yahoo.com
google.com/bookmarks/
diigo.com
linkagogo.com
googletop.net
bloob.net

When bookmarking your site don't forget to write a title and a brief summary (where possible) that highlights your key words.

Encourage others to bookmark your site. We will gladly put a button on your home page providing immediate access to the bookmarking sites, like the one below.

Social networking sites

In amongst their social networking functions these enable you to post links back to your web pages. They also enable you to join virtual networks and thereby raise the visibility of your business, so that as well as increasing the number of incoming links you are also finding potential customers.

Three popular social networking sites are:

facebook.com
twitter.com
linkedin.com

Again, try to squeeze your main key word into any usernames, link titles, tags, etc

Directory submissions

There are directories to which you can submit a link for free. Two universal directories are particularly important: dmoz.org and dir.yahoo.com. You may not have heard of DMOZ, but that is a directory that Google pays particular attention to. When submitting links to directories be careful about the way you word the title and any description, and make sure those key words are highlighted again.

Look for business directories on the web and list your business with them in the most relevant category. There are some paid listings worth considering (e.g. yell.co.uk) but before considering those, try these free ones:

freeindex.co.uk
hotfrog.co.uk
cylex-uk.co.uk
bizwiki.co.uk
ufindus.com
uksmallbusinessdirectory.co.uk
accessplace.com

Getting reviewed

If you provide a service, there will be a website where people can leave reviews about it. If happy customers are not spontaneously filling these sites with glowing reviews and including links to your site, you could perhaps encourage one or two people to make up for this oversight. You can use your favourite search engine to find the most relevant review sites. However, not all of them enable you to post a link. Here are a few sites for holiday reviews.

www.tripadvisor.com
www.ivebeenthere.co.uk
www.virtualtourist.com
www.tipped.co.uk
www.iexplore.com
www.reviewcentre.com

Note that a listing on Tripadvisor (and Tripadvisor often gets its listings high up in the search engine results) is no longer free. At the time of writing, holiday accommodation providers have to pay for a listing with Flipkey, which then results in also being listed on the Tripadvisor site.

Blogging

Start a blog, or two or three. You can do this for free. Blogging will involve putting up short, newsy pieces on the web, and in these you can include links back to the relevant pages on your site. If you have a guest house, you can write briefly from time to time about things relevant to tourism in your area. This is a way to create a source of external links with a high degree of relevance, but it does take time. Two free blogging sites are www.blogger.com and www.wordpress.com.

Commenting

There are other places around the web where it is possible to post comments and similarly small interjections, and sometimes it is possible to squeeze in a link. Other people's blogs, forums, and question and answer sites can provide opportunities to add links. Use your favourite search engine to fish them out. One that we use is uk.answers.yahoo.com.

Link baiting

Ideally, what happens is that not only your business but also your website is so interesting that people just link to it because they find it an important point of reference. One way of encouraging people to do this is by putting up particularly interesting or important material. If you have a guest house, for instance, in a significant location and you write one of the best histories of the place on the web, you will inevitably attract links once word gets around.

Isn't there a quicker fix?

You may come across ads promising an amazing boost to your Google ranking overnight. These need to be treated with caution. The systems at Google and elsewhere are continually being developed to weed out sites that use techniques to create an artificial impression of either extreme relevance or extreme popularity (sometimes referred to as "black hat techniques").

Because of this, our advice is to ignore the ads and be patient. With your own hand-made reviews, comments, blog posts, genuine directory listings, etc you can slowly raise the visibility of your site, increase the traffic, and build up a network of links from other relevant sites. This takes time, but it is safer, doubtless more effective in the long run and certainly cheaper than paying for a dubious "quick fix".

Learn from your competitors

Before you try to beat your competitor it might do to learn from him/her. How? One step is to see what sort of incoming links they have gathered. To do this just type their web address in Google and look down the list to see the sites that mention them or link to them. Look at the sites and see how to get your link included or and your business mentioned. For a more focused list of incoming links to sites, use the free Yahoo site explorer service.

Spam warning

When arranging listings and links you will often be asked for a valid email address. We advise against using the address you rely on for either personal or business emails. The risk is that you end up with unmanageable amounts of spam. To deal with this eventuality, create a new email address with one of the free providers (try Yahoo - create an account with them and set up a free email address). Then, if you do get overwhelmed with spam, you can just cancel the email account.

How can I gauge the success of my efforts?

Type the most important key words for your product/service into Google or Yahoo (or some other search engine) and take a close look at the list. If you can't see your page, try this Google position tool (it can give a useful indication although the results are not necessarily 100% accurate).

In addition to checking your position in the list you will probably also want to keep track of how many visitors you are getting. Most hosting accounts (including ours) give you a control panel from which you can access statistics about your website. For more detailed stats and for information about your incoming links you can sign up for the free Google Analytics service. This requires adding a few lines of code to your home page. Your holiday website design service can do this for you.

When will I be able to relax?

You need to realise that promoting your online business is not something you can finish and be done with in a few weeks. It requires continual effort. How much effort and how often depends upon your competition. If others a few rungs below you are busy building up their links and furiously optimising their pages for search engines, you might find yourself slipping back again. You will need to keep an eye on your position in the list and make sure that your rivals are not getting the edge.

Holiday website design
Holiday website design

Comments 1 comment

Uk Holidays find free advertising websites 6 years ago

There are a few well placed free UK holiday advertising websites, they also offer UK holiday website designers advertising space too. Take a look.

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