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Web Design for Cumbria Businesses
Holiday property websites in the UK
What follows is advice specifically tailored to holiday cottages, guest houses and bed and breakfast holiday accommodation providers in Cumbria who rely on well-designed websites to promote their businesses online. However, the web design tips for businesses in Cumbria apply just as well to similar businesses in other parts of the UK and Europe.
Choosing a web designer
The first task when setting up a new holiday accommodation website will be to choose a web designer. A business in Cumbria may want to choose a local Cumbria web designer. However, geographical proximity is probably the least important factor to bear in mind when choosing a web designer. A much higher priority is to ensure that the designer will produce a site that stands the best possible chance of getting a high listing with Google and the other search engines. A site that potential customers cannot find is of little value, no matter how visually impressive it is.
To get a good listing with Google, Yahoo, etc a site must be optimised. This is the process known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It will be costly if you have to pay someone to optimise your site later, so you need to ensure that the initial designer incorporates all the necessary SEO features from the start.
Beware of some of the cheapest web design offers where designers are using automated sitebuilders to create template-based sites very quickly and cheaply. In addition to a rather unpleasant and dated look, these sites tend to be very poorly optimised and will therefore perform very badly.
Your home page
Make the most of your home page. Some people initially request that their home page be designed with a very brief welcome message. This is a mistake. You want your home page to get a high listing with Google and the other search engines, but that will only happen if you have a page with enough text that repeats your most important key phrases. If you are a bed and breakfast provider in a Cumbrian town - Cockermouth, say - with a business called "John Peel's Paradise", you need to give the page a title like "Bed and breakfast in Cockermouth at John Peel's Paradise".
You then need a few paragraphs in which you repeat the phrases "bed and breakfast" and "Cockermouth". When creating a page like this a balance needs to be struck between writing text that is pleasant to read and that is also sufficiently repetitive (because without the repetition of your favorite phrase - and ours on this page is "Cumbria web design" - the search engines won't give it a high listing for that particular topic). To see an example of a home page optimised in this way see this site for self-catering cottages in Cumbria.
Cumbria businesses, like others, will want their web designers to include some features that impress the visitor. The temptation here is to animate the page, perhaps designing some or all of it in Flash. However, you need to bear in mind the negative impact that this can have on your SEO score. Google, Yahoo, etc cannot read the contents of your Flash animation, or any other image for that matter, so you don't want to use forms of animation to replace the necessary quantity of good old-fashioned text optimised for the right keyword density.
The number of pages
Don't assume that the more pages you have, the better. Visitors to websites are notoriously impatient, and if you look at the statistics for even very well designed websites, you see that the time visitors spend on the site is measured in seconds, not minutes, and the number of pages viewed rarely exceeds two. So don't spread your content too thinly. If you have a holiday cottage in Cumbria, for instance, you should be able to highlight all the benefits of that cottage on a single page, leaving the other pages to add supplementary information like directions, the access statement, contact details, and perhaps a page with details of things to do in the area.
In Cumbria many holiday accommodation providers use the Guestlink service that has connections with the local tourist information service. The big advantage here is that, in theory, more business will come via those tourist information offices. However, companies already subscribing to the Guestlink service would do well to look closely at the statistics Guestlink provides. They can see there how many visitors to the calendar have arrived via the tourist information service. It is not inconceivable that the number could be zero, in which case you would do well to reconsider whether the high price of the Guestlink service is really justified.
There are alternatives. Your web designer in Cumbria or elsewhere will be able to put an availability calendar onto your site. Of the many calendars that we have looked at so far, our favourite is from PHPJabbers and is to be found at www.availabilitybookingcalendar.com. This has an easy to use administration panel, with which the calendar can be updated.
Announcing prices and special offers
Holiday accommodation providers in Cumbria and elsewhere often need to be able to announce changes to prices and want to advertise special late-availability offers. To do this, the web designer can insert a box on the calendar page where the proprietor can alter the content on his or her own. This involves building a very simple Content Management System (CMS) into the page. The simplest and most effective CMS that we have come across is called Pluck (http://www.pluck-cms.org). This works very well out of the box, but your web designer ought to reconfigure the built-in text editor so that it supports tables (a table will allow you to write a list of dates in one column and prices in another).
An alternative solution is to put a link on the calendar page that takes visitors to a blog. You can set up a blog for free on blogger.com or wordpress.com (or your web designer can install a similar system on your site) and you can post news of price changes, special offers. A blog can also be used to post news of forthcoming events in the area that would give prospective visitors an added reason to stay with you.
Protect your email address
Putting your email address in the text of one of your web pages is an open invitation to spammers. Sooner or later you will be overwhelmed with tonnes of spammy emails. Make sure your web designer uses a technique to hide your email address from automated email harvesting systems.
Promote your site
Once a holiday accommodation site is made it needs to be promoted. Although some companies will pester you to give them not insignificant sums of money to promote your site, this is something you can easily do yourself. It requires no special technical knowledge. Basically it involves building up a sufficiently large network of incoming links.
Initially, if you have a Cumbria guest house or other form of holiday accommodation, you will want to pay two or three other high-ranking websites to advertise your property. Make sure that these do rank very high for the relevant key words, and make sure that they will include a link to your website. You need to be aware that some links from paid advertisers are cloaked, which means that although they direct visitors to your site, there is no SEO benefit for your site. Before paying for the advertising, ask your web designer to find out if the links on it are cloaked or not.
You then need to embark on a long term process of raising the profile of your site. Begin by registering with lots of social networking and social bookmarking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Buzz, Reddit, LinkedIn, Folkd, Delicious, Newsvine, Propeller, Google bookmarks, Stumbleupon, etc). You can use these to bookmark or include very brief posts about pages on your website. When asked to give a title for the page or bookmark, make sure you choose a title with your keywords in it. Each of these bookmarks will count as an incoming link to your site. At the same time these systems can be used as a form of advertising.
Use your favourite search engine to find business directories. There are some good free ones that you can register with, and in doing so you can include other links back to your site.
Another step to take is to find forums where people are discussing holiday accommodation in Cumbria. Sign up and contribute to a few relevant discussions, including links back to your site.
Encourage your visitors to review your Cumbria business on one of the many online review sites. Trip Advisor is probably the highest profile site for holiday reviews, but there are many others such as iexplore, ivebeenthere and the Lonely Planet site.
If you don't have a blog connected with your site, begin a blog at Wordpress.com. Write posts about your accommodation and developments in the area of interest to visitors, linking back to your site as you do so.
Over time, the network of links that you build up will convince Google and the other search engines that your site is an authoritative one that deserves a high listing.
You will want to keep check of the numbers of visitors and find out which sites are referring them to you. One of the best ways of doing this for free is to sign up to Google's Analytics service. Your Cumbria web designer will have to add a few lines of code to your homepage, afterwhich you will be able to see very detailed statistics for your site traffic.
If you require further information or advice about the design of holiday accommodation websites for holiday rental property in the UK and Europe, go to google.co.uk, put "holiday website design" in the search box and look down the list of UK holiday website design agencies.
Cumbria holiday accommodation
Cumbria web design links
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