WordPress Websites are a platform of choice for 22% of all new websites and nearly 15% of the top 1 million websites. Big brands, entertainers, media outlets and Fortune 500 companies such as UPS, Sony, The New York Times, CNN, and Martha Stewart all use WordPress.
This article spells out why I think WordPress is the right choice for many businesses. You’ll also read my in-depth interview with Aqua Hotel and Resorts’s Amber Watt. Ms. Watt is Director of Internet Strategy for the boutique hotel chain and recently made the bold move to switch her company’s websites over to WordPress.
Here are the top 4 benefits of a WordPress Website
It’s not uncommon for a business to pay $10,000 and up for a basic website featuring the advantages and power of today’s WordPress website. E-commerce businesses can be looking at 10 times that amount to build a site.
An old-school HTML website built from scratch is too often painfully expensive and time consuming, requiring the services of an outside agency. Post launch, your hands are tied because you still need to rely on that third party to make changes to your site. Haven’t we all experienced the sting of paying $75 or more just to change a single sentence or load a new image to our website?
WordPress websites offer an alternative that will save you money and give you more control. Building a WordPress website is significantly less expensive than building a static-type HTML site. Today hotels need to deliver valuable information to guests in real time by serving up fresh website content, and WordPress delivers this capability.
2. Brand Beautiful
There are literally thousands of premium designs available for use with your WordPress site that are ready to use right out of the box, or can be customized to suit your needs by a WordPress specialist or service provider. This includes adding your branding. Odds are you’re visiting WordPress websites every day without knowing it because they look just like traditional HTML websites.
For enhanced functionality, your theme can be custom designed because plugins come to the rescue. These are drop in scripts that add functionality to your site. There are over 17,000 plug ins available in the WordPress repository that easily add features like contact forms, flash image galleries, social media sharing, community and membership features, e-commerce and the list goes on.
Harold Mansfield, a leading WordPress expert explains his view on the value of WordPress:
“By far the best feature of WordPress is the template system that allows you to change your website’s design, without having to recode the entire website and start from scratch. This delivers maximum value by saving you on redesign costs and helps you keep your content, URL structure, incoming links, SEO and functionality intact.”
3. Elegantly Easy to Use
The greatest thing I like about WordPress is its ease of use. Once the design is finished and a website launches, it takes nominal effort for you to manage your site. All you need is an Internet connection and your login information to reach your WordPress dashboard and make updates of all kinds, like adding pages, posting to your blog, refreshing pictures, and the list goes on.
4. Simplified Search Engine Optimization & Syndication
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Search engines like Google reward well-tended websites that feature fresh, original content with more visibility than static websites.
WordPress levels the playing field when it comes to SEO for your property and allows the novice user more control over how their website is viewed and picked up in the search engines. It helps match your content with the millions of search queries looking for that specific content.
With regards to syndication, Harold Mansfield remarks:
“Just like in TV and radio, today’s web is about syndication. How many people or places you can get your content read by with the goal of driving traffic back to your website to see what else you have to offer. Whether that comes from social media sharing, email subscribers, or readers subscribing directly to your content. WordPress is naturally suited for syndication, and it’s content management system allows for you to syndicate multiple subject matter, authors, and aspects of your business from a single WordPress website.”
Case Study: Aqua Hotels and Resorts
Meet Amber Watt, Director of Internet Strategy for Aqua Hotels and Resorts, a collection of 15 boutique and budget hotels in Waikiki/Honolulu, Oahu and 4 resorts on Maui, Molokai, Kauai and Lanai. Amber leads a marketing and e-commerce team whose responsibilities include managing the chain’s websites and setting the direction for their social media strategy.
I asked Amber about her team’s experiences using WordPress:
How do Aqua Hotels and Resorts use WordPress?
“In January 2011 we started the transition to move our hotel websites over to WordPress. Today we have 16 properties on WordPress, and 2 remaining with other vendors.
We outsourced a WordPress specialist to work with our team to build the new sites and that went smoothly. At Aqua, centralizing the management of the property websites works well. We’ve been engaged in social media since 2008, with a centralized twitter account and decentralization for our hotels’ Facebook pages.”
Did you encounter resistance when moving to WordPress?
“I had closely examined the pros and cons of moving from a proprietary content management system to WordPress and found a host of benefits to proceed with making the change. A member of my team who had previously used WordPress championed the transition. And while I was the decision maker and enjoyed the full support of my team and higher ups, the benefits of WordPress made it an easy sell. You can imagine how happy our Creative Director was at the prospect of using WordPress to show off our brand to full measure.”
What were the leading reasons why you made the switch?
1. We wanted more control of our websites and made the conscientious decision to move away from a proprietary content management system. We did not like the experience of being locked down. For example, we could not change our website without relying on someone from outside the hotel. Our business objective was to become more agile and responsive to both our guests’ needs and the market opportunities at large. I believed having a website we could control in real time would give us an advantage.”
2. We suspected that we could reduce our website expenses. We’re not a giant hotel chain and can less easily absorb the expense of a proprietary content management system. As a mid sized hotel group, we pay careful attention to every line item, and part of our motivation came from the expectation that we would enjoy more value elsewhere.”
How did it feel to take the leap?
“Honestly it was scary. I remember thinking that this is either going to be genius or madness. I was ultimately accountable, so it was nerve wracking. It didn’t help that there are few hotel role models using WordPress. Most of the industry remains with legacy systems that have served the industry for years. I am quite pleased to share with you that our switch to WordPress exceeded our expectations.”
What factors contributed to a successful outcome?
1. Our experienced Internet marketing and e-commerce team is exceptional, bringing to the table a practical knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for today’s new online tools, including WordPress.
2. We invested in a one-week, in-depth training that helped our group be fully operational on WordPress within a month.
Can you tell me more about the benefits of using WordPress?
- “Reduced Hosting Expenses: Before the change we were going through a third party and paying a premium. Now, we use the same hosting company, but enjoy great savings because we deal with them directly.
- More Control & Flexibility: We finally got control over our websites and can better market our services and hotel features to guests and prospects.
- Speed: Our ability to update and fine tune our website messaging has increased tenfold at the same time the costs of managing our websites has decreased notably.
- Ease of Use: Once trained, WordPress is quite easy to use.
- Peace of Mind: We enjoy more security today now that we are no longer depending on 3rd parties to host, manage and update our websites. This saves us money as mentioned, but equally important, it saves everyone time.”
Is it difficult for you to manage a chain of hotel websites on WordPress?
“No, we use something called WordPress Multisite, which is an advanced application of the software. This helps us easily manage all our sites through a single platform.”
It’s been a year since the change, what reflections do you have for other hoteliers?
“Switching to WordPress was a big move, and like an airline flight, the toughest parts were the takeoff and landing. You need to make sure you have the bandwidth for the change and that you are focused on the hotel guest and website visitor at every juncture. You’ll need to check the functionality of your new sites from every aspect, and multiple times, for quality assurance.
Other advice includes:
(1) As with any big change, communication is key. So, be prepared with a project plan so everyone knows what’s happening and is well informed during the switch.
(2) Hold off from making this change until it’s your top business priority, you’ll need everyone on board.
(3) Know that there are ways to blend existing legacy systems with WordPress, so let your vendors know what you need and explore all the options.”