All owners of holiday cottages are faced with the decision whether or not to have a website. We know that there is quite a large proportion that decide against this and just leave it with the agent to let.
We hear so many people saying that a website will bring more bookings and this is often the case but there are also other compelling reasons to have a website and there is also a considerable range in prices.
Less well-known reasons why a website is valuable for holiday cottage owners:
1. When you come to sell your cottage the website should have value and this can be used in the negotiations. Install Google analytics, collect the traffic data year by year and you will have a valuable resource.
2. To achieve high occupancy rates you need repeat business. A website encourages guests to book directly with you.
3. When previous guests decide to look at a repeat visit they won’t always be able to find your cottage on the web. They might misspell the name or location and a dedicated website stands more chance of appearing in a search engine compared to a listing on an agent’s website.
4. It can take a long time for a website to become established. Do it now and don’t run the risk of being caught short a year or two down the road.
5. You can spell out your terms and conditions in more detail than within a normal agency listing.
So what price should you pay? We see three tiers:
1. Top tier. Premium websites. Typically these will cost you between £800 and £1500.These rates are typical of a design agency. This is their living; they have overheads and staff to pay. You can have all the bells and whistles.
2. Middle tier. Here you will find talented people who have taken up web design as an interest. It is often secondary to their main source of income and the prices should come down to £400 or even less. You will get a good solid website. Examples can be seen here http://www.greenpixeldesign.co.uk/price.html and http://www.northumbrian-light.co.uk/costs.html.
3. Bottom tier. Free websites. There are a number of companies which give you the opportunity to have a website for free. For instance WordPress (not to be confused with it sister option WordPress.org, which is free but requires hosting) and Weebly.
They offer perfectly respectable free options but you can also upgrade and pay a little more for some premium features. For example this is a totally free WordPress website: http://hethpoolmill.wordpress.com/.
Notice how the web address has “wordpress” in it. This is typical of free websites and WordPress sites at WordPress.com. But if you go to WordPress.org you can have your own domain name, eg – http://bookourcottage.com. This website had started out with “wordpress” included in the address but a small annual payment allowed us to have our own address.
You can see more about WordPress here http://wordpress.com and the self-hosted version (which let’s you have your own domain name) here: http://wordpress.org. And for Weebly have a look here http://www.weebly.com.
It is also worth noting that in most instances you can upgrade between these tiers. For instance you could start off with a free website and in a couple of years upgrade to one of the more expensive options.
It is also worth mentioning the annual ongoing fees which come with a website. These can often run into many hundreds of pounds and you do need to understand why these fees are charged and what your choices are.
1. Some web designers will price low on the website and look to reclaim on ongoing fees.
2. Will you need email services on the website as well? For instance let’s say your website is www.mycottage.com and you want an email to be, for example, email@example.com, then this can add to the ongoing costs.
3. However once you get past the two reasons above then you should be looking at between £40 and £100 per annum to host and maintain your website.
4. The free versions from word press and weebly will have no ongoing costs.
What else can we say? Well sometimes you will find your letting agency is happy to create a small website for free. Just part of their service. The Hethpool Mill website mentioned above was created free by Northumbria byways for a cottage owner.