There’s more to digital marketing success than a pretty website

Before I “found the light” and devoted my career to running a software company, I was in the advertising business. During those years, I managed countless situations where clients wanted to make design changes to advertisements for no particular reason other than subjective bias. I would always ask them why they wanted to make this change. In the ensuing conversation we (more times than not) came to the mutual conclusion that the requested change was unnecessary and would most likely risk contributing to the degradation of the anticipated outcome (or reason) for the ad.

I thought I had left that world behind until recently when I overheard a discussion about websites that had the same plot. A prospective customer wanted to have particular characteristics of a website that were not readily available in the templated design they were reviewing. And so, in this case, the customer came to the conclusion that templated website designs are inferior. I thought this was an unusual conclusion to come to as the characteristic (in my opinion) sounded like subjective bias, but I also know that most bespoke or custom-built websites are based on a standard template, most of which have a good amount of flexibility in customization anyhow. I also thought there must be thousands of templated website designs in the market and I am sure that for every design one person loves there are just as many (if not more) of those that don’t love a particular design.

So, I did a simple Google search for “WordPress template designs” and Google returned 4.5 million results. I clicked on the first organic result and the headline of the website was “23,238 Website Templates and Themes From $2.” There’s clearly no shortage of designs and there’s something for every design style from techy to artsy to corporate and so on. How do you go about choosing?

There’s more to digital marketing success than a pretty website

As visually-driven beings, we can’t help but choose the design that catches our eye most or that we believe is the most visually appealing. However, there are many more factors to consider beyond what we personally identify as a visually appealing design.

Objective factors to consider when choosing a website template

Design is subjective and the subjective evaluation of marketing (let alone digital marketing) is the number one cause of ineffective efforts and results. When going through the process of evaluating website designs (templated or not), objective factors like usability, content display and paths to purchase need to be considered over subjective factors. In other words, assessments that are subjective in nature should take a back seat to objective assessments of effectiveness and performance.

There’s more to digital marketing success than a pretty website

I’ve visited my share of “pretty” hotel websites. I’ve observed some common problems among them, including:

  • difficult to navigate
  • too much irrelevant information
  • frustrating or hard to find booking process
  • lack of focus
  • no clear path to conversion

I suspect that many of these “pretty” websites likely fall short on the performance front, meaning high bounce rates, short session duration and most critically, low purchase intent and conversion.

Why purpose-built templates beat pretty templates

I think the reason for many of these “pretty” but ineffective websites is that they have been built by a committee based on countless (and probably conflicting) subjective factors. This typically happens when a customer and a third party they are working with have to start with a “white sheet of paper”. No context, no focus or stated purpose of what the website needs to achieve and for whom. Facing a blank page is hard work and not for the inexperienced, and therein lies why I think properly built templated website designs are a better choice for the vast majority of hotel marketers. The only difference is that I would not refer to them as templated but rather purpose-built.

There’s more to digital marketing success than a pretty website

Thousands of hoteliers use Leonardo’s Vizlly Digital Marketing System to build and manage their websites (among other digital marketing activities) from a library of templated designs. I am sure that every customer prefers some of the designs over others, some may not love any of them, but that’s ok, because they’re not built solely to be pretty – they’re purpose-built to drive direct bookings. You might not win a flashy award for your website (more on that in this post) but you will increase revenue for your hotel – isn’t that the ultimate goal of your website?

Thinking beyond a website design

There’s a lot more to an effective website than the design and you can’t just “set it and forget it.” Websites need to be updated regularly in order to stay relevant. I believe there’s a perception that you can just buy a WordPress template and launch a website in no time at all. If you’ve ever attempted that, you know that’s not the case. My guess is that the average hotel marketer doesn’t have time or technical know-how to turn a WordPress template into a fully-functioning website. There’s a whole industry of agencies and web developers that sell WordPress website development for a reason.

There’s more to digital marketing success than a pretty website

If I were running sales, marketing or eCommerce for a hotel today, I would be looking for more than a website design. I’d be looking for a solution that provides a low cost way for me to build purpose-built and effective websites to promote my property online. You will notice that I pluralized the word “website.”

A number of years ago, we had a management retreat to New Brunswick, the theme of which was fly fishing. We stayed at a resort that was essentially a bunch of cabins with a nice main house near the Miramichi River. I was amazed at how popular the resort was and asked the owner how they did it. He explained that years ago he secured the domain name for the resort name ( and a host of domain names like,, and many more. He invested in having websites built, which was expensive for him in the early days but his dozens of websites all rank on the first page for multiple search terms relating to fly-fishing on the Miramichi River.

I also had the good fortune of meeting Alfred and Barbara Krammer of this summer. Alfred shared with me that he also uses a multi-store strategy to increase awareness and ranking for websites that retail his rooms. In fact, if you search for city apartments in Vienna, four of his websites rank on the first page alone.

There’s more to digital marketing success than a pretty website

These forward-thinking hoteliers found cost-effective technology that empowers them to increase their footprints online using multiple, purpose-driven websites without adding to their workloads. The net benefit is that they dominate searches for “hotels” in their domains and secure direct bookings.

So, if you’re ready to improve your digital marketing performance, lower your costs, and reduce time and frustration managing your online marketing, then digital marketing technology is the answer.

Download The Hotel Marketer’s Playbook For a High-Converting Website to learn how to leverage technology for a high-converting website.

There’s more to digital marketing success than a pretty website

View Comments