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Website options - comments please !!

Replies: 28 - Pages: 2 [ 1 2 ] - Last Reply: Feb 15, 2019 2:05 PM by: Rich S
Rich S
Registered: 12/28/18
Website options - comments please !!

Hi Folks,

I'm looking to set up a website for two/three ski condos in Colorado. Would love to hear about anyone who have done this recently and which site you picked, why and your happiness with it.

At the moment I'm considering using Wix and maybe this template: https://www.wix.com/website-template/view/html/1565?siteId=010744df-a688-4c70-88b5-f2b5f1bb0caf&metaSiteId=94ce1a90-35a5-4eb2-a491-2f0208097e2d&originUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.wix.com%2Fwebsite%2Ftemplates%2Fhtml%2Ftravel-tourism

I also like the websites from Owner Reservation, however I'd like to use a 3rd party website unless there are huge advantages involved.

JTVRs
Registered: 6/25/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

I bought a Wordpress Vacation rental template that had several thousand sales.Then as I started digging into the various plugins and widgets, I started seeing serious limitations and a lack of knowledge on my part. The template you show has a copyright date of 2023. You think these people are professional?

I certainly wouldn't use a freebie template or one with a few sales. However there are a ton of web issues that a new person may not grasp. SEO, availability, loading time, updates, liability, reviews, professionalism, web presence, host problems....

I figured if there are technical issues, having a website through the people managing some/all of my agreement, paperwork, communications, pricings, calendars, payment methods, credit cards, etc. and handling tens to hundreds of thousands of bookings was better than saving a few bucks on a DIY basis.

They provide a basic template and they host it. There is tech support behind both. It talks to the OwnerRez functionality.

Lost bookings. Bad reviews. Guest confusion. Things I didn't think about. Hacking into my site. What constitutes a huge advantage to you?

I decided to start with their hosted website, instead. There is a saying that the person who serves as his own lawyer has a fool for a client!

Paul W
Registered: 6/9/09
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Ross hit some good points overall. It comes down to how much you want a custom look and feel versus the time spent in wiring up widgets or managing your page content (property photos, description, etc) which has to be duplicated in your template.

When you change the property listing content in OwnerRez (photos, description, amenities, etc) the website end changes instantly because it's built on the same infrastructure. All of our security, routing, load balancing, etc infrastructure handles the website end so you never need to worry about that stuff. And your page are always up to date because it pulls directly your OR account.

With your own third party website (Wix, GoDaddy, Wordpress) you have to manage those content pages on your own. We have widgets for calendars, book-now, inquiries, etc that you can drop in so the dynamic parts of the site will work fine based on your OR settings, but you have to manage what goes around it.

The advantages to using your own third party website is that you can completely customize the look and feel or buy third party templates. Our website engine runs off a central template and you have to work within that template and style what is there. It's a great template with a lot of functionality, but it's not a completely custom green-field experience if that's what you're looking for. Keep in mind that most of the third party templates you're buying (like the one you linked above) is also not completely custom for you either. There are hundreds or thousands of other users who have bought that same template.

JTVRs
Registered: 6/25/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Exactly. People think you get a template and the hard part is over and it is so pretty and so customizable. But even the good paid templates end their tech support after 6 months.

Then when things go wrong or you don't understand a problem, that is when you learn the value of tech support from the web host and from the website. And it ain't cheap.

Rich S
Registered: 12/28/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Paul - thanks... lot's to think about.

I've done wordpress/studiopress themes myself before and concluded that for security reasons alone I'd need to use a hosted solution where someone else manages to keep ahead of the scammers.

The template I showed was from Wix, and of course they are a very limited kind of website in terms of customisation, but they handle all of the security risks and I figure that the website won't change very often assuming that the widgets work well.

In full disclosure, having the website elsewhere than OR gives me redundancy. If y'all ever go dark/disappear I'd at least have all the content from my website, so it's kind of a backup solution.

Thanks though, I'll be playing around with this in the coming weeks and probably have more questions.

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: Website options - comments please !!

I think from layperson perspective, WP sites are overrrated. I had one done on WP dropped it 2K and 2 years later. Much harder to update and maintain for a non specialist. I have a site that I did <myself> on sitelio starting with their template ( it has evolved since I have started it in 2016) and ownerrez widgets. Plus: you can specify meta tags, alt tags, search keywords and embed analytics and schema.org code etc what is needed for SEO ( many other templated sites do not allow that). Minus: some canned objects (photo galleries, bullet lists etc) are not as flexible as I'd like them to be. Another plus- cost of hosting - about $100 a year but you can get a cheaper promo. take a look and let me know what you think: bluemountaincabins.com

Rich S
Registered: 12/28/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

@BlueMtnCabins - I've looked at your website before, it's terrific on a desktop and a phone too.

I've never considered doing anything outside of wordpress, mostly because there are so many wordpress based sites I didn't see any reason to use anything else.

The thing I concluded after my experience using studiopress, which is a theme/framework overlaid on top of wordpress, is that I really don't want to even think about the website on a day to day basis. I don't want to worry about keeping various elements patched or secure from an attacker, although in all honesty the worst someone could do is mess up the site, and I'd always have some backup available. And for SEO kinds of things, I've been there/done that at various times and finally decided to just not care very much about it. Google seems to keep changing things, and ultimately seems to reward genuinely good sites and especially good reviews. Which is a good point, all the reviews I'm getting from VRBO won't be much help with the google 'juice' so I'll have to encourage people to review us there too.

By the way, I did a quick review of sitelio and couldn't find many great reviews, and several bad ones. Not saying that it's not a great solution, maybe someone just has an axe to grind.

No matter which solution I end up with, I'm sure I will use your site as a map towards getting all the kind of content organized. I can tell you spent a lot of time, I'm sure your guests are very appreciative of all the information they can find.

Thanks for the tips!

Rich S
Registered: 12/28/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

@BlueMtn - I notice you have photos to 'Follow on Facebook' and 'Follow on G+', for Facebook in particular have you found it's helpful? With almost 4,000 likes I'm pretty sure of your answer, just curious about how big a factor you have found social media in general.

Similarly, for organic search through Google, have you focused on getting google reviews? When I search "blue mountain lodge" you're the 4th listing for me, but that requires folks to know/remember your specific name. Curious if you get many inquiries/bookings from folks searching google (and not one of the big sites) and searching for generic vacation rentals or cabins or such.

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Since the VRBO bookings are dwindling, I found that Facebook bookings are growing. My new and upscale property performs badly on VRBO (https://www.vrbo.com/1233689) , more than half of my bookings are direct or Facebook. I think most of them come from posts in FB groups and Marketplace. But I do hashtag my property name like this #BlueMountainLodge or #RidgeViewLodge in my group posts and marketplace where they do not allow links. So apparently guests find my FB page and follow to website. Social media presence also gives legitimacy and a place to leave reviews/recommendations.
yes I request Google reviews in my post departure review request email but about half were unsolicited. https://goo.gl/maps/RXWjt3hx57x
I do not know which direct bookings come from Google. I have a custom field on checkout form that says "How did you find us?" but people may answer "Google" or "Internet search" and I don't know if it was Google listing or simple search. If there is a way to tell, I would like to know how.

I believe Google has demised G+, so I may need to remove that reference.

JTVRs
Registered: 6/25/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Haven't done them yet, are Google reviews the same as Google plus? Where Google plus is going away?

JTVRs
Registered: 6/25/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

I am not sure if you really scrutinized your website. If I was on the right place, which redirects to another site, you have quite a few issues and glitches with the page I see in chrome on Android.

Stacy S
Registered: 2/3/19
Re: Website options - comments please !!

I used Wix. It was really easy and super flexible. Here's my site so far: www.gulflesson.com
More work to do to build out content and SEO but they have great tools. I'm a marketer and I'm really impressed with what they've got to walk you through the process both for building but then for setting your site up for Google indexing, SEO and more. I already owned my domain and that was also easy to connect.

I only knew about them from their Super Bowl ad and coincidentally needed to get my site up after leaving my management company. Definitely recommend checking them out.

Rich S
Registered: 12/28/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Thanks for sharing your site @Stacy, your pictures are really well done!

Paul W
Registered: 6/9/09
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Sexy looking site, Stacy! I notice the inquiry widget you dropped on the Contact page. If you get credit card processing (or some payment method configured) you should add a Book Now button to that as well. I'd also recommend adding a menu for availability and drop one of our calendar widgets on that. Also one showing reviews.

Stacy S
Registered: 2/3/19
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Thanks! I took the pics up there (DLSR, not phone lol) but actually have some pro pics coming soon and will add a lot more. :-)

Stacy S
Registered: 2/3/19
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Thank you!!! Yes, I'd actually like to have the inquiry (& booking) widget at the top of every page but right now I'm adjusting rates almost daily in VRBO based on demand to get traction again with the listing after having a management company fail with it. I haven't been able to get the VRBO rates to feed OR yet but once I do, that's definitely a priority. (I'm now remembering how much work this was last year and why I considered a management company in the first place! haha)

GOOD POINT about the reviews. I'll be sure to add a page and a nav item for those.

Thanks for the feedback!

Rich S
Registered: 12/28/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Stacy - I haven't looked at this in awhile, but I remember learning about a way to keep daily rates in OwnerRez and then push them to VRBO and other places. I'm in the same situation, rates for a given day are unique based on how far in future, is it a gap day, is a around a holiday like presidents day, etc.

I'm not sure that I want to rely on a 3rd party for dynamically adjusting the rates, seems like doing it myself is a worthwhile activity.

My point is - look into pushing rates from OR into VRBO, instead of the reverse. I believe that the OR team is working to enable that through the channel bridge extension for Chrome.

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Ross C said:

Haven't done them yet, are Google reviews the same as Google plus? Where Google plus is going away?

there is announcement by Google that G+ is going away some time in April.

BlueMtnCabins
Registered: 6/6/16
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Rich S said:

Stacy - I haven't looked at this in awhile, but I remember learning about a way to keep daily rates in OwnerRez and then push them to VRBO and other places. I'm in the same situation, rates for a given day are unique based on how far in future, is it a gap day, is a around a holiday like presidents day, etc.

I'm not sure that I want to rely on a 3rd party for dynamically adjusting the rates, seems like doing it myself is a worthwhile activity.

My point is - look into pushing rates from OR into VRBO, instead of the reverse. I believe that the OR team is working to enable that through the channel bridge extension for Chrome.


That is channel bridge

Rich S
Registered: 12/28/18
Re: Website options - comments please !!

Hi Y'all,

Just a quick update: When I asked this question I hadn't looked very closely (in 5+ years) at website building. I've since watched a lot of videos and read up on many reviews, here is a (very) short summary that maybe helps someone else

- Owner Reservation's Hosted site
- 3 of the major graphically oriented website builders (Wix, Weebly, Squarespace)
- Wordpress.org, Wordpress.com along with the largest eco-system for websites including frameworks like Studiopress
- Webflow: My current favorite, has an amazing graphical editor, a ton of training videos/university, and numerous advantages in security/hosting/design that appeal to me

For many people the OR hosted website will be perfect. If you want a website that stands alone from OR, then the 3 listed at top are candidates with a much smaller learning curve. Definitely look for reviews between those three because each has strengths and weaknesses. My favorite of the three is Squarespace. I'm avoiding wordpress because while it has a rich/awesome history it can be dangerous on its own (my opinion) due to security risks from plugins and requires lots of oversight. I very much want to set and forget and let a hosting company deal with protecting the content from attack, do backups, etc.

Webflow appeals to me personally because it ties into HTML5/CSS learning that helps me elsewhere in my life. I've always been a bit of a hack with them, and I'm pretty sure that Webflow will be a huge asset in learning, which appeals to me. I also like that there is a community (similar to this one) for Webflow where questions can be asked/answered. That was very important to me.... And lastly, Webflow allows amazing interactions where text and photos can move/fade based on scrolling position. That kind of thing should help ensure my website is inviting.

That's all for now - if any of my exploration works out (not guaranteed!) I'll post again sometime in the future when I have something to show.

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