Tuesday 29 March 2016

Taking B&B Web Design to New Heights?

Following the launch of the very well received Scotland's Best Bed and Breakfast website late last year we were delighted when several of the members of that group got in touch to have their own website redesigned.

The beauty of working with a membership organisation who have quality control built in as standard, is the assurance that you will be working with businesses and business owners committed to going the extra mile. When building a website it makes it so much easier when you know have an accommodation product that can be positively reflected in the design.

Westerton Bed and Breakfast in Callander is undoubtedly a perfect case study. Opting for our Open Rooms Standard which allows for up to a dozen content managed pages, the site perfectly showcases not only the accommodation but the magnificence of its location.

The site includes standard Open Room features such as:

  • Content managed full screen images
  • Drag and drop site structure
  • In page image galleries on every page
  • Updateable promo boxes with quick links
  • Booking Button (to FreetoBook on this occasion)
  • Google Maps
  • Contact Form
The site uses one of our Open Rooms themes which are then tailored to fit each business as required. When designed properly "templates" should not constrain your online presence but instead can enhance it by allowing you to express yourself where it matters with unique, imagery, content and direct pricing.

Our low cost set up fees make quality design and improved distribution accessible to all businesses and the "no lock in" monthly payment option ensures you never need feel tied to a web design company again - although we are sure you'll stay anyway!

Mike and Lesley from Westerton B&B sent us this,
Thanks again for your help, we are really excited about seeing our new website going live. For the first time since we started the B&B 14 years ago, we feel we have a website which does our business justice.
Your service has been amazing and it’s great to deal with a company which cares about its customers and goes the extra mile to meet the client’s requirements.
View Westerton B&B Site

Find out more about Open Rooms solutions for accommodation providers

If you want to find out more about how Plan B can help your business with a digital solution drop us an email or call 01294233713

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Google My Business and Destinations on Google

There really is never a fanfare for these things and if you are not watching for them or listening to a good account manager you will probably have missed the launch of Destinations on Google.

According to Google;
It's designed to help you discover and plan your perfect vacation on the go by doing the heavy lifting for you. Simply search with Google on your mobile for a state, country, or continent you'd like to travel to and add the word "vacation" or "destination" to get the stuff you need at your fingertips.

The service is accessed through a standard Google search on a mobile phone’s browser or on the Google Mobile app.

A search such as the one we have done for Destination Scotland will bring up a choice of popular locations; you can then click the more button to view the less often searched locations.

We mined downwards for Ayrshire and that in itself shows both the pluses and minuses for the process as it stands but what it does highlight is the need for tourism operators to have control of their Google My Business area - the destinations information is powered by a number of Google applications and Maps is certainly one of them. 

We are still surprised at how many businesses have not claimed their business entry on Google (it's the map and details on the the right of every page) and every time we start a website or review a digital strategy it is the very first thing that we resolve. 

How do you know if it's yours? Simply search for your business name along with your town and you will see the map, images and details appear on the right hand side of the page. If it says  "Claim this Business" just get it done as soon as possible.

We have a attached a briefing document for you to download to allow you to do it quite easily for yourself or contact us and we'll do it for you.

When setting up Google My Business for our clients we will go through the process to ensure the business makes best use of all of the free Google tools including Maps, Google +, update and upload your images, profiles, content descriptions and even set up your YouTube channel too.

It is quite simple for most businesses to manage on their own and their is strong Google support too however we have came up against plenty of instances where Verification Codes go awry or support from Google proves less than helpful!

Regardless of how you set it up, project releases such as Destinations on Google ensure that you must have your information up to date. It is a free route to your website and cannot be ignored.

Monday 7 March 2016

Facebook add Call Now button to Business Pages

You may have noticed that Facebook have added a Call Now button onto your business page. It doesn't seem to be universally rolled out amongst all of our clients so if you don't have it already it's sure to be on its way.

Just keeping logging in and make sure it sits beside your Book Now call to action that is already in place.

(Might as well test that link too and make sure that your Book Now button takes you straight to your booking page not just your homepage!)

Nothing much to the call now, but you need to ensure that your details are correct and that the phone is being directed to where it should be and not to some unfortunate in the accounts office getting a thousand calls on your three night spring offer!

You can Edit the Call Now and make it something more personal if you wish but you'll need to play around with the

It's probably more relevant and certainly prevalent on mobile as that's where it's most likely to be used. The call now sits prominent under the main graphic so may actually generate some direct calls - probably worth highlighting in your social media and links.

Take five minutes to update now.

Liberal Lord a Leaping - VisitScotland announce new Chairman

Malcolm Roughead has communicated this morning that VisitScotland have appointed a new Chairman to follow Mike Cantlay. And he's titled! Not being in the slightest churlish but it does seem to be that losing a LIberal Democratic seat shouldn't be seen as a barrier to future position! 

Anyway we wish him luck with his endeavours and here's hoping that his liberal leaning will move the organisation away from centralisation and control to increased collaboration and genuine moves towards sharing materials and solutions more widely.

Here's the press release,
"I am delighted to inform you that Fergus Ewing MSP, the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, has this morning announced the appointment of Lord Thurso as the new Chair of the Board of VisitScotland.

Boasting significant industry experience, John became Europe’s youngest 5 star hotel manager when appointed Managing Director of the Savoy Group’s Lancaster Hotel in Paris at 27.

Following five successful years in Paris, he then led a number of hospitality businesses to success including Blakeney Hotels of Cliveden, which became the UK’s highest rated hotel under his leadership, East Sussex National Golf Course and Fitness & Leisure Holdings.

John has served as a non-executive on a number of public company boards including The Savoy PLC, Millenium and Copthorne PLC. He is also Chairman of his family company in Caithness and for many years owned The Ulbster Arms in Halkirk.

He sat in the House of Lords between 1995 and 1999 and from 2001 to 2015 was MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross. He was awarded a “Catey” for services to Tourism 2003, was made an honourary DBA by Oxford Brookes in 2004, is a Master Innholder and a Fellow of The Institute of Hospitality and is President of the Tourism Society. In 2014 he was made a Privy Councillor by The Queen.

John will take the reins from Mike Cantlay OBE, who has led VisitScotland through significant tourism milestones since his appointment in 2010 including the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, a momentous partnership with Disney•Pixar on the blockbuster animation Brave and six themed years including the second Homecoming Scotland in 2014.

Mike will step down as VisitScotland Chair on 31 March 2016, with John being appointed to the position for three years from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2019.

Friday 4 March 2016

Plan B By The Sea - Three coastal hotel sites go live.

That was some week!

It's been an incredibly fast paced start to the New Year with website after website and project after project reaching fruition but the past week has been especially busy with no fewer than four sites going live and major upgrades to our server and content management system rolling out at the same time!

We thought we should share some of the background to them with you

Waterside Hotel, Ayrshire

I was at a Team North Ayrshire conference last Friday at this wonderful venue just south of Seamill and the investment put into it by the Simpsinns family business is impressive. The event hosted the Depute First Minister who really was fighting with the magnificent views across the Firth of Clyde towards Arran, The backdrop of blue skies and flat calm seas combined to make the economic presentations just a little easier to understand!

However it did emphasise that the work that we had done on the new hotel, restaurant and venue site really did benefit from the quality of the location and the professional photography taken of it. The new Waterside site was rolled out about six months ago but with some changes to photography and some work on the group branding we wanted to make some positive changes.

The new site still benefits from full screen imagery on the home page with multiple feature boxes highlighting key events and calls to action with image galleries across all pages. A new footer was added (which will be adopted in the sister sites at Gailes Resort and Old Loans Inn over the coming weeks) and the integration of a bespoke coded availability checker as well as some subtle changes to the navigation bar. In addition the site is now benefiting from major changes to the security and upload of our servers with Content Delivery Networks improving global delivery and a number of new functions improving the speed of the page load dramatically for desktop and mobile.

Everything is content managed from our proprietary Claymore system and changing images, titles, tags, content and promotions has never been easier.

The site is one of our new Open Rooms Suite packages with a single set up fee and then recurring monthly charges of £120 plus VAT per month - it's contract free and benefits include a redesign included at the end of year two.

Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch

There is a coastal them to all of our new hotel sites this week with each one of them sitting on a different Scottish sea! The Royal Golf Hotel benefits from magnificent location close to the wonderful stretch of Dornoch Beach and views across the Dornoch Firth - as well as sitting right on the first tee of the famous Royal Dornoch golf course.

We have been working with the Royal Golf on delivering digital solutions for close on a decade and in that time have helped not only with their website but in providing their booking engine (Bookassist), content writing, email marketing and strong account management.

We have built up a very strong relationship with their management team, so when we got the go ahead to rebuild the site we went full steam ahead turning it around from get go to go live in less than ten days.

Using one of our "Themes" (or "Website Views depending on what day it is!) the site was again built using our Open Rooms Suite package and includes Bookasssit as the booking engine, integrates ConstantContact for the email marketing and data collection and features a new image gallery layout. We helped with content edits and search tags and uploading images - although all of these tasks are now being handled by the team at the hotel directly.

We think the new site not only markets the hotel more effectively across all devices but undoubtedly promotes the attractions of the destination too.

The Crusoe Hotel, Fife

The final coastal destination of our business week is another quite unique property and the one quite clearly closest to the water's edge!

The Crusoe Hotel is located right on the harbour and as can be seen above seems to sit in rather than next to the sea! Lower Largo is famous as the seventeenth century birthplace of Alexander Selkirk who provided the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and today you can locate the signpost pointing to Juan Fern├índez Islands 7,500 miles away where Selkirk lived for more than four years as a castaway!

Anyway, back to this unique family run hotel and the new website. Another Open Rooms Suite package built to convert direct room sales.

The hotel attracts many golfers due to its proximity not only to St Andrews but the coastal links of Lundin, Crail, Kingsbarns and others and indeed the hotel won small golf hotel of the year in the 2015 Golf Scotland Tourism awards,

The site is built using one of our themes but as ever is highly personalised with a really nice "olde worlde" cartography background and wood carving style for the maps. The site makes great use of our content managed features highlighting exclusive offers and linking directly into the Bookassist booking engine which is fully integrated into the site.

So that was part of our week this week. Three hotel sites live plus another one for Kilmarnock Barassie Golf Club and ongoing work on a few more. 

If your hospitality business is in need of a digital refresh drop us a note and we'll give you a call. Contact us on 01294 233713 or email us directly.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Understanding and managing your Search Tags

We believe strongly that quality and engaging content is the most important area of your online marketing strategy and that without it you have no differentiation from competitor businesses and destinations nor unique attractions for customers. However there is still a role for understanding the mechanics of traditional SEO.

Understanding Meta Titles

The title for your homepage can list the name of your website and/or business and could include other bits of important information like the physical location of the business or maybe a few of its main focuses or offerings.

The example below shows the Meta Title for the Pro at a golf course

The following best practice guide comes direct from Google.

Understanding Meta Description

A page's description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. Whereas a page's title may be a few words or a phrase, a page's description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph.

It is understood that Google may not use this for actual searches but it is recognised that browsers my use it to ratify their search.

Whilst not as important as the title tag, description meta tags remain relevant because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say "might" because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page's visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user's query.
Adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice in case Google cannot find a good selection of text to use in the snippet – perfect for pages with high visual low word content perhaps.

Again the best practice below is lifted from Google’s own SEO guide.

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