Below is a list of online testing tools that you can run on your own website to see how it is performing online. More importantly, you should use these tests to verify what a potential provider says they can do for your business.
Anyone (and pretty much everyone) will say their sites are fast, that they do SEO, or that they handle ADA and GDPR for you. However, before you sign on the dotted line, you should put them to the test. Request a handful of website addresses, and run them through the following tests.
Then ask questions – lots of questions.
Keep in mind that a gorgeous website on the outside must be just as gorgeous on the inside (its internal engine). The “pretty factor” only goes so far when the site itself doesn’t function as per required guidelines, and in some cases, might even put you in a legal bind. The famous adage also applies to your website design:
“It’s not just what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts.”
Hiring the wrong firm can be frustrating, time-consuming, and in the end, cost you more than you might ever have imagined.
HTTPS:// Secure Server
Google began encouraging business owners to move their websites to a secure HTTPS:// server as early as August 6, 2014. If you haven’t converted your website to a secure server, your guests will encounter warning messages when attempting to visit your website.
For example, you will see the following: WARNING, THIS SITE IS NOT SECURE. This type of messaging will scare away potential sales.
In 2016, all new Acorn websites were released on an HTTPS:// server. At that time, innkeepers with older sites were encouraged to request to have their older sites converted to HTTPS://.
How to test to see if a site is secure HTTPS://.
Step 1: Go to your website and look at the URL in the address bar.
Results: If you see HTTPS:// before your URL then you know it’s secure. You should also see a small lock icon. If you do not see https://, or if you see a lock with a slash through it, then it is NOT secure. If you see a lock with a yellow triangle and an exclamation point, then you are secure but have warnings or errors.
Hint: When you look at your Google Analytic referrals, if more than 30% of your traffic falls into your (direct) / (none) bucket, you may have an issue with referring site links not having been updated to https://. Yes! The work your webmaster / host did to make all http:// links automatically forward to https:// is in place, and your guests are finding you just fine, but your tracking is losing its last previous referral because the http:// must resolve to the https:// and it end up in the “catch-all” bucket (direct) / (none). When this happens you lose valuable referral information to make better marketing decisions.
Schema, also called rich snippets, is a programming language that your webmaster can add to your website to help the various search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) learn specific information about your website content by reading the code. A few examples of schema are: events, recipes, and Local Address Location (LAL) definition. All websites should have the latter, LAL, as it connects your website with your GBP (Google Business Profile).
Step 1: Load your website. Step 2: Open a new tab in your browser and go to: https://validator.schema.org/ Step 3: Copy and paste your web address from the address bar into the box that says “ENTER A URL.” Step 4: Click the green Run Test button.
At the bare minimum, you should see some type of lodging schema: BedandBreakfast, LocalBusiness, Hotel. You should also verify that none of your schema has errors or warnings, and is complete, not missing any fields.
Quality SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Titles and Descriptions
Every page of your site is an opportunity to achieve high organic placement. If your webmaster did not take the time to add Meta Titles and Descriptions to your pages, then they will either default to your page name + your inn name, or Google will make up content for you. With neither of these options are you maximizing the opportunity to be seen in Google’s organic results.
In late 2010, Google publicly announced that site speed was going to be a new ranking signal. A variety of tools came along as a result. Test-My-Site (now called Test-My-Site-Think-With-Google) is a tool that estimates your loss of clients due to the slowness of your website load time.
*Note – Test My Site with Google has been deprecated. Google is now promoting the use of the Page Speed tool – see Test #5, below.
Basically, the slower your site loads, the more sales you could lose. Keep in mind that as time goes on, Google continues to refine and raise the bar on these tools, requiring your webmaster to also up their coding bar. In other words, a score you had yesterday may not be the score you see today or the score you will have tomorrow.
Google has stated that you should not sacrifice the usability of your site simply to attain a Green score, but on the flip side you don’t want your site to run so slow that people don’t wait for it to load.
Results: Obviously you want your site to be as fast as it can possibly be. The more photos, rotations, widgets, and maps you have on your site, the slower it is going to load, and the more sales could potentially be lost. What’s more, the benefit of a fast-loading website will result in a positive ranking signal.
In late 2010, as previously mentioned, Google publicly announced that site speed was going to be a new ranking signal. Before Google released the Test-My-Site tool, they released another tool called Google’s Page Speed Testing Tool. This tool has seen many iterations over the years, requiring that web programmers up their game each time Google raises the bar. Just because you had good scores previously, does not mean you will today.
Step 1: Load your website. Step 2: Open a new tab in your browser and go to: https://pagespeed.web.dev/ Step 3: Copy and paste your web address from the address bar into the test box. Step 4: Click ANALYZE and wait for your results. Step 5: Repeat for your booking engine URL and subpages of your site as the scores will vary per page.
Results: Note that you will see results for both MOBILE and DESKTOP.
MOBILE SCORES: Typically, a knowledgeable programmer can achieve a YELLOWSCORE if the property owner requires a photo rotation on the webpage. A knowledgeable programmer should also be able to achieve a GREEN SCORE on pages that do not require rotating photos or other intensive load-time requirements. RED scores should definitely be addressed.
DESKTOP SCORES: Desktop scores for all pages should typically be GREEN.
Important Note: Finally, this particular testing tool saw more stringent changes released in the fall of 2018, which now requires an additional programming effort by your web developer to achieve the YELLOW and GREEN scores mentioned above, regardless if you were scoring higher previously. The reality is, as Google continues to change, so must you, your programmer, and your website.
ADA lawsuits are becoming more and more prevalent. The testing tools we are going to reference below are just the beginning of your ADA-compliant journey. These tools test your site for blind, low vision, or other vision issues, such as movement that can bring on seizures. This is by NO MEANS the end all for testing ADA. It’s just the beginning.
Note: You can choose to test any page of your website. Good pages to test are your home page, all rooms page, individual room pages, packages page, and a page with a map. You will also want to test your various booking engine pages.
ADA TEST: CHROME ACCESSIBILITY TESTING TOOL
Step 1:Open a browser window in Chrome. Step 2:Type the website address of the site you want to test, hit Enter Step 3: In the upper right-hand corner, click the three vertical dots Step 4: Click More Tools Step 5: Click Developer Tools Step 6: Click the right arrow in the right-hand side of the Developer Tools navigation bar. Step 7: Click Lighthouse Step 8:Under Categories , uncheck all the boxes except for “Accessibility.” Step 9: Under Device, select Desktop or Mobile (you will want to run the test for each one) Step 10: Click the “Generate Report” button (at top, under the lighthouse icon)
Result: Your GOAL is to receive a GREEN 100, and your web developer should try to get you to that score. However, there may be code used on your web site that your developer did not build that lowers your score, such as a calendar widget from your reservation company, or a review widget. You can report these items to the companies that built these widgets so that they are aware of the issues.
Note: Do both the Desktop and Mobile audit for each page that you wish to test. Some issues may show up on mobile, but not on desktop, or vice versa.
Be Aware: Chrome provides the following information regarding their ADA Testing, “These items address areas which an automated testing tool cannot cover. Learn more in our guide on conducting an accessibility review.”
Your website usage and navigation should must be tested by navigating your website without a mouse. This is important because some visitors, such as blind people and people that have difficulties using a mouse need to be able to successfully get to the pages of your web site and access the content on those pages. Use the tab key on your keyboard to go through the available links on your site. The main area of testing should be the navigation menu. You should be able to access all menu items in your navigation menu including the sub-menu items and be able to select them. If you can’t access your navigation menu items successfully without a mouse, then visitors that do not use a mouse will have difficulty accessing pages of your web site.
Warning: No automated testing tools can tell you if you have included the proper ADA content in your website, booking engine or OTA. Are you Exempt? Non-Exempt? Have you clearly described your handicapped amenities properly on your website, booking engine and OTA listings? Do you have an Accessibility Statement for both your physical and website code? Have you kept your ADA room out of general inventory, to be booked by a disabled person, until it’s the last room in its type? And the list goes on. If you need assistance with ADA, contact your webmaster or marketing firm. If you can’t get the answers you need, call us. We can help!
GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation, which are a mandatory set of guidelines set forth from the European Union as of May 25, 2018. They consist of a variety of items you need to adhere to for your European guests.
This test only covers a small part of what you must follow.
Notes: Verify with your reservation company that they meet GDPR guidelines. Ask them questions on how they protect the data they collect that meets the GDPR guidelines. The data needs to be either encrypted or use pseudonymization to protect the data
The only way to track the percentage of OTA (Online Travel Agency) bookings vs. your direct booking origins, is to have Universal Analytics PROPERLY installed on your website. The first step is to look at your code and see if you can see your UA- number along with function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m) in front of or above it. If you don’t see this code on both your website and booking engine site, then you more than likely do not have Universal Analytics installed. As a result, you won’t be able determine whether or not your advertising spending is returning an acceptable amount, or if you need to make changes to that marketing item.
Step 1: Go to your website. Step 2: Once it loads, right-click on the white or empty space alongside either margin. Step 3: Choose “View Page Source.”
You will see a lot of text that doesn’t make sense appear on the screen. Step 4: Click CTRL+F to bring up a search box. Step 5: In the search box, type: UA-. Step 6: You are searching for code that looks similar to:
Results: You want to make sure you see the UA-###### number that matches your Google Analytics account ID. The number should be on both your website and your booking engine. If you have the UA-####### but not the code that reads function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m), then youmore than likely have an older version of Analytics installed, and it should be upgraded to Universal. Finally, you should see linker:autoLink code (underlined in the example) with your booking engine’s name in your website code, and your website URL on your booking engine’s code. In addition to getting the website and booking engine code correct, there are additional steps to take in your Google account. Contact your webmaster for assistance. If they are unable to help, call us. We have programs and services to not only get your account set up properly but to also teach you how to use this invaluable information to grow your business.
Note: Some web design companies hide their UA code, so you may or may not see it when you follow the instructions above.
More and more web providers are trying to create shortcuts to provide you with a website. By keeping everything in one place on their server, it’s easier for them to manage, which is not necessarily a bad thing until you want to move to a new provider. Unfortunately, you can’t take your site with you. I’ve heard the story over and over again. A lodging property owner will ask their potential website provider if they will own their website. They’re told, “Of course you own your photos and content.” So, the owner thinks they own their site when they don’t.
The real question you want to ask of a potential provider is: “If I wanted to move my site to GoDaddy, would it continue to run, and would I be able to edit it in the exact same fashion as I do right now?”
Results: In light of today’s lawsuit happy world with ADA lawsuits abounding, if you are renting or leasing your website, will you be able to take action as prescribed by your attorney if you don’t actually own your intellectual property? I encourage you to read more on this topic. Make sure you know what you are doing before you decide to lease or own.
The longer you are in business, the more twists and turns you are going to encounter when it comes to guarantees. As much as small property owners want an EASY solution and how enticing a guarantee sounds, there is no such thing.
“No one can GUARANTEE more heads in beds, first page placement, or any other type of marketing result. This is because no one can control what Google, travel related sites or other search engines do with your data.”
Results: If you really believe that a company can guarantee you “X” (whatever “X” may be), make sure to get it in writing. Also, what do you get when the company does not deliver? Do you get your money back, a portion of your money back, or another type of reimbursement? When things don’t work out the way they guaranteed they would, you can use that documentation to try to receive some type of compensation. Just keep in mind, no matter what amount of compensation you may recover, you will not be able to get the time back you’ve lost when you have to start all over again.