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Scott, you recently stated: "You should never give someone
a reason to leave your site once you have them there." Could
you elaborate a bit on how this statement relates to linking to
your local association? If you are a member of your association
(city or state) many promotional groups advocate linking from
your personal site to your association website. By doing this
you are linking directly to your competition. What is the advantage?
Does the link popularity advantage outweigh the competitive disadvantage?
We do all come together in associations to help one another but
in many cases we are still competitors, friendly competitors,
but still competitors. The same is true of linking to convention
and visitors bureaus, yes it provides a service to our guests,
but it also opens up a wide world of other lodging possibilities
to them. What has been your experience with individual Inns linking
to their association website and/or to convention and visitor
bureau websites directly from their homepages, and what are your
thoughts and opinions on this?
Thanks in advance
Chambered Nautilus Bed and Breakfast Inn
In a vacuum, my statement about never giving a person a reason
to leave your site is accurate. Trouble is, nature abhors a vacuum!
For years we have heard from people that you need to be giving
your viewers links to things to do in your area. It's actually
the principal the web was built on which is why they call it "Hyper
Text." However, I disagree completely with doing this as
my job is marketing inns -- not other web sites in their area.
I personally believe that by the time someone arrives at your
web site, they already know they are coming to your area and know
why. It is sufficient to have an area information page complete
with photos and descriptions of things to do in your area -- they
don't really need the links. If you do feel compelled to give
them links to other web sites, here's a novel idea I have not
yet seen implemented. Why not present them in the confirmation
page which comes up after they fill in a reservation request?
Then you're only giving them to those who are booking with you.
B&B associations, chambers of commerce and B&B directories
often request a link from your web site to their home page in
return for a link you might already be paying for. For obvious
reasons, they request this link be placed on your home page. Let's
be honest here, they want the link on your home page because they
want people to click on that link and leave your home page. Is
this a good idea? Of course not! Then why do they request it this
way? Because they know it is the most read page on your site.
I often compare this to greeting a potential guest at the front
door of your inn, handing them brochures of local things to do
and sending them on their way without ever showing them your inn
or inviting them to make a reservation. If you wouldn't do this
in real life, why do it with your web site?
That said, let me mention a couple exceptions:
1. The purpose of a B&B association is that you are recommending
the inns in your association over other competitors. From research,
we know that most potential guests review at least two B&B
web sites before making a decision. If true, you will want to
point them back to your association members before sending them
off to the search engines. If other members have complied and
also linked back to the association site, then you're most likely
benefiting as well.
2. Any time you are receiving something of greater value in return
for placing the link on your site. In other words, if you are
receiving the link from a valuable site for free in exchange for
your link. Remember though that the value of what you are receiving
needs to be as great as the business you are losing for providing
an exit to your site. Caution is advised.
Notes on these exceptions:
1. If you're paying for the link from a site such as a local chamber
of commerce, why the heck do you have to put their logo on your
page and link back to them? At the very least they should give
you the option of doing so and a discount if you do. And why does
it have to be a logo on your home page while your link is buried
in their site? Most chambers I've seen which require the link
back do not give you the option of doing so -- they require it.
If so, their policies are Draconian and there's little you can
do about it if you need the link (and most do) unless you organize
an uprising which is something I always enjoy when Draconian policies
I know my views on this are not the party line most innkeepers
are used to hearing. Much of what I say isn't but that's primarily
because there is so much misinformation out there. In this case,
common sense prevails -- to wit... A link from another web site
to your web site brings you potential guests. A link from your
web site to another web site does not and is an invitation for
the potential guest to leave. Which would you rather have?
Domain Name Confusion
I thought there was only one place to register a domain name
- Network Solutions. I've heard about another one called Dotster.
Are there others?
Dr. Dodson House B&B
Here's an analogy I use often. To register your car, you go to
the DMV and for a fee they register your car for a given number
of years. The DMV is a government agency and so has a monopoly
on this task.
Let's say for a moment the DMV was turned into a company and
after a while the government decided their monopoly wasn't a good
thing. The DMV would keep the master set of records so no two
people ended up with the same license plate number but they would
also have competition. That is, other companies such as car dealerships
or just about any company could become a licensed registrar of
license plates and renewals. Their would be a list of requirements
for these companies such as the proper computers systems and the
like but it wouldn't be too difficult as to encourage competition.
These companies could charge what they wanted and pay a small
fee for each license they sold or renewed back to the DMV for
keeping the central records.
Okay, enough of the analogy. Replace license plates with domain
names and you have the current domain registration system. In
the beginning there was the Internic Council (aka the DMV) which
had a monopoly on the sale of domain names. The government broke
up their monopoly and they became a company called Network Solutions.
There are tons of companies which are accredited registrars.
You can see a list here: http://www.icann.org/registrars/accredited-list.html
A word of caution -- just because a company is accredited does
not mean it is a good company with helpful tech support. Your
domain holds great value. Before you entrust it to just any registrar,
do your homework. You may save a few dollars a year only to someday
lose control of your domain if something goes wrong. In my opinion,
it is better to work with your hosting company or webmaster on
this subject than to handle it yourself. It's not a difficult
task but if you toss out your invoice simply because you didn't
recognize the name of your registrar (which may have changed due
to a merger), you will lose your domain -- possibly forever.
Most of the hosting companies in our industry take care of these
things and offer a discount off the $35/year Network Solution