In working with Fairview Homestead guest house, we began to see the pros and cons to various online techniques, specific to the accommodation market. Here are five that I found to be particularly poignant:

1. If you’re not online you don’t exist

My friend, Philda, at Fairview will attest to the fact that upgrading her website and playing to her strength as an avid writer/blogger did wonders for her marketing. Sure, she could spend a great deal of money on online ads, but blogging is free and has resulted in some great online success for her business, resulting in regular bookings online.

The reality is that the generation between 25 and 35 are very much an “online” generation. Their answer to almost any question is “Google it”! Also, the only real port of call for an older client to connect with your business from other countries is the internet. So whatever you do, make sure you have a modern, SEO friendly website to keep you abreast of this modern trend.

2. Only some listing sites are helpful

Don’t go too crazy with online listings. While some are good, many are borderline scams, simply taking your money and leaving it on an unattended website. Do a search for accommodation in your area on Google or Yahoo and see which listing sites come out on top. It’s a waste of money to spend $100 a year on a website that’s going to possibly get you one booking (if that) in the year.

3. Post interesting info to your website

You don’t need to be an avid writer to keep your website fresh and active. What I tell all my accommodation clients is that they have a great resource via their guest house to post regular updates about what has been going on. It can be once a week that you simply post a photo of an interesting couple that crossed your path and a short bit of writing about it, like: “Pam and Steve are from Ireland. They were such an interesting couple having travelled all around the world doing archeological digs!”

If it’s all just too much, contact your website builder. What I do for customers is offer a “blogging service”. They simply send me the topic and perhaps a photo and I do the rest.

4. Post stuff to Facebook and Twitter

An important thing to bear in mind with social networking is to be real and engaging. Even if you don’t create a “page” and simply work via your personal account, allow your personality and passion for your business to shine through. Share photos from your garden, what you did over the weekend, or whatever.

Also, a helpful tip is to post in the evenings and weekends, when people are generally online.

5. Network and share

The internet has become very organic in it’s approach to links and who exists where. By that I mean that Google picks up if you’re spamming people or posting your link on random websites to get noticed. So to avoid this, keep in touch with accommodation networks in your area. Instead of exchanging links, rather write about each other on your blog and mention an article they have written. This will bode well for the health of your website and increase your Google rankings. The more links you have linking back to articles or pages on your website from active, legitimate sites, the better.

I realise that some of this will lose those new to websites, blogging and online marketing. I guess the main point here is to keep it real. I used to frantically post my business website onto all sorts of obscure listing sites, in the hope that all those links back to my site would result in more traffic and better Google ratings – it didn’t. The only thing that has been successful is regular, interesting content and engaging with my industry in a real way.

Instead of spending too much on marketing, perhaps consider activation a blog on your website and posting regular content. Over time you will see this minor activity resulting in major business benefits.

For more info, read my article about online marketing in South Africa.

Adin Walls lives and works in George, Western Cape, South Africa where he runs Lithe Media and works in his home recording studio. You can contact him via his website: