I’m preparing for an upcoming trip and researching accommodations online. I’ve come across several pretty hotel sites (nothing tickles my fancy more than a pretty website) and had a hard time choosing which hotel to go for. In the course of my online hotel inspection, I noticed the name of the web designer who created the sites. I came across his name several times, in different hotels that I was pretty impressed that he got the business of all these establishments.
When I opened the designer’s website though, the admiration faltered. As is common in most web design and development firms nowadays, SEO is part of the services provided. Search Engine Optimization is the practice of carefully putting choice keywords in your website content so the site will rank high in search results. Aside from the keywords, it also boosts the website’s popularity and authority when other websites link to it. Studies reveal (or even just personal experience) that users hardly go beyond the first page, with the first website appearing in the search results page getting the bulk of the views. Basically, if you want to get people interested in your product, your website has to rank and it has to rank high.
There’s nothing wrong with that practice but when you start reading TripAdvisor reviews for said hotels from people with only 1 review posted and dubious profile pictures giving the hotel all five stars, you start wondering. When you see the designer’s name joining the adoring public, your eyebrow just shoots up beyond your hairline.
A friend of mine, whom I confided to that I am turning down a paid offer to write a (positive) advertorial for one product, said she finds it hard to believe online reviews nowadays, even from personal blogs. Seems like everybody’s getting paid or free stuff now and less people are writing what they really think of a product or service they’ve tried (especially if it’s complimentary).
This puts me in a dilemma: do I write off the hotels with websites made by the designer or see for myself whether they deserve the 5 stars?