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March 2013 Newsletter

The Big Server Rebuild Completed

If you were web surfing in the wee small hours of Wednesday morning, or first thing before breakfast, you may have noticed that the site was offline for a few hours while we rebuilt our server. This is part of our ongoing maintenance and development programme to improve the speed of the site. The faster the site works the more search engines like Google will like it. If you weren’t aware this was happening, hopefully it was because the larger part of the downtime was during the early hours of last Wednesday morning when traffic figures are at their lowest. Although the site was back online by late morning, we have automatically added 2 days to your renewal date, to ensure you’re not out of pocket.

We are also revising the subscription renewal process to make this simpler. As I write, Jason, our Web Developer, is playing in PayPal’s Sandbox, a virtual world where you can create and test new ideas to see if they’ll improve upon existing procedures. More news on this in due course.

More Bookings

There are lots of features on My Favourite Holiday Cottages designed to help you secure more bookings for your cottage. Some people use them regularly and, unsurprisingly, do very well. Many others do not, possibly because they are not too sure how to use them. So, from time to time, we will include a step-by-step guide to using them to help you get the best value for money from your subscription.

Late Availability Bookings: Did you know that My Favourite Holiday Cottages has a Late Availability search section featured on the Home Page? Did you also know that this service is free for you to use? If you are still looking to fill a week over Easter ? or later on in April - make use of this facility.

If you are not sure how to upload a Late Availability Listing, here is our step-by-step guide to setting one up.

Go to the site and select the Owner Login button in the main menu bar.

Log in using your Username (the e-mail address you used when registering) and your password (e-mail us if you have lost/forgotten it).

Select: Late Availability Offer*

Cottage: Check the cottage name shown is correct (or select the cottage from the drop down list if you have more than one listing).

Start date: Select the start date by clicking on Pick a date. This will open a mini-calendar in a separate box. If it does not appear, make sure it is not lurking behind the page, which can happen if you click twice. Select the start date.

End date: Then repeat the process with the end date. NB: You must select a specific booking period as the price you enter will be for the duration of the dates selected. So, if you have got 2 weeks to offer, do them as separate listings.

Offer: You have got 60 characters or less in which to describe your offer. E.g. Save 20%. Was £500.

Price: Enter the price for the dates you are now offering.

Submit: Hit the submit button and Bob's your uncle!

The listing will automatically display your thumbnail image and property description with details of your offer.

* By the way, you must offer a discount or other incentive and can only list late availability offers for up to 4 weeks ahead.


You'll get more bookings if you are easier to contact.

We work hard to drive potential bookers to your website but, once there, it's over to you. We hope that your site will make it easy for them to do what they want to do, i.e. make a booking. However it's surprising how many barriers we unconsciously place in the way...

It's funny how we like to tidy things up on sites, putting information in pages where they it be found at the right time. Sadly, our determination to do this can occasionally undermine the purpose of your holiday property site which we assume to be the securing of bookings.

Take contact details for example. The point at which someone decides they need your contact details is probably the point at which they are interested in submitting an enquiry. Now of course most sites will have a Contact page listed in the menu - and may even carry contact details on the Home Page as well. But what if the viewer isn't on the Home Page? Why make them search for the Contact button (zzz) then click to open another page (zzzz) then wait for it to download (zzzzzzz) and then scroll down to find the information they require?

Instead, why not ensure your key details (e-mail link and phone numbers) are on every page in the same place such as one of the margins or in the main banner heading. It sends out a really positive signal, creating a perception amongst viewers that the booking this cottage is going to be a nice easy process.

It's also a good idea to add a first name to the details as it gives people a little more confidence in picking up the phone if they know who to ask for. Do this and you should find that you'll get more enquiries coming in.

For those of you with an online booking facility, then you should promote this too The generic phrase for these insertions is a 'Call to action' button. Insert a 'call to action' button e.g. 'Book Now' in the same location on every page of your site. This is because the moment people see or read something that makes them think "ooh, I love this place" is exactly the moment at which you need to provide a fast track to help them act upon their decision. This may appear like too much of a hard sell for some holiday cottage owners - but what you're actually doing is making life easier for a viewer who, at that moment in time is interested in becoming your guest.

If you want further information or web design or setting up an online booking facility, then feel free to contact us. We'll be happy to help.


Bathroom Photography Tips

One of the principles that embraces all our work, and particularly when designing holiday cottage websites for owners, is that all photos must be of the highest quality. It can take us all day to shoot’ a cottage. Over the years we’ve picked up some useful tips to make a photo of a room appeal to those viewing it. Given that we encourage all subscribers to upload good quality photos, here are a few tips to improve photos of bathrooms.

1. Turn the lights on! Guests want to feel a bathroom is sparklingly fresh so there’s nothing more off putting than a murky picture. Bathrooms tend to be the darkest room in the house – so make them as light and bright as you can. If the sun is shining, all the better. Open windows and above all, turn on every light, and light every candle you can.

2. Polish the shower glass. Remove all smears and especially the marks you tend to get around the rim at the bottom of doors, or where the glass fits into the tray. Everything should be gleaming and sparklingly clean.

3. Put the lid down on the loo. Blokes don’t always get this – but women do, and given that 75% of those who actually make a booking are women it’s important. There shouldn’t be anything in the bathroom that implies someone else has just used it.

4. New loo rolls. On that last point, make sure that there is a brand new loo roll in place. Seeing a half-used loo roll on a holder is a definite negative. Hotels have worked this out to the point of folding the top sheet into a V-shape. It may seem naff, but, if it appears in the picture, it has a definite psychological impact on the viewer.

So, there you are, a few simple things you can do to help make photos of your bathroom work for, rather than against, you when displaying them on your listing in My Favourite Holiday Cottages. Anyone want a photoshoot?


Can we feature you on Facebook?

For those yet to join the party, our Facebook page for My Favourite Holiday Cottages is geared towards featuring news about locations, properties events and festivals near MFHC cottages.

We tend not to use the site to 'sell' things like last minute availability offers unless for a region, but we do like to include details that make a property just that little bit unique or an example of good practice. For example, Best View Barn got a topical listing recently because their rental price includes a snow plough. Also, if we want to talk about a particular theme, we try to find a cottage that nicely illustrates it, hence the recent article on wellie boot racks.

Anyway, if you have something we can write about - especially if it comes complete with a photo (or even just the photo - we love to use good photos), then SEND IT TO US!

We'll give you a great plug with a link back to your listing on My Favourite Holiday Cottages. Just e-mail your news item to Rick .


That's All For Now!

Our next Newsletter will be heading for your inbox towards the end of April when hopefully we will all be knee deep in primroses and bluebells and the sea will be acquiring its summer colour of blue. Fingers crossed!