It amazes me that in today’s Internet-centric age that many businesses, not just in the hospitality industry, still have not moved with the times and developed a website.
The pub trade seems to be one of the worst in catching up in this sense, I urge you to have a search on your “browser of choice” (i.e. Google) for a local pub that is not performing well – I would be confident that 90% of the time that the pub would not have its own website. Conversely, I would bet that any pub that is performing very well would have it’s own website which, more importantly, is up to date!
When talking to other licensees about the reason they haven’t got a website you always get the same responses: “I can’t afford it”, “I haven’t got the time”, “No one would use it”. Shocking!
The “can’t afford it” line is possibly the most ridiculous response with website hosting so cheap now – You could easily set up a site with domain registration and hosting for approximately £120 a year. That’s a pint a week to cover that cost. I believe that once a pub website is established, i.e. easily found on search engines and linked to from other sites, the return on a website would be 100 fold. Our website, http://www.thecastleinn-lulworthcove.co.uk/, costs approximately £400 a year due to the huge amount of hits we receive and we would not hold back a penny – Our website is critical for maintaining our trade, for both advertising for new customers and retaining our existing customer base.
With some great (and free) Content Management Systems available on the market the time issue has been addressed also. For example, a site based on the popular blogging platform WordPress would allow a publican to manage their sites content from their web browser (no extra software needed) whenever they would like. Additional plug-ins allow them to add other functionality such as galleries and discussion forums.
The Importance of Search
Whenever I visit an area I am unfamiliar with the first thing I do is research the area on google. Say you are visiting Lulworth Cove and you had never been before, you want to plan which pub to visit in the evening, so you search for “pubs in Lulworth Cove”. From those results you begin to make assumptions about the various options on offer, and choose the pub which most fits the sort of venue you prefer.
If you are not in this initial list you will NOT be considered.
Many pub review sites try to fill this gap by offering large directories of pubs in areas however the reviews on these sites can easily be manipulated by other businesses and can actually lead to an impression upon your pub that is less than desirable. With your own website, YOU control every bit of content, providing your own first impressions to potential customers – not the impression that the review site and other customers leave.
In future posts I will discuss the “merits” of various review sites and also offer publicans a very basic walkthrough on setting up their own site with a CMS.