2020-02-12 LoudounNow Article
Members of the Loudoun Bed and Breakfast Guild met with members of the county Board of Supervisors on Monday night to brief the county leaders on issues facing their industry and to roll out the early work of a rebranding effort.
The nonprofit was formed in 2004 as a small networking group and has grown to 32 lodging members with 157 rooms—helping to preserve about 800 acres of rural land.
Guild President Ellen Goldberg, owner of the Briar Patch Bed and Breakfast that hosted the event, said the B&Bs offer visitors more than just a place to sleep for the night and a morning meal. Instead, they also play an important role in helping guests get the most out of their visit and promoting the offerings of other area businesses. “What really sets us apart from those short-term rentals that are just renting a room in somebody’s house or just giving somebody a key to use their facility is that we are the concierges and ambassadors to western Loudoun, guiding visitors to our wineries, breweries, fine dining, specialty shops, historic sites and outdoor recreation experiences,” Goldberg said.
In the era of AirBnB, the guild is working to raise its profile. That includes updating its branding. The organization is in the process of changing its name and building a new web portal. When it emerges as BnBs of Loudoun, members also will be touting their offerings of “unique stays and memorable experiences.”
Visit Loudoun President Beth Erickson pointed out that Loudoun is the third largest tourism generator in the commonwealth—ahead of places like Virginia Beach and Charlottesville—and that the guild contributes to that success.
County supervisors attending the meeting thanked the organization for its leadership and said they will continue to look to that group and others like Visit Loudoun for advice on important issues.
“The guild is a strong part of our rural economy, an integral part of our rural economy. Our rural economy is one of the best in Virginia,” Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said. “We’re one of the strongest in Virginia and If not for the guild we might not be as strong as we are.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said one thing she wants to do better in her second term is bring the west and east together. “We have so many people moving to the county—33 people a day move to our county—and most of them move, obviously, into the east so they don’t know about the west,” she said.
Supervisors acknowledged that there is still work to be done on how to apply the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax to online rental businesses and have stated that the guild’s input would be important.
Goldberg said some guild members do market rooms though online services like AirBnB. “It’s not that we’re against AirBnB, we just want a level playing field,” Goldberg said. That means finding a way to ensure those businesses are paying the same taxes as others in the overnight hospitality industry. “If you are accepting compensation for renting out just one room, you should be paying the county lodging tax.”
Randall said the topic is expected to come back for board review this summer, but she’s not in favor of taxing all rentals, like a family occasionally renting out an empty room in their home.
Freshman Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) said he’s confident the new board will continue work to protect the county’s rural areas by promoting businesses that keep land open. “I think we’re doing good things. Sometimes we agree to disagree, but overall in terms of the rural economy and B&Bs, we’ve got a pretty good consensus,” he said.Read More
Q4Launch held another very informative webinar on Wednesday February 12, 2020 entitled “Google 2020: Developing Your Search Plan.”
They started off first, by answering the question: Why Does this Matter? They stated that industry standards are showing ~40% of website traffic comes from Google organic searches, and 50% of direct bookings comes that organic traffic. They also state that travelers have more than 850 digital touch points on their planning journey, including over 150 searches. They noted that travelers planning their journey typically do so over a 3-month period. Bottom line: it keeps getting harder to succeed; and therefore your search strategies need to evolve to support the changes in Google and other sources If you want to stand out from the competition.
They state that basic factors will continue to be important, and therefore recommend focusing on the basics first… get back to the fundamentals: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), have an SEO presence to make your site relevant for the search query. Prominence, how popular is your site via different signals (including reviews). Are you trending? Incorporate relevant content and depth of content. Keep Your content current, fresh and up-to-date; check it and change it often. Don’t let your website content become stagnant. As links to other sites are important, so are the links pointing back to your website. Integrate reciprocal links/back links from partner sites.
There will be more competition than ever in 2020. There are more travelers, yet not growing as fast as the inventory In the marketplace. Companies like Airbnb are focusing more on host acquisition which is flooding the market for alternatives to hotels…and B&Bs/Inns. In addition, Google Travel is expanding Expanding hotel searches by adding vacation rentals. There are more Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) than ever and there is more inventory than there has ever been. Demand in 2020 is not exceeding supply, which usually means a coward trend in pricing. If supply exceeds demand – than focus on what you can control – Driving Demand for Your Product/Service.
Your website is the foundation of your SEO success. Your site needs to be easy to update, recency is key. It needs to be easy to use, have fast loading page speed and fast customer service responses, as well as proactively getting better.
Technology has definitely changed with the onset of Voice Searches to various devices such as “Hey Siri” and ”Alexa”. Voice searches is forecast to grow to 50% in 2020 when it comes to search query vehicles. They stated that This will increase long-tail, very specific key words. Voice search results are pulled from Google Featured Snippets. However, most of the forecast is for non-specific items verses items where there are a number of product specifics that need to be determined. The example they used was salt and shirt. With salt, you know exactly what you are looking for. With a shirt, there is the sleeve length, color, collar, pocket, button-down, pull over, etc. to be considered. Since lodging also has many attributes, they expect it will take time before being added to our space. However, start to prepare for it. Think about your content differently. How do people search for your product? Create your content strategy around your answer. So how do you optimize content for featured snippets… do a Google search for many suggestions, but remember that most question-based keywords start with Who, What, When, Where and How. Know what your top 10 pages are… and ensure each is doing a good job of answering these questions. Each page should make it easy for a first-time visitor to know you and for you to guide their behavior flow.
Another important thing to consider is that Google is also ranking internal pages, not just home pages. So build target ‘long-tail keywords’ to get more search traffic. Long-tail keywords are unpopular, (i.e. low volume) and highly-focused search queries that tend to convert exceptionally well. They stated that the average conversion rate of site visitors to those that book is .04%. So, if you want to accomplish 2019 results in 2020, they say you need to double your traffic and double your conversion rates.
5-Star reviews matter more in 2020 than before. Search engines are leveraging reviews and will show business with 5-stars since they will serve the need, over who’s website is best. Q4Launch says that they have a 5-star application to help lodging businesses to get more reviews. Visit their site for more information on this. They say that one of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be increasing the number of your 5-star reviews.
Google My Business – Make sure you have claimed and verified your business. Ensure your listing is complete and accurate, and updated often. Make sure your Name, Address & Phone (NAP) are consistent on every marketing vehicle. Enhance your listing with special features, blog posts, or Q&As. Respond quickly to reviewers and to those who ask you questions.
“Entity Authority,” meaning getting more people engaged in your network, will be one key factor. How popular are you in social networks? Are you using Google Mail (Gmail) to communicate – as this is Apparently a factor that is being tied to your SEO. Create content and campaigns to get attention and boast performance such as likes and comments. Then they suggest, follow-up with a selling post to drive traffic to your website. More traffic = more conversion!
Google Ads are important in 2020. Paid search results which are at the top of the results page, are pushing organic results further down the page… maybe even on the next page which can impact the number of visitors to your site. So consider a Pay Per Click advertising model to drive traffic to your website. Q4Launch, stated that $0.50 – $1.00 should be your target Cost per Click (CPC).
Shift your strategy in 2020. Have a game plan to monitor and respond proactively… remember there is more product than demand.
And lastly, Google Maps – make sure your business is listed on maps, since these results are coming up before organic search results.Read More
Q4Launch, a digital marketing company focused on the hospitality industry, offers a six-part marketing boot camp. These boot camps are designed to share knowledge and provide information on tools they provide that are available to successfully launch an integrated digital marketing strategy and design around driving more direct online bookings to your website. So yes, there is a sales pitch… but there is a lot of good data too! And many might be able to use their assistance.
In the Jan 29th “What Your Website Needs in 2020” webinar, they stressed that “Your Website is the Most Critical Revenue-Generating Resource” and noted in a world of constantly changing technologies and industry trends; that we should be asking ourselves: Is my website the best? Is it up-to-date? Is it older than 3-years? Is it time for an upgrade? Of course, if you answer yes to any of these questions – they are available to help.
They stated “Speed Matters”, Go Live FAST, Get Support FAST, and Load FAST(er). Even if your website is not complete or perfect, data or pages maybe not be polished, they recommend going live FAST as time is money and there are opportunity costs with delays. Support FAST refers to having resources to assist you quickly as well as providing responses quickly to your sites visitors. Load FAST(er) speaks to the trade off from images and heavy text that look pretty and tell you more… but can also delay your site from loading and your visitor could have already bounced from your page.
On the topic of “Unique Brand Strategy”, they asked: What do you have that ONLY you have? The answer: YOU! You’re the most special thing about your business. They suggest that you lead with the story of you. That you should show you off, since really… no one else will, well, at least not as well as you. Also engage site visitors with messages and images that say to them “You Belong” and “You Should Be Apart of This”.
Their mantra… “Make Every Visit Count”. How do you do that? Clear call to actions throughout your website. Make it abundantly clear what the visitor should do next. Is there anything other than the “Book Now” button that can be used? Remember that every page is a doorway to more data so keep your pages short and focused. Use pop-ups sparingly. Think about adding a live chat feature to provide instant gratification to site visitors in addressing any questions they have before booking.
In designing your website, remember that there are unique elements between designing for Desktop verses Mobile. Know how people are accessing your site. Q4Launch stated that mobile traffic which was growing year-over-year has now stabilized at about 55%. Desktop is at 35% and Tablets are at 10%. Part of this shift is due to increases in e-commerce conversion rates and the fact that users are becoming more comfortable with booking online. So when you’re designing your website design for both experiences… but focus on Mobile. Software is also constantly changing and updating and the development of websites via acquiring Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are making it easier to implement and more cost-effective over the traditional custom built platforms that were time consuming and very expensive. They say that traditional builds are dying, and that we should launch for the future. This is the service Q4 offers. They state that they develop future-proof websites for the hospitality industry. They charge a base design fee, then monthly maintenance to update the code often, add new features, implement technology patches. They take care of the back end to websites.
On the topic of 2020 Website Design Trends key attributes are minimalisation, whitespace, interactivity, and increased contrast focusing attention to American with Disabilities Act (ADA) website compliance requirements. Also… make sure your site is secure, mobile responsive, and updated regularly!
Lastly, they recommend to MEASURE EVERYTHING! How often are you looking at the analytics? What are your top 3 referral sources? What are your top 5 Landing Pages? Knowing this will help you to focus your website marketing plan to user behavior, and to also adjust your website to drive users behavior the way you want them to go.Read More
Leesburg, Va., December 23, 2019 – The Loudoun Bed & Breakfast Guild, a local association of distinguished member properties and associated partners, is honored to present a $500 donation to the Loudoun Hunger Relief this holiday season. The donation was presented on Tuesday December 16, 2019 at the Loudoun Hunger Relief offices by Ellen Goldberg, President of the Loudoun County Bed & Breakfast Guild to Jennifer Montgomery, Executive Director of Loudoun Hunger Relief (See Picture Below).
The Loudoun Hunger Relief (LHR) notes on their website that “through the help of others, we have never turned away a hungry family. $.96 of every dollar we receive goes directly to program services. You invest in your community and neighbors through LHR.”
“Donating money, food or grocery cards is one of the critical things the community can do for the hungry in Loudoun County,” said Ellen Goldberg. She continued, “The Guild thought that feeding those in need is a wonderful easy to help others — especially at this time of year.”
About Loudoun Hunger Relief
Loudoun Hunger Relief, Loudoun’s leader in food assistance, has been serving the Loudoun community since 1991. Last year, LHR served 8,000 Loudoun residents. 40% of those served are children and another 13% are senior citizens. LHR truly helps low-income, working families in Loudoun, with 68% of those served employed and another 15% actively seeking employment. Residents in need can visit twice per month and receive enough food to create three meals for three days for each household member. LHR distributed 1.4 million pounds of food last year. For more information, please visit www.loudounhunger.org or call 703-777-5911.
About Loudoun County Bed & Breakfast Guild
The Loudoun County Bed and Breakfast Guild is a registered 501(c)(6) non-profit business association founded in April 2004. Its members are a diverse collection of independent, boutique properties ranging from historic homes, stately mansions and modern resort-like estates to full-service inns, classic B&Bs, and vacation rentals — all in Northern Virginia, just 25 miles outside Washington D.C.
The Guild’s associate partners specializes in western Loudoun tourist activities. They include destination farm-to-table restaurants; locally crafted beverages; historic, scenic and cultural sites; tour partners; and many service providers such as wedding and event planners, caterers, florists, and transportation providers.For more information, visit www.loudounbandb.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @loudounbandb.Read More
Hillsboro, Va., May 13, 2019 – Hidden View Bed & Breakfast — a luxury B&B, boutique resort, event venue, and vacation rental in Northern Virginia; and a member of Visit Loudoun and the Loudoun County B&B Guild — is honored to announce that it was voted Best of Virginia 2019 in Virginia Living Magazines’ eight annual Best of Virginia Readers’ Survey as the Best Bed & Breakfast in the Northern Region.
Virginia Living’s Best of Virginia issue is a statewide guide to all that is “best” in Virginia, from dining and shopping, to staying and playing; across the five regions of Virginia — Central, Eastern, Northern, Southwestern, and the Shenandoah Valley. The Best of Virginia 2019 issue, arriving on newsstands throughout the state by May 16, lists the more than 1,500 winners from the magazine’s Readers’ Survey conducted in January. More than 45,000 people voted in 106 categories, covering the best in Arts, Culture & Entertainment, Living & Recreation, Food & Drink, Shopping, Services, and Accommodations across the state.
“It is an honor to be chosen for this state-level accolade and to be recognized for our commitment to hospitality excellence. At Hidden View, we strive to provide exceptional service, outstanding accommodations, and breath-taking settings to make your visit… extraordinary” said B&B Proprietor and Host, Ray Shields. “For many guests, their stay at Hidden View is celebrating a special event or taking a well-deserved getaway. Whether you’re coming as an overnight guest or as a day guest visiting for a special event or occasion; we want your experience to be elegant, delightful and memorable,” added Co-Proprietor and Host, Cheri Shields.
Located just outside of the quaint rural Town of Hillsboro, c.1752, 8-miles from both Charles Town and Harper’s Ferry, W. Va, and about 45-miles from Washington, DC; Hidden View is close to many wineries, craft breweries, farm-to-table dining, history and heritage, and outdoor recreation activities for lovers of artisanal, epicurean, and culturally rich experiences. For overnight reservations, book online at www.hiddenviewbnb.com.
In addition to Virginia Living Reader’s voting Hidden View Bed & Breakfast as Best of Virginia 2019, the Bed & Breakfast was also recently nominated as a finalist in the Loudoun Times-Mirror’s 2019 Best of Loudoun voter’s survey in three categories: Bed & Breakfast/Country Inn, Hotel/Resort, and Event Venue; and PoshSEVEN’s Best of Suburbia 2019 voter survey in the category: Best Resort/Hotel Staycation. “Receiving acknowledgement like these, is no small achievement. Thank you to all of our guests and Hidden View friends and followers who vote for us and enable us to be recognized in these great publications,” said Cheri Shields.
About Virginia Living
Virginia Living celebrates all things Virginia—from its people and places, to its deep history and traditions. The highest quality, most widely read lifestyle magazine in the state with readership of over 500,000. Virginia Living’s combination of smart, engaging stories and stunning photography and art makes it a must-read for anyone interested in the Old Dominion.
About Hidden View Bed & Breakfast
Experience modern amenities on a private 10-acre estate in the ‘must visit’ destination of Loudoun County, Virginia — the heart of DC’s Wine Country. The custom-built ranch manor sits on historic Short Hill Mountain with spectacular breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Loudoun Valley, and the neighboring vineyard. Hidden View, an award-winning B&B, offers five spacious guest room suites each with private ensuite bathroom and fireplace; beautifully landscaped resort-like grounds with gardens, pavilion, pool, fire pits, pond and fountains; and many social spaces and private places for guests to relax and enjoy. Whether you’re staying for a night, a well-deserved weekend, or longer… Hidden View is a perfect place for all kinds of celebrations from birthdays and anniversaries to intimate weddings, and from family and friend stay-cations and vacations to business meetings and corporate retreats. For more information and to book online, visit www.hiddenviewbnb.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @hiddenviewbnb.