The hotel industry has always been a target for misinformation about new, emerging, and especially open-source technology. It feels like the industry is stuck in a time warp, which I blame on negative propaganda unleashed by ubiquitous “marketing experts.” But remember what the best philosophers say? Always question the source. Agencies want to make money. They want to make it efficiently, without having to revamp their processes, and without being asked any questions. This simple truth forms the basis of every outdated piece of technology being used today by hotels.
I have long been wanting to share my list of the “reasons” hotel marketing agencies have given to prevent clients from choosing WordPress over their own proprietary platforms. It’s pretty sad for the industry that they have decided to spread these lies about a great new resource in order to make a few extra dollars. So there you are: the reason why we have hotel websites’ clunky, abysmal, and outdated “custom” content management systems littering the Internet.*
1. “WordPress is just for blogs. It’s not a CMS for hotels.”
If I had a dollar for every time someone used this outdated piece of “information,” I would be on the Forbes annual Richest People list. Apparently nobody told these experts that WordPress is a superb CMS. It did start out as a blogging platform on May 27, 2003. Seems like since then, these agency experts stopped reading tech news.
Here is a chart from Google Trends illustrating the rising popularity and influence of WordPress as an open-source content management system. (Click on image to see it full-size.)
The WordPress CMS today serves over 371 million people with 4.1 billion pages each month. How do you like them apples? Here are some colossal websites powered by WordPress today:
- The New York Times
- United Parcel Service
- Boing Boing
- Jay Z
Take a moment to soak this in. The websites listed above are massive content and ecommerce operations. If WordPress can deliver such massive amounts of content and billions in revenue, please don’t have any fear about your 10/20/30/50-page hotel website.
2. “WordPress does not handle e-commerce.”
Now let’s discuss the “e-commerce incapability” myth. Heard of a little company called eBay? eBay made$3.4 billion in revenue in 2012. I have another one for you: UPS (United Parcel Service). They made…wait for it…$54 billion in 2012. Total approximate online revenue in 2012 for ALL hotels in the US = $19.38 billion (source: Comscore).
Saying that WordPress is not good for hotel e-commerce is a fundamentally flawed statement anyway. All ecommerce transactions happen inside your hotel’s booking engine. Not on your website. And, e-commerce carts are a whole different thing (à la eBay) that cannot be lumped into the capabilities of a website’s CMS.
So what have we learned today? WordPress can very easily handle your hotel’s e-commerce and content management needs. In fact, it can power every single hotel website in the US without breaking a sweat. So relax, sit back, and take the refreshing plunge into the world of open-source technology.*†
*Still not convinced? Nobody knows more about making stacks on stacks on stacks than Jay Z. Even he selected WordPress to power his empire!
†Still not convinced?? Katy Perry powers her site with WordPress. I rest my case.
3. “WordPress is not safe.”
Here is something I strongly believe in: Creating doubt is much easier than being creative. So, the first thing agency expert types do is start spreading rumors about the dangers of an open-source platform in comparison to their familiar yet obsolete “custom solution.”
Repeat after me. Nobody is 100% safe on the Internet. If someone wants to hack you badly enough, they will. A hotel marketing agency CMS is no safer than a site powered by WordPress.
Let’s take a look at a few of the companies that have been hacked in recent years.
- Zappos.com (2012)
- Sony PlayStation(2011)
- Lockheed Martin (2011) (US’s largest weapons manufacturer)
- Google (2009, 2011, 2012)
- CitiGroup (2011)
These companies have entire divisions of people whose one and only job is to monitor for hackers. Yet, it happened. Hotel marketing agencies who are touting their clunky outdated CMS system as being “safer” than WordPress should be vigilant – and avoid invoking the ire of the hacker community. It happens… call it unbreakable and it breaks into a thousand pieces in public fiasco (you don’t want to be The Unsinkable Ship).
Still feeling anxious? Here are some facts. You download and install WordPress for free. From that moment on, it’s your job to host it in the right environment. If your hosting company has basic security features and you maintain your passwords, you will be fine. On the one in a million chance that you get “hacked”? It will take you at the most a few hours to come back online. Just look at the list of companies above that survived. You will too.
These arrogant and baseless claims of agency-designed CMS systems being safer than WordPress can be shattered by a determined teenage hacker in less than 1 minute, and a professional one in about 15 seconds. You can quote me on that. (And no, I’m not encouraging them to do so!)
By the way, technology should be used to make things better, not as a tool for fear-mongering among those of us who don’t read/write code. Posting a screen shot of some code from one WordPress powered website template that was hacked is LAME. A website powered by a CMS powering millions of websites got temporarily hacked. So did Sony, Google and Citibank… so are you now going to quit using Google because it is not “safe”? Please.
4. “Wordpress can’t distribute content socially.”
Seriously? A CMS that was just called good enough only for blogs cannot distribute your hotel website content online? Mashable is probably the top social news and trends website on the planet. A WordPress CMS powers it. I hereby rest my case on content distribution on the social web. (Vikram drops mike on the floor and walks offstage.)
5. “WordPress is expensive.”
WordPress is a lot of things to a lot of people. One thing it is not is expensive. It’s free, folks… like the air we breathe. One of the agency “experts” chalked out this weird list of expenses attached with owning a WordPress-powered website:
- Dedicated Hosting – $200/month. You should not be hosting one website on a $200/month service, whether it’s powered by WordPress or not. There are wonderful, safe, fast and efficient hosting services on that work very well with WordPress. BlueHost, WestHost, WP Engine and the RackSpace Cloud all offer excellent security and high-speed services starting under $35/month. If your site is slow on a $35/month service, you had WordPress installed or customized improperly. You can fix it.
- Domain Name – $12/year. You absolutely need to own your domain. It’s Internet 101. Not sure what this has to do with using WordPress. (I warned you it’s a ridiculous list.)
- Themes – $90. Oh, themes and frameworks! How you have made beautiful website design so affordable for the whole world! There are some stellar themes available starting at less than $35/month. Imagine a fully functional beautiful website that you own (not your agency), all for a flat fee of $35 bucks. Buy it once, make as many sites on it as you want! That’s a lot of nice-looking websites for the price of 7 fancy lattes, or 1 stiff drink in a posh Manhattan hotel. And make no mistake – it also costs a lot less than a dedicated agency design department.
- Premium Plugins – $300. A lot of the best plugins in life are free. Is this misinformation is being spread based on some random obscure example? Maybe he ordered a gold-plated plugin? (If so, maybe we can locate it on Jay Z’s site.)
- Time costs. Apparently it takes some folks a ton of time to manage their WordPress website. I recommend that they go to a WordPress camp and learn to use it better. (Or just hire a WordPress guy to help you. You can find them in every town and city worldwide.) The agency “expert” who claims that maintaining your WordPress site will take ALL your extra time after work, he needs serious WordPress 101 help. I will be glad to connect him to the right people for training and development. Nothing is easier to keep updated. One click updates, people. It’s easy like Sunday mornings.
6. “WordPress plugins are hard to use.”
This global statement is just not true. The top plugins are not only free, but also easy to install and maintain. A global team of passionate WordPress fanboys constantly improves them. The goal is to make them available and usable to a wide audience – of people who don’t know how to code!
7. “WordPress is not mobile optimized.”
Please, let’s not go there. WordPress was mobile-friendly when agency CMS systems were still living in a cave (think Flintstones). New WordPress mobile themes and ecosystems are just amazing, and push billion of pageviews on hundreds of devices worldwide. Modern WordPress themes and frameworks are doing a phenomenal job of pushing the usability envelope in an increasingly mobile world.
8. “WordPress is not SEO-friendly.”
This is just plain blasphemous. Not a single agency CMS on the planet can come even close to how easy WordPress has made it for you to optimize your website for search engines.
- First, as a default, it does not let you do anything that annoys Google.
- SEO plugins are free, fast, easy, and extremely sophisticated. They are powered by some of the smartest people in the world of search engine optimization.
Calling WordPress “SEO-unfriendly” and complicated is just plain ludicrous (I don’t mean the rapper…he is pretty cool). If you can click and type, you can optimize your website effectively.
9. “WordPress limits a hotel website’s flexibility and functionality.”
In response to a bogus chart I recently saw highlighting how a hotel marketing agency CMS is a better product than open source WordPress, here is my own factual chart showing how much awesome WordPress really is:
|Architecture||Open-source (free)||Proprietary (monthly fees, non-transferrable, walled garden)|
|Technology Type||CMS + Blog||CMS with baggage, bugs and agency interests in mind|
|Performance||World-class (powers massive sites)||Only powers agency-made sites, with no transparency on performance|
|Scalability||100% scalable (powers tiny and massive sites)||Only to the level that adds to agency revenue|
|PaSS (Platform as a Service)||True PaSS: you control everything (you can install, customize design, etc), including hosting (WP engine) and analytics (Press Trends)||Not a PaSS: you can never customize or control anything technical. You can only access your content.|
|Content Distribution||Stellar: powers 14.7% of top 1 million websites in the world||Custom tools you will never own|
|Security||As safe and as hackable as any CMS||As safe and as hackable as any CMS. Nothing is "extremely safe."|
|Special Offers Module||Free plugins||Custom tools you will never own|
|"What’s Nearby" Module||Free plugins||Custom tools you will never own|
|Mobile Site Integration||Superior delivery, using default WP settings –Google and users love it||Custom Feature (you will pay extra, but there’s no guarantee users will like it)|
|SEO Optimized||Extremely SEO-friendly. Google loves WP-powered sites.||Custom Feature – can be extremely difficult to access SEO features and sometimes requires hiring agency to make updates. Propriety CMS also creates very heavy and complicated code, which damages rankings.|
|Vulnerability due to plugins||No effect on security; plugins are regularly updated by WP community||Custom “plugins” cost extra and rarely get updated|
|Open Graph Optimized||Yes||Sometimes|
|Tablet Site Integration||Superior delivery, default settings||Sometimes|
|Auto Push||Yes – powers massive media sites||Sometimes|
|Warranty||It’s not a blender, and it was free to start with||Custom feature: check with your lawyer|
|Tech Support||Free forums, and relatively low-cost developers available worldwide (freelance and at most agencies)||Agency rates usually start @$150/hr. Only 2-3 developers have the key to your site. Good luck!|
|Updates||Army of 100's of passionate developers push regular updates||2-3 developers have the key and the ability to charge for updates. Nothing "automatically updates."|
Hotels cannot continue to 100% rent their entire online marketing efforts. It’s time to own your single most profitable channel in the universe – your website. You don’t have to be a developer to embrace open-source technology. All you have to do when picking a website design vendor is make a simple request: “Please make my website using an open-source platform such as WordPress.”
Also, one day when that agency relationship comes to an end (all things good and bad shall end), you will retain your entire site +CMS+ SEO+ URL’s intact. Often, when you leave a custom CMS website vendor, there is a big surprise in store for you:
- Your entire website is stripped of this so-called awesome and proprietary CMS.
- Your leftover assets (content, photos etc.) are zipped into a file and emailed.
- You will have a hard time decoding this file and launching your website again.
- SEO optimization is almost always removed, images mislabeled, URL’s broken… the horror list goes on.
I have seen this in the agency world too many times. It’s the ultimate kiss (of death) goodbye. It’s so bad that I actually saw an email from an agency CEO to his project manager (inadvertently forwarded to a hotel manager) with the subject line “please remove SEO optimization.” Three years of work the hotel paid for – deleted.
Don’t let this happen to you. WordPress is a superb choice for your hotel Take the plunge and take control. Don’t give it a second thought. Some of the biggest names and industries have already jumped in. And they will all tell you, the water’s fine!