New Prices on freetobook

We’ve been very busy enhancing and improving freetobook since 2010 and despite that we have never increased our prices.  As we continue to add more to freetobook our costs are rising just like everyone else in the world so we had to take the tough decision to increase pricing by a small amount… so small that most properties will barely notice yet will continue to receive great service and excellent new features.

protecting direct bookings

Starting on 1st July 2021 we will be implementing some price increases. The price increases are slight and many smaller properties will not see any increase. Prices for single unit properties will not change.

Our developers and product team continue to improve, enhance and innovate to ensure you have the best possible booking solutions. Our customer service team still maintain the highest standard of care for your business.

We’re certainly no “fat cat corporation”, instead we remain very much a high tech family business that cares, one that you can trust year after year to protect your interests and help grow your business.

Understandably no good business likes to increase their prices and we have made every effort to keep the impacts to a minimum and ensure they are fair across our customer base.

Channel manager

The channel manager charges will remain exactly the same at £1/booking, so for the vast majority of customers i.e. those that never get anywhere near 49 bookings/month, there will be no increase.  For much larger businesses that break through the 49 bookings/month barrier there is now a £69 cap and because it’s pay-as-you-go low season months will likely see no change. All customers on the channel manager will, after this last year, know the benefits of that pay-as-you-go model. During the pandemic years many paid nothing for our channel manager services due to the £1 per booking model, it truly proved its inherent fairness in those toughest of times. It meant we took a large drop in revenue along with our customers.

No increase in the £1 per booking (pay-as-you-go)               

Increase in maximum monthly charge: cap increases from £49 to £69

(This will have no impact on smaller businesses that receive fewer than 50 channel bookings/month or those that close for bookings in the low season). No increase in setup fees and it continues as a pay-as-you go service.

Stripe payment integration:

Services like Stripe also came into their own over the last year with customers not paying monthly charges yet still retaining the benefit and ease of online payments. Stripe remains without doubt the most competitive online payment system on the planet (for small businesses) and we’ve continued to build it out with Google and Apple Pay, pre-authorisations, as well as deeper integration of Stripe into Messaging.

Annual charge of £89 for Stripe will increase to £109

No increase for one unit* properties , Stripe remains at £89

Messaging:

Messaging has also benefited from some great enhancements since launch with the addition of Digital Registration, Attachments, Branding, Smiley Survey, Room Type Specific Messages, Messaging courses and Marketing Data exports.  Messaging has already literally handled millions of messages, creating stronger relationships with guests whilst saving hours of time for you and your guests …. all that for the price of a couple of coffees a month. There is plenty more for us to add to messaging and we continue to work from your feedback.

Annual charge for Messaging will increase from £49 to £69 per year

No increase for one unit* properties, it will remain at £49

PCI card storage service:

Annual charge of £89 will increase to £169

PCI card storage is free when you use freetobook channel manager services

* One unit properties are those that are a single vacation rental, cottage, apartment or 1 room B&B etc.

We remain committed to growing your direct bookings and the new Google free booking links is an excellent example of that.  Here we were able to pass on the benefits of these direct bookings, quickly mobilising our teams and taking advantage of our existing Google integration and relationship.  Google Zero has already delivered thousands of direct bookings (no commission) and we’re aiming to improve on that offering.

Starting in May this year freetobook handled the highest levels of direct bookings ever and it also looks certain that this summer will continue to break all direct booking records … saving many millions in commission.

It is also a priority to protect your account and your customer’s data so we recently launched enhanced login security features for everyone. If you have not already set these up please do.  This extra login verification takes minutes to setup and will help ensure protection against fraudsters.

As always we have lots to work on and shortly we’ll be releasing a Reputation Suite that gets you more great reviews in the right places.  It’s been an exceptionally busy start to the year for our service team as we all edge towards a more normal place.  They continue to support and advise as efficiently as they can.  

Our 7 pledges remain as they were and we wish everyone a busy and fruitful second half of 2021!

Google zero flying start

google free booking feed
Google free feed

Update: Two months into Google zero and we have received thousands of Google bookings across many hundreds of properties. Our data show that there is a significant level of bookings across a wide variety of properties and that the bookings continue to increase.

We are now sure that Google is taking bookings seriously and that any property interested in getting more bookings should be serious about Google.

If you haven’t already done it you can access the Google free feed without having to pay for any Google advertising services. It takes two minutes to set-up on freetobook and we do the rest for you.

Customers of freetobook can click here to signup for Google Zero

“We first came across Googe Zero by reading the informative blog from freetobook. Signing up couldn’t be easier – just a couple of clicks to opt in and we were connected!  We’re on the free trial and have 4 bookings (made in UK) already, so it has essentially paid for itself now.” (Bridge Hotel)

Seven facts about Google free bookings :

  1. Google free feed available on its own (no need to pay Google)
  2. Google free feed is 100% independent of paid advertising
  3. Free Google feed is available world-wide
  4. Free feed bookings are direct bookings
  5. OTAs and review sites are also in the free feed
  6. Google free bookings are only for serviced accommodation (not cottage, villa, or vacation type accommodation – sorry!)
  7. Google free feed is estimated at about 10% of the Google traffic

Freetobook are pioneers in direct booking and one of the first in the world to provide Google free bookings on its own without payment to Google. In the UK we provide a managed option to upgrade and pay for advertising to access 100% of Google traffic (100% optional – you can keep the free only if you wish).

Interested in more detail? See our previous blogs about these exciting new Google free bookings.

How to get to the top of the free feed

What is the Google free feed and why have they done it

Google zero commission

google free booking feed
Google free booking feed

A few weeks into the Google free feed activation and bookings are flowing in. We are overjoyed to be providing direct commission free bookings into your diary… (No charge from Google) so make sure you don’t get left out.

Sometimes these things don’t last forever so its worth getting in as early so you can to maximise the number of commission free bookings.

You can have the Google free feed on its own, you don’t have to pay for Google advertising to be part of the free feed.

Maximising direct bookings at zero commission is one of our key pledges, we are proud once more to be the first to build solutions that genuinely help accommodation owners to thrive…

Freetobook will always prioritise direct bookings which is why you can trust us to be the first with such important services like the Google commission free bookings. It’s a great benefit to your business so why not signup to Google Zero by freetobook and get yours!

Login to your freetobook account and activate Google zero

More information on Google commission free bookings:
Google Zero is here !
Tips to get to the Top On Google free feed
Article by Craig from freetobook on phocuswire
Google’s free booking links for hotels …

NEW SECURITY FEATURE – Multi Factor Authentication

Protecting your freetobook account is critical to your business and is one of our top priorities. Almost half of businesses (46%) in the UK report having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months according to the annual report from the UK Government on cyber security breaches for 2020. Our new security features help to protect you from the likelihood of a major phishing attack and serve as a major deterrent.

What is Phishing? It’s the most common way for hackers to get access to your account. How do they do this? By pretending to be someone else (up to 81% of all cyber security breaches are now phishing attacks).

For example, they will send you an email that looks like it’s from someone else such as your bank, freetobook or your email provider. In that email they’ll ask you to follow a link to page that looks familiar to you and then ask you do something like login or provide some password information.
Every business is a target for a phishing attack because they’re looking for information they can use to steal money.

Phishing emails often include these things:
1) Urgency – they create a sense of urgency so that you react before looking more closely i.e. “Account suspended – Log in now” or they say you need to log in to fix, pay or agree something urgently.
2) Offers – these sound interesting or enticing, this could involve getting more business or some “easy” money i.e. we have a group reservation request waiting.
3) Errors, spelling or grammatical errors – the language, tone or layout may look different, unusual or even suspicious.

Our Solution – Multi Factor Authentication (MFA):

What is MFA? Simply put, MFA creates an extra layer security by requiring the user (you) to provide at least two pieces of evidence to prove their identity.  This barrier prevents potential fraudsters from gaining access to your account and also acts as MAJOR DETERRENT.

We are now asking you to set up an extra stage (layer) of security at the login process to your account. There are 3 options –  Questions – Email Code – Authentication App. Choose 2 of these to set up your MFA.

Once set up, you will only be required to complete one of these methods during a login if we detect you are logging in using new device or browser.

We have added this new MFA security feature in the SECURITY tab in your account which draws together existing security features in your account (Password/Password Changes/Security Levels).

Here at freetobook we are constantly rolling out new software features to ensure you have all the tools you need to help run your business effectively and successfully.

Hotel Bonanza 8 percent

Hotel BonanzaHotel Bonanza is a new Online Travel Agent (OTA) with a strategy of offering a lower commission for accommodation owners and a discount to guests. They have set their commission at 8% so you will find them considerably cheaper than the current dominant OTAs.

Freetobook is a family run company so our loyalty is firmly with our customers, we hear time and time again that properties need to reduce commission charges. We understand this need and will continue to support companies like Hotel Bonanza that offer a lower cost alternative.

If you already have a Hotel Bonanza account fully setup and are a freetobook customer all you need to do is request a connection in the Tab “Plus” where you can add a channel.

For those of you who are not yet freetobook customers you can find out about all the advantages of switching to freetobook

Find out more about Hotel Bonanza and their story visit their website, join up if you like it click here

Before next summer freetobook will have a connection for Google Hotel Ads which will give you access to Google’s direct booking channels at 10% which will also be a welcome reduction for many of you.

Freetobook, the fiercely independent family company you can rely on.

Booking extras now even better

Booking Extras for hotels
Booking Extras no limit

Freetobook properties have always been able to offer their very own extras enabling customers to choose items that will make their stay special, whilst adding to to property’s revenue.

We have now added the ability for you to define nightly extras so that the extra cost is multiplied by the number of nights your customer stays. Nightly extras can be also booked for a specific number of nights rather than all nights.

Booking Extras can be found in Tab “Availability” and “Booking Extras” on the orange bar.

More great options included with freetobook’s booking extras include;

  1. Ask your customer an associated question related to a booking extra.
  2. Limit the extra to certain dates of stay.
  3. Extras can also be offline only (not bookable by the customer), this is great if the extra is variable and you only want to add it to their bill during stay i.e. meals and drinks.
  4. An extra can also be compulsory i.e. for a security deposit.

These functions and much more are included in freetobook’s free version which continues to grow and improve, all helping your direct bookings. Just what you would expect from a cutting edge family business.

Promo Codes upgraded for more direct bookings

Direct Bookings using Promo Codes
Promo Codes for Direct Bookings

Thousands of properties have already benefited from freetobook’s promo codes so we have made them even better. You can set up as many promo codes as you like to target more customer segments and drive up your direct bookings.

Now with the new upgrades you can also;

1) Restrict the promo codes to apply on certain nights of the week.

2) Create a promo code that’s an extra service or item rather than a rate discount.

3) Set a minimum stay duration for the promo code.

Promo codes are great at encouraging guests to book direct. So why not use them to increase direct bookings and entice bookers away from other online websites, thereby powering more direct commission free bookings.

You will find promo codes and special offers in the Tab “Specials” and “Promo Codes” on the orange bar.

Further information on promo codes

On our website “More Direct bookings with Promo Codes

On our blog “How can hotels use Promo Codes ?

Does Your Website Tell Customers WHY They Should Book Directly ?

bestPriceDoes Your Website Tell Customers WHY They Should Book Directly ?

We were chatting with one freetobook customer this week who was alarmed at the growing number of rooms sold via booking.com rather than her own website and to make matters worse, a returning customer had re-booked using the OTA! With a few clicks all became clear. The property’s website was overly cluttered, out of date with offers from the Christmas holidays and it wasn’t clear there was an online booking facility.

Does your website tell potential customers WHY they should book directly with you?  The OTA’s do a brilliant job at converting lookers to bookers. From the ‘last room, last chance’ popups in red lettering, they create a sense of urgency to drive through that final click to book.

It’s worth saying once again …
Place your BOOKING BUTTON on the top left hand side if you possibly can. Advertisers pay a premium for this ‘sweet spot’.

HIGHLIGHT to potential bookers that they will get the BEST POSSIBLE PRICE (with no commission) by booking on your website.

Add in fresh, positive reviews onto your front page. Update very regularly!

Other general website design tips to remember …
How well do other folk feel you are marketing your accommodation? Ask friends and business associates whose opinions you trust to spent time on your website. Their feedback may highlight some great new suggestions or angles.

Make your website look as professional as possible, it’s your number one marketing tool. It’s worth considering giving it a timely overhaul with the help of a website designer.

Beautiful images SELL.  Refresh images of your property seasonally, there is nothing more off-putting than searching for a summer retreat only to find the main photos on the property’s website show a winter wonderland!

Write concise (less is more!), appealing copy about your property and what visitors can expect on arrival.

TripAdvisor direct bookings TripConnect explained

TripConnect explained
TripAdvisor for business

Many accommodation businesses are confused about TripAdvisor’s direct bookings, are you one them?  Let’s try to explain, so find a nice quiet spot to sit down with a glass or mug of your favourite drink.

In the last year TripAdvisor has changed its business model a number of times leaving many potential customers confused and even locked out. We have created a couple of videos to help you understand these changes (skip to these at the foot of the article…if you like) but it’s probably worthwhile seeing some of the basic facts first. Like them or not, here they are;

  1. TripAdvisor is a booking website used to book accommodation online.
  2. Accommodation businesses can receive bookings directly from the TripAdvisor website using a booking engine i.e. Freetobook.
  3. If you are already working with an OTA (Online Travel Agent) like Expedia or Booking.com you may find that the OTAs advertise your availability on TripAdvisor. These bookings will come through the OTA (not directly from TripAdvisor) and look like any other OTA booking and you pay your agreed commission to the OTA, as usual.
  4. The OTA pays to advertise on the TripAdvisor website, each OTA decides if they want to advertise your availability. You have no control over this.
  5. TripAdvisor lists availability and prices prominently so properties that don’t have online rates will be more difficult to find and if they are found they’ll be surrounded by images and popups directing customers to nearby available properties.
  6. Available to accommodation owners worldwide except if you have a holiday rental on HolidayLettings or FlipKey

In short, if you don’t have online rates you will receive less traffic and fewer bookings than in previous years.

Direct bookings via TripAdvisor
Direct bookings via TripAdvisor

If you do want bookings this way then you choose your route, direct with TripAdvisor or through an OTA – either way there is no requirement for any fixed upfront costs, no subscriptions or annual fees.

To get bookings direct you will need an account with TripAdvisor and an approved booking engine (or connectivity partner i.e. freetobook). Simply login to your TripAdvisor account and setup your direct advertising via their TripConnect service. Most approved booking engines charge for this service but with us it is completely free.

To advertise directly on their website you will need to pay TripAdvisor. In their wisdom they have created two models for payment (hence our two videos mentioned earlier).

Model One: Pay Per ClickTripAdvisor CPC video
Here you pay TripAdvisor a click fee each time a customer clicks on your advert, on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis. However, you DON’T pay for a search, you only pay when the customer searches AND then clicks on your available price. If you are not available on the dates the customer searches or they don’t click the price then you don’t pay.

Cost Per Click model facts:
You pay when a customer clicks on your available price.
TripAdvisor sets the click costs and from feedback they are generally quite low (but we can’t see or know the cost, they are only visible in TripAdvisor).
You can vary what you pay per click (your bid). If you bid too low then TripAdvisor will remove the advert and you would have to increase your bid to show again.
If you work with an OTA they might also advertise alongside your CPC advert.
You set the budget and pay TripAdvisor and can switch it on/off as you please.

In this model you pay for the advertising and you measure the bookings that come from the clicks. Bidding higher for clicks will make you show at the top of any adverts on your property and bidding too low will mean you don’t show. You make the judgement as to the cost effectiveness of your advertising by totalling up the bookings versus the click costs.  Ideally that return has to better than any other booking options i.e. OTA commissions.

Enjoy the youtube video on the Cost Per Click model.

Model Two: Pay Per Booking model (Instant Booking)Instant Booking video for TripConnect
In this model you only pay TripAdvisor for bookings. There is no cost for each click, instead you pay a commission amount on realised bookings. You set this up by logging into TripAdvisor account and activating an Instant Booking campaign. You pay TripAdvisor a commission fee only after the customer has completed their stay. At the time of this blog Instant Booking is not available to all properties. Use the Instant booking link below to check.

Pay Per Booking model facts:
You pay either 12% or 15% commission after the customer has stayed.
If you bid 12% then TripAdvisor will show your advert 25% of the time.
If you bid 15% then TripAdvisor will show your advert 50% of the time.
No other OTAs will show if your advert is showing.
There is no payment/commission due on bookings that cancel.

Enjoy the youtube video on the Pay Per Booking model

By now you are either asleep or completely up to speed on direct bookings from TripAdvisor….. that is before it changes (only joking!)  As always, please share your experience of this service or any other relevant news, let us know how it has or hasn’t worked for you.

Other relevant pages:
List of premium partners (booking engines) with TripAdvisor
TripConnect CPC on freetobook
TripConnect Instant Booking on freetobook
TripAdvisor TripConnect on their site
TripAdvisor Instant Booking on their site

World's Best B&B 2015
World’s Best B&B 2015

Millgate B&B was awarded the best B&B in the World 2015, why not have a little read about how Sue did it along with a few tips to learn from.

If you’re a historian or an online booking nerd and want to see some old blogs on how TripAdvisor has changed since we first started reporting and connecting way back in July 2013

Google Mobile Friendly deadline

Mobile friendly deadline
Google Mobile Friendly deadline

In a candid announcement a few months back Google let the world know that mobile friendliness has a deadline. From the 21st April onwards Google will actively favour mobile-friendly websites in mobile searches. If your website is mobile-friendly it is likely that you will rise in Google search results for mobiles as those that aren’t slip down the ranks.

Mobile-Friendly tag on Google
Mobile-Friendly tag on Google

In their words “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” The Google announcement can be found here

This makes total sense, Google is in the business of delivering high quality relevant searches to their customers. If a customer is using a mobile device they will want to see mobile-friendly websites above the websites that do not look good on mobile devices. As a useful guide Google has made free tool to check if your website is mobile-freindly click here to check your website.

Mobile-Friendly websites for hotels
Get a great mobile website

Accommodation businesses should look to be mobile-friendly before the 21st April. There is help at hand with freetobook mobile website and mobile booking. Our mobile websites are continually updated for the latest mobile versions and they update when you change your details in your freetobook account.

For more information on Mobile websites on freetobook click here or watch the video below.