Industry Update
Opinion Article13 November 2012

The Perils of Using WordPress as a Hotel Website Content Management System (CMS)

By Max Starkov, Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant

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Here at HeBS Digital we have been asked on numerous occasions about the viability of WordPress as a hotel website Content Management System (CMS). We have been involved in website development and CMS systems for over 15 years now, and our categorical answer is that the WordPress technology is ill-fitted to power hotel websites' content management systems and is only adequate as a blogging technology.

According to Wikipedia,WordPress is a free and open-source blogging tool based on PHP and MySQL. WordPress is currently the most popular blogging system in use on the Internet. Our own blog is powered by WordPress, which, in addition to Tumblr, is the blogging technology of choice for many travel-related blogs.

Why is WordPress ill-prepared to handle the website CMS functionality of any e-commerce website, including hotel websites?

In our view, WordPress' blogging platform has been exclusively designed to host blogs with an active comments system and a myriad of plug-ins available to modify the function of the blog. While plug-ins exist to transform WordPress into a blog-type product that resembles a CMS, there are thousands upon thousands of viruses and spam bots created simply to scan the Internet for vulnerable WordPress-related "entry points" and weak spots. For every security plug-in installed to secure your WordPress-powered website CMS, ten more malicious viruses are created.

Once your site's security is breached, your website becomes a spam- and virus- spewing entity, which will prompt Google to quickly shut down your WordPress-powered website, resulting in a monumental loss of revenue. This is exactly what happened recently to a client of ours with a website inherited from a previous vendor.

In the recent illuminating article "Careless Webmasters as WordPress Hosting Provides for Spammers" the author describes how easy it is to hack a WordPress-powered website and how cyber criminals create large, spammy sites in subdirectories of hacked legitimate sites and generate millions of doorway pages on thousands of established websites with good reputation and SEO rankings with a singular goal in mind: to divert users to the hackers' own e-commerce sites, quite often selling counterfeit luxury goods.

Another example is the use of WordPress-powered websites to launch massive distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS). Broadly, a DDoS attack is an attempt to make a network resource unavailable to its intended users in an attempt to disrupt service. Earlier today, we discovered yet another example of how malicious hackers used a WordPress-powered hotel website as a "work horse" for their distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), in this case against Google itself!

The following line of code was injected into a WordPress template:

Any visitor to the WordPress-powered hotel website with the above code triggers a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) against Google:

Another major weakness of a WordPress-powered hotel website is that it is not developed to handle content distribution and digital marketing across the three distinct device channels. These three channels – desktop, mobile and tablet – present a major challenge to hoteliers, who need a platform for creating and managing digital content throughout these three channels as well as publishing the hotel's latest special offers and promotions directly on the hotel's social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Google+).

Needless to say, due to the open source nature of WordPress, there is no technical support, automatic updates or any kind of warranty for a WordPress-powered website.

How Does WordPress Compare to a Hospitality Industry-Specific CMS?

So what kind of a CMS is best suited for the hotel website? The HeBS Digital's proprietary CMS Premium platform was built with hoteliers in mind. Its long list of functionalities and its ease of use demonstrate that HeBS Digital's technology team understands hoteliers and also understands and anticipates search engine requirements and best practices.

For example, our technical team quickly responded to the Google Panda and Freshness updates by building in content creation functionalities that allow hoteliers to create unlimited new pages & content in the form of specials, upcoming events, and dedicated landing pages. Each of these pages is coded with a "micro-format" that is, essentially, extended meta data that provides additional information to search engines. The CMS Premium also encourages quick and efficient crawling by search engine bots by including a real-time XML site map for each site that is automatically updated with site changes. The CMS Premium boasts rock-solid site security. From single-property hotel and resort websites to 200+ multi-property brand websites, the CMS Premium has proven its reliability as the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) platform of choice for sophisticated hoteliers.

When compared side by side, the differences between WordPress and a CMS, specifically built for the hospitality industry such as HeBS Digital's CMS Premium, are clear.

WordPress handcuffs the hotel's ability to develop a consistent, branded online presence; especially in this new multi-channel environment the hospitality industry operates in today.

Developing and building your site with a flexible, industry-specific CMS is crucial to maximizing revenues and ROIs through the direct online channel. A digital marketing component as critical as the website is not the place to cut corners. An investment in a highly functional, easy-to-use CMS platform is one that will return your investment tenfold (and more).

The hotel website has become the main revenue driver for the hotel. Not investing in the right technology for the hotel website results in missed revenue and severe damage to the hotel's bottom line.

Max Starkov is President & CEO and Jaan Paljasma is Digital Technology Architect at HeBS Digital.

Max Starkov

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