Is Your Website Like the Hotel California?

Star Law Firm Website in desert with arrows leading to the site but not away. Caption reads, So, you have an all-star website. It is beautiful and attractive, like the Hotel California. But just like the Hotel California, visitors can check in, but can't check out. Really, how many referrals from the search engines can you expect? (Creative Commons image by OakesWriting.com. May be used with attribution.)

By C J Oakes

Hotel California is a song by the Eagles. It was first aired in 1977 and quickly became one of the bands greatest hits. The song tells of a beautiful hotel in the California desert where people can check in but are unable to check out. It recently occurred to me that this song aptly describes many of the Law Firm websites we review. How so?

How Can a Website be Like the Hotel California?

In the song, those who find the Hotel California are greeted to a beautiful, impressive structure, a “shimmering light” amid the “warm smell of colitas” in the desert. It is also the only hotel to be found for miles in any direction, so it is most inviting.

Once inside, the character in the song quickly wonders if “heaven or hell” awaits. It is a sound concern as we soon learn–he can never leave. The song is thus a fitting metaphor for death. This likewise makes it a fitting metaphor for the death of a website.

Many law firm websites we review are like the Hotel California because they build plenty of links to the site, but none leaving. Those who manage to visit the site can never leave the way they came. They are in effect, trapped. In addition, there are many rooms (that is, plenty of content) and these rooms lead to other rooms (internal links on the site), but still, none show the way out.

In essence, if a visitor happens upon this website in the desert and chooses to enter, they become trapped. They must find another way out. They do. They hit the back button, which accounts for the high bounce rates of many.

Let us Repeat that Without the Metaphors

Many Law Firms have built very impressive websites. They are beautiful and inviting and have built links to the site and throughout. But there are no links leading off their websites to others.

Star Law Firm Website in desert with arrows leading to the site but not away. Caption reads, So, you have an all-star website. It is beautiful and attractive, like the Hotel California. But just like the Hotel California, visitors can check in, but can't check out. Really, how many referrals from the search engines can you expect? (Creative Commons image by OakesWriting.com. May be used with attribution.)
So, you have an all-star website. It is beautiful and attractive, like the Hotel California. But just like the Hotel California, visitors can check in, but can’t check out. Really, how many referrals from the search engines can you expect? (Creative Commons image by OakesWriting.com. May be used with attribution.)

Because the Internet is a trove of information, the hyperlink is the connective tissue which keeps the web alive. To make effective use of the Internet is to provide the most valuable information for visitors possible. Because no website can provide all the answers to every question and no page can provide all the information wanted, links to other pages are needed to provide value to readers.

For instance, it would be silly of me to repost the lyrics of the song, Hotel California here. Doing so would detract from the point of this article and unnecessarily add yet another page of the same content to the Internet. Thus, no added value is added by doing so. Instead, I can simply add…

If interested, you can read the lyrics of Hotel California here.

Sending you to a page of lyrics does not in any way detract from my message. Nor is that site in competition with my own, so no direct harm comes to my site by adding a link. Quite the opposite. I have now added value for my readers, who will appreciate it. This adds a positive to my brand and those who see the value will link to my site, maybe sign up for my newsletter, or share this post on social media–all actions which help my site.

How Do the Above Actions Help Oakes Writing?

When people share this post, like this post, link to it, or bookmark it, they may return later or send other readers to it. But even if none of these actions occur, the search engines note that these steps were taken and this results in a positive to them. In time, the search engines move my pages and posts up in their results. As this happens, my site gets more traffic.

This point deserves repeating:

The search crawlers will notice that I am adding value and will be more inclined to refer searchers to me. This will increase my traffic and the whole process repeats itself. All because my website is NOT like the Hotel California.

The point is, if I run my site like the Hotel California, I build a site that only lets people in but does not send them elsewhere when they are ready to leave. No good travel agent would ever recommend such a hotel to clients–in the same way, Travel Agent Google will not recommend the site to their clients. The Hotel California is a great song, but a website built like it is certain to remain doomed to the desert of the Internet.


C J Oakes is the founder of Oakes Writing Website Services, a content marketing firm located in Lubbock, Texas. Since 2009, C J Oakes has been providing written content that gets results to clients worldwide, mostly in business applications. Oakes Writing currently provides website services including proper link-building strategies to Law Firms, Real Estate Agencies, and other Professional organizations.