There are a myriad of possible website improvements you can implement to get you those extra few booking, but this can be a daunting and time consuming task. You’d much rather run your tours than sit down with your web designer or take on the HTML and CSS yourself.
..And where do you start?
As founder of TourismTiger he now focuses on website design and how to get you more online bookings.
Links mentioned in the webinar
The purpose of having a website for your products is to ensure that is demonstrates and sells your products as effectively as it can. Before finding out how to improve your existing website, here are the things it needs to have to begin with:
The first one is you need to have a great product. If your product itself is not interesting to your visitors, all the website improvements in the world will do nothing to help you. If you are selling tours in a location that is not relevant to me, your fantastic website is not converting opportunities the way it should be. Having a great product all comes down to knowing what people travelling in your location want.
Having a great product is no use if you don’t sell it properly. Content such as product descriptions demonstrate credibility by showing that you are an expert in your field. Content such as product photos are important because pictures are so much more attention-grabbing than blocks of text and they can be much more effective at selling products.
A well-built website helps to show the content and organize it in a way that is easy to read and easy to navigate. This includes having ‘Book Now’ buttons in the right places and the technical aspects in place to facilitate bookings as much as possible.
Selling something obviously requires interested people to sell it to. You need to focus on getting relevant, interested traffic to your website to convert them to customers. Quality is the main focus, not quantity.
Visitor retention is all about capturing the people who visit your website and getting them to come back. Think about it – how many times do you come across something online and buy it the first time you see it? We’re willing to bet not often. There needs to be something that gets those first-time visitors to come back and convince them to spend their money with you. Things like retargeting advertising, emails and Facebook engagement go a long way in this field.
The first thing to know when looking at your website is your conversion rate. Essentially, of every 1,000 people who visit your website, how many of them end up booking? Your conversion rate can tell you all sorts of things like how easy your website is to navigate, how attractive and interesting your content is and how relevant your website traffic is. A new, up-to-date website can help your conversion rate because when someone visits your website and they like it, they tend to share it with other people who they think will be interested as well. This helps with the relevance aspect of your website traffic as these people are naturally more likely to follow through to booking.
Websites need to be updated regularly because essentially their effectiveness declines over time. One year after you set it up, you don’t notice that it seems a little out of date. Three years later, it looks a little tired. Five years later, it looks old. Eight years later it’s embarrassing and ten years later you might as well not have a website.
If you have more in-depth analytics, you can track how many bookings you receive from visitors who came from different sources – TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, etc. These analytics can show you which areas are performing the best and which are underperforming, which shows you which areas to look into improving.
The first 5 seconds are by far and away the most important when someone visits your website. How quickly does your website load? This is surprisingly important. Amazon, Google and Yahoo have all run tests which showed that on average every second of delay in loading leads to a 7% drop in sales, which makes website improvements based on loading speed some of the most crucial ones you can make.
There are several tools on the internet to measure your website’s speed and provide tips on how to improve it. Google has a tool for this. It provides you with a score out of 100 as well as recommendations for improvements based on metrics such as loading speed for both desktop and mobile and its usability on a mobile platform. The tool allows you to identify and implement the recommendations with no coding or web developing knowledge required.
One of the most common ways to improve website speed is to optimize images, making them load more quickly. The Google tool provides you with a link to optimized versions of the images on your page. This is important because you at home or in your office likely have a nice, fast and stable internet connection which loads things quickly, but potential customers browsing for activities on the train home from work or on patchy and slow hotel Wi-Fi probably don’t. These are the sort of scenarios that you need to think about.
We’ve mentioned mobile compatibility already, but why is it so important? The technical term for mobile compatibility is ‘responsiveness’ and it basically refers to how well your website adjusts the size of various components like images, text boxes and forms depending on the size of the screen on which it is being viewed.
Mobile responsiveness is an essential website improvement. It is so important because Google announced in 2015 that over 50% of searches made through Google were made on mobile devices, with the percentage reaching up into the 60s in the United States (think about how many people you see walking around or sitting in coffee shops looking at smartphones – they’re not all looking at cat videos). They are no longer a group which can be overlooked, in fact they now represent the majority of internet searches so you need to make sure you cater to them. They don’t want to have to zoom in and out all the time to read different parts of the page, or wait for ages for huge images to load on small screens and slow internet connections.
Once the website has loaded and your visitors have formed their immediate first impressions of how it all looks, the next thing for them to see is your content. ‘Clarity trumps persuasion’ is a quote from an expert in website optimization and conversion.
What this means is that website improvements based on your text and content are also important. Rather than trying to be cute and funny with headlines and subheadings, it is better to just be really clear with what it is you are selling. You might think that being coy is a way to make people curious enough to look further, but it’s not. Google Analytics has stats that show that up to 40% of website visitors leave within the first ten seconds. How do we make sure that potentially interested customers don’t end up in that group?
When we say crazy obvious, we mean really crazy obvious. If you are selling Segway tours, have a headline that just says ‘SEGWAY TOURS.’ That level of obvious is what we’re talking about. As we say in the webinar, we call it the Italian Drunk Grandpa Principle. No disrespect to any Italians out there, but what we are referring to is someone who is old, doesn’t have great eyesight any more, has had several wines, is sitting in front of the TV with several grandchildren running around. Could this person instantly be able to tell what your website is about? If not, make it such that they could.
Sliders are those displays on websites where you scroll sideways to look through the available options. They’re everywhere these days which is strange because if you Google them, pretty much every response will tell you not to use them. The problem with sliders is that they can put irrelevant items in front of website visitors from the get-go. As we’ve said, the first impression that a visitor forms of your website is absolutely crucial, so avoid putting irrelevant items in front of them at all costs. Sliders are also slow to load – another mark against them with regard to visitors’ first impressions.
Don’t get us wrong: sliders do serve a purpose – we don’t indiscriminately hate them. They work well to show a product lineup on a products page, just don’t put them on your homepage.
Readability concerns several factors other than simply the words you use. Being clear in what you say is important, but how you present the actual text is also important. We are referring to things like text size and colour.
If the text is too small, you will lose activity on your website because people can’t be bothered to try to decipher it. If the colour of the text compared to the background makes it hard to read, you will lose activity on your website. Sure it won’t cripple your business if you have grey text rather than black on a white background, but website improvements and optimization are often about taking care of the small details, so every little bit counts.
These website improvements go towards forming a holistic website experience for your customers. Studies have shown that the more expensive a product is, the more the aesthetic of the website matters. This is important because an attractive, functional website that is easy to read and easy to use demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail. Customers might not consciously think of this when they see your website, but if it gives that impression it makes them trust you more and makes them more comfortable with the idea of handing over their money to you. This is more important if your product is more expensive.
Don’t assume that people know where your links are on your page – you have to show them. It’s not because people are stupid, it’s because if your homepage consists of an image and a description and the image is where they are supposed to click for the link, many people do not naturally think that images are clickable and contain links. Extensive user testing by several large companies has identified this. Some people might make the connection, but remember the Italian Grandpa Principle – you need to think of everyone who might use your website and the differing levels of computer literacy they might have.
The way to drive the first click is to have obvious buttons for links. ‘Book Now’ buttons are a no-brainer, but if you have links to product pages or more descriptions, have ‘Read More’ buttons as well. Make it really clear and simple how your website fits together.
Once you have the website improvements sorted out to keep people there beyond the first ten seconds, you have to convince them. You have to win the sale.
The first thing to cover is what makes you special. Why are you good? Why should they hand over their money to you? The first way to demonstrate that you are worthwhile through your website is what we call credibility indicators. We made a mention of this before when we talked about keeping your website up-to-date. If you say your business has modern equipment but your website looks tired and outdated, it undermines your credibility.
Further website improvements you can make include mentions of prizes and awards you’ve won. Media mentions are also good to include as they demonstrate expertise and experience. Talk about the number of successful activities you’ve run or how many combined years of experience you have between your employees.
Including testimonials is one of the most commonly employed ways to try and win the sale. This is why TripAdvisor is so important. Testimonials demonstrate that other people also say good things about you and they act as an extremely powerful endorsement because they are credible, whereas ads are not. Think about a restaurant. You receive a flyer in the mail about a restaurant, and chances are you’ll ignore it. You walk along a street looking for a restaurant and you see one that is empty next to one that is full. You’re going to walk into the full one aren’t you? That is the power of social proof.
Make sure to use external links to testimonials from third-party sources such as TripAdvisor. People are becoming increasingly aware and suspicious of the possibility of false testimonials these days so if a testimonial looks planted, it can turn people off your activity.
‘About’ pages should have more than just product descriptions. They should demonstrate your authority on your given activity as well as some social proof. This is crucial because the more expensive your activity is, the more people will visit this page in search of more reassuring information before they make the commitment to booking with you. If your activity is in the $50-$100 range, perhaps 5% of visitors will view your ‘About’ page. If your activity is in the $500-$1000 range, that percentage increases to 20-30%. This makes it all the more important to include the influential and convincing credibility indicators on these pages because it is where people look to find reassurance that they are making the right decision.
The next thing to show off in your ‘About’ page is the personality of your business. Generic business names and formal writing styles do not work because they do not connect with people. Show real people enjoying your activity and talk to your customers in a personal style. Show them media mentions, show them videos, show they you’re popular. This connects with them in a more relatable manner which is more appealing. It is possible to be credible and professional without being dry and boring.
High-quality photos make for extremely engaging content online. They grab people’s attention and they are very interesting to look at. It might even be worth paying a professional photographer to come into your business for a day to capture some really high-quality photos for you. Photos of your customers enjoying your activities on a beautiful sunny day also make great content for your website.
Tip #1: Use photos to show what makes you special. VantigoSF is a popular company in the US whose point of differentiation is that their minibuses for their tours are all Volkswagen Kombi vans. Whatever your unique point of differentiation is, use your photos to show it off.
Tip #2: Never use photos from cloudy or semi-cloudy days. You need to make sure you show off your activity at its best. Besides, semi-cloudy days make it hard to take good photos because it messes with the lighting and ruins your photos.
Tip #3: Use a professional or get a great camera. As we mentioned briefly before, a professional photographer can be a worthwhile investment because they can take genuinely breathtaking photos for you. They also don’t cost as much as you might think, especially when you consider the benefits that good photos can bring in for your business.
Tip #4: Use exciting photos. Make sure you have photos that make people say ‘I want to do that!’ Something worth mentioning is that if your activity is something more adrenaline-based, such as bungee jumping or a race car experience (among other things), be sure to include photos of ladies enjoying the activity. Some women can look at activities like these and wonder whether it is for them as well or if it is a bit of a boys’ club. If you demonstrate that your activity is for everyone, it goes a long way towards making them feel less nervous.
Tip #5: Use photos that people could envision as their Facebook profile picture. People love sharing their experiences on social media and one of the most fun parts of having your photo taken when you’re on an exciting activity is the novel profile picture you can get out of it. Whatever your opinions of social media are, you can’t deny that people love it.
Tip #6: Make an amazing video. Great videos make you unforgettable. Weeks after visiting your site, they will still remember you. Not only do they make you look professional, but they are really exciting and memorable.
Firstly, you need to show the highlights, all the initial bullet points and the summary of the tour, so people can get a very quick feeling about your activity and whether it is what they are looking for.
Secondly, exhibit the experience with videos and with a lot of photos. Detailed itineraries of your experience are also worthwhile additions to your website because it gives people who are really hungry for information all the information they could ever want. They don’t have to look at it but if they want to, they can.
People have a mental checklist when they are looking to book something. Will I have a good time? Will I see or do what I want to see or do? Is the experience good value for money? You can tick all of these boxes in their minds by showing testimonials, photos and other relevant information such as itineraries. Unanswered questions are a significant source of anxiety when someone is considering whether or not to hand over their money to you so if you can provide the information to answer any and every question they have, that’s a big plus for them.
Show your testimonials. Show at least one or two testimonials on the actual tour page. People want to know whether what you offer is good and in this age of TripAdvisor, an absence of testimonials looks quite suspicious.
Similar to providing potential customers with all the information they want, you need to demonstrate that you know what you’re doing. Demonstrate your experience in the field and show that you are knowledgeable about what you do.
For you, this is the whole point of everything you are providing to your customers, so make it easy for them. As we mentioned earlier, have clear booking buttons in noticeable places. Bear in mind that a lot of the time when people are browsing the internet, that is not the only thing they are doing. How many times have you scrolled through a page at the same time as watching TV or while eating breakfast? Having clear booking buttons means that even when people are not paying full attention, it is still easy for them to know what they are doing.
It is worth mentioning that these small optimization factors will not double your sales overnight. They all add up, so if one of them boosts conversions by 1%, and another boosts conversions by 2% and another by 4%, when you put them all together you can achieve a more significant boost in sales.
Some business owners talk about how they subscribed for a booking software and their sales doubled, whereas others talk about how they barely registered a difference. This comes down to the booking behaviour of internet users and whether a booking software caters for it.
If someone is browsing the internet for activities, chances are they want to book online because they don’t want to call. Perhaps they can’t be bothered or perhaps they are too shy. They also don’t like filling out booking forms and waiting for you to get back to them. You could be the quickest, most reliable email responder in all of history but everyone has had the experience of someone not getting back to them. The one that lets you book then and there online will always seem like the more attractive option.
Think once again about how your activity looks from the perspective of someone booking it. If I am looking to book an activity that I’m taking my fiancée on with me, I want to be sure that it’ll be good because if it’s not, I’m going to get the blame. If I’m a secretary booking an activity for 50 people, I need your website to demonstrate all of those credibility signals because if it doesn’t, I am going to get the blame if it all goes badly.
So think – in this case, would your website be a weapon or a liability for you? Could someone looking to justify a bad decision reasonably say that they made the bad decision because your website did not provide all the information they needed?