Imagine your website is a bucket. Before you fill it with water, you want to make sure that you remove as many holes from your bucket as possible. In the case of the metaphor, the water represents visitors, and if you are about to attempt to send visitors to your website through paid digital ads, those leaks in your bucket will get expensive!
So let’s look at all the possible parts of your website that are leaking and look at how we can mend those holes.
This list is a mix of things that physically take people away from the website, as well as things that frustrate or confuse the user or add to a cumulative effect of making them want to exit the booking process.
1. Compelling Direct Booking Offer
If a potential guest is going to book with you instead of their trusted OTA, you need to give them a compelling reason to do so. Look at what value-based benefits you can add to your direct booking offer, such as early/late check-in/out, free cancellation etc.
2. Best Rate Guarantee Label
As above, you need to make sure that the potential guest knows that they can get the best rate through your website. This needs to be clearly labeled near your availability checker.
3. Availability Checker Above-the-fold
You need to make it as obvious as possible that you can book through your website. Making sure that an availability checker is visible above the fold (the area of your website that is visible when your page loads) is a great way to do that. You can even consider making it stick to either the top or bottom of the screen so that it is always visible.
4. Location & Positioning Statement Above-the-fold
Does the main headline and sub-headline on your homepage clearly speak to your ideal customer? This is going to be the first thing that a visitor to your website will read. It may even be the only thing they read if they bounce. Therefore it is important to make sure that it grabs the attention of the type of customer you want to attract more of, not just be generic to appeal to everyone. Make sure it includes the main USP of your hotel as well as a reference to where you are located. For example “xxxx in the Cotswolds”
5. Hero Image Change
Make sure you have the best image available to showcase your hotel in the hero section (this is the big image that appears above the fold on your homepage). Make sure it is of high quality and isn’t badly cropped. You can test to see which image works best by performing an A/B test. Furthermore, you can test to see if an image slider or even a background image converts more.
6. Effective Website Copy
Does the content on your website speak to your ideal customer? Effective website copy will be written from the customer’s perspective and how staying there will benefit them. Simply talking about how good you are will not engage a potential guest. They need to imagine how they are going to feel staying at your hotel.
7. Icons & Bullet Lists
People don’t read on the web! When someone is searching on the web, they don’t read every word on your website, they scan. Eye-tracking tests have proven that a user’s eyes quickly scan through a page, only stopping to read the bits that look important to them. Therefore, it is important not to have great big chunks of text and wordy paragraphs as they simply won’t get read.
Make sure you break up your text with headings and short paragraphs. Where possible, use bullet lists to convey information. Better still, accompany the text and lists with icons. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
8. Professional Room Photography
It is essential that the photography of your rooms is high quality or people will not want to stay there. Professional photographers with experience in shooting interiors will have all the best lighting and equipment to take the best shots of your hotel rooms. Better still, maybe consider getting video walk-throughs of your rooms and common areas.
9. Multiple Language Switcher
If you have a high percentage of visitors from non-English speaking countries, and they are a key target demographic, it is very helpful to allow them to view your website in their chosen language. This will help to lower confusion and reduce their cognitive load when translating your website in their head. Confused visitors are less likely to book. Using a Language switcher can be an effective way of making this customer feel welcome.
10. Tweak Book Now CTA
The words on your Book Now button can have a big impact on users. Remember, clicking a button is when the user is taking action and moving to the next step of the process. If the wording doesn’t quite match up with their expectations of what should happen next, then it could cause them to hesitate. Try A/B testing a few options to see which converts best. Here are a few examples of what you can try on some of your booking and inquiry buttons:
- Book Now
- Check Availability
- Enquire Here
- Call Us, Now
- Start Your Booking process
- Find Out More
- Book a Free Call
11. Explain the Booking Process
This may seem unnecessary, but having a quick visual explanation of the steps from the booking process through to arrival will be helpful in giving potential guests the confidence to book.
Reviews are critical and a curated set of reviews acts as risk mitigation during the booking journey. Users will typically visit other review sites as well, but short sharp statements will certainly help alleviate anxieties when booking.
13. Guest Testimonial Videos
Video can be immensely valuable for the higher ticket revenue streams of a hotel. Happy wedding couples and satisfied event planner increase levels of inquiries.
Both humans and search engines love FAQs. A good tip here is to gather all the normal questions your concierge, sales and reception teams are asking and write them into the website. Be sure to ask your developer to use Schema Markup so that Google can understand that it is a Q&A style content type.
15. Social Media Icons
While social media is typically a source of traffic, many users will also check out the social profile of a hotel before booking. The main objective of this is to check if there is any recent activity and also to extend the objectives of the on-site gallery.
16. Messenger Bot
Tools like asksuite can be a valuable source of leads and automated customer interactions. Chatbots can be triggered on certain pages and can also be integrated with your availability in order to deliver guests instant information.
17. Marketing Pop-Up
Pop-ups can be intrusive and annoying if used incorrectly but they can be very effective if the messaging and the triggers are aligned. Your pop-up notifications should be used sparingly and typically reserved for users that have already engaged somewhat in their journey or are returning. This way, you can tailor the pop-up to their actions. An example might be a data capture form prompting the user to download a wedding brochure if they have already engaged in wedding pages for more than a couple of minutes.
18. Notification Pop-up
Online travel agents use these regularly to create urgency and also mitigate the feeling of risk. It can be valuable to have a notification style element on the website that alerts the user to a limited supply or limited-time offers.
19. Staff Videos
Brands increasingly try to present their personality and include accessible, less curated content as part of their marketing strategy. Staff videos can be excellent for employer branding and recruitment, as well as bringing the faces behind the scenes to life during the booking journey.
20. Mobile First
Ensure you optimise your website experience on mobile. Many potential guests will be encountering your website on their mobile devices at some point in the buying journey. You need to make sure that your website works on a mobile device. This may not simply be a case of making your website responsive. It may be that you take into account the limited real estate that a mobile screen has and prioritise the functions that the user will most likely require in the context of using their phone. Eg. they may be on their way to your hotel, therefore, having easy access to your address, map, or phone number can be critical elements to have easily accessible on a mobile device.
As well as running through the checklist, you can also check Google Analytics to see if there are any problem pages on your website.
- Landing Pages – these are the pages that people are entering the site on. People don’t always start their journey on your home page. Your popular landing pages are very important. You want to make sure that these pages encourage visitors to continue their journey to booking and not bounce.
- Bounce Rate – therefore, you want to check your bounce rate for these pages. If you have a highly visited landing page with a high bounce rate, you could have a problem. Look at these pages to see if you can understand why a user might not be finding what they are looking for.
- Exit Pages – These are the pages that people are leaving your website. Just because people leave your website from this page, doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem. It could be a perfectly reasonable exit point after a specific action. However, look at your highest-ranking exit pages to see if there are any potential pages that have issues.
- Devices – Sometimes specific pages don’t perform particularly well on different device sizes. Looking at the above sets of data on the filter of the device can help you identify if you have particularly bad performing experiences on certain device sizes.
If it is not immediately clear why visitors are leaving a specific page on your website, you may need to utilise some tools that could help shed some light on it. With a tool like Hotjar, there are two things you can try:
1. Session Recordings
Hotjar allows you to watch recordings of actual users on your website. If you have identified specific problem pages you can watch some users using them. Soon enough, you should be able to see where the issues are occurring.
2. Exit Survey
If the session recordings haven’t given you the answers you need, then you can place a survey on specific pages that pops up when a user shows intent to leave by moving their cursor to the browser bar. The survey can ask a simple question ‘Did you find what you were looking for? Yes or No. Then it can ask a follow-up question asking what information they were looking for.
This can help you identify if you have essential information missing from your website or the information isn’t on the pages they expected to find it.
Tracking Performance Over Time
Now that you have started looking at Google Analytics for some performance data, it may be worth beginning to track this data over time, as it will become central to your optimisation process further on in your strategy.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that will be useful to start tracking:
1. Bounce Rate
2. Conversion Percentage (Goals)
3. Telephone Conversion Percentage
4. Conversion Rate of Website (Bookings Unique Visitors to Bookings)
5. Average Booking Value
6. Average Length of Stay
In order to keep track of your performance, you can feed these metrics into a custom dashboard using a free tool such as Google’s Data Studio. A general rule for understanding how well you are performing is to compare your latest month with the same month in the previous two years (although, you’ll have to take into account any recent pandemics in your analysis!)