10 Website Tips You Can't Ignore: A Checklist
As a tour or activity operator, it's almost guaranteed that you have a website. Have you ever thought about how to get more of your site visitors to book a tour? All websites will convert a different percentage of visitors to actual bookings. So how do you maximize that percentage for your business?
Since I started TourismTiger.com, a business focused on tour and activity web design, I've been thinking about this topic a lot. Here is my 10-point checklist.
Do You Have Excellent Photos?
The difference between great and not-so-great photos is hard to explain with words, so let's do it with an example. Take these two photos of the exact same place in Rome:
The difference between these photos—both of which were taken by professionals—is clearly hard to understate. The first photo isn't necessarily bad, but it doesn't capture the imagination either.
As Brendan Tully, head of one of Australia's largest online marketing agencies, puts it: “quality professional photography can make or break your online marketing."
Make it about the visitor as much as possible by use images of your guests having fun. Think in terms of Facebook—because that's what your customers are thinking about. If someone is able to visualize amazing images they'll be able to take during your tour to share with their friends, they'll be much more likely to book.
Are You Clearly Demonstrating Credibility?
Tim Warren of Travel Business Success has been blogging for years about the importance of converting existing website visitors. He says that many operators focus almost exclusively on getting more visitors but forget about actually convincing them to sign up for a tour!
Credibility indicators help you do this. Feature them prominently and repeatedly around your site. Examples of great credibility indicators to use on your site:
Amount of years in business
Combined experience of the team
Amount of customers served
Testimonials (actual testimonials)
Major media mentions
Is Your Website Message and Navigation Clear?
In my business, we call this the "Drunk Italian Grandpa Principle." You might find another name for it, but the idea is simple: if we were to sit down a drunk Italian grandpa and ask them what you did—just from looking at your website—what would they say?
It's got to be a lot more clear than you think. And it's crucially important to avoid headlines like "Welcome to Joe's Tours," because they communicate nothing.
The job of a headline isn't to welcome people to your site, it's to convince them to stay and keep reading. This means that we need to focus on keeping every person who could actually be interested on the site.
From there, we need to focus on getting people to click. Once someone's clicked somewhere, they have engaged with your page and are much more likely to continue navigating your website. I advise not just using a menu but laying out your tours in a tile format such that it's obvious what the next step needs to be.
Looking for an example of all this in action? Check out the website of one of our customers, Iberience.com.
Do you show live availability and accept real time bookings?
If the Internet were a human, it'd be old enough to be married with kids. It's no longer a "new trend"—it's the ever-present reality.
You need to accept online bookings.
Is Your About Page Engaging and Credibility-Boosting?
The About page is often one of the most neglected pages of a website. This is a travesty!
Take a moment to think about it. What is the biggest reason you would ever visit an About page? You're interested, but not yet convinced enough to click the booking button! If every visitor to your about page represents an opportunity to make another sale, it's crucial to nail this.
There are two basic keys to this. One, do people find your about page to be warm, friendly, and engaging? Do you (and your staff) demonstrate the personality of the company? Do you show photos of your actual team or just a photo of your tour bus?
The second key is to emphasize those credibility boosters mentioned above. Demonstrate your expertise, experience and capability.
Is your website mobile-friendly?
You've probably heard the rumors: mobile and tablets are a big deal—and they're not going away. According to the data that we see on a daily basis, over 50 percent of website traffic to tour operator websites is now on smartphones or tablets. That's right: the mobile experience of your website is nowmore important than desktop.
Updating your website to be mobile friendly is guaranteed to increase sales. I had the opportunity a while back to talk with website sales expert Peep Laja from ConversionXL about this topic. He was emphatic: in 100 percent of cases that he's seen, converting to a mobile friendly web design increases sales.
Does your website load quickly?
Have you ever thought about the load speed of your website? It makes a bigger difference than you might think.
The research is now well-established that faster loading times means more sales. This is especially true in the case of tourism. Think about it: Have you ever tried to use hotel WIFI before? It's nearly always horrendous. Using slow internet, a poorly-constructed website could take 10, 20, 30 seconds or more to load! We all know that in the era we live in, there aren't too many people who are willing to wait that long.
A while back while traveling. I timed how long it took an Australian tourism website to load on my computer. The answer? Two minutes and 36 seconds for it to fully load—and it was a fairly typical website, no videos or fancy flashing web design tricks.
This topic has become so important that Google has started rewarding faster websites with more visitors. They've even released their own handy tool to measure the load speed of your website, called Google Pagespeed Insights. Our recommendation is a score of 70+ on mobile and 80+ on Desktop. Anything slower and your website probably needs optimizing (or replacing).
Does Your Website Have Strong Visual Appeal?
Call me biased, but an attractive website makes a difference. In fact, studies have shown that websites with strong visual appeal greatly increase their perception in the eyes of first-time visitors.
As Peep Laja shares on his blog: “Results show that first impressions are most influenced by the visual appeal of the site. Users gave high usability and interest ratings to sites with high appeal and low usability and interest ratings to sites with low appeal."
In fact, up to 46.1% of typical website users will form their largest impression of your credibility from the quality of your visual design.
Do You Have Multiple, Prominent Contact Options?
Some people want to call. Some people want to email. Some people want to fill in contact forms. You need to cater to all these people. And with the growth of WhatsApp as a platform, I'd also recommend adding this to the mix!
The idea is that if someone has a question, that they have all the options they could possibly want in order to contact you. Not everyone is comfortable calling—we've found that millennials especially will do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Whatever your opinion of this, this is the way the world is, so cater to it all.
Have You Done Some Basic Search Engine Optimization?
This doesn't need to be too complicated, but it does need to be done.
Search Engine Optimization is the practice of helping your website receive more traffic from Google. This can be an arduous process (many books have been written on it!) but the basics are simple.
You just need to make sure your website doesn't just use photos to communicate what you're selling. Unless you have rich, descriptive content, Google will struggle to understand what it is your business is about! A basic rule is to make sure the title and headlines of your website actually communicate what it is you're offering.
For example, the title of your website might be "Barcelona Walking Tours with Joe's Tours." This gives Google a much better indication as to what it is you actually do.
The above steps might seem like a lot of work. Honestly, they are, but if you're serious about increasing sales, I can think of no better place to start.