Want to Convert Bookers on Your Web Site? Experts say online travel bookings are still on the rise and, according to recent reports; an increasing number of online travelers are turning to supplier sites to book reservations. This is great news for our industry, but, as hoteliers, are we taking advantage of this increased traffic?
The growing popularity of search engines on the net has focused new attention on the need to make certain that your hotel's web site conforms to search engine guidelines and is designed to convert more of this added traffic into new bookings. This new focus on web design and the monitoring of bookings, and not just unique visitors, is the essence of web site optimization
Applying sound hotel marketing principles to a web site will convert more lookers into bookers. In short, it gives a site more bang-for-its-marketing buck. It's true that a good search engine optimization program will increase the number of visitors to a site, but it has little value unless a higher percentage of them are converted into reservations. How many visitors does the average web site turn into reservations?
To answer this key question, I turned to a friend, Joe Hyman, president of Secure-Res, one of the most prominent hotel web site booking engines in the US. Joe was among the first innovators to recognize that hotel web sites needed an on-line solution to convert site visitors into room bookings. Joe recognized that this new breed of Internet travel shoppers want and expect an instant reservation confirmation that only a real-time booking engine can provide.
This makes even more sense when one considers the look to book ratio on the average hotel web site. According to Secure-Res, with their more than 1200 client hotel sites, the average percentage of lookers to bookers is 3.48%. Out of 100 visitors only 4 will actually make a reservation; and remember, this number represents hotels using a great functional booking engine. We can only imagine the poor number of conversions without a good booking engine, or those that have none at all. An increase of merely one or two percent could produce huge returns.
Franchised hotels with their own web site , but which use their franchise booking engine risk even more loss to "bleed-through" by linking to the many other hotel options on the franchisor's site. For Independent hotels, a good booking engine is absolutely essential, no matter what size of the hotel.
If you are not currently tracking the booking effectiveness of your web site, start doing it today. Why be satisfied with only knowing how many users are visiting your site? Is your site converting visitors into reservations? I shudder when clients respond with the number of unique visitors, when asked how their web site is performing. I don't know of any banks that accept deposits of "unique visitors". Booking efficiency is much more than counting "unique users" or other web site data.
It just doesn't make sense to rely solely upon increased traffic to a site without first optimizing the marketability of the site itself, There are still many hotel sites with poor layout and navigation, poor use of graphics, and worst of all, text which doesn't encourage better search engine rankings, and doesn't sell
hotel rooms or encourage the making of reservations.
Reviewing the effectiveness of a hotel web site is a marketing function. It's important to understand how your marketing message is being delivered; and that it's not simply a matter of providing as much information as possible about the hotel. Many hotels provide too little relevant information and/or too much detail about unnecessary information, which confuses navigation and muddles the entire sales message.
There are also technical issues to be considered. Is your site set up to conform to the ever-changing "rules of engagement" required by various search engines? Search engines read text not graphics. I would wager that most hotel web designers spend much more time selecting and placing graphics or flash elements; and too little time on writing effective text. Most Common Errors
Most site design errors are pretty common-sense issues. Some designers forget that the mission is to sell rooms; not simply to design a pretty web site. The most common errors are:Poorly written and ineffective textToo little information on the hotel's location; sometimes none at allLack of a good visual representation of the hotel's facilitiesThe use of inappropriate and excessive use of flash elementsLack of research in the development and placement of meta tags and key wordsThe choice of a poorly designed booking engine; or none at allLack of a functional link strategyLack of conformity to search engine requirements
Converting your site from an ineffective one to a productive site simply requires a modest investment in the form of a web site review from a qualified hotel web marketer. Most reviews will provide a "map" of the web site elements, which need to be improved. In most cases, it is not necessary to create an entirely new web site. The process can preserve the general "look and feel" of your site, while improving its performance; a win-win situation.
Stop simply measuring the number of unique users that are visiting your site; converting more lookers into bookers can make substantial contribution to your business model.
Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach