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Imagine the situation. A potential guest comes to your website, makes a search for a property for specific dates, proceeds to book, and on the final screen, leaves your site. Then know, it’s far too common. In fact, research in 2015 by Adobe showed that only 2.4% of people who browse for hospitality and travel-related products make a booking. But why do so many people leave without converting from website visitor to your guest? This is the first of a series of articles which investigate how optimize your webpage.

How optimize your webpage to increase online bookings

What is conversion?

First of all let’s look at conversion. The aim of conversion is to look at the needs of the visitors on your website and make it easier for them to buy from you, rather than spending time and money simply encouraging more visitors to your vacation rental website. The profitability is significantly higher of converting even just 1% of your existing visitors to guests than the cost of attracting new visitors through the creation of more leads.

Test, test, test

The key for all aspects of conversion is the test process. Whatever change you make, you need to test this one change (and no other) over a period of time to see if that change makes any type of difference. It is also worth remembering that unless there is a significant drop in sales, it is more valuable to test this over a reasonable period to see if any changes might be due to any other external factors, such as the change of the season to low or high season, or a mention of your area in the international press. Once you have made your test, take a note of what you changed, when, and the impact. And then move onto another area to test.

Get inside your visitors minds

There are any number of reasons that a person may leave your site without buying, and it is important to understand what these are and try to remedy those that you can. These range from psychological reasons to physical causes. For example, a first time visitor with no knowledge of your company, an experience of credit card fraud or a lack of experience of booking online is significantly less likely to make a reservation than an internet experienced, previous customer with an understanding of how to minimise the likelihood of cyber crime. From a physical perspective, faulty or broken links, hidden search bars, unclear information and long, complex booking forms can all hinder the booking process. Whatever the reason, assessing your website for potential pitfalls, understanding how visitors use your website and what they need, combined with trying and testing new ideas or using a specially designed website for the vacation rental market can all increase the number of bookings made.

Understand your vacation rental website

The most important starting point for looking at conversion rates is understanding your website… what pages do visitors arrive on, and importantly for conversion purposes, from which pages do they leave? A good way to look at your website is to set up a Google Analytics account, and from there, spend some time assessing your website traffic, and creating a ‘sales funnel’. This tracks your visitors as they move from arriving on your homepage or other landing page, move through your website, and then leave, some of whom will also make a purchase along the way.

Tools that guide you how optimize your webpage

The amazing aspect of Google Analytics is that is free, and you can organise it to be as simple or as complex as you want and need. Rather than reinvent the wheel, you can read about how you can benefit from this information directly from Google Analytics. There are also instructions on Google Analytics webpage on how to set up an account with a good video worth watching. And once you are ready to create a sales funnel, you should check out the clear explanation in the video by Kissmetrics.

Setting up Google Analytics is not a quick process, but once you have it underway you can really understand what your visitors are doing on your website, and this will give you the best knowledge on how to convert more of them into guests. Once you have made this step, you can start to look at reasons why people leave, which we will cover in our next article, available in October.