My colleague Jason Freed has been writing a lot on the wild world of distribution of late, including this 24 August piece on Google Hotel Finder.
While the nuts and bolts of the distribution landscape are always fascinating (especially when you’ve got a heavyweight like Google joining the party), a common thread that has kept my interest throughout is the idea of conversions. That is, you can put your hotel on every OTA, GDS and flash-sale site on the Web, but unless customers actually convert and book your rooms, your efforts are for naught.
Which brings me to this nifty little article written by John Lynch that I found on Search Engine Watch. Though not specifically tailored to hotels, it provides five keys to conversion rate optimization that any hotel revenue manager should take to heart.
I encourage you to read the article in full. But in the interest of time, here’s a quick rundown:
Make sure the expectations set by your “ad copy” or search engine summary are met on your landing page. Search for HotelNewsNow.com in Google, for example, and our summary reads: “HotelNewsNow.com delivers hotel industry news to executives who own, manage, or finance hotels …” Click to our landing page, and you’ll see a tagline, keywords and toolbar categories that complement that summary.
Visual cues often help in this respect. Using our site again as an example, one of the first things viewers see when visiting our page is the masthead, which contains our logo/name. For your hotel website, having images of your property, brand flag/logo or destination will help reinforce the promise set in a shopper’s search engine results.
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“It’s imperative for a user to be able to understand your business proposition quickly and efficiently,” Lynch writes.
What are you selling? Hotel rooms. Make that the most important and easily recognizable feature on of your website.
Consumers search for genuine “trust signals” that help them judge website credibility. Your website’s ability to quickly create confidence means “more conversions and a shorter buy cycle.”
Include reputable third-party badges or awards. The Leading Hotels of the World comes to mind, as do J.D. Power’s guest satisfaction ranking indices.
Offer easy access to a sales rep/customer service to answer any questions.
Include keywords to ensure a safe booking experience. (e.g. “Book using our secured servers.”)
4. Understand customer intent
Lynch urges us to think of a conversion as a two-way communication between brand and consumer. Anticipate a traveler’s needs and act accordingly.
Operating a property in an attraction heavy market? Tout your hotel’s free shuttle service to nearby theme parks and destinations. Catering to on-the-go executives? Clearly state your flexible check-in/check-out hours.
5. Remove distractions
This is perhaps the biggest sin of a brand.com. Just because you operate a property in a beautiful tropical paradise doesn’t mean your website should include sounds of ocean waves or complex, graphical interfaces where would-be guests have to search through grandiose text and summaries.
Keep it simple! Travelers should be able to book within only three pages (or less): 1) enter dates and room type on your home paged; 2) date confirmation and credit card/frequent traveler info on page No. 2; and 3) a confirmation page confirming payment and offering other value adds.