Meetup Summary

Your website should clearly describe what you offer, establish trust with your target audience, and make it easy for visitors to make a booking. When you make improvements to these aspects of your website, you’ll get more bookings. Join our next meetup to learn the top improvements that you can make to start getting more bookings from your website.

Guest Panel

Meetup Recording

Key Takeaways

  1. Add credibility triggers across the website
    • Reviews and testimonials
    • Trust symbols such as security seals, membership badges, etc.
  2. Make it easy to buy/book
    • Highly visible booking buttons
    • Easy-to-use booking process
    • Answer key questions/objections
  3. Create high quality content
    • Eliminate jargon, write for easy reading
    • Your content reflects on your brand, so represent your brand well
  4. Consider content flow
    • Organize your content in a logical flow
    • Use headlines to provide a summary info
    • Break down longer content into sections
  5. Provide a consistent user experience
    • Be consistent in use of colors, layouts, fonts, buttons, etc.
    • Be consistent in the tone and messaging
    • Provide consistent experience on mobile and desktop
  6. Utilize analytics to test and improve
    • Use an analytics package such as Google Analytics (free)
    • Look at the data to understand opportunities
    • Review data after changes to confirm results
  7. Take the time to sharpen your tools
    • Ask someone unfamiliar with your brand to review your website and give feedback
    • Don’t leave people confused. Be consistent between your website, Google My Business page, and social media sites.
    • Making changes to your website may feel overwhelming. Don’t get bogged down. Identify small chunks of things you can do, and complete them one at a time. Lots of free training resources online, including YouTube videos.

Bonus Video – Examples of the 7 Tips in Practice

Resource Links

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Meetup Transcript

[Carl] All right. It looks like we’ve got most everyone in. So let’s go ahead and get started. Again, this is Carl Lefever from the Accelerate Tourism Team. Welcome to this week’s meetup. For those of you who are new to the meetup, for those of you who are new to the meetup this is a virtual meetup for business leaders serving the tourism industry. We started this about eight weeks ago. Our focus is on sharing tourism, marketing ideas through guest speakers and open discussion. We’ve been holding these weekly and pretty soon I know most of the areas that each of you are from are either already or soon to be opening up. So we’ll be shifting these to more of a monthly frequency here soon. But yeah, our whole goal is to help you guys that are running towards them focus businesses, think through marketing strategies, give you practical ideas and things that you can do to help grow your bookings.

Topic Introduction

[Carl] So today’s topic I’m super excited about. Our title is 7 Ways To Improve Your Website To Get More Bookings. And if you’re counting, you’ll probably get more than seven ways today. But the whole purpose of this session is the realization that your website is really your most important marketing asset. I originally wrote that as digital marketing asset, but I would actually argue your website really is your most important asset. Think of it as a sales person that you have working for you 24/7. So your website should make it easy to understand what to offer, make it easy to book and small changes can make a big difference. And so we’ve invited three panelists today. Adam Grim, owner, co-owner at Sparrow Websites, Eric Clark, a Digital Director at the Infantree and Sam Shoemaker, who some of you know from past sessions, the Creative Director at Improve & Grow. I’ve invited each of these guys because they are, we consider them to be subject matter experts in how to make high performing websites, not just websites that look good, but websites that perform well and by perform well, we mean get you bookings, get good conversions from your website, get good results from your website. So really excited to have you guys on. And we had a meeting yesterday just to prepare for this session and solidified their list of seven ideas. So we’re gonna approach this one a little bit from, or not a little bit, but more from the perspective of touching on each of these seven points. Each of the panelists are gonna kind of take the lead on some of these, but contribute to the others as well. And then just like our past sessions, we will open it up for Q&A as well. So for those of you in the audience if you’ve got kind of burning questions on ways to make your website work better, or as you’re hearing Eric, Adam and Sam share, if that inspires some questions or follow up questions on your part, I encourage you to throw those in Q&A, Scott will be monitoring Q&A, and when we get to the Q&A session, we’ll put those questions to the panel. All right. So with that, let’s get started.

#1 Add Credibility Triggers Across the Website

[Carl] So item number one, love this one. Add credibility triggers across the website. Eric, would you tell us a little bit more about that?

[Eric] Yeah, sure thanks. So credibility triggers across the websites are referring to things that make your company appear more credible to your customers. So this could include something as simple as a certification or a membership, you’re part of regional or national or local perhaps even recognition or mentions and articles. There’ve been a lot of articles recently about how great Lancaster is, and there’s lots of other areas that have similar articles. So if your company was mentioned in one of those it would be great to add that to your site, or even just the article as a whole, even if your organization, your company wasn’t mentioned, it’s still great to get people aware of how great the area is. So once they’re there, they have other things to do. A big one is reviews. They are all over the place. Pretty much every site, every directory search engines have been built right in. So making sure you have reviews available it’s kind of a given. Adding them to your site is also a really nice thing to do. A lot of the directories such as TripAdvisor, and they actually have a widgets page that allows you to find your business. And it tells you which widgets you can embed on your website. A lot of these companies also have plugins or other tools that allow you to do that pretty easily. But it’s also, it’s important just to make sure you have them at all, because whether they’re on your website or not, people are gonna come across them. And they’re largely used to compare your attraction to another one. So trying to get more is always a better thing. There’s not really a magic. It’s all relative to the size of your business or the type of industry you’re in. But more is certainly not a bad thing. One way you can do that is to encourage your either existing or prior customers to leave reviews, whether that’s on, I don’t know if it’s a receipt or a thank you for booking something along those lines. Encouraging them to leave a review and a rating is be a really positive thing to do, especially if you already have a mailing list or a newsletter or something that goes out to keep people up to date. And along those lines as testimonials if people leave reviews, it’s often not just a star rating, leave a comment or two. So adding that to your website and the testimonial section about a certain type of offering you have, can be really nice. People want to know that what they’re booking and what they’re going to experience actually is what you say it is. So having some messaging that comes from actual ratings is really nice. And I think that’s one thing that rings really nice for, as opposed to just a testimonial, you see texts on someone’s website. And sometimes you’re not really sure if that was kind of cherry picked from, did they give someone a free room in order for them to leave a nice thing. But you can look at all the reviews on Google or TripAdvisor and kind of get a better picture of what’s out there. And one more thing that can relate to a bit more credibility is writing some blog posts on a relevant topic. So if you’re in an area that’s interesting and you want people to know more about what they can do when they arrive, perhaps writing an article on, I don’t know, some historical thing in the area, or perhaps if you run a tour company. I don’t know why I’m thinking of like tubing down a river is your company. Maybe you’re writing an article on what to wear when doing some water sports, how to keep yourself warm and be prepared for in the water. Something that will get people just more prepared, more interested, perhaps it’ll drive some search traffic that went when people weren’t necessarily looking for your company, but they might end up coming across it. That’s what comes to mind right now.

[Carl] So just to kind of recap that you’re saying Eric, if you already have good reviews, put them on your website, if you don’t get collect reviews I like your suggestion of doing those through third parties, because it adds credibility to it and then publish them prominently on your website. Adam, Sam, anything to add to that one?

[Sam] Yeah, I think it is one of those, I know one term that we use the credibility triggers term here, but another term I think is social proof. I see that being used a lot today. And really that’s what this, kind of taking all those things that we really need to have on your website. This isn’t really an option, like the way people buy today, they especially online, they do the research first. So having those reviews, having those trust symbols accredited organizations or credible organizations, having those testimonials from real people, not just on your website, but all across the different platforms where people find you, it’s not an option. Because your competition is doing it and if you’re not doing that better than your competition. Even down to something as really meaningless as the number of reviews, like we would like to think that the number of reviews doesn’t matter, but just the number itself leverages and has weight to what that means. So just you can’t put enough reviews and testimonials on your website and leveraging that audience, the audience that you have to fill that gap is gonna be pretty critical if you’re not doing this.

#2 Make It Easy to Buy or Book on Your Website

[Carl] Yeah, good point. So number two. Make it easy to buy/book on your website. Sam tell us a little bit more about that one.

[Sam] Yeah, sure. I mean, this one’s a big one. so Adam and Eric, please jump in at any point. Cause there’s a lot of ground we could cover here, cause this is really, this is where the rubber hits the road to add a cliche. But if people can’t figure out how to book your website, your business is essentially pointless. Because nobody’s gonna know what to do, even if they want your product, if they can’t figure out what button to click or a what page to visit or even what steps they have to take that isn’t necessarily on your website. If that stuff isn’t clear and it’s not easy to access and easy to understand, shut your business down right now. Because you’re just gonna be trading water. So there’s a lot of different things we can do here. The easiest one is, just making the buttons that lead to a purchase the most important, the most visible objects on your website. If you, and this is a pretty simple one and there are a lot of good examples of this on, if you go start searching websites, but the website convention today is up in the top right hand corner which you can find statistics why the top right hand corner is kind of the natural way where we kind of read across the page and our eyes land on this corner here. Having a phone number, having access to or a way to get to a contact form or a booking form and most practically having that book button or that buy button or that schedule button super prominent right there in that top right hand corner. And then additionally, on that, like the term that has been used is above the fold, that comes from the old newspaper where, if you had an ad above the fold, it was literally a fold on the paper. That’s kind of the term that has been used on in regards to websites for that first content that you actually see when you load a page. That’s not as relevant today because people are used to scrolling, but having at least one, having that top right hand corner full of contact information and actionable buttons calls to action, and then even having a second one somewhere on the page, just to train your users that, okay, this is the button that I need to be looking for to take an action to book, to call, to whatever it is, and then repeat that button and repeat maybe a message that goes along with your call to action, that thing that inspires people to take that next step to buying or whatever it is. Repeating that over and over again, on your pages throughout your site and doing it consistently. Guys, is there anything else you want to add? This is a super important one. Cause this is the all powerful buy button. Anything you want to add to that?

[Adam] Yeah, one thing I’d say is be mindful of like questions that might come up in your buying process. If you are renting a B&B, it might be a little more straight forward, but even there, there might be questions, what should I bring? It might be your first time in B&B. So there shared spaces. What are the communal spaces, those kinds of things. Just be thinking through, I think it’s often helpful to even just have someone, a friend or family member to go through it with you and just think of some things that might raise questions there. If it’s something that’s a little risky, I mean, if you’re doing, skydiving adventures or horseback riding ventures or something like that, just maybe, speak to the safety of it, those types of things. But just be cognizant of the things that might cause some concern or fear in there. And just anything kind of helpful information you can put along the way, right beside your forms, your details, those kinds of things. We’ve seen that really help people kind of grease the wheels into the buying process.

[Carl] Just a bit. One thing you said there, that was just, you just kind of said it, but I think it’s super important. And that’s ask your friend or a neighbor or a relative to look at the website. Like we get so close to our website and the way that we talk about our product, we’re talking to customers about it every day that we kind of forget what it’s like to talk to somebody who has no idea what we do or what we offer. And we try to advise people like, write your website, copy to the person who knows nothing about you and has never been on your website or interacted with you before. Because I often see people fall in the trap of writing their website to the people that they have been working with for the last few years. And that’s not your target audience. Those people don’t mind working a little harder. They already know where they want to go. It’s the new people that have no idea what you offer that stumbled on your website that you really need to convince. That’s good. Eric, any other thoughts on how to make it easy to buy/book on your website?

[Eric] Not at the moment. I think there’s other stuff relevant to this, but I think we’ll cover it in some other sections.

[Carl] Okay, cool. So just to recap, before we move onto the next one. Just as a general guideline, make it easy to understand what you offer, make it easy to book it. And general best practices put a nice big booking button up right up in the right hand corner. I even tell people, put it in the footer so that whether you’re at the top or bottom of the website, you can see it. And Sam, you mentioned putting it throughout the pages as well. And something, I think maybe implied, I don’t know if you’ve said it or not. But it’s using a contrast in color that kind of sticks out. And then I know one best practice we try to follow is make that thing, make that color consistent. Like don’t use five different colors for your booking button use. If the color you’re using on your website is green, make the booking color always green on any page. So you’d kind of psychologically trained the user to know where to go to take action.

[Carl] And one more… No go ahead and Adam.

[Adam] Yeah, one more, just really quick thing. If you have an especially long process where you might have some waivers or a lot of information you need to collect, it can be boring and try, and we just, we know that. So anything you can do to surprise your audience or delight your audience in that process it can be like some really simple graphics. It can be just a little bit humor that you interject in the process. Little things like that can really make it easier. And especially for those of us that don’t have like a three click, sign on process where there might be a lot of things to sign and do. Try to think of maybe is there something kind of fun, or something we can surprise our audience with that would just put a little bit of joy in this process and make it a little less challenging to fill out.

[Carl] That’s good.

[Sam] And I think I just not to labor this too long, but if you are wondering, if you’re sitting here like wondering about like, well, is it easy for somebody to buy on their way? Just ask the people who have already bought from you. Chances are that you actually, you know people, you have customers who have been with you for a long time. I know we have a lot of bed and breakfast owners on the call. I think this is pretty relevant for you where you have regular customers. But I think it’s, for anybody, most of us have access to our past customer emails and just ask people like and you can even sweeten the pot a little bit. If you want to say, take our survey and get a 10% off your next booking, 5% off. It doesn’t even have to be much. But just ask the people who have already used your website and ask them specific questions. Like, when you tried to book with us last time, were you frustrated at any point? And if you were, can you tell us what that was? We’re trying to improve the way we do things and we want your feedback. We want, we need your input in order to make it a better experience for you and the other people who come and hopefully enjoy our, their experience with us. So and that will lead to some of those things where you’re like, “Well, I don’t even know what it means to make my super long waiver form that much fun. But just ask people. And they’ll, people tend to like to tell you about the negative experiences they have which is why back to Eric’s first topic is super important to reach out to the people who had a great time, because they’re the people who are actually less likely to leave the reviews and testimonials. So, but just reach out to those people and use that audience that you’ve already had to figure out what you want to do. You can also use things to talk to an audience that hasn’t booked from you, but that’s in that cycle. This isn’t really something that we’ll talk about a whole lot, but using something like chat or some way that somebody can making it easy for somebody to, if they can’t get the answers on the website. We were talking about buying and booking, but if there’s something else that’s keeping them from buying or booking like Adam said, you want to be able to answer that question specifically. So even if it’s just call for, if you have questions, making that super accessible, if they’re not ready to book, at least we can have them take the next action that would get them closer to that booking. So having a chat feature that would allow somebody to just go online and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, is great. There’s a lot of good options out there, but it can also just be as simple as you know, you’re stuck? You’re not sure? You have questions. Call us

#3 Create High Quality Content

[Carl] Cool. Number three, create high quality content. Sam, why is that so important?

[Sam] So, I think there’s a lot of this kind of harps back a little bit to an earlier meetup that we had that we talked about messaging and ads and things like that. And if you’re interested, I recommend going back and watching that one Katlyn Kincaid, who’s a, she’s a StoryBrand Guide, which is a a content framework led by Donald Miller and his team. She has a lot of experience in the tourism realm. I recommend going back and checking that out for some specific information related to that. But as far as your content on your website goes, we want to build authority. We want to build trust with an audience, and that doesn’t always come easy. Cause we tend to talk about ourselves a lot. So a high quality content and high quality content is really something that will resonate with the emotional problem that somebody’s having at the time they’re trying to solve a problem, or they’re trying to gain a solution for their problem. So using, evaluating your content to really resonate with somebody that, it’s kind of silly when we talk about, you’re trying to book a bed and breakfast and somebody is actually having a problem. But the problem is they just want to get away. And they just have, right now they’d been pent up for two or three months and they just want to get outside and have a live experience something that might resemble, what used to be normal. And, right now is a very important time to be evaluating the quality of your content because there needs to be some timeliness due to the situation that we’re in. So just evaluating your content to save is it really speaking to, am I just saying about all the things that our bed and breakfast has? Our zip line has, our tour has. Like, is it the stats? Is it the features? Or is it something that’s like, you can come to us because we’ll take care of you and pamper you a little bit when you just need to get away. And we’re gonna do all of that because, and then you list your features and things like that. So, and that’s gonna build trust with people that’s gonna build, there’ll be some authority built there, there’ll be empathy built there. And people will begin to see that, okay, you really get it. You really understand that something like zip lines or like something that’s a little bit more threatening, quote unquote, talk about that, okay. You understand, we remember the first time that we went zip lining and we were, not so sure about how safe it was or what I needed to bring or what I was gonna experience or what the whole situation would be like. But really talking about those things, talking about those objections and it all being super clear and being concise. Somebody, our prep call yesterday said something like, before you write something cute, make sure you write something that’s clear. And I think that’s a super nice little thing to remember instead of being cute, be clear, or before you be cute, make sure you’re clear. So I would say that those, that kind of quality content is what we really want to. Trust, authority, empathy. Those are the things you want to evaluate your content for and rewrite it to nail that stuff down.

[Carl] Cool, I think it’s important to remember that when your website ends up becoming, because that’s the first way a lot of people become exposed to you. What I’m hearing you say is, the reason the content is so important is because it basically becomes a reflection or it’s the impression that someone forms of your business. So the words you use, the images you use, the user experience, like how easy or hard it is, whether consciously or unconsciously, that’s gonna create an impression of what your business is like and what you’re like-

[Sam] A hundred percent.

[Carl] So if you have an awesome, I mean, we worked with one business that just had a straight awesome experience, but their website did not tell the story of that experience at all. The website was hard to use. There were grainy pictures, the words were very poorly written. And so just making the website represent the quality of the experience you offer. If you kind of think about it that way, it’s just gonna go a long way towards telling the story of what it’s gonna be like when people are on your property. Awesome.

[Sam] Yeah. And that is that not that judgment is really important to consider. I’m glad you mentioned that. Cause that, that is really it’s, we think of a website as a house or like in a physical business building and if your building is decrepit and run down, people are gonna, whether or not we like to admit it. People are gonna make those judgment calls the same goes for your website.

#4 Consider Content Flow

[Carl] So, and that’s kind of a good segue to item number four, which is content flow. Adam, I know you had some thoughts on that, tell us a little bit more about what you mean by that.

[Adam] Yeah, I mean, so we’ve got this great content it might be a great messaging strategy in place where we’ve seen some pages break down though, is that there, isn’t a nice flow of step one, two, three on the site, or even on the certain page. I say this, so I’ve talked about this in presentations and then we fell prey to it to. We had this landing page outline of it’s kind of designed by committee, like four or five of us working on it because we’ve got all the things you have to say, we put it out there and we tracked it. And we actually talked to some of our clients, went through it and people were just massively confused because what we lacked was a linear progression. So what I mean by that is on each page, you should really take your user by the hand or take that brand new person by the hand and walk them through step one, two, three, four of your journey. So I’m a complete stranger. And were so happy to have you here. Let’s tell you a little bit about the experience. After telling you about the experience, you might have some questions, so here’s some answers to your questions. And at this point you might want to get in touch with us and register. You can go here for that. So when you’re writing your outline for your page, at the very beginning, I recommend starting with an outline before we just start putting elements out there. So a really simple one, two, three outline, just make sure that it’s not this random list of bullet points, but it actually has a step one, two, three, it’s something that’s really logical for the users. And like we’ve said so many times, if you’re a bit confused about this, it is the kind of thing that you can talk to somebody else to make sure it actually holds up to the test and they understand that progression. But that’s the first one, just make sure that you don’t have this as random bits of information all over the place, which is easy to do. Like I said, we’ve fallen prey to ourselves, but that you’ve kind of taken them through a really nice journey or process. Alongside of that, once you’ve got that in place, then you want to talk a little bit about what you’re gonna put on those pages. So, Sam talked about the quality of content. The other component to that is, once you’ve got this high quality content, put it in a really easy to read, easy to navigate flow on your website. So there’s something that in the web design world we called chunking, and that’s just rather than having like an essay of text when a page break each paragraph into its own heading. And I think we’ve all done this, we land on a site. Some of us are just gonna skim down the headings and read the headings. Then we’ll go back and read that in depth copy, hopefully that’s on the page. But our first step is often just a skim down heading. So it’s really important that you take each big idea, put a key heading, by heading, explain some big texts people can read and then get into the paragraph for the deeper dive. And then you can kind of intersperse it with graphics and images and those kinds of things from there. But that’s the other element. So get that narrative in there. And then when you actually, when it lives on the page, make sure you can read those steps one, two, three is big bold headings and then fit your texts in around it. So it’s a really easy to scan, easy to read page. They’re really basic things that you can do with just about any website editor. But unfortunately you see a lot of people that miss those two steps and people just get confused and leave a page when there is actually really good content already on that page.

[Carl] Well, Eric or Sam, anything to add to that? No? Okay.

[Sam] I think we touched on it a little bit, but making sure that the supporting medium for the text is relevant and is the right medium and sort of in a way vice versa. So and what I mean by that is obviously we know that you, we want to be using images, especially with something that’s so visual, as the experience of, conveying the experience of staying in a bed and breakfast, going zip lining, going on some sort of tour. It’s a very visual experience and we want to use high quality images to reinforce the texts that we’re saying. But in some ways too, you can flip that in where if you have an image, if you have a video you could add some context by giving a little bit of a sneak peek of what’s going to be in that video. Videos are very convincing, is a very convincing medium. But people have to actually click the video typically to actually experience that video. So use text, use those headlines to, and use calls to action to get people to engage with that video and for like images and things like that. Also using, as goofy as it sounds, captions end up being one of those things that people tend to engage with pretty highly and we’ve kind of built that into our process. So we can add custom captions to images, to give a little bit more context. And even in some ways kind of hide some really important information in those not, maybe not have it be the only place that information is, but have some pretty convincing information in those captions for those people who really want to feel like they’re doing all the research before they make a decision that emotion of that in insurance that okay, they’re making the right decision to lay down two or $300 depending on how expensive a tour is that will putting some of that, those little hidden gems and things like captions is actually a pretty neat little strategy for those people who want to feel super assured that, they’re gonna get the bang for their buck.

#5 Provide a Consistent User Experience

[Carl] Number five is, provide a consistent user experience. Eric, what are your thoughts on that?

[Eric] I actually, two questions ago and Sam was talking about content. Somebody said something along the lines of, trying to make the website, the content on the website, representing the quality of the experience. And I think that’s a really, really good point, not just when it comes to content, but when it comes to everything that you put out to talk about what your company does. The experience itself should be good. The website needs to hold that, but really every in every way that somebody interacts with your company, every piece of marketing material or information should explain what the experience is. So thinking about all the interactions people have, whether it’s through social media, your website, I think it’s really important to think about what those interactions look like to your customers and the types of impressions for making on your customers. And kind of in a nutshell, that idea is branding, thinking about what your brand looks like, how you present yourself to the world. And I think it’s a really important concept to think about creating, writing, designing everything in a consistent manner. So that includes things like just clearly stating who you are and what you do. What does your company provide? What people can expect when they show up, when they book. Things like your headlines and some of your messaging, and even your overall tone when talking about what you offer that even includes things like consistent photography, not every single picture is going to be professionally taken necessarily. Maybe it’s curated through iPhone shots and even user submitted shots, but having a nice, consistent look is always beneficial. Especially when we’re talking about your website itself. And consistency also goes through, that appears on your website in terms of visual design things like your, consistent layouts, fonts, and colors page to page, even sections across the site. I believe Carl was the one that mentioned just having a consistent call to action color for that booking button. That type of consistency can not only be good for that visual cue, but if you can also kind of tie that into your brand, use that color across a lot of different calls to action on your website, perhaps social media graphics, some sort of consistency there can be really nice. Another big part of this is, going back to booking and your website is a good mobile experience. I found a couple of statistics that even as far back as 2015, 42% of people worldwide are using their smartphones to plan and book trips. And that was five years ago. Like it’s only going up and up. People are on the go more than ever, and they’re planning things on their mobile devices. And I’d like to think that it’s not as big of a problem now, as it was 10 years ago, mobile friendly websites, but that’s a big box to chat. You need to make sure that people are able to read the content and your site and book their web or book their travel or their stay on a phone. That’s oftentimes a lot easier said than done. A lot of that can be out of your control. Especially when we’re talking about booking. A big part of that is the form. We talked about the form earlier, but I think when we’re talking about a mobile experience it’s critical. Another part of this quality going back to the form, I think it’s also, when we’re talking specifically about the user experience and Adam touched on this too, but I got a couple more things to add on top of that is just again, just reducing frustration, getting some real feedback on what did and didn’t work. But we also acknowledge that that’s not always within your control. Third-Party booking tools are really convenient to use. There’s a lot of them out there. And sometimes they’re just not working for you. It might be due to a specific thing, piece of information you might need from people. It could be for a lot of different reasons, but don’t feel like you’re locked into that tool. There might be another service out there that provides a better experience for your users. If you’re able to switch to another tool, it might feel like a really big thing to go through, but in the end, if it’s gonna lead to better conversion rates, more people signing up through the website, that could be a really nice thing to, a really nice change to make. If you’re not really trying to go that far, just yet, even something as simple as logging on to your account on the company’s website and submitting a support ticket, telling them what the problem is and seeing if the development team’s able to hear you out and make a change. I’ve, when working for clients, I’ve done that, and I’ve received updates to the entire plugin or the entire service based upon the thing that I was trying to do for my client. So whether it’s something that you feel like you can log in and do, or if it’s something that your development team or website company is able to handle, that’s not out of the realm of possibility. Don’t feel like you have to settle for a subpar service.

[Carl] That’s a great point.

[Eric] And one more quick thing is page load speed. That that’s part of the experience. I think people sometimes don’t think of as the experience, think about your website itself, but people also have to get to it. And if it takes too long to load people leave. That is a frustrating thing to have to deal with sometimes because a lot of that might be out of your control, but I think a good first step is just understanding if your site is, or is not slow and what things could be improved in order to increase page speed. Google has a really nice tool called Google Lighthouse. It gives you a, just runs a quick audit of a page on your site, and it will tell you, and it’ll give you a score. Of course a nice high score out of 100, is really nice, but that’s not getting a score of 100% isn’t necessarily the only way to go about this. But I think more importantly, it gives you some perspective on where you stand. And it also gives a nice report on things you can fix. Some of them are pretty technical things that perhaps you’ll have to go to someone who is familiar with website development. Certainly any of us here would be willing to help out with that. But there are also a lot of things that are very easier for most content managers and content editors to change directly within the content editor on their website. A big one is images, something as simple as reducing the image size to a reasonable size, as opposed to uploading the five megabyte JPEG that the photographer gave you. If you’re able to install a plugin or just have someone that’s familiar with the photo editing tool, reduce it down to a reasonable size, whatever that might be, that can save seconds off your load time. So there’s a lot of other tips there and it really depends what kind of site you’re running and what content is on it, but there’s a good mix of pretty simple improvements and some more technical ones as well. And the page speed does of course affect your rank in search engines. So it’s more than just that experience when someone’s loading, but it’s how people, how likely people are to find your site. It’s pretty all encompassing. That’s a whole other meetup in itself, but I think it’s important to at least understand where you stand.

[Carl] Thank you. Something important that I think you said as we transitioned to the next one here is you talked about the booking experience. Like I’ve seen a lot of really good websites that have good, great content. And then when you hit that book button, you end up on some third party site that is not optimized for mobile, or doesn’t reflect the brand colors, or you’re not even quite sure if you’re on the brand’s website anymore, because you’ve gone to some other weird looking experience with a different URL. So again, you mentioned not everybody has control over that, but considering the booking engine that you’re using as part of your user experience, making a decision about looking what booking engine to use, taking advantage of whatever features they offer to allow you to customize that to your brand and making sure that that’s a consistent, easy to use process. And if not, consider switching to another one because you’re losing bookings if you’re making a bad experience. So that’s good. So as we get closer to Q&A here, I know we’ve got one more point and then kind of an open ended one.

#6 Utilize Analytics to Test and Improve

[Carl] Adam, could you talk a little bit about how important analytics are and how that factors into improving your website?

[Adam] Yeah, I’ll make this quick. Nobody likes to be labor the math part of these presentations. I mean, I would say so. Any website you get these days, you can add a free tool called Google Analytics and wager most of you actually probably have it installed. And you can talk to your web designer about that. What we find is most clients, they’ll never check it or they might check it once a year. So I just like to offer a friendly reminder. There are analytics on your probably when your website now Google Analytics is free, it’s the most popular one if you don’t have it. And you can just peek in there. We try to remind every client to set aside some time every month just to take 15 minutes and peek in there. And in your analytics tool, when I can do a full training, you can certainly talk to your web designer about that. But in your analytics tool, you can see some really credible information that will basically back up everything we talked about in this session. So as you’re making changes to your website, first of all, go in there today and try to get a good baseline of how people are using your website, which pages they’re looking at. There’s something called a bounce rate, which is not a perfect metric. The bounce rate is essentially saying of the people that went to that page, how many people left without doing another action? So if you have a really critical page and your bounce rate is very high, that just means you are bouncing from the page, you’re not taking action there. And then if you’re working with certain teams they can actually help you customize that even further to understand the different events that happened to your website. But for those of you that are kind of running your own show there, I just like to remind you, take some time today, get a baseline of how people are using your pages and then if you are able to implement some of the ideas we had today, track it over time to see what improvements they make. Do people spend a little more time on that page? Do they, get to your conversion forms a little more easily? You see more visits on your thank you page after they arrive at, after they fill out a form or do a booking. Those are some really easy things that don’t take a lot of customization you see to help right away. And that’s all falls in the realm of and not get too nerdy, but qualitative measures are quantitative metrics. So the number side of things, there is an aspect of your website that’s called qualitative and that’s just really understanding deeply how people use your website. So there are some tools out there. A Hotjar is one, I believe it’s only a paid tool. They might have a free trial. There’s another tool called FullStory. They sent the link up there, they have a completely free version that will just track people’s mouse across the page. Now to go back to Eric’s point about page speed, when you’re running these tools specifically these like tracker tools, they will probably slow down your website. So you don’t wanna let them run forever. But if you’ve made a couple key improvements to your page or you really want to get deep dive or deep understanding of your page, so let these tools run for a couple of weeks or a month or so, to literally watch how people are using your page, where their mouse is going, where they’re spending time can be invaluable. Every time we’ve run all these tests, we’ve always walked away with a lot of really key insights. Because you can see, the mouse goes there, but then they really stalled there. There’s probably a confusing point or this really important thing we need them to see nobody’s mouse or nobody’s eye goes down to that important things. We need to make that stand out a little more. Things like that. So check out your Google Analytics. You can use a couple of free tools out there to do what’s called a qualitative understanding kind of watching people across the board, and we talked a lot about it in here, but qualitative analysis would also fall. Just like you said so many times, ask some of your customers and get some surveys out there and get some of that type of data in there. I think that’s, yeah, a quick run through the three big components we’d really recommend that people do when their analytics.

[Carl] Cool. Thank you, Adam. I think a Google Analytics has come up on almost every call that we’ve had. So for anyone out there that’s still not using it or not using it consistently, hopefully repetition will be the key to learning there on that one. Get in it today if you’re not there.

#7 Take the Time to Sharpen Your Tools

[Carl] Point number seven. I like this one cause it’s, it’s a good one to close on before we go to Q&A here, which is take the time to sharpen your tools. And I think the point for this one is, I don’t know if anybody would really identify saying they’re down right now are not very busy right now because everybody’s working on trying to change the way they offer their services, prepare to reopen. But it’s an important point to say, “Hey, take time now when things aren’t quite as busy “and build time in regularly to be looking at your website, “looking at what’s happening, “learning from other websites, “figuring out what to do.” So I kinda just go in order, Adam, Eric, Sam, can you give just like one more point on or encourage people in ways that things that they could be looking at outside of what we’ve already talked about.

[Adam] Yeah, what I was going to say for this, we’ve actually talked about a lot, but I’ll just use it cause I think it’s so important. I mean I would just literally today schedule some time with some people who are a little less familiar with your brand, a friend, an uncle or something like that. And sit down with them and literally just like, go through the website with them. You can send out surveys, these are fantastic. You can do a lot of things, but it’s really hard to beat the over the shoulder look you’d get. So I would really try to get some time today before we think it was too crazy to just sit down and have somebody who’s less familiar to go through your site and let them identify the points because we get this designer blindness or business owner blindness really easily. So that’s one of the most critical things I think we talked about today. If you could do that, I can almost guarantee you’re gonna see some real insights that lead to real business growth.

[Carl] Eric, how about you?

[Eric] Yeah, my last tip really has to do more with how your website, another way to keep your website consistent is to keep it consistent for all your social media presences. With the Coronavirus thing going on, a lot of businesses have to adapt to still stay open, but things aren’t quite the same as they used to be. And I can think about a lot of times that I’ve tried to find a menu or find if a company is doing curbside pickup or delivery and I go to their website and there’s just nothing on it. I have to go and search through their social media accounts to find which one is the right one to look at in order to know if they’re doing any service at all. So I think social media is a really easy thing for a lot of people to do and reaches a lot of people at once. It shows up on their feed. But this is one time where we don’t want to leave people confused. You want people to know that you are doing business, that you’re, maybe you’re not doing business but you’re, you want to give them updates. Everything’s not running the way it used to be. So keep them updated. Rules and guidelines across the state are changing weekly and it’s important to keep people in the know. It’s, again, the content is probably already out there, but keeping that consistent is really nice. You don’t want to have, you don’t want to force people to hunt it down or even worse not find that at all and just be really confused.

[Carl] Cool, Sam, how about you? A closing thought.

[Sam] Yeah, I mean, mine it’s pretty easy. It just don’t let it, doing work on your website could easily become overwhelming. Don’t let it overwhelm you. I’m sure you may have some critical issues on your website and you may spin your wheels on trying how, trying to find the answer to fix that. The internet and that has a lot of great resources. YouTube has a lot of great resources. You’ll probably, if you’re trying to figure out how to do something on your website, you might end up on something like stack overflow, has a lot of question and answers on how to do more technical things on your website. Just don’t get bogged down by it. Just do the things that you determine that you can actually do fairly quickly. Because if you can knock out a lot of the little things you’re gonna be moving the ball forward instead of just getting frustrated and then constantly putting it off. Anything that you can do, just go ahead and do it. If you get stuck, move on, try to find something else or if you’re able to engage with a developer or somebody who would be able to help you with that technical stuff, do that. But just don’t get overwhelmed by it. Just do the little things that you can do and make sure you’re checking your Google Analytics.

Open Q&A

[Carl] All right, Scott, what kind of questions do we have from the group for the panelists?

[Scott] Sure, so we had some come in during the credibility triggers part of this take a step back a little bit. The one question was where and how do I use them? So I would be guessing for like reviews and stuff for my blog posts, for badges and all those accreditations, would we use them site-wide? Would we have everything on the homepage? Do we have individual landing pages for these things? Where and how do I use these different credibility triggers?

[Carl] Yeah, that’s a great question.

[Adam] I would say real quick, if you can figure out in every site what are your key objectives or what are you trying to validate? So you’re trying to validate that this is the most exciting experience. Are you trying to validate this as a safe experience? I need to key point there to figure out we need to validate and figure out who’s the best third party source to validate that. So if you have, a bungee jumping experience, you think that we’re scared, maybe that’s the great place to put the safety seal and the other state certification, everything like that. If you’ve just said this is going to be the most mind blowing experience ever, that’s maybe a great point to put the testimonial that the person said, my family could stop talking about this for three weeks. So don’t, I wouldn’t cluster them too much. I’d really try to find the most important one, trying to figure the biggest objection and just match those two. So the third party, validates what you said.

[Carl] That’s great. So when I think I’m hearing you say there, Adam, is instead of just having a running list of all your testimonials that people have to wait through kind of handpicking testimonials and putting them in relevant places on the site, that’s a great tip.

[Sam] I think also- Go ahead Eric.

[Eric] Another thing that we run into with clients sometimes is trying, they want to decide which third party site they should focus on for reviews. Because there’s tons of them out there. There’s, Google has reviews set up for every business whether you want them or not. TripAdvisor it’s built, in AirB&B it’s built in. And they always try to, they try to get the right answer on which one they should focus their time on. And I don’t think there is necessarily a right answer. It really depends on, back to what Adam was saying, depending on what you’re trying to get at. And maybe TripAdvisor is better than Google, so you should point people towards one or the other. I think it’s important to take a look at what’s out there and see where people are leaving reviews. Maybe the reviews are better or more comprehensive on one site than another because of the nature of the site perhaps. So I think you can’t do great at all of them most likely unless you really do have the team power to focus on that. But I think it’s okay to focus on just one or two of them in the sites or areas that you think are most beneficial to the industry.

[Carl] Yeah, good point. Scott, what other questions do we have?

[Scott] Sure. I think Eric just actually answered the next question we had on what third party options should we use? Going to the content section. What are some best practices for how much info to include on the page? Or how do we not overwhelm somebody with our information?

[Sam] I’ll speak on that, but real quick, I think the third party question that might’ve been in there. I just want to offer another answer cause I understood the question a little bit differently. If you’re looking for a tool to actually help reach out to some of your customers to encourage them to leave reviews, there’s a bunch of different ones out there. I’ll just mention and there’s some that are geared kind of towards the traveling industry. But the one that we’ve had a lot of success with, I believe is called gather up. And that’s been pretty neat because essentially what you’re able to do is upload, create an email list and send it out to those people to have them leave reviews. And what you can do, is if you have a booking system where you know people booked and had a good experience, you can focus on getting reviews from those people. So it’s a little bit, I don’t want to say it’s dishonest but as we said before, it’s not dishonest. It’s just the fact that people aren’t as likely to leave a good review. So you kind of have to really sort of poke them to say, “Hey, leave a review. “Hey, you had a great time. “Leave a review.” And that’s exactly what this thing does. So gather up, I believe it’s called and we can even add that to the resources list. So to go back to the content question, there’s a lot of different opinions on whether or not a page should have a little bit of information that’s super concise or should have more long form information to increase the amount of content on the page that’s digestible by users and by search engines that are serving these pages out to people. I don’t wanna say, my answer is don’t worry about it. Just make sure that anything that you put on the page, it’s going to be super relevant. And it’s going to move that ball forward. It’s answering questions, it’s building authority, it’s concise. So as long as you have, and as Adam put it, these chunks of information that are concise and are relevant and will build authority, don’t worry about the number of words that are, the length of the copy that’s on the pages. Is that kind of a relevant answer to that question, is that what you’re looking for, Scott?

[Scott] Yeah, I think so.

[Adam] I mean, I would just chime in there. I mean in every case where somebody has said there’s a page that’s too long that I’ve seen, at least for small businesses. It has always been a page design, page layout problem and not an amount of content problem. Like it just looks bad because there’s massive amounts of text. where when you do you add some images, you have some videos, you have bullet points. You mean like you chunk it into content. That page usually performs way, way better and nobody says it’s too long. I mean, Amazon’s landing pages, you can scroll for like 10 minutes on some of those. Like let’s face it, they’re highly, highly tested pages. So usually it’s a design problem, not a content problem which people complain about a link basically too long.

[Carl] That’s good. And one more question. Anybody else? Were you gonna say something? Go ahead Scott.

[Scott] I guess one more question kind of to end on are there any types of elements that you see websites moving forward in the future? Like, what’s new in coming out that people can like look to adapt to?

[Adam] I mean, I know one thing that’s getting thrown around a lot in the marketing world, but just to maybe consider is, having more conversational elements in your websites. Chat features, things like that. Stuff like that is just something we can’t avoid. We were at a conference last year here in Lancaster where they were saying they could see a future where a chat experience once you replaced the forms that we all have that people book, because it actually goes back to before the internet where you would actually talk to a person, you can ask questions back and forth and that kind of thing. So I do see that probably continuing to take a bigger role in the website world.

[Eric] I know one thing that Google has changed recently, I don’t know if this is a direct answer, but it definitely applies to the mobile experience of, Google actually changed the way they look at content and search engines. They look at your mobile site, I think it’s only your mobile site. They don’t really take the desktop site into consideration at all anymore. Most modern websites, it shouldn’t be a problem. But that’s not always the case. I think it’s important to take a look at your mobile site and make sure that the content that you see on that mobile page is what you want search engines to see. Sometimes sections of content might’ve switched out entirely based on the size of a device. That’s not best practice anymore really. But it’s an important thing to check because that was a very recent change that Google made that you just want to make sure you’re taking into consideration.

[Sam] My, I will feel, I maybe a bit of a Luddite might be the term here, but I’m always super wary of trends. I’d rather focus on the things that are going that are kind of like proven to increase our revenue and things like that. That said, if you are, somebody who’s on the cutting edge and you have the team and the budget to really focus on that. The mobile experience kind of like what Eric was just talking about is really important and there’s some crazy things going on with that, with like augmented reality and even like for tour owners, especially people who are not able to run their tours. And this locked down situation. And it might be, hopefully it becomes a little bit more irrelevant, but I’ve actually had some pretty neat virtual experiences. So and it’s kind of, I think a little bit more of a dream scenario where we will start to blend some of this and we’ll build some of this new technology into websites and it’s gonna be our everyday experience. But the fact of the matter is, it’s actually technology that’s pretty accessible to anybody right now. And if you can figure out a neat way to use it, go ahead. If it’s going to become a distraction and kind of like this little thing that’s gonna keep you from doing things that are actually gonna make you more money, I’d say run the other way. If you’re a person who’s maybe prone to doing some of those things. But yeah, so that’s kind of my mixed answer. Like, yeah, there might be, there’s trends out there and we want to be aware of those trends. But if I’m a business owner, I want to be maximizing all the things that I know are going to work first before I start thinking about, “Oh, well there’s a shiny new opportunity out there. “Why don’t I just like spend all my time on that?” So that’s kinda my, that’s my thought and maybe a little bit of a warning that I’ve personally run into myself.

Wrap Up

[Carl] Thank you Sam. So I see it’s the top of the hour here. So we’re gonna wrap up here and sorry, I’m having trouble with my video and connection here so I’ve shut off the video, but this is Carl on audio. Just want to thank everyone for joining today. What you see on the slide here is just the key takeaways, which are really enforcing the seven main points that were made. Like always we’re gonna be sending out the link to the recording and the transcript. And some folks on the chat were asking about some examples from some of the points that were made as well as links to the resources. We’re gonna put all of that in the post when we post the video and the transcript on that. So look for that email come out, if not today, early Monday with information about the sessions so that you can re-watch the recording. As I mentioned, all the resources that we mentioned are here on the slide. We’ll put the links in the blog. And there were a few more that were mentioned by Adam, Eric and Sam, that aren’t on the list here. We’ll add those in as well. Encourage you to sign in. Next week we’re gonna be talking about 3 Principles for Building a Booking Growth Funnel. Essentially think of this session as kind of tying together all of the last seven or eight weeks or so of the topics. We’re gonna be talking about, how all of this kind of ties together and how you can really set up your marketing strategy for success by pulling in these principles at the right points in the right times with a focus on what’s going to help drive bookings for your business. And I encourage you to keep the conversation going. We’ve got the Facebook group if you’re not a member of Accelerate Tourism yet on Facebook, go ahead and look that up and join there. We’ll send a link out with the email with the meetup recording as well. A number of us are monitoring that group. Submit your questions. If you heard some things today that you’re not sure how to apply, put a link to your website in there and ask a question. We’ll help you out as much as we can. So thank you everyone for joining today. We hope you have a great weekend and look forward to seeing your businesses open and what happens with that here as we move forward. Thank you everyone. Have a great day. Thank you Adam, Eric and Sam for joining us today and sharing your wisdom.

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Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & Strategist

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.