Mistakes Can Hurt Your Website Revenue—Regardless Of How Much You Love Your Design
By Vikram Singh
Website design, like any kind of design, is subjective. Nothing is more painful than a website design “discussion” where stakeholders talk for hours about colors, content, and photos. For every extra person added to these meetings, more useless things are added to the website and useful things are taken out. By the end of it, you have a website that is not usable for potential guests, which hurts your conversion rate and more importantly your revenue.
So let’s worry less about design and more about usability by looking at mistakes that can hurt your website revenue, regardless of how much you love your website design.
1. Missing Location and Phone Number
Give website visitors your location and phone number right at the top of your home page. This is more important than your home page slider and even that oh-so-trendy moving video on loop that you recently added. Assuming that your phone number and location only matter on mobile is flawed thinking.
Sometimes people want to call you. When they are calling you there’s a good chance they’re going to book with you. Before they book they are very likely to search for information about your location. Travel research is still happening on larger screens. You have to make it easy for potential visitors to discover your exact location and even easier to contact you.
Don’t bury this information in your footer. Would you wear your name tag on your shoe? Mic drop. Next.
2. Fluffy Homepage Text and Taglines
Vacation rental management (VRM) websites are notorious for fluffy descriptive taglines. I am not sure where this trend started, but it really has to stop. Your home page is prime real estate for you to talk about who you are, what you do, and where are you located. Marketing is not stuffing text like “extraordinary, blissful, memories that last a lifetime, etc.” on your home page. Providing the right information up front will lead your visitors deeper into your website for discovery and not on an expedition to try to find simple answers about who you are, where you are, and what you offer. You have a few seconds to keep a new visitor on your website. Let’s not use that time to bombard them with fluff.
3. Music (Can you not?)
This is a public service announcement: please don’t put music on your website.
Anything (music, videos) that automatically plays on a website is a conversion death trap. The majority of bookings happen Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. People are at work, and nothing is more disastrous than suddenly having your office laptop broadcast the sounds of singing whales, crashing waves, or romantic piano music while you are trying to book your vacation—especially while your boss is waiting on that TPS report.
4. Cannibalizing Your Own Traffic
VRMs often make the mistake of overusing tactics that actually drive visitors away from their website. Social media traffic is useful only when it’s pointing people to your website! I am always surprised to see social media exit signs all over these websites. Do you think anyone leaving your website to go to YouTube is ever coming back? I refer to it as the black hole of the Internet universe. If you’re using YouTube to embed videos on your website, then you can easily fall victim to this form of traffic cannibalization.
5. Poorly Embedded Videos
Videos can do wonders for your website engagement. I am always thrilled when an accommodation website utilizes videos. YouTube is a great place to host videos that you can embed into your website but beware of one small setting that can wreak havoc: suggested videos. This totally defeats the purpose of having video embedded on your website as people are now sucked directly from your site back into the Internet black hole of cat videos! What’s even worse than that? When your competitors’ videos start showing up! Now that is really embarrassing.
When you are embedding YouTube videos on your website, make sure you follow these easy steps:
- Copy your video embed code.
- Select the “show more” option.
- Uncheck the “show suggested videos when the video finishes” box.
- Copy and paste the new code into your website.
6. Bad Photography
Photos make or break a VRM’s website. Still, many companies do not invest in photography at the level they should. I have seen some amazing website design themes ruined by bad photos. The importance of unique, high-quality photos is not limited to your website. They need to be used for every online travel agency (OTA) that you work with. Instead of updating photos once every five or ten years, make a plan to regularly update property photos and organize a seasonal photo shoot to cover the full spectrum of your location and seasonality.
7. Press Releases
Some find it hard to believe and even find this notion offensive, but I’ll say it anyway: a press release is not real content. Let me elaborate. A press release does not fall into any real content category people are using these days. Current news can be found on Twitter or on an actual news website. Topical discussions and viewpoints are offered in blogs and podcasts. Having a press release page on your website does not help educate your audience. You need to convert that information into useful content that potential visitors can use. A beautiful press kit available for download will run circles around any effort and money spent on press releases. News about new properties, area events, company sponsorships, and awards needs to be broadcast live on your vacation rental blog.
8. One Call to Action
With a heavy emphasis on direct booking, it seems like every website has become a big “BOOK NOW AND SAVE” destination. Your website needs to be a part of the larger travel booking conversation. If the only thing you are yelling is “BOOK NOW!” then you are not distinguishing yourself from the hundreds of other websites that are doing the exact same thing. You have to do better.
Diversify your calls to action. Ask visitors to interact with you in other ways. Maybe your guests are still researching their options and trying to understand your location and value proposition. Make it easy for them to contact you by requiring very limited information in your contact form: “Give us your name and email, and we’ll get right back to you.” Help with the journey first, and the odds of visitors booking with you go up tremendously.
Pro Tip: The number of questions asked in a contact form is inversely proportional to the number of people who will fill out that form and convert.
9. Ignoring Reviews
The OTAs know that travelers are much more likely to book when they see credible reviews and ratings. There was a time when travelers used to fret over whether they’d made the right choice with their accommodations, but the explosion of online reviews means travelers can now make reasonably informed decisions and have confidence in their booking decision with a healthy number of positive reviews. In fact, studies suggest that 95 percent of travelers now read reviews before booking, and 70 percent of them look at up to 20 reviews in the planning phase according to Tnooz (2016).
As a result, 59 percent of accommodation owners said they will invest more money in online reputation management in 2016. Are you part of that 59 percent?
10. Bad Booking Engines
Booking engines deserve their own very special usability article, which I will get to in the near future. For now know this: For your guest, the booking engine is a part of your website. They do not know or care that you are licensing this cart from a provider that has been making booking engines since 1989 or from a guy in his garage. When you confuse your visitors with a bad booking experience, then you are doing two things:
- Tanking all the marketing budget you spent to drive these people to your website.
- Training guests not to waste time with you, and instead use an OTA that lets them book a room more efficiently.
Your website is your storefront. There is NO point in having all the great photography, content, ambience, and offerings with a broken cash register at the end of the experience.
Yes, make a beautiful website! It should be modern, aesthetically pleasing and inviting and show off your properties, but also remember to avoid the pitfalls I have highlighted above. Start making your website perform. It’s hard to remember that these small things can matter more than the expensive design things, but do not give in to marketing peer pressure. Usability beats trends. Make sure your most profitable revenue channel is more than just a pretty face. Stay Woke.