Pretty Websites Don’t Cut It.
Most tourism business owners want a visually stunning website. They know great photography, video and slick design are important for their audience. Drone footage of majestic landscapes, detail shots of exquisite cuisine and video of adventure sports and smiling guests having beers in the hot tub are all part of showing their experience. And that’s all great stuff, but it only takes in a tiny part of the customer journey. You see, from a high level, strategic view, there are two big things missing here, namely the Before and the After.
How did Your Customers Wind Up on Your Website?
Here’s what I call the Before. What happened to get them onto your website in the first place? While there are many ways to get people there (Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Instagram, Email Marketing, referrals, etc) only one traffic source depends on your website itself, Search Engine Optimization, or tourism SEO. And as a traffic source, that Google organic search traffic likely accounts for 70-80% or more of all your visitors. It’s so important you should consider it even before building a website. So make sure your website is fully optimized for SEO.
The Before: On Page SEO for Travel Websites
Spend the time to do keyword research, optimize your snippets and make sure page titles include ‘your business name’ ‘what you do’ and where you operate’. Add your NAP (Name/Address/Phone) and Google Maps to your homepage and least 300-500 words of keyword optimized text on your main offerings.
It’s also a good idea to run a few tools at this point, just to make sure there aren’t any other techy issues needing attention. Make sure your site is SSL secure. A good way to check is simply to open up your URL in Chrome and look at the address bar.
If you see this warning, Google is telling your visitors to ‘be careful’ and this is not good for your traffic.
Hubspot Website Grader is another good free tool that can alert you to any issues, but the best way to know how Google actually sees your website is with Google Search Console. GSC will alert you to any problems and the actions needed to fix them. And here’s a good list of other helpful website tools.
The After: Does Your Website Pass the Grunt Test?
After someone has stumbled upon your website, what exactly do you want them to do next?
Here’s where the Grunt Test comes in. If a caveman were to wind up on your website, could he figure out what it is that you offer, how it will make his life better and what he needs to do to buy it, in 10 seconds or less? Try it. “Ugghh…they take me sea kayaking… me see whales and commune with nature… me fill in form to book.”
When it comes to adventure travel marketing, spend time figuring out your value proposition, what truly differentiates you from the competition and the problem you solve for your customers, or get help with this, and make sure it’s above the fold, i.e. the first thing people see on your home page.
Cold, Hot and Warm Traffic…
Your website will be bringing in ice-cold traffic who’ve never heard of you before and hot, purchase ready customers who are already checking prices, dates, and packages. Are you clearly segmenting these, and have a content strategy for each? Here’s where Hub Pages can be a powerful tool.
For cold traffic, you’ll want to grab an email and get them on your list. Sorry, but ‘Subscribe to Our Newsletter’ doesn’t work, unless you’re giving them a pretty darn compelling reason to sign up. Instead, think of what someone who has never heard of you, and is new to your sport or destination, might find useful. A trip planning guide or eBook can be valuable here and make a great lead magnet. Also, make sure you have the Facebook pixel installed so you can do retargeting ads to those visitors who came but never took your lead magnet.
For the warm and hot traffic, make sure you tell them what you want them to do. If they fill in this form, what happens next. Don’t assume people will ‘figure it out on their own’. Want them to make an online booking? Tell them. Do they need to be screened? Tell them exactly how the process works.
Trust, Proof & Authority Elements: Warming Up Cold Traffic.
Is ‘trust’ important for your business? If your customers are booking an annual vacation, flying halfway around the world, spending big $$$ and partaking in a potentially dangerous adventure sport, I’d say it is. How are you earning that trust? On your homepage, you should be showing testimonials from happy customers, logos from industry partners and professional associations you’re part of.
Proof elements can include case studies or results you’ve achieved for customers. Ran an amazing team building event that was a huge success? Show it off.
Authority elements include any awards you’ve won or media publications or press you’ve had. Again, just show the logos of those awesome magazines you’ve been in.
When it comes to Trust, Proof and Authority elements, you don’t need to overdo it, just add 2-3 examples for each, below the fold on your homepage. Most visitors will mentally check these off and move from cold to warm and onto other pages on your site.
Tell a Story with Your Website
Does your website tell a story? If so, what is it? For most tourism operators it goes something like this: “We’re great. The best in fact. We’re the heroes so come and see how great we are.” But the thing is, you’re not the hero. Never were. Your customer is the hero. You’re only the guide and it’s your job to guide your customers on their journey to happiness and life changing bliss.
When you change this fundamental mindset, you can truly create a customer journey on your website that lets your prospects imagine themselves being the hero, skiing that amazing line, reaching that summit, reeling in a king salmon or being face-to-face with a grizzly. Then create the content and experience online that is the hero your customer wants to be offline, and you’ll have succeeded in telling their story.