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    How to improve online booking conversions from your vacation rental website

    Imagine the situation: A potential guest comes to your website, searches for a property for specific dates, proceeds to book, and on the final screen, leaves your site. It's far too common. In fact, research in 2015 by Adobe showed that only 2.4 percent of people who browse for hospitality and travel-related products make a booking. This article is the first of a series that investigates reasons why visitors leave, and what you can do to help convert them into guests.

    What is 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 you spending time and money simply encouraging more visitors to your website. The profitability is significantly higher of converting even just 1 percent of your existing visitors to guests than the cost of attracting new visitors through the creation of more leads.

    Test, test, test

    The key aspect of conversions is the test process. Whatever change you make, you need to test it over a set period of time to see if that change makes any 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 note of what you changed, when it changed and the impact; then move onto another area to test.

    Get inside your visitors’ minds

    There are any number of reasons why a person may leave your site without buying. It is important to understand what these may be and remedy those that you can. For example, a first-time visitor with no knowledge of your company who doesn’t have experience booking online is significantly less likely to make a reservation than an internet-experienced customer with an understanding of your organization.

    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 and understanding how visitors use your website and what they need 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 from which pages do they leave? A good way to look at your website is to set up a Google Analytics account and then spend some time assessing your website traffic and creating a sales funnel. This tracks your visitors as they navigate your website, from when they first arrive to where they move and then when they leave.

    Tools to help you

    Google Analytics is free and you can organize it to be as simple or as complex as you want and need. Rather than reinvent the wheel, you can read about this information directly from Google Analytics. There are also instructions on the Google Analytics webpage on how to set up an account. 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 fully booked guests. 

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