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Simple Fixes to Increase Direct Bookings

By O'Rourke Hospitality Marketing
June 7, 2010

Banner ads, search engine optimization, paid search, auction sites, email lists. All of these tactics are just part of a revenue manager’s or online marketer’s arsenal to drive traffic to the site and hopefully increase direct web bookings - the least expensive way to get heads in beds. And while everyone loves to see an increase in site visits, the most important statistic to watch is the conversion rate - the ratio of visitors to completed transactions. What they do on your site is much more important than how they get there. Are your visitors booking or abandoning?

Understanding why users abandon a transaction is the first step to removing the obstacles that can deter them.  According to a January 2010 survey of US online travel bookers by PhoCus Wright, while too-high prices were the main driver to booking abandonment, the remainder of complaints revolved around site functionality. In addition, online travel bookers also stated that these factors impacted return visits and ultimately drove them to book on competitors’ sites.


The list of complaints is lengthy, but there are some quick and inexpensive ways to alleviate user discomfort and build online loyalty in the process.

1. Be Up Front
While you may not be able to reduce rates low enough to accommodate all travelers, you can still address users’ number one gripe by ensuring that the rates you are advertising are actually available on your site and that you have included or disclosed any additional fees and taxes in your banner ads, promotions and emails. This one simple step will pre-qualify visitors to the site, funnel only those ready to buy at the rate you have listed, eliminate user frustration, and build trust in your target market.

2. Optimize Your Advertising Landing Pages
A landing page is the page on your site where users “land” after clicking through a piece of online advertising. By taking users from an ad to an ad-specific landing page that has coordinating messaging, imagery and promotional offers you instantly reassure them that they are in the right place. To optimize these pages even further, stick to one offer per landing page, lead with the offer and simply bullet out the details. Lastly, include one large and hard to miss call to action - Book Today!

3. Eliminate Pre-Booking Registration
With the constant push to gathering more and more guest information it can be easy to lose track of the number one goal of most hotel sites - drive online bookings. To get back on track, remember that less is more. The faster you can funnel the user to that “Book Now” button the better. Still want to capture some user contact info? You can always include an option to set up an account on the reservation confirmation page after they have booked their stay. Explaining the benefits of creating an account will also increase submissions.

4. Consider Showing Users Availability
Hotels can’t have a room for everyone, but hotel sites can show the dates they do have available and the calendar is a great tool for accomplishing that. By showing availability in this manner, users can see what time frames they have to work with. If your system kicks back the “No Availability” message if there is one day of conflict in the request - even when the other three days are available - it is time to re-evaluate. You will be missing out on travelers who could alter their stay by a day on either end and nothing sends a user surfing to competitor sites faster than constantly receiving the “No Availability” message.

5. Streamline Your Online Content
Hotel sites can be a dumping ground for everyone in the organization who would rather not field questions or deal with travelers one on one, but if you have communicated that the number one goal of the site is to drive online reservations it isn’t hard to cut out the content that is just clutter. Review your content and in every turn ask your team, “Does this content support our goal?” or “Will this info help a user make it to that “Book Now” page?” Use this technique when there is a request to add content as well. The content that you have left will be clearer and more concise to online travel bookers, leading to less confusion and a speedier completed transaction.
Having a hard time identifying what content is important to users and what isn’t? Take a look at your site statistics and see what pages users are leaving your site from and what pages or funnels lead to a booking. If you don’t have access to site analytics, take a read through your recent online reviews and let your previous guests call out what really made their stay memorable, chances are other guests will be drawn to those same points and that is the content you should lead with.

If you would like to learn more about Hotel Website Design and Optimization please call O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing at 978-465-5955 or send an email to

O’Rourke will be attending HITEC 2010, June 21-24, Orlando, Fla. Stop by our booth (#1234) and enter to win an Apple iPad!
About O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing
Founded in 2001, O’Rourke is an award-winning hospitality marketing firm headquartered in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Serving national and international clients, O’Rourke provides hotels with a complete range of services including Internet marketing, hotel website design and development, and print design. Clients include major brands as Marriott International, Renaissance Hotels, and Winegardner & Hammons, Inc. For more information see the O’Rourke website: 


O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing
44 Merrimac Street
MA 01950

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