Put Mobile Travel Bookings First Optimization Guide

You’ve read the travel marketing headlines telling us how many (more) travelers are booking on mobile (just read emarketer, Skift, tnooz articles) each year. If you are seeing more than half your visitors browsing your hotel or tour website on mobile, you are not alone. Google is putting mobile first and so should you if you want to get more bookings from mobile devices.

Booking Optimization for Mobile Visitors

While everybody is using their mobile devices for search and just about everything else, this trend towards mobile may be even greater for travel consumers. The nature of travel means that people on vacation are often away from home and their computers. They need to book last minute hotel stays, day tours, gather destination advice, and plan road trips. Smart phones and tablets are becoming full-time replacements for desktop and laptop computers.

Take a quick look at your own Google Analytics to find out how many of your visitors are coming from mobile devices such as Android and IOS (includes iPhone and iPad). Run a report showing which landing pages are attracting the most mobile traffic. How does it differ from your desktop browser traffic in your target countries? For example is your guesthouse room rates page, your adventure tour map page, your article on food & wine tasting, or perhaps your safari packing list post attractive to mobile search?

Three Components of Successful Websites - Aesthetics, Usability, Performance

Source: LearnInbound Conference – Polemic Digital talk by Barry Adams

To continue down your booking conversion optimization journey you’ll need to treat mobile visitors different from desktop. After attending the LearnInbound conference in Dublin, Ireland, I was inspired to publish this 5-point mobile travel marketing and optimization action plan. Let’s go!

1. Travelers are on the go: Optimize for mobile speed

Speed is critical on mobile as you are well aware. Travelers can’t always rely on getting onto hi-speed WiFi networks while at another hotel or in a remote area such as on a hiking trail. They need your website to load quickly so they can find out more and make a fast booking decision.

10 Seconds to Make an Impression Quote

Source: LearnInbound Conference – CopyHackers talk by Joanna Wiebe

Run the Google Speed Test for Mobile to find out your weak points. One common problem is when images files are extremely large in pixel size and need to be scaled down on your web server. Some of Google’s Page Insights recommendations are challenging to fix so you may have to seek outside IT help to sort them out.

Keep in mind that while your mobile website may be fast for you at your hotel or tour office, it may be unbelievably slow when a traveler reaches your site from another country or continent.

2. Travelers are easy distracted: Optimize for mobile usability

After speed, usability (together with compatibility) is probably the next most essential aspect of the mobile booking experience. How many clicks will it take for users to find what they are looking for including your “Book Now” button?

Whether your mobile website is a responsive version of your desktop site or if you are using a mobile-friendly template, it has to be user-friendly. Go through this checklist as a starting point to see how well your website encourages (or discourages) mobile bookings:

  • Menu items and subitems can be clicked on a mobile touch screen
  • Content is not too wide for mobile device screens
  • Font size and images scale to be readable on mobile
  • Visitors can enter their email address and click submit successfully
  • Booking inquiry boxes such as dates and filters are not frustrating to use on mobile
  • Contact buttons do not rely on desktop apps such as email client software
  • Auto-play of audio and videos are turned off
  • You avoid the user of popups that are annoying and hard to dismiss
  • FAQ page doesn’t require clicks to expand and collapse each item individually

3. Travelers want quick answers: Optimize travel content for mobile visitors

Make a list of the top questions travel consumers ask when they reach your website via Google search or a link from a map point or travel site such as TripAdvisor. Does your travel content (the text and not the photos) provide quick and comprehensive answers? On mobile especially, travelers want to find out if your hotel or tour company makes the grade. They may need to find your tour pickup location or single/double room rates or tour dates that are still available. How many clicks does it take for them to get those answers?

Micro-Moments to Optimize on Mobile - I Want to GO

Source: LearnInbound Conference – Talia Wolf talk

Mobile users have less patience and time so they may give up if they cannot find an answer within minutes or even seconds of reaching your website. That is why it is essential to take a fresh look at your web content with the goal of optimizing for mobile. The answers to the most common questions should never be hidden on pages that are difficult to find using your navigation.

For example list your day tour dates for the upcoming week without requiring a visitor to click a calendar date. Tourist attractions should make it easy to verify opening hours and dates and cost of admission without clicking and scrolling and scanning content on your mobile site.

4. Travelers sometimes need to Book Now: Optimize for mobile bookings

Of course your top goal is to get more bookings on mobile. When a traveler reaches your hotel or tour site on a mobile device, make it possible to “Book Now.” That means your booking engine must be mobile friendly. If you haven’t already, talk to your booking system vendor to make sure you are fully configured and optimized for secure mobile bookings.

It is also critical that you don’t take the word of your booking vendor. Test your mobile booking experience and ask a friend or two to do the same so you can test the experience on different types of smartphones and tablets. Even the best travel technology companies have limitations on mobile, so play your part by testing it personally. Work with your vendor to tweak the mobile booking process to be simple, fast, and flawless.

While a percentage of travelers may be willing to complete a secure booking on mobile, many will want to contact you first. It may be to ask a question about a tour scheduled for tomorrow or inquire about available rooms for the weekend. It is just as critical to optimize your “Contact Us” booking pathway.

Mobile Contact Us tips - Click to Call, Easy Form

Source: LearnInbound Conference – Talia Wolf (Banana Splash) talk

This includes click to call by phone (with support for country codes or via Skye), a simple and easy contact form to fill in, and listing your direct email address as well.

5. Travelers often want a reminder to Book Later: Optimize for mobile lead capture

You must be able to capture email addresses of visitors who arrive on mobile and do not have the time or connectivity to make a booking right away. While some travelers will prefer to create a bookmark or follow your travel brand on social media, many people will be thrilled to receive an email from you. They want to be inspired to book their next vacation so you have to play your part.

Learn how to run a travel email remarketing campaign with our BookingCounts how-to guide.

Travel email newsletter to inbox to Book Now

You’ll learn how to sign up for low-cost user-friendly travel email marketing with GetResponse and auto-respond to visitors who are not ready or able to book now. This includes how to send them a personalized email with reasons why they should return to your website to book travel later. Without lead capture on mobile you are risking losing timely bookings from people who are always on the go at work, at home, and on vacation.

Bonus: Run Mobile First AdWords Campaigns to Target Travelers

Travel industry optimization for mobile goes beyond just your site. It also affects your advertising campaigns. All the major online ad platforms are treating mobile differently as well. With Google AdWords this includes such innovations as ad extensions containing helpful sitelinks, phone numbers, physical locations, and business reviews.

After you optimize for mobile bookings, set aside time to optimize your travel inbound ad campaigns for mobile traffic. You can and should craft different ad copy and keyword targeting for mobile searches since people on mobile often have a different travel search goal than desktop users.

The topic of mobile ads for travel is much bigger than can be covered by this one article. By now you must get the idea that mobile is huge for travel marketers. You are invited to sign up for the monthly BookingCounts email newsletter to be notified when I write new posts on how to optimize for bookings on mobile.

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