By: Carlos Corzo, CEO, Streamline Vacation Rental Software
Over the last 20 years, human communication has undergone drastic changes. The explosion of the Internet has revolutionized the way we connect with friends, family and even potential business clients. Through sites such as Facebook and Twitter, people have access to worldwide social interaction, and through internet ready devices such as cellphones, tablets – even smartwatches and tvs – interconnectivity has never been higher. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that computer literacy is a necessity to business in the modern world.
For property managers, the internet provides the perfect way to market their company to potential customers and clients across the globe. Of course, the first step is to create a website that appeals to the right audience. In the world of vacation rental management, this means targeting to two distinct groups: guests and owners. Oftentimes, you will find that these two groups have different views on what makes a great, user-friendly website.
What Makes a Great Converting Website?
What qualities are users looking for in a website? For guests, one thing stands above all else – speed. A little under 50 percent of users expect a website to load under two seconds. Even worse, according to statistical research, about 40 percent of them will leave the site if it hasn’t loaded in three seconds. Making sure all pages of your site run swiftly and smoothly helps you hold on to the traffic your site generates and boosts conversions (more on this later).
Another important factor, which might seem obvious, is the usability of the site. Guests expect your website to be easy to understand and navigate. Craigslist is a popular website that takes user functionality to the extreme; the site is designed around pure functionality, requiring only a couple of intuitive clicks to deliver precise results – even though there are thousands and thousands of links to click.
If guests can’t quickly figure out how to find something, search or book listings on your website, they will leave. Also, keep in mind, few people go to travel sites with dates set in stone.
On the other side of the coin, we have property owners. Your owners are very proud of their investments. When they look at your website and judge your business, they want to see cutting edge technology. Property owners expect the most beautiful website that they have ever seen, and want to see a website that shows their property in the most extravagant way possible.
Vacation rental property management sites must strike a balance between these two competing interests. Your website must deliver concise, intuitive information with a sleek, engaging design, and the site should be lightning fast and not rely on a high technical level to access results. And don’t scare away users with too many bells and whistles. We also want the site to be usable from a variety of mediums: desktop, mobile and Smart devices.
Turning Traffic Into Conversions
Now that we have a great website design, it’s time to talk conversions. On average, websites convert 2 percent of their first-time visitors. That means that 98 out of 100 people are using your website, but not engaging. We could have the highest traffic site in the business, but if your conversion rate is terrible we still end up with no customers.
Here are four techniques we can use to boost conversion rate:
- A/B Testing
Google provides a wonderful service called A/B testing. This lets you create two versions of your site, option A or option B, and when visitors load your site, Google will randomly load one of these options for them. A/B testing provides performance statistics for each option, allowing you to tell which changes boost conversion for your site. Compare designs, pick a winner and then rinse and repeat the process to find the perfect design.
- Conversion Funnel
Another great tool Google provides is the conversion funnel. Think of a funnel – it is big at the top and it gets skinnier as it goes down. Now, imagine the same process of someone doing a search, clicking on a unit, clicking “Book Now”, entering their information, entering their credit card and clicking complete. This is the funnel created by your website.
The Google Analytics conversion funnel gives statistics traffic in this website funnel, Using the analytics tool, you will actually see where people are leaving. It could reveal that everyone leaves on the “Click to Continue” button during the checkout because it is not working on Firefox browsers. The results will surprise you.
Heatmaps are a great way to see how visitors are engaging with your website. Heatmaps show where users are clicking, allowing you to make informed design decisions that direct their interactions on the site. You would not believe where some people click on websites – heatmaps are an entertaining way to gain optimization ideas. While it can slightly slow down your site to run a heatmap test, running one for a brief period can deliver tons of useful information.
- Focus Testing
Focus testing is used throughout the sciences, and it can be applied just as easily to website design. First, we want to find a group of testers who know nothing about your website or your business. These people should cover a wide range of ages, technical aptitudes, and travel experience. Once we have our test group, we give them a simple set of instructions. First, specifically ask them to enter your entire URL into the Google search bar. It is amazing how many people don’t enter your website in the address bar. They enter your domain into the Google search bar. Then make a selection. Oftentimes, the browsers make it very confusing. Some people don’t even know that they are truly doing a search, when they think they are entering a URL into what seems to be the address bar.
Entering your URL into Google search will give them other options of related websites. It provides for a great test, because they might choose another site. If you don’t show up #1 when entering your URL into the Google search box, you will need to just give them your full URL and ask them to enter that into the address bar. Finally, ask them to make a booking at one of your homes in a specific location.
Now, sit back and collect data. This testing will tell you a lot about how user friendly your site design is, as well as help you narrow in on any roadblocks or hiccups. Perhaps your test group can find your site and locate a listing, but they can’t figure out how to place their booking.
Armed with this information, you’re ready to make changes. User feedback is one of the most important aspects for improving quality in your business – both for your website and for your listings!
Good Web Design Is An Ongoing Process
Building a successful vacation rental property management business means constantly evolving and adapting to changes in the market, and the same can be said for web design. Your site should evolve with your business. Never settle for second rate. Continually optimize your site to increase speed, improve clarity and incorporate user feedback.
At Streamline, our clients – owners and guests alike – are our greatest resource. We provide opportunities for our clients to listen to their customer’s comments, learn from their criticisms, and above all, deliver an experience that is memorable.
From the time they first visit your site until they leave the vacation home and head back to their daily lives, their experience should be hassle-free and engaging. In vacation rentals, we’re in the business of making memories – make sure that memory is exceptional!
Carlos Corzo founded and currently serves as CEO at Streamline Vacation Rental Software. Corzo regularly provides his valuable insight into the inner workings of vacation rental marketing and technology at https://www.streamlinevrs.com/blogs/.