Best Practices: Website Homepage – Part 2

Inspiration, shopping, purchase. Done. Well, it’s not that easy, or is it?

We’ve all seen the endless articles written on the subject of “The Shopping Journey,” “Is the Billboard Effect Dead?,” “Throw your Desktop Computer in the Trash, it’s Obsolete,” but when it comes down to it, we’re all just looking for answers to “how do I create a content-rich website that impacts purchase intent everywhere in a very meaningful way without spending huge amounts of time, effort and money?”

Well, as our online world becomes more crowded and frenetic, it’s as important as ever to use our newfound love affair with content and storytelling to convey the anticipated experience and to drive conversions on your most important sales channels.

But it’s not just about pretty websites, but importantly about performance.  An uncluttered, focused and genuinely helpful website will be your best asset with consumers looking for a special experience.

Think of your favorite retail store (online or offline) and the reasons why it’s your “go to” place. Is it well organized and simple to find what you are looking for? Good value for your money? Helpful support to answer questions if needed? Clear path to checkout?

Your property website should have the same attributes, just as your physical property does.

Accommodating staff, good signage, obvious front desk or reception, info about special events & promotions going on in/around property.

In part one of this series, I talked about the importance of using psychological elements throughout your website in order to improve your appeal to travel shoppers and persuade them to make a direct booking.

In this part two, I’ll be discussing the individual elements of a website homepage and practical actions you can take to convey your property’s story and convert your website visitors into bookers.

The Homepage Gallery

The gallery on the homepage of your property’s website is often the first thing a travel shopper will see, and if not, it is one of the first things they will look for – 93% of people say that visuals are the most influential factor in their purchase decision.

That’s why it’s important to bring your gallery into the 21st century and meet the expectation of the modern travel shopper or else they’ll look elsewhere for accommodations.

Here are some best practices to follow:

  • Showcase the top images travel shoppers want to see (#1 is rooms!)
  • Highlight what makes your property unique – whether that’s your award-winning chef, proximity to local attractions, or the best burger in town
  • Upload the highest quality images available
    • Images greater than 2048 pixels on the longest side will provide an optimal full-screen viewing experience
    • An aspect ratio of 16:9 is ideal because it’s the most common aspect ratio for TVs and computer monitors
    • Landscape orientation is preferred because the image will occupy the entire screen
  • File types JPEG or JPG are preferred when uploading images to Vizlly websites and for travel websites within VNetwork, the largest media syndication network in the industry
    • GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF and EPS are also widely accepted
  • Keep the photos recent – within the past three years at a minimum
  • Photos should:
    • Reflect your property’s identity and be free of debris, cables, cords, trash cans, ash trays, power lines, banners or other eye distractions
    • Be royalty-free or be accompanied by proper credit information to be posted in the photo caption
    • Reflect the property’s current condition and amenities
  • Add concise captions to add context to the images
    • Short descriptions, which accompany images in your gallery, should be no more than 90 characters in length
    • Long descriptions, which the travel shopper can choose to view as a pop-up in the gallery, should be limited to 15 lines of text to avoid scrolling
    • Use short paragraphs (like the example below) rather than blocks of text so the caption is easier to read

Best Practices Homepage 1The Blue Bay Inn uses bulleted lists in the long descriptions of their photos in order to make the information easier to consume.

The Homepage Copy

You’ve gotten their attention with the gallery, now draw them in closer by providing context beyond the captions following best practices for the text on your homepage.Best Practices Homepage 2

Stunning visuals take up the majority of the J House Greenwich’s homepage but when you continue to scrolling down, you’re greeted with interesting copy that puts the visuals in context.  

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but without context, those 1,000 words could be anything. Help advance travel shoppers through the journey by providing framework around what they’re looking at. That’s called being helpful and smart.

SEO Tips

  • Break up your homepage copy with headings and subheadings
    • The primary heading should be tagged as heading one (H1) and will be seen as the most important text by search engines and will help improve your organic search rankings
  • Organize the rest of your homepage copy with heading two (H2) for the subheadings
  • Create a unique description for each page of your website
    • Your SEO page description is the text displayed underneath your webpage title in search engine results
    • Ensure that each description accurately describes the content of the page
    • Include keywords in your description (they will be bolded in search engine results which helps draw the attention of travel shoppers)
    • Keep SEO page descriptions brief – approximately 145 characters
  • When posting content or articles on your site, remember the ideal headline length is six words
    • We absorb the first three words and the last three words of a headline
    • Title tags should be 65 characters or less with the keyword near the beginning for SEO purposes
  • In addition to headings, format text on your website with bold, italics and highlighted lists to bring attention to key information and make it easy for travel shoppers to read

Page Navigation

Naturally, the travel shopper will want to explore more than just the homepage of your website. The navigation tabs throughout your website are their virtual map to discovering the rest of your property’s unique story.

  • The page name should reflect the content of the page
  • Have clear and customized page names like the Tiki Moon Villas, who is creative with names like “Your Perfect Day”
  • Give the navigation tabs custom names to showcase your property’s unique location, amenities and more

Best Practices Home Page 3The Links

In addition to beautiful visuals and useful and entertaining descriptions, provide travel shoppers with helpful links boosting their confidence that your property is the right choice for them (e.g.  TripAdvisor reviews and social media pages).

Did you know that social media has influenced 33% of travelers to switch hotels? By making it easy for travel shoppers to find your Facebook page and then engaging your guests on social media, you are able to build your relationship with that guest – the travel shopping journey doesn’t end with a booking.

This can also help set the stage to curate more user-generated content once the guest arrives at the property and after they have returned home.

  • Have an incredibly clear call to action
  • Have the booking engine displayed prominently on each page to secure a booking at every opportunity
  • Offer convenient access to Google Maps and TripAdvisor reviews by integrating these applications right on the page
  • Display prominent links to your social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more – travelers want to connect with your property. By providing these links on your homepage, travel shoppers can explore them and see a more personalized side of your story, what previous guests have to say about your property and get a better sense of your property’s unique experiences and offerings

Best Practices Home Page 4Stay tuned for the next blogs in this best practices series, including essential features for your mobile websites and how to create compelling special offers that drive bookings.

Want even more best practices? Check out my eBook, Best Practices: Multi-Media Guidelines, which dives even further into best practices for your photos, videos and virtual tours.

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