Ahhh…your travel agency website. The new virtual storefront for every travel business. Long gone are the days that Bob and Margaret loaded into the car and made their way down to the neighbourhood travel agency. But even pre-pandemic, there was a growing number of agents who were moving to a home-based set-up. And now that everyone has gotten used to doing business over video-conferencing, the website has become the virtual storefront.
More than ever, having a high-converting website is critical to the success of a travel business.
Often we only have a matter of minutes to wow a client into sticking around our site to learn more about us. The good news is – your website doesn’t have to be super fancy, but you need it to work for you. In other words, your website needs to grab the attention of your potential client and lure them in.
Below, I’ve detailed 9 of the biggest mistakes travel advisors make when creating their travel websites. Maybe you are guilty of making one or two of these yourself. Have a look.
Mistake #9 – Using confusing navigation
There’s been a recent trend to buck the norm and bury the navigation bar down in the footer.
Have you noticed it too?
I’m all for changing things up when they don’t make sense, and you’ll never hear me say…” Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” But sometimes – just sometimes, I think there is something to be said about not messing with the classics. Just as you wouldn’t dare revamp your Gramma’s classic potato salad recipe or add a hip hop backbeat to Unchained Melody, I don’t think you should mess around with your navigation menu either.
It may seem trendy to treat your navigation bar like an Easter egg hunt and have your customer weed through paragraphs of text to find the “contact me” page or the archives of your blog, but from a user’s point of view, it’s really not that fun.
People have been trained that if they need more information when they land on a site, they just need to look up and off to the right.
Mistake #8 – Not making each web page able to stand out on its own
When we think of designing websites, we think in linear terms. We picture our users entering our website on our home page and working their way through the site from top to bottom and then through the pages. That is assuming our site is compelling enough, and they choose to hang around and get to know us better.
But that’s not actually how things typically work. Often a client will land on your site organically. They may Google, “top wine tours in Mendoza,” and the blog you wrote a few months ago, pops up. This article will be their first introduction to you. They weren’t looking for your site specifically; they were just interested in wine tours.
So, keeping that in mind, build each of your web pages, and write your articles, as if this will be the only page they may ever land on. It has to be as enticing as your homepage so it invites them to stay a little longer and have a better look around.
Mistake #7 – Sacrificing clarity for cleverness
Along the same line as Mistake #9, don’t try to be too clever. It risks you losing your visitor. What’s obvious to us is sometimes lost on our audience. We may only have a split second to lure them in with our copy. While “Tales From My Suitcase” sounds much more catchy than “Blog Library” – most people don’t have time for cute. It’s much better to be clear.
Mistake #6 – Ineffectively using white space
White space is good. And just because you have a space where you can put something, doesn’t mean you should.
The eye needs room to move around your site in a point-by-point fashion. Adding too many buttons and pop-ups and colours and fonts and headlines creates fatigue. On one hand, you have all this information to share. I get it. But you’d be far better off using excerpt boxes that pique interest and allow the visitor to click-through to read more, rather than laying everything out with full text. Less is best.
It’s also a good practice to keep the variety of colours and fonts to a minimum.
Mistake #5 – Not having a Call to Action (CTA) located above the fold and in multiple places elsewhere
First off…what does “above the fold” mean?
In the world of web design, anything “above the fold” is considered the most expensive real estate. Anything that gets placed here should be done so with careful intention.
And what is the main purpose of your website? Without question, for a travel business, you need to convert your website visitors to clients. And the best way to do that is to get them on your email list. It would be a rare unicorn that lands on your website for the first time and books a consultation. She simply doesn’t know you, like you, or trust you yet.
That happens over time. And the surest way to build that relationship is through your weekly emails. That’s where you’ll provide value and offers that will turn a first-time web visitor into a lifetime client.
Your “Call to Action,” at minimum, upfront, above the fold. Make it so irresistible that the web visitor would never think of moving to another website until she’s left her valuable email address. We call this a lead magnet. I’ll go into further details about types of lead magnets in an upcoming post.
And don’t stop there. Add “Call to Actions” all over your website. Be sure to include a place where clients can book a complimentary initial consultation with you. Use your homepage and your contact page and maybe even your individual blog post pages.
Finally, do not make the mistake of thinking that “Join my email list” is enough of a “Call to Action.” Nobody…and I mean nobody…probably not even your mother wants to join another email list without a proper incentive.
Mistake #4 Slow load speed
Kissmetrics claims that 40 percent of your web audience will abandon your site if it takes over three seconds to load. Whoa…crazy, right? We, humans, are just not the most patient of creatures. You can check out the speed health of your website by plugging in your URL to any of the web analyzers on the market.
Common causes of slow load speeds would be:
- Images that are too big. You’ll want to use sites like TinyPNG.com to resize your images so that they don’t sacrifice any of the image quality yet are small enough not to slow down your site.
- Getting too fancy pants. Web design has come a long way in recent years, and you can have your site perform all sorts of acrobatic backflips to look super cool. But sometimes, the toaster that’s sole purpose is to toast your bread will far outshine the one that can make espresso on the side. Just sayin’. Be careful not to sacrifice load speed for fancy graphics.
- Using a web hosting service that can’t handle the traffic to your site.
- Tons of backend issues like too many plug-ins, outdated plug-ins, poorly written java-script, caching issues, non-optimized CSS. In a nutshell, if that sounds like a bunch of Swahili to you, it might make sense to pay a professional to review your site.
We work far too hard, and spend way too much money, to draw people to our website. To then lose them by ‘having them hang outside our front door while we rush around picking up dirty laundry and doing last night dishes before we let them in…not a great strategy.
Mistake #3 – Not using an irresistible pop-up offer
Pop-ups…love ‘em or hate ‘em, statistics have shown that using a pop-up increases your email subscriptions by just over 3%. That might not seem like a big number, but that’s an average across all pop-ups, including the not-so-good ones, and there are a lot of them out there.
What’s a pop-up?
So if your website’s principal purpose is to lure people to join your email list, using a pop-up with an irresistible offer, placed correctly on your site, is a smart move.
The problem that most websites make with pop-ups is that often they appear before the web visitor has even looked past the first headline. To me…that’s a bit like being asked back to some guy’s apartment and he hasn’t even bought you a drink yet.
I prefer using exit pop-ups, which means they only appear when your web visitor decides to move on. That’s when a well-placed pop-up that offers something of value in exchange for an email address becomes a high-converting tool.
Mistake #2 – Your “About You” page is actually about you
Did you know that apparently, your “about you” page isn’t really supposed to be about you? Nor is the rest of your website, actually. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? One of the biggest mistakes some travel advisors make with their websites is writing copy that is not client-focused.
Even the “About Me” page should be written in a way that appeals to the client. It’s fine that you let everyone know that the first time the travel bug bit you was back when you were 5 years old and your Gramma took you to Disney World. It’s great that you share that you have two kids and a pet tarantula. But – somehow, someway…you need to tie all that info back into how any of that has anything to do with your potential client.
Huh, Diane? What do you mean?
Yep, every single word you write on your website should be written in such a way that it speaks to the client. What can you do for them? How can you offer them value?
The only way your website should be at all about YOU is only in how YOU can help your client.
Mistake #1 – Redirecting your visitors away from your site
And finally, I give this mistake top ranking because it’s the most ubiquitous mistake. I’ve made it myself along with many of the other mistakes listed above.
The three biggest redirection mistakes travel advisors make:
1. Sending people away to your social media platforms
We’ve been sold on the idea that we should drive people to all of our social media platforms – getting likes and views is important “they” say. But the whole point of social media is to drive people to your website. So why on earth would you work so hard to get them to your site, only to redirect your visitor back out again? It’s fine to have social media icons strategically placed on your site. Just don’t have them front and centre.
2. Sending people away to suppliers’ websites
If you want to show the cabin configurations of a cruise ship or showcase the details of a suppliers’ itinerary, it’s better to create that original content to live on your site. There are very few suppliers in the travel industry that won’t take a direct booking from your client. No need for you to make it easier for them to do so.
3. Just plain sending people away
While it’s important to credit your sources for any content that is not original to you, be sure to set up your back-links so that they open in a new window alongside your website. Sadly, the default when adding a back-link is that it replaces your website. But you can make a slight change that will open the new site in a parallel window, yet keep your website open.
So that’s my top 9 and I’m sure I haven’t listed them all. Most notably, I haven’t even touched on not using a proper SEO strategy, but I will tackle that in an upcoming post as it deserves a feature all to itself.
If you found this article helpful or know someone who has a travel website and might benefit from reading this article, please forward it on. They’ll thank you and I most definitely will thank you as well. 🙏