Build a Booking Machine
To run successful online marketing campaigns that will generate bookings for your safaris you need:
1. Great Safari Experiences
No matter what else you do, if you don’t provide a great safari experience no one will want to do it. If you don’t have this, stop now and go back to the drawing board.
2. Laser Focus on Your Target Market
Identify your ideal clients and make sure every aspect of your marketing speaks directly to them. What type of experience are they looking for? What do they love? What are their concerns?
3. Relevant, Interested Traffic
Not only do you need a steady supply of visits to your website but it needs to be targeted traffic – people who are interested in your safari experiences. Use social media, search engine optimisation, online advertising and a blog to drive this traffic.
4. Excellent Content
Eye-catching photos, well-written descriptions, useful information and credibility statements all work together to create excitement about your safaris and build trust so they’re ready to book.
5. Well-built Website
Your website needs to be well organised, designed for mobile devices as well as desktops, easy to navigate and easy to read, with booking buttons in the right location.
6. Visitor Retention Strategy
Few people are ready to book on their first visit to your website. You need to use strategies like retargeting or marketing automation to keep their attention and get them to come back.
With so many of these elements revolving about your website its critical to focus on continuous improvement so you’re moving forward, not backward.
Is Your Website Generating the Amount of Bookings You Want?
No? These ten website improvements can turn things around and get you extra bookings. Even small improvements can make a big difference to your bottom line.
1. Optimise Your Site for Search Engines
Just having a website doesn’t mean that people will start visiting.
To be found by the search engine and people searching for your safari experience you need to ensure that the at least basic search engine optimisation is undertaken.
The SEO foundation should be implemented when the site is built but is unfortunately missing from many safari operator websites.
Think about what search terms you want to rank for. Then make sure your website has these keywords in all the right places.
Caveat: Be realistic with the keywords you want to rank for. I’ve seen many a safari operator try to rank for keywords that are so highly competitive or so broad that they have zero chance to rank for them.
The (Very) Basics of On-Page SEO
Each page should focus on one (maximum two) keywords or phrases.
Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) as the clickable headline for a given result, and are important for usability, SEO, and social sharing. The title tag of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content.
Each title should be unique.
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag.
Meta descriptions provide concise summaries of webpages. They commonly appear underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page (SERP).
Each description should be unique.
Descriptions should include keywords (in a natural way) and be compelling descriptions that make a searcher want to click a search result.
Descriptions should be long enough to be sufficiently descriptive without exceeding 160 characters.
Simple right? But most safari websites get it wrong.
2. Ensure Your Website is Viewable on Mobile Devices
According to Google, over 50% of searches are made on mobile devices, from tablets to smartphones.
That’s such a large chunk of the market that it simply cannot be ignored.
You don’t want users having to squint to read your website, zoom in or out or scroll around to view different areas of your pages or worse, wait for ages for it to load on small screens and slow connection when they are travelling.
If your website isn’t responsive, you are losing money.
3. Add Eye-Catching Photos
You might have the best safari experience on the continent but if you don’t show it, no one will know.
High quality, amazing photos are very effective at grabbing people’s attention and getting them excited about your destination(s) and safaris.
- Always try to show yourself at your best. Make sure the sun’s shining, the staff are smiling and the vehicles clean.
- Showcase what makes you special or different than your competitors.
- Use action shots if you can so people think “I want to do that!”
- Use nice, big photos for more impact. Just remember to optimise the photos before you upload them to the website.
If you can, consider getting a professional photographer to take some high quality photos. Those photos will last for years and is probably one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
4. Optimise the Home Page to Get Them to Take Action
The purpose of your website’s home page is to get visitors to go deeper into your site.
Make sure you include links to all of the major sections of your site. What’s obvious to one person is not obvious to another so make sure your links stand out.
The most obvious way is to include large, clearly labelled buttons that stand out from the background. As most visitors will not be ready to make a booking straight away, try “Enquire Now” instead of “Book Now” so they’re comfortable about making contact.
Add sections to the home page that highlight the best you have to offer. For tour operator, add engaging teasers to your most popular (or profitable) safari tours.
Monitor Your Bounce Rate
Your website’s bounce rate is an essential indicator of whether your website is doing it’s job.
Simply put, your bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit just one page on your website (typically your home page), then leave or “bounce.”
That means they arrive on your home page and either it frustrates them so they click away or nothing on the home pages captures their attention enough to look at anything else on your website.
The lower the bounce rate, the better. If your bounce rate is above 50%, you’ve got a problem.
5. Make it Super Simple to Get Around
Modern life is full of distractions. In many cases people will be looking at your website in front of the TV or perhaps kids playing loudly nearby. It’s a rare case where you’ll have their undivided attention.
Make things easier for your clients and keep things simple and obvious. New visitors to your site should be able to tell at a glance what you do and what you offer.
Organise the web pages in a logical, easy-to-understand manner with clear navigation that can take them right to where they want to go.
As da Vinci said:
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
6. Make the Text Readable
It’s harder to read on a screen than it is on paper. You want visitors to your website to actually read about what you offer so make it easy for them to do so.
- Increase the font size so they don’t have to squint. A font size of 16px is a good choice.
- Ensure there is good contrast between the text and the background. Black text on a white background is ideal.
- Avoid long paragraphs. Break up your website copy into smaller, easier to digest chunks.
- Similarly, avoid long sentences. Make it one point per sentence,. When you have made your point, stop writing.
- Add headings throughout the copy so that people can scan the text and zero in on what interests them. As an added bonus, this will help your SEO too.
For more tips on writing safari descriptions read 5 Bad Writing Habits You Need to Cut From Your Safari Descriptions.
7. Add Social Proof to Get Them to Trust You
For many travellers a safari holiday is a once in a lifetime experience that they’ve saved years for. For them to spend their hard-earned money on one of your safaris they have to trust you.
To build that trust add credibility indicators to the site such as:
- Lists (or better yet, badges) of any awards you have won.
- List the tourism association you’re a member of.
- Use relevant testimonials as powerful endorsements of the quality of your safaris. Rather than list them all on one special page, spread them out across the site.
- Refer to any media articles where you’ve been featured.
- Outline the number of safaris you’ve run and the number of years you’ve been in business.
If you can, ask some happy clients for a quick video testimonial, preferably whilst in the field enjoying what you have to offer.
8. Make it Clear What Makes You Different
With the the safari industry being so competitive, how do you stand out from the herd?
You need a unique selling point that sets you apart from your competitors and gives travellers a reason to book with you instead of them,
Make your unique selling point crystal clear right from the moment someone lands on your home page.
Put some thought into your unique selling point when you’re developing it. I’ve asked a lot of safari operators lately what makes them different and few could articulate it. Most came up with something that was neither unique nor a selling point.
Unless you want to race to the bottom on price, why would a client book with you?
9. Keep Your Site Fresh and Your Clients Informed With a Blog
For the typical safari tour operator the (not so) secret to ranking well for your chosen keywords is to have a blog, regularly updated with articles tour clients will find useful and interesting.
Without a blog you’re going to struggle to improve your search visibility.
With a blog you can tailor content for certain search terms, keep your clients and agents updated with the latest news, position yourself as the expert on your destination and types of safaris and provide insight into your team and operation.
If you’re going to have a blog, make it integral to your website rather than on offsite blogging service like Blogspot. An offsite blog won’t benefit you at all so are a waste of time and effort.
Running a blog is not easy. It takes planning, hard work and discipline to keep at it but, if you do, you’ll see the results.
10. Turn Casual Visitors Into Confirmed Bookings
First time visitors to your website generally won’t book a safari.
If they come back to your website however, they are more than 3 times as likely to make a booking with you.
So, how do you make sure you don’t lose those prospective clients?
Properly managed email marketing slowly build a relationship, turning casual visitors into confirmed clients.
Incorporate lead magnets into your website to collect their email address then deliver targeted messages to convert them from visitors, to leads and finally to clients.
Keep the conversation going through email and demonstrate your superior service and knowledge of African safaris. When they’re ready, they’ll come to you.
When someone visits your website but leaves without making a booking rekindle their interest with targeted ads that are displayed to them as they surf the web and social media.
Ads from retargeting campaigns get clicked on 200-400% more often than traditional online advertising as they’re already interested in your destination or safaris.
Retargeting keeps your safaris in front of them after they leave giving you second, third, even fourth chance to bring them back to get that booking.
A Safari Booking Machine
If you implement these ten website improvements you will start transforming your website into a sales machine that will bring in a steady stream of bookings, clients and profit.