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20 essentials for a great travel website

Are you thinking of updating your website, or developing a new one? You no longer need to pay for every tiny change and with the use of Wordpress editable back-ends and endless template choices on websites like www.themeforest.net you can develop a gorgeous and well optimised website for very little spend.

I will cover search engine optimisation in a future blog post, but for today let’s chat about the essentials of a travel website in these times where content is being pushed out and consumed on multiple platforms -  and we all suffer from content overload.

1.      Easy intuitive navigation is key. Make it clunky and they'll head elsewhere.

2.      Load fast or lose faster . Think carefully about using huge images or Flash websites which can slow things down - no point in having a pretty site that takes forever to load.

3.      Use a generous, friendly communication style upfront. Reduce the use of rules and limitations. e.g: 'We don’t take kids' or 'We don’t offer meals'.

4.      Use a few great images boldly, rather than lots of small fuzzy images (Get a professional photographer in so you have a few strong, iconic images). Showing people in some images instills a sense of the experience.

5.      Keep info up to date and links current 

6.      Develop a blog - they're brilliant for search engine optimisation. Try loading a post twice a month at the least and put the links up on your social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter)

7.      Feature social media links boldly on the home page and throughout. Don’t forget Tripadvisor!

8.      Use Google maps plug-in to show your location.

9.      Develop your site for mobile screens like tablets and mobile phones. Three out of four people travel with mobile devices.

10.  Link your enquiry page to your newsletter mailing system (Mailchimp or similar) so that enquiries automatically get saved in a database for further marketing.

11.  Less is more – don’t describe each room, just keep words at a minimum and allow amazing images to show the facts.  Attach e-brochures separately for those wanting a detachable, detailed fact sheet.

12.  If your business is strongly supported by agent business, then consider an agent ‘portal’ or private log-in access where agents can automatically gain access to their own rates and value adds as well as agent-centric information that may bore consumers.

13.  Focus on USP’s of your area and experience. People buy experiences not bedrooms.

14.  Offer real time availability via a 3rd party widget.

15.  Keep a high res gallery of super-great images that you don’t mind being used by agents. In other words, don’t compromise on the quality of images in the gallery.

16.  Contact us should include a direct email address not just a lengthy form to fill in. Avoid spam by making the email address static and not a live link. Include phone and email details – I’m always amazed how many websites don’t have those

17.   Reduce the clicks. Ensure that everything is one to two clicks away from the landing page. People are impatient and won't dig deep for information

18.  Include video where possible and try to imbed a small clip rather than send people off to YouTube.

19.  If you have a newsletter, then encourage people towards your news sign-up form with an incentive. People don’t want more newsletters. ‘Sign up for our newsletter to find out weekly last minute specials...' is more enticing.

20.  Here is an example of a travel website I like: http://www.kwandwe.com/