This is part 1 of a 4 part series on conversion optimization. For part 2, go here.

Increase your website's conversion rates for maximum impact!
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One of the most crucial metrics that DMOs should monitor are conversions. For destination marketers this may not always mean a sale, but it does indicate that a visitor completed some sort of action that pushed them further down the funnel. No matter how well your site is designed or how many visitors it receives, it's likely you could make the conversion process easier and more efficient, leading to better results for your site.

For every $100 spent driving someone to a website, only $1 is spent on converting.

The tactics destination marketers use today to increase brand awareness and attract new visitors are often inconsistent with conversion optimization efforts. This is evident in the poor conversion rates we see across many sites. The fact is that despite large budgets used to attract new visitors, prospects that arrive at a DMO website (or landing page) are unwelcomed into the conversion process with the same level of budget. In fact, Forrester Research shows that for every $100 spent on driving someone to a website, only $1 is spent on converting them once they are there. DMOs often neglect the fact that attracting visitors is only half of the process (typically at the top of the funnel). Converting customers online is equally as important, if not more so, than attracting visitors to their websites in the first place.

The traditional travel purchase cycle we once knew is disappearing.

Over the last year consumer behavior has experienced huge shifts; this is triggered by a greater demand for personalization and the growth of digital channels. Search engines like Google have also made huge transformations in the way they display results in the travel space, making it more important than ever for a DMO to convert their traffic. Visitors are now overwhelmed by an abundance of information and options, amplified by shorter attention spans to navigate them. This means that marketers need to adapt to a new landscape as the traditional travel purchase cycle we once knew is disappearing. Consumers spend most of their purchase-decision time doing research online, prior to contacting the "vendor". This is where a DMO fits in. It is now the task of the modern destination marketer to educate and guide these consumers, during their planning and researching, with content that addresses their personal needs and provides faster solutions.

The Four Phases 

The aim of this series is to provide the data and a framework to help your DMO invest their time and resources as effectively as possible. We'll do this by examining which methods and processes are most likely to yield better results. Conversion rate optimization works to help a website define and deal with those issues first, using data to determine areas of needed improvement rather than "gut feelings". Not only will a good conversion optimization strategy help a site earn more leads, referrals, etc., but ultimately it will also make the site more valuable to its partners by increasing awareness and visits to a destination.

Simpleview uses a four-phase process for all testing and conversion optimization projects: Target, Analyze, Test, and Results. This phased approach comes from years of internal testing, examination and research in conversion optimization. Let's first tackle the easiest (but often neglected) phase: Target.

Methodology & Approach

Typically there are two approaches to improving a website:

1) You go in with "gut feelings", transform what you think might be a good idea to change, and expect (hope) conversions will increase.

2) You start by figuring out which pages cause the most friction and drop-offs, and more importantly where the flow is bottlenecked. Once you understand where the problems are, you can move on to determining what the problems are.

Choosing option two seems to be the obvious approach, but unfortunately most marketers use approach number one. A DMO's optimization approach needs to move away from random guessing and assumption, and focus instead on discerning what's happening and why. A great starting point is to clearly identify your site's goals.

At the beginning of any testing and optimization program you should gather members of your team to discuss key business objectives. If you had to choose only ONE action you wanted someone to complete on the site, what would that action be? Then answer the following questions:

    • What are our goals?
    • What drives traffic to our site?
    • What are our current conversion rates?
    • What marketing strategies are currently in place to achieve these goals?
    • What does our ideal site visitor look like?

Be as specific as possible when answering these questions. For example, a lead is considered an objective, while increasing E-Newsletter sign-ups is a goal.

The primary conversion optimization objective for DMOs typically falls into one of the following four buckets:

    • Increase referrals to partners
    • Increase onsite engagement
    • Increase leads
    • Increase sales

The first two are often covered with a solid SEO strategy, while the others take more time and often demand a strong conversion optimization and testing plan. Clearly define the main goal of your site and you'll be well on your way to increasing conversions and developing a culture of testing within your organization.

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In part two of our series we'll be addressing the next (and most important) phase: Analyze.