Whether it’s finding the right event venue or making sure the family vacation includes fun activities for everyone, the most successful destination management organization (DMO) websites make sure those activities are readily available and targeted to each user’s needs. This is achieved by Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).
This article shares:
- How to develop a CRO strategy
- The importance of testing potential changes for ever-better results, along with examples of testing in action. Visitor behavior on your website is constantly evolving, and the best way to keep content relevant and convert website visitors into destination visitors is to change along with it.
- DMOs that are getting it right. After making CRO a focus, these clients’ results improved notably. In one case, personalized content increased engagement by 92%. In another, meetings conversions increased by 128%. You’ll get a peek behind the curtains by seeing Simpleview analysts work their CRO magic.
A refresher: What Is CRO, again?
CRO is the systematic process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action through real-time testing, experimentation, and organization. It’s helpful for website visitors and the local community, too; travel and tourism is an economic engine that helps enhance the quality of life for local communities. It helps create jobs, provides funding for infrastructure, and promotes business growth. When CRO shines, so does your destination.
CRO Strategy: An Overview of Proven Techniques
In developing a CRO strategy, here are six key components to consider:
Whether it’s for a new campaign, a new piece of content for the website, or testing a new element, always establish what you want the visitor to accomplish. You then design your ads, page layouts, and tests around that goal.
The below image shows the most common goals we’ve identified for DMOs:
It’s important to prioritize goals for the site because sometimes increasing the conversion rate for one goal might decrease the conversion rate for another. For example, if you prioritize increasing partner referrals on your site, that will result in an exit to your partners’ sites that may decrease the amount of time a visitor spends on your site. That’s not to say you can’t optimize for multiple goals. You can, but make sure you establish your overall site goal — and if you find that a test in one funnel negatively impacts that priority goal, be sure the opportunity cost of implementing the change is worth it.
Because something’s always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. If you’re going through your website and something doesn’t make sense — for instance, where a section of content is located or how a widget is supposed to work — chances are it doesn’t make sense for your visitors, either. When you find such things, it’s a good opportunity to test some changes on your site to enhance the visitor experience. Here is a checklist you can use to plan your testing.
Tourism Saskatoon wanted to make sure it was referring as many website visitors as possible to local hotel websites. The Simpleview CRO team analyzed, tested and implemented the following changes across the site (we’ll share the results in step 3):
- Changed the listing referral button call-to-action to “View Rates” to be less committal
- Updated the call-to-action of the “homepage” booking widget to be less committal
- Added the booking widget to highest volume pages of site
- Added booking widget and direct links on Visitor Guide and Newsletter thank you pages
- Added direct “Hotel Rate” links to navigation
This is one of the most important things to remember. If you’ve already decided that the changes you make will be successful, then regardless of what the numbers are telling you, chances are you’ll overlook failures in favor of your decision and preferences; this is called confirmation bias.
Instead, start looking at your data with no preconceived notions of success or failure, which will reveal holes in your strategy and areas in need of improvement, as well as help you determine whether the changes were genuinely successful.
When Tourism Saskatoon’s test was complete, the average winning A/B test lift was 40.77%, and the final results after implementation were even greater. In comparing September 2019 (when testing began) – January 2020 to the previous year, Tourism Saskatoon saw a nearly 23% increase in visitors reaching the Book › Direct search results page and a 107% increase in total Book › Direct referrals.
While CRO is often tied directly to a/b testing elemental and layout changes on a website, much more goes into it. CRO includes developing strategies for website content and developing the right value proposition.
CRO also determines the highest-converting layout that will push visitors from higher-funnel actions that demonstrate visitor interest down to lower-funnel actions that show intent to travel. This includes a/b testing and also evaluates the ROI on campaigns driving traffic to your site. It creates personalization strategies that help your site reach visitors where they are in the funnel based on whether they’re new or returning visitors, their geo-markets, and remarketing areas of the site in which they’ve shown prior interest. CRO balances the website’s intentions with the visitor’s experience to drive visitors to your website further down the funnel toward visits to your destination.
The following graphic provides test tips and ideas of things you can test:
User behavior varies across markets, devices, sources of traffic, and whether it’s their first or fifth time on the website. See how the tests and changes you are implementing are impacting users in different segments — if you see improvement for the majority but a decrease in conversion rate for a specific segment, test changes only for that segment by creating a personalized experience for them. At Simpleview, we utilize the dynamic content module to create audiences segmented for geo-location, new or returning visitors, or persona remarketing based on content previously viewed on the site.
When the team at Outer Banks Visitors Bureau was looking for a way to increase awareness and engagement in the Things To Do section of its website, the Simpleview CRO team identified some opportunities to better guide users’ behavior by using call-outs and creating predefined categories of content alongside an easy way to view them.
Using Google Analytics, the Simpleview team analyzed which pages were receiving the most traffic and had higher engagement. From there, they implemented a three-column Image Box display on the Things To Do page that highlighted each of the secondary things to do sub-pages (including titles, descriptions and calls-to-action). After running for 29 days across 12,000 visitors, the data showed that adding Image tiles proved effective, increasing overall engagement by 73%.
In the case of Visit OKC, the Simpleview team tested using personas to add personalized content and imagery. After running a test for 49 days across about 6,569 sessions, the overall engagement average for the personas increased by a whopping 92.47% compared to the default version. In this case, personalized content definitely increased visitor engagement.
Optimizing and testing changes on your sites and campaigns is not about winning or losing. It’s about learning. While everyone loves a solid win, if the changes you make aren’t supporting (or maybe they’re even hurting) the goals you established in step 1, it is ok to change it back and test something different. The time you took to make those changes was valuable because you learned more about your audience and what works.
One of the best examples of a loss I’ve learned from was a test I ran where I removed the description (not the title) of a feed of deals on mobile devices. I hypothesized that removing the description would show more of the deals on the mobile screen, increase click-throughs, and ultimately increase package bookings. What I found was that while it did, indeed, increase click-throughs to the deal subpages by about 26%, it decreased the final booking conversion rate by almost 35%.
I learned that including the deal description on the initial landing page helped visitors vet the deals better, and then they could use the booking widget on the landing page to select the deal they wanted with their package. In my test, I ultimately had removed the value proposition and increased the number of steps to complete a booking.
Alternatively, I also learned that removing the description on mobile did help click-throughs — so while I wouldn’t be using this for deals, I tested it on non-booking-related slides on the site and continued to see that increase in click-throughs and engagement elsewhere.
Share the successes you have with your team. The more you share what you’ve been working on and what you’ve learned with teammates, the more you’ll create a collaborative culture of testing within your organization. It will empower others to speak out when they uncover areas that may require optimization on the website.
The key takeaway is that because visitor behavior on your website is constantly changing, the best way to keep your content relevant and convert website visitors into destination visitors is to change with it. Create a testing and optimization framework by establishing your website goals and analyzing user behavior on your website toward those goals to identify opportunities. Then start testing changes, learn from your losses, and share and celebrate your successes.
Improvements in CRO translate into a more useful website for visitors and a positive economic impact for the destination. While focusing on CRO is something you can do on your own, Simpleview offers this service and has impressive results to back up our efforts.