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Using Web Analytics to Identify 'Hand-Raisers'

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It's fact. The Internet has become the chief source of information for most travellers, and many use travel providers' websites in their planning. As a DMO or tour operator, online marketing has become a core part of your overall tourism marketing efforts, and for that reason, being able to analyze activity on your website is critical.

Early measurement of online performance looked at traffic. The more clicks and visitors to your website, the better. Fast forward ten years and we now know that traffic is meaningless if it's not the right kind. Especially in the case of travel marketing, it's critical to focusing on the quality of a visitor's experience, and to understand where they are in the buying process and how likely they are to travel.

Unless you are carefully tracking and analyzing your online marketing activities - and taking action based on what you discover - you are not properly managing anything. Information is of little value unless you can act on it. Happily, that's where web analytics comes in. Read on to learn what to track, and how to make it matter.

Identifying hand raisers
Identify Engaged Travel Customers - Hand Raisers - with Web Analytics

Start with Engagement

Start to think of 'visits', 'page views' and daily, weekly, or monthly 'unique visitors' as building blocks. Though they can tell you what is happening on a high level, you need to dig down and look at what users are actually doing on your site to find out how likely they are to travel.

To do this, you want to measure engagement, which is actually a combination of several metrics such as the average time spent on your site – anything that measures the quality of interaction on your site, rather than just the quantity. This data can then support the "hand-raising" actions discussed further on, so you get a fuller picture of how engaged users are on the site.

Bounce Rates

Measuring the bounce rates of your entry pages (home page, campaign landing pages) helps determine the performance of individual pages in holding attention. A "bounce" is the percentage of users to enter your site through that page and then leave without going anywhere else. You can experiment with lowering the bounce rates by testing different content, designs, or calls to action, to optimize ROI and – again – generate engagement.

Social Interaction

User-generated content is also an excellent indicator of engagement, so tracking contributions from your online travel / social media community is worthwhile. Look at the number of users submitting travel reviews, comments, and photos. Your goal is to encourage more people to influence others, which thus drives those people to visit your site and so on.

Multiple Visits

Don't limit your interaction analysis to a single visit. Very few travelers go to just one site to make all their vacation plans, but rather visit several sites, probably more than once, read content, view photos and videos, and ask for information. As a travel provider, you should view consumer activity over a period of time longer than a day or single visit.

The metric (typically called something like) 'visits per monthly unique visitor' will help you to understand how frequently the average user returns to your site. This in turn informs where they are in the decision-making process, because there is usually a connection between repeat visits and intent to travel.

Moving on to Intent...the "Hand-Raising"

Often called goals or conversion actions, hand-raising activities can range from ordering a visitor guide, to viewing detailed accommodation listings, to actually booking online. A critical part of online reporting for a DMO or tour operator is defining the conversion events or hand-raising actions that define success for your website.

Regardless of which analytics package you are using, common hand-raising activities include:

  • Signing up for e-news
  • Ordering a brochure/visitor guide
  • Visiting a special offer page
  • Viewing an itinerary or detailed hotel listing
  • (If you have an ecommerce site) starting the booking process
  • Downloading a brochure or map
  • For destination marketers, clicking through to a hotel or event’s website (as most final bookings are completed elsewhere
  • Asking a question (using Live Chat for example)
  • Posting a photo, trip review, or rating – basically, participating

Identify the actions that make someone a candidate for your destination or travel product, and then use your web analytics tool to set up conversion funnels and goals. Remember to focus your reporting and analysis on the key actions that are the most important to you. Less is more here. Define a small list of actions that are best suited to your destination offering(s) and type(s) of traveller.

Once you're reporting the hand-raising actions, you can move on to analyze behavior, locations, and trends: where they are coming from, what keywords are they using, where they are when they act, when are they acting? This data will help to shape your marketing activities, as you direct resources to tactics that drive intent to purchase.

Most web analytics tools have functionality that will allow you to geographically track visitors to your site to assess market penetration. As you drill down, you may find some surprises, and new opportunities may begin to emerge.

A Note on Forms

Brochure, guide, and product requests are advantageous for two reasons: they indicate a strong intent to travel and they provide you with a physical address. Apart from the obvious benefit of direct marketing, addresses can also help you to understand where your hand-raisers are coming from, which help immeasurably in marketing planning.

However, many of these requests involve filling out a form of some sort, where errors will inevitably occur. Your forms should be structured, easy to understand and have a thank you page that navigates to other relevant areas of your site. Improving forms is not tricky, but requires experimentation. It also helps to know the problems users are having when they're unsuccessful in completing a form, which some analytics tools can provide.

Travel Brochire Download Form
Structured, Easy to Understand Travel Information Requests Forms

Customize Your Reporting

Web analytics is a must-have tool for monitoring and reviewing your tourism marketing activities. Though the reporting tools are geared online, offline campaigns can also be monitored (assuming your call to action is your website) using tracking codes.

Whatever your analytics package, ensure your reporting is customized to your needs and objectives. Customized weekly or monthly reports can integrate online metrics with offline indicators for a fuller picture of your visitors' intent to travel.

Websites should be continuously refined and tested, so make sure you have the budget and resources to make improvements based on what you learn from your efforts. And take advantage of 'technographic' information (browser type, connection speed) to ensure that any new features launched are compatible with your audience.

A thorough analytics program aligned with your business needs is a must in today's highly competitive travel market. For help choosing, implementing, and customizing the web metrics solution that is right for your business, talk to the online travel marketing experts at Single Entry Point.

Kristina SmithKristina Smith is an Associate Writer with Single Entry Point Marketing. She brings 9 years of experience in online marketing, brand building, and copywriting, specializing in the advertising, publishing, and travel industries. She spends her free time blogging and channeling her inner chef in the kitchen. Contact Kristina via email at kristina.smith@singleentrypoint.com.