As a chief technology officer, I spend a fair amount of my time analysing websites, and I often encounter what I’ve termed “necessity websites.” These are websites created by business owners who know they need a place to post charter listings but haven’t done much to actually make the site helpful to potential customers. These businesses often wonder why they’re not seeing more traffic or bookings.
The good news is many of these necessity websites can be improved fairly easily. In my experience, making a few changes can help you attract new customers and encourage existing guests to rebook.
Here are my seven tips to improve your charter website and increase your online bookings.
1. Start with Basics
The purpose of your website is ultimately to advertise boat listings and promote your business to customers, so no matter what else you add, make sure you have the basics:
- Provide contact information
- Post your operating hours and logistics (like your country’s dial code)
- Include a map of your bases and offer directions
Make sure all the information on your website is accurate. Remember, it’s better to have a small amount of accurate content than a plethora of invalid information.
2. Add Content
The easiest way to improve a boat listing site is to create unique, relevant content. Many operators spend a fortune on site design, then don’t update or maintain their site for years afterward. This is a critical mistake: People visit a website for its content, not its design.
Timely and relevant content also helps people find your website—think of it as a type of charter marketing. Search rankings, determined by Google and the like, are informed by the content on your site.
What kind of content are we talking about? Things like frequently asked questions (FAQ) or articles about the types of boats you offer. Think about the content that you look for when you’re using a company’s website and come up with a plan for what you think your customers would want to read. Then, aim to write at least one article per month. (If you’d like more insight, I put together some tips on creating content for your website.) [Link to second blogpost, content 00011]
3. Include Details
We live in a world of instant gratification. People want to be able to book their dream vacation from their couch without asking for additional information. For each boat in your fleet, sell that dream vacation: Show real pictures, describe the different areas of the boat, discuss what equipment is included, and get them excited about potential destinations.
This is where you can differentiate your fleet from other operators by talking about what makes your Hanse 45 unique. If you spent a fortune on new chart plotters and a refurbished interior, your website is the place to shout about it.
This information not only encourages customers to book, it can also help your boat appear in searches. If a guest uses filters to search for a boat with specific equipment or criteria, having this information clearly tagged can help customers find you.
4. Add Reviews
Research shows people trust reviews—90 percent of people trust reviews as much as they would a recommendation from a friend. Featuring reviews not only encourages people to book, it shows you care about your guests’ experience.
Generally, you can set up your website to automatically feature third party reviews (like Google Reviews or TripAdvisor). You can also take control of your own image by asking guests for feedback on checkout and creating your own testimonials page.
5. Get Online Booking
At the end of the day, the main reason you have a website is to sell bookings. So, you need to have a clear and easy way for customers to rent a boat. For many operators, the booking process involves sending an email inquiry. However, switching from email inquiries to online booking can improve your success rate immensely.
Just how important is online booking? Well, there’s a reason we prioritised the creation of good booking technology at Enaviga. It’s simply the easiest way for charter operators to improve their direct sales.
Customers want to explore what options are available during different time periods, evaluate pricing, and book instantly (and securely). Remember, if customers can’t easily search or book with you, they’ll look elsewhere.
6. Improve Performance
Customers are incredibly impatient: One study shows 40 percent of shoppers abandoned a website when it took more than three seconds to load.
A fast load time may also be one of the easiest ways to improve your search engine ranking. Less than 20 percent of operator websites score higher than 80 percent when tested against Google’s performance metrics.
The two quickest ways to improve website performance are to remove unused plugins and ensure your site performs on mobile.
7. Use Analytics
It’s important that companies understand how customers are using their websites. Knowing what content your users are enjoying (and which pages they click out of immediately) can help you improve your site design.
You don’t need to track every single action on your website, but you should establish a few baseline best practices. Google webmaster tools and Google analytics are both free to use and can highlight any problems with your website quickly.
These insights into customer behaviour can help you make smart business decisions offline, too.
Remember, your website is an extension of your business. These steps won’t just improve your site for customers, they will help transform your website into a tool for growing your business.