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Draw-the-eye

Increase Bookings by Improving Your Website’s Search Engine

by Chris McCrow

So you’ve managed to attract visitors to your website; well done! Now you need to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.

Research shows that one of the best ways to improve conversion (and increase bookings) on your website is to improve your website’s search engine.

So, from our own user testing on the Roomspace project, here are our top three ways of getting users to take the next step and search your website.

1. Draw the Eye

Image of lots of grey boxes with distraction written on them and one box in green with call to action written on it

After spending weeks working on your website everything seems intuitive and obvious to you; of course users will go to the search bar first. But we found this wasn’t always the case!

Tone down unnecessary distractions. For example you could add subtle transparency or monotone effects to secondary elements (such as navigation or background images).

Another tip is to add a strong contrasting colour to draw focus. This could either be in the form of a ‘start here’ label or on the search button itself.

2. Make Assumptions

Clients usually want sophisticated ways of searching their site; however this is often at odds with keeping a simple user experience.

Keep-it-simple

After many failed attempts at trying to cram everything in we found it best to assume certain aspects of the users search initially. For example, assume there is just one traveller and let your user refine their search later if needs be.

The bottom line is the simpler the search engine, the higher success rate we had in moving users through the search process and in turn increasing bookings.

3. Don’t Use Dropdown Menus!

Open-up-your-search

As an accommodation operator you only have a few key locations you cover; therefore the obvious choice when designing a search form is a drop-down menu right? Big mistake!

In user testing we found people did not recognise names of towns, cities, counties, etc. used in our dropdowns; especially if they were from overseas. Instead they wanted to search by post/zip code, or even in another language.

It’s also impossible for users to tell via a dropdown if something is close to something else… Imagine travelling to Newbury on business, would you know instantly that an apartment in Basingstoke (just 11 miles away) is a perfectly good option for your stay?

The answer we found is to have an open text search which predicts what the user is looking for.

But won’t users be able to search in areas where you don’t have inventory?

If users are doing this then it’s probably a sign your initial marketing is off track. In any case, if you are getting a lot of searches in regions you don’t operate in then why not monetise these searches by adding in links directly to a third party operators.


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