Does your website meet the new mobile standards?
Keep updated with what's happening in travel technology...
When we were asked by the Institute of Hospitality to write about a pressing issue within the hospitality sector, we knew that it had to tackle the (lack of) mobile readiness of hotel websites. Despite seeing huge growth in mobile browsing and booking throughout the UK and Ireland, there is a lack of preparedness on the part of hoteliers to provide the same user experience to their mobile and tablet visitors that they give to desktop users.
Below we have provided a teaser to help you get an understanding of the current state of mobile and how not having a mobile compatible site is hurting your pocket. If you would like to read more, the full article is available for download on the Institute of Hospitality website and contains lots of great, actionable advice that you can use to get your website up to speed and ready to welcome lots of new customers.
Does Your Website Meet the New Mobile Standards?
Recently Google announced a major change to its algorithm, moving to favour mobile friendly sites in search results. Ultimately, for hoteliers, it means that your wesbite will lose search rankings if it isn’t effectively optimised for mobile. Now is the time to make sure your hotel website raises its game in terms of its mobile friendliness. Without doubt, many of your customers may be finding you via search on mobile devices, but there are a host of other reasons your site should be mobile friendly.
Why should my site be mobile friendly?
Mobile internet usage surpassed desktop for the first time in 2015. This trend looks set to continue as smartphone penetration continues to rise, what with 72% of consumers in the UK owning a smartphone by May 2013 and over 50% of mobile consumers using their mobile device as their basic or only web access source also by that time. The majority of us are now constantly carrying tiny computers in our pockets, which we’re constantly using to search for things online.
Looking at averages across all Avvio hotel sites, mobile bookings continued to grow at a fast pace, with mobile bookings making up more than 52% of overall online bookings in 2014.
What’s more, smartphone conversion rate (the percent of site visits that become a purchase or qualified lead) is, without doubt, far superior when your website is mobile friendly. It’s time to check how your website is stepping up to the standard.
Prepare your website for ‘Mobilegeddon’
The continued shift towards mobile device usage has changed the fundamentals of internet browsing and best practices for website design. In April 2015, Google made updates to its search algorithm that negatively impacted the rankings of websites that were not deemed ‘mobile friendly’ (i.e. by having multi-device responsive design or its own dedicated mobile site). Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ move, as it’s been called, received a generally negative response from SMEs and, in a study by Koozai, 42% of UK businesses surveyed saw a change in Search Engine ranks.
Its stringency, however, relates to the fact that internet users are going increasingly mobile and are ruthless in their demands for a fluid, responsive, intuitive and streamlined browse and shopping experience. Mobile consumers are five times more likely to abandon a task if the site is not optimised. One thing is for sure, if your website isn’t mobile friendly, your business is likely to be suffering twofold – with poorer search rank positions and lower conversion rates.
What makes a site mobile friendly?
Quite simply, you can make that determination based on a clear and easy checklist:
- Your website layout and design must be optimised to best fit a variety of different small screen sizes (for smart phones and tablet devices, as well as desktops). This means that the site’s information architecture and navigation system should render differently so the user can easily find what they want and click where they want to go to without accidentally hitting an unintended button;
- It must be easy to find the call-to-action buttons: i.e. Book Now, Call Us, Sign up, etc. User engagement should be designed for touch screens with swiping, scrolling and tapping functionality in place;
- Imagery is key: images need to be present but compressed correctly to speed-up site loading. Mobile browsers are particularly intolerant of slow page loading times!
- Having a minimal number of shopping steps in place for site visitors to complete their booking transaction – keep it streamlined and free from distractions.
Ultimately, your mobile site should do all that your desktop version does – but via a design that makes everything very easy for customers who are on the move and viewing from smaller screen sizes.
Go mobile friendly
So the case is clear that having a mobile friendly website is vital for hoteliers today and there are some nifty tools available for you to run a health-check on your website’s level of mobile friendliness.
If unsure as to whether or not your website is optimised for mobile, Google offer a free mobile friendly test tool, which will tell whether or not your site is up to scratch. Also, you need to be aware of the design requirements of different screen resolutions, as one size won’t fit all. For example, the ‘book now’ button might be of adequate size on an iPhone 6, but may be far too small on a Samsung Galaxy Y or another phone with a smaller screen interface. To double check how your site renders (or displays) across a multiple of screen sizes, you can use Screenfly free-of-charge to view your site across all the most popular mobile screen resolutions, deciding how to make design updates so that it is optimised correctly across all potential customer touch points. You’d be surprised at just how much of a difference this can make.
While it’s natural to want to create the most visually appealing site possible, it’s important to be aware that your website’s standard of speed performance can also greatly affect the behaviour of your customers. In particular, uploading lots of high-res images to your site can add enormously to page loading times, leaving your site slow to navigate and frustrating for users – a big no-no in Google’s book. Customers want to see what you have to offer, but care less for high definition images in favour of adequately optimised images and fast page loading times.
Hubspot also offer free use of their online Website Grader, which will allow you to check your site’s page loading times quickly and easily. Similarly, Google offer PageSpeed Insights to grade how quickly your site loads and highlights any factors that need addressing.
While every website is different, here are a few best practices when optimising your mobile site:
· Never use pop-ups;
· Avoid using flash elements – many phones cannot handle this media type – use HTML5 instead;
· Include ‘tap-to-call’ numbers so people can easily telephone your hotel;
· Make the navigation and menus clear, with easy to click call-to-action buttons.
Despite having overtaken desktop in searches, mobile ad spend still lags behind computers. Even with its lower popularity, advertising is vital on mobile. Small screen sizes limit real estate above the fold (i.e. what is seen onsite without having to scroll) on search pages so use Google’s AdWords to get on top and use ad extensions to push mentions of your competitors down. This is a great opportunity to gain more direct bookings for less than the cost of using desktop pay-per-click (PPC).
The hotel marketing landscape is constantly evolving. Paths to market fall in and out of favour depending on consumer trends, expectations and preferences, and the technology advances that come to exist because of those. To stay ahead and ensure your online strategy is performing profitably it’s critical to keep abreast of the new channels, technologies and best practices.
To that end, we urge that you keep a close eye on how search engines regard mobile website performance to ensure you keep abreast of the potential penalties and lost opportunities around it. As the digital landscape and consumer behaviours evolve, it’s important to keep up or pay the consequence of being left behind.
If your website isn’t mobile ready yet, don’t despair, you’re not alone! Contact your web partner today and they’ll put a plan in place to optimise your site for mobile-effective performance.
Thank you for reading this excerpt. To download the full article, please visit the Institute of Hospitality website alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send you a PDF copy.
If you are looking to bring your website into the modern age, we offer a range of out of the box and bespoke websites that are all fully responsive. We also offer our flagship Convert 6.0 hotel booking engine and expert digital marketing services.
To start increasing your direct bookings and revitalising your hotel
Call Ken on +44 7932256551
Or email email@example.com
Alternatively you can fill out our Contact Form