Last month we looked at whether museums should charge for admission, and found by and large that while a small drop in visitor numbers can be expected when moving from free admission to paid, increasing charges surprisingly tended to have little effect on attendance.
But what if we’re looking not just to boost spend per visitor, but overall visitor numbers? The tourism sector is fraught with competition and the methods used to stand out have evolved over the years. In this guide, I’ll be giving you the rundown of the latest trends in being found online.
#1 Build and maintain an online identity
While a website will always be the richest and most informative source of information for your visitors, it’s unlikely to be the first they hear of you. Chances are, people will discover you through their friends experiences, and when they do, it’s important to have an active presence on whatever platform that may be.
Facebook and Twitter are still the largest and most active social networks, and while pushing original contentcan often have very limited visibility, a consistent approach which drives engagement can be a powerful force for growth. Bodelwyddan Castle
Ideally for these networks, you should be looking to maintain an active presence, engaging with visitors as they ‘check-in’ at the venue and use local hashtags to push any special offers or new features.
While Instagram has continued to rise past Pinterst since being bought out by Facebook in 2012, both are great tools to distribute some of the more scenic and unusual details of your venue. Bressingham’s Steam and Gardens Instagram profile is a great example of how varied imagery can set the scene of the experiences on offer, without saying a word.
#2 Demonstrate credibility and great service with testimonials
Being found online means utilising every tool at your disposal to create a consistent public profile for audiences of every kind. While a social media presence can target your visitors’ networks, how do you reach those who have never heard of you?
Search for any kind of attraction in any city in any country, and you’re likely to see Trip Advisor as one of the top results with their recommendations. Why? Because they’re a trusted authority who see millions of visits per year for their crowdsourced assessments of visitor attractions, restaurants and travel destinations.
Opening your venue and service up to public critique can be a decisive turning point in terms of success. Positive reviews and a high user rating can be an excellent indicator to local tourists; while on the other hand, a damning critique could potentially deter visitors who would have otherwise been happy to make the trip and find out.
While this may seem a risky move, the evolving trend of reading reviews before buying or visiting anywhere is not one to be ignored. Not only are your competitors benefiting from the exposure, but being unable to find any public reviews can often arouse suspicion in itself.
#3 Make sure your website is optimised
It’s estimated that around 85% of all searches are now done by mobile, which is the reason why last month, Google updated its search algorithms to ‘mobile first’. Today’s search engines can tell when you website was last updated, and will often penalise those who do not offer a user friendly experience.
Some common mistakes are:-
- Site resolution does not scale to the device (do users have to scroll right and left to navigate your site?)
- Page takes too long to load (do you have high resolution images or web-applications which cause pages to take longer than three seconds to load?)
- Do visitors have to pinch and zoom to read text on your site?
Aside from mobile optimisation, there are many other factors that determine the quality of a web-page for the purpose of search rankings. A few questions to ask yourself might be:-
- How relevant is my content to the people I want to attract?
- Could my website potentially raise any ‘spam’ flags? (high advert to content ratio, excessive linking, duplicated content, excessive keyword concentration)
There are many numerous guides to read on SEO (search engine optimisation) which range from white-hat best practice, to black-hat algorithm exploitations. As a rule of thumb, try to make your website engaging, original, relevant and user friendly. Ultimately, this is the type of content that Google wants to reward with high search rankings.
#5 Build a network of backlinks
In SEO, a backlink is exactly what it sounds like. A backlink means another website has seen fit to link to your website as an affiliate, information source, or subject of their own content.
The most immediate benefit of having a strong network of backlinks is that it can be a source of direct traffic. For visitor attractions, some key places to be listed might be local travel reviews or ‘things to do’ directories. By speaking to journalists, travel bloggers and local businesses, you may be able to create a public listing that reaches a much more specific audience than you could achieve through social media.
The second benefit is a gradual one. The more links you have from trusted, relevant sources, the more trust and authority your own webpage is perceived to have, and the higher you will tend to position for your relevant search terms.
While Google’s search algorithms are a tightly guarded secret, Moz have some great tools to assess how websites are likely to perform in search results. For this search of “Castles in Yorkshire”, our top 7 hits are all from travel sites including Trip Advisor; #8 is Wikipedia, which is a highly trusted source (with 97 Domain Authority or DA); and number 9, the first singular attraction listing, is Skipton Castle.
While Skipton Castle is nowhere near as authoritative a source as English Heritage, it has over 2000 backlinks referring to it’s website. Such links include Travel reviews from Foursquare (where it makes the list as the 69th wonder of the world), and listings with local hotels under things to do. These connections signal to Google that this is a trustworthy destination regarded by authorities in the sector.
In summary, being found online is about standing out against your competitors. To do it, you’ll need to look far afield for networking opportunities, while delivering a consistent social message and excellent customer service.
As technologies develop and both search engines and tourists are becoming smarter in their approaches. The only way to ultimately achieve market leading visibility, is to consistently and publicly deliver a market leading experience.
Have we missed anything? Comment below!