Best practices for building and marketing your travel site

Michael Gabrian

by Michael Gabrian on 06/30/2017

Building a travel website is a lot of work. I say this because from the users; perspective, there is a lot expect a lot to be expected from them. Obviously they need to book rooms, they need to have access to seeing and leaving reviews, They want to know what's in the area, etc. Starting fresh, you're running up against companies like Tripadvisor and Expedia, so this is no easy feat. 

So what exactly does it take to build a successful travel site? Let's find out.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

- Ibn Battuta

The planning 

So when it comes to planning your travel site, there are a couple of points to go over. You want to understand who your personas are, what the most important features of the site are, and what your user journey will look like.

There are two huge age groups that are big on traveling; people that are retiring and traveling for leisure and millennials who are traveling for adventure. The same message won't work for both groups, so when planning a travel website, you'll have to figure out who you're targeting.

The best way to do so is to reflect on some of these ideas:

  • Why are you building the site in the first place?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish?
  • Do you have a specific niche? (tropical islands, specific country, specific attractions, etc.)
  • Do you currently have partnerships with other companies?

Think of it like this; if 78% of millennials prefer active, thrilling vacations, they are probably less interested in a leisurely trip to a tropical island. So depending on where your rentals are, what's in the area, and what the nightlife looks like, you'll be able to narrow down your focus a bit. 

What do your personas expect from the site? If you're targeting millennials, your site will need to be fast, seamless, and have a great mobile experience. They value social proof, so reviews are a must. They're also more likely to give you more personal information for a more detailed search. With all of this in mind, how would your site differ if geared towards groups with different values and needs?

As you can tell, the choices you make for design and features heavily depend on who will be visiting the site. Just do some thinking on who they are, what their goals are, and how you can help them achieve them.

To get a stronger idea of what a strategy should look like, check out this article.

The design

It's hard to define any concrete best practices when designing a travel website. There are a lot of cool ideas and practices like hero images on the main page with some inspirational text like "Journey with us..." or something. Some companies have a search bar on their home page and make it the emphasis, which is also pretty cool. I suppose it depends on what your goals are, what your niche is, your call to action, etc.

A popular trend in this industry is using content blocks as a navigation tool. So imagine landing on the hope page and seeing a masonry image collage with images representing different places to go, services, event, adventures, etc.

The most important thing to remember is the design should allow for a seamless, intuitive experience for the user. So would replacing the navigation bar up top be a good idea? No. But if you have ideas that will help the user find a better way around the site, by all means, try it out. Just be sure to continuously watch how users engage with the site and make smart updates accordingly.

I do have a couple of features you might want to include in your design:

  • A prominent search bar with advanced filters and predictive search
  • Larger, high quality images through out site (home, events, rooms, places, etc.)
  • Simple, intuitive calendars (optimize them for mobile booking)
  • Google map integration for an interactive way to see the area
  • Simple checkout/payment form

A common theme we see is simple. When I say simple, I don't necessarily mean minimalism. There's a lot of information and resources that go into a travel site, so unfortunately, minimalism might be harder to reach. Plus, you might be better off with extravagant images anyway, so minimalism might not even be the most optimal design practice to follow. 

The content

The "content" of your site could include a bunch of different things. Let's start with some of the obvious pieces; copy and images.

Your copy

The copy you use should talk directly to your personas. So are you speaking to thrill-seekers, retirees looking to relax, parents looking for family-friendly trips? You could try using smart content to change the text and images based on user behavior. If a visitor is looking for romantic getaways or couples trips, your probably wouldn't want to push family trip ideas on them. 

Your images

In a way, your travel site shows a couple e-commerce qualities. For one, you're trying to sell the visitor an experience, time in a location, rooms, etc. There are a couple of golden rules for images in this case.

  • Your images should be high quality
  • They should reflect the qualities of your product or service (luxurious, adventurous, bold, etc.)
  • They should give the visitor a realistic idea of what to expect

Because this type of site relies pretty heavily on images, the quality and focus are really important. You'll probably have a bunch of pictures in almost all areas of the site. If providing the pictures is your responsibility, it might be worth asking a professional photographer for some help.

User-generated content

When 53% of travelers won't book a hotel without a review, it becomes pretty clear that posting reviews and the option to leave reviews is pretty crucial. Most millennials actually trust them as much as recommendations from friends. So it's pretty important to monitor and respond to the reviews that do come through. It also shouldn't be hard to incorporate them into your design.

The marketing

Having a really great site with beautiful images, all of the expected features, and a great user experience is about half the battle. The next step is to market and promote the heck out of it.

So what are some marketing ideas for a travel website?

Social media is always a necessity for just about every marketing campaign, especially with travel. It's the best way to reach huge amounts of people in a short amount of time. Plus, you'll have all of these beautiful images you can share. 

In terms of social media marketing, depending on where most of your personas spend their time, I'd say to post at least 3 times across all of your active channels daily. You could consider boosting and promoting these posts. Your posts can include images, videos, deals, articles that your teams writes, anything really. You have a lot of room for creativity when it comes to your content creation. 

Some content ideas could be:

  • Video tours of your rooms, hotels, destinations, experiences, etc.
  • Travel checklists
  • Travel images
  • Articles on people's experiences at your destinations
  • Articles of things to do in specific areas
  • How-to guides of packing, etc.
  • Infographics on industry statistics

When it comes to content creation, again, there's so much room for creativity. You can even use some of this content to nurture future leads and ideally spark a repeat customers.

To conclude:

Building a travel website and making it successful takes a lot of work. Because you're competing with such huge names, there are a lot of features and functionalities you're expected to have. 

The best place to start is to think about your user journey. Not sure what kind of paths you should create? Click the button below for you free guide to journey driven design.

New Call-to-action