Travel website roadtest – search experience

We evaluated eight travel websites on user experience, looking at search engine visibility, ease of booking and site conversion rates



Travelocity


Search engine visibility  
A search on all three destinations using fairly generic terms, such as ‘Tenerife holidays’ and ‘holidays in Egypt’ did not show any results within the organic listings. The pay-per-click results on destination specific searches are not being utilised and Travelocity is relying on its brand and generic keywords to generate search engine traffic to its website.
Score: 5/20


User journey and experience   
The Travelocity home page features a prominent holiday search form and includes an option to conduct a flight + hotel combined search. The results were returned in around 28 seconds and included combined results. Flight details can be changed fairly easily and the hotel listing included a link to read more about the hotel, which displayed useful content and images.
Score: 18/20


How easy is it to book?   
The flight + hotel results on Travelocity offered recommended holiday packages with a separate hotel search form offered to those wishing to stay at a specific hotel. The customer service phone number is displayed prominently at the top of the page and when I called, ‘Alan Wicker’ responded to my call within a few seconds.
Score: 19/20


Price
A holiday to Tenerife flying from Gatwick on June 17 for 14 nights was offered at £261 per person. Using the same criteria, but flying to Egypt returned the cheapest price of £325 per person. A Majorca holiday using the same criteria offered the cheapest price of £254 per person.
Score: 15/20


Site conversion rating   
There is a good selection of marketing messages and offers throughout the site, with corresponding landing pages offering easy access to book seasonal deals. When leaving the site and returning later in the day, the search form had saved my search criteria, offering a quick route to previously viewed results. The site design is clean and user friendly, offering a good overall experience.
Score: 18/20


Overall score: 75/100



Expedia


Search engine visibility  
When conducting destination searches such as ‘holidays in Tenerife’, Expedia had little or no visibility in the search engine results pages. Expedia did appear in the sponsored links for more generic searches, such as ‘holidays’, and also appeared organically but low down in the results. Expedia relies on its brand term to generate search engine traffic.
Score: 6/20


User journey and experience   
The home page features a ‘create your trip’ search form with text boxes to type in your departure and arrival airports. If you make an error, a page comes up with a list of clickable airports. The results were returned quickly with filtering options. The results are well structured, and you can select extra hotel amenities if desired.
Score: 17/20


How easy is it to book?   
There was an extensive selection of flight + hotel results with the option to change your flight dates and times. It is possible to book both online and by phone and it only took half a minute for someone to answer my call. The online booking process was clear and easy, with a menu of optional extras that could be added if desired. The booking phone number, however, could be displayed more clearly throughout the site.
Score: 18/20


Price
A holiday to Tenerife flying from Gatwick on the June 17 for 14 nights was offered at £365 per person. Using the same criteria, but flying to Egypt came back with the cheapest price of £400 per person. A Majorca holiday using the same criteria offered the cheapest price of £253 per person.
Score: 14/20


Site conversion rating  
The search form did not save my data after leaving the site, but a number of clear calls to action and a selection of special offers will help boost conversions. In the holiday selection stage, there are a few too many links, which make the page look quite crowded. IATA and ATOL logos are present at the bottom of each page.
Score: 17/20


Overall score: 72/100



Ebookers


Search engine visibility   The Ebookers website is absent from the search engine results pages for all the destination-specific search terms, and does not appear in the sponsored links. The site does appear for more generic terms such as ‘holidays’ but is way down in the results.
Score: 3/20


User journey and experience   
The home page displays a flight + hotel search form with free form text boxes to type in airport and destinations. If a misspelling occurs, the airport list that appears is not clickable. The results were returned in 20 seconds. Unique scrolling functionality kept my filtered options and holiday details at the top of the page, however there were too many price variations.
Score: 12/20


How easy is it to book?   
Ebookers displays a good selection of holiday offers but the process and usability let it down. The calendar was difficult to use, the free form text boxes do not offer optional clickable destination names or airports and this slowed down the search process. The calendar is small and not cross-browser compatible. There were no results found for Majorca or Egypt holidays, although it offers both destinations. The itinerary page, however, offers a clear call to book but it was difficult to get there in the first place.
Score: 10/20


Price
Ebookers only returned results for holidays in Tenerife that gave a price per person of £504. No results were returned for either Majorca or Egypt.
Score: 5/20


Site conversion rating   
I found the site confusing at times and the holiday selection process was not as clear as some of Ebookers’ competitors. When I left the site and returned later, the search form had not saved my criteria. Good selection of offers on the home page featuring links to relevant pages with further offers and content rich information. The results were displayed well but the search functionality let everything else down.
Score: 13/20


Overall score: 43/100



Lastminute.com


Search engine visibility   
Lastminute.com achieves good organic search results and appears in the top 10 for searches on Tenerife and Egypt. The best ranking was on ‘holidays to Egypt’ where it ranked in the top position on Google. However, the sponsored listings are not showing any adverts for Lastminute.com based on the three destinations.
Score: 15/20


User journey and experience   
The familiar pink branded home page displays a ‘build your ideal package’ search form in its centre. It features a usable drop-down menu and results were returned in around eight seconds in a clear and well-laid out format with extra filtering options.
Score: 18/20


How easy is it to book?   
The booking process is very clear, with links at the bottom of each results page to proceed to the next step. The results pages included options to change my flight details and the rooming information was clearly laid out. There is a prominent phone number on every page of the booking process and the call centre answered the call within a matter of seconds.
Score: 17/20


Price
A holiday to Majorca flying from Gatwick on June 17 for 14 nights was offered at £253 per person. An Egypt holiday search came back with the cheapest price of £559 per person. A holiday in Tenerife using the same criteria offered the cheapest price of £244 per person.
Score: 16/20


Site conversion rating   
The Lastminute.com website had plenty of promotional offers and marketing messages for the huge amount of products available. The filtering options were extremely usable. The site is translated into multiple languages, offering products to the international market. There is an offset emissions option for those wishing to do their bit for the environment. The holiday search saved the search criteria when I left and came back to the site. However, reassurance factors like ATOL or an ABTA logo appear to be absent.
Score: 18/20


Overall score: 84/100



TravelRepublic


Search engine visibility   
Travel Republic is well covered within the search engines for the destination specific search terms – the site appeared in the top 10 for all three destinations. There is a good combination of natural listings and sponsored listings, and PPC listings linked directly to a relevant landing page with a pre-populated search.
Score: 18/20


User journey and experience   
The home page is clear, with a large holiday search form. A visitor can search for flights, hotels and apartments, car hire and flight + hotel. The date list is long but user friendly and a calendar is also included. The results returned a good selection of flights and hotels and an impressive slider to aid those holidaymakers on a budget. Results could be filtered in a number of ways.
Score: 18/20


How easy is it to book?   
Travel Republic included some excellent filter options with a slider to arrange results by price or class. The flight results were returned in around 14 seconds and offered a selection of charter and no-frills flights. The Tenerife hotel results were so slow that I gave up after three minutes but Majorca hotels were returned within 23 seconds.
Score: 16/20


Price
The cheapest Tenerife holiday available on Travel Republic was £214 per person; using the same criteria a holiday to Majorca was offered at £221 per person. Finally a holiday to Egypt on the same dates was offered at £240 per person.
Score: 19/20


Site conversion rating   
Overall, the Travel Republic booking process is simple and intuitive but there was an issue with the time taken for results to display and this could have an adverse effect on conversions. The site offers maps, photos, hotel details and saved searches within the holiday results. There are plenty of ancillary options offering good up sell opportunities. ABTA and ATOL logos are present.
Score: 18/20


Overall score: 89/100



OtBeach.com


Search engine visibility   
OTBeach.com was fairly visible within the search engine results pages. The site achieves natural listings on all three destinations and appears on page one in Google for holidays to Tenerife. The paid-for listings are also well covered with corresponding landing pages that include content about the destination, temperature charts and a pre-populated search.
Score: 18/20


User journey and experience   
When landing on a page via the search engines there are plenty of options with a clear pre-populated search form. The results search was usable but the flight results were slow, taking more than a minute. The results displayed flight operator logos and well-laid out flight itinerary details. Hotel results were returned in around 20 seconds. The site offers a clear and usable holiday basket approach to choosing results.
Score: 16/20


How easy is it to book?   
There was an issue with the delay in flight results but the hotel results were displayed quickly. There are clear calls to action and an option for an advisor to call me back if I needed any further information. Total holiday cost is displayed in every case with a breakdown of flights and hotel prices.
Score: 17/20


Price
The cheapest holiday to Majorca was offered at £136 per person. A search for a holiday in Egypt came back with the cheapest price of £254 per person. A Tenerife holiday was offered at £195 per person.
Score: 20/20


Site conversion rating   
The site offers extra content functionality during the booking process, which includes maps and extensive resort and hotel information to help the consumer choose a holiday. Unfortunately, the white on yellow background was unreadable and therefore parts of the site were lost. There are plenty of reassurance factors with ABTA and ATOL logos and a secure booking logo.
Score: 16/20


Overall score: 87/100



Freedom Direct


Search engine visibility   
The Freedom Direct website appears in the natural search results for Tenerife, but fairly low down. The site is also visible in the sponsored links with destination specific adverts being pointed to a well-structured landing page.
Score: 15/20


User journey and experience   
The home page offers a flight and accommodation-only search form, with drop-down menus that are clear and usable. Results were returned in more than one minute but offered a good selection of charter and low-cost flights. The hotel results were returned in 50 seconds. Results gave the room cost and the total holiday cost, keeping things clear. More hotel information was offered, linking to a separate page.
Score: 16/20


How easy is it to book?   
There were plenty of calls to action but the presentation of information was not defined. Breakdown of price included baggage costs and taxes. The phone number was prominent throughout the site. There was also a good selection of payment options and a special requests option.
Score: 14/20


Price
The cheapest holiday to Majorca was offered at £235 per person. A search for a holiday in Egypt came back with the cheapest price of £310 per person. A Tenerife holiday was offered at £223 per person.
Score: 18/20


Site conversion rating   
My search criteria was saved when I left the site and returned later, and there are clear ABTA logos present throughout. There were also featured destinations and holiday extras on the home page linking to external ancillary providers. Offers were linked to dedicated landing pages that would work well as landing pages for PPC. However, the length of time for results to display might let down conversion rates.
Score: 15/20


Overall score: 78/100



CheapHolidays.com


Search engine visibility   
This is another website that had little to no visibility in the search engines, which means it is relying on its brand awareness to drive consumers to the home page. The site does not appear in natural or paid-for search listings.
Score: 3/20


User journey and experience   
The home page features plenty of holiday offers and includes a prominent search form in the centre. However, the copy within the search form is small and white on pale blue background may cause issues with visitors. The flight results are returned quickly but the grey on pale yellow background was difficult to read. The site offers a good selection of flights but the call to action could be clearer. The hotel results were returned in 15 seconds with a recommended hotel approach to the results.
Score: 13/20


How easy is it to book?   
The book buttons are clear but the flight selection call to action wasn’t. The content rich results offered plenty of extra options and many ways of paying. The booking process was clear but the results were faint against the pale background. There is a phone number at the top of each page that offers a ‘call free anytime’ option, but although I let the phone ring on, nobody came to my aid.
Score: 8/20


Price
The cheapest holiday to Majorca was offered at £269 per person. A search for a holiday in Egypt came back with the cheapest price of £315 per person. A Tenerife holiday was offered at £249 per person.
Score: 17/20


Site conversion rating   
There are promotional offers throughout the site, which link to pre populated search forms. There is also a range of ancillary products with dedicated sections of the site for booking them. The search form didn’t save my criteria when I left and came back later. ABTA and ATOL logos present with a secure booking certificate.
Score: 14/20


Overall score: 55/100



Testing criteria:


Search engine visibility
I used three popular beach holiday destinations to conduct my search: ‘holidays in Tenerife’, ‘holidays in Majorca’ and ‘holidays in Egypt’. This allowed me to measure how visible each website is both in terms of organic search as well as within the PPC results.


User journey and experience
When conducting flight + hotel searches to Tenerife, Majorca and Egypt for June, I tested speed, the length of the booking journey, the confusion rate and the quantity of products on offer.


How easy is it to book?
Are there clear calls to action throughout? Is there an option to phone and speak to an advisor? How long does it take for someone to answer the phone? 


Price
Conversion rates will be affected if a website does not compete on price. A good user experience, design and booking journey will be wasted if your prices do not compete with your rivals.


Site conversion rating
If I leave the site does it save my holiday search details? Are there any error messages that appear? Is the site clear on what to do next? Are there any reassurance factors like ABTA or ATOL logos?



Overview:


Travel results within the search engines have always been competitive, but as more travel businesses compete for the generic holiday search terms, the long tail gets longer. The need for a well-designed, usable and competitively priced website is now ever-more important.


Overall, conversion rates in travel are in single figures, a website that achieves a 1% conversion and high bounce rates should conduct usability tests, analyse booking funnels and multi-variate test landing pages, in order to improve online bookings.


It is important to discover what the other 99% doing, how they are engaging with your website, how easy it is for them to book, how competitive your pricing is and making sure there are plenty of reassurance factors offered to your consumers.


User-generated content and Web 2.0 tools are powerful when it comes to increasing conversion rates, client retention is key and many lesser-known brands can raise awareness by offering community platforms and social networking tools to entice new users to keep visiting.


The above guidelines are useless if a website does not achieve competitive pricing. Conversion rates can be dramatically affected if competition analysis and price comparisons are not carried out regularly.



About the author:


Dan Caplin is head of marketing and search at Click with Technology. Dan specialises in search engine optimisation and works with website owners to improve their overall search engine marketing results. Dan and his team provide online marketing solutions for a range of travel companies, targeting web traffic through multiple channels and working with site owners to improve overall conversion rates.


Click with Technology is a progressive, cutting-edge provider of design, development and marketing solutions for a rapidly increasing portfolio of online travel companies.


The technology team have a wealth of experience in building websites; they are specialists in usability/customer experience, performance, standards/compatibility and the latest developments in Web 2.0 and social networking.


The CWT design team pride themselves on original, fresh thinking and create clean, user friendly and accessible websites.

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