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By Joshua Belhumeur

Best Practices for a Destination Marketing Website

What constitutes a good destination marketing website today is significantly different than what was adequate 5 years ago. The web has evolved rapidly in that span. Broadband, social media and mobile devices have proliferated – growing quickly and simultaneously – and the expectations of users have evolved along with every advancement. If destination marketing organizations (DMOs) want to control the trip experience with their own messaging and utilities, they need to keep up.

We have compiled these recommendations for best practices based on our own experiences at BRINK and an audit of recent trends among award-winning and respected DMO websites.

The Essentials

  1. Responsive design — Anywhere from 30 to 60% of your users will be consuming your content on a mobile device or tablet. And the number of different devices only continues to grow. A website interface should have a fluidity that optimizes the viewing experience for each and every user.
  2. Multi-channel integration — The website only serves as a single touchpoint in an Internet where content exists – and is interacted with – in many forms and across many channels. The most effective sites work to unite those channels and drive a consistent experience across them all. This includes:
    • Effective lead capture and integrated content for email campaigns
    • Easy social sharing of in-page content
    • Gamification on social channels that reward users for participating and drive traffic to the site
    • “Shareable snippets” on the website that play well on social channels (e.g. infographics, image macros, short video clips, cinemagraphs, etc.)
    • Travel booking site integrations
    • Review site integrations
    • Blogging and other general content marketing that can exist across both owned channels and third party channels.
  3. High resolution media — With retina displays, faster connections and bigger screens, users are anticipating better, more immersive multimedia (photography and video).
  4. Native advertising — Given that the cost advertisers are willing to pay per impression for traditional banner ads is dropping due to universally abysmal click-through-rates, a more attractive approach to offering paid packages for hotels, restaurants and attractions is native advertising opportunities: guest blog posts, featured listings, sponsored listicles, etc.
  5. Clear paths to conversion — Users should not meet dead ends when browsing pages on a destination site. Instead, each page should chain to another, moving them further down the path to preferable actions: booking flights / rooms, signing up for mailing lists, social sharing, visiting advertisers’ pages, etc.
  6. Reduce clicks, use more narratives — Users have shown a preference for scrolls over clicks. The website should behave more like a story than a directory of content. Move users along by grouping content into narratives that can be logically read from top to bottom with an action item to conclude. For a destination website, some of these narratives can logically group around certain lifestyles, like: Couples, LBGT, Outdoors Enthusiast.
  7. Multi-language support — This feature helps ensure exposure on international search engines and accommodates a diverse audience. It helps to also have localized top level domains for each version of the site as well. Note: It is important to indicate to the users when translations are done by hand vs. through an automated translator.
  8. Strong, ongoing editorial — An effective SEO strategy requires the creation of a wide variety of content pieces targeted to niche (or long-tail) keywords and audiences. A DMO website gains far more exposure and traffic by having a search engine optimized editorial / blogging platform with frequent and diverse posts.

The Next Level

The future of best-in-class DMO websites are adaptive user experiences based on what point a user is in their decision making process, where they are geographically located and what their lifestyle attributes are.

  1. Personalized storytelling – Make your case with content that is programmatically arranged for the user based on likes from their Facebook profiles or through custom parameters they provide on the site. Provide targeted travel deals and messaging based on their point of origin.
  2. Useful trip planning – The itinerary generator has been a common element of DMO sites for nearly a decade now (we know because we built one of the early ones for Cool Capitals), but to make it truly adaptive to the user it should assimilate into the third party tools they already use. Integrations are the name of the game.
  3. Trip companion – The DMO website role doesn’t have to end when the trip starts. A mobile guide with location-triggered and personalized content can help users enjoy their trips more and provide good opportunities for revenue generating native advertisements that are useful for both business and consumer.

Adaptive experiences are becoming more sophisticated as the wealth of data available to us grows. The more we can understand who the user is the second they land on the site or app, the quicker we can tell a compelling story and earn the conversions we desire.

The destination marketing digital experience has the potential to really pioneer some of the most exciting web technologies. For example, Oculus Rift (virtual reality headsets) will be a reality among consumers over the next 5 years. Can you imagine lounging on sandy shores or wandering downtown streets or taking a hike through a forest from the comfort of your computer chair? What a way to sell a travel experience! DMOs should be investing in these opportunities now so they can be ahead of the game.

By Joshua Belhumeur