facebook instant articles for travel content marketing?

What effect will Instant Articles and AMP have on travel content marketing?

Moves from the web’s two biggest giants to shake up mobile publishing have been causing waves among mainstream publishers.

Two features, Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) were launched last year, ostensibly to improve speed and overall experience for mobile users.

The initiatives are part of a broader shift in the tectonics of digital publishing, among a backdrop of debate around mobile speed and UX, ad blocking, the open web vs walled gardens, and other heady themes.

But while regular publishers grapple with the implications, could there be new opportunities opening up for content marketing too?

Instant Articles

Instant Articles is a way for publishers to post their content directly onto Facebook itself, allowing mobile users to load and read articles instantly without having the leave the Facebook app.

facebook instant articles for travel content marketing?

Instant Articles in the wild (Source

 

The company claims this makes the reading experience up to 10 times faster than the mobile web, making users more likely to engage with content and, of course, keep them inside Facebook’s walled garden.

Originally released for just a handful of major publishers, the platform is scheduled for general availability on April 12, meaning anyone, including travel businesses, will be able to publish their own Instant Articles.

The nuts and bolts are relatively straightforward. All content must already exist on your own site. From there it’s formatted into an HTML markup and submitted either manually or via an RSS feed.

Importantly, Facebook has accommodated publishers’ needs by allowing 3rd party ads, analytics and audience tracking.

As far as the mobile user is concerned nothing much has changed – you still share, comment and ‘Like’ links as normal, only if an article is available in the Instant format, that is the version that will be displayed to users on the mobile app.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

The clunkier sounding Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is Google’s response to Instant. It works in a similar way – publishers provide a stripped down, mobile-friendly version of existing content that can be loaded much faster by users on a mobile device:

google accelerated mobile pages for travel content marketing

AMP pages in the wild (Source

Unlike Instant you don’t need to physically submit your content to Google, the search engine will crawl your AMP links and cache the content so it can be displayed instantly to mobile users.

As with Facebook’s platform, publishers retain their ads and analytics.

So what does it all mean?

The implications of all this for regular publishers and news orgs are complex. While the mainstream has already jumped in at the deep end, others are justifiably skeptical over giving up even more control and ownership to two already gargantuan platforms.

But for travel companies it could be an easier decision. If Instant and AMP make it easier to get your content in front of mobile users, it must be a no-brainer?

Firstly, it’s worth noting that these features are currently aimed at top tier news organisations and other mainstream publishers. Most AMP pages you’ll see ‘in the wild’ are breaking news and current events from well known sources.

That said, there is already talk of potential applications beyond news publishers. If AMP pages start displaying for a wider range of search queries, such as blog posts, long tail keywords, or even e-commerce and product pages, it might make sense for brands to jump on board.

For sites using WordPress there are already plugins out there to generate AMP and Instant Article versions of your content. The popular Yoast WP plugin announced they’ll be supporting AMP markup in the near future.

Secondly, don’t expect either features to provide a direct boost to your mobile visibility. Both Facebook and Google have explicitly stated that having content available as an AMP page or Instant Article won’t bring preferable treatment in the rankings or Newsfeed.

On the other hand, the AMP carousel does tend to appear high in Google’s mobile results, and in theory a Facebook post that loads faster should get better engagement rates, both of which mean there could be an indirect benefit to adopting these new standards.

Finally, although brands are constantly being told to act like publishers, they’re fundamentally different in that eyeballs alone are not enough – we’re looking for an action and conversion too. This means thinking creatively about how to get readers clicking off from the AMP/Instant Article and onto your site.

The jury is still out on all the above. A sensible position for brand publishers might be to wait and see how it all shakes out over the coming months, but be prepared to adopt quickly if they turn out to be an obvious win.

The anatomy of an optimised tour itinerary page

The itinerary page is the most important part of a tour operator’s website. This is the end point for the entire customer journey to purchase; the moment of truth when customers either decide to “Enquiry Now” or bail out and head to a competitor’s site instead.

Considering the investments made just getting people to this final hurdle, the quality of the page is of paramount importance. What happens on this page will make or break the months and years of marketing efforts that brought someone to this point.

For this reason it’s essential that you pay extra attention to the design and testing of these pages to optimise their performance – a process known as conversion rate optimisation (CRO).

In our own CRO experiments for travel brands of all shapes and sizes we’ve identified a number of core elements that run across all high performing itinerary pages.

[Note that here we’re only looking at design elements and on-page features – there are numerous other factors to CRO such as load speed, mobile UX, the quality of your content and messaging, and of course the quality and competitiveness of the product offering itself.]

All other things being equal, every successful itinerary page we’ve seen includes the following page elements:

tour itinerary landing page conversion rate optimisation

Main contact info in the header: Putting your phone and email details up here is a no-brainer, especially for your mobile and tablet visitors. Using a click-to-call HTML tag allows a frictionless conversion point for mobile visitors.

A bold headline that hammers home the USP: This is the biggest and most emotionally-charged purchase decision that many consumers will make all year. It’s also takes just milliseconds for visitors to get the first impressions from your page. That makes grabbing (and keeping) their attention with a short and emotionally compelling introduction absolutely essential.

A descriptive, unambiguous subtitle: Immediately after the strong first impression it’s important to follow up with a crystal clear summary of what’s on offer: the tour destinations, experience, number of days and, critically, the price. For this first “headline” price, typically the lowest per-person rate is listed without any extras or inclusions, i.e. the lowest possible rate that can be accurately listed. The “From only…$” format works fine for this.

Main content blocks: These vary according to the nature of the tour/experience but generally consumers would expect to see a brief overview followed by more detailed information on the itinerary, accommodations, additional services, etc. Towards the end after the product and offering has been laid out, the detailed pricing is broken out, including variables for accommodation tiers, occupancy, etc.

[NB. It has become fashionable to organise these blocks into tabs to minimise page depth and scrolling and help keep important elements like contact forms higher up the page. The tradeoff is in requiring visitors to click to view content. Good design and copy are needed to reduce friction whatever layout is used.]

A sidebar sitting alongside the main product content is the main driver of conversions (and ultimately revenue) from the page. Given that Western languages scan from left to right it’s logical to place the main product information to the left and the intended action/outcome to the right.

The sidebar is focused around a booking or reservations form, which should always be cushioned by social proof features to reduce anxiety and instil confidence and reassurance in the brand: testimonials, a guarantee, a 5* Trip Advisor icon, reviews, etc.

Beneath the contact form should be a “soft conversion”, i.e. a pathway for visitors who aren’t ready to take the plunge. This could be navigating to similar tours, share/email the page to a friend, download trip notes/brochure, etc.

[NB. A fixed sidebar that scrolls down the page with the user is an effective way of keeping the main conversion point within view at all times. It’s also important to check your responsive CSS doesn’t simply hide the sidebar on narrower screens.]

At the end of the page is a second booking form, with more fields for necessary information. Below this form is space for accreditations, memberships, consumer protection logos and anything else that is likely to provide extra reassurance.

Perfecting an itinerary landing page is part science, part art. There’s no substitute for a compelling offer and powerful content, but that must be reinforced with a page design that is empirically tested and continually optimised. After all, you’re spending time and money getting people to these pages, it’s important to know they’re working.

How about you? Drop us a line if you’d like to check and optimise your own tour page performance.

Mobile travel market continues to grow, big variations by segment and devices

New research on the size and value of mobile travel bookings has thrown up some interesting insights, as reported today by Tnooz.

The research, conducted by advertising company Criteo, shows that both the share and value of mobile travel bookings have grow, with certain segments such as air travel and car rental growing at a significantly higher pace than others, such as accommodation and hotels.

Mobile travel bookings grew 20% in the first half of 2014, compared to just 2% for desktop bookings, with mobile devices now accounting for over 20% of hotel bookings.

mobile booking value vs desktop in travel industry

Average booking value by device and category, USD, H1 2014, worldwide

The research also illustrated stark variations in the average booking value by device, across different segments. For example the value of packages booked from desktops are still overwhelmingly larger than with mobile devices, although those booked from iPads were notably more valuable than those booked via Android platforms.

Unfortunately the research didn’t address the issue of mobile assisted bookings, i.e. the numbers of consumers that researched their purchase from a mobile device before making a booking from their desktop computer.

If assisted conversions were factored into the equation it’s likely that the value of mobile traffic would be even higher, particularly among segments that typically entail a large amount of pre-booking research and browsing, such as packages, cruises, apartments and hotels.

In those instances having a mobile-friendly site and presenting plenty of opportunities for mobile browsers to engage and follow up with your site can be critically important in securing the final booking.

See our whitepaper “The Mobile Revolution” for more insights on the mobile travel market.