All Ye Who Enter, Should Stay on Site:
Keep Visitors on Site Regardless of Entry Page
At this point it’s expected that a DMO has some type of COVID alert page, and most have content (whether it’s an alert header, homepage hero content, or other sort of banner) pointing to this page. However since these pages were first launched, there has been a significant shift in DMO traffic where many visitors now enter the site for the first time through one of these travel alert pages.
We analyzed the website behavior of 40 destinations over the summer (June through August) and found that 78% had a COVID page in their 10 top most common entry pages. Even more significant, for 60% of destinations their COVID page was actually one of their top 3 entry pages.
Unfortunately, these pages perform much worse than most entry pages. Compared to the overall website performance, when visitors entered through the COVID alert page they had 18% lower pageviews, 15% lower session durations, and a 7% higher bounce rate. The dip in engagement is even more striking when looking specifically at the destinations with a COVID page in their top 3 entrance pages: session duration drops by 20% and bounce rates are 10% higher than average.
Like destinations themselves, the exact drop in engagement varied greatly. Generally, small, rural destinations had both the lowest entries through COVID pages as well as the smallest changes in engagement. States had both the most traffic through the COVID page as well as the lowest average page engagement.
Visitors entering the site through a COVID alert or advisory page bounced at an average rate of 59%, although for some destinations the bounce rate was as high as 79%. This is particularly worrisome when combined with high entry numbers – several destinations had over 20% of their total site traffic entering through the COVID page.
What contributes to the high bounces? Our analysis found that destinations with greater than a 70% bounce rate on their COVID alert page had at least 3 of the following factors:
- Long, text-heavy pages
- Only text-based links
- Heavy emphasis on text with no visual breaks
- The COVID alert still present on the page, despite linking to the same page
- Either no additional buttons or prompts to move further into the website, or these were buried at the very bottom of the page
Alternatively, COVID pages that had under a 40% bounce rate for entering visitors shared some of these factors:
- Clear breaks between text sections
- Blocks of copy collapsed in an accordion menu
- Buttons & clickable image blocks instead of solely text-based links
- Easy access to additional planning or article information (not necessarily tied to COVID) either through a side menu or an overlay campaign like a fly-in
Of course, even if an alert page has initial low engagement it can always be improved. After realizing the effect these entries were having on their overall site performance, a few destinations choose to either revamp the page or add a fly-in specifically designed to entice visitors further into the site. These approaches successfully increased pageviews per session by over 20%, visit duration by over 40%, and decreased bounce rates by 9%.
So far, in the fall DMOs are continuing to see high levels of visitors entering through their COVID alert page. If you want to increase your alert page engagement and help move these incoming visitors further into the site, consider these ideas:
- If you’re not already doing so, hide your COVID alert on this page or use personalization to change this content to instead promote additional resources or inspirational content.
- Add buttons to the page instead of only using text-based links.
- If your bounce rates are much higher than average, try using a fly-in targeted specifically to incoming visitors, with either a small time or trigger delay. This helps the fly-in “pop” and catch attention before the visitor bounces.
If you have questions on how to apply these learnings to your website or would like help getting started with your own alert page optimizations, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.