Guest Post: The three metrics travel agents should monitor to ensure a high performing website

Guest Post: The three metrics travel agents should monitor to ensure a high performing website

James Tyler, head of technology at next-generation website monitoring company RapidSpike, explores some of the measurements that the travel industry should never forget if they want to improve the customer experience, make sustainability savings, and more

When it comes to analysing the online metrics that matter, many travel brands might first head to the open and click through rates from a weekly email newsletter. 

Or it could be a live marketing campaign which has been designed to drum up engagement in their latest holiday offer.

Social media interactions will also likely be high up on the evaluation priority list too – with organisations delving deeper into their latest post’s likes, comments and shares so they can better understand the content that’s working with their audience and improve on what’s not quite hitting the mark.

But what are the website measurements that travel brands, and their web teams, should be aware of? And how important are they when it comes to engaging with holidaymakers and nurturing customer loyalty?

In answer to the second question in particular, they’re vital. After all, much of the communication that’s sent out is likely to have a call to action that drives traffic to their website’s holiday bookings page or a blog to find out more information about a specific summer offer.

A great place to start for any travel brand is to be aware of the impact of Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV). If organisations aren’t aware of CWV already, by analysing these online scores – and acting upon them positively – they’ll be in a greater position over competitors because their website will be far healthier and high performing.

That’s because CWV enables teams to measure the user experience of a web page – it covers everything from loading time and interactivity to visual stability. And for website owners, they must ‘pass’ each of the signals if they’re to ensure they’re offering a strong customer journey online.

When consumers can form an opinion about an ecommerce organisation as quickly as 0.05 seconds after a webpage loads, it’s important that travel brands don’t ignore how much insight they can glean. 

Here are three specific website metrics that can transform an organisation’s customer experience using CWV.

  1. Measure Largest Contentful Paint

Look at any holiday booking site and the first thing anyone will see are several images or video snippets of families and couples enjoying time on sought-after sunny beaches or jumping on a snowboard in colder climates.

However, when these visuals are the largest content on the page, that’s indicative of a bigger problem because visitors will experience slower page loads. And when conversions drop by 7% for every 1 second delay, time is of the essence.

With CWV, web teams can measure Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) to analyse loading performance. A ‘good’ score is around 2.5 seconds from when the page first starts loading. If it takes longer, visitors will most likely leave and move onto a competitor’s site that’s more user-friendly.

The common causes of a poor LCP impacting the online experience include:

  • Lack of pre-loading
  • Slow server response and resource load times
  • Client-side rendering of imagery.

Travel websites often have difficulties with LCP because without a striking image or video – which helps customers to picture themselves sunbathing on a beach or dining out in front of a stunning backdrop – is that as enticing as a more straight-forward journey to conversion? 

The good news, visuals can still be used effectively.

Explore how images and other large files are affecting load time, use a WebPageTest platform to review each element of the website – from CWV scores to speed and performance – and make relevant tweaks that’ll enhance the customer experience.

And don’t forget to check all third parties as they might be the ones causing specific delays – such as a lengthy postcode checker process or the time taken to search for relevant flight details.

  1. Delve into First Input Delay metrics

Measuring interactivity, First Input Delays (FIDs) looks at the time from when a user first engages with a page to the moment the browser responds. This typically happens while visitors are clicking on products or different pages.

To be in the ‘good’ category of CWV, pages should have FID scores that are less than 100 milliseconds. To do so, a travel brand’s web team should:

  • Optimise pages for interactions – from making it mobile-friendly to implementing meta data to improve SEO rankings
  • Use a web worker – designed to allow organisations to do big jobs without freezing the page
  • Reduce JavaScript execution time, for example, by removing unused code.

From a commercial point of view, when enhancements are made, even a 0.1% improvement can represent millions of extra revenue for brands.

  1. Monitor the Cumulative Layout Shift

Measuring how much a webpage unexpectedly shifts during its lifespan, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) can help teams to ensure that graphics and other visual elements – such as banner ads – remain in the right place and don’t produce jarring movements on a page.

CLS is noticeable on many travel websites with heavy imagery and ads which shift when loading.

To fix CLS issues, include width and height size attributes on images and visual content – especially adverts. Never use this type of content without dimensions. And organisations should be careful when downloading and rendering web fonts as these can cause unexpected movement.

Enhancing a brand’s CWV score

Finally, one of Google’s main goals is to drive improvements to the online user experience, so it makes sense that there’s a tool giving developers and website owners the information to improve their CWV metrics.

Called Google Lighthouse, the Chrome solution runs hundreds of mini audits against numerous data points and events collected during a webpage load. 

The audits are categorised into performance, accessibility, SEO, best practices and progressive web app. 

Although running these tests can be troublesome at times – especially if an internet connection is poor, for example – a website testing specialist should be able to swiftly carry out the checks and offer website health advice.

Overall, when the three metrics covered above are consistently made, a travel brand and their web team are in a far stronger position to swiftly rectify any issues. 

Improvements that are conducted at pace, or even before they happen, will greatly enhance the overall customer experience. 

Plus, these minor changes can provide huge sustainability savings because they’re ensuring their website is high performing, fast, reliable and secure – all of which won’t drain vital energy resources in the process.