Menu

Tips & Trends

Tour and Activity Businesses: Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

The New Year is officially in full swing, meaning there’s no better time to put your 2017 goals into action. To help you decide exactly what those goals should be, we asked a few people from our team to weigh in on how business owners can ensure this year is one of their strongest years yet. Here’s what they came up with.

Get your site the green HTTPS lock.

green lock Especially on websites where a transaction is being made, customers are learning to look for the green HTTPS lock at the top of their browser. This lock is enabled by a form of security technology called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). While the FareHarbor booking process is 100% secure without the addition of SSL to your site, it acts as a visual indicator that your business is a trusted online merchant.

On top of building trust, adding SSL to your site can help boost your search engine optimization efforts. Much like your customers, Google has learned to trust sites that have added SSL and tends to rank them more highly.

Is your site missing the green lock? Adding SSL to your website is a simple process that can be easily be done with the help of your web developer or through your hosting management. If you are a FareHarbor client, you can read up on website security and adding SSL here.

Collect more reviews.

review express

Research shows that 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 90% say their buying decisions are influenced by what they read. By these numbers, nearly your entire online customer base depends on reviews of your business to help them decide to book.

Ready for the best part? Review sites are free for your business and the customer. That’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool that can increase site traffic and sales with nothing more than a little elbow grease. While offering an epic tour and remarkable customer service is always the best way to encourage reviews, there’s also a few tricks to the trade.

Here at FareHarbor, our favorite way to collect reviews is by connecting to TripAdvisor Automated Review Express. Once you’ve connected your business to the program, your customers will receive an email at the conclusion of their activity that comes directly from TripAdvisor. The automated email will encourage customers to leave a review about their experience – and it’s quite good at getting results.

As a FareHarbor client, adding Automated Review Express couldn’t be easier. You can simply email us at support@fareharbor.com, and we’ll take care of the process for you. Otherwise, you can sign your business up for the program via TripAdvisor.


If you choose not to use this service, we still suggest sending a follow-up email that encourages customers to review their recent experience. This can be done manually, through an email automation service, or through your FareHarbor Dashboard.

Get organized.

custom calendars fareharbor

Every interaction with your customer should be considered a valuable touchpoint on their end-to-end journey. So while checking-in guests or fielding questions about meeting locations may seem like a routine process to you, it’s much more than that to the customer.

In fact, 84% of customers report getting frustrated when their guide or agent doesn’t have the necessary information. And 13% of those frustrated guests claim to tell 15 or more people when they’re unhappy, while 72% will tell 6 or more people when the experience was positive.

So the question is, how to get organized? For FareHarbor clients, we suggest setting up custom calendars and manifests to ensure that the information you need is quickly and easily accessible.

With a custom calendar, you can save a set of filters and display options to create a Bookings view personalized for you. This allows you to drill down by activity, get a quick view of all tours with available seats, or see tours that a certain staff member is assigned to. Spend less time searching through bookings and more time focusing on your customers.

Custom manifests work in a similar way, allowing you to add columns, filter information, and summarize data to create a daily snapshot of your activities. With a custom manifest, you can quickly see which guests have not been checked-in or who still have a balance due, check email statuses, create a summary of custom field answers, and much more.


Use one or both tools to ensure that all the details that matter are just one click away.

Bottom line

All of these tips are designed to improve a different piece of the customer journey. Whether it’s the first impression or the last, they all present an opportunity to make the experience great. Put them into effect, and watch customer satisfaction and revenue rise.


The Key To Room Escape Success? Know When The Experience Starts.

Every room escape company knows that great products equal great games. They design, build, test, iterate, and maintain their rooms, because that’s where the money comes from. Right?

It’s true: room escape companies live and die based on the quality of their games. However, far too many companies forget that in order to play that brilliant game, players first need to find the company, purchase a ticket, and then get to the facility.

To make sure you don’t cause friction in these pre-game and pre-purchase steps, focus on creating an easy, positive experience for the customer long before they step through your door.

Remember that the customer experience begins as soon as their interest is sparked. A poor booking experience or a weak website can either sour a player’s experience before the game begins or dissuade a player from even booking in the first place.

Sound all too familiar? Here’s a few easy tips to make sure your players are already loving your business before you say ‘Go.’

Website Must-Haves

Your company’s website is the primary customer touchpoint before the game begins. It should inform and comfort potential players and always encourage them to purchase tickets.

Your physical address

This should go without saying, but every single room escape company website needs to have their physical address in a large, readable font on their homepage and contact page. If a player can’t find your facility, that’s the first red flag.

Game details

There’s a certain amount of intrigue that comes with hiding details from players before the game begins, but it’s more important to effectively manage expectations.

Is your game scary, sexual (there are a few of them!), or too challenging for players with mobility, hearing, or vision impairments? Make it clear who the game both is and is not for. Define your audience early to help people self-select into the right game.

Tips, comfort, and encouragement

Those of us who spend a lot of time around room escapes aren’t weirded out by the concept of paying strangers to lock us up in a giant puzzle. We’re a bit desensitized to the fact that the basic description of an escape room sounds like what Batman villains create to stop the Caped Crusader.

Understand that people might be afraid of the concept behind your business. Some don’t like the idea of being locked up; others are worried about claustrophobia; still others might be nervous they won’t be smart enough to contribute.

Your website provides a great opportunity to kill some myths about your game. Use it to:

  • Explain how your emergency releases and exits work.
  • Give players a sense of how open your game is.
  • Provide tips and help your players realize that communication and teamwork are far more valuable than math, logic, and booksmarts. (For some ideas, check out Room Escape Artist’s Player Tips.)

“Buy now” buttons

Make purchasing tickets easy and clear. Nothing is more frustrating than having players that want to give you their money, but are too confused by your website to figure out how to pay you.

Every single page on your website should have a “Buy Now” button on it that links directly to the page where players make purchasing decisions.

The Who, What, Where & When

Different customers will always prefer different communication channels. Make sure you’re available for open and easy communication, no matter what their preference. At minimum, you should be easily contacted via email, phone, webpage submission, Facebook, Twitter.

You should check and respond to each of these daily, if not more regularly. After all, you might only have one shot to help your customers with their purchase decision before they turn to another room escape or an entirely different activity.

Map & review sites

Although it might feel like there’s too many to count, it’s important that your business is properly listed on all – yes, all – of the big mapping and review sites. This includes:

  • Google Maps
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing Maps
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor

You should also send your company’s information to the Escape Room Submitter, which will get your company listed on a number of different room escape maps and lists.

Once you’re listed on these sites, verify that the pins are in the correct place. The first puzzle of your game should not be finding your facility.

Create enthusiasts

As teams of players come and go from your facility, it’s easy to forget how much effort it takes to get a group of adults in the same place, at the same time. Do your part to make it as easy as possible for your players to find, book and arrive at your game.

Once they’re there, all the hard work you’ve put into creating an awesome room escape experience will speak for itself. Between a seamless booking experience and exciting room escape, you’ll create a group of passionate repeat players that’ll support long term success.

Make it easy to love booking with your company; then focus on the fun part – the games – and watch your business grow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This post was written by our friends over at Room Escape Artist, experts in all things room escape, including reviews, products, design and players tips. Visit their site, www.roomescapeartist.com, for helpful posts, recommendations and industry news.

You can also find them on Twitter, @RoomEscapeArt, or Facebook. Give them a follow!

3 Simple Ways To Use FareHarbor To Communicate With Customers

Travelers today are used to instant gratification – they like the power to book from anywhere, at anytime – and they’ve come to expect the same when it comes to customer service. When a problem or question arises, they want proactive help and instant answers.

We designed the FareHarbor system to help you seamlessly communicate with customers, delivering answers to potential problems before they even arise. Here are the three easy ways you can use FareHarbor to take both your customer service and customer communication to a whole new level.

Send Text Reminders to Groups & Individuals

Take the stress out of last minute changes, shifting weather conditions or day-of reminders by sending text messages to individual customers or entire availabilities, directly from your dashboard.

Using your daily manifest, you can contact every customer on any one availability with just a few simple clicks. Your manifest includes a list of customers broken down by day, by tour and even by guide. Use it to shoot off a reminder to that one late arriver, or let the whole group know you’re excited for their tour.

This feature is especially helpful when sending important information – like updates on weather or meeting location – since the messages go directly to the customers cell phone.

Send Automated Confirmation Emails

Using email addresses collected from the checkout flow, the system can automatically send confirmation emails after a customer completes their booking.

If you offer multiple activities, you can design each individual email flow to have its own content and send timing. This means you can easily change the meeting time or location to match the tour, or add relevant information like a reminder to wear comfortable shoes or bring their own snorkel gear.

Send Follow-Up Emails With Automated Review Express

Meet your new favorite time saver. Our partnership with TripAdvisor enables FareHarbor users to automate their follow-up emails through a service called Automated Review Express.

Amp up your standard follow-up ‘Thank You’ with a fully customized, automated email sent directly from TripAdivsor. The service connects to your FareHarbor dashboard to access your daily manifest and delivers follow-up emails after each tours’ completion. Your email template can be endlessly customized with your copy, your branding and your logo.

In addition to whatever content you add to the body of the message, the email will encourage the customer to leave a TripAdvisor review on their recent experience.

On average, businesses using the service observe a 33% increase in reviews on TripAdvisor (data was for hotels). Meaning, you can collect more reviews, and polish up your customer service all at once.

15 Essential SEO Tips For Tourism Businesses

Tour and activity business owners, operators and marketers want to know more about a tiny little word that’s thrown around often: SEO.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of setting up your website to gain better visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The goal is to earn your website one of the top spots on Google and other popular search engines.

Done correctly, SEO can significantly increase your web traffic. But without fully understanding the process, it’s likely to produce little more than a headache. That’s why we’re here to give you the skinny on this packed word.

Main Takeaways:

  • Focus on high quality content – that’s the way to win.
  • Earn high quality links from authoritative sites linking to your company’s website.
  • Build a better website and book form experience. You want user time on site, book form conversions and organic search traffic to climb, and bounce rate to fall.

SEO Tips:

1. Submit your site to Google Search Console

A submission of your website through Google Search Console isn’t a necessary step to be seen in Google search, but a brand new site or a site with big changes can submit its URL directly to help the Googlebot quickly add your website to Google’s index.

2. Prove you’re secure with a https site

Having a secure https site, rather than an http site, is important for SEO. It’s a lightweight signal for now, but Google is only going to put more emphasis on the importance of having a secure website in the future.

Work with your website developer and your website hosting platform to make this happen.

3. Measure success with Google Analytics

SEO isn’t all about ranking. A better way to measure SEO success is to look at your Google Analytics account and see if organic traffic from search is increasing, and making you money. (PS – here’s how to automatically track sales sources and conversion metrics in Google Analytics from online bookings with FareHarbor.)

4. Optimize meta descriptions and titles

Meta descriptions and titles don’t have an impact on search ranking, but they do affect your site indirectly. Use them to entice a searcher to click through to your page’s results instead of elsewhere. And, guess what: click through rate is Google’s #1 ranking factor in 2015.

5. Value intent over exact matches

The days of filling your website with exact match keywords are long gone. Instead of matching keywords typed into the search bar, Google now matches the searcher’s intent with the general intent of your page.

Google looks for synonyms related to your target keywords. By using synonyms and related terms, it matches your end goal to the searcher’s end goal. If it finds your page to have relevant and quality content, Google will send the searcher to you.

6. Write clear, succinct headlines

Write a stellar headline – somewhere between 4-9 words – to inform people, not search engines. Present your most important concepts upfront and close to the top of the page. Remember, you’re optimizing your page for users first and foremost, which means that you want to tell them ASAP on what your page is about through a clear headline.

7. Stay away from keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of filling a webpage with as many keywords and meta tags as possible. While this technique worked in the early stages of SEO, it’s now a prohibited practice and will negatively affect your SEO.

8. Stick to the basics on your homepage

Your homepage doesn’t need a lot of content, but it does need some. Your homepage content should be lengthy enough to clarify who you are, what you do, where you’re located, your value proposition, and what visitors should do next (book a tour!).

Visitors should leave satisfied, not overwhelmed or underwhelmed — and definitely not confused.

9. Focus on the quality of pages, not quantity

You don’t need a whole bunch of web pages. That’s not necessarily better. Focus on the quality of pages, not quantity of pages.

10. Think critically about user experience

Good user experience is a requirement. Google uses website engagement as a part of their ranking algorithm. Use your Google Analytics to ensure your site has a fast page load time and an average of at least 2.5 page views per visit.

11. Utilize alt text for all your site’s images

Optimize your images using alt text and descriptive image file names to boost your page relevance.

12. Make sure it’s mobile-ready

This one’s a no-brainer. You must have a mobile optimized site. Websites that aren’t mobile optimized saw an average of 5% decline in organic traffic in 2015. Work with a website developer to make sure your site is mobile-ready.

Off Site SEO Tips:

13. Create a solid Google My Business account

Local SEO is a new player in the game. Verify and optimize a Google My Business Account with a brand and location page. Looking forward, Google will continue to take steps to show the best local content in search results.

14. Network with influencers in your industry

Backlinks are important. Link building with quality sites is still one of the top 5 most important ranking factors. Never pay for links. Connect with people in your area or in your space, organically requesting they add a link to their site about you on their partner page or in a blog post.

15. Keep your backlinks clean

Google knows if you have suspicious sites linking to you. Get rid of them, or you will see a drop in rankings. Monitor your backlinks in Google Search Console, then disavow any suspicious links pointing to your site.

SEO affects all corners of your marketing strategy, from website content and technical site makeup, to user experience and influencer marketing. But in the end, it’s about the overall experience for a searcher, and that experience starts the moment they enter a search query.

The better their experience with you – from your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) listing and the quality of your content, to the user experience of your site and book form — the better your organic search traffic will be.


Many of these tips were inspired by a great article on SEO myths demystified for 2016.

Understanding Your AdWords Quality Score

What is a Quality Score?

Your AdWords Quality Score is a 1 – 10 number given to each keyword in your ad campaign. It’s Google’s way of telling you how well it expects your ad to perform, and how likely it is to display your ad.

Each keyword’s quality score is calculated by estimating the expected clickthrough rate, ad relevancy and landing page relevancy. The more likely a searcher is to find the information they’re looking for by clicking on your ad, the higher your score will be.

Remember: Google is looking out for their customers, and only want to show the best, most helpful ads they can.

Where can I find it?

You can find your Quality Score by heading to the ‘Keywords’ tab on your AdWords dashboard. To get there, first go to the ‘Campaign’ tab, then click on ‘Keywords.’ Locate the ‘Status’ column, and hover above or click on the white speech bubble next to each keyword.

It’ll list your Quality Score, as well as your expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance and landing page experience. Each of these will be rated as either Below Average, Average or Above Average.

Why is it important?

Your final ad rank on Google’s search page will weigh your Quality Score against factors like the amount you bid, geographic performance and device targeting.

While your score isn’t the only factor that goes into your ranking, it can still affect anything from your ad position to your cost-per-click. The higher your score, the better your chances of your ad landing on the top of the search results page. In fact, a high Quality Score can land you on the top of the Google search page, even if your bid is slightly lower than the competition. Google will always choose a more relevant ad over any other option.

How do I improve my score?

Even top marketers struggle to achieve ‘Above Average’ ratings – but that doesn’t mean a high Quality Score is out of your reach. Here’s what you can do:

Tightly segment keywords within your ad groups.

Create ad groups that focus on three or less keywords. Identify a keyword that’s important to your business, then build an ad, an ad group, and any ad extensions around that specific word or phrase.

Use that keyword while creating your ad – in the headline, in the description lines, even in the display URL. Having your keyword exactly match the text within your ad will instantly boost your ad relevancy. Although it can be tedious, creating new ads for each unique keyword is the only way to consistently earn a high ad relevancy rating.

Match your keywords to the content on your landing page.

Make sure each ad group has its own unique landing page. Always use specific landing pages when you have the option. If your website has dedicated pages for each separate tour or activity you offer, you should never send an ad back to your homepage. Always direct it to the page that would be most relevant to the searcher.

For example, if your business runs whale watching tours by both boat and by kayak, you should create two separate ad groups, with two distinct ads and two unique landing pages.

Revist, restructure, repeat.

Your Quality Score can change over time based on your ad’s performance. While it’s tempting to set it and forget it, it’s important that you check back on your ad groups to audit their success. If you have keywords that aren’t performing, don’t be afraid to make changes or stop bidding on them altogether.

The bottom line:

When it comes to building your AdWords campaign, think quality, not quantity. While bidding on more keywords may seem like the shortest route to more customers, more conversions, and more revenue, it can actually slow you down. Create specific ads that link to relevant landing pages, and your Quality Score and ROI will start to increase.

Looking for more AdWords help? Check out our experts’ advice here.

AdWords Tips For Tourism Businesses

Our Client Strategy & Marketing Team loves AdWords. Like really, really loves AdWords. So much so, that they recently took things to the next level and became Certified Google Partners. This means they’re officially recognized by Google as AdWords experts, having proven they have the experience and know-how to advise on successful marketing campaigns for tourism businesses.

Jenny Hadden

Need help reaching AdWords nirvana? Our experts are offering their favorite tips and tricks. Let’s dive in:

Putting time and work into your website to make it attractive, readable, and navigable is one of the best things you can do to improve conversions and rank better on search.

Many business owners want to jump into paid advertising, but it’s more vital that your website has a great user experience first before you move on to advertising. If it’s too difficult to find info or even the ‘Book Now’ button on your website, then 70% or more of your visitors will bounce off even if you brought qualified people to your site who might have been a good candidate to buy!

Work on having a quality, mobile-optimized website first, then launch targeted and retargeted paid advertising campaigns to receive qualified leads who will be ready to buy when they land on your site!

Jenny Hadden, Lead Marketing Analytics Associate, Client Strategy & Marketing Team


Ali Gourley

When starting your first AdWords campaign, it’s important to choose relevant and specific keywords. One of the most helpful tricks I have learned, is to keep this table in my back pocket when creating AdWords campaigns. The table describes the modifiers you can add to keywords to increase your reach or make your keywords more specific.

I recommend that clients start specific so that they can ensure their ads are relevant to the search terms potential customers are looking for. After data is gained about these specific keywords, you can broaden your search terms and continue testing. It’s important to track how your keywords are doing and make changes appropriately.

Leveraging Keywords

Ali Gourley, Project Coordinator, Client Strategy & Marketing Team


Charlie Dunn

Tip #1 – Utilize Ad Extensions

When advertising on the Google Search Network be sure to utilize Ad Extensions to increase click-through rate and in many cases ROI.

Here’s a tid bit from Google about this:

If two competing ads have the same bid and quality, the ad with greater expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher ad position than the other.

For the tourism industry, particularly effective ad extensions include location extensions, review extensions, site link extensions, and callout extensions. (All image examples below are from Google).

Location Extension

Location Extension

Review Extension

Review Extension

Sitelink Extension

Sitelink Extension

Callout Extension

Callout Extension

Ad extensions can be included at no extra cost to the advertiser. You are charged the same cpc for extension clicks as if someone were to click on the headline of your ad with no extensions.

Tip #2 – Utilize Bid Adjustments

Taking advantage of your analytics data and leveraging bid adjustments is a great way to increase ROI. Bid adjustments allow you to show your ad more or less often depending on when visitors are likely to convert.

Bid adjustments can be set for dimensions like time of day, device type, or geographic location. Google recommends starting with bid adjustments around +25% of the max cost per click, however each advertiser will need to evaluate their own budget to determine what bid adjustment is appropriate.

– Charlie Dunn, Project Coordinator, Client Strategy & Marketing Team

We’re Google Certified To Bring You AdWords Success!

We have something shiny and new to show you!

PHOTO: Google Partner Badge

See that badge right there? We earned it. We are now officially a certified Google Partner.

The badge was awarded to our Client Strategy and Marketing team – a team dedicated entirely to (you guessed it!) enhancing our clients’ online marketing and digital strategy. The certification acts as an official stamp of approval from Google, demonstrating that we’re trusted to consult on AdWords advertising to increase online tour bookings and improve brand awareness.

How FareHarbor Earned Its Google Partner Status

PHOTO: Author Jenny Hadden (far right) with the Client Strategy & Marketing team

The badge cuts straight to the chase. It signifies we’re a Google business partner proven to have happy, healthy clients on the AdWords marketing channel. To qualify for the certification, we first needed to pass a series of tests and requirements to prove we had mastered the product. Google then performed an in-depth audit of our account, ultimately awarding us with an Above Average rating.

In addition, every member of the team passed the AdWords multi-test certification exam. We rocked advanced exams ranging from Fundamental, Display and Search to Video and Mobile Advertising. Going forward, we’ll be required to annually retake the tests to prove our continued knowledge.

The goal is keep us both relevant and innovative. Paid advertising requires both, as it’s an art and a science. Creative text and copy mix with real data to tell us what resonates with an audience. Understanding and using data better than any other tour booking company is what sets us apart.

AdWords Report Card

Here are some of the stats that helped us earn our status as an official partner:

• We’ve seen as much as a 300% return on ad spend (ROAS) in one month.

• A client who spends thousands on ads had an average click-through-rate (CTR – the ratio of people who clicked on an ad compared to the total number who saw it) grew from .97% to 4.43% after the first month of working with us. Their cost-per-click (CPC – the amount you pay for someone to click an ad) decreased by 13% in the same time period.

• Monthly we contribute to a combined $25,000+ in online revenue assisted by AdWords.

• A client, prior to working with our team, had been losing money on Adwords. We advised on how they could restructure their work and in 2 months, ROAS improved to 200%, CTR increased from 1.66% to 3.41% and their CPC decreased by 10%.

adwords_graph

And we’re just getting started!

A Guide to Upselling For Tourism Businesses

Mastering the art of upselling is a matter of offering something of true value to a customer already making a purchase. For tour operators and activity businesses, this poses a unique opportunity since in tourism, the product is the experience. The best opportunity to upsell is by offering an item – a branded glass, photo package or experiential add-on – that elevates the experience. Done right, you have the potential to both increase customer satisfaction and raise your bottom line. It’s really the gift that keeps on giving.

Stay Within The Check-out Flow

On average, eCommerce conversion rates in the travel industry hover between 2% – 4%. When you have a customer sitting in your check-out flow and committed to making a purchase, it’s essential that you make good use of their time. They have the credit card out, their mind is set. This is your best opportunity to enhance their purchase with an additional sale.

If you have merchandise you prefer to sell in-store, don’t neglect the online check-out. Offering guests a bundle package or discount on later purchases, much like Yazoo Brewing does with their $17 for $25 “Yazoo Swag Voucher,” is a great way to secure a future purchase. Strike while the iron’s hot, and seal in purchases on one single screen.

Keep It Relevant

The check-out flow should feel cohesive. Always align the product or add-on you’re looking to upsell to the customer’s initial purchase. If you’re selling multiple activities, offer a product that’s most relevant to the activity the customer is booking. Think critically about what would enhance their experience. While a photo package works great for a zipline course, it’s an unlikely option for someone going on a brewery tour.

Choose wisely. Remember that while the item needs to be relevant and exciting to the customer, it also needs to be cost effective for you as the business owner. Opt for popular items that are simple to distribute.

Limit Options

As the notorious jam study taught us, choice is fun, but it’s not lucrative. The study was simple. Psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper took jam samples to a local grocery store, setting up one table with 24 samples of jam, and the other with a limited selection of 6. While more people stopped to taste jam at the table with a larger selection, fewer people made a purchase. In the end, the limited selection drew in more paying customers.

Why? Because having to decide between 24 flavors is far more challenging than choosing between 6. This concept is alive and well when it comes to your online check-out. Minimize the friction of making a purchase by offering only one or two extras. The goal is to make sure the upsell is as simple as a single click.

Items without color, size or price variations make excellent add-ons. For example, if you’re running a distillery tour, forgo offering t-shirts and instead offer a one-click product like a branded glass.

Bonus: FareHarbor clients enjoy an added bonus when it comes to upselling. If the customer booked their experience online or was booked manually through the backend, their payment information is safely and securely encrypted in the PCI compliant cloud. At any time during the tour or activity, you’re able to accept payment for upgrades or extras by simply pulling up the customer’s information and adding the charge to their stored payment information. Accessible from any device, you can sell add-ons from anywhere with just a few simple clicks.

The Tour Operator’s Quick Guide To Facebook Advertising

Once you’ve created and optimized your business’ Facebook page, it’s time to put it to work. With the ultimate goal of using your page to increase online bookings, the best place to start is with Facebook advertising. Simple and effective, Facebook ads give you the ability to target and raise brand awareness within your own tour and activity market.

Utilize the platform to get people talking about your business, making sure that your ads are targeted towards the people who are most likely to be interested in the type of tour you are offering. As opposed to other types of advertising, Facebook allows you to dig even deeper by targeting not only specific demographics, but more narrow categories like people traveling on vacation in and around your tour location.

Getting Started Clicks to Facebook

You’ll find all the tools you need to get started in the Facebook Ads Manager. This tool is the motherboard of Facebook advertising. You’ll use it daily to create, edit and monitor ads.

When creating a Facebook ad from the Ads Manager dashboard, you’ll be prompted to chooose from different ad objectives. Working towards the ultimate goal of increasing online bookings, you should select the ad objective of “send people to your website.” From there, enter the URL of your business to proceed to the audience page. This is where the real fun begins – highly customizable targeting will allow you to hand select your future audience.

Targeting Targeting on Facebook

In order to make the most out of your ads, you’ll need to determine a specific, targeted audience for each ad. Facebook offers an incredible range of targeting metrics, including: location, age, gender, language, interests, behaviors, and connections. Select the metrics most relevant to your purpose, depending on the type of ad you are creating and what your final goal is.

For your first ads, you’ll want to focus on the following:

1) Target a specific age group that relates to your typical customer profile.

2) Target both genders, unless there is a reason to specify.

3) Select “More demographics”, “Life events”, and then “Away from hometown”, to target people who are vacationing or traveling in your area.

4) Add interests that relate to your specific tour or activity. For example, if you run a sunset booze cruise, target people who have expressed an interest in drinking beer and wine.

In the right sidebar, you’ll notice that the size of your target audience begins to shrink as you become more specific with your targeting demographics. In this case, less is more. A smaller, more focused audience will show more conversions than a larger, unrefined group. Know who your audience is, and create focused ads that speak directly to them.

The Budget Budget Facebook Advertising Before finalizing your ad, you’ll need to set a daily budget. This can start as low as $5 per day. As you play around with your budget, a sliding scale on the right sidebar will show the potential number of people you can reach each day in relation to the budget you set. Start low and slowly increase your budget as you see results.

Designing the Ad
When it comes to building your ad, Facebook gives you the option to upload your own visual or choose from a library of free stock images. If you have beautiful, hi-res images of your tour or activity – use them! If you don’t, Facebook’s extensive free library will allow you to choose up to six.

Your image will be the first thing people notice. Take care to select an image that speaks to your business’ brand, captivates the viewer’s imagination and ignites positive emotion. The goal is draw in the viewer and deliver a consistent, engaging message about your business.

The ad text is meant to complement the message tied to your image. Write in a tone that’s relevant to your brand, and specific to your audience. Imagine your ideal customer – their age, demographic, average income, interests – and create copy that would appeal directly to them.

Each section of the ad will have a character limit. Keep your text concise and to the point, focusing on one or two main features of your tour, activity or experience. When that’s complete, add in a call-to-action, inviting the viewer to “Learn More” or “Book Now.”

Final Steps
Once your ad is approved and on the newsfeed, your role switches from creator to editor. Check in on your ad’s performance on a regular basis, making edits to your budget and content as necessary. To get the best performance out of your advertisements, continue to build ads with different copy or unique visuals, then compare their conversion and engagement rates to the originals. Use this data to continually edit and improve your ads.

Continue evolving your strategy as you go. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to Facebook advertising. It’s all about discovering what works for your unique business.

A Guide To TripAdvisor Reviews From The #2 Tour In The Country

For most travelers, the journey begins online. Before they’ve purchased a ticket or packed their bags, they’ve already spent hours online researching, comparing, repeat.

As a business owner in the tourism sector, this can either be really great – or incredibly terrifying. Maintaining a positive presence on review sites like TripAdvisor, which has over 200 million traveler reviews, can be as relevant to the success of a company as the quality of their product.

So how do you make sure you’re doing it right? We figured there was no one better to ask than our friends Luke and Amber over at Real New York Tours, whose business was recently named the #2 tour in the country by the review site giant itself.

Rated the #1 tour in New York City, with over 4,500 reviews and a 5-bubble rating, they’re either wizards or just the best at what they do. Either way, we had to hear their perspective on what it takes to reach TripAdivsor nirvana. We asked them a few questions – here’s what Luke had to say:

Real New York Tours

What do you focus on to get such strong reviews?

For years, people have asked me what our secret is to getting such great reviews. I wish I had some great secret recipe to share with them, some wisdom that my grandfather shared with me.

Fortunately, the answer is so simple that one almost feels silly asking the question. You do great work! If people feel inspired by your tour, if your passion is infectious, you are going to leave them with memories that last a lifetime. You can’t buy passion and hard work – either you have passion or you don’t. You either have a great work ethic or you don’t!

We focus not just on great storytelling, but also on the customer. People come to NYC with a lot of anxiety and trepidation. We try and strip that away. We want them to feel safe, feel that they are in the hands of people who care about not just about their tour experience but also their well being.

For example, I once had a family with a newborn. The mother had to feed her baby and felt uncomfortable doing it in public. We happened to be just a few blocks from my apartment, so I took them there so she could feed her child comfortably. In the meantime, they got to see what a New York City apartment was like!

I even once traded shoes with a customer whose feet were killing them. Of course, this is not the norm. But if you can make folks feel like they are spending the day with a friend rather than a stranger you’ll be amazed at how far your praises will be sung.

What’s your strategy for asking people to review you on TripAdvisor?

I think the worst thing you can do is be pushy when trying to get folks to write a review. Your work itself should inspire your customers to want to write a review, but a reminder doesn’t hurt. Often at the end of a tour I’ll ask my group how they found us. If it happened to be through TripAdvisor I’ll say something like, “Well if you found us there due to the kindness of someone spreading the love about our company in a review, we’d be very grateful if you continue to spread that love forward.” DONE! Nice and simple, not forceful or pushy.

Many folks will say absolutely on the spot, but remember they are on vacation and when they get home they are thrust back into the stress of everyday life. I’ll always wait at least a week to let folks settle back in and get acclimated and then send a nice, friendly email thanking them for choosing our company along with a TripAdvisor link and reminder that if they had a great time and would like to share it with others, it would be much appreciated.

Why do you think your company has received so many reviews?

One thing I’ve realized in the last 8 years of doing tours in NYC is that people are more apt to write a review if they had either an amazing experience or a really bad experience. If their experience was mediocre or just “good,” it’s often not enough to inspire them to take the time, or they simply forget. That’s why we try and create memories that will last a lifetime.

For that reason, our focus at Real New York Tours has always been about great customer service and providing a tour that is not like every other cookie cutter tour. I also think the fact that we are a small, family-run business resonates with our customers. We aren’t a big, impersonal corporation. When people call us they are always pleasantly surprised when they find out I’m the owner of the company. I guess they assume I’m in some big office, with a big desk, and a panoramic view of the city, and don’t even know my guides’ first names. That’s just not the case.

We are a tight knit family at Real New York Tours. Our guides are our family. We get together every other week for dinner and drinks and discuss any problems that need to be hashed out. Word spreads from the guides about the nature of our company. The clients hear this and feel like an extended member of our family. It makes them want to contribute, and so they do so with reviews.

We also do give money to a few charitable organizations, one being The Jane Lloyd Fund, an organization that helps people living with cancer deal with the financial strains of paying their bills during chemo and radiation. We care about our community, we care about our employees and we care about our customers. In a nutshell, good karma engenders good karma. I truly believe this.

How do you deal with negative feedback?

Negative feedback can be very tricky. You always want to give the customer the benefit of the doubt, but only to a certain extent. For instance, I’ve had people complain that they were on a tour and that hardly any historical information was given. Now immediately I know this person was either not listening, didn’t like their tour guide or the tour for some reason, or was not on our tour at all. As I mentioned, we are like a family and I know exactly how much historical info our guides are giving.

So first you have decide whether this person was actually on your tour, and you can do that by simply sending them a nice email through TripAdvisor to apologize that they were not happy with their tour, and ask who their guide was. I often offer them a refund as well. Now if that person was genuinely on your tour, they will respond and tell you their guide’s name and most likely accept your refund (or sometimes not). At least you have their name and you can know for sure if they were actually on your tour. We have had people writing fraudulent reviews in the past and TripAdvisor is usually very good at taking down these reviews if you can prove that most likely they were not on your tour.

If they were genuinely a customer and you still know that their review had no validity, then you hope that through emailing with them you can get to the bottom of their experience. Through this process I’ve found out that people booked their tour without reading all the info, and were expecting a bus not a walking tour. At least then I know the true problem and that it was not my guide and the historical info.

Now if someone genuinely has a legitimate gripe, you have to take responsibility. Especially if your guide made a mistake. You need to own up to it.

If you write a self righteous, angry management response, it doesn’t look good. People will respect your company if you own up to a mistake. I always offer to refund people that are not happy. That’s how much I believe in our product. If someone didn’t have a good experience then we haven’t earned their money. Now sometimes their complaints are really petty and it can be maddening, but being professional and calm will always make you look better in the end. Believe me the public knows when they read a petty negative review that the person writing it is just a difficult person who might always find something wrong. You have to trust the majority of the public to weed through the nonsense.

But I guarantee you, sometimes great customer service will even change the mind of a disgruntled reviewer. I’ve had people take their review down because we killed them with kindness and they felt bad for saying the negative things they did. Always respond to reviews rather then react. If you need to, write a furious response just to get it off your chest – but never send it. Respond, don’t react, and if all else fails take it up with TripAdvisor.

What part of your business do you find people review the most?

It’s always about the content of the tour, the guides’ friendliness, charm and ability to answer questions and the customer service they got when booking. We get so many wonderful compliments about our in-house manager, Kristy, and my wife Amber and just how helpful they are and how easy they made the booking process.

What role does TripAdvisor play in your business?

TripAdvisor has helped bring back the power of middle class and small family businesses in our country, whether they know it or not. My wife and I would never have been able to compete with the big wigs, especially in a city like New York, if not for TripAdvisor.

Their platform has been a godsend to the consumer and the business. They have changed the way people do business and they have been incredibly gracious about it, never demanding any financial compensation which is unheard of in today’s dog-eat-dog world.

My wife is pregnant with twins as I write this. It’s our first venture into having a family and I have to say that without the help of TripAdvisor, we might not have had the ability to take such a huge step in our lives. They should be commended for what they do by all who are lucky enough to get exposure on their website. From my family to yours, thank you TripAdvisor!