BBOnline Improving? Dubious for Most
By Scott Thomas
Our recent posts wondering if our observed improvement in the number of referrals from BBOnline was a sign that the troubled directory was returning to its former status as one of the higher referring directories turns out not to have statistical support across the board.
Far too many properties are seeing numbers that still appear to be in free-fall. We asked other innkeepers to provide stats showing traffic changes for specific dates (just so we would all be looking at the same numbers). Quite a few innkeepers shared their numbers, and others were shared (anonymously) by consultants in the industry.
To recap, our Bed & Breakfast in Freeport Maine had seen a drop of nearly 90% in traffic from BBOnline following their site redesign in the fall of 2011. Nearly all properties who responded to our posts at that time reported similar drops in referrals. Last month we reported that, in recent months, we had seen significant improvement in their numbers – not back to the former levels yet, but significant, all the same. We asked innkeepers to provide information to see if this was a universal improvement, or if the beleaguered directory was still in the doldrums.
Fully half the properties responding found that their recent referrals from BBOnline had dropped to zero! The results we received provide a fascinating cross-section. Properties responding were from all over the USA (and, of course, some were anonymous, so we don’t know anything about them).
Nearly half the properties responding found that their recent referrals from BBOnline had dropped to zero! Still others had cancelled because of the declines, prior to the dates we examined.
Of those still receiving traffic from BBOnline, slightly more than half are seeing increased traffic, while slightly less than half are still seeing significant declines. Overall, the average property is down about 25% over the previous severe declines. If we ignore those who have dropped to zero traffic, the average property still getting referrals from BBOnline have increased about 40% over the lowest figures a year earlier.
One other issue is a concern – bounce rates. Bounce rates for directories are typically very low, which stands to reason. They list B&B’s and people searching for B&B’s find them there. When they click through to the property’s website, they are highly likely to look around the site, and eventually book.
While we didn’t ask for that data, and only one property provided it, both that information and our own indicates that the bounce rate from BBOnline (at least for these two properties) is approximately double the bounce rate of other directories. This reduces the value of the visits they send to a website, since a much higher percentage of the visitors don’t go past the first page.
What can we take from this? With the usual caution that this is far from a scientific survey, it appears that BBOnline is still in real trouble. While some properties are seeing a comeback, and we certainly hope that continues, far too many properties are seeing numbers that still appear to be in free-fall.