There’s no arguing that your website is absolutely, undeniably the single-most important asset you have to market your guide or charter business. After all, it’s likely the first exposure potential clients will have to your business and first impressions are everything – so let’s get it right.
Before we dive in, it’s important to understand what a successful website will do for you. It simply must:
- Attract and deliver prospective clients to your website
- In just a few seconds, it has to get your visitor’s attention so they stick around
- It must educate and convert prospects into bookings
To achieve these goals, there are 20 elements your website needs to include right on the home page and then expand on throughout your site’s pages. In this article, we’ll share those 20 key elements and toss in a few bonus tips as well! Let’s go!!
QUICK NOTE: We’ve added a fishing guide home page template with all 20 features at the end of this article, so don’t miss it!
1. Your Unique URL/Domain Name
You should have a unique domain for your site registered (in your name) at a service like GoDaddy.com. When registering your domain name, try to reserve something short and memorable and one that easily relates to your business name, services or location. When possible, get the “.com” over other extensions and avoid hyphens in the domain.
TIP: When a person visits your website, they should see “https://“ before the rest of your domain in their address bar. This tells the visitor and their browser that your site is secured and is important for trust. Additionally, Google and other search engines “may” be showing preference to secured sites in their rankings (SEO).
2. Prominent Phone Number & Booking Callout
Visitors to your site shouldn’t have to hunt to locate your phone number and your preferred booking method. On every page of your site, your phone number (clickable on mobile devices) and a booking/reservations button should be easily located at the top of the page.
3. Polished & Professional Logo
Enough can’t be said about having a website which is highly polished and well-designed and it all starts with your logo. As one of the first things visitors will notice on your website (and your business cards, rack cards, social channels, etc) your logo is one of your key branding elements and it should not only be memorable, but convey a bit about your business vibe as well.
TIP: Your logo on your website needs to be linked to the home page of your site, as this is what users expect and feels familiar from other sites they’ve visited. No need to have a “home” link or button in your top navigation, your logo will serve this purpose.
4. Simple & Intuitive Top Navigation
The top navigation of your website should include no more than 5-6 choices and remain consistent on every page of your site. Each menu choice may have “drop-down” choices within each of the main categories for additional pages, but keep the visible, main navigation simple and familiar.
5. What’s In It for Me?
In just a few words, tell visitors to your site what’s unique about your guide or charter service and how they’ll benefit. This should be your unique value proposition that sets you apart from your competitors, paints the perfect day on the water for customers and ensures they’ve come to the right place.
6. One Killer Image
Here you need to display a high-quality, impactful image that backs up your “what’s in it for me” statement and inspires visitors to stay and learn more about your services. In some cases, this area may rotate a handful of images or even incorporate a video into the background, but the goal is still the same, to reinforce your key message and inspire visitors to dig deeper.
7. Main Title & Location
This title needs to communicate to both site visitors AND Google what type of guide services you offer and where. You’d be surprised how many guide and charter websites don’t effectively communicate these basic, yet critical bits of information.
TIP: For SEO purposes, this should be the main heading tag on the page (H1) and the rest of the page’s content should be well-structured beneath it.
8. Main Introduction
Here’s your chance to introduce yourself and your guide business to your guests. This introduction doesn’t need to be long, but should tell visitors about your services, your area and what sets you apart from others with similar offerings.
TIP: The key search terms you’re targeting for SEO purposes should be naturally worked into your introduction.
9. Key Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
Using high-quality photography and design, this area should showcase a handful of the most important offerings in your site and services. These CTAs could showcase particular packages you offer, your photo gallery, a seasonal special, family-friendly trips, etc. Be creative, but think about the things that visitors seek you out for or help them easily land on your most inspirational content.
10. Links to Review Sites
Hopefully you have great reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp! and Google… and that you haven’t been shy about asking past clients to leave reviews at those sites. Here you should link to those review sites and show new customers what others are saying about you. Affirmation from others who’ve had a great day on the water with you can be very powerful.
11. Testimonials as Social Proof
Include an area in close relation to the review site links to display actual testimonials you’ve gathered from past guests. Again, showing guests that others have had a great experience with your guide or charter services helps to build confidence with prospective customers.
12. Booking/Contact Callout
Mid-way down your home page, you need to include an obvious callout with your booking and contact information. Your home page may be rather lengthy and by this time guests may be close to pulling the trigger – make it easy for them. Consider offering a special or monetary offer at this stage (prices starting at….) to get their attention.
TIP: This area should be well-designed and “pop” on the page without being obnoxious. You want it to get noticed!
13. Photo Gallery
Be sure to showcase 8-12 of your best, highest-quality photographs on your home page in a gallery. These photos should represent the best of your guide/charter experiences and paint a picture for guests of what a day on the water will look like with you.
TIP: These photos can be “pulled” from your website’s photo gallery (you do have a photo gallery, correct?) or could be connected to your Instagram feed (you are on Instagram, right?).
14. Latest Fishing Reports
Showcase 2-4 of your latest fishing reports on your home page. Prospective clients want to see what’s been biting and that you ARE catching fish! And be sure to add new reports on a regular basis, weekly if possible. When your last fishing report was from 9 months ago, it doesn’t leave the best impression on guests.
TIP: If you’re not currently doing fishing reports, start. These can be a great asset to your SEO and content strategy.
15. Sponsors Banner
Certainly you have sponsors, partners and affiliations associated with your guide or charter business. Showcasing their logos and linking back to their websites will build goodwill with your own relations and demonstrate to site visitors that you’ve built credibility within your industry.
Repeat your logo in the footer of your site to once again serve as a link to your home page but also to reaffirm for visitors where they’re at and to help keep your name front of mind.
17. Footer Navigation
The footer of your website should include text links to the same high-level pages of your site as your top navigation. Not only does this help users who have scrolled to the bottom of your site navigation, but assists a bit with your organic SEO strategy.
18. Location Map
Adding a location map to the footer (and contact page) of your site is helpful to let visitors know where you’re located and in getting directions to ultimately get to you. If you have a number of launch locations, this might not always makes sense, so you’ll need to use your better judgment here.
19. Prominent Phone Number & Booking Callout
Again, on every page of your site, your phone number (clickable on mobile devices) and a booking/reservations button should be easily located in the footer of each page. You never want guests to hunt in order to call you or reach your booking page!
20. Social Channel Icons
Include icons/links to the social channels you run for your business either in the footer or header of your site, on each page. Not only do they help create credibility in the eyes of your visitors but they’ll also help to drive participation with you on your social channels. And this leads to additional exposure and repeat clients.
Power Tips for a Better Guide or Charter Business Website
So, there you have it – the 20 key ingredients that your guide or charter business’ home page must include to maximize success. But there are a few tips we’d like to include that didn’t easily fit into the list above. Here are a few additional “must-haves” that you should consider:
The entirety of your website should be design/developed in a way that it automatically formats itself to the screen size (device) of each user who visits. Not only does this create the best user experience for your site, but it matters for SEO as well. In fact, if your current website is not responsive, you’re likely suffering in the search rankings when a user performs their Google search from a mobile device or tablet.
Site Performance Matters
Think of site performance as the speed at which your pages load. Similar to having a mobile-friendly website, one that loads its pages quickly creates a better experience for site visitors. In addition, Google and other search engines take site/page performance into consideration when ranking sites within their search results.
One More Word About Design
When considering the design of your website, whether working with an agency or going it alone, think about the end user experience you’re creating and what you’re selling. You’re selling outdoor experiences which are quite hands-on and visual. Experiences bring your clients great joy, exhilaration and memories….
The design of your site should speak to that and give your prospective clients a taste of what a day on the water with you might “look” like, so they can picture themselves there with you. That’s what creates more bookings for you.
Not sure you can go it alone?
Thrive for Guides is our integrated approach to providing fishing charter businesses and guides with the website, marketing and creative services their businesses deserve. We’ve taken our 25 years as an agency, and distilled a subset of our creative services that really make sense for charter businesses.
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