Is your escape room website living up to its potential?
Are there any features you can add to it to boost bookings and revenue?
That’s what I intend to discuss in this blog post.
Specifically, I will tell you
How you can get up to 5.66 x the opportunities you can get from paid ads
How to avoid your ‘bounce rate’ going up by 50%
How you can increase the number of people engaging with your website by up to 4x
How you can tap into the 91% of consumers who prefer a knowledge base over a support agent
Now, I could just list out the 13 elements with 2 lines on each without the slightest concern as to whether you understand the implication or not but that’s just not my style.
I love to lead by examples of what some of the Best Escape Room Companies like Escapology, Puzzle Break etc. have in common.
I intend to make you visualize the importance of each point. To do that, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of someone, let’s call him Tom, who’s searching for an escape room.
What would be the scenarios in which Tom would be searching for an escape room?
- He’s never heard of an escape room till his friend Jerry told him about it.
- He’s heard of escape rooms but isn’t all that interested in them till he sees his friend Jerry’s Instagram account full of pictures of Jerry, Spyke and Tyke enjoying their latest escape room sojourns.
- He’s a hardened escape room veteran and wants to check out another new escape rooms in town…
What does Tom do?
He could look up the name of the escape room Jerry was at from the Instagram pictures. And search for that on Google.
Or he could just Google ‘escape rooms in Florida (because that’s obviously where Tom and Jerry live)’.
- In another scenario, Tom’s an event planner at the Acme Corporation and he’s searching for an escape room at which his firm can organize their next outing.
In this case, Tom would be Googling something like ‘Florida escape rooms with corporate packages’.
As you can see, a common thread is emerging. Whatever the scenario, Tom goes on to Google and searches for the escape room he’s looking for.
That will lead him to the website of an escape room; the first direct contact he is going to have with the room.
And it’s critical that the website absolutely dazzle him. Get him thinking ‘hey, these guys are good’ and get him to take action.
The problem is, however, you ‘can not’ describe the rooms to Tom, as that would give the game away. The entire lure of an escape room is that you don’t know what’s coming; you need to solve riddles and play games to escape.
And this is where our 13 elements come in. Since you can’t really describe the virtues of your rooms (beyond the back story of course) you will have to fall back on creating your content and arranging your website in such a way that it’ll become a Lean, Mean Ticket-Selling Machine.
So here we go….
- 1 Specifically, I will tell you
- 2 Element #1 – Good SEO
- 3 Element #2 – Good site navigation
- 4 Element #3 – 2-step booking process
- 5 Element #4 – High quality images
- 6 Element #5 – High quality videos
- 7 Element #6 – Intriguing back stories
- 8 Element #7 – Have a proper ‘About Us’ page
- 9 Element #8 – Team building/Corporate program page
- 10 Element #9 – FAQ page
- 11 Element #10 – Help players plan their entire day
- 12 Element #11 – The all-important and all-encompassing Contact Us page
- 13 Element #12 – The Gift Card page/section
- 14 Element #13 – The Reviews section
- 15 Your Escape Room Website must…
Element #1 – Good SEO
Intuition suggests that Tom is most likely to click on the topmost results that Google returns to his escape room query.
Studies show that this is indeed true.
The way to boost your search ranking on Google is to incorporate good SEO practices.
SEO takes time to work. Wouldn’t paid ads do the trick in a much shorter time?
Paid ads can work in a much shorter time than SEO but they yield inferior results.
Moz conducted a study and found that organic search (where SEO helps) provides 5.66x the opportunities that paid search yields.
So, how would you go about boosting SEO?
SEO Tip 1 – Keywords are key
Ensure your content includes a generous sprinkling of keywords. But don’t overdo it.
Think of it like adding salt to a dish.
If you ignore salt, the dish is not going to taste good. If you go to town with the salt, the dish is going to taste horrible.
So, remember to include the keywords but also remember that the overarching requirement is that the content be a pleasure to read.
If you’ve been reading till this point, chances are you do find this blog post engaging. Now hit CTRL+F and see how many times ‘escape’, ‘room’ and ‘escape room’ appear in this post.
It isn’t a coincidence. It has been done keeping SEO in mind.
SEO Tip 2 – Page title
This is an oft-overlooked asset in your SEO strategy.
In case you’re not familiar with this term, it’s the text that appears inside the tab at the top of the browser. It can help with SEO.
Many people fill it in with generic text. Do not do that.
That’s the page title for Escapology, an escape event firm.
Note how Escapology has included 2 keywords – ‘escape games’ and ‘escape rooms’ – within the title.
Also note how they’ve taken care to mention they have rooms worldwide.
Ensure that the title at least shows your escape room’s name or says something like ‘The #1 Escape Room in ….’.
SEO Tip 3 – Go mobile!
And they’re hardly likely to be impressed if they have to zoom in or keep scrolling sideways to be able to go through your site.
Intuition aside, Google introduced mobile-first indexing earlier this year. In simple words, Google will primarily consider the mobile version of your website in deciding how to rank your website.
So make your website mobile-friendly. Google suggests you go for responsive design which, in short, is a design technique that uses Cascading Style Sheets to optimize the webpage to the device – laptop, tablet or phone – used to access it.
With the SEO in place, your escape room’s website has a high search rank and Tom clicks on the link.
The event of you clicking on a link and visiting the website is known as a click through event and the ratio of the number of people who click on a link to the number of people who have seen that link is called the click-through rate (CTR).
CTR is an important determinant in your ranking on Google’s search results page.
Once Tom is inside your website, he’ll want to look around.
If Tom’s never done this before, he may want to go through the ‘About Us’ page to see what you are all about, then sift through the rooms, go through reviews before making a decision as to booking a room.
If Tom’s a veteran he’ll want to jump straight to the rooms, see where you’re located and what the pricing’s like.
I could go on and on but the point is Tom would want to go from one web-page to another seamlessly.
Having to hit ‘Click to go back’ repeatedly would be a mood-killer.
In technical terms this – designing your website so that visitors can go from any page to any other page with the slightest of effort – is called having ‘good sight navigation’, that is, your website is easily navigable.
In particular, I always recommend that a viewer MUST be able to go to the Booking Page from every other page.
See how prominently ‘book now’ features in the website of “Escape The Room”
The reason being that once the viewer starts thinking that booking your rooms is worth it, they must be able to do it in an instant….
Speaking of the Booking Page…
Element #3 – 2-step booking process
Suppose you have a one step booking process. And Tom starts to book, but the payment gateway crashes. Or Tom suddenly remembers he’s got a gym session planned with Butch.
In either case, there’s a high chance Tom leaves without completing the booking process and forgets about it.
However if you had a 2 step booking process with Step 1 involving only contact information, Tom’s email would be stored in your server and you could email Tom reminding him about the unfinished booking.
You’d be surprised how many potential players (and how much revenue) you were leaving on the table by not using a 2-step booking process that captures contact details before going through to payment.
Element #4 – High quality images
Read some information; you’ll remember 10% of it after 3 days. Add a relevant image; you’ll remember 65%.
Websites with relevant images receive 94% more views than those without.
It’s clear that including high quality and relevant images does boost your website’s traffic.
And more traffic will obviously translate into more bookings.
However not just any image will do.
High Quality Images Tip 1 – Attributes of a good image
You must ensure the images are relevant, that they’re easily understood and of a high quality and that they’re optimized.
Sheila Dahlgren, senior vice president of marketing at Scene7, said in an interview
In particular, stock images are a BIG NO.
GoDaddy has a nice little checklist of what you can do to improve images and boost bookings of your rooms.
High Quality Images Tip 2 – Image optimization
One more thing – along with quality, images must be optimized in size (size as in kb, not pixels).
The larger the image size, the more will be the loading time of the webpage. And a loading time higher than 2 seconds increases your ‘bounce rate’ (people who’re bouncing off of your website and going elsewhere) by 50%. Think how many missed opportunities that is.
Element #5 – High quality videos
20% of visitors to your webpage will read text; 80% will watch videos.
That means the number of visitors engaging with your webpage becomes 4x if you can include a video.
However the same caveat as in images applies – your videos must be relevant, high quality, easily understood and optimized in size.
Please, do not use Slideshows Presentations with Stock Images for your Escape Room Videos… they do more harm than good in creating the first impression about your brand.
Here’s an example of a crazy video that Komnata Quest made
See how this video builds suspense? The techniques used in filming that would not be out of place in a major horror movie, I kid you not.
Element #6 – Intriguing back stories
I’ve been giving text a lot of flak, saying images and videos lead to much higher engagement with your webpage; but you’d be making a very big mistake if you ignored the textual content of your escape room website altogether.
Just think about it.
The main lure of escape rooms are a thrill. Solve your way out of the room within an hour or all hell will break loose.
In order to set the mood for a visitor right on your webpage, it is mandatory to put together an amazing back story. Make them feel the intrigue then and there, right in front of their computer screen.
I generally have two pointers in writing the back story.
Backstory Tip 1 – Focus on the story
It is a story, not a thesis. So, focus on the story (‘the undead will rise from their graves and kill you all’), not on the benefits (‘this room is designed especially to test your math skills and is children-appropriate’).
Backstory Tip 2 – End on a cliffhanger
Two, don’t give away all the details. End it on a cliffhanger. Make the person very interested, even desperate if you can, in going through your escape room and finding out what happens next.
That’s a screenshot of a mission from Cipher Escape Rooms.
As you can see, it is positively dripping with suspense, and does hint at a confrontation with ‘Him’, whose identity you can know only by being part of the experience.
Not once does it refer to any benefits like math skills or pattern recognition that this room may give.
Element #7 – Have a proper ‘About Us’ page
People trust people more than they trust brands.
An ‘About Us’ page gives you an opportunity to humanize your brand.
You can reveal a little bit of how you came to be, introduce the owners, game masters and other staff and even include some information of whether you’ve been featured in the media or elsewhere.
However, the stress should be on your own story, introducing your people, which creates an atmosphere of person-to-person contact for the viewer.
And that is sure to pump up your bookings.
That’s from the About Us page of PanIQ escape room.
See how they’re presenting the story of how they evolved over the years?
It goes on to talk, briefly, about the ‘flow theory’ of psychology on which their escapes are based, then presents snippets of being featured on prominent media outlets and of their corporate clientele and finally ends with a little bit about Hungary, from where they started.
Element #8 – Team building/Corporate program page
Why is a corporate program important?
Well, ordinarily, if Tom and Jerry have already completed a room at your establishment, (say Room A) they won’t be interested in booking that room again.
For the retail client Tom and Jerry, you can use your asset (Room A) only once.
However, if the client is the Acme Corporation, it will have employee turnover, new employees coming in regularly, which means it will want to book Room A again and again. Room A as an asset may start to yield a regular cashflow.
And businesses do want to book escape rooms, since it’s well-known that escape rooms can hone team-building and critical thinking.
Speculation aside, industry studies show that it is indeed corporate team building events that are driving revenue growth in the escape room industry.
Now in order to tap into this clientele, you have to establish yourself as a classy establishment.
A couple of ‘There was a plane crash. Every single person died. Who survived?’- type riddles and a few locks won’t cut it.
And in order to do that, and build credibility, you need to have a separate team building/corporate package page where you will stress those aspects that make you suitable for corporate events.
That’s the webpage for the Miami location of Escape Hunt. See how they’ve prominently featured the link to the Corporate Events page?
And in their Corporate Events page they’ve explained how corporate clients may find their rooms useful.
Element #9 – FAQ page
It has been reported that 91% of customers prefer a knowledge base over customer service.
How can you tap into this 91% of customers?
By having a FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions, page.
Here, customers can find out for themselves answers to any questions they may have.
And if their query is unresolved even after consulting the FAQ page, they can request a call back.
See how Texas Panic Room has made the link to the FAQ page prominent?
Immediacy is key to getting more escape room bookings.
Someone has a question; they must have it immediately answered so they can decide to book a room right then.
If they have to scroll around for your FAQ section, they’ll have to email you or request a call back, killing the immediacy.
So ensure every Tom, Spyke and Jerry can clearly see the link to the FAQ section at every point in your website.
FAQ Tip 2 – The FAQ section must be well-organized
This is pretty much a tip that applies to the entire website – that it must avoid clutter and be well-organized.
So why make so much of it here?
Because it’s something I’ve noticed people miss all the time.
They just place question followed by answer followed by question followed by answer.
Makes it one scary maze for whoever trying to get something clarified.
One good practice is to have only the questions displayed; the visitor can toggle the answer to the question he/she has.
If there are too many questions, break up the FAQ into more than one page and have a search bar for the visitor to search their question. It’s always a good thing if the visitor doesn’t have to scroll up or down.
Texas Escape Room has taken pains to create 3 clear sections – General, Payment and Reservations – so readers can navigate easily.
The questions are also neatly presented. If the viewer sees the question they’re looking for, they can click on the + for the answer.
FAQ Tip 3 – Ensure that FAQ’s are indeed questions that are frequently asked
Sometimes people make the mistake of filling up the FAQ section with questions they personally feel should be answered.
Do not do that.
Include only those questions that are genuinely asked frequently. Don’t clutter up the FAQ section with questions few people ask.
See what queries other escape room websites include.
You can also take time to build up your FAQ section; noting down which questions your customer support does face often and include those in your FAQ.
FAQ Tip 4 – Landing pages for the REALLY important questions
Sometimes people make long Google searches like ‘escape rooms with wheelchair facilities’.
If such queries are among your FAQ’s, consider making a separate landing page for them.
If you do that, Google’s search algorithm will be able to detect it better that you have answered that specific query, boosting traffic to your website.
Element #10 – Help players plan their entire day
Suppose the entire gang – Tom and Jerry, Spyke and Tyke, Butch, Toodles Galore and all the others – decided to organize a day out.
You can help them organize it – including your rooms as a vital component, of course.
The simplest way to do that is to state on the ‘About Us’ or the ‘FAQ’ page – which restaurants, pubs, cafes, hotels, museums and other attractions – are a walking distance from your escape establishment.
As you can see, Clue Avenue Escape Rooms have proudly announced their tie-ups with local partners to help you plan your day!
If you have a loyalty program with any of these places – for example complementary snacks at the restaurant for booking your rooms – make sure to mention those.
Element #11 – The all-important and all-encompassing Contact Us page
This is one of those Great Issues where everybody has an opinion and, frankly speaking, there may be no one correct form.
What I feel works best is to
Have a page titled exactly ‘Contact Us’ (as opposed to embedding it within the ‘About Us’ or ‘Get Directions’ pages)
Decouple the ‘Contact Us’ page from the Chat Bot
Keep the design sleek and easy to understand
Now let’s examine each of these in turn
Contact Us Tip 1 – Have a page titled ‘Contact Us’
I’ve seen many websites embed their contact information and/or contact form within another page – usually ‘About Us’ or ‘Get Directions’.
My suggestion would be to not do that.
The reason being that ‘contact us’ has a connotation that is very different from the others.
If Tom has a query that doesn’t figure in the FAQ’s he’ll want to contact the escape room owners directly to clear things up. And what he’ll be looking for in that situation is ‘Contact Us’ and not ‘Get Directions’.
If there is no page titled ‘Contact Us’, once again, it frustrates people and kills the mood.
Contact Us Tip 2 – Decouple the ‘Contact Us’ page from the Chat Bot
Many websites don’t go the whole nine yards on their ‘Contact Us’ page if they have a good chat bot installed.
I wouldn’t suggest that.
A chat bot may be intelligent and responsive (unlike a FAQ section) but it’s still something you’ve programmed. It is not a substitute for directly communicating with you.
Contact Us Tip 3 – Keep the design sleek and easy to understand
The Home Page, the page(s) where you introduce Tom to your room(s) can have elaborate designs to generate the mood of intrigue.
However if Tom is coming to the Contact Us page he wants help with something. He’ll want a clear-cut way to communicate directly with you to clarify something.
The design must reflect this problem-solving process – simple, sleek and reassuring.
That’s the homepage of Breakout KC. The design is suitably intriguing. In real life, the page is animated, which is even better at putting the viewer into the spirit of breaking out of the room with their team.
Also note how they’ve featured the ‘Connect’ link prominently.
That’s the contact page of Breakout KC.
Note the monotonous background and simple design, which create a reassuring mood.
Also note they have included all kinds of options – physical directions, call back option and email – in the connect page.
Element #12 – The Gift Card page/section
According to an industry report, escape rooms sold close to $300,000 in gift offers in 2017, of which only 23.57% was redeemed.
In absolute terms, that is a high ‘notional loss’, that is, a lot of money just lying on the table.
Now of course, you may read the report at length and say that compared to the total revenue escape rooms generated (which is in the millions) that figure is peanuts.
However you would do well to remember that
The total revenue is boosted disproportionately by corporate bookings. Gift cards are more relevant for retail players.
A lot of that total revenue will have flowed to the largest firms which will have their cards in place.
That means that the total revenue is a grossly overstated figure against which to compare the unused gift offers.
So, trust me when I say un-redeemed gift cards represent a lot of money just lying there.
Of course, there are various reasons why gift cards would be unused.
But one of the key reasons is lack of a section or page where gift cards can be bought and redeemed.
It’s not enough to just have a page. Buying and redeeming a gift card must be as easy as booking a room.
That’s the Home Page of Denver Escape Room. See how they’ve prominently featured their Gift Card page?
And this is the Gift Card page. As you can see there are two clear options for buying and redeeming gift certificates.
Element #13 – The Reviews section
Remember the various scenarios about how Tom could have started looking for an escape room?
One of them was that Tom’s an escape room veteran looking for his next great escape room.
In that case, once Tom chooses an escape room from the results Google, he’d be interested to see what other players have to say about that room.
In other words, he’d be looking for a ‘Reviews’ section.
The prominent places from where you can draw reviews are
Yelp </I read Google+ is going down; if not include it>
Obviously you can’t include all the reviews but include one or two and a link to the review site where visitors can go to read more reviews.
Just one more thing. I personally feel that it’s better to call your Reviews page ‘What People Are Saying’ rather than ‘Reviews’. It has a more human touch.
And those are the 13 elements that are critical to boosting conversion through your escape room website.
To briefly recapitulate, the elements are based on a few key principles….
Your Escape Room Website must…
…be prominently featured in organic search engine results – which is why you need good SEO.
…be easily accessible – which is why you need to optimize content and make the site mobile friendly.
…put the viewer in a mood to book rooms – which is why you need to ensure easy navigation; create content (textual, images and video) that build up intrigue and include information to help players plan a whole day out based around your escape room establishment.
…have the following sections – FAQ, Contact Us, About Us and Gift Certificate –sensibly designed and easily accessible.
There are certain other steps you can take to build credibility – like making your site secure (that is, the URL starts with https:// instead of http://) – but those involve additional investment that you may not like to make immediately.
The elements I have included here are easy to implement and should not be a strain on your budget.
I wish you all the best in your escape room business.