AvailabilityOnline.com – implementing new enhanced reservation features & google analytics
In the few months since any of us here have logged into AvailabilityOnline.com to manage a client’s setup, a lot has changed: they announced their new “Enhanced Reservation System Released” on February 29, 2012.
Rather than review all the changes, we will go through the steps we figured out to successfully setup, modify and use the new AvailabilityOnline.com system in your web site for online availability and reservation requests, as well as proper integration of Google Analytics cross-domain tracking.
This post is meant to give a technical user quick reference to getting started on the path to better calendar and reservations management for clients that use AvailabilityOnline.com. There are many features/menus in AO that are not detailed here. If you have any questions, please contact VickeryHill.com. This first revision assumes that you have been using AO on your website prior to the Feb 29, 2012 update and the myriad of other settings on AO are already configured.
The enhancements to AvailabilityOnline include:
- Multi-step Reservation Request form
- Unit selection on step1 of new Reservation Request form
- Maximum occupancy per room for adults & children
- Additional guest fees (if premium AO subscriber)
- Room rates calculated by date
- Room-based availability search
- Minimum stay requirements, by room & date
ENABLING ENHANCED FEATURES | IMPORTANT:
- If you update your inventory automatically from your property management system, make sure that you have uploaded the latest inventory before beginning.
- To use the enhanced features, you will need to remove the ability of the guest to choose Room Choice 1 and Room Choice 2. Because the system now ties rates to rooms AND the reservation request to the availability of that room, the reservation request form will calculate the room rate against the date.
Configuring AvailabilityOnline.com Admin
2. Selecting Enhanced Reservations Form style
On the left navigation, choose Reservation Management, then Reservation Form Settings, then Activate Form
3. Activate Form
As you can see, all the details of each room can be edited here including:
- Chart Display Name (how the room appears in the actual availability chart)
- Active/Visible status
- URL of the room (on your site) for back linkage
- BBOnline URL of this room’s page (if you have one and want to refer to it)
- Thumbnail Image URL (from your site)
- Occupany Settings
- Base Rate Occupancy (Guests)): the # of guests your base rate is based on
- Max Occupancy (Adults): maximum number of adults
- Mac Occupancy (Children): maximum number of children
- Max Occupancy (Total Guests): maximum number of adults & children
- Additional Adult Occupant Fee: how much to charge for each adult over the Base Occupancy Adult above
- Additional Child Occupant Fee: how much to charge for each child over the Base Occupancy Children above
- Under Occupancy Fee: Amount to charge per night for under-base occupancy.
important note: you can use negative amounts here which, if occupancy is under the base #, will be subtracted depending on number of guests under the base occupancy. If your occupancy base is set to 4 for a room, 1 person books and this fee is set to -10.00, then the overall rate will be reduced by $30 (-10.00 x 3 under = -30.00)
- Default Rates (by day): these are the default rates that will populate in the default calendar setup for each room, by day.
- Default Minimum Night Stays: The default minimums you setup for each room, by day of the week.
As you can see from the screenshot below, there are handy help floating content if you mouse over the blue quesiton mark.
Setting Room Rates
This post assumes you are already using AO, and therefore have room rates setup. To modify room rates for the system overall, navigate to Room Rates then click Set Nightly Rates.
AO has a nice internal color-coded mechanism that allows you to create various rates (per night), give them a name and even color code them for easy administration. The admin screen (while a little long with white space) , but it you basically create a set of rates that
It seems to make sense to name the rates the same as the amount per night.
Assigning Rates to Rooms
Once you have all of your rates created and color-coded, you can use the calendar on the bottom to assign specific rates to rooms across a set of dates.
Note: Due to the nature of showing large enough numbers to read, the calendar is a bit wide. We like to use a widescreen monitor to avoid constant scrolling
First, click a colored rate from the top list that you want to apply to a room for a set of dates. Notice the “Active Value” shows that rate in the lower calendar area.
Now that you have the rate “Active”, you can use the calendar to Apply Rates by Room in multiple ways:
- 1 Room for 1 Night: Click on a future date that corresponds to a specific room. It will change to the color/rate that is in the Active Value
- 1 Rate for all Rooms on 1 Day: Click on the grey rectangle below the specific day of the week and the Active Value will be applied to all rooms on that day
- 1 Rate for 1 room over the calendar view: click on the grey rectangle to the right of a specific room name and you will populate the entire displayed calendar with the active rate, for the entire month.
- 1 Rate for All Rooms for the Entire Month: If you have a single rate for all rooms, or just want to get started by populating all rooms with a base rate, then modifying for special rooms, holidays and/or weekends, then you can click the grey rectangle below any month and all rooms for the entire month will get the Active Value rate
With a little bit of planning and rate creation (including defaults, holidays, weekends, etc) before hand, you can quickly populate a year or more of your calendar and be up and running in minutes!
Don’t forget to APPLY THE CHANGES before navigating away from the Set Nightly Rates page or you will lose all the hard work.
you need to navigate Reservation Management, Reservation Form Settings, then to General Settings.
Scroll down the the Travel Information section and find Room Choice.
“Make 1st room choice required?” is selected.
“Make 1st room choice required?” is NOT selected.
Don’t forget to before leaving this page
- If the majority of your rates are standard, and holidays are the exceptions, we would recommend setting up the default rates first, applying them across your entire calendar and then returning back to implement special/holiday rates.
- Don’t forget, if you don’t have rates in for specific dates, the guest will not be able to see/calculate them. Since you have to login to AO to retrieve data from reservation requests securely AND guests have been known to plan vacations a year in advance, we would recommend adding in inventory and rates at least a year out, while already logged in to review requests.
ADVANCED FEATURES (optional, but recommended!)
Google Analytics (GA)
- AO Reservation Completed: track visitors making it through the entire booking process from search results to reservation form, to contact data to reviewing the reservation request and submitting.
Tracking your GA account on your AO pages
First, to properly track pages on another domain (availabilityonline.com) as if the visitor were still on your site, you have to implement a cross-domain tracking solution. This involves not only modifying the analytics code on your existing site but also on the availabilityonline.com pages.
First, login to Google Analytics and (if you manage more than one property), go to the Property for the website that is tied to AO. Click the Admin button on the orange navigation
Navigate to the Tracking Code tab
In the “1. What are you tracking?” section, choose “Multiple top-level domains”. You need to do this because your visitor will be looking at pages on both yourdomain.com and availabilityonline.com
Click on the text box containing the code within the “2. Paste this code on your site” secton
Now, right-click and COPY this code snippet to your computer’s clipboard.
Make sure this code exists on every page of your website, above the closing head tag!
Now, within the Availability Online Administration, navigate to Calendar Management > Visual Settings > Traditional Calendar Display.
We use the Custom HTML Header to manually layout the AO page styles that match our client’s site, so we paste in the GA script snippet into the </head > of the pages.
Verify that the code snippet is in your AO pages by navigating to Quick Links > Preview Search & Display.
You will see a listing of your rooms, hopefully formatted to match the look and feel of your site.
In your browser, right-click View Source to see the source code of the page. You should see the GA snippet.
Hint: This is a peek at even more options available to you for your site in the new AO!
The final step in setting up cross-domain tracking is to use a method that exists in the GA script to send the visitor from your domain to availalityonline.com without losing the existing source data. This is CRUCIAL to proper tracking, and while it requires modification of links on both your site and the AO pages that mimic your site – trust us, having original source/medium data tracked all the way through your site to the final reservation confirmation is the MOST IMPORTANT reason to use Google Analytics.
When using Google Analytics across two top-level domains (yours and AOs), each website link FROM one domain TO the other must call the ‘_link’ method to send the visitor between both domains. This means links from yourdomain.com to availabilityonline.com AND links from your custom look on AO back to yourdomain.com have to properly call ‘_link’ to retain the GA cookie data and treat the secondary domain as if it were page(s) on your own site.
Setting up Goal for Online Booking Requests
- Additional Goals
- Filtering Traffic (especially your own, your developers, etc)
- Creating additional profiles to track ALL data and/or segment specific traffic.
- Custom reporting including scheduled email reporting
- URL Query Exclusions (uniqueIdentifier for AO)
- Site Search terms
- Using URL Builder to tag inbound URLs from email, banner, external sources
Once setup properly, the informative visitor data can be used to track external campaigns/links from emails, banner ads, membership sites, etc.
and start figuring out which traffic is valuable (and spend more on it), and what traffic is not (and improve it or stop spending)!
If you aren’t familiar with Advanced Google Analytics implementations, want help setting up, testing, reporting or implementing solutions, contact us at VickeryHill and get started accurately tracking visitors.