Gaming the CellarPass Algorithm to Increase Your Bookings

  • Sep 11, 2020
  • By Jonathan Elliman

Here’s an article that you’ll never see companies like Google, nor our competitors write, how to you increase your referral bookings without spending any ad dollars?

It’s true, you’ll see thousands of articles out there from helpful SEO experts on ways to game the Google Search Engine Results (SER), but here’s an article from us, the company that wrote CellarPass to game our algorithm that will lead to increased bookings. It’s our way of providing you transparency, an inside edge that will take little effort, but will reward you with more guests creating more opportunity to you tasting room to sell wine and attract new club members. And what's great is this article helps you understand some simple report metrics from your Google Analytics reports, how to spot key booking trends on CellarPass and making slight adjustments to your reservation-based events for the win.

Make Sure You Have Uploaded an Event Image

 We’ve been saying for a long time that images are worth more than a thousand words, they are worth a thousand bucks! If you have not uploaded an image to your events by now, shame on you. We’ve been saying for a long time now that for us to properly market your individual experiences, they need event photos. So, if you have seen your bookings slip, make this your #1 priority, asap.

When selecting an image for your event, we recommend that you select an image that is best represents the experience of high quality and is not your standard “bottle shot” like image. Remember, the guest that is considering booking your experience, they have to picture themselves in the chair you are offering for the seated tasting, or the food that is part of the wine & food experience. If your tasting experience has Add-Ons or UpSells, be sure to upload images to each of those items, too.

We all know that smartphones these days have high-resolution cameras, but without some basic photography skills, all that amazing technology will be for not. It is all about lighting and framing, which anyone can master in just a few minutes with a little help and strategy. The Apple website even offers some great FREE webinars that can be used with any device. Take a few minutes to select one of their lessons and before you know it, your pictures for your events on CellarPass will even look better.

Gaining the Edge Using Google Analytics Data

 No doubt 2020 has been one of the most difficult years for the travel and tourism industry to date. Those that innovated led with increased bookings for offline and online events, those that did not, failed miserably. When COVID-19 first struck, we all thought it was a temporary situation, but as time went on and visitation guidelines changed, at times it felt like almost weekly, gaining the upper hand at times felt impossible. This is when having access to your Google Analytics is key- and reviewing your booking data helps you better understand what changes you need to make to stop the slippage in bookings and turn it around. What you also have as an advantage is the CellarPass platform, where our teams are available to help you better understand what changes to make and what to leave unchanged. We are also constantly improving the platform by adding new features well ahead of others, allowing you to adapt and innovate well before your neighbors.

If you do not already have your Google Analytics account connected to CellarPass, this is again one of those moments to stop everything and get this connected, asap. This is because every day you do not have your Google Analytics account unconnected, you are losing out on the opportunity to view Google Analytics reports, spotting traffic and booking trends and react by making swift, but educated adjustments based on data. The great news is that it is not that difficult to connect your Google Analytics account to CellarPass as we have done all the complicated programming for you. You simply need to add your Google Analytics (UA Account) number and your Google Tag Manager (GTM Account) into your CellarPass account. Here’s a helpful article that shows you how, step by step.

Getting a Fresh Perspective- Revisiting Your Own Website

 Honestly ask yourself when was the last time you visited your own website? You will be surprised how long it has been. If it has been more than 6 months, we recommend you spend 45 minutes perusing your own website, but this time in the mindset of wanting to schedule a visit to your property, not to make an online product purchase. Count how many clicks it takes, how much scrolling it requires to get to your booking engine or contact form. These are all precious seconds that could earn you a new club member, or ultimately frustrate someone and lose that guest to your neighbor.

Now that you have your Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager setup, now you can really start to see the business intelligence to help you make logical decisions, rather than “gut” ones. Of course, the longer you have had these accounts connected to CellarPass, better the intel will be to make even more precise adjustments.

Where we recommend you start is reviewing some basic reports in Google Analytics to better understand your audience and what devices they are using to book- and where. But before we get into the weeds in understanding the acquisition and conversion funnel, take a good look at the visitor behaviors on your website. A poorly-designed website, specifically the user experience such as buried call-to-action (CTA) buttons, or worse off, a website that is completely dysfunctional on a mobile or tablet device.

Understanding the percentage of visitor traffic to your site, whether a mobile or desktop is a great place to start. And you will probably be surprised how high of a percentage guests are using mobile devices to book these days. The CellarPass website averages around 68% - 72% mobile visitors. Now that you know the percentages of how visitors are utilizing your website, take your website for another test spin on the device used by most. Using the Google Chrome Dev Toolbar (free plug-in) allows you to mimic these devices on your PC, but we would never recommend that you solely rely on this tool to replace real-world testing of an actual tablet or smartphone. If you don’t have the device that is used most, seek someone out that does and hopefully you can borrow it to make some notes. Take those notes to your designer and set the priorities based on what's causing conversion friction.

Crash Course in Google Analytics Reports

 Okay, by now it has been a few days or perhaps you already had Google Analytics hooked up to CellarPass (congrats) and you’ve got months of traffic and booking history to study. And this is the fun part (well for me at least); when we get our feet wet in Google Analytics reports. So go grab a cup of coffee and expect to spend about an hour getting familiar with some of the reports.

But before you get too far into reports, be sure to select a date range. And be sure this date range is always set when reviewing each of the reports so that the data selection is consistent. You will select this up in the top right of Google Analytics. There are some pre-built date ranges such as Last 7 Days, Last 30 Days and so forth. Start with selecting your own date range by selecting the last 90-120 days in the date picker. Skip over the Last 30 Days option as it may not help you understand booking trends which can be skewed by seasonality.

Audience Overview

This is a great report to help you better understand the overall traffic to your website such as the percentage of new visitors compared to repeat users, how much time they are spending on your website and number of page views. Bounce rate is a figure that you’ll want to note. This essentially means the percentage of visitors that “land” on your website, then immediately leave for another website. If you have anything over 45-50%, there’s something wrong and would be a good idea to track down as to what page(s) have the most bounce rate and review what those pages are. In many cases, the page could be broken or doesn’t provide the information the visitor was looking for, so they went elsewhere. Either way, not good news for you and should be addressed. Yep, add that to the checklist!

Demographics Overview

This is a fantastic report to help you get to know the demographics of the visitors to your website. And compare this to the data out of your Point of Sale. Are these inline, or completely different? If you don’t have an understanding of your demographics out of your Point of Sale or guest management system, definitely seek out their technical support as it will be really helpful to understand the profile of your guests, either when they booked or walked-in; who bought who didn’t. This data will help you how to develop a marketing plan to reach the audience that best resonates with your brand.


As we go deeper into the Audience section of the Google Analytics reports, you’ll see that we’re creating a much better understanding of who our visitors are- online of course. In the Geo section, this helps you understand where in the world these guests are when visiting your website. Are they in the same zip code, area code, across the state or on the other side of the planet? This data helps you understand how far guests will have to travel to visit your property. The ones you want to focus on are the ones in a 90-mile radius as those are your target “day trippers” that you will want to market to. Others beyond that require more travel planning and lead time. And if you need butts in seats now, the day tripper is your key audience to market to.

Getting Familiar with Behaviors

In the main navigation of the Google Analytics reports, scroll down to locate Behavior. Then expand the menu to then select Site Content. You will then want to select the All Pages option. Now, go to your website and locate the page where the CellarPass booking engine is installed. Copy the entire URL, minus your domain name. In the Site Content (all pages) report, you’ll want to paste the URL as you want to see the behavior for the specific booking page from your website. Look for the input field, it may be hard to find, but it's there.

Run the report and look at the key metrics such as Average Time on Page and Bounce Rate. Again, if you have a bounce rate over 60%, dig deeper into the reports by adding a secondary dimension of Mobile (Including Tablet). The results of the report will actually surprise you as you’ll probably see a higher bounce rate on mobile which is not good. This is where reviewing your own website on a mobile device and booking a test reservation will further identify problems. There’s something about your website design that is causing an increase in bounces that should be looked at asap.

We could spend days writing about all the great reports and intel you can get out of Google Analytics, but we’ll hold that off for another day as we don’t want to get too deep into the weeds for this article.

Reports Are Not My Thing, Help!

 If you used a design agency to build your website or continue to maintain it, they most likely developed the overall design (site map) for your website based on their experience with designing websites for your industry- and most importantly used your Google Analytics data to provide feedback. If you do not have a web design firm and feel overwhelmed by all the reports, don’t hesitate to hire a freelance Google Analytics expert to help you digest it all. There are plenty of freelancers out there on websites like TopTalent, Upwork, Fiverr and others for little as $10/hour and can help you look like a pro in just a couple of hours. Even Google offers free online courses if you want to give it a go on your own.

Reviewing What’s Booking, What’s Not and How to Adapt

Now that you have a far-better understanding of who your audience is and some of their key booking behaviors, now’s the time to use CellarPass to better understand how your property is performing against others. Located in the CellarPass admin panel’s dashboard is a great deal of information that helps you understand how you rank against others in the region and other important factors that could be telltale signs of guests' booking behaviors. After logging into the CellarPass admin panel, simply click the Dashboard button in the top left.

Admin Dashboard Overview

Right in the middle of the dashboard, you’ll see some key metrics- percent of new guests (guests that have claimed to have never been to your property before), region ranking, number of experience reviews and number of favorites. W recommend checking this at least once a day or at minimum once a week. Ignoring this review is a really bad idea as it will help you spot small problems before they become bigger ones.

Region Ranking

This number denotes the quality of reviews received, weighted by the number of bookings. If you are in the top 10, fantastic, you are doing a great job. If you are outside of that, then there’s some homework to be done. Note that this metric does not factor in private, one-off bookings or guests with the customer type of Trade 1 or Trade as this was designed to avoid anyone from gaming the algorithm .

Experience Reviews

If you have little to no Experience Reviews, be alarmed as this will hurt your positioning throughout our website as many of our pages are based on your overall score. In most cases, this is really easily fixed, but will take you time to regain ground, so don't get too far behind.

First of all, make absolutely sure that the Reviews Invite has not been disabled in Settings, Member Configuration. This of course would ultimately control if the invitation to leave a review is sent to the guest or not. Second, be sure that every guest reservation at the end of the day is either marked as “No Show”, “Cancelled” or “Checked-in”. You should not see a “yellow” confirmed status icon in the Reservations Dashboard before you leave for the day. In Table Pro, there should be no “pending” parties. Seated guests in Table Pro are automatically marked as checked-in, requiring no further steps.

The good news is that if you have some way of knowing which guests did arrive for past dates, you can still mark them as “Checked-In”, but you’ll need to use the admin panel to do this. Just be absolutely sure to only mark these guests as checked-in if you know 100% they honored their reservation. Marking a guest that never showed as checked-in, will only confuse them and open the opportunity for a bad Experience Review.

Reading Guest Experience Reviews

As we get further along, another way to understand if your events are being executed well is to check out the Guest Reviews in the CellarPass admin panel. Go to Reports, Reservations, then select Reviews. Lastly, select the month and year as this will allow you to see recent reviews or ones from months ago. Are there some events that are getting better reviews (or worse) than others? Examine the details such as where these events are taking place, the days of the week and if you are using Table Pro and assigning servers/hosts, you can see who hosted the party. Another important aspect of the review is where the guest booked the reservation. Was it from your website (WGT), a CellarPass referral (REF) or over-the-phone booking (B/O). This all helps you better understand the quality of the guest and where their booking journey began.

Refining Event Offerings By Leveraging CellarPass Business Intelligence (CPBI)

Okay, you now have a pretty good understanding who your guests are, what device they are using to book, what they are booking and their post-visit impressions are. Did this information help you better understand what’s working and what’s not? Are any of your experiences falling flat? Did guests feel like they were overpriced, under priced or not offered frequently enough? Sure, those are all questions that we can help answer, but wouldn’t it be nice to understand how your neighbor or friendly competitor is doing?

Understanding Most Booked Using CPBI

What’s great is that all these answers are available to you and all it takes is a quick trip through the CellarPass website. First, we’ll start with understanding national trends. Go to the CellarPass homepage and scroll down to the Most Popular Experiences section and note the top eight placements. These are the most popular event types based on booking data of the last 15 days.

Now, go to the top, left-hand corner of our website and to the right of the search icon, enter the name of your region, such as Napa Valley. Hit the Enter key and click on the region name in the list of results. This will redirect you to our regional vacation planner page. Now click the Tours & Tastings section as this is the category your property will be found. Next, scroll down and locate the Most Popular Experiences section which now displays the top eight event types for your region. Write down these event types as this will be part of the next exercise.

Optimizing Your Events to Game the CellarPass Most Booked Algorithm

Our first task is to review your existing reservation-based events by going into the CellarPass admin panel, then selecting Reservations, then Create & Manage. If you do not see these options, your access to the CellarPass platform is not Admin-level. You will need someone that does to continue this exercise.

Review each of your reservation-based events (Reservations, Create & Manage), noting what event type each has been set to and relate that to the booking numbers as reviews. Are you under booked for these and need more seats filled? Do you have any events mapped with any of the top eight most booked event types? If you do not, make those adjustments now so that they best fit what has been trending. You will be really surprised how quickly your bookings will increase with this little adjustment.

A good example is during the summer months, you will want to look for booking trends for Outdoor Tasting versus Seated Tasting and Private Tasting vs Wine & Food Tasting. Just be sure that the event type selected truly matches the description of the program or simply change your tasting program to match the booking trends. Either way, don’t lead the guests on as this will only lead to poor reviews because the expectations were set when they booked, which when it comes to referral bookings much of our site’s traffic and conversions will start here.

Rinse & Repeat, Monthly

As we covered during your initial training, you never want to set a schedule in stone, nor design an experience and then expect people to book it. Using the Google Analytics data, the CellarPass dashboard and booking data we covered here, should be reviewed monthly. Optimizing your tasting scheduled and the experiences you offer will reward you with more guests, better reviews and above all, selling more wine and building ambassadors that will join your wine club and bring back their friends to share their fondness for your brand and property.

About the Writer
Jonathan Elliman, CTO and co-founder of CellarPass is a veteran of the wine industry and is an SEO expert with over 20 years if experience that spends half his day analyzing traffic patterns for and the other half staying ahead of the curve by researching and studying online travel booking trends.


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