You have a Vanity Website, Now what?

Rick BollingerOkay, you’ve done the hard work of getting a well-designed and user-friendly vanity site. Now it’s time to maximize its potential. The question is where to start and what items are most important to focus on.

Google is transforming its search results to show that it understands not only site content, but also its users and the relationship between the two. Since today’s customers are increasingly skilled at using the Internet to find what they need, it is important that your content be written to engage the searcher on their specific search requests. This can be accomplished by knowing two things: how your customers think and the impact of localized SEO tactics on your site.

Google, Bing, and other search engines are constantly working to make search results more and more relevant to the searcher. For example, on May 30th, Google converted 80 million Google Places pages into Google+ Local pages. This means your Google Places page has now become a social environment where you as a hotelier can engage with your customers and their circles. Within Google+, people and their friends are actively recommending local businesses, including yours, based on their personal experiences to each other.

So, to build a strong website that gets found, you have to include many local keywords in multiple combinations in as many natural places as possible throughout your site, including places like the title, meta-description, and header text.

Understanding the needs of your customers translates into creating copy that is marketing and consumer benefit focused. If your customers are mainly leisure travelers, for example, your site should include content that explains exactly what a leisure traveler can enjoy at your hotel and its surrounding location. Customers need to find your site relevant to their interests or they will leave, a fact that search engines note as they determine your content relevancy score when deciding to list your vanity site as a top result or not.

Another important way to increase the opportunities for your website to be found is in networking with other local business and building relevant links back to your website through them. The more links to your site that Google and the other engines see, especially from websites related to your content, the more likely these engines are to display your site as a top result. One way of doing this is having a link back to your site from any groups that have business coming in to your hotel. You can also build special landing pages for these groups and their events.

Once you have done the work, it is important to track the results. Spend time in your website’s analytics looking at what your visitors find important. What pages are they viewing the most? What keywords are bringing them in? What areas are they from so you can continue to fine-tune your local search terms?  Don’t forget to pay attention to what visitors don’t find important and review your bounce rates. This can clue you into parts of your site that need a fix.

If you’re curious to learn more about SEO techniques and other tools that can increase your website’s visibility call me at (407) 998-8007, send me an email at rbollinger@1emax.com, or visit us at www.emax-1.nationalnet.com/emaxhotelmarketing.com. We’re always here to help.

What Effect Will Siri Have on Search?

You have seen the new iPhone 4 commercial where SIRI helps its owner find search related terms on the device. What is Siri you may wonder; and what does it do? Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface) is an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator that uses a natural language interface to perform actions for its user over a device.

Apple currently uses Siri on it iPhone 4S platform launched in October of 2011. Apple’s implementation of Siri integrates with default iOS functionality, such as contacts, calendars and text messages. More importantly, from the search perspective, it also supports searches from Google, Bing, Yahoo, Wolfram Alpha, and Wikipedia. Siri also integrates with Google Maps and Yelp! search results. Apple has claimed that an individual’s search result preferences will be personalized as the software learns from a users search results.

The fact of the matter is, Siri is only available on a handful of devices available to consumers, so it would be very shortsighted to think that this is going to have a massive effect on search right now. Projecting from my own years of experience with end users, most are likely to use their default search engine when looking for a hotel on the Internet.

This is good news for those of us who have spent time researching the long tail keyword phrases for mobile sites. Up until now, most mobile searches have centered on a very limited keyword search phrase. Even mobile devices with QWERTY keyboards are difficult for typing long texts. This is the reason why mobile searchers usually are very brief in their search queries limiting searches to only 1 or 2 words at the most. A common mobile tactic has been that if you don’t rank well for shorter key phrases (they are also the most competitive), then you will be missing a lot of mobile traffic. Will Siri change this?

The answer is a resounding, yes. As voice recognition programs become more mainstream in search, the pattern will change. Instead of a user searching for “San Antonio Hotel”, the Siri search may look something like this, “Find a 4 star hotel on the San Antonio Riverwalk”. Those who take the lead and begin to optimize for these longer keyword phrases will have an advantage over those who do not.

In mobile search the limitations of scrolling are more severe than those of Desktop users. A page with 10 search results fits on the screen of a desktop but on a mobile device it might be split into 2 or more screens. In mobile search, it’s not the Top 10, it is more the Top 3 because only the first 3 or 4 positions are on the first page and have the highest chance to attract the user’s attention.

In the not so distant future, the integration of Siri will begin to affect strategies and optimization efforts. However, most of these things should be part of your SEO strategy from the start. Remember, it’s not about people getting to your website through Google placement alone. With Siri and other similar interfaces, visibility will come from other sources as well. Siri wants to give users a visual experience and draws data from local listing sites such as Yelp, Google Maps, Citysearch, YP, etc. There are more than 60 of these sites on which it is well worth your time to create a listing, not just for Siri but also because getting listed on (and getting links from) these major sites will improve your local listing and organic placements in SERPs as well.

The New Facebook Timeline

This past week I received a lot of calls and emails on this subject, and I wanted to give my Hoteliers an overview of the changes that are coming.

 Just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of Facebook, the popular social media site introduces yet another change: the Timeline. This time, however, Facebook is attempting to make the navigation cleaner, and provide greater flexibility with images, posts, tabs, and more. Hoteliers have until March 30th to make their changes and get acquainted to the new Timeline.

 The primary change with the new Timeline will be the layout, which will feature a more personalized layout with a cover photo, highlighting features, and the ability to edit and update without navigating to a separate page. Though the changes won’t interfere with custom tabs, hotel brands can select their most important tabs and display the top three up front.

 What is popularly known as a Facebook Wall, will now become a true timeline. Brands will still be able to control their content, post status updates, and engage in conversation, with the added benefit of sharing milestones. The Milestones allow users to add special events to the timeline; for example, hotels can add notable events such as renovations, special awards, or even times a celebrity stayed at the hotel. Hotels are encouraged to tell their authentic stories and highlight their achievements to educate their potential guests.

 Unlike before, with Facebook Timeline, brands will now be able to send and receive private messages, which allows for much deeper consumer interaction. Page managers can take extended customer inquiries off the Timeline and into a private message, which avoids clutter on your timeline, and a good opportunity to get a personalized relationship with the guest.

 Finally, Facebook plans to roll out analytics that will give Page administrators visibility regarding real-time activity on their space. Administrators will be able to see what’s happening on their Pages, tweak their content and advertising, check if a post is performing poorly, and then replace it if necessary. The upshot is that the analytics tool will help businesses determine which tab to promote on a day-to-day basis.

 Think of this change as your early “spring cleaning” – tidy up your page and do some research on your company’s history. Here’s your chance to get your hotel’s story out there, control the success of your page with the new analytics feature, and, of course, stay at the forefront of the users’ attention. Brands that constantly create engaging updates and share important milestones will continue to be more significant in their market.

 Useful Links:

http://www.facebook.com/about/timeline

http://mashable.com/2012/02/29/facebook-brand-timelines-changes-marketing/

http://mashable.com/2012/03/01/facebook-timeline-brands-guide/

 

Big Billboard Ads…Still Not Big Enough For Tablets.

Times are changing. By now, most hotels have adapted to this saying, but few will find ways to play catch-up with altering consumer behavior. Remember, the best way to stay in the game and pave the way for your own hotel’s success is to fully embrace the latest trends, because we all know that hiding or praying will not make it go away.

With that said, let’s take a look at the power of the tablet, and how it has created yet another shift in the way consumers interact and spend money. It’s no surprise that since the adoption of tablet devices in April 2010 (the launch of the first iPad), the use of tablet devices has exploded and continues to grow rapidly. Findings presented at the Mobile Insider Summit in January suggest that when it comes to mobile commerce, tablets are utilized more for buying rather than browsing.

Here’s where hotels fall in: With the continuous rise in tablet usage, it is important to evaluate and develop fresh hotel strategies to better attract and retain tablet visitors, which is where mobile ads can have an impact. Rather than spending vital marketing dollars on the once popular billboard advertising, you will be much better off putting money and effort in mobile advertising.

The point of advertising is generally to send an effective message about your hotel with the intent to attract potential guests. When you create mobile ads, you have a powerful advantage to strategically place them where you know your specific target audience will go. Travel websites or hotel booking sites such as TripAdvisor and Expedia are perfect mobile ad spots. Tablets are great travel research tools, and your customer base will likely be using it to seek hotel rooms whether they’re at an airport, on the road, or sitting in bed. Yes, billboards are also located in designated spots as well, but there is no guarantee your customers will be looking, or even driving by that advertisement.

Another advantage is that mobile goes wherever the customer is. Remember, the Internet never sleeps – so any time of the day or night – someone can and will be looking at your ad, which leads to an opportunity for immediate sales. With the static location of billboard ads, customers may overlook it because of poor location, too much competition, or simply because they are too busy searching for rooms on their tablet.

A study from Marin Software Inc., an online advertising services and technology firm, found that in their analysis of paid search, consumers are more likely to click an ad on a search results page when using smartphones and tablets than when using desktop and laptop computers. The click-through rates in the fourth quarter of 2011 measured 0.95% for desktops and laptops, 1.25% for smartphones, and 1.31% for tablets, with a projection to see a rise in those tablet numbers.

With those numbers, it’s clear that the tablet has quickly emerged as the third digital screen in consumers’ lives. Start acting like your customers do; see what attracts them, create a personality for your hotel, and create engaging mobile ads to leverage tablet users. This market of consumers using tablets is rapidly growing, and hotels can no longer afford a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Considering how much the Web has influenced hotel bookings, it is apparent that traditional billboard ads have been decreasing in effectiveness.

On an industry scale, sales of tablets are up about 400% compared to the same time period the year before. In fact, in Quarter 2 alone (2011), Apple shipped over 10 million iPads, which is nearly four times the amount of MacBooks they sold in the same period.[1] The Adobe Digital Marketing Insights analysis of 16.2 billion visits to retail websites shows that consumers using tablets are a distinct and lucrative customer segment that should not be overlooked.

Make sure 2012 is a captivating and innovative year for your mobile commerce by getting on board with the changing times, and getting an edge on your competitors. Mobile ads obviously offer more opportunities to get a response with easy interactivity, links to your site, and opportunity to target your customer base. While we can not shape or predict consumer behavior, we can certainly build on it.

Out with the old, in with the new! Unlike hotel billboard ads, here’s a saying that won’t become obsolete.


[01] Mogelonsky, Larry. “How Your Hotel Can Use Tablets.” ehotelier.com. 0September 21, 2011. <http://www.ehotelier.com>

Google’s Future: Everyone on Page 1

Google Infinite ScrollGoogle knows that people rarely go past the first page.  When doing a search, if they do not find what they are looking for in the first page of search results, people are more likely to review the results again or change their search than go to page 2.

This creates as many problems for Google as it does for website owners.  Google has more ad inventory that they would like to display to searchers.  They also have richer content that they are reluctant to display because it would result in fewer page 1 listings.  Google’s solution: infinite scroll.

Infinite scroll removes the pagination for search results and replaces it with a simple “show more results”  button at the bottom.  This is similar to how your Facebook wall currently functions.

This is not science fiction, Google has begun live testing this function.  Here is an example captured by Waebo:

What does infinite scroll mean for hoteliers? Simply: More!

More visibility for those properties not on page 1.  In major markets this could be a significant difference for a lot of hotels.

More opportunities to stand out as Google uses this real estate to expand Universal Search and Rich Snippets.

Google has confirmed that they are working on the infinite scroll functionality, but will not comment on a timeline for its introduction.  So, for now, we are left to wait and anticipate.

To learn more about Infinite Scroll and how it could effect search results check out GSQI’s article at:
http://www.hmtweb.com/imd/?p=1132

Twitter Announces Web Analytics

 

Tuesday Twitter announced the release of a new tool: Twitter Web Analytics.  Simply, the tools will allow website owners to understand:

- How much their content is being shared on Twitter

- How much traffic Twitter is sending to their website

- How well Tweet Buttons are performing

Twitter is the fastest growing of the major social media sites, gaining on average 460,000 new accounts per DAY.  Twitter has also been getting significant press for its ability to actually generate traffic to a site as part of a campaign.  This tool, available to all users in the coming weeks, will provide better measurement of current Twitter campaigns and provides hoteliers with the information to craft even better campaigns in the future.

Screen Shot Courtesy of Mashable

 

For more information read the full release on Mashable:
http://mashable.com/2011/09/13/twitter-web-analtyics/ 

Don’t Let Automation Kill Your Facebook Engagement

HootSuite Kills Facebook EnagementAutomated social media platforms have become a popular technique in the hotel industry to manage social media campaigns.  The ability to schedule posts in advance is attractive to the hotelier who does not have the time to sit in front of their computer all day looking at Facebook.  However, a recent study by Applum  found that utilizing these tools actually reduces engagement by more than 80% when compared to manual posts on Facebook.

Applum studied more than 1M Facebook posts across more than 50k Facebook pages.  They looked at how fans engage with posts (likes, comments, etc).  Across the board, the interaction with automated posts was significantly less than the interaction with manual posts to Facebook.  The authors cite several possible reasons:

Facebook Penalizes 3rd Party API’s EdgeRank
When an object is created in Facebook, it is assigned a weight. We believe that Facebook strategically reduced the weight of objects created through the API. The reason behind this strategy would be to encourage more content creation within the Facebook Platform. This ultimately increases the value of their platform while increasing ad impressions.

Facebook Collapses 3rd Party API Updates

When the same 3rd Party Platform has multiple updates within your feed (regardless of the Page or People who created the object), Facebook will collapse the objects and only display a single object. This can potentially kill visibility for objects involved.

Content is not Optimized for Facebook
One of the conveniences of a 3rd Party Platform is that you can simultaneously update Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, and hopefully not MySpace. Unfortunately, this typically requires the social marketer to optimize their content for all the social networks at once. Twitter has character limitations at 140, Facebook allows for many more characters. Some networks allow photos to be attached, while other networks do not. This distracts the social marketer from specifically optimizing their update for Facebook.

What should a hotelier do?  Use these automated tools sparingly.  There is still a place for these tools; automation is effective for vacations and off hour postings.  However, they should not be the primary method you post your content to Facebook.

Hotelier’s should also really consider their content strategy on Facebook.  How creative are you being?  Are you really engaging your fans?  Are you utilizing all of the tools that Facebook makes available? Video? Polls? Photos?

Automation allows you to exist in a comfortable box of simple, regular content updates.  To really develop an effective campaign break out and be creative.

Read the full article at:
http://edgerankchecker.com/blog/2011/09/does-using-a-third-party-api-decrease-your-engagement-per-post/

Google Buys Zagat

Google Buys zagat

This summer Google made significant changes to their local listings, Places.  The changes centered around removing content Google had been displaying from third party websites, including reviews from travel sites like Trip Advisor.  For hotels this resulted in a significant visual change to Places listings as hundreds, even thousands, of reviews disappeared.

The move also set Google on a course to rely on their own content for local listing.  This strategy became even clearer today when Google announced their acquisition of Zagat.  In their release Google stated, “Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering—delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights.”

There is no immediate impact to the hotel industry from this move.  However, Google’s intentions to build their own local content is clear.  So, whether it comes from another acquisition or an expansion of the Zagat brand, expect Google to attempt to make further inroads into the travel industry.

Google will find a way to be a larger player in hotel reviews.  This type of relatively inexpensive, user generated content provides significant value for their Hotel Finder product and their rate driven pay-per-click ads.

Trip Advisor has good reason to be alarmed when they look in their side mirror.  Google is coming fast and is much closer than they appear.

Facebook Changes Places

Competition is an amazing thing. Google’s introduction of their social media platform +1 has generated a lot of buzz.  Not surprisingly it has also spurred a flury of activity from Facebook.

One of the more significant recent changes is the revamping of Facebook Places.  Facebook has expanded places to everything, not just smartphone users.  Before, if you wanted to talk about a great place within Facebook, you couldn’t.  Check-ins were only available through Facebook’s mobile application.  Now Facebook has included a “where are you” feature to all posts, allowing you to discuss where you are, where you are going, or where you have just been.

Facebook Places

Facebook's description of how to use places in status updates

This opens up Places and makes it an even more powerful weapon for hotels.  There were many guests who, because of privacy concerns, were not comfortable sharing their location via check-in during their stay.  Now these guests can safely brag about your property after they leave, sharing their experience with their Facebook network.

Have you incorporated Places into your Facebook campaign?  These changes make it a more powerful tool, one that should be a part of your social media arsenal.  Learn about some innovative ways others have used Facebook Places in our recent article: 8 Cool Facebook Places Campaigns.

Read more about Facebook Places direct from the source at: http://www.facebook.com/about/location

Social Media: Not Just For Kids

Hotel Social Media Marketing

According to a Pew Research Center study, reported by the Wall Street Journal, adult usage of social networking sites has soared in the past year.

65% of US adults now use social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter.  Grown ups are not just casual users either, 43% of US adults visit social networking sites daily.

If your hotel has not added social media to your marketing mix, it may be time to try.  Done well, social media is an opportunity to engage customers in a positive way based on value not intrusion.  Now, your social media campaign will be reaching adults who make purchasing decisions and have access to disposable income.

Ready to take that step? Just looking for ways to improve your existing campaign?  Check out our archive of social media marketing articles.  To read the full story from the WSJ visit:
http://blogs.wsj.com/in-charge/2011/08/30/adult-use-of-social-media-soars/