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.

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/

 

5 SEO Myths

SEO MythsThere  is massive amount of misinformation out there about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Understandably, many hoteliers have misconceptions about what exactly what SEO entails.  We routinely encounter that with our own customers and prospects.

Recently, Mark Buckingham published a list of 10 SEO Myths.  Well, Here are 5 SEO Myths that we hear regularly.  May this help improve your understanding.

1. High Google Page Rank = High Rankings
Google PageRank (PR) does not equal your ranking. The idea that a high PR means you’re going to rank across the board for everything is simply not true. PR is just one of hundreds of factors that influence search engine rankings.

“For certain keywords a lower PR page might outrank a higher PR page, but the rankings don’t specifically go in exact PR order”, says Matt McGee, Search Engine Land’s executive news editor. Having a high PageRank is nice but it doesn’t automatically mean high rankings, and it certainly doesn’t automatically mean you’re traffic or bookings.

2. Meta Tag Keywords Matter
A perennial favorite misconception is the keywords meta tag. Google’s head of Webspam and all-round search sage, Matt Cutts, sums it up simply when he says: “Google doesn’t use the keywords meta tag in our scoring at all.”  Meta tag descriptions, and certainly titles, matter, but the keyword tag is completely useless across the board.

3. Spending Money on Google AdWords Boosts your Ranking
The assumption that spending money on AdWords will somehow engender you to Google and thus advantage your organic search listings is an understandable, but untrue, idea. Google has said so many times over the years, but the myth never seems to go away.  Don’t just take Google’s word for it, there has never been any evidence, ever, that Pay-Per-Click advertising improved a site’s rankings.

4. Keywords…Cram Them In
The notion that keywords must appear on a page a certain percentage of time to outrank the competition is a fallacy. Says Matt McGee: “I’ve always said you do have to use the keywords, you need to have pages that talk about the products and services you sell. There’s no perfect number; it’s not that if you mention the keyword seven times on this page I’m automatically going to rank well. It doesn’t work that way; there are so many other factors. The notion that there’s a perfect percentage for keywords simply isn’t true. ”

Your copy should be persuasive, informative and have a clear call to action.  Be verbose and create opportunities to talk about your property and local market, but never be repetitive.

5. High Rankings Guaranteed
Anyone who is offering a guarantee in this business is more interested in your money than your results.  I am well know for saying, “If you hear Guaranteed and Google in the same sentence walk away.”  There are hundreds of factors that influence rankings and the environment is constantly changing.  No company or individual could control all of these to the point where they can honestly offer a guarantee.  If you hear that word, beware.

If you still don’t believe me, check out Mark’s full article at: www.netmagazine.com/features/top-10-seo-myths.  You’ll see that I’m not making this stuff up!

19% of Hotel Searches on Google are from Mobile Devices

Hotel Mobile WebsitesGoogle quietly disclosed last week that 19% of hotel searches come from Mobile Devices.  The information, released on their Mobile Advertising Blog, emphasizes the increasing importance of mobile devices in the travel sector.

These numbers mirror what eMax has observed across our customer’s websites.  In April of 2010 only 1.3% of website visits were on a mobile device.  In April 2011 that number had increased to 14.2%.  Almost a 10X increase in mobile visitors in just 1 year.

Mobile users have unique needs.  The nature of their situation requires simple navigation to easily get to the information the need quickly.  Plus they have the restrictions of a smaller screen and slower internet connection than a traditional desktop user.

What do mobile users see when they visit your website?  Is your mobile presence meeting their unique needs?  Learn more about hotel mobile websites at www.emax-1.nationalnet.com/emaxhotelmarketing.com.

Mobile Phone Usage

comScore reported their February mobile phone numbers last week.  234 million Americans 13 or older used mobile devices.  How did they use their phones?

38% of people used the browser on their phone.  That was the #2 activity overall.  More people used their browser than…
- downloaded apps
- accessed social networking sites
- played games
- listened to music

Hotel Mobile WebsitesHow are you connecting with mobile users? If they find your hotel through their cell phone browser, what do they see?

Mobile websites are a critical tool for hotels.  You need to display the unique information a mobile user is seeking in an effective manner for their device.  If you don’t, they will leave your site and go to a competitor!

 

For more information read comScore’s complete report.

Understanding Smartphone Users

Smartphones are here and there is no doubt of the impact on the hotel industry.  According to PhoCusWright, 75% of frequent business travelers use smartphones.

But how do they use them?  A recent study reported by eMarketer sheds some light on how people use their smartphones while making buying decisions.  Actually making  a purchase ranked last on the list of why people used their smartphone while shopping.

Hotel Mobile Websites

Instead, people are using their phones to gather the information they need to make an informed buying decision.  They compare prices, find locations, check for discounts, and read reviews.

This information further demonstrates the need for an effective mobile website.  It is not enough to simply take orders online.  In fact, that is probably the least important.

Instead a mobile website must include information critical to the buying decision and display it in a manner that provides a positive experience for the mobile user.  Content, navigation and page size are the critical factors that must be done correctly.

Read the entire eMarketer article at: http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1008300

Do you need help with your hotel mobile websiteContact us today!

6 SEO Strategies to Avoid

Hotel SEO

Is your SEO "White Hat"?

Google recently has publicly admonished and penalized high profile companies for manipulation of search engine results.  In the wake of these cases it is important to step back and examine your own search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.  There are a number of manipulative techniques often referred to as “Black Hat” or “search engine spam“.  In a recent article, Chris Birk gives some important tips for keeping the high ground.

1. Hold your SEO specialists accountable
They should be able to detail their activity and results.  Also beware of “guarantees”, this is not a field where that is possible.

2. Hold the line on links
Links are the currency of search marketing, but too many links too quickly raise red flags.  Stick to legitimate methods for link building and you will be fine.

3. Watch your anchor text
Don’t focus too much on the anchor text of your links.  A variety of anchor text is a signal that the links were developed naturally.  An abundance of exact match anchor text in your links may be a signal that your links are web spam.

4. Breadcrumb trail
Launching a slew of websites and dropping links back to your main hub is a recipe for disaster.  Don’t do it, plain and simple.

5. Bloated Title Tags
The title tag is not your wish list.  Long title tags jammed with lots of keywords will do more harm than good.  Focus on the most relevant keywords and keep your title tags less than 65 characters for the best results.

6. Comment Spam
Avoid saturating blogs and comments fields with links back to your site.  This is a surefire way to stir up trouble.

Instead of these, stick to Hotel SEO tactics that add value to the visitor especially updated and relevant content.  These “White Hat” techniques will get you results AND keep you out of trouble.

Read the full article at:
https://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/marketing/article/6-sem-strategies-guaranteed-to-go-wrong-chris-birk

3 Step Simple Linkbuilding Process

Hotel Link BuildingHotels are generous. In the course of business you support a variety of charitable causes. You donate room nights, donate food, and sometimes make direct financial contributions. This is good business and helps reinforce ties with the community. But you are missing an opportunity.

In today’s digital age each of these charitable organizations have a website. They have the ability to list your property on their website with a link to your website. These “mentions” have significant value in the world of search engine optimization. I mean HUGE!

Here is an easy way to take advantage of this opportunity:

1. Write a form letter

Have a basic form letter written up. It should simply say:

We are happy to support your organization. Thank you for the contribution you make to the community. We do ask that you list our hotel in an appropriate way on your website. This listing should include:

Your Hotel Name
Your Address
Your Phone Number
Your Website

Thank you for your attention to this matter. When the listing is posted please email you@yourhotel.com with a link to the relevant page.

Regards,

2. Give this letter to EVERY organization you support

It does not matter whether it is a big donation or something very small.  It does not matter whether you are dealing with a small organization or the largest non-profit in your area.  You must get in the habit of asking for a link.  It must become part of your regular course of doing business.

3. Follow Up (Optional)

Keep a folder with a copy of each letter that you send.  When you receive a confirmation email, mark the letter accordingly to keep track.  Once a month send out emails reminding people to follow through and place the link on their website.

Honestly, if you don’t have the resources to follow up you will still see benefit from the link building program.  Most important is to have the letter written and develop the habit of asking for the link.  Regardless of follow up, if you get in the habit of asking for links you will make more progress in a year than you ever have before.

Start asking today!

Responding To Negative Reviews

Responding To Negative ReviewsNegative reviews happen.  Every hotelier knows that you will never be able to please all of your guests 100% of the time.  Still, knowledge just doesn’t take away the sting when you read a thrashing of your property online.

So, how do you respond?  The key concept is to keep your audience in mind.  Your response is less focused on that actual guest and more targeted at future customers.  In a guest article on Mike Blumenthal’s website, Ted Paff of Customer Lobby outlines 3 steps to respond to a negative review:

1. Own the issue

2. Describe how future customers will not have to deal with this issue

3. Offer to fix the issue

These tips ensure that you stay positive and present a good image for potential guests.  For more ideas on how to respond to negative reviews, check out the full article at:

http://blumenthals.com/blog/2010/03/16/responding-to-negative-reviews-the-real-audience-is-your-prospects/

Better Leverage Your Reviews

Hotel ReviewsThe power of reviews for improving search engine ranking and influencing customer decisions is undeniable.  Noted local search expert, Mike Blumenthal, recently wrote about how he observed reviews from a hotel’s website showing up in their Google Places listing.

There are valid complaints about how this contradicts Google’s public recommendations, but none of that is important for a Hotelier.  A hotel just needs to know:

  1. Posting reviews on your website can positively influence visitors generating more revenue.
  2. Reviews on your website can also be indexed by Google and displayed on your Google Places page.  This can positively influence your local search ranking.

There is no downside to posting reviews on your website.  Do NOT include Google’s Rich Snippets in the code of your hotel website and you keep the high ground.  Google can never accuse you of manipulation and you get both of the benefits outlined above.

Adding reviews to your site is an easy change with valuable benefits.  Contact your webmaster today.

Read Mike’s full article at:
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2011/02/07/google-places-testimonials-as-reviews-now-viewed-as-spam