Category Archives: Search Engine Marketing

Search Ads Integrated with Social Increase Revenue

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When forming your marketing strategy, you should not be deciding between search ads and social ads.  Instead you should try to integrate your search ads with social ads, according to research conducted by Marin Software and published in a new white paper, “The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search and Social Advertising.”

What Marin’s Research Found
According to the white paper, Marin’s research found that customers who clicked on both search and social ads were about twice as likely to convert versus those who clicked on a search ad alone.

“The impact of cross-channel touch was even greater when examining social clicks.  Users who clicked on both the search and social ads had a click-through rate approximately four and a half times higher than users who only click on social ads,” Marin stated in its paper.

The research found that customers also spent more when click on both search and social ads with two times more revenue per click.

“Multi-channel touch points are even more valuable for social advertising,” Marin reported.  “Users who clicked on both a search and social ad contributed four times more revenue per click than users who clicked on the social ad only.”

Other Key Findings

  • Search campaigns that were managed alongside social ad campaigns had 26% more revenue per click than search campaigns managed alone.
  • The integration of ad campaign management for the two channels yielded 68% higher revenue per conversion for search campaigns when managed with social advertising.

Key Takeaways

  • Successful marketing executives recognize that meeting overall business objectives requires focusing the customer, not the channel.  (For example, a channel-focused approach is mainly concerned with the right keywords, the right targeting settings and often the best bids).
  • While a single-channel management focus can have some tactical advantages, it often ignores the strategic goals of the overall marketing effort: acquiring the right customer with the right buying intentions at the right time.
  • Marketing is fundamentally about target audience, while the channel is the means of delivering a message to that audience.  Successful marketers are beginning to focus the shift away from the individual channel and instead use the strengths of each channel to reach an intended audience.

To access the full white paper by Marin Software, click here.

Guest Acquisition: E-mail vs. Social Media

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I cannot go a day without seeing a social media-driven article on many of the top hospitality and travel marketing websites.  Social media is everywhere and plays an important role in your marketing campaign, helping you connect with potential travelers.

With that being said, is social media the most effective marketing tool available, or should you stick with more traditional options like e-mail?

A recent study by predictive analytics firm Custora discovered that customer acquisition via e-mail has quadrupled in the last four years and now accounts for almost seven percent of customer acquisitions.  The study also found that organic search is the most powerful acquisition channel, accounting for 16 percent of customers acquired.  Despite substantial recent growth in social media channels, Facebook and Twitter lag far behind in customer acquisition.

Custora’s data also gave some insight into Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), which refers to the future profit a company expects to earn from a customer throughout his or her relationship with the business.  Similar to the customer acquisition model, organic search lead the way with a CLV of 54% higher than average.  Twitter ranked dead last in this category with the lowest-value customers (23% less than average).

E-mail may not have some of the flash and pizzazz of social media, but it’s a medium that generates revenue.  Whereas Facebook, the highest-ranking social media platform in CLV, ranks at 1% above average, e-mail has a level of 11%.  Simply put, customers who come to businesses through e-mail tend to shop more and spend more.

Social media is at its most effective when it is used as a customer engagement tool.  It can be a two-way communication line between a company and potential customers.  Twitter is typically used to relate breaking news and deals, while Facebook users usually want to increase their contact with a brand.

Mobile Plays a Role

One reason why e-mail is so effective is the fact that it is permission-based.  Customers typically have to opt-in to start receiving e-mails.  Moreover, with the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, they are always listening.  In fact, e-mail is the top activity for most people on their phones.

People check e-mail constantly, wherever they are, and that enables you to stay connected with them.  However, people who read their e-mail on a mobile device do so quickly, meaning your messages must be powerful enough to grab their attention.

For all of its positive aspects, mobile also offers some drawbacks for marketers.  Forty percent of all e-mails are now viewed on smartphones, which means they must be coded to be attractive on a phone screen.  If your message looks bad on a mobile device, 70% of customers will unsubscribe from your e-mails.

Examining Metasearch Online Travel Agencies

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Online travel agencies (OTAs) are a vital part of the supply chain in the travel industry. They are widely considered one of the main factors behind rapid growth in online travel bookings across both mature and emerging markets.

New online channels have been created in recent years with the intention of lowering hotel distribution costs without decreasing occupancy levels.  Of these options, the metasearch channel has separated itself from the pack as a highly successful venture.

In a recent interview with HotelMarketing.com, Siteminder’s CEO Mike Ford illustrated the opportunities that metasearch channels present for hoteliers.

Ford begins the discussion by explaining that metasearch OTAs collect room rates from multiple online channels and displays them to the consumer in a single list.  This allows potential travelers an expedited process to find and compare hotels and pricing options.  Some of the most popular sites include Google Hotel Finder, Trivago and Kayak.

Those hoteliers that are taking advantage and becoming early adopters of new sales and distribution technologies stand out, but ultimately the name of the game is converting clicks to bookings.  No matter the type of property, the number of rooms, geographical location, star rating or amenities offered, the companies that are the most profitable will be those with a high click conversion.

Ford also discusses his feelings about TripAdvisor’s TripConnect in comparison to the other major metasearch OTAs as well as tips for hoteliers on how best to implement metasearch channels into their online visibility.

To read this entire interview, and to learn more about the importance of metasearch OTAs going forward, click here.

Understanding Why ResortsandLodges.com Works For You

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In today’s travel and hospitality industry, it is clear that brand loyalty is on the decline and consumers are looking for the best value, deals and the most choices.

This is where Niche marketing comes into play.

Consider the decision to buy a television from an online retailer. When you search for a Flat Screen TV, you can search for a certain brand (Samsung, Vizio, LG, etc.), and you likely will find these brand websites on Google, Yahoo and Bing!  However, consumers statistically will choose to click into sites such as Best Buy, Target and Amazon.

These sites allow shoppers to compare the televisions produced by multiple brands, making a comparison and ultimately choosing the product that fits all of their needs.  Some may choose to buy online during that initial user session, however, most will purchase at a later date and may come back through a different search, or even purchase at a local retail store.

Similarly, travelers who are looking to find a specific accomodation type in a certain location head to major search engines to help them find properties.  The search engine is not where they transact however, it is the means to finding a niche shopping site to research all of their options.

These niche shopping sites in travel include OTA (online travel agents ie. Expedia, Hotels.com) Meta Search Sites (Kayak, TripAdvisor) and Niche Portals (ie. ResortsandLodges.com, Bed&Breakfast.com) Although travelers who prefer consumer choice enjoy the option of searching for the perfect destination, they only spend five percent of their time typing in search queries.

Maximizing the 5%

If consumers are spending such a limited amount of time searching to shop, your property needs to be visible, and visible early on a search engine’s results page.   Most companies bid for premier placement on keyword searches, but on average, you will likely only be able to advertise on three out of every ten sites with front-page placement on Google, Yahoo and Bing!

Like television shoppers, travelers want the ability to compare travel accommodations in specific areas.  Would you prefer to click-in to see a single Pocono Mountain resort, or head to 800Poconos.com or ResortsandLodges.com and compare multiple resorts, lodges, VRMC’s, Inns and B&B’s in the Poconos?  The choice between a niche and individual business usually weighs in favor of having more options.

Since most properties already dominate in hyper-local keywords (ie. St. Pete Beach Hotels) and of course their own brand search, the challenge of many marketing directors is in expanding their reach to target travelers further up the funnel, then influence them to come to their destination and furthermore, stay with their property.  That is the role of ResortsandLodges.com.

Do a quick Google search for Arkansas Resorts or Wisconsin Lodges. ResortsandLodges.com uses Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keyword bidding to keep placement of Search Enginge Results Pages (SERP) high.  In addition to our region pages, you will find independent region directories or individual properties.

You will not be able to advertise on individual property websites, and regional sites can limit the range of comparison to certain territories. ResortsandLodges.com offers the opportunity to be one click from a detalied property profile, and at the top of many Google, Yahoo and Bing! SERPs.

This is only one of the ways ResortsandLodges.com brings 1,000’s of travelers direct to our partners each and every day.

 

Quick Tips and Takeaways:

1. On average, consumers will only spend five percent of their online shopping time typing queries into a search engine, putting a premium on high placement on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

2. Niche shopping sites allow travelers to compare similar properties in a given location, allowing  them to choose the property that fits all of their needs.  At ResortsandLodges.com, you are one click away from being linked directly back to your property website.

3. Because most major companies bid for premium placement on SERP, and on average you can only advertise on three out of ten sites with first-page placement on Google, Yahoo and Bing!, it is important to spend your advertising dollars wisely.  Essential things to consider are the right media, the right message and the right time.

 

How Much Should You Be Spending on SEO?

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Nearly every business today must make a decision about how much to spend on search engine optimization (SEO).  This is no longer an “if” question for businesses as a robust online marketing strategy is imperative for survival in a web-driven world.

“How much will we spend on SEO?” is the question that every business professional must ask themselves in 2014.  One of Search Engine Watch’s 10 most popular stories of the 2013, written by Jayson DeMars, took deeper look at SEO spending.  Here are a few helpful tips from DeMars, and hopefully all the information you will need to help make a decision about hiring an SEO agency and forging a crucial partnership with an online marketing firm.

SEO Payment Models

To get a better understanding of the dollars and cents you will be spending on services, it is important to understand the payment models used by agencies.  Typically these agencies offer four main forms of services and payment:

  • Monthly Retainer:  Clients in this model will pay a set fee each month in exchange for an agreed-upon array of services.  This is the most common payment model because it provides the greatest return on investment (ROI).  These arrangements commonly include regular analytics reports, on-site content improvements, keyword research and optimization.  (Average Range of Rates: $750-5,000 per month) 
  • Contract Services at Fixed Prices:  Typically before a client is ready to engage in a monthly retainer, they will select contract services they wish to have completed.   SEO agencies will commonly list their services on their site, along with a price.  An example of one of these services could be an SEO website audit, which will help determine your current strengths and weaknesses as well as keywords with the highest ROI potential.  (Variable Prices dependent on services)
  • Project-Based Pricing:  Project fees are similar to contract services, but they are customized specifically for the client.  Pricing will vary according to the project.  A local business may want an agency to help with local online marketing by establishing social media accounts.  Together the business owner and the SEO agency will decide on the scope and cost of the project.  (Variable prices typically between $1,000 and $30,000)
  • Hourly Consulting:  This familiar consulting model is an hourly fee in exchange for services or information.  (Average Range of Rates: $100-300/hr.)

Things You Should Be Suspicious of

With the amount of money you will be spending on SEO, it is important to heed a few warnings to ensure that you are getting the best service available.  Be suspicious of the following promises:

  • Guarantees – SEO firms generally cannot provide guarantees due to the constantly changing nature of the industry.
  • Instant Results – It is true that using some SEO tactics will garner “instant results” by gaming the system, but these can hurt you in the long run.  Instant results often involve SEO practices that are against the webmaster guidelines put out by search engines.  Major search engines like Google seek out these techniques and penalize them, resulting in a loss in rankings that could take months to make up.
  • #1 Spot on Google – It always sounds great when a company makes a promise like this, and hopefully you will be able to get it.  However, this is not something a firm can promise to hand over to you.
  • Costs Lower than $750/Month – When it comes to SEO, it is always great to find a bargain, but you really are not shopping for the lowest price.  What you should be looking for in your SEO agency is the best level of service.  Be wary of rock bottom prices or “unbelievable deals.”
  • Shady Link Building Services – Link building is an incredibly important part of SEO.  It is impossible to have a highly-ranked site without inbound links.  As with most things, there is a dark side of link building.  Link trust is gaining importance to appear high in the rankings.  Make sure your agency’s link building services are ethical, white label services.  You may even want to ask them where they may be able to gain links for a business in the hospitality industry.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • SEO Takes Time.  A Monthly Retainer is Best. You must think of SEO as a long-term investment.  Aggressive campaigns and major pushes have their place, but the best and most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship.  The best agencies do not just wave a magic wand and get instant results.  Instead, they perform extensive operations that will produce results months down the road.
  • SEO Changes, and Your Rankings Will Change, Too.  There are plenty of competitors out there for your company to battle, and rankings will rise and fall with the changing of algorithms along with the entrance of new competitors.  It takes constant monitoring to keep your website ranking high on results pages and performing at top-notch levels.  Stay away from the one-and-done SEO tricks that simply do not work!
  • Not All SEO Services are Created Equal.  You have to keep in mind that SEO is not about shopping around for the lowest prices.  You should be focusing on finding the finest agency you can.  An SEO agency that defines its scope of services and takes the time to educate you is what every company should be looking for.
  • SEO is Important.  Do it.  The point of having a website is to increase and/or improve your business.  Unless people are finding your website, it is not even worth having one.  Do the smart thing and pay what it takes to keep your site findable by the people who are looking!
  • Hiring an SEO Agency is Best.  Do not fall into the mindset that you will be able to manage your SEO on your own.  A tiny percentage of business owners or professionals have the skill and savvy to do their own SEO.  On top of this, comprehensive SEO takes much more time than most business owners can afford.  Save yourself the stress because more than likely you will never get the same level of ROI that you would with a competent SEO agency.

For many modern businesses, SEO is the highest ROI marketing effort.  Direct mailing, broadcast advertising, online ads and other forms of advertisement do not provide the value SEO can.  It is no longer a question of whether businesses will spend, but how much to spend. As long as a quality SEO agency is the choice, the decision has the potential to lead to incredible amounts of revenue.

5 Social Media Strategies for 2014

Taiga-Site_Social-Media-StrategyAs the calendar turns from 2013 to 2014, many companies have new goals and strategies ready to be implemented.  The evolving world of social media is no different.  However, the ultimate goal of those strategies remains the same:  to increase brand awareness, to enhance guest satisfaction and to drive revenue.

To help hoteliers reach these goals, Daniel Edward Craig, founder of the online reputation management firm Reknown, and his panel shared a list of social media strategies to adopt in 2014.

1. Identify and Target Social Media Personas

Historically, hotel marketers have been quick to segment guests into familiar buckets that commonly included group, transient and business.  However, these groupings are simply too broad to reach with a targeted, captivating message via social media according to RockCheetah’s CEO Robert Cole.

The who, what, when, where and how still matter, but the real question to delve into is why.  Why are travelers visiting a certain destination under certain parameters?  Why should they choose to stay with you?

To find those answers, it helps to create personas that represent a subset of travelers, giving each persona a name and detailed characteristics or traits.  Things to consider include age, income levels, interests and where your personas live.  With all of this specificity, marketers are able to tailor communications that are more likely to drive engagement with a specific cohort.

Although this example may represent a deviation from the high-volume aspirations of most hotel marketers, there is one thing to keep in mind:  You can’t be all things to all people on social media.

2. Integrate Paid, Owned and Earned Content

Paid content, including display ads, cost-per-click campaigns and online travel agency listings give marketers a high degree of control.  However, it typically has a low influence on traveler booking choices.

Owned content, such as a brand website, Facebook page or Twitter feed allows you to connect with a wide range of potentials customers, but still packs a rather feeble punch.

The third and most influential content is earned content such as user-generated reviews, views, media coverage and blogs.  Although traditional marketing has focused around owned and paid content, there needs to be a shift towards developing strategies around earned content.

To garner exceptional earned content, hoteliers must provide exceptional guest experiences.  Another way to encourage feedback is throwing out small pieces of content designed for engagement with guests and can be shared easily across multiple channels.

3. Make Reviews the Priority

Reviews, both good and bad, can be used as a tool to improve the guest experience for all of your future customers.  Imagine the type of reviews you want to have and become the hotel that inspires those reviews.

Positive reviews can act as a free advertisement for your property and encourage additional travelers to stay in the future.  If guests have negative feedback, changes should be made to remedy this issue immediately so that the same reviews are not recurring.

4. Get Social with Google

Google’s algorithm is currently placing an increasing emphasis on user-generated content, including reviews.  With the development of Google+ and Google Places, the company now has its own social media brand they can use in the search engine’s organic search results.  For example, if you want your hotel to feature more prominently, marketers should focus on capturing at least five reviews through Google+

Keep in mind that you can’t simply create a Google+ account and be done with it.  Like Twitter and Facebook, Google’s platform requires a constant stream of fresh content that will continue to drive traffic to your site.

5. Optimize Facebook for Graph Search

A number of recent changes have turned Facebook into a very important marketing tool for hoteliers.  Graph Search, one of the newer developments in the social network, is like a search engine within a user’s friend network.  For example, a user can use Graph Search to look for friends who have “liked” resorts in Cancun.

How do you get your properties showcased higher on these results pages?  The more guests who visit a hotel’s Facebook page, leave comments, take photos or just mention that page elsewhere, the more likely it will show up on Graph Search.

To see the rest of this list, click here.

The Evolution of Online Search: SEO, SEM and Keyword Bidding

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Search engine optimization and search engine marketing can be very effective ways for hotels to reach prospective guests, but as the “keyword world” changes, hoteliers need to keep pace.  As online search features continue to change, there must be a greater focus on developing higher quality content for guests to compete against online travel agencies.

OTAs’ ads outnumber hotel brands’ ads on Google, Bing and AOL, but not on Google Mobile according to a recent BrandVerity study titled “Hotel Brands, OTAs and paid search: How do these relationships unfold on the SERP?”

According to the study, each Google Search Engine Results Page included almost two OTA ads.  Bing and AOL had considerably more, with 4.77 and 5.27 OTA ads per SERP, respectively.  The number of OTA ads per SERP on Google Mobile was only .49.

It is important to nail down the art and science of keyword bidding, and this is evident in the case of Expedia. They spent a substantial amount of time studying the science, and as a result their “quality score” translates to less expensive cost-per-click prices.  You can learn more about keyword bidding here.

Budgeting for SEO and SEM can vary across the spectrum of hotels.  Budget and economy hotels do not need to spend as much time on SEO because they rely more heavily on brand traffic, walk-in traffic and ratings and reviews sites.  However, If the return on ad spend is positive and you are getting better returns than spending with OTAs, meta-search, meeting planners or travel agents, the investment should be considered worthwhile and continued.