Rock Solid SEO

SEO – What it Means

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial,” or “natural” listings on search engines (Search Engine Land). Major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing all spit out results in an order based on what the engine deems as the most relevant to the searcher. Unlike paid advertising, SEO is free.

Meta Tags – What They Mean

Within the pages of your website lies the source, or the coded makeup of your multiple pages. Unique to each page, the source contains two critical elements: The Meta Title and the Meta Description. Let’s take a closer look at each one of these –

1. The Meta Title

The Meta Title is the most important element to the makeup of any page on your site, and generally contains no more than 70 characters total. Contained in the Meta Title are a select number of keywords, related to your property, site, and specific page. When Google indexes a search query, it looks for and deems words that it finds to be the most relevant to the search. For example: If you have a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, and you are writing the SEO specific to the Spa page of your site, your Meta Title might look something like this at its most basic form:

<title> Arizona Hotels – Phoenix – Spa </title>

“Arizona Hotels” is the most relevant search term in this Meta Title, so you want to put it first. Next, specify where exactly in Arizona your hotel is – in this case, Phoenix. Lastly, curate the Meta Title to the specifics of each page – in this case, the Spa page. If this Meta Title were for the “Golf Course” page, you would curate the title accordingly.

2. The Meta Description

The Meta Description is the snippet of information that is displayed on Google, directly below a search result (insert screenshot). Again, curated to specific pages across a site, the Meta Description is loaded with keywords, generally containing no more than 150 characters total, that search engines index as the most relevant. While the value of the Meta Description has declined in recent years, it is still important to tuck in as many keywords as possible when curating the content.

The Big “No No”

When writing the SEO for your site, it is important to keep in mind a number of factors – keyword relevance, page specification in the Meta Title (as mentioned above) and content curation specific to the page (the Meta Description).

What is often times overlooked, and what is a major mistake in SEO, is duplicate title tags. Duplicate title tags are Meta Titles that contain the same keyword more than once. For example:

<title> Arizona Hotels – Phoenix Hotels – Hotel Spa </title>

Notice the number of times that the words “Hotel or Hotels” were used. What is the problem here? Google, or any other search engine, reads that title as having duplicate content. When a duplicate is picked up, the search engine squashes it…disregards it, throws it out of consideration completely. Essentially, your page becomes non existent to a search engine result.

Recap

Whether you outsource your SEO to a web services company, or house your SEO internally, the points covered here are extremely important to take into consideration. It is important as a property owner or marketing team member to understand the value behind quality SEO. A solid SEO plan accompanied by a great website design is a golden ticket to success in the marketplace. An investment in your sites SEO lands a solid chance that you will see a positive ROI. For all of the latest and greatest SEO news, tips, and insights, check out the links below, and visit our business blog.

1. www.seomoz.com

2.www.searchenglineland.com

Low Time On Page? No Sweat…

If you have been checking your Google Analytics lately, and noticed an odd trend of seemingly low time spent on your pages, don’t panic just yet. The problem may in fact not have to do with the content of your pages. After all, people want to read what you have to say, right? The issue is actually the system in place for tracking average time on page of your website. Here is how it works –

1. Timestamps – Google calculates the time spent on each page of a site with what they call a timestamp – a sort of stopwatch, clocking the time from initial page load, until entry into another page, at which time a new stamp is created.

2. The Formula – Say you load page “A” – at which time Google stamps a time of 00:00. The content you are reading on page “A” is fascinating enough to leave you gazing and reading for 30 seconds. Now, you see a link to page “B” that you think looks even more interesting. When you click the link to that page, Google starts a new timestamp, at a starting time of 30 seconds – the time you spent on page “A.”

3. The Disconnect – Here is where Google leaves us wondering – and leaves you frustrated at low page times. Let’s say you remain on page “A” for 25 minutes, gazing and reading that amazing content you love so much. But now, instead of linking to page “B,” you exit the site. Google has no timestamp for this fairly common occurrence. It has no way of knowing how long you spent viewing page “A.” Remember, the timestamp on page “A” begins at 00:00 and the time spent on that page is the starting point for the timestamp on page “B.” If there is no page “B”…there is no timestamp available.

How Google Does It

Google does attempt to account for pages that have no secondary timestamp. The calculation Google applies subtracts the number of page exits. So, what you are left with to calculate average time on page is this – Average Time on Page = Total Time on Page ÷ (Pageviews – Exits)

Even accounting for exits does not completely resolve the issue. Sites that yield a high number of bounces (someone enters the site, reads something, and immediately leaves) still are missing a large piece of time on page statistics.

For help and answers all things Google Analytics, click here.

Hotel How To – Content

The importance of content in the hospitality industry cannot be stressed enough. “Content is king,” as the saying goes is holding truer everyday. With that in mind, it is important to remember that while the look and feel of a hotel website grabs a viewers attention, it is the body, the content that leads them to making a yes or no decision when deciding if they are going to stay at your property. Rich, original and engaging content is the key factor in getting that traveler to book at your hotel.

A hotel website is crucial for providing information to potential guests, and for search engine optimization (SEO). Because search engine bots crawl and index content to provide in results pages, your content becomes that much more important. You can manipulate your content to attract certain guests based on their searches.

There are a handful of major no-no’s and a laundry-list of do’s when it comes to hotel website content – here are a couple.

Dont’s

1. Duplicate Website Content – Simply put, search engines hate duplicate content. During scans for information, search engines pick their proverbial brains to produce content that is unique to a search. If a website contains one or more pages of duplicate content, the search engine removes those pages from the list of search results. Be mindful of what is on each page of your website to avoid this from happening.

2. Official and Unofficial Page Content – A common pitfall of hotel websites is the separation between official and unofficial content. Official content is content that has been approved (and often times internally created) by the property for use across multiple platforms. Unofficial content is content such as a review post, Facebook mention or anything else that has been composed by someone not affiliated with the property – user generated content. The bigger the gap between these two categories, the less credible a property looks. It is critical to be on the same page as your guests…monitor what they are saying about you at all times and be sure that your content is saying the same thing.

Do’s

1. Keyword Research – Keywords are where it all begins. Quality research about keywords that define your demographic and traveler audience is the jump-off point to creating quality content that will let your travelers easily discover you in their searches.

2. Maintain a Consistent Voice – One of the more common errors in producing quality website content is the habit of jumping between voices – Past, present and future tense. To create the highest quality content means to stick to one voice. That voice is up to you and your team, just be certain that it remains the same across all platforms – website content, social media content, press releases, etc.

To read the full article and to get more useful information about generating quality content, click here.

Delivery Status: Unopened

As you have probably noticed, and as your subscriber list continues to grow, your email engagement is decreasing. Not as many people are reading through your newsletters or special offers…or even opening the email in the first place for that matter. As the number of subscribers on your list grows, so to does the number of recipients who may become un-interested in reading what you have to say. This growing number of unengaged readers causes your overall email metrics to drop. So what can you do about it?

As the old adage goes, the best way to solve a problem is to not have one in the first place. We all know the likelihood of that. With that being said, it is time to strap on the thinking caps and plot out a re-engagement strategy. The least you can do is compose a win back campaign after clients have not clicked or opened your emails for a certain amount of time (that amount of time is up to you).

Re-engagement is a tricky task. Tricky, but feasible. Your focus should be on one primary element: The Open.

The Open – The open is the most crucial element to any win back campaign. Once the email is opened, you at least can say that the reader is no longer disengaged. Because engagement is the goal, the headline becomes critical. Capture the reader in a headline that is both personal and irresistible. Try something like this: “We have missed you! Book today only and save 25%!” – Make the reader feel wanted and offer them something they will be interested in.

Certainly the headline of an email is important in any campaign, especially a win back attempt. But once the reader opens the email, then what? One thing is for sure, you do not want to put the same content in the email that made the reader disengage in the first place. So change it up…don’t be afraid to explore other avenues when it comes to your content. If you find yourself stuck, keep these simple tips in mind:

1. Recall Previous Subscriber Behavior – If something did not work in the past 10 emails…note that behavior and adapt the content accordingly.

2. Put Fresh Eyes on the Content – Share your content with your team. See what other people in the company have to say about it. Team efforts on content creation generally produce the best ideas.

3. Commit to Sending More Relevant Content – Instead of sending the same old information every week, broaden your horizons. Gather your team for a 30 minute think tank session to bounce ideas off of one another. Make it a priority to send content that your reader finds to be relevant and important.

To read more, click here.

SEO Gold

As web based marketing becomes more and more critical to the business playing field, SEO fires up its massive engine right along side. We have all heard that the authoritative link is pure gold in the SEO game, and frankly, it is the truth. As web guru Ed Dale explained a number of years ago, “Become an authority, because that is the only way to dominate your niche.”

So how do you go about getting an authoritative link to your website? There are a number of ways, however, one of the most powerful can be to get your content into the hands of experts. Think about it…by putting your content into the hands of experts (or already established authorities), you are setting yourself up to be seen by massive numbers of people. Once these experts have a hold of your content, they link to it, share it, post it, blog it, tag it, the list goes on and on. Already established authorities have the power to pass their authority onto you.

There are other ways to get links to your website. Here are 3 of the most popular:

1. Create a Blog: If you create unique content and embed sharing widgets (facebook, twitter, google+, etc.) people will be able to share these links across social media.  This is an excellent way to get people with authority linking back to you.  This is important as search becomes more social.

2. List With Other Authoritative Websites: Such as: Vertical Search Engines, Directories, Answer Sites (think Yahoo Answers), Travel Review Sites, etc.

3. Be an Authority Yourself: Once your content is in the hands of your readers, they will share it, post it, link to it etc. Now you are an authority to that content. That is the goal. Become the authority to your niche.

To learn more about the impact of authoritative links, click here.

Now Showing on Screen 1

It is no secret that the days of multi-screen use are upon us. The big challenge facing marketers is how to address the reality that consumers are viewing products on multiple screens (smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, etc.) multiple times per day. How do you send the same message across an iPad screen that someone is also looking at on their 20″ monitor at the office?

A recent study conducted by Microsoft called Cross-Screen Engagement, lends a helping hand to help answer this daunting question. The study aims to help marketers understand how to engage consumers “in their moment” when they are viewing across multiple platforms. The two-phase study resulted in 4 separate kinds of consumer behavior:

1. Content Grazing

2. Investigative Spider Webbing

3. Quantum Journey

4. Social Spider-Webbing

To understand the meaning of these consumer categories, read the full article, here.

The Death of Cookies

Editors note: No Cookie Monsters were injured in writing this blog.

Did you know, the new Mozilla by Firefox web browser is built with tracking cookies automatically disabled?  Did you know on many iOS (Apple) devices, you have to enable Cookies manually and that Facebook won’t let you use their mobile site without turning the cookies on?  Did you know that according to SEOMoz and SearchEngine Land nearly 15% of internet users block or disable cookies?
Why is this important to you and your advertising on ResortsandLodges.com?  Because ResortsandLodges.com relies on cookies to help track and report on the effectiveness of your advertising program.  A couple quick stats in an image below shows 20 days of site usage by Web Browser on ResortsandLodges.com:
Browser Cookies Blocked
What does this mean?
It means nearly 42% of Visitors to ResortsandLodges.com potentially block or have disabled cookies.
Why is this important in judging the success of your advertising on ResortsandLodges.com?

In your ResortsandLodges.com marketing center and in your Google Analytics tracking, you may have noticed that year over year, your referral visits from ResortsandLodges.com as a traffic source are considerably higher than previous years.  This is not a mirage, ResortsandLodges experienced 60% year over year growth in visitors in 2012 and we are seeing another significant lift in Q1 2013.  Many of our partners have seen their referrals double or triple year over year from ResortsandLodges and are seeing us as a Top 3 direct referrer in Google Analytics.  Yet, somehow, you may have also noticed if you are part of the call tracking platform ResortsandLodges offers, you may not be seeing as many calls as last year – or you are seeing more, but they are not consistent with the growth in visitors we are sending.  This has generated some questions we’d like to address.

Questions many of our advertising partners are asking include:

Why would I be seeing more visitors and less calls?
Are the visitors less qualified?
Is there less demand for my product?
Is there less demand in my destination?
Does my website need to be updated?
Are more people booking online?
Is my website mobile friendly?
The answers to these questions may vary.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be diving deeper into the answers to these questions.  But a couple of quick insights we’ve been able to gather over the last 12 months leads to some fairly obvious conclusions.

A major shift in consumer data is happening right now.  Cookies, are an essential way online tracking is able to gather information about people browsing, shopping and purchasing products.  Without cookies, the ability to effectively track transactions becomes difficult, especially those that take longer than 1 day and more than 1 visit as is the case with leisure travel.

Once a traveler researches, plans and selects your property, then clicks direct to your website, they may make a phone call at that time, or they may save it for later.  Then a few days later, they go to a search engine and type in your brand name bypassing ResortsandLodges alltogether.  With cookies in place, as long as the user is on the same device / computer, we would be able to see that the user originated from ResortsandLodges.com via the cookie and we would be able to re-direct that user back to the proxy site (your site with the tracking in place).  Thus, capturing the second call and hopefully the conversion (that’s up to you :))
Without the cookie, that user returns to your website, calls your regular reservation number and the transaction occurs without being attributed to a specific advertisement that generated the booking.   Based on the data, an argument could be made that nearly 42% of calls being generated by ResortsandLodges.com to our partner properties are not able to be tracked and reported on.  With Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Browser losing market share and Chrome, Safari and Firefox gaining market share, we are bracing for this trend to continue.
Yes, more people are booking online than ever before, but, based on the data in google analytics and think tanks and round tables with some of our 2,000+ customers, we have found that still 50% to 70% or more of leisure vacations are transacted over the phone, particularly, the higher the dollar value, the more likely it is transacted over the phone…especially if they are new guests which is what ResortsandLodges.com and sites like ours generate.
Without the use of cookies, the majority of these conversions can not be accurately tracked.  Thus with the proliferation and growth of browsers and consumers that do not accept or allow cookies, we are starting see a dilution in the number of calls tracked vs the number of referral visits.  Does it mean the calls aren’t happening?  Likely not.  The calls are likely increasing, it just cannot be displayed with current technologies.  How are we working to combat this?
As a premier publisher of travel content, we, along with many other publishers who’s primary business is helping our clients (advertisers) reach a targeted audience to sell their products direct to, realize this is a challenge we all face.  We have been working diligently to innovate and enhance our tracking services and provide more clarity to the results of advertising with ResortsandLodges, but it’s not perfect.
Many top marketing directors simply choose to look at their Google Analytics and realize that if we are a top referrer of guests to their website with a high % of new visits, low bounce rate, high time on site and pages per visit, it likely means their advertising with ResortsandLodges is working.  This is much the same as the way they judge the effectiveness of traditional media by looking at brand search and brand lift.
However, for those that go deeper into the data, we’re right there with you.  Our ultimate goal is 100% transparency, but we as marketers have to remind ourselves that online advertising is still a young industry and the analytics around it are still being innovated and perfected.  Cookies are presenting a challenge in the market place right now and we’re excited to continue developing innovative and leading solutions to help measure and report on the effectiveness of advertising on ResortsandLodges.com as well as other advertising verticals.
Now lets go get some milk.

Social Media and Bookings

The prominent rise of social media has had an impact on the way consumers learn about, research, and even buy a good or service. That holds true in the hospitality industry as well. The evolution of bookings, from a primarily search engine based system, to the newly adopted uses of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, have left hotel marketers with plenty to keep them occupied to keep pace with the changing times.

Why Social Media Works

While users may not be entering their online profiles with travel on their mind, it is the advertising power of Facebook and others like it that has the greatest impact. Facebook, for example, allows advertisers to target in 3 primary ways:

1. News Feed Advertising – Usually located in the center of the News Feed page, these advertisements are not only easy to use and simple, they also appear on one of the most widely viewed web-pages in the world. With over 680 Million views per month, the News Feed page also holds the crown of being the only page that is mobile-friendly to advertisements. According to the 2012 Q4 Reports released by Facebook, users are spending 11 hours and 28 minutes (per user) on the mobile app each month.

2. Right Side Advertising – Simple and easy to use, the Right Hand Side advertisement was the first kind of ad to grace the pages of Facebook. While still popular and greatly useful, Right Side advertisements are more limited and restricted in terms of creative potential.

3. Log Out Advertising – More powerful than one might think, the Log Out advertisement on the Facebook desktop site sees 40% of U.S. traffic on a daily basis. In other words, 40% of active Facebook users are logging out of their profile everyday.

Don’t sleep on social media. With its popularity and possibilities growing everyday, the potential for growth and expansion is limitless.