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.

Email Bookings Climb

ResortsandLodges.com, a leader in leisure destination travel, released its final major product update of 2012 on December 31, with the goal of enhancing user experience via content discovery and property profile updates. ResortsandLodges.com is now releasing the initial findings nearly two months after the update.

“We have been very pleased with the initial data from the update. We’ve seen an increase of over 2,700% in email booking inquiries alone since the release nearly 2 months ago. Clearly the feedback from our advertisers has been positive, as many have seen incremental bookings over the same period last year. We expect a strong 2013 in the leisure segment and look forward to continued growth from this channel on ResortsandLodges.com,” said Ryan Bailey, President.

While phone and online bookings comprise the majority of transactions, email inquiries are gaining popularity with consumers when communicating directly with resorts, hotels and vacation rentals in top leisure destinations. ResortsandLodges.com has long been a leader in social group inquiries, and is planning continued innovation in this space in 2013.

The Perfect Hotel Website

On route to creating the perfect hotel website, roadblocks are inevitable. The fast paced, do everything on the go marketplace  that has become customary makes it increasingly difficult to find, target and execute a marketing plan that truly reaches into the world of the traveler. More important than ever therfore is the optimization of your hotel website.

Maxymiser, a global firm specializing in website testing and personalization, has released a set of E-Books, highlighting the key points of creating the perfect hotel homepage, search experience and booking funnel. These books cover things from keeping consistency on your web-pages all the way to designing pages that flow easily and provide the customer with an easy, hassle free experience.

Article Found on HotelMarketing.com, To read the E-Books, download the PDF’s here.

Brand – Tell Them Who You Are

Often times, companies get caught up in the branding of themselves, their products and their services. It is important to remember what exactly branding is, and where we actually want to focus our branding efforts. As a visitor destination, how do you brand yourself? For some, the answer might include things like logos, websites, and slogans. But is that really the brand of your destination?

When you tackle the branding or re-branding of your property this year, consider the customer. The brand should be the feelings, connections and emotions that the customer experiences  when they look at your website, visit your property or hear your slogan. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you take on the brand of your destination in 2013:

1. Look Out the Window – Your brand is your chance to separate yourself from the crowd. Own this opportunity. Look all around you and record what you see…oceans, beaches, forests, whatever it is, use it to your advantage. Take the elements available to you and flip them to impact the emotions of your customer.

2. Don’t Hold Onto the Past – Consider how you view your destination versus how your customer does. Are they the same? Perhaps they are, but if not, do not be afraid to change. Just because you were a beach resort last year does not mean you have to be known for that this year.

3. Use Your Brand Everywhere – Once you have a brand that us uniquely your own, use it. Use it everywhere, across all platforms: websites, mail pieces, slogans, logos, telephone calls, etc. You get the idea. Consistency is the key.

Original Article found on MediaPost. To read the full article, click here.

Banner Ads – The Ripple Effect

Nobody clicks on banner ads anymore. Independent research shows that a decent banner ad will yield only 1 click per 1,000 impressions. That means if you blow through your marketing budget buying 1 Million impressions, you are still only going to get 1,000 clicks to your site. So banner ads are a waste of time, resources and money, right? Not so fast. Say hello to View Thru Booking.

The concept behind a view thru booking is simple: just because someone does not click on you banner, does not mean they did not see it. View thru booking then, is the measurement of bookings that come from an online shopper simply seeing your banner.

How it Works: Let’s say company A runs a banner ad on website 123. A user in turn views this ad but does not click on it. Two weeks later, that same user returns to book a flight, hotel stay, etc. Using view through tracking, company A would know that the booking was made by a traveler from website 123.

How to Set It Up: Start by asking your advertising partners to track view thru bookings for you. From here, simply place their tracking code from their ad server on your confirmation page before the campaign goes live. Scatter your banner ads across various sites (staying in the guardrails of your demographic) and monitor your ROI.

To read the full article, click here.