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Advising the hotel industry how to increase their online revenue

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Filed under: Hotel Online Marketing

Software Review: Advanced Web Ranking

Advanced Web Ranking LogoThis article talks about a very useful tool in the field of search engine optimization (SEO) which I would like to recommend to anyone interested in this area of online marketing or who would just like to analyze and improve their search engine rankings.

Advanced Web Ranking has been developed by Caphyon and is a comprehensive analytics tool for web projects to boost website ranking.

The software comes in 4 different editions:
1.Standard
2.Professional
3.Enterprise
4.Server

For private use, the Standard edition should be sufficient. Professionals who want to generate reports and print and email them to their clients, will at least need the Professional edition.
Advanced Web Ranking and it’s twin tool Advanced Link Manager, are relatively cheap alternatives to other, more costly search engine optimization analytics instruments. Both tools are easy to use, almost intuitively.

The main selling point for me, however is the tool’s search engine friendliness
Search engines don’t like automatic search requests. Sometimes using automatic tools for SEO projects can be penalized with a drop in rankings. Advanced Web Ranking however is search engine friendly. It simulates manual search queries by pausing in between. The software is written in such a way that its operation is indistinguishable from that of a browser.

Advanced Web Ranking uses the following method:
1.It queries a certain keyword from the search engine
2.The search engine returns a number of pages
3.Advanced Web Ranking downloads these pages and analyses them locally
These 3 steps are being repeated for each query.

Advanced Web Ranking for Mac

Advanced Web Ranking for Mac

Below follows a short description of how to use the software in its Enterprise edition:

Starting a new project
First of all, you need to set your preferences in terms of which search engines you would like to analyse. Most of the time your preferred search engine will probably be Google. However, don’t neglect Yahoo, Bing or other search engines, especially when working on projects that target countries outside Europe. The tool also allows you to set preferences with regard to countries or languages, for example if you need to analyze rankings in google.co.uk rather than google.com. In total, there are 1000+ search engines to choose from.

The next step involves entering the keywords you would like to analyze. These may also be imported from a website, file, Google Suggest or Wordtracker.

Next, the domain needs to be added. If your are planning a competitor analysis, the domains of your competitors should also be entered at this point. Comparing your results with competitors or similar projects could be extremely useful for your search engine optimization strategy. Using Advanced Link Manager in combination with Advanced Web Ranking, obviously increases effectivity. Domains can be color-coded, so they are easier to read and can easily be distinguished in reports, charts etc.

Now start the analysis. Depending on the number of keywords and domains and your internet connection, the analysis may sometimes take several hours to run.

Once complete, just choose keyword and search engine in order to view the rankings. Of course, you can also compare positions between search engines, between different domains or both.
Advanced Web Ranking generates the following data which can now be viewed: current ranking of domains, keyword rank, ranking in different search engines, competitor top pages for a given keyword and the visibility of your domain or domains.

When updating the project later on, all previous data or data of a chosen time period are being compared. That way, the development of your project over time becomes visible and optimization activities can be measured and controlled. Project updates may also be automized.

All data can be summarized in comprehensive reports and saved to a local directory or per FTV on a server as well as sent by email. The following formats are available: PDF, XML, HTML, Excel, Text and CSV. It is also possible to have the tool create directories based on the date a report is being run.
Reports can be individualized for your clients and contain logos, contact details, name of project etc. There are numerous report templates for you to chose from. Bespoke reports may be generated, too.

Special tools that come with Advanced Web Ranking are:

Keyword Research Tool
A comprehensive keyword analysis is the most important part of each search engine optimization project. The Keyword Research Tool included in this software is essential for this. The most important step when developing a search engine strategy is defining keywords and keyword phrases for which good positions should be achieved and are achievable. At project start, there is often a keyword list already. However, whether these keywords are usable needs to be analyzed and depends on search volume, search trends, niches etc.
Advanced Web Ranking helps to find additional keywords and keyword combinations. The Keyword Research Tool uses for example Wordtracker or Yahoo Search Marketing data. However, already when starting a new project and entering keywords, Google Suggest is being used.

Keyword Builder Tool
Another useful tool is the Keyword Builder. Here, relevant Keyword combinations are being generated when entering keywords for example from your keyword list. Advanced Web Ranking automatically creates a list of all possible combinations for a keyword or keyword phrase concept.

Google Preview Tool
Google displays different results in different countries. Most of the time it is impossible to see the exact results from your client’s browser if your are not using proxy servers.
The Google Preview Tool will help you create a report with the exact results as seen by your client in a defined region.

There is a 30-day trial version of Advanced Web Ranking which can be downloaded from their website at: http://www.advancedwebranking.com/download.html.

Advanced Link Manager

Advanced Link Manager Logo

Advanced Link Manager is another tool by software company Caphyon which helps you to find out who links to your website and what keywords they use.

Advanced Link Manager analyzes link popularity and also helps you keeping track of your paid links. Back links can be tracked over time and nicely visualized in charts. This is particular helpful when analyzing the success or failure of link-building campaigns and to control the development of your website’s link popularity. Moreover, the tool also enables you to analyze the quality of one or multiple domains of potential link partners.

Advanced Link Manager for Mac
Advanced Link Manager for Mac

Similar to Advanced Web Ranking, comprehensive reports can be generated and amended for your clients to contain logos, contact details, name of project etc. There are numerous report templates but bespoke reports may be generated, too. The following data can be displayed in reports: domain Page rank as well as URL Page rank, Alexa rank, number of links on the page, links with nofollow attribute and much more.

There is a 30-day trial version of Advanced Link Manager which can be downloaded from their website at: http://www.advancedlinkmanager.com/download.html.

Filed under: Search Engine Optimisation - SEO, , , , , , , ,

Search Marketing or Display Ads? Part III

With part 1 and 2 of this series we’ve headed into the following direction: display ads, as we know them, are not such an effective marketing tool anymore. It is more and more about precise targeting and innovative ways of running banner ad campaigns.

How is this for an example?
Travelocity, the popular travel website, is using real-time search data for their display ad campaigns. They use an engine called Teracent which matches the marketing message to their audience on the fly. Messages are based on a host of dynamic parameters such as search intent (e.g. when someone clicks on the star ratings for hotels, this person would only see ads for luxury hotels) and how far people drill down into a certain category.
This strategy has increased Travelocity’s online bookings by 203% !
Chip Hall, senior VP of sales and marketing at Teracent, tells AdAge:
“Display has to change, otherwise it’s headed for failure. If advertisers don’t recognize online is more challenged with the old approaches and needs to be incredibly hyper-targeted, they’re going to fail.”
Source: Econsultancy

Filed under: Display/Banner Marketing, Search Engine Marketing - SEM, , , , , , ,

Search Marketing or Display Ads: the Facebook case

Ok, forget what I said about display ads if it comes to Facebook!

I’ve just seen a blog today saying that Facebook is now the most popular social media site in the UK. Facebook has definitely made a lot of headway if it comes to advertising after much critique about their business model last year. On Econsultancy today the question is asked: Are marketers moving their Google search dollars to Facebook’s display ad business?

While this may be a bit over the top at the moment, the advantages of running display ad campaigns on Facebook are obvious. People voluntarily share information about themselves which enables marketers to target their ads much more precisely. Facebook has increased its market share and manages to engage its users more than other social media sites such as MySpace. Moreover, there is still less advertisers competing with you on Facebook than on Google AdWords and both systems are auction-based.

Research has shown, however that local advertisers are much more successful than large companies. The latter are often seenby Facebook users as being intrusive. People value information about local offers and events while they feel annoyed when they come across the same banner advertising on their community site – which they regard their private space – as they see everywhere else on the web.

For hotels, Facebook could therefore be a brilliant opportunity to advertise to the local market: meeting space, weddings, events and F&B, like those numerous Christmas parties and brunches and lunches coming up. Think about it!

Filed under: Display/Banner Marketing, Social Media Marketing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Search Marketing or Display Ads: that is the question.

I’ve just attended a webinar dealing with this question and the main argument for display ads was the time people spend browsing the web, which is much more than the time people spend searching. In percentages: 95% browsing, 5% searching. Therefore, display ads would still be an effective way to drive traffic and reach customers since search marketing only works when people actually  – search. Kind of sounds logical.

Of course, search engine marketing should be run alongside because apparently click-through rates increased by 22%, related brand searches increased and conversion rates via search ads increased when search and display were run together.

Now, what’s been said here is that display ads actually push traffic and conversion through search. If your site ranks high in the organic search, you are a winner. Otherwise, it basically means that you are paying advertising money twice.

Also, it has become much easier for people to avoid advertising as this blog entry highlights: Has the internet made it easier to hide from adverts? Which in turn makes for a substantial argument in favour of search ads.

Search ads are delivered at a point when people are actually actively looking for something: a solution, product or service, compared to unwanted and irrelevant display ads they are bombarded with while browsing.

Search marketing results are usually predictable, can be targeted effectively and measured to calculate the ROI (Return on Investment). However, it is true that the search market becomes increasingly competitive and text ads such as Google AdWords only contribute to branding and awareness in a limited way.

In my view, display ads are not dead as part of an online marketing mix, and especially not on the Google AdWords content network or in an affiliate programme. But properly evaluate who else you are running your display campaigns with and whether search ads may not be a more (cost-)effective way of driving customers to your site.

Webinar by AdReady and ClickZ, Oct 2009

Filed under: Display/Banner Marketing, Hotel Online Marketing, Search Engine Marketing - SEM, , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the link between social media and search behavior?

GroupM Search and comScore just released the results of a study examining the relationship between social media exposure and search behavior.

Consumers were divided into 3 segments. Segment 1 was only exposed to a brand’s paid search. Segment 2 was exposed to social media, relevant to a brand’s category and segment 3 was influenced by social media that was specific to a brand.

Search behavior was broken into segments, based on the stage of the purchase funnel queries are made. Upper-funnel terms are usually more generic and express awareness and consideration, whereas lower-funnel terms express action and loyalty.

The findings were that consumers who searched AND engaged with social media were far more likely to search for lower-funnel terms. This was particularly the case when they belonged to group 2 and used social media exposed to a brand. In fact, these consumers were 2.8 times more likely to search for that brand’s products than consumers from group 1 that were only exposed to paid search.

Even though marketers have suspected this trend, the study supports and validates those assumptions for the first time. An estimated 50% increase in click-through rates occurred when consumers had been exposed to brand influenced social media as well as paid search. While generic keywords at the top of the funnel are popular, consumers use social media to change their mind on the products and services they would consider buying further down the decision process.

For brands this is a great opportunity to influence consumer discussions about their products and services using social media, although the challenge will be understanding how to allocate budgets between social media and paid search.

Read the comScore press release.

Filed under: Search Engine Marketing - SEM, , , , , , ,

New: Google Sidewiki – Chance or Curse for Hotel Marketers?

Google has just launched it’s new product Sidewiki as part of the Google toolbar. With Sidewiki people can leave their comments on any website, page or part of the site’s content.
It has to be seen how popular the product will be, since one has to be using the Google toolbar and logged into their account in order to comment. However, it is certainly going to have an impact on hotel and tourism online marketing strategies.

Google Sidewiki

Google Sidewiki

Negative comments won’t be tucked away on community and special interest sites like Tripadvisor anymore but can be found alongside your brand or individual hotel website, exactly in the very spot where you are trying very hard to convert a website visitor into a booker. Sidewiki could also be open to abuse by competitors, of course.
Sounds like Sidewiki could become quite a curse for hotel and tourism marketers. But why not see it as a chance as well? After all, if your product convinces and people leave positive comments, this may just tip an undecided visitor over and make them book.

Like most things in life this innovation has advantages and disadvantages and you can see the glass as being half full or half empty. I think, Google Sidewiki is just another step towards the truly transparent and collaborative web. Use it wisely!

More information and download Google Sidewiki.

Filed under: Hotel Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing, , , , ,

What are the most important search engine ranking factors in 2009?

SEOmoz have just published their bi-annual study about the most important search engine ranking factors, i.e. the factors that decide over whether your website comes up on the first or last page of Google results when a user types in a keyword that is relevant to your site. The ranking factors were rated by their panel of 72 SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) experts. Obviously, Google can change its algorithm at any time. So even if you take all the factors into consideration and are doing an excellent job, you are not operating in a static environment in which that will necessarily be the case tomorrow.

I’m quoting the top five factors from the most relevant areas for SEO below:
(see full Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009 study)

On-Page (Keyword-Specific) Ranking Factors

1. Keyword Use Anywhere in the Title Tag
2. Keyword Use as the First Word(s) of the Title Tag
3. Keyword Use in the Root Domain Name (e.g. keyword.com)
4. Keyword Use Anywhere in the H1 Headline Tag
5. Keyword Use in Internal Link Anchor Text on the Page

On-Page (Non-Keyword) Ranking Factors

1. Existence of Substantive, Unique Content on the Page
2. Recency (freshness) of Page Creation
3. Use of Links on the Page that Point to Other URLs on this Domain
4. Historical Content Changes (how often the page content has been updated)
5. Use of External-Pointing Links on the Page

Page-Specific Link Popularity Ranking Factors

1. Keyword-Focused Anchor Text from External Links
2. External Link Popularity (quantity/quality of external links)
3. Diversity of Link Sources (links from many unique root domains)
4. Page-Specific TrustRank (whether the individual page has earned links from trusted sources)
5. Iterative Algorithm-Based, Global Link Popularity (PageRank)

Site-Wide Link-Based Ranking Factors

1. Trustworthiness of the Domain Based on Link Distance from Trusted Domains (e.g. TrustRank, Domain mozTrust, etc.)
2. Global Link Popularity of the Domain Based on an Iterative Link Algorithm (e.g. PageRank on the domain graph, Domain mozRank, etc.)
3. Link Diversity of the Domain (based on number/variety of unique root domains linking to pages on this domain)
4. Links from Hubs/Authorities in a Given Topic-Specific Neighborhood (as per the “Hilltop” algorithm)
5. Temporal Growth/Shrinkage of Links to the Domain (the quantity/quality of links earned over time and the temporal distribution)

Geo-Targeting Factors

1. Country Code TLD of the Root Domain (e.g. .co.uk, .de, .fr, .com.au, etc.)
2. Language of the Content Used on the Site
3. Links from Other Domains Targeted to the Country/Region
4. Geographic Location of the Host IP Address of the Domain
5. Manual Review/Targeting by Google Engineers and/or Quality Raters

Negative Ranking Factors

1. Cloaking with Malicious/Manipulative Intent
2. Link Acquisition from Known Link Brokers/Sellers
3. Links from the Page to Web Spam Sites/Pages
4. Cloaking by User Agent
5. Frequent Server Downtime & Site Inaccessibility

Factors Negatively Affecting the Value of an External Link

1. Domain Banned from Google’s Index for Web Spam
2. Domain’s Rankings Penalized in Google for Web Spam
3. Link is Determined to be “Paid” Rather than Editorially Given
4. Domain Contains Links to a Significant Amount of Web Spam
5. Domain Has Not Earned Trusted Links

Filed under: Hotel Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation - SEO, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is Online Reputation Management?

After SEO, SEM and other abbreviations you’ve had to learn in online marketing, here comes another one: ORP – Online Reputation Management. But what exactly does it mean?

Most people and companies now have profiles on many social media sites: Facebook, Trip Advisor, Twitter, YouTube to name but a few. Often, posts on those sites are being picked up by Google. For example, did you know that your Amazon wishlist can be found in Google and usually ranks quite high? Just google yourself and see. Having so much information about you or your business on the web can pose a problem. Disappointed customers, an angry ex-partner or friends can post blogs and photos that portray you or your business in a negative light. This week’s BBC fast:track programme talks about exactly that:

‘Over the past decade, travel review websites have become a primary source of travel information, especially as the web has grown. Rajan Datar investigates this trend and looks into their vulnerability to deception. Fake posts, biased reviews and intentionally negative comments to rivals have become common, as well as questions about the kind of people who post reviews. fast:track talks to industry professionals including a traditional guide writer and the Director of Trip Advisor.’

Watch video

ORP is the attempt to control hotel review sites, travel blogs and consumer-generated content in the modern world of Web 2.0. Some companies have been offering solutions for a while, e.g.: Hotel Protect by TIG Global.

The other option is doing ORP yourself, for example by setting up Google alerts or run Twitter searches but managing hundreds of profiles could be overwhelming.

It is still early days for many hotels or chains but with Web 2.0 becoming ever more important for the success of your online marketing, I am sure ORP will have to be an element of your marketing mix in future.

Filed under: Hotel Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing, , , , , , , , , ,

How hotels improve their websites and service

A recently published article by Hotels Magazine looks at examples how hotels or rather hotel chains have improved their hotel online marketing. The argument is that 31% of the people who visit an online travel agency site, book directly with the supplier and therefore the supplier websites need to be providing a good service. I’ve made a similar argument in a recent blog entry: Why hotels need an individual website.

The Hotels Magazine article explains how hotel chains start optimising search results, make download times faster and provide more graphics on their websites.

For example, the Sonesta Collection has moved images and flash content from its server to a content delivery network which makes their website download twice as fast. A content delivery network employs servers strategically in multiple geographic locations, each of them containing a cached version of the website, so that delivery time is speed up dramatically.

Another good example they give is the new E-Wave feature on the Paradise by Marriot website.
Marriott has created an interactive kit for the leisure traveler or meeting organiser, including maps and video. They thereby significantly increased the time people spend on their website (+25%). Moreover, users can upload their own video, generate their own itinerary and send it to a friend or travel partner.

To read the full Hotels Magazine article, please click here.

e-conceptory creates responsive websites for hotels using the latest technologies: HTML5 and fluid web design for all screen sizes from mobile phone, to tablet, to desktop computer.

Filed under: Hotel Online Marketing, Hotel Websites, , , , , , ,

About me

Corinna Witt : e-commerce, hotel internet marketing expert for hotels and the travel industry

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