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Advising the hotel industry how to increase their online revenue

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
Advertisements

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should you use Flash as the basis of your hotel website?

The answer is a clear and distinct NO!

While most agency clients love animated websites because they are so stylish, economically an all-Flash website just doesn’t make sense. This is for the following reasons:

1. Search engines hate Flash and how can your website generate business if it doesn’t get found?

2. Loading screens are annoying most people. In the past website optimation was a lot about download time. Even though most people now have broadband, they still don’t want to sit and wait for an entire website taking minutes to download. And even worse if you have to download a splash page first, with an intro movie you don’t want to see, before getting to the next loading screen for the actual site.

3. Flash doesn’t work on most mobile devices and they are becoming more and more popular. Who wouldn’t want to be able to book a hotel room on their iPhone?

4. Animation, if used excessively can really distract and annoy the user to the point that he leaves the site. After all, they just want information about your hotel and look at some pretty pictures. They don’t usually care about singing and dancing hotel logos.

5. Accessibility is not possible with Flash. Do you really want to lose customers that cannot navigate a Flash site?

However, while your website should not be programmed entirely in Flash, to use Flash elements is totally legitimate: Flash photo tours, for example or replace a static mood shot at the top of your page with a Flash animated movie. Even functionality can be programmed in Flash if you don’t programm for mobile devices, for example a quick reservation booking form, a location map etc. Important is, that the elements download fast and that there is enough text on the page to make it legible by search engines.

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

Is Twitter trying to compete with Google?

Tweet this
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Twitter has just launched a new home page with a prominent search feature:

New Twitter Home Page promoting search

New Twitter home page promoting search

Is Twitter trying to compete with Google?

There has been talk about Twitter as a search engine for a while and it is already used as such, for example by journalists and marketers, to discover the latest trends. While Google’s News results are pretty up-to-date, they are also mainstream, i.e. news provided by the big agencies and newspapers. Twitter, however, is a social media site and therefore shows what people in the street consider news. In that sense Twitter certainly offers something Google cannot provide at the moment and fills a niche.

Trends, i.e. topics that have been tweeted about most during the last 24 hours, are listed underneath the search box on the new home page. Both, the prominent search box and list of trends will probably attract new users when they find topics that are of interest to them.

So, yes Twitter seams to be aiming for expansion and could well compete with traditional search engines in a web 2.0 world. Even more reason to use Twitter to promote your hotel. But don’t just be there – have a plan!

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

Why hotels need an individual website

Statistics show that travelers become ever more educated if it comes to their search behaviour.
According to a study by Ypartnership and Yankelovich, Inc. this is where travelers first go first when looking for a hotel or resort:

Web site of online travel agency like Expedia, Travelocity 31%
Search engine like Google, Yahoo, MSN 26%
Web site of specific hotel chain 21%
Web site of individual hotel/resort 10%
Meta search engine that compares rates 5%

(See: Travelers’ Online Search Behavior Evolves)

You may say that the figure for ‘website of individual hotel/resort’ at 10% is still quite low. However, what this statistic doesn’t cover is what people do after their first visit.
I argue, that a large number of people after doing some research on the top three – online travel agency sites, search engines and even specific hotel chain sites – will search for the individual hotel/resort website of a property they have preselected. The reason being, that all of the above, in most cases, only offer very limited information about a property and show small or bad quality photos. A traveler cannot be certain what exactly to expect at the hotel and usually, this is not enough to make a buying decision. At least not for a leisure traveler who is about to book a hotel room, mirroring their lifestyle, for a very precious few days of their life: holiday. After all, successful hotels these days don’t sell rooms, they sell an experience. 
Take a look at the following two examples rated, among others, favourite websites in an article of the Hotel Magazine and you see what I mean:

Neither of the top three places travelers initially search a hotel/resort on, could possibly cater for the experience an individual hotel website can and should create.

The second element to focus on is trust. As the above figures show, travelers have come to use online agency websites and do trust the big ones they know. Though they may not trust a site they have never used before, even if it sells rooms at a cheaper rate.
However, if they visit an individual hotel website which is professionally done, layed out well and maintained properly – i.e. they get the impression that the hotel staff is looking after it – they will probably trust this site more and prefer to cut out the intermediary. If the rate is higher on an online agency site because of booking fees or commission, the decision will be even easier.

This is exactly what I could see happening in my last position when analysing the website and booking statistics of our large network of chain, traffic and individual websites. The individual hotel websites brought in many more online bookings than for example the chain site or other sites with more than one hotel featured. Moreover, traffic very often came from the search engines where people were searching for a specific hotel name. It is unlikely that all those people would have known the hotel name from previous visits, offline marketing or friends and family. No, they have found the name on online agency, destination, review and hotel chain sites during the first step of their search and looked for a preselected property in the second step. 

This is the reason why your hotel/resort needs an individual website. Create an experience, establish trust and the bookings will flow in. – And they will also come you much cheaper than any online agency booking which will cost you around a quarter of the room revenue.

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

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

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