Hotel Industry Blog

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Plan for Google Penguin 2.0 now!

Mary Collins, Head of Internet Marketing

Google is constantly changing it’s algorithms with minor tweaks, to ensure it can return the best search results. Usually these changes don’t have dramatic affects on search engine results, however the impending Penguin 2.0 will bring a major change to the search engine algorithm, which will have big impact on search engine results pages (SERPs).

What is the Penguin 2.0 update?

Since early 2011 Google has released Panda and Penguin updates to its algorithm. These updates affected over 12% of all SERPs. The change in the algorithm penalised low-quality websites and rewarded websites with high-quality fresh content.

In this next upgrade Penguin 2.0 will address bad link-building and linking practices, penalizing sites that use black hat techniques to help improve visibility within the SERPs.

Google has evaluated a huge amount of websites to learn more about non-organic links. As part of the Penguin update Google will locate these bad-practice links, it will remove their PageRank, and so negate the positive impact they had on search results.

There are two scenarios which Google views as bad link building practices:
  • links that come from websites that Google deems untrustworthy
  • websites with high "link velocity" – the rate at which a site acquires inbound links

What should Hoteliers do?

The best link building strategy is to acquire links at a natural speed. Hoteliers need to have a policy of gaining quality links over quantity of links to their websites. Before these Google updates, search engines rewarded websites with large quantities of links, but once Penguin 2.0 is released websites with poor link building strategy will most likely be penalised, potentially being removing completely from search engine results.

Google now values websites that have fresh up-to date relevant content which visitors to the website will find useful. As well as creating fresh relevant content, hoteliers need to adopt a best practice approach to their linking strategy as this will greatly enhance SEO results. See our best practice guide to link building.

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Best Practice Link Building Guide

Mary Collins, Head of Internet Marketing

The best link building strategy is to acquire links at a natural speed. Hoteliers need to have a policy of gaining quality links over quantity of links to their websites. Before these Google updates, search engines rewarded websites with large quantities of links, but once Penguin 2.0 is released websites with poor link building strategy will most likely be penalised, potentially being removing completely from search engine results.

Google now values websites that have fresh up-to date relevant content which visitors to the website will find useful. As well as creating fresh relevant content, hoteliers need to adopt a best practice approach to their linking building strategy as this will greatly enhance SEO results.

For our Traffic Builder clients we provide guidance on link building strategy as part of our online marketing service. If you wish to sign up to Traffic Builder service please contact us.

Perform a Link Audit

Before embarking on any link building strategy, it is important to establish where your links are coming form. A website link audit should be performed, analyzing the links that are beneficial to your website and those which are causing harm.

Use Webmaster Tools

Manage Links Through Webmaster Tools:  Through this interface, you can view all the links pointing to your site, sorting the quality links you attained through targeted strategy and the less valuable or negative links that have linked to your website without your authority.

Maintain a Blog on the Hotel Website

Building and maintaining a blog on the hotel website is a quick and easy way to provide unique, fresh content to website visitors, potential guests and potential linking websites. In order to use a hotel blog as a strong inbound marketing tool you need to post regular articles. Examples include upcoming events and activities, property updates etc. Ask your team to contribute e.g. a day in the life of a concierge, or reception staff, regular recipes from the kitchen etc  which will attract the interest of other bloggers or websites that would like to link to you. If your blog is run on any of the popular Content Management Systems, you'll already have an RSS feed.

Build (Relevant) Links

Engage local sites that produce quality content and are of relevance to your website first to build a solid base of trustworthy links, while at the same time ensuring the hotel website is listed by and linked to from a variety of online directories and local listing services. Engage with local suppliers, local groups and conference organisers who use the hotel facilities regularly. To get full SEO benefit, ensure the link from their website to yours contains relevant text (try and get the hotel name and location in the anchor text).

Interlink

You have pages on your website, so make the most of them. Internal links are very relevant for link building because you can control everything about them, from the location on the page to the anchor text. If you have multiple sites, interlinking is a must!

Create Quality Website Content

Every time content is added to the website, ensure that it is of a consistently high standard. Regular updates to the website will ensure  that the content is always up to date. This will help attract other websites to link to yours and help in turn boost SEO. - Research Competitors: Review where your competitors are getting links. There maybe opportunities to get your own website listed.

Create a Social Media Strategy

Currently Google considers links from different social networks like Google Plus, Facebook and  Twitter among others. It is important that the hotel has a content strategy on social networks in order to take inbound links to their websites. If the hotel has a profile on any of these social platforms they must be kept up to date too with fresh content, linking back to the hotel website.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Hotels - Ignore The Mobile Trend If You Dare

Cris Petcu, Online Marketing Specialist

“Mobile” is the word on everyone’s lips these days. Leaving the house in the morning without your smartphone causes panic, anxiety and worry that the day is ruined without it.
Mobile search in particular is surging in an upward spiral. The growth levels of search through smart devices have eclipsed all past search growth trends and provides a big opportunity to all businesses with an online element, and especially to those in travel. 

Google studies have shown that mobile searches in travel have the third highest follow-up actions of any industry, which is a lucrative opportunity to be seized (only the auto and beauty industries have more). Hotels are a major part of this dynamic industry and are heavily affected by online trends. More and more hotel customers are going online everyday to check out latest deals, hotel locations, reviews and photos as part of their decision-making process, which means your hotel’s online visibility and presence on mobile is a vital point of contact. On April 11th, Booking.com announced on its website that mobile bookings had tripled year on year, proving that hotel customers are increasingly willing to book on-the-go. 

With such high follow-up rates on mobile devices hotels need to provide their mobile visitors with mobile-centric information and show that they value and respect their visitors. 
First impressions are very important and as mobile is fast becoming a hotel’s first introduction to their customer, mobile must be an integral part of online strategy.

Essential To Serve The Mobile Customer
In recent study carried out by Google (http://www.google.com/think/research-studies/creating-moments-that-matter.html) some critical information resulted that really hits home the importance of mobile search in the travel industry. Results showed that the majority of the travel-based searches carried out on mobile were done not in a downloaded app but in a browser. About 12% of those mobile searches generated a purchase, which is a phenomenal conversion result. Mobile-optimised websites can no longer be ignored.

More than one seventh of all travel searches on Google are via mobile. The reality for the hospitality industry is that, since it’s all about serving the guest, you cannot choose to ignore one seventh of your customers. It’s like telling every seventh person who walks into your hotel lobby that you’re not interested in their business. That would be commercial suicide, yet it’s essentially what many hotels are doing right now.

Another important factor to consider is that, according to Google, 81% of search coming through mobile is done for speed and convenience reasons. Mobile search is also responsible for pushing conversions through multiple channels as it can be the first point of contact between a hotel and customer before they action a booking. This means that there has never been so much evidence available to suggest that it is absolutely essential for hotels to provide focused, convenient and customised information to the mobile visitor as the potential value of this contact with the customer is huge.

Customised Mobile-Centric Websites or Responsive?
Mobile searchers are impatient and have specific needs compared with desktop users. A full website on a mobile screen does not service these needs so either the website must adapt or the approach must change more radically. A website needs to intelligently focus on the mobile visitor and provide them with what they are looking for - quickly, effectively and professionally. 

Bookassist research has shown that the information sought by mobile users visiting regular websites, and their behaviour on websites, is markedly different from desktop users to the same websites. The popular and normally successful approach of responsive design, whereby the shape and layout of a regular website is adjusted to better match the mobile screen size, is not proving to be the best approach for hotels. 

For example, based on tens of thousands of visits that Bookassist has tracked on hundreds of hotel websites, we developed our mobile optimised website (or webapp) approach for hotels to immediately offer the primary information needed for mobile users right on the front screen in prominent touch-friendly buttons - easy booking, special offers, photos, social media, maps and directions and call-now buttons - while still allowing users to access the full website if they need to, just one tap away. This filtering out of all the unnecessary information targeted towards desktop users is the key to success on mobile.

As most of a hotel’s mobile visitors come through search they should be automatically directed from the full website to a customised mobile optimised website, not presented with a question asking what they would like to do. Such questions are just a barrier to conversion, since the question may not be understood, or the language may be incorrect, or the user may simply be impatient and dismiss it and move on (we’ve all been there!). You need to provide the user with the best possible experience for the platform they are on, while allowing them later to easily switch if they wish. That’s why Bookassist’s solution takes the decision automatically based on the screen size of the user.

Providing your mobile visitors with a mobile optimised website shows that you respect and value this growing profile of visitor. As proof of its success, the Bookassist mobile-optimised website platform recently took second place in the Eyefortravel Mobile Innovation Awards in San Francisco in March 2013 (http://bookassist.org/mobile/).

Engage Your Direct Mobile Customer In The Right Place
Proper mobile search optimisation and mobile search marketing ensure that your hotel has the best opportunity to capture direct online business at the highest possible margin. Targeting mobile users with Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising has become a very important marketing tool in the process of mobile search and mobile sales. Google researchers have found that mobile PPC ads are most effective during goal-oriented searches, meaning when someone is ready to buy they are more likely to take interest in a mobile PPC ad then when they are not. Almost 59% of such goal-oriented people found that mobile ads were a useful resource at this stage of the decision making process.

Now Google is rolling out new Mobile Enhanced Campaigns, basically encouraging more and more advertisers to join the mobile PPC advertising space. As search levels are surging on mobile devices this should not be ignored and will be embraced by many of the big players in the industry who already have a strong PPC presence on mobile. This means that targeted mobile PPC campaigns and professional mobile-centric websites will be key components of online strategy and help drive the surging revenue potential from the mobile search space.

Never has the importance of presenting your brand with intelligent, customised and effective information for your mobile visitors been so clearly evident, and to back that up with mobile marketing that specifically targets your customer segments. Hotels were slow to embrace the internet 10 or 15 years ago and as a result lost ground in the space to large online travel agents, which dominate to this day. Now is the time to target and serve your direct customers on mobile.

Don't miss the train this time. The evidence is out and is shouting, “All Aboard”!

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Cristian Petcu is an Online Marketing Specialist with Bookassist (bookassist.com), the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.

Bookassist’s mobile website (webapp) solution for hotels. The platform was recently honoured on the world stage with a runner-up position against world-leading brands at the  Eyefortravel Mobile Innovation Awards in San Francisco in March 2013.

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