by, Founder and President, Milestone Internet Marketing
In 2011 search engines made significant changes to the algorithms to enhance and improve the quality of search results for the consumers. As an online marketer, staying on top of all the latest changes can sometimes be a daunting task. The key to staying relevant is creating content across all channels that serve the best interest of your customers. The ten tips below give a strategic path to ensuring that your marketing efforts have the best possible ROI 2012.
1. Website content freshness and relevancy
After several algorithm updates in 2011 – especially Google’s Panda updates and several Bing updates – search engines have confirmed that they will give higher relevancy to websites with fresh content. As a business, it is crucial to understand what do search engines truly mean by fresh and relevant content.
Site freshness score
Any page within a site is given a freshness score based on when search engines first discovered the content on the page. This freshness score can boost the site placement in results for certain search queries and also placement can decline as the content becomes old. The amount of changes on your webpages, and how frequently the content of the page is changed makes a big impact on the site freshness score.
Which type of content makes a difference?
Sites that change more frequently by adding valuable, time sensitive information have a big impact. News site tends to rank high because it has fresh and timely content. Link from a site, which has a high freshness score, really helps as compared to the site, which is static in nature and does not have any fresh content. Freshness of sites can be influenced by creating a new page, post, or by adding time sensitive newsworthy information. Freshness score cannot be influenced by just adding/changing keywords on the page.
What does this mean for businesses/hotels?
Search engines are rewarding a site, which can keep fresh, relevant content and has references/links coming back from sites with high freshness score. Make sure your site platform is built to scale and offers features such as blog, polling feature, contests, reviews for user engagement, etc. so that you can keep the content of your site fresh. You can read more on tips to add fresh content here. Click here for video FAQ from Matt Cuts and a webmaster post from Amit Singhal.
2. Focus on improving user experience – site usability enhancement list
Even though technical SEO elements such as on-page tags, placement of content on site, etc. are very important, at the end of the day it is the user experience on the site that really matters. Search engines are rewarding sites that provide positive user experience, which is now a part of search engines’ ranking factor. See the latest video from Matt Cutts from Google on this topic.
Site usability enhancement list
Site owners should pay attention to key metrics that define the user experience on the website. Some of these metrics include – bounce rate, download speed of the site, browser and platform compatibility, site crawl rate, deployment of rich snippets, and semantic tags on the site. We also recommended evaluating site analytics to understand how users are behaving on the pages. Check to see if your site is programmed in HTML5. Use tools such as Page Speed by Google and Yslow by Yahoo! to check key site performance metrics. It is a great idea to put together a handy list of site improvements. Site improvement is not a one-time event; it should be checked and adjusted almost on a monthly basis.
3. Using mobile effectively
The mobile market is growing by leaps and bound every day. According to eMarketer, US mobile commerce sales (including travel) increased 91.4%, to reach $6.7 billion in 2011. The number of mobile buyers will nearly triple by 2015.
Over 40 million access social networks daily via mobile, and eventually there may be more mobile web users than PC users by 2015.
Most of the mobile searches are local and last-minute in nature. People are using mobile platform to check-in, for social sharing, multimedia sharing such as photos, songs, and in several other ways. Voice interfaces such as Apple’s Siri are helping in increasing mobile search engines queries.
Check to see if you are promoting effectively on mobile platform
Hoteliers should start paying serious attention to mobile. They can incentivize their customers by offering mobile specific coupons, check-in specials, run paid advertising for mobile-specific campaigns etc. There are several reasons a business should create a search friendly mobile site in 2012 if they have not done it yet. If you have a mobile site, chances are your site will show up for queries coming from mobile devices and the conversion from a mobile site will be better by offering customers precise content such as click to call, maps, ease of booking offers right away. Want to know how to design mobile friendly site?
4. Leveraging hyperlocal channels
With the growth of mobile phones, geo-social and hyperlocal sites have become lucrative channels to connect with a local target audience. Hotels should leverage some of the most popular UGC/hyperlocal channels such as Yelp, Google+, Foursquare, Facebook, etc by offering mobile check-ins, offers, and tips. Find out more how hyperlocal channels help and watch a video interview with Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land confirming hyperlocal trends.
What can businesses do?
Hotels can associate use of an offer with physical locations. Customers can use Google+ business profiles or Yelp or any other profile to check-in and redeem offers on mobile devices. Customers can choose to share check-ins publicly, keep it private, or share it with their circle of friends. Claiming and enhancing profiles to offer check-in specials on mobile devices definitely helps in connecting and engaging with hyperlocal customers.
5. Maintain a handy list of most valuable local citations and links and perform UNAP audit
Local citation and local links are still very important ranking factor. Quantity of citations is considered the fourth most important SEO factor for local search ranking.
Hotels should secure local citations, listings, and links from local businesses on a regular basis. While it is important to keep getting local links, it is also important that, as a business, you establish correct URL, Name, Address, and Phone Number (UNAP) for your location. Often times, user will find multiple listing for same location on map results because one business has two different URLs or phone numbers. Consolidating all your listings and ensuring UNAP consistency greatly helps in reducing discrepancy and helps in ranking high in local search results. Check out more on how to build trusted links.
6. Cross channel optimization
We are seeing higher ROI for hotels who are diversifying their promotion efforts across different search and social channels. Start by checking your webmaster logs; see which keywords are driving the most amount of traffic. Once you know the top 5 to 6 keywords driving traffic, see if other channels such as local, paid, social are optimized for similar keywords.
Hotels/agencies can keep a handy content calendar showing the main events in your area, important events that you need to market for, and relevant local trending topics. Content calendars can be used effectively while planning and optimizing content to be hosted on different channels. If you are concerned about how to measure ROI across all the channels, check out our blog.
7. Social media marketing plan – targeted and planned approach
Social media has evolved to become an integral part of search. Today, effective SEO without social relevancy will be an almost impossible target to achieve. Search engines have confirmed using social signal as part of their ranking algorithm (See what Matt Cutts says about social relevancy on search). Even with such clear evidence for the importance of a quality social campaign, we still find businesses utilizing social channels without having a planned approach.
We strongly recommend developing an integrated social media marketing plan. This plan should include important information such as – which channels you will be targeting and why; what are the goals you are trying to achieve; who is your target audience; what type of content you will need to connect with this target audience; etc. Deciding whether you need Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube, should all be based on your target audience and channels they are using to socialize. Once you know which channels your target audience use, creating a planned approach towards content creation. Content calendars can also become handy here. Check what is trending in your market and create content on that topic. Ready to get started? Check out five social media planning steps.
8. UGC – rating and reviews
Product and services with reviews have significantly higher conversion rates than the ones without. As a business, getting reviews on different UGC channels such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google and on your site is important for any business. Reviews help build the trust factor for any business. Search engines now include quantity and quality of reviews as part of their ranking factors. Users make their decisions based on quality of reviews.
What can be done?
Hoteliers need to connect with customers and try to get reviews in electronic format. Think about traditional feedback form filled by hotel guest. Hotel feedback form is used by the staff to figure out what is wrong or right with their hotel. Now, taking this a step further, what about hotel guests leaving reviews online? Hotel should direct your guests to different review sites. Every one wins in this scenario. Hotel is getting customer feedback, search engines are getting UGC content, and clients are getting reviews to facilitate their decision making process. It is a simple but very important strategy. Listening to potential, existing, or even ex-customers is key for any business. As a business our job is to listen, engage, respond, and solve.
9. Deals, offers, coupons, contests
The US economy is finally gaining consumer confidence and people are spending. However, they are looking for better deals, coupons and offers across all channels. Living Social, Groupon and other social media deals sites are seeing record number of transactions.
What does this mean?
Deals and offers do not always mean deep discounting. Offers can be attractive with some value addition. Hoteliers should consider offering packages and extra value adds across all channels. Value-add offers and deals help improve customer engagement and confidence. Daily deals and offers also receive prominence in search engine result pages. Find out more about how your business can generate more revenue through coupons.
10. Google+, blogs, maps, video, image search
Hoteliers should plan to optimize their presence across all the channels. It is easier to do well in video search and image search as compared to web search. We have seen a significant amount of additional traffic coming to websites if these channels are leveraged. Optimizing images and videos on your site, creating search friendly KLM maps, and creating a place to host a blog along with your site are some important steps. We are also seeing a good number of businesses utilizing Google+ profiles. 77 of the world’s top 100 brands now have Google+ pages. Google+1 has started to impact paid ads – Google+1 will have even more impact on paid search in 2012 since Google now displays +1 button next to all paid ads. We recommend creating Google+ business profiles along with all other social profiles. Some of the promotion strategies include connecting with customers, profiling customers, creating circles, etc. Find out more on Google+ and the evolution of search.
We all know that it is hard to accomplish all the resolutions set up for any business. However, consistent efforts towards above top ten 2012 resolutions will help yield a significant ROI for all your online marketing activities.