Don’t Get ‘Scroogled’ By Google’s Latest Keyword Changes

Have you read about Google's recent announcement to make "keyword (Not Provided)" 100% of all organic referrals? As a hotel marketer, you may be wondering what you can do to make sure you don't get "Scroogled."  Google has been gradually moving in this direction since 2011 so it shouldn't be a total surprise to online marketers, yet many hotel websites that are built around keyword centric SEO models will be impacted.  By "bucketing" all the organic keyword search data into (Not Provided), Google is essentially telling us to move from a keyword centric marketing approach to a more engaging content/page centric approach. Don't panic just yet. Let me help to clarify what savvy hoteliers can do to make sure they don't get Scroogled on this latest Google algorithm change.

The good news is that Google hasn't yet rolled this out to 100% of the web just yet, and if the past is indicative of previous algorithmic updates, it could take a few months to fully deploy. In fact, we are seeing many client websites still detailing the organic search terms in their analytics reporting. NOW is the time to make sure that your "house is in order" and that your hotel website content is up to snuff.

Keyword Stuffing is Dead: Really Dead

Google's latest move is in keeping with the previous Panda Update which effectively degraded websites that had low quality content and poor user experiences. If your hotel's website is stuffed with keywords in an attempt to "game the system," you should be concerned and should move quickly to develop quality content that adds value to your website visitors.  Lodging Interactive has had the foresight and understanding that quality content will always trump keyword rich content 100% of the time. Over the last couple of years, we have invested heavily in building up our CoMMingle Social Media Marketing division by hiring many professional copywriters. Our in-house copywriters are utilized for client blogging, social media engagement and the development of quality website copy for our clients. Blogging, social media engagement and quality website content is what Google is telling us websites need in order to succeed in the post keyword SEO era. As a savvy hotelier you should sit down with your website agency and review the freshness and quality of your website's content, making sure it adds value to the reader and not just the search engines.

Content is King: It Always Has Been

It’s been said many times in the past, and it is imperative now; Content Is King. Not only will quality and engaging content provide better organic results for your website, it will also help your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns.  How you ask?  When Google deems your content as “quality content,” it will increase your overall PPC Quality Scores which in turn means lower cost-per-clicks (CPC) and higher page displays for your ads.  So by taking the time to develop quality content for your website visitors, you will benefit from lower CPC’s and better paid advertising conversions.

What Can Your Hotel Do Now?

If you are fortunate enough to have in-house copywriting skills, you should revisit your website copy and make sure it still offers value to your targeted readers.  If you were reading it for the first time, would you find the content fresh, relevant and engaging?  If you don’t, hunker down and start re-writing your copy.  Here are some overall recommendation to guide your efforts:

● Establish a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page for your property.  Be sure to go beyond the obvious of check-in/check-out times and consider including FAQs related to local attractions and events. Also include FAQs about babysitting services, gluten free options, local transportation costs, etc.  Lodging Interactive offers hotels HotelFAQS.info which can help you manage your comprehensive FAQs.

● Create dedicated landing pages for your promotions and specials throughout the year.  Have a Thanksgiving package/promotion?  Create a new landing page and name it YourHotelDomain.com/specials/thanksgiving-special.shtml. Rinse and repeat the process for each package/promotion you have on your site.

● All major events, attractions & exhibits also deserve their own dedicated landing pages.  Remember to use the web page naming convention mention on the previous bullet.  By adding dedicated landing pages, your website page count will increase dramatically which tells Google your site is seriously committed to providing quality and engaging content. 

● Be sure to add content gradually over time, do not create all your landing pages at one time.  Google’s sophisticated technology will detect this and may flag your site unnecessarily as a spammy site.

● Launch a blog for your property and include various departments as editors. You may consider your General Manager, Catering Manager, Front Office Manager and Concierge as weekly contributors to the blog. Include all hotel constituencies in your social media / blogging content plan to ensure consistency of posts and topics complement each other.

● Just as you create an annual Sales & Marketing Plan for your hotel, get into the habit of creating a content acquisition plan. This will enable you and your team to stay focused on building your quality and engaging content. 

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

If you’re considering hiring the professional services of an outside interactive agency to develop your landing pages and engaging content, make sure they’re exclusively servicing the hospitality industry so you don’t spend time “teaching” them your business.  Also make sure they have the technology and tools in-house to monitor your website content for effectiveness and suggested changes.  Lodging Interactive has partnered with leading content marketing platforms and intelligence tools to enable our search engine marketing teams to analyze page content for quality and effectiveness.  It is a combination of marketing technologies and human copywriting skills, exclusively in hospitality, that enables Lodging Interactive to ensure client websites are well positioned for Google's latest algorithm change.

Keywords Are Still Effective . . . Well Sort Of

While Google has made the shift from being keyword centric to now being pages/content centric, lets not forget that keyword research is still an important aspect of effective SEO.  Keyword data can still be obtained by running Google AdWords campaigns.  By running Google PPC campaigns your hotel is still able to obtain keyword level data. You can use this data to guide your organic content writing initiatives.  Additionally, your keyword level data can be useful when creating landing page and content themes for your new website content.

In Conclusion: The Times Are Changing, But There Is No Need To Panic

Be sure to monitor the effectiveness of your landing pages and monitor not only the inbound traffic to those pages, but your bounce rates.  A lower bounce rate indicates your visitors are seeing value in your content and are clicking through to the rest of the site. Also look for what we call “content opportunities” on your top landing pages. These are landing pages that have high engagement (ie. highest number of visits and the lowest bounce rates) in comparison to their share of total website traffic. Continue tweaking and fine tuning these pages to improve the overall engagement over time and monitor any new landing pages you have created for their effectiveness.

 

Lodging Interactive Earns ‘Travel Weekly’ Gold Magellan Award

Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, has once again earned a coveted Magellan Award from Travel Weekly in the Hospitality Website Category. This year, the company was selected as a 2013 Gold Magellan Award Winner for its "outstanding" design and development work for Green Mountain Inn.

"Once again being selected as a Magellan Award Winner is an important accomplishment because it proves to our customers that we represent a high standard of excellence within the travel industry," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive founder and president.  "While our competitors make claims to being the 'best' our award-winning track records speaks for itself. By earning this Gold Magellan Award, Travel Weekly is saying that 'Lodging Interactive is among the best in the travel industry.' We couldn't be more proud."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided more than 650 hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in more than 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online marketing services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. The full-service agency also has developed website management tools for optimizing search, maximizing bookings and protecting each hotel's online reputation.

Since January, Lodging Interactive has added the following tools and programs to enhance its services portfolio:'

· Gift Hotel – A service that enables properties to create gift card listings on www.GiftHotel.com and receive qualified sales directly to their websites where transactions are processed. There are no commissions to pay or revenues to share.

· eNewsletter Service – A fully managed program that includes professional copywriting, creative design, email list management, distribution and analytics reporting. 

· Facebook Widget – An addition to its popular online Guest Review System, Lodging Interactive's new Facebook Widget links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time. The tool enables potential guests to read guest reviews on Facebook and enables past guests to leave reviews directly on Facebook. 

· HotelFAQs – A tool that enables hotel websites to offer comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) pages.  The results are increased booking conversion rates, reduced customer calls to the front desk and exceptional online customer service.

Green Mountain Embracing Digital Marketing

In addition to website design, Green Mountain Inn, located at 18 Main Street in Stowe, Vermont, has turned to Lodging Interactive for expanded SEO and pay-per-click services to enhance the efficiencies of its award-winning website. The historic property, built in 1833, also relies on CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive, an engagement and social media marketing agency, to help grow its social media presence and protect its online reputation through consumer sentiment monitoring and more. Green Mountain Inn also utilizes Lodging Interactive's eNewsletter service to send a consistent message from the hotel to its email list.

"Lodging Interactive does much more than build hotel websites," Vallauri said. "We are a company committed to full-service digital marketing and social media engagement. Keeping website and mobile web content fresh is just the first step to hotel success in today's digital media age. Scrutinizing the property's reputation via the web and social media channels and responding to guest reviews is critical for operational success and true customer-relationship management. Adding in supplemental services that also help to increase revenues, provide analytics and keep travelers connected to the hotel and to each other across the social media channels is a value-added bonus. More than ever before, hoteliers can count on Lodging Interactive to provide consistency of managed services across the board for all their managed digital marketing needs.

"For Lodging Interactive, consistently winning awards is pretty nice too," he said. "I would like to thank our talented team of web experts for their ongoing hard work and dedication to keeping the websites of our hotel customers fresh and engaging."

 

Top 5 Marketing Must Haves Any Hotel Can Afford

Just because a hotel may not have a $50,000+ marketing budget, it doesn't mean that its marketing department can't compete effectively and build a strategic plan that includes website updates, guest reviews, mobile marketing, social media monitoring and management, and reputation management. For a small investment, Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, can cost-effectively provide hoteliers with these "Top 5" digital marketing elements that are key to building online awareness and maintaining a competitive edge in 2014.

"You don't need a lot of money to have an effective digital marketing program," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Instead, hoteliers with limited budgets simply need a partner with proven and award-winning digital content and creative skills . . . an advisor that can easily extend its expertise from the Web to mobile and social media programs . . . and a hospitality  specialist that can provide initial consulting, supplemental assistance or a total outsourced program with pricing and program flexibility to make it successful. All that and much more — from building quarterly landing pages and Facebook widgets to creating online videos and email marketing campaigns — is available affordably today through Lodging Interactive."

Lodging Interactive has identified five elements as must-haves for hotels with limited budgets in 2014, and offers affordable programs for supporting each of these mission-critical items.

1.  Website Updates:  So you have a website. Good. When was the last time you refreshed its content? Continually adding new photos makes the website more visually appealing. Is the site interactive? Updating content to include press releases and blogs that are linked to your hotel’s various social media channels will ensure more chatter and visibility. Are you reaching your intended audience? Someone needs to be accountability to ensure that the web page is meeting goals. If a limited budget includes limited human capital, seek the expertise and assistance of an outside digital marketing agency that specializes within the hospitality industry.

Through Lodging Interactive's Hotel Website Solutions program, hotel marketers can refresh their web site every two years, at no additional cost, PLUS they receive:

• RFPLink group lead capture and reporting
• Online analytical reporting
• Homepage call-to-action tile images
• Website Hosting and Server Management
• Robust Content Management, and
• Guest Review System at no additional cost.

2.  Guest Reviews: A June 2013 Local Consumer Review Study reveals that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. If that's not a compelling enough reason as to why a review program should be part of the hotel's website, consider this: The latest Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, found that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Nearly six-in-10 global online consumers (58 percent) trust messages found on company websites, and half trust email messages that they signed up to receive.

Lodging Interactive offers a turn-key Guest Review System that gives travelers a place to post reviews and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities. The GRS keeps guests on the hotel's website and away from the OTA’s. In addition, travelers can share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends, opening up avenues to new booking audiences, and again, more revenues. Lodging Interactive's Facebook Widget links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time.

3.  Hotel FAQs: Does your hotel website answer "all" your guest's questions? If your web presence is limited to the brand site, the answer is probably "no." As a do-it-yourself or fully-managed service, Lodging Interactive will oversee a hotel's online FAQ listing, including developing questions people typically ask, sourcing the answers from the hotel, and allowing new questions to be asked by consumers online to help hotels increase conversion rates, maximize organic search and boost SEO rankings.
 
Through the HotelFAQs.info service, Lodging Interactive will add a "Check Out Our FAQs" float button for every page of the hotel's website. Standard FAQ categories are what you’d expect such as "Events & Attractions," "Accommodations," "Dining," "Meetings & Conventions," "Local Area Fun," etc., and each hotel can set up an unlimited amount of categories to meet their unique needs. When a traveler clicks on the category, he or she is navigated to the FAQ page that provides details about each topic. HotelFAQs.info easily integrates into any hotel’s Facebook page and blog.  Fully mobile compatible, HotelFAQs.info enables smartphone users to also benefit from vital FAQ content, thereby supporting and increasing mobile booking conversion rates.

4.  Social Media Monitoring & Management: Did you know that Google+ has taken over the No. 2 social media position from Twitter?  According to reports, it may even replace Facebook in the No. 1 spot in a few years. Hoteliers who are only familiar today with the top three social media channels will find themselves falling dramatically behind their competition in 2014 if they don't market themselves via Google+, Pinterest and other critical social media outlets.

If your hotel is having a tough time understanding the value of these important marketing channels, don’t ignore them.  Instead, partner with a social media engagement company that offers a turnkey service for creating and professionally managing Google+ Business Pages and boosting Search Engine Optimization positioning. One that acts as an extension of a hotel's marketing department, and takes a pro-active role in managing each property's online presence and communications to not only Google+, but to all social media networking communities.

5.  Reputation Management: Hotels of all sizes have begun to add social media technologies that monitor a hotel's or brand's online reputation, but unless those tools are being maximized, reputations and business practices can still suffer. Lodging Interactive believes that it takes people, in addition to technologies, to make reputation management effective. Lodging Interactive has teamed up with leading hospitality reputation-management companies to supplement their technology applications and provide the human resources necessary to answer guest reviews and manage guest responses on behalf of the hotel. Properties using solutions from outside reputation-management companies can outsource the social media monitoring and guest review response portion to Lodging Interactive.

"Independent hotel operators may think that they can't compete with the big boys because they lack the financial and human resources and support systems that a franchise provides — but that's a huge misconception," Vallauri said. "Through a trusted partner like Lodging Interactive, an independent hotel can benefit from the same and in many cases more comprehensive online marketing services offered by the brands, and with flexible pricing options.

"Our team of experts are tackling these issues daily for hoteliers with limited budgets. The end result is a sizeable return on owners' investments and a solid digital marketing strategy that is turning online lookers into bookers."

Report Shows Trust in Hotel Online Reviews is On the Rise

A June 2013 Local Consumer Review Study reveals that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Findings from the study suggest "more consumers are reading reviews as part of their pre-purchase research before selecting a local business to use. They are forming opinions faster and needing to read fewer reviews before they trust (or don’t trust) a local business. This puts increased emphasis on local businesses to manage their online reputation closely and ensure that any negative reviews are dealt with in a swift and positive way." As hoteliers budget for 2014, it's clear that guest reviews need to become part of their online marketing strategies. Hotels with limited staff and financial resources to manage the feedback process can easily afford adding the Guest Review System from Lodging Interactive.

"What this data shows us is that travelers are diligently seeking out online reviews before they make any purchasing decisions," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "This validates why hoteliers — especially those operating independent properties — should be adding online guest reviews to their websites. If resources are lacking, both in staffing and finances, the Lodging Interactive Guest Review System is an ideal option.

"Our Guest Review System is a web-based tool that is successfully helping hotels verify, review and display customer comments directly on their hotel websites," Vallauri said. "By allowing management to respond to comments in real time — or outsourcing that task to Lodging Interactive — hotels are improving two-way hotel-to-guest communications and boosting guest retention and loyalty."

Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. The company's Guest Review System dispatches real-time alerts to hotel managers advising when pending guest reviews pop up. This eliminates delays in addressing concerns and turns potential problems into new opportunities. The system also stops fake reviews posted by competitors or dishonest guests looking for refunds, helping hotels to maintain their reputations. In addition, directing guests to the hotel's website to post comments and reviews keeps them from being redirected to an OTA where they will never come back to book direct.

Social Media Benefits
"The Lodging Interactive Guest Review System is also proving to be a valuable part of a hotel's social media marketing initiative," Vallauri said. "Travelers can share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends, opening up avenues to new booking audiences, and again, more revenues. Lodging Interactive's Facebook Widget links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time. This enables potential guests to read guest reviews on Facebook and enables past guests to leave reviews directly on Facebook as well. Leveraging social media as a communications platform for guest reviews is a natural extension for Lodging Interactive's solution. Better yet, there is no additional cost to implement the Guest Review System on Facebook and our team will even handle the set up for the hotel.”

According to the latest Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Nearly six-in-10 global online consumers (58 percent) trust messages found on company websites, and half trust email messages that they signed up to receive.

If your hotel is lacking a guest review program or the resources to manage the one you already have, call Lodging Interactive at 877-291-4411 ext 701 or visit  www.GuestReviewSystem.com. The Company offers a 10 day FREE trial of its Guest Review System and no credit card is required.