Is Your Hotel Website Responsive to Meet Google Requirements and Boost SEO?

Lodging Interactive, named among the best interactive agencies worldwide for its excellence in website design, is assisting hoteliers by building responsive mobile websites

When Google talks, hotel marketers need to listen, especially when it comes to responsive website design. With mobile traffic gaining market share month after month, hotels need to ensure their desktop versions of their websites are optimized for smaller screens and deliver fast loading times. Lodging Interactive, the interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry and winner of numerous prestigious awards for its website design services, says the more responsive a hotel website, the higher its SEO rankings on Google, and the easier it will be to maintain.

“SEO is a core component of any business’ digital marketing strategy, and as such Google has gone so far as to call responsive web design an industry best practice,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. “For hotels, this means keeping content on one website and one URL, making it much easier for travelers to share, interact with, and link to than content that lives on a separate mobile site. Some hotels have learned quickly that trying to build separate sites for mobile and tablet environments (all while trying to maintain their existing PC site) is exhaustive for staff, and it presents potential duplicate content issues with Google which negatively effects organic search engine results.”

Responsive websites turn visitors into customers. According to a study conducted bySterling Research and SmithGeiger for Google:

  • 96% of consumers say they’ve encountered sites that were clearly not designed for mobile devices
  • 75% of users prefer a mobile-friendly site
  • 67% of users are more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly site
  • 61% of consumers say that they’d quickly move onto another site if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site.
  • 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company
  • 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly
  • 48% of users say they feel frustrated and annoyed when they get to a site that’s not mobile-friendly

and if the site didn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business

“This research confirms that mobile users actively seek out and prefer to engage with mobile-friendly, responsive sites,” Vallauri said. “Travelers attitudes about your hotel can quickly and easily be shaped by mobile site experiences. Having a great mobile site is no longer just about making a few reservations; it’s become a critical component of building a strong brand image, nurturing customer loyalty, and making the hotel’s mobile strategy work for the property and the brand.”

Consider this scenario: A potential hotel guest searches for your hotel on their smartphone during a lunch break at work. They find your site, and your hotel has exactly the accommodations and amenities they’re looking for, so the traveler decides to continue researching your hotel using the site when they get home. Except, when they get home, they will use their desktop instead of their smartphone. If the hotel’s site is responsive, the potential guest will have a positive user-experience when transitioning from mobile to desktop because they will view the same site on their desktop as they did on their smartphone. On the other hand, if the site is a dedicated mobile site, this person may not find the same content they viewed on their mobile site.

“The beauty of responsive web design is that a responsive website can provide a great user-experience across many devices and screen sizes,” Vallauri said. “Since it’s nearly impossible to anticipate all the devices and screen sizes guests will use to access your site, hotel marketers need to ensure that the mobile site works well regardless of these variables to provide a better and more consistent user-experience. Having to build a separate mobile site that is designed for a specific device and screen size is simply a waste of staff time and it doesn’t enhance the user experience.

“Having a separate desktop and mobile site also requires having separate SEO campaigns,” he said. “Hotels have enough trouble managing their main website, let alone having to update and orchestrate multiple versions with multiple SEO campaigns. For these reasons, Lodging Interactive is offering to build a responsive mobile website on each hotel’s behalf. We will leverage our award-winning talent build a site that is responsive, dynamic and streamlined for mobile users.”


Why Google+ is So Important to Organic SEO

DJ VallauriGoogle is focusing on building the largest social network, with Google+ quickly becoming an important marketing tool for hoteliers, considering that it is expected to surpass Facebook by 2016 as the No. 1 social media outlet. Today there are more than 1.5 billion registered Google+ accounts and 359 million monthly active users as of January 2014. With this forum growing at 33 percent each year according to Google, and continuing to outpace Twitter by more than 140 million monthly users (G+ 359 million / Twitter 215 million), hotel marketers must get on board with Google+ if they want to remain competitive.

Google+ Business Pages are socially enabled and allow members (“hotels”) to organize people (“guests”) into social groups referred to as “Circles.” Then, hoteliers engage with their own circles of potential guests and build larger circles through social networking and marketing. Google+ 1’s (“likes”) act as social signals within the Google Search Engine, which ultimately effect organic listings within its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). As the Google+ network continues to grow, the weight applied to +1’s will receive more consideration, and the hotels with the most +1’s will reinforce their search engine rankings.

“Social networking continues to be the least expensive way for hotels to market their brand, engage guests and build loyalty,” said D.J. Vallauri, Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle Founder and President. “Taking advantage ofall social media channels is critical. Unfortunately, only a few hotel companies are expanding their inner circles outside of Facebook to include Google+. Failure to do so can be detrimental in the long term.

“Having a Google+ presence is just the first step,” Vallauri said. “It’s also critical for the hotel to engage on its Google+ page. This aids in strengthening a hotel’s overall sales funnel. When engagement of +1, sharing and commenting begins to increase, a hotel’s Google+ page will become a powerful vehicle in search. Posts that have been +1’d will be indexed more quickly on Google, increasing the hotel’s organic presence. “

Did you know? 

  • Google+ shares (aka +1s) are growing by 19 percent per month, while people who use Facebook are sharing only 10 percent each month. (Searchmetrics) 
    • Google purchased YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion dollars (and YouTube was just a year old.)
    • Integration between Google+ and YouTube is enabling users to post comments on YouTube about a video and have those comments displayed and viewed across all G+ social groups or “circles” to give the video even greater exposure.

“The Google/YouTube partnership not only aids search functionality, but hoteliers that link their YouTube channel to their Google Analytics account will obtain additional data about video effectiveness,” Vallauri said. “If the content isn’t working, or the keywords aren’t attracting the right eyeballs, marketers can then make adjustments accordingly.”

In a recent article titled: “Dear Marketers: Ignore Google+ At Your Own Risk,” author Alexandra Jacopetti offers the following five reasons why marketers should incorporate Google+ into their social media efforts:

  1. Instant Indexing and SEO. Much like Facebook, Google+ has already introduced hashtags that allow users to conduct custom searches via specific keywords. Unlike Facebook, Google+ has the power of the world’s largest search engine behind it. Google Search users in the United States and Canada are now able to search hashtags, which pop up as a list of related Google+ posts on the right side of the page. The SEO importance of this feature is undeniable – companies that incorporate hashtags into Google+ posts that match user keyword search results can experience a significant upswing in link clicks and website traffic.
  2. Hangout with Your Audience. Google+ Hangouts is a free app that allows users to video chat with up to 10 people at once. Hangouts can be private, only visible to the people invited, or on air, which are publicly viewable and simultaneously recorded to your YouTube channel. Other Google+ Hangouts features include photo and document sharing, emoji, and video effects.
  3. Content Authorship. Businesses and individuals who have a Google+ profile are able to claim authorship over their Internet content, and it’s going to play a big role in future content marketing strategies. Authorship allows writers to link the content they create to their Google+ profile, and also provides Internet users with the opportunity to find additional content from the same author. Content linked via Google+ Authorship establishes credibility, increases content reach, and improves search engine rankings – all resulting in greater exposure.
  4. Say What You Need to Say. Let’s face it – it’s hard to communicate effectively in 140 characters or less. Not everyone is a wordsmith who can fling out witticisms on the spot that capture attention and deliver the perfect message every time. Google+ posts have no character limit, which allows businesses to engage their audience in normal and personal conversations that are uninhibited by arbitrary restraints.
  5. Google+ Caters to the Business Community. Google+ has branded itself as THE social network community for making connections and collaborations within the professional community, particularly in the business and technology spheres. Whether you’re a B2B company or a consumer-oriented brand, Google+ is the place to reach a professional audience that tends to shy away from Facebook and Twitter.

Did you know? 

  • Google+ members who have interacted socially with any of Google’s services in the past 30 days total 540 million, up from 390 million in May 2013 (Google).
  • Monthly, 29% of Generation Z, 28% of Gen Y, 23% of Gen X, 19% of younger Boomers, 16% of older Boomers and 15% of the Golden Generation are visiting Google+ (Forrester)
  • Google is also uploading 1.5 billion photos per week, and that number is increasing at an amazing rate (Google)

“At Lodging Interactive, we understand how difficult it can be for hoteliers to keep up with the rapidly growing social media scene,” Vallauri said. “Adding another channel to a hotel marketer’s ‘to do’ list can be a daunting task. To help alleviate stress and streamline the channel management process, Lodging Interactive will create the Google+ Business Page on the hotel’s behalf, and then our CoMMingle social media marketing agency will engage with guests and monitor the page to ensure that its content will be picked up on travel related searches.”


Keeping Up In An Ever-Changing Google World

Alicia Pavignano As most of you know, Google has made some changes with their new Hummingbird algorithm.  What these new changes entail is a shift from ranking  websites based on its pertinent keywords to now ranking them based on the amount of rich relevant content they present to the consumer.  Essentially,  for those of you who have websites out there to promote your business it’s time to take the focus off the keywords you have throughout the text and  focus on the text itself.   This is not to say that keywords are not still important to achieve good search engine rankings, it just means that it’s most  important that these keywords are part of relevant information and a lot of it.

So, how do those in the travel industry keep up with this change on their websites?  Most business owners may feel they have the most amount of content they can provide about their product already available on their website.  However, you’d be surprised to see that you probably don’t.  First, let’s understand what we mean when we speak about content.  That is not just the words on a website page.  Content can also include photos, videos, and links to other relevant sites.  Today, consumers who are searching online for travel related sites, specifically hotels, want to see vibrant, detailed photos of what a property has to offer.  This is going to be the greatest selling point.  If you have video or virtual tours of the property, that’s even better.

Ok, so you have beautiful photos and perhaps some videos on your site.  Now how do you enhance the text?  You have to be creative and really think about all that your hotel has to offer potential guests and then get it out there.  For example, if your hotel offers a variety of room types why not have descriptions about each type and their amenities so the consumer has a clear picture of what they can choose from to satisfy their needs.  Speaking of pictures, why not add a room photo next to each description and for convenience have a Book Now button there as well?  If your hotel has the capability to host social events, meetings and weddings these are the ideal sections of your website where you can capitalize on the addition of relevant content.  Perhaps you have meeting/wedding planners on-site.  Your customers want to know this and this could be an offering that makes or breaks a decision to book with you.  What about former meeting and wedding guests?  Have they written testimonials about their experience with you?  If so, get them out there.  Potential customers love to see what others have to say about you.

Google’s new algorithm may at first present itself as yet another change you have to conform to.  However, I believe this new algorithm forces you to look at your website and the information you’re putting out there and determine if you’re really doing enough to reach your goal, which is maximum bookings.  The more relevant content you present, the more likely consumers are to book with you.  Additionally, by presenting more content, Google will view your website as relevant and your search engine rankings will improve.  After all, if you don’t have good rankings your prospective customers will continue to be just that, prospects.

Facebook Organic Reach Drop + Page Redesign = Push for Advertising?

Facebook Organic Reach DropIt’s that time of year again when Facebook puts out major changes to their business pages. This year, they announced a redesign of the Pages, Newsfeed and Events pages. This redesign seems to lead businesses to purchase advertising based on the following 2 points.

1) Facebook Organic Reach Drop
2) Re-positioning Apps on a Facebook Business Page – less ‘free’ visibility 

Let’s start with a few of  the redesign changes:

Applications are still available on the page  BUT they no longer appear directly under the cover image. Now they appear on the left side of the page, below the screen fold.  The app image button will still be view-able but just much smaller and you need to scroll down the page to see them. If you remember the design they had in 2011, its position is almost the same.

Larger Page Posts. With the new streamlined one column design, you have more Page real estate to show your posts. The new posts are a tad more than 100 pixels wider. Thank goodness there is no more column jumping to see the posts. You also still have the capability to pin a post to the top of Timeline.

Reviews and Fan Posts: They will appear in one box positioned on the left side, separated by Tabs.

Like Button Moved:  No longer in the top right corner, but now moved left and embedded on your header background. This makes it less visible.

Apps Layout: No longer full screen to your promotion, now the page header will stay on the screen after your app is loaded. That means that the promotion/contest/etc will appear below the screen fold and require the viewer to scroll down to see it.  Scrolling = less clicks, less traffic.

Like Gate Apps: Once a viewer ‘likes’ the page from the like gate app, Facebook pops a widget suggesting other pages they may like depending on their demographics, etc.  This widget pushes down your app content, making the user scroll even further, but also causes a distraction and could lead to the viewer clicking away from your page. Your competitors might appear in the suggestions widget.

Facebook has not yet rolled out this new layout to everyone. There are still many bugs they need to work out, but are offering many an opportunity to try it. I suggest you do not jump on the bandwagon until the kinks have been worked out.

Now onto the declining organic reach on Facebook.

Let’s be honest, Facebook is redesigning itself to continue creating opportunities to make money. They are a business, so this should not be a surprise. The issue I see is the, in my opinion, misleading  best practice suggestion of organic search they gave businesses  to be relevant on Facebook. Nothing is for free. So as businesses struggled with engagement opportunities, content, freshness, finding pictures, etc. now the results are nose diving because all those things are no longer relevant unless you buy advertising to bring in the traffic.

Work hard and break things. Isn’t that Facebook’s motto? In typical fashion, they roll out changes and see what sticks or causes an uproar and then quietly makes adjustments along the way.

So don’t despair if you see your insights failing to meet their mark.  If you choose to purchase advertising, then do so with an objective and a plan. Don’t waste your dollars unless you know what you want to purchase! If you choose to stay focused on content, then continue to share what might be relevant to your fans. Facebook will keep changing and tweaking. But they aren’t unique, the other social networks are constantly evolving as well.

My advice? Stay fluid and flexible. Remember the ‘social’ part of social media. You have no control over 3rd party sites to spread your message so plan, accordingly and broadly, across more than one platform.

And tomorrow everything will change again.