Phantom update in Google?

On February 7, 2017, something significant happened with search engine results across our sites. SEO Roundtable is reporting this to be a Phantom update from Google. Phantom updates mean Google does not “officially” report an algorithm update, but you can see large changes in your search engine results.

Diving into our sites, we saw the largest increases in Page 2 keywords and higher.

Examples of Phantom Update

Our keyword rankings on Page 2 jumped significantly with numbers like 12, 11, & 8.
Google Phantom Update

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While our clients’ Page 2 keywords also increased dramatically:

Google Phantom Update Client Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEO Content

This Phantom Update is believed to be more like Panda (content driven) than Penguin (backlink driven).   If that’s true, it explains why our sites jumped significantly in search engine rankings.  We work hard to ensure our hotel website content is fresh and unique.  In addition, we take our time choosing appropriate topics for our client, as well as making sure they are of importance to our site visitors.  We know this takes time in addition to the proper keyword research in order to make the climb to the first page of Google.

Older Phantom Updates

There have been older Phantom Updates including this one:

The Quality Update — May 3, 2015

After multiple reports of ranking changes, originally dubbed “Phantom 2”, Google acknowledged a core algorithm change which impacted “quality signals”.  This update seems to have had a broad impact, but Google didn’t share any specifics about the signals which changed in this update.

“Phantom” — May 9, 2013

Around May 9th, there were multiple reports of an algorithm update (also unverified by Google).  Many sites reported significant traffic loss, but no signals or mention of the update from anyone over at Google.

Conclusion

Take a look at your own search engine rankings and see if there have been any dramatic increases on February 7th.  We’d love to hear from you.

The Best Hotel Marketing Strategy should include Chat Messaging

Chat messaging has become a useful tool in marketing strategies of the hospitality industry to meet growing consumer demand. The Economist reported 2.5 billion people worldwide had installed at least one messaging app and that number was expected to grow to 3.6 billion within a few years. A recent OpenMarket study this January found that 57% of mobile device users worldwide found the best way to communicate with hotels is via messaging.

Chat Messaging Makes Efficient Use of Hotel Resources

Where there is demand, hotel marketing professionals need to respond. Hoteliers are discovering the value of chat messaging apps with time and labor saving strategies of the hotel’s front desk staff as well as helping guests or potential guests make purchasing decisions.

But using chat messaging is not only making more efficient use of your hotel staff’s time. It also gives your hotel the means to ensure great customer service and increase both conversion rates and RFP submissions. Of course let’s not forget that chat messaging provides engagement opportunities. When you have engagement, you create loyalty and with loyalty come the opportunities to close business.

Human Powered Live Chat Messaging vs. Automated Chat Bots

As consumers we want instant gratification – getting answers to our questions/inquiries right away – and so it would be with people who contact your hotel. But who wants programmed answers from a chatbot? People prefer the human contact – it is more personal, warm and welcoming than an automated, cold bot!

The argument is that an automated chat bot could have algorithms set up so that basic questions – information about amenities, pricing etc. – are answered but what happens when the person contacting your hotel has specific needs or questions that an automated bot is not programmed to give? Would you want your answer to be “Sorry, I can’t understand. Please call the hotel at …..”?

The person might end up calling but now they use up the very resources the hotel was trying to get to work more efficiently. So using an automated bot defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Then not-to-mention there is the person’s building frustration when your the front desk clerk can’t provide a quick response either as they’re attending to other hotel guests.  “Hold please” is not an answer anyone wants to hear. Now your hotel has the potential of having this person just drop contacting your hotel altogether and move on to other choices.

The best solution for your hotel is the combination of both the technology and the human element. But regardless of whether you will have automated or human powered chat messaging, your hotel can expect chat messaging to grow more popular and that its presence will be around in the years ahead. Are you ready?

Guest Expectations: Hotel Customer Relations Challenge

In this digital age, use of social networks has become the new word-of-mouth communication channels amongst peers. Spreading the news about your hotel’s handling of customer relations may have a new delivery method but it can still make or break your hotel’s reputation – only now it is in cyber space and much more far reaching!

Whether your guests are Millennials, GenX or baby boomers, each group has different expectations from their hotel stay and want to be reached through different social channels.  This presents a challenge for hotels to provide exceptional customer service to the different demographics of each group.

 

Hotel Customer Relations

The string that binds hotels with these different groups is delivering high-quality customer service. What hotel wants to turn away bookings or future bookings? The answer is right in your hands! If guests perceive your hotel in a bad light, the ramifications of poor customer service will inevitably lead to a bad reputation and loss in sales. But you can turn this around by ensuring you listen to your guests needs, handle the issues – big or small – with speed, respect and graciousness.

eMarketer chart of people who have stopped doing business with companies due to poor customer relations

 

Going above and beyond to help make your guest’s experience a memorable one shows your hotel provides value to your guests so that they make the original booking and keep coming back again and again.  It all comes down to hotel customer relations with your guests. No matter the age, how well you treat your guest means great reviews, attracting potential guests and positively affecting your bottom line.

To be heard, one must first learn to listen

Listening to each group’s needs and wants is the key to providing great customer service. Who doesn’t want to feel special? Whether it’s the millennial looking for the next happening eatery or the baby boomer looking for a fun activity to share with their family, carefully listening to the expectations and feed back of each group is the best way to successfully manage them.

Provide the unique guest experience

When choosing a hotel, today’s guests want that special experience and the human-touch that makes them feel connected. If your hotel embraces the neighborhood, taking in every bit of the area and extending the uniqueness of your community out to guests, it would provide a personalized experience your guest will not forget.

Accommodate guest lifestyle preferences and expectations

There is a definite shift in preferences and expectations of today’s hotel guest. There is a service-oriented lifestyle together with the need to be engaged and entertained.  There is a desire for the human-to-human factor that makes a guest hotel stay comforting and welcoming. The saying goes home is where the heart is. Make your guests love their hotel stay by showing them your hotel is not traditional and stagnant but is warm and inviting. It is the relationship you build with your guests that will make your hotel be the “it” place to be.

In the end, the best way to handle guest expectations, no matter the demographics, is ensure you provide the best quality customer service. Your hotel will become the destination point that provides the personal, authentic experience today’s hotel guest expects and craves. Hotel marketers need to be mindful of this and adapt hotel marketing strategies to meet the challenge.

#AskDJV Episode 53: Hotel Pay Per Click Budgets

In Episode 53 of the #AskDJV show, DJ Vallauri discusses hotel pay per click budgets. Watch this week’s episode to learn how you can avoid the common pitfalls of other hoteliers.

Video Transcript:

Hotel Pay Per Click Budgets

Hello Everybody and Welcome to the #AskDJV Show, I’m DJ Vallauri this is Episode 53 of the #AskDJV show.

On this week’s episode, I’d like to talk about hoteliers spreading their PPC budget way too thin.

Let me explain:

PPC Cost per Click’s (CPC’s) have increased over the last ten-fifteen years dramatically, yet hotel budgets kind of stay the same for PPC budgets. It’s important that your hotel keeps up with the rising costs of cost per clicks. I remember the day when you could buy a travel related keyword or hotel related keyword for 75 cents. Those days are long gone. That same keyword will now cost you as a hotelier $5, $10, or $15, $20 per click, yet your budget is still operating as if that keyword was 75 cents. So, it’s important when you do your annual budgeting that you increase your PPC marketing allocation to be able to keep up with the trends and the market costs.

Google Pay Per Click

Now, in addition to this, unfortunately, Google, about a year ago, removed the right rail of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). What that means for you, as a hotelier is that there are fewer opportunities for your hotel to actually appear on the PPC results page. Bigger brands, OTA’s, other travel sites are bidding for the same terms you are and now have larger budgets (because they’ve increased accordingly and you haven’t). So, it’s important that you keep up your budgeting. Now hoteliers often come to us and say, “We want to focus not only on our transient campaigns, but we also want to focus on weddings and group business.” Because that’s big in 2017, but the down side is the hotel operators never have enough funds or additional funds to run those wedding and meeting campaigns. So, the result is you’re thinning out your PPC budget even further, you’re watering it down, you’re spreading yourself too thin, as they say, from a marketing perspective you don’t have enough marketing dollars.

Pay Per Click Advertising

So, you need to focus on what you’re going after from a PPC strategy and make sure that you have the right budget allocated for that and your agency can help you determine what that right budget is.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the #AskDJV show, be sure to Subscribe down below (the red YouTube button), so that you can stay in touch when new episodes come out on a weekly basis. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next week. Take care.

Include Video in Your Hotel’s 2017 Social Media Marketing Plans

Visual content social media marketing speaks volumes and video is the most powerful storytelling tool your hotel can include in your 2017 social media marketing plans arsenal. Through video, hotel digital marketers have a great opportunity to build guest loyalty, raise brand awareness, increase engagements and leverage your hotel’s place in this medium.

Video Marketing for Hotels

Trends are continuing to show that video marketing for hotels should have a significant role in your hotel marketing strategy and budget. Some recent Cisco predictions state that advertising spend is expected to grow by 31% in 2017 and, by the year 2020, 80% of internet traffic will be video.

  • 500 million people are watching Facebook videos every day.
  • 82% of Twitter users regularly watch video content on Twitter.
  • 33% of tablet owners watch about an hour of video on their devices
  • 28% of smartphone users watch a video on their devices at least once a day.

Hotel video message clear and relevant

Don’t forget to keep your hotel video message clear and relevant to your target audience. Videos can be incredibly engaging, helping you to build a bond between your hotel and your guest as well as be shared with people within your guest’s networks. But video is not just YouTube anymore. The best place to share videos and gain exposure for your hotel is through social media channels like Facebook Live, Instagram stories, Twitter and Snapchat stories. Telling a story about your hotel, local attractions and/or staff through video will provide guests with good experiences that can make an impactful impression.

The new marketing is all about personalization and building relationships by offering a great guest experience. Hotels that focus on considerate and compassionate visual content marketing will touch guests’ hearts and minds every time. There is great potential for guests to make purchasing decisions based on the emotional connection they make with your hotel.

There is no special script. Stay one step ahead of the competition and use video to bring your message home to your guests and future guests.  There is power in adding video to your social media marketing plans.

Customer Service is the NEW MARKETING

PARSIPPANY, NJ – February 1, 2017 Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, published a new article on Hotel Business Review explaining how customer service has become the NEW marketing.  “The hotel business, frankly like any other business, is about creating relationships, human-to-human and it’s your job as a hotel operator to humanize your hotel and your brand in order to gain the highest level of customer service as perceived by your guest”, says DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive.

Hotel Business Review Lodging Interactive

 

Hotel Customer Service

The article highlights hotel customer service marketing — how people and their experiences are what capture guest interest in your hotel. Reaching out to the guest in all steps of their journey to and from your hotel maintains your hotel’s reputation and provides revenue opportunities. How you create your customer service experience provides more detail to initial hotel website visitors than you imagine. It goes on to give some insights to understanding where the guest journey actually begins, how live chat provides real-time, human-to-human engagement with guests or potential guests and why monitoring social media channels for guest comments before and after their stay provides a customer service marketing advantage.

There is also mention of many new artificial intelligence technologies that have sprung up to provide replies to consumers via a messaging app or chat application but that these are technologies chasing problems to resolve. “I am a firm believer that technology ultimately improves customer engagement for hotels but we should never look for problems to solve with technology but rather we should use technologies to solve problems”, says DJ Vallauri.

 

#AskDJV Episode 52: Live Chat

#AskDJV Episode 52 talks about Live Chat and how it can help the customer service efforts of your hotels.  Learn how managed live chat can be attained for your hotel at affordable prices while bringing an old technology to the forefront.  Get Live Chat for hotels today.

Video Transcript:

Live Chat for Hotels

 

Hello Everybody and Welcome to the #AskDJV Show, I’m DJ Vallauri and thank you so much for joining me this week.

 

This is Episode 52 so I’m super pumped because we’ve been putting out these videos for over a year.

On this week’s show, I’d like to talk about how Customer Service is really becoming a marketing advantage and marketing differentiator for hotels who do it right.  Think about the Ritz Carlton hotel company.  You think about Ritz Carlton and you know you’re going to get great service, right? You just know it.

If you stay at a Ritz Carlton, and you stay at a JW Marriott or Mandarin Oriental or St. Regis or Four Seasons, they are all great facilities, they have great rooms, great accommodations, they are all lavishly appointed, but where the Ritz Carlton hotel company does it right is when they provide their level of service.  If a customer has an issue, each employee has the ability to spend up to $2,000 on the spot to solve that customer’s issue.  They can spend that money without having to get his or her management approval.  That’s key.  That’s what makes Ritz Carlton above and beyond when it comes to customer service in our industry.

As consumers, we have high speed internet access on our phones.  Our phones are with us nearly 24/7, right.  When we have a question of the hotel, we are always forced to call.  As you know, sometimes the hotels don’t answer the telephone promptly, which causes us to call the hotel numerous times.

Why put your guests through that, when you can solve and provide great customer service, solve the issues they might have right on the spot in real time.  I’m going to tell you how to do that.

Customer Service begins the first time that consumer engages with your hotel brand online and on your website.  Every hotel should have installed on their website a push to chat, also known as a live chat function.

Whenever we have a question online, we see that “let me help you” “chat with me now”, we click on that and ask a question.

The same thing needs to apply to the hotel industry.  The technology is there, consumers have been using it for ten years, we all know how to use live chat, there’s no learning curve whatsoever.

That’s where the marketing advantage comes in.  Now our firm, Lodging Interactive actually has a live chat fully managed service and we provide live chat to many, many hotels.  With our own people in the United States, we put the technology on your website and we provide live chat service support for the hotel industry seven days a week.

So, we can provide that service for you if you can’t do it yourself and we can do so in a cost-effective manner. Live Chat provides your hotel with a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace.

So, if you have any questions, I welcome them.  Please email me at dj@lodginginteractive.com.  And as always please make sure you follow us by clicking on the subscribe button down below on YouTube to make sure you get weekly announcements of these videos.

Thanks again for joining us this week and we hope to see you next week.

Google Mobile First Indexing: What it means for Your Hotel Website

Google’s ranking system has been looking at content on the desktop version to evaluate user relevance. Then in May 2016, Google’s algorithms were updated to include mobile friendliness as a ranking factor. Today, Google Mobile First Indexing is going to affect how well you rank in the Search Engines.  Most searches are carried out using mobile devices. In fact, according to eMarketer research, 69.8% of travelers will book flights and hotels via mobile by 2019.

Responsive websites were created to adapt to both the desktop and mobile viewer.  With the onset of Google mobile first indexing experimentation, hotel marketers need to look at how their mobile audience views their website.

How Mobile Differs from Desktop VersionsMobile, Desktop, Tablet versions of a hotel website

In some cases, the mobile version is a scaled back version of the desktop website so there might be less content than the desktop page. If mobile pages have less content than desktop, it can cause issues with Google’s algorithms because they aren’t evaluating the page used by the mobile user. Google recently announced they would begin to assess ranking content based on mobile versions of websites.

Google mobile first indexing doesn’t change much for responsive websites. It will view the content on desktop and mobile in the same way and then format by device. It also doesn’t mean that desktop only websites will not be visible. Google will still crawl content of both desktop and mobile.

Only if your hotel has separate desktop and mobile versions will this new indexing become an issue. Google has suggestions for steps you can take to optimize for this algorithm change.

Growing Importance of Local SEO

Then with searches via mobile increasing, the search terms have become more local in nature. This puts local SEO in the spotlight.  The hotel’s marketing team will need to tailor metadata to include location and reap the benefits of localized search.  Creating optimized content means less frustrations on the part of the mobile user. Relevancy, engagement and timeliness of content continue to be important as ranking factors, but getting the information through speedy search results has become just as, if not, more important.

Google mobile first indexing, though in it’s early stages, is paving the way for reconsideration in hotel website design to accommodate increasing mobile usage.  Hotel marketers will need to be ready to ride the wave of the future.

Lodging Interactive’s Kristine Gilbert Wins President’s Award

Lodging Interactive 2016b Award

Kristine Gilbert wins Lodging Interactive’s 2016 Presidents Award 2016.

Parsippany, New Jersey – DJ Vallauri, President & CEO of Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, announces that Kristine Gilbert, Creative Coordinator for CoMMingle, is the recipient of the 2016 President’s Award of Excellence. The annual award, which was created in 2013 by DJ Vallauri, recognizes an employee who has exhibited exceptional contributions and service throughout the previous year.  Ms. Gilbert was presented with the prestigious award at the company’s yearly meeting held at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange, New Jersey on December 9th. She was nominated for the President’s Award by Rosella Virdo’, Managing Director of CoMMIngle, the division of Lodging Interactive that spearheads social media services.

 

During her years with Lodging Interactive, Kristine has progressed professionally through positions leading to her current role and her determination and enthusiasm transcend all areas of her life. While supporting and caring for her husband and two children, she has made time to give back to her community. Kristine is an avid runner and recently ran for The Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon that, since 1954, has provided vital services for people and families in Lehigh Valley, from early childhood developmental programs to support services for people in retirement. She has also championed numerous fundraisers for children through health and fitness.

 

“Kristine is a dedicated individual who has a deep passion for her work that is equaled by her passion for serving her community,” said Mr. Vallauri.  “Whether as a beta tester for new services we have launched or as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) for the many social networks and blogging platforms, Kristine has taken on every challenge as the Creative Coordinator for CoMMingle with limitless enthusiasm and admirable determination. She is a quintessential example of Lodging Interactive’s ideals and values. I congratulate her on this well-deserved President’s Award of Excellence.“

5 Top Hospitality Trends for 2017

There were many changes for the hotel industry in 2016, from technological advances to millennials growing influence.  So what hospitality trends can hoteliers expect in 2017?

Choice Hotels’ online survey shows some interesting travel trends for 2017.  In terms of domestic destinations, it showed people are willing to spend more to explore new places.  Also, regardless of destination, most would splurge on food and beverages while 30% of budgets would be spent on accommodations. With these results in hand, hoteliers have a lot of considerations to get a piece of the action.  Below are the top 5 hospitality trends we think you should look for in 2017.

Texting and Chat a Mainstay in Customer Service

Guests seek out real time customer service and crave the human touch. Whether it’s planning a wedding, business function or an ideal hotel stay, they want prompt service and clear information to make choices. Working with a person, not a machine with robotic responses makes the guest feel welcome and cared for. Also, people want on-the-spot service when they need those towels or want to know what eateries are in the area. Texting hotel staff helps them get what they need during their stay and live chat gets them what they need to make the ideal stay or party arrangement. Both present opportunities for hoteliers to efficiently and effectively reach out to their guests.

Live Chat for Hotels

Live Chat for Hotels

Technology and Need for Information Security

Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer just something seen in a sci-fi thriller. From maid service to concierge duties, hotels have expanded their use of AI for efficiency and service not to mention lowering labor costs. But with new technology comes the need for increased security. Hoteliers will have to factor in account security to protect data and guard against identity fraud.

Mobile Usage Continued Increase

Most searches are conducted on mobile and, according to eMarketer travel research, 51.8% will use mobile devices for their travel bookings and it’s expected to rise to 86.4% by 2019.  Using a smart phone for bookings, check-ins and room service have begun to take over the traditional methods but hoteliers can expect it to become the norm.

Mobile Friendly Websites a Necessity

With the onset of Google’s mobile-first indexing, mobile friendly sites will become a necessity. With more searches happening via mobile, search terms will become more local so meta data will need to be tailored to include location. Speedy search results will also need to become a priority for hotel marketers in order to reap the benefits.

Millennials Leading Way to Future

Millennials are looking for unique guest experiences and are not driven by the same travel needs in days of yore. No packaged deals for this crowd! It’s all about living the entire experience from the time they begin their destination search to foodie experiences and throughout their hotel stay. So hoteliers will need to find ways to create shareable and unique experiences to appease the millennial appetite.

Cultural shifts, changing market trends and guest behavior will demand new strategies so as not lose out on any opportunities for optimizing revenues. Are you ready for 2017?