Upcoming Search Marketing Workshops

Blizzard’s upcoming workshops that can help you market your website more effectively.

It would be great if you can attend any or all of these… if you cannot, order a video copy instead.  We are selling a package of ALL 3 workshop for $499 and will record each workshop and deliver it to you via streaming video after the event. You can watch it at your leisure.

At VRMA 2012 Nationals in Phoenix (October 21st) we are hosting a 4-hour workshop that is All About Google Analytics.  Learn how to use Google Analytics more effectively.  I hope to see you there!

Are you looking for a more intensive learning experience?  We are offering both a beginners and an advanced workshop in the next few months:

All About Google 2-day workshop will be in Glenwood Springs on November 12 and 13th. This is a great opportunity to sharpen up your SEO skills and understanding of the many opportunities Google offers your website.

Advanced Search Marketing Workshop is a 2-day workshop intensively focused on enhancing the performance of your website marketing efforts.  January 21-22 in Glenwood Springs, CO.

Integrate Your Google Webmaster Tool Data into Google Analytics

Connecting your Google Webmaster Tool account and your Google Analytics account provides better reports in your Google Analytics AND more convenience.  This feature was released last week on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

I especially like having the “Queries” report right in Google Analytics which shows how many impressions my website received in Google search results (by Query), the Click-Thru-Rate and the average ranking. Pretty Handy.

Here are the step-by-step instructions… with a caveat: you must be in the “new version” of Google Analytics, not the old.  If your screens look different, you are in the old version.  The login to the new version is at the very top of your page.

Here are the step-by-step instructions to integrate these two accounts:

1) Login to Google Analytics and click on the gear to the right of the reporting tabs:

Read more

TripAdvisor and Google Places Changes Good News for Lodging Businesses

Back in November we reported that the change in Google Search Results is GREAT news for lodging businesses because it emphasizes the business’s website over the giant lodging directory.

This good news would be bad news for those giant directories like VRBO.com or TripAdvisor.

As a followup, in December, TripAdvisor acknowledged that its traffic from Google dropped by more than 10% since Google made the changes to its search results that emphasized the Google Places content.  Curiously, this came on the heels of an October claim that “TripAdvisor benefits from Google’s new Place Search feature” which clearly proved to be mistaken.

We think the individual lodging websites are the ones that took that 10% back from TripAdvisor.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor had pulled its reviews from Google Places.  It used to be that TripAdvisor dominated the reviews at Google Places… now websites like Hotels.com, Yelp, Travel.Yahoo.com, Travelpost, etc. are more important for reviews.

This is probably pretty good news for most hotels and lodging operations for two reasons:

  1. Many hotels had problems with TripAdvisor reviews and rankings and TripAdvisor DOMINATES the spots.  By removing TripAdvisor reviews from Google Places, hotel operators have a bit of a clean slate.
  2. Many hotels have been gaming TripAdvisor, but ignoring the multitude of other review spots.  Now those other review locations will have a little more importance.

If you currently dominate TripAdvisor in your market… this is all BAD news!

Change in Google Search Results is GREAT News for Lodging Businesses

Google rolled out changes in its search results about two weeks ago that are proving to be great news for many hotels, inns and vacation rental management companies.  This change represents a pretty dramatic shift in the look and feel of Google’s SERPs for many local searches.

Previously, when a consumer did a location search (like “Orlando Vacation Home”) Google would show the “10-box” at the top of the organic search results and then show the top 10 results after that.

It looked like this:

Now, Google is blending the two and placing the Google Places information right into the organic search results so that it looks like this:

Why is this a benefit? There are three reasons:

1) Because wholesalers and distributors (competitors who don’t have physical presence in your market) are not eligible for a Google Places listing and their resulting listings are not nearly as attractive or prominent as those businesses that do have a Places listing.  They get a pretty boring listing that looks like this:

2) Because many of your competitors have not taken the time to get a nice Google Places listing, and theirs may look like this: Read more

Microsites

Use of the microsite as an SEO tactic has been a persistent topic of online marketing strategy for years.   Generally, its popularity and effectiveness has waned.

Your average hospitality business is more likely to be saddled with a tenured set of microsites than seriously considering a new microsite effort.  Remember, back in the days, building microsites was typically a profitable endeavor.  They performed well in search engines and enjoyed high conversion rates if thoughtfully designed… which was probably rare.  That is why there are so many legacy microsites.

Over the last few years Google started discouraging the practice in both its words and its algorithms. And for good reason: using microsites to manipulate organic search isn’t good for the consumer.  For the business owner, microsites are a double-edged sword.  They involve risk.  BTW, we say microsites instead of microsite usually because people seem to build them in groups.  It is a herd animal.

Today, the reasons most hotels or resorts use microsites are threefold:

  1. A needed technology, tool or content management system cannot be installed within a website, so it is hosted at a subdomain.  Examples include booking engines, tee-time or table reservation functionality, guest/customer loyalty area, blog, etc.  This is a good reason to have a microsite.
  2. The resort has a unique product (restaurant, spa, golf course) that justifies having its own dedicated web presence and marketing effort.  This may also be a good reason for a microsite.
  3. They have a few old clunky microsites and won’t give them up!

It is that third reason we want to discuss today.  Give them up now, before Google pries them from your cold dead hands! Read more

What is the Deal with Google Instant?

Google Instant is the latest enhancement that shows results as you type in your search.

This is going to make Google a much faster experience, it’s probably been timed and designed to make a search at Bing-Ahoo seem slow and clunky in comparison – effectively stealing back some share from the combined 28.1% search share they had in July 2010.

Google was at 65.8% in July 2010.

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Google Webmaster Tools Improves its Link Data

webmastertoolslogoHere is another quick update on Google Webmaster Tools.

They recently enlarged their data in the “links to your site” report.  Finally, Google seems to be showing a healthy list of all the links that point to your own website.

This improvement means that Google Webmaster tools will become one of the go-to tools for measuring how many links point to your website.  One nice feature is that they also break the links down by which page they link into, so you can get a better sense of your “deep linking” strategies.

Read yesterday’s article about the exciting “search queries” report that talks about improved data in that report too.

Google Webmaster Tools Adds Impression and CTR data

Google has recently improved its Webmaster Tools by improving its “Search Queries” report which lists:

  • The top search queries for which your site appeared in search resultswebmastertoolslogo
  • The number of impressions that query received
  • The number of clicks each query received
  • The Click Through Rate (CTR) of each query
  • The Average Position of each query

It starts by showing a nice graph of impressions vs clicks:

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And then really gets amazing by showing details of clickthru rates and rankings, query by query:

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Three reasons why this is important:

  1. Google now provides authoritative data of where you rank for each keyword phrase.  It actually averages the position if you showed up in multiple spots and it shows which pages showed up in each spot.   No more guessing!
  2. By producing the Click Thru Rate (CTR) for search results, Google may actually be revolutionizing the SEO industry.  We can now see how often a high ranking by itself doesn’t convert impressions into clicks. Finally, SEO companies like Blizzard Internet can impress upon customers the value of writing compelling titles and descriptions (which increase CTR), the value of worrying about sitelinks, the value of coming up in multiple spots.  To put it bluntly, we can focus on clicks from Google instead of rankings.  Looking at the data, it is clear that a high ranking doesn’t automatically lead to a click
  3. Google is demonstrating it knows the CTR of specific queries and websites.  I believe this is the first step to a major change in Google’s algorithm.  My prediction is that soon you will move up or down partly based upon your CTR.  Better start improving those CTRs if you want to keep the top spot!

It should come as no surprise that CTR could become part of the algorithm.  Google has ranked PPC in AdWords for a long time based upon click-thru rates… why not move that into its organic algorithm?  I think it is gonna happen!

Want more evidence?  Google also has a load-time monitor in its webmaster tools, and your load time is now part of the organic ranking algorithm.  Google knows that websites that load fast are more enjoyable by its users… so it bumps them up a bit.  If I were Google, I would start lowering websites that have below average CTRs for specific queries… they are a waste of search engine real estate.

I recommend you start investing in improving your CTRs of your important keyword phrases… start by writing and testing better titles and descriptions.  Stop stuffing keywords in there.

Want to know what is next?  Bounce rates! Google knows if users do a search, click on your site, and bounce back!  Another sign that you don’t deserve to rank for that keyword phrase.  BTW, this factor is also already in Google’s Adwords algorithm.  I bet we are talking about that in the next year.

Keyword Difficulty Insights: Tips for Analyzing Keywords from WordStream

I wanted to share this awesome resource with our readers because it really sheds light on the analytical process we follow when determining how hard it will be to rank for a particular term.

In some cases just putting the keywords on a page and building a few links is all you need to hit the top 10.  More cases than not – the keywords that will bring the most traffic are MUCH harder to rank for – hence the concept of Keyword Difficulty.

If you’re looking for insight – check out The Ultimate Guide to Keyword Competition: Tips from 35 Experts on Analyzing Competitive Keywords.

This comprehensive article gives a snapshot of the ideas surrounding Keyword Difficulty from 35 SEM industry leaders.  There’s some great insight here to put your quest for that number one ranking into perspective.  There are so many factors to consider, beyond the metatag and the link.

Some of my favorite points are highlighted below:

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Get on Track for Website Success with Consulting Services from Blizzard Internet

Blizzard Internet MarketingBlizzard Internet Marketing Inc. announces new consultation services for hotels, resorts, vacation rental managers and hospitality businesses seeking to boost earnings from online marketing in 2010.

Blizzard Internet Marketing Inc. is now offering consultation time with their award-winning, industry leading team to companies seeking advice or guidance to accelerate their internet success.

Trent Blizzard, President and Co-Founder notes that “companies often come to us and are missing pieces of their internet marketing puzzle; they have spent thousands on a website that is not attracting the traffic expected, it’s not ranking well against their competitors, it’s not converting as hoped, etc., and they need a little bit of guidance. We are excited to offer this plan that will provide a few hours of help to get hospitality websites going in the right direction.”

Get expert advice on the powerful disciplines of search engine marketing including: Read more