Blizzard University Vlog

When it comes to digital marketing and the vacation rental industries they are one and the same in regard to endless change! Right now both industries are constantly adapting to an ever-changing marketplace and it can be hard to keep up, that’s where Blizzard comes in.

Here on the new Blizzard University Vlog you’ll find useful video clips, how-to content and articles to bridge the gap and distill the most important information down to you and your business.

HITEC 2004 : Booking Engines

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HITEC 2004 : Booking Engines

Booking Engines were another highlight at HITEC -- there seemed to be dozens of providers on the show floor.  A new generation of highly functional booking engines were being touted by several major providers.  These booking engines look great and are easy for the consumer to use.  They support profitable features like packaging and last minute discounting.  They are easy to maintain and offer useful stats regarding bookings.  

We are really excited by the direction the market is moving in this regard.  Our experience indicates that many potential bookings are lost due to booking engines that are not carefully designed with the consumer in mind.  We are concerned that a large percentage of our lodging properties are using booking engines that give their websites a competitive disadvantage.   A word of caution to booking engine providers: make sure your own booking engine looks great and is easy to use -- the standards are being raised by your competitors.

Outdoor Adventure Directories

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Outdoor Adventure Directories

When “outdoor adventure” is mentioned, it evokes different things to different people. For some, it means high-risk, high-adrenaline activities, like kayaking over waterfalls or climbing remote mountain peaks. For others, it conjures up milder images – swimming with dolphins or enjoying a guided horseback ride through the aspens. Depending on their interests and capabilities, nearly everyone is attracted to some kind of outdoor adventure.

While true adventurers usually choose to “rough it” out in the wilds, most of us want to return from our outdoor experiences to a good meal, a hot shower and a snuggly bed. Many yuppies, baby boomers and empty nesters have the ways and means to enjoy both vigorous physical activity and creature comforts. So don’t assume that enthusiasts visiting your area won’t want to stay with you.

Analyze Conversion to Measure Success

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Analyze conversions to measure success

You spend money, time, and effort to drive traffic to your website. To get the best use of your budget, you’ll want to focus your money on those campaigns that produce the highest quality traffic and the most revenue in the form of bookings. This month, we’ll look at conversion reports and how they help you to fine-tune your marketing.

First of all, what is a conversion? A conversion happens when a visitor to your site takes an action that either results in a purchase or indicates a serious interest. The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who converted. For a group of campaigns of similar cost, the ones with the highest conversion rates can be viewed as the best performers, taking into consideration, of course, traffic volumes and revenues. (A conversion rate of 50% is high, but if you only have two visitors, it only represents one transaction.)

Google, Overture, and MSN News

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Search Engine News

Google
Major changes may be underway in the Google search engine. During June, Google tested a new way to group listings to help users search by category. In the method that Google used to test the new system, Webmasters were required to fill out a form choosing what category the website should be listed in and install a special code on the webpage. Again, this new category of search is still just being tested, but we will keep you updated as events unfold.

Link Building

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Link Building 4

In the past, Blizzard has developed and implemented several variations of link building programs. Our efforts aim to improve the number of quality and topic related websites that link (sometimes reciprocally) with a client's website. This typically has a positive impact on free search engine rankings.

We are now releasing our newest version: Link Building 4. Like its predecessors, this linking building effort can be implemented in conjunction with other plans that came before it or as a stand alone program to increase link popularity.

Hosting Q & A

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Hosting Q&A

Instead of the usual Hosting Q&A, we're addressing security. Each of us that uses the internet must be aware of the hazards and protect ourselves accordingly.
 
According to the antivirus company Sophos, almost 1000 new viruses were detected during May 2004. Not only did many of these viruses infect millions of computers through email attachments, but some also took advantage of Microsoft Windows security problems, and others infected computers via “spyware” that gets downloaded to a computer as part of another program.

How can you protect your computer?
Antivirus software
– This is a computer program that runs in the background of your computer scanning for potentially infected files. Two popular antivirus vendors are:
McAfee, Inc. – www.mcafee.com
Norton Antivirus – www.norton.com

Ken's Corner

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Ken's Corner
Ken Kralick

Ken is the Design Manager at Blizzard. Ken earned a BS degree in Speech and Mass Communications from the U. Minnesota and worked as a technical writer and webmaster before joining Blizzard. Ken spends the winter telemark skiing the Aspen and Vail resorts. His summers are filled with fly fishing, motorcycle endurance rides (his longest ride is 1640 miles in 24 hours), and playing with his son, William, and dogs Sequoia and Luna.

Question: What is the quickest way to get my website updated?
Answer: The quickest way is to email us. Regardless whether  you decide to email, fax, or phone, your request it will go into a queue and the first one in, is the first one out. Email provides us with easy reference to check your request later.

Case Study - Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association

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Case Study:
Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association came to Blizzard because they needed a better presence on the Internet.  They realized it was time to kick things into high gear, and asked Blizzard to concentrate on optimizing and marketing their website.  Their account manager began attacking their promotion from many angles. 

He began by optimizing the site for search engine performance.  By making sure the right keyword phrases appear on the home page in the right density, he was able to optimize search engine performance of the site.  In conjunction with this, he began research for listing the site in as many directories as he could find that would accept Chambers of Commerce.  This helped not only to drive traffic to the site, but also to steadily increase the site's link popularity.  The account manager also submitted their site to one of our link building programs.  The results were almost immediate.  The site more than doubled its link popularity, from 190 to 385, in just two months from April to June. 

Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc. Welcomes Six New Employees

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Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc. Welcomes Six New Employees

Brenda Kerr is the company’s new Human Resources Director.  Brenda, a self-described “people-person”, is glad to be putting her many years of experience in the Human Resources field to good use with this growing company, now with 50 employees. 

The Sales Department has two new Sales Executives.  Dennis Winchell comes to Blizzard from Scottsdale, Arizona, where he worked as a Sales & Training Representative for Armstrong World Industries, training Home Depot employees to properly sell, install, and maintain hardwood and vinyl flooring.  We also welcome back Ben Henderson, a Sales Executive who recently came back to Blizzard after a year, coincidentally, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Promotion Department has grown with three new Promotion Account Managers, each working directly with clients to promote their websites.  Jackie Binion, originally from Chicago, brings a strong background in communications and the hospitality industry to her position.  Katie French graduated from the University of Northern Colorado last year with an MS degree in Sport Management.  Lou
White brings many years of experience in the travel industry with her Blizzard.  In the past, she’s received many certifications in the field, including Cruise Specialist 

Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc. offers complete internet marketing solutions, including website design, hosting & promotion.  The Glenwood Springs company has more than 2,000 national and international clients, 85% of which are independently-owned lodging properties

Press Release: Blizzard Internet Marketing Debuts Web Site Statistic-Tracking Programs

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Press Release: Blizzard Internet Marketing Debuts
 Web Site Statistic-Tracking Programs
 

New releases to Blizzard Tracker provide enhanced, detailed reports enabling hotels to measure the effectiveness of Web site marketing and promotions.
Glenwood Springs, Colo. — June 21, 2004 — Blizzard Internet Marketing Inc., the industry’s premier provider of Web site design, hosting and promotional services to hotels, will introduce two new editions of its popular Blizzard Tracker software -- Blizzard Tracker Professional Edition and Blizzard Tracker ROI Edition– at the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference at the Dallas Convention Center June 22-24, in Booth No. 452.

“We’ve enhanced Blizzard Tracker by adding two new, stand-alone editions that are available for all hotels looking to track and measure the effectiveness of their on-line marketing efforts – not just those that use Blizzard Internet to host their Web sites,” said Christine Burke, Blizzard Product Manager. “There are a number of Web site trackers on the market. Blizzard Tracker is different, because it is implemented specifically for the needs of today’s competitive hospitality and travel environments.”

What is in Store for Free Search Engine Results?

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What is in store for Free Search Engine Results (FSER)?

Getting and keeping top rankings in major free search engines is getting harder and harder. One major reason for this is the sheer competition for FSER --  search engines are always increasing their page capacity, and marketers are publishing increasing quantities of content. There are sometimes millions of web pages competing for your keyword phrase (according to Google).  Additionally, the large amount of search traffic that pay-per-click (PPC) drives is at the expense of the free search results. The major search engines are constantly tweaking their results to not only improve them, but to stymie the results of search engine optimization (SEO) efforts that are meant to manipulate their results.  

SE News: Amazon Search Engine

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Amazon Search Engine

Amazon is creating its own search engine which will focus on e-commerce. You can view the beta version www.A9.com. A9 differs from other search engines because it stores search results on a remote server and allows users to preview the text within a book. To take full advantage of the new programming, the user will be required to have an Amazon account.

Search History will save the searches you have requested in the past, search results, and what you chose to click on. The real benefit will be that these results are stored on their server; therefore, you will be able to access your search results no matter what computer you are using. You will also be able to customize these results according to your preferences. 

Promotion Case Study: A Bed of Roses Bed and Breakfast

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Promotion Success Story: A Bed of Roses Bed and Breakfast
Oakhurst, CA -
www.abedofrosesbandb.com

The owners of A Bed of Roses Bed and Breakfast came to us in late February needing design and promotion for a website for their brand new B&B. Because the owners were organized and had their materials together for the designer, Kathy Barto, the design process went very quickly. They had a brand new website that was ready for promotion by early April. This five-room inn is located in Oakhurst, CA, near the south entrance of Yosemite National Park.

Website As Designed by Blizzard:

They chose the Custom I promotion plan that would focus mainly on paid listings with Overture and Google AdWords. The success of their promotion was almost immediate, as they received 401 visitors from Overture and 147 from Google AdWords in just two weeks of April. In May, the success of both campaigns grew as they received 835 visitors from Overture and 215 visitors from Google.
According to owner Josie Chapman business has been great, and they are very happy that they have been getting good traffic for less than she used to spend on yellow pages advertising alone for a previous business. This is an excellent demonstration of how paid advertising on the internet can really help any business. It also shows how quickly results can come from paid listings, as opposed to waiting for free listings in the search engines to improve. If you would like to see more about the different promotion plan types that Blizzard offers, please go to www.blizzardinternet.com

Study Your Statistics for Better Website Performance

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Study Your Statistics for Better Website Performance

For many people, the word “statistics” generates instant skepticism. It evokes the idea of incomprehensible amounts of data, carefully massaged in order present someone’s case. If you have a company website, however, it pays to develop a friendly relationship with its traffic statistics.

In the following months, we will examine sample reports from Blizzard Tracker. This month’s topic is the Bounce Rate Report. “Bounce rate” is the percentage of website visitors who arrive at an entry page, then leave without getting any deeper into the site.

Take a look at this sample report from Blizzard Tracker Professional Edition. It represents one day of traffic for a fictional hotel website. 481 visitors landed on  the home page as an entry page into the site, and 157 of them left without visiting any other pages. Thus, the bounce rate was 33%. This is not bad. Keep in mind, however, that if your bounce rate is significantly over 50%, you should research the cause.

Ken's Corner

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Ken's Corner

Question: I think that I have a big list of emails in my email marketing but I don't know where to check.  How can I access my list?

Answer: We can easily export your email marketing list and send any statistics that you may have (depending on your send history).  Please email Kathy@blizzardinternet.com and she will fulfill your request.  Any questions you might have regarding your account can also go straight to Kathy.

Question: What if I want to separate my email marketing lists into smaller lists? Will this benefit me?  Is it difficult to do?

Answer: You can have as many lists as you want. We usually recommend that if you want more than one email list that you break it up as follows: Do a local list for last minute specials and blasts, a non-local list for specials and blasts with more notice, and then a combined list for full newsletters, specials and blasts. Having the local and non-local lists allows you greater flexibility in targeting your potential guests with better timing, resulting in better responses.

Hosting Q & A

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Hosting Q&A

Question: I signed up for the Blizzard Tracker over a year ago but can’t remember how to login!

Answer: Logging into your Blizzard Tracker is simple. The first thing you must know is what type of tracker you have: the Blizzard Tracker Hosted Edition, the Blizzard Tracker Professional Edition, or the Blizzard Tracker ROI Edition. Both the Professional and ROI trackers were released earlier this year, so if you have had a tracker for over a year it would be the Hosted Edition.

To login, just go to the website www.blizzardtracker.com . In the upper right corner of the site there is a blue box where you can select the tracker type to be directed to a login screen.

Niche: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Directories

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Niche: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Directories

When New Paltz, New York’s mayor began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples last Spring, there was more demand for accommodations than the small upstate town could handle. Howard and Betsy Mont, owners of A Sparrow Hawk Bed and Breakfast, in nearby Stone Ridge, were delighted to host some of the overflow.

Howard and Betsy, who have always welcomed gays to their inn, feel that this niche is an ideal pairing for the Bed and Breakfast industry. “I think B & B’s will experience more honeymoon weekends because of the creative, sensitive nature of this market”, said Howard. “B & B’s provide the refined, upscale environment they are looking for.”

Some of Sparrow Hawk’s honeymoon reservations came through Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com), one of the oldest and most respected online guides to gay-friendly lodging. GBLT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) travel directories have exploded onto the internet in the past few years, and for good reason. According to Gay Travel (www.gaytravel.com), this segment of the population is generally affluent, self-indulgent and loyal and travels frequently. Many property owners find this is to be an ideal client base from which to draw.

Search Engine News

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Search Engine News

Google gets ready for IPO
In the last year there has been a lot of speculation about search engine giant Google launching an IPO (initial public offering). This talk has been spreading like wildfire throughout Wall Street, and the financial industry over the course of the last year, mostly due to Wall
Street’s hopes that this single event could re-invigorate the tech sector. While this may be wishful thinking, it’s not too far off the reality that Google’s IPO will be one of the biggest events since the tech bubble burst in 2000.

Google was started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998. Both were graduate students at Stanford at the time. Current estimates are that Larry and Sergey own roughly one third of Google, which is expected to be worth between $15 billion and $25 billion after their stock market debut.

Google Adwords

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Google AdWords

There have been many shifts and changes in the search engine world over the last 6 months.  As discussed in our previous newsletters the effects have been far reaching, involving the largest search engines (Google and Yahoo) and many of the smaller ones (Inktomi, Fast, Alltheweb).  One of the results we have seen out of all of this is that the importance of Google AdWords has grown.  For a long time Overture was the big pay-per-click and the rest were considered somewhat less important by varying degrees. Now, we feel that Google AdWords has become an equal to Overture and in some markets, even superior to it. 

Because Google AdWords has become increasingly important, we have started spending more time and energy with it for our clients.  We have been using some new strategies that we are finding allow us to increase our clients’ traffic, while significantly decreasing the amount that they spend per click.  One of the main strategies we have been experimenting with is running two ads for the same keyword phrases at the same time.  Google will rotate these ads so you don’t have both ads show up on the same search, but by rotating them, it gives us a chance to evaluate how each ad is performing. Once we have a clear indication of which is performing better, we delete the ad that is not performing as well, then create a new second ad.  As we continue to do this, the click through rate of the ads that we keep get better and better.  A good click-through rate is vital because Google AdWords use click-through rate and bid amount to determine an ads placement.  The higher click-through rate an ad has, the less money you need to bid on search terms to still receive good placement.  This is how we can actually get more traffic to our clients’ sites, while spending less money.

Hosting Success Story - Spam Filter

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Hosting Success Story

Merrill Lynch had a substantial spam problem that grew exponentially in 2003, when 30+% of 6 million messages per day were unsolicited junk email. The January 27 issue of USA Today predicted that Merrill Lynch's loss in productivity due to the end user having to filter through unwanted email was equivalent to 4 full-time employees. Merrill Lynch considered several anti-spam vendors and chose Postini (the same vendor Blizzard uses for its clients). The financial management company reports that Postini has eliminated 90% of their junk mail, less than 1% of quarantined mail being filtered as a "false positive".

How bad is spam for the rest of the world? According to stats quoted by the article, spam soared 68% in 2003 from 2002 and is expected to jump another 10% to 8.5 billion daily spam messages in the next year. Our customers using Postini for their spam filter have seen a drastic decrease in the number of spam AND virus messages bombarding their computers.