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.

Link Building News

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Link Building

The power of link building has taken a fun political twist. A quick search in both Google and Yahoo for the word “waffles” reveals John Kerry’s homepage as the #1 result. Bush supporters have been able to do this through a link building campaign, where they linked to the John Kerry homepage using the word “waffles.”

This is nothing new. A search for “miserable failure”, “French military victories” and “out of touch executives” all reveal #1 rankings that have been “gamed” by SEO pranksters.

Email Marketing: A Recipe for Success

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Email Marketing: A recipe for success

Email marketing has become one of the most effective ways to increase revenue. Targeted email messages are a great way for innkeepers to advertise and sell special events, last minute specials, and even specific dates like birthdays and anniversaries. The proliferation of this marketing technique is largely due to the low cost and speed with which you can deliver your message. In fact, email marketing increased more than 270% from 2000 to 2001. In 2001, 30 million permission-based messages were sent, expecting to grow to 150 million in 2005.

The recipe for a successful email marketing campaign contains several “key ingredients” that require special attention: choosing software, collecting email addresses, creating a template, composing content, and tracking results. By following this basic recipe, you will add a delectable way to increase your revenue and keep in touch with your customers.

Tools and Fun Websites

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Tools and Fun Websites

Ranking Thumbshots - A useful website for comparing results between two search engines (like Google or Yahoo) or two phrases (like Maine Hotels vs. Maine Hotel) in one search engine. Designed to see which websites occur in both. Pretty neat research tool.

Proogle - A nifty search engine that renders the page rank of each website.

Web site statistics software – what can the new technology do for you?

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Web site statistics software – what can the new technology do for you?

I once heard someone say that everyone hates to pay for gasoline, because you never see it. Buying something invisible is almost like having to pay a tax or a toll. The bright side, of course, is in the results – you get to drive your car, rather than being stranded by the side of the road.

What about the money you invest in your Web site? How visible are the results? Your page views are up, your phone is ringing, and your business is profitable. Last time you checked, you had plenty of Web site traffic, and high rankings in the search engines. So everything is great, right? Sure! But could it be better?

Let’s say you have a pay-per-click account in Overture or Google AdWords. You know how many clicks you are getting, because you pay the bill every month. But there is an invisible expense. While some keyword phrases are delivering real buyers, others only bring visitors who take a quick look and then leave. Furthermore, it’s difficult to identify those PPC generated visitors in your old tracking system, because they come in through search engines such as Yahoo or MSN. You can’t differentiate them from the traffic that you received for free, through an organic search.

Ken's Corner

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Ken's Corner

Question: Why should I choose an online booking engine over an email reservation system?

Answer: A booking engine designed specifically for online availability and booking is more flexible and reliable than a simple email inquiry system. Most good quality booking engines store unit inventory in a database, so only available inventory would show up on the web for people to book--eliminating the potential for overbooking. A surprising percentage of guests want to check for availability (as indicated by clickthroughs to the booking engine) and reserve right online (although many still like to call). For most properties, not having a booking engine means lost reservations.

Amanda's Alley

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Amanda's Alley

Question: How can I tell when my domain name is going to expire?

Answer: The best way to check the expiration date for your domain is to do a "whois" search on the website of your domain registrar (Network Solutions, GoDaddy, TuCows, Register.com, etc); there is generally a link from the homepage to "whois". To do a quick check for most domain names, visit the InterNIC website at http://www.internic.net/whois.html. From the InterNIC, you can obtain the most basic information about your domain name including the registrar, the registration date and the expiration date.

Question: How many email addresses do I get with my hosting account? Is there a way I can check my email while traveling?

Promotion Niche: Beach Directories

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Promotion Niche: Beach Directories

During a dismal, wet winter, nothing relieves the cold weather blahs better that dreams of the beach. And why not? It’s the perfect vacation for everyone - singles, couples and families.

A trip to the ocean offers the perfect combination of activity and relaxation. Bone-warming sunshine and rhythmic surf sounds sooth the weary worker. The irresistible combination of sand and water keeps youngsters busy all day and sends them to bed early at night. Then, the beach clubs come alive after dark for those with the energy to dance until dawn.

Employee Spotlight - Amy Blizzard

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Amy Blizzard

I came to Blizzard Internet Marketing as Trent & Susan's first employee, soon after they started the business in 1997. Trent is my twin brother, and while he was creating the business, I was working on my singing career and completing a graduate degree in music at the University of North Texas.

When I began my work as a Promotion Specialist at Blizzard, I prepared client information to be submitted to internet search engines and directories - all of the listings were offered for free at the time, with some upgrades offered at a premium. Times certainly have changed! I now hold the title of Manager of Special Promotions, in which I assist clients with e-mail newsletter campaigns and do some copy editing of newsletter and website text.

Search Engine News

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Search Engine News

Google: We are seeing good things from the latest Google algorithm and have been updating our optimization techniques.  Some of our recent optimization efforts have resulted in dramatic moves into the top 10 and most of our optimization efforts have resulted in more traffic and higher rankings.  

Google is spidering sites every few days. Therefore changes that are made to meta tags and text are usually picked up and reindexed in Google within a week.

Google has also introduced a new toolbar, which they are calling the Google Deskbar. In addition to the features of previous tool bars, the Deskbar has a calculator, dictionary, and the ability to allow you to check out the news, stocks, and movie reviews without disrupting what you are working on. When installed, the new Deskbar appears at the bottom of your computer screen next to your clock feature.

Blizzard Promotion Success Story

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Blizzard Promotion Success Story

Villas by the Sea Resort Condominium Hotel & Conference Center came to Blizzard for a new website redesign and a Custom III promotion plan. The redesign was completed and Custom Promotion began in December. The reaction in traffic was almost immediate. They went from averaging 172 visitors per day in December to 420 visitors per day in January. In March, the website received 565 visitors per day. This is a traffic increase of 328%.

New Webtool Offerings

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New Webtool Offerings

Digital Point Solutions (www.digitalpoint.com) has several new website tools that are best in their class:

Keyword Suggestion Tool (http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/suggestion/) is a winner.

In the past, we have recommended www.wordtracker.com  as a great keyword research tool, even though it is expensive. We also used the Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool extensively. Digitalpoint combines results from both a very handy chart. We recommend you give it a try.

Case Study - Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites

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Case Study - Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites

Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites - Mendocino, CA

This month, we follow the process from website redesign to end results when redesign is combined with a promotion plan.  We illustrate the impact of website design on page views and "look-to-book" conversion. 

Overview:
The existing website (see the "Before" homepage, below) was dated. The design was not indicative of the quality of the property and the website was not intuitive to navigate. These problems, coupled with both a lack of keyword text and proper title, caused the site to be overlooked by search engines and browsers alike. Although we have a limited amount of tracking data to verify low page view numbers of the original website, it was pretty obvious that as a sales tool, this website was under-performing. The property manager was ready to make a change. A promotion plan was scheduled to begin after the new website went online. The goal of the new promotion plan was to realize the potential of the new design by driving more traffic to the revamped website.  

Goals:
JoAnn Stickle (property General Manager) was our main contact and she was open-minded about new design ideas, which gave our designer room for creativity. Our designer worked with JoAnn to create an elegant atmosphere, emphasizing the rugged beauty of the Mendocino area. We decided that a simple Flash slideshow would be the best way to provide multiple images of the area without forcing us to reduce the size (and impact) of the images. The coastline, gardens and lobby are important features of the hotel so we decided to highlight these features.

Domain Registration Tips

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Domain Registration Tips

Domain registration is something that seems innocent enough, especially since you can register your domain name for up to ten years at a time. These long registration periods and offers for dirt cheap registrations have created some difficulty for many people when they try to renew their domain name or change their hosting providers. Blizzard Internet Marketing currently manages about 1000 domain names for our customers; this service includes registration, renewal, and updating ownership information.

We can renew your domain registration for 5 years for $100 or 10 years for $150 -- these long renewal terms can help some clients manage their domain more easily by eliminating the need for annual renewals. 

For our other customers that have decided to manage their own domains, we have compiled a list of 6 MUST DO items if you are registering your domain name:

Niche Directory Tips - Weddings

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Industry Niche Tips - Weddings

It is important to get information about your property out to your prospective customers in as many ways as possible, and lodging directories are one more place that people can find your property on the internet. Directory listings are an important part of a well-balanced and multifaceted internet marketing plan. Blizzard Internet is an expert in niche building and will work to submit your listing to special market niches.

That being said, so many lodging properties are the perfect location for a wedding – from showers, rehearsal dinners, the wedding ceremony itself, the reception, lodging for the wedding party and guests, and even the honeymoon. The romance, intimacy, and personal service that are hallmarks of your property enhance a wonderful wedding experience. Many of you have specific website pages dedicated to your wedding services.  If you want to increase this market for your property and you do not have a page devoted to this, consider adding one. The design department will be happy to work with you to add it to your site.

Ken's Corner

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Ken's Corner

Question: When I send in my change request and your department completes the change, how long should I expect it to to take before I can see the change online?

Answer:
  More often than not you will be able to see our work immediately after we publish the change to the server.  By the time we notify you that the change is complete, nearly all of you will be able to see the change.

However, there are a few people, on a few ISPs and under a few specific circumstances, who may not see the change for quite some time.  At any given time, certain ISPs may get backed up in their server traffic (and/or workload) and be slow to update the cache of websites stored on their server.  Most often you would never know that you may be looking at dated information on someone else's website.  On the other hand, if you're waiting with bated breath to see a change to your website you'll notice something is missing straight away.

Virus Alert

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Virus Alert

Some of our users have been receiving emails that claim to be from "(Your Domain Name) Management". The body of the email will be similar to the example below:

Dear user, the management of (Your Domain Name) mailing system wants to let you know that, 

Our main mailing server will be temporary unavailable for next two days, to continue receiving mail in these days you have to configure our free auto-forwarding service.  

For details see the attached file.

Attached file is protected with the password for security reasons.


These emails are a hoax and potentially contain the W32/Bagle@MM virus or one of its variants. DO NOT OPEN THEM. Any email correspondence you receive from Blizzard Internet Marketing employees will be from the www.blizzardinternet.com or www.blizzardemail.com domains. We will never send you email from your own domain.

Monthly Q & A

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Monthly Q&A

Question:
Does it hurt my web site to have other domain names point to my web site? I now have madison-wisconsin-bed-and-breakfast.com and new-glarus-wisconsin-bed-and-breakfast.com (both in Yahoo Directory) point to my cameorose.com web site. I am thinking of having my wisconsin-bed-and-breakfast.com point to either cameorose.com or innwisconsin.com? What would you reccommend Gary Bahr, Cameo Rose Victorian Country Inn www.cameorose.com

Answer:   We know of dozens of websites that have multiple domains pointing to the same website and have not seen any of them damaged by this technique.  While this strategy used to create more search engine traffic years ago, it has very little impact these days.  We have yet to see a website penalized for using this technique!  That said, we are cautious because it could one day penalize you if the search engines decide this technique is unacceptable.

Yahoo Announces Overture Site Match

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Yahoo Announces Overture Site Match

At 6:00 pm on March 2nd, Yahoo announced their new paid inclusion program known as Site Match.  At first launch, Yahoo! did nothing in the way of answering questions, and the whole process appeared to be very disorganized.

Essentially, this is what happened.  Yahoo started a pay-per-inclusion program for their "free" search listings.  This means that everything below the Overture-served "Sponsored Results" that once was free is now being sold for a price.  Find out how this affects you. This pay-per-inclusion program is similar to what Inktomi has been using for the last few years.  Inktomi charges a yearly fee to have your website included in their database and indexed every 48 hours.  However, Yahoo's new program has an interesting little spin.  Not only do you pay $49.00 to be included in the database, you pay $.30 per click for traffic.  This infuriated the majority of webmasters on the internet.  People have no problem paying $49.00 to be included in the search engine for the year, but an additional $.30 for each click is outrageous.  Many people viewed this as a slap in the face by the big corporation, and Yahoo! sure wasn't answering any questions for the first few days.

Search Engine News

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Search Engine News

Google, Teoma, Ask Jeeves and many smaller search engines went through major changes in the last two weeks.  We have summarized the recent changes in the search engine world. For help in understanding the current relationships of various search engines and directories, please go to www.bruceclay.com/searchenginerelationshipchart.htm to view Bruce Clay's updated search engine relationship chart. There is also a printable version at www.bruceclay.com/searchenginechart.pdf.

Google: The latest news from Google lately is very good. We have seen many of the changes that occurred with the "Florida update"  rolled back over the last few months. (read our December newsletter http://www.bbinternet.com/newsletter/december-03.asp for a recap of the Florida update.) At this point, most of our clients who enjoyed good placement before the update have seen their listings restored. The current search results in Google appear to be a synthesis of the pre- and post-Florida update results. In most instances, we are seeing the same optimization techniques we were using before the Florida update working very well for our clients once again.
We are also working on some new strategies in Google AdWords to help our clients improve their click-through rates and spend less per click in Google's pay-per-click engine.

Email Newsletter Tips

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Email Newsletter Tips

Email newsletters have become a fantastic marketing tool. For innkeepers, email newsletters are a relatively simple and inexpensive way to announce Inn news, events, specials, and last minute specials. Ultimately, the goal of a good newsletter is to book rooms!  Whether you are currently sending out email newsletters, or are considering starting an e-mail newsletter campaign, it is important to map out a plan to get the best results from each newsletter. The best results are generated from newsletters that combine several elements: catchy titles, concise content, hyperlinks to your website, and good timing.

A Catchy Subject Title
It is important that your email newsletter is opened - not deleted! To entice subscribers to open your newsletter, create a catchy title for the subject line. Include the name of your inn and a specific event or special. Remember, subscribers are more likely to open an email if they think they will get a deal. Here are some good subject titles used by Blizzard customers.