Category Archives: Search engine optimisation

Some accommodation owners in denial about the internet

Internet
The internet has changed the world

We received an interesting phone call a few weeks ago from a motel in Lakes Entrance, in Victoria’s beautiful Gippsland Lakes area.

This motel had been advertising  on our website for the last 5 years.  In fact, when their annual renewal was due last year, they paid their subscription and sent us an email thanking us, including this comment:

“Travel Victoria is excellent value”

It’s always nice to receive positive feedback from clients, particularly when they feel the return on their small investment with us is good. After all, how many times do you hear people instead complaining that fees are too high!

Anyway, the caller from that motel announced that he had recently taken over ownership of the property.  He said that he was unhappy with how the former owners were paying for all this advertising with multiple websites on the internet, and that he was going to change all that.  While he said our $70 annual fee was not large, he said all these small internet advertising expenses do add up.  Therefore we were told that our services, along with a number of others, were no longer required.

Today we did a search for that motel on Google, and found that the new owner had pulled it off virtually every single website that the motel used to have paid advertising on.  Some of the search results Google currently shows are to websites the motel has been removed from, but those those pages are now non-existent, so Google will eventually stop showing those listings.  So all that is really left is the motel’s own dedicated website, a range of free listings on low quality directory websites, and of course it can be found on TripAdvisor.

If potential guests wanted to do further investigation on the internet about that motel, they could be easily forgiven for thinking it had closed down.  The last review on TripAdvisor was 6 months ago, and so the only thing of any significance left for that motel on the internet is its own website, which people may assume hasn’t been updated for a long time.

One possible theory we have is that the new owner is someone that has little faith in the usefulness of the internet.  Perhaps one of those old school of motel owners who always placed advertising within magazines or in brochures that you see at a local visitor information centre, and still believes that’s the only useful way to promote accommodation.  The world has changed, and these days people of all ages, from all over the world, use the internet as their preferred method of planning travel and browsing accommodation to stay in.  Sure, there is a place for advertising in print media, but accommodation owners are living in the past if they think the internet can simply be ignored as a fad or purely an entertainment medium.

Another theory we have is that the new owner may have knowledge and appreciation of the internet, but not about internet marketing.  So they may simply assume is all they need for their motel is a website to cater for those people using the internet. The problem with this way of thinking is that unless someone does a specific search for this motel by its exact name, its website will not be found.  People will tend to do more general Google searches, like Lakes Entrance accommodation or motels in Lakes Entrance, and thus it is extremely unlikely the motel’s small website is going to feature anywhere near the top of the search results returned.  In fact, the Google results for those search terms will be dominated by some of websites which this motel has specifically withdrawn from advertising on!

Another point to consider is that more and more accommodation providers are offering potential guests the convenience of instant, real-time online booking facilities, either via their own website or through a third party agent.  A motel owner, such as our former client from Lakes Entrance, who is actively reducing their internet presence, is bucking the trend of consumer demand for online information and booking facilities.

When it comes to promoting an accommodation business, the internet should be embraced, not dismissed. We live in a changing world, and businesses need to keep up with the times.

 

 

Be cautious of those offers to get your website to the top of Google

marketing
Marketing your website

If you have a website, you will no doubt be a regular recipient of offers via email from website marketers who promise that their large company of professionals will make your website feature highly in Google.  However, before you take up an offer like that, carefully analyse the contents of their email and think about who they are and what they are offering.

Consider this recent email we received:

email
A typical mass email offer by a marketing company to get your website to the top of Google

There are some issues with this email which indicate that we’re probably not dealing with the large, well-known and internationally-respected organisation they portray themselves to be.

  1. The business development manager of this large company is using a free Gmail address to contact people rather than using something more official and directly linked to the company.
  2. Would you trust this company with the sensitive task of marketing your website when the business development manager writes emails which consist of grammatically incorrect sentences and have words incorrectly capitalised?
  3. Unless this company is Google itself, it cannot claim to get your website to the top of Google.  That’s because Google controls how websites are ranked using hundreds of factors that it alone determines. While a website marketer can exert some influence on Google rankings by boosting your website’s standing in some of those areas that Google looks at when analysing your site, they cannot guarantee to have the power to give you the exact ranking you request. Also, Google regularly changes its ranking algorithms, so even if this marketing company did manage to achieve the position you wanted with your website, it could all change tomorrow. The only way to guarantee a spot in Google’s search results is to take out a paid (sponsored) listing with them, and then throw lots of money at the search keywords of your choice.

So be careful with trusting your website’s marketing to an organisation that can’t organise its own email addresses, can’t write proper English and to those that promise to deliver the impossible.  You might be disappointed.

Monitor the results of outsourcing of your website promotion

outsource
Be careful with outsourcing your web promotion.

Outsourcing the job of promoting your website is becoming an attractive option for business owners who either don’t have the time or know-how to do this promotion themselves. However, you really need to keep a careful eye on what your promoter is doing, as if they are not professional about it, their work could end up damaging your business’s reputation rather than enhancing it.

The people at Jensen Windows & Doors (www.jensenqld.com.au) appear to have employed someone from overseas to promote their website in what appears to be a less than professional way. How do we know? Someone based in the Philippines (as determined by looking up the submitter’s IP address) filled in our free listing form for tours and activities in Victoria in order to get their business and website displayed on the Travel Victoria website.  They specified that Jensen Windows & Doors, who are manufacturers of doors and windows in Queensland, conduct tours and activities around the Great Ocean Road coastal town of Aireys Inlet in order to trick us into approving the listing and displaying the website link. With their link published, they would have gained exposure by people clicking on the link and viewing their website.  Also, web search engines like Google would notice the link and treat it as a vote of popularity for Jensen Windows & Doors, thus possibly boosting their website’s ranking when people conduct searches for window and door manufacturers.

While we obviously didn’t publish the free listing as requested by the person from the Philippines that Jensen have hired, it has however left us with a negative view of this Queensland-based manufacturing company that resorts to hiring people from Asia to get their business listed in inappropriate places.

Promoting your business and website is serious stuff.  If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, ensure the person or organisation you outsource this task to is of a reputable nature.  Also ensure that the methods they use to promote your website are appropriate.  They should not spam and they should definitely not try to trick others into listing your website by misrepresenting your business.

Your accommodation property’s website – who’s looking at it?

www
Low-cost ways of getting travellers to visit your website

An accommodation provider may typically spend between $1,000 and $5,000 getting a website developed for their business. A professional image is created, all facets of the accommodation are on show, but who is looking at it?

The next step many make is to then market their accommodation on commission-based travel websites, such as Stayz, Take-A-Break and Wotif. While you’re generating good business from these popular and high-traffic websites, your brand new shiny website sits there, unused.  This is because most high profile travel websites that market your accommodation do so on a commission basis (i.e. they take a percentage of the revenue you earn from each booking), and thus won’t allow you to display your contact details or a link to your elaborate website, otherwise they may lose a sale if you contact the property directly.

So how do you get extra people to find your website when they are on the internet?

  1. Pay-per-click search engine advertising. Use a search engine like Google, and you’ll notice ads appear related to your search terms. Sign up to Google AdWords and pay for your website to get listed in these advertiser sections. The problem is that unless you’re going to target niche search terms, then buying ads that appear when people search for things like “accommodation in Ballarat” could cost you several dollars per click. Do the sums and unless you’ve got deep pockets or get a lot of bookings, this can be quite an expensive option.
  2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). You employ an SEO expert to make changes to your website such that search engines like Google will rank your site highly for search terms of your choice.  To see results, you may need to wait months or years, and still there can be no guarantees as per our recent article on ranking high on Google. SEO alone is not enough as the wording on your website is just one of hundreds of points Google considers when ranking websites for certain search terms.
  3. Listing your business and website on a popular travel website. While there’s not many, there are a few travel websites which will happily advertise your accommodation and allow you to display your phone number, email address and a link to your website. They typically charge a fixed fee (like a newspaper advertisement) as they cannot collect commissions or track bookings while all your details on show to prospective guests. By choosing a travel website that ranks well in Google for general search terms related to your accommodation, you’re effectively getting items (1) and (2) listed above for a modest fixed fee.

Given that the cheapest and easiest way to get exposure for your website is to list it on a travel website, you may wish to consider:

  1. Travel Victoria – that’s  us!  For a small annual fee, you get a full page listing of your accommodation property, complete with phone number, email address and link to your website. In January 2012, our most popular listing by far, Lorne Caravan Park, was viewed by almost 2,000 people, with over 500 of them clicking through to the caravan park’s website. Generating those clicks using advertisements on Google, assuming $2 per click, would have cost the caravan park $1,000 compared to just $5 for their listing in January. Our average click rate for all listings in January 2012 was 31, so that’s still an expected $62 cost in Google AdWords versus $5 on Travel Victoria.
  2. Weekend.com.au. Whether you get a free listing or a paid listing, your website link gets displayed, allowing you to funnel traffic to your website.
  3. Great Places To Stay. If your accommodation is “special”, a listing on GPTS includes all your contact details and a website link, directing people to fully explore your offerings on your own website.

So don’t ignore the low cost and high value method of giving exposure to your website by listing it on a popular travel website. For a fixed fee, the visitors you attract can be endless.

Beware of those promising to get your website to No.1 on Google

Number 1
Have you been promised a guaranteed No.1 ranking in Google for your website?

As a website owner, you will no doubt be regularly bombarded with offers from SEO (search engine optimisation) experts who guarantee to get your website to No.1 on Google’s search pages. They claim that for a modest fee, they will alter some of the text, rename files or adjust the layout of your website which will cause it to appear at the top of Google’s results for search keywords of your choice, such as “luxury accommodation in Daylesford” or “Ballarat motel”. Sounds too good to be true?

Keep in mind that while SEO experts may have an idea of some of the workings of search engines and how they rank pages, promises of guaranteed No.1 rankings are typically fanciful. This is simply because SEO experts have no control over Google and can thus cannot command Google to rank web pages in certain ways.  All they can do is influence the ranking of your website. Google is regularly altering their ranking algorithms to improve their search results, so even if they do manage to get you to No.1 for the keywords of your choice, it may only be short-lived glory.

Here at Travel Victoria, we regularly monitor where some of our web pages rank in Google for some search terms.  We have seen big fluctuations on a daily basis in how some of our pages are ranked, while other pages have remained rock steady for years. Today, a Google search for the town of Mansfield actually has us at No.1, but tomorrow we could be at No.5 or even lower. We just don’t know what tomorrow will bring, simply because we do not have direct control over the order in which Google will display web pages.

Another thing to consider when confronted by offers of SEO is who you are dealing with. Most of these SEO offers come via email – typical of people or organisations using the cheapest way of contacting people rather than telephoning or physically posting you something. And many of these emails are sent by people claiming to be senior experts in large corporations which specialise in search engine optimisation.  So why are they coming to you from a generic Gmail.com or Hotmail.com email address?

Remember that SEO professionals can offer services which may benefit the ranking of your website, but the best they can do is influence search engines like Google – they cannot make guarantees that you’ll attain a certain ranking and then retain it forever.

Design your website for people, not computers

Computer - no humans
Is your website designed for computers or for humans?

We get the opportunity to view many websites for accommodation properties due to their details being listed on the Travel Victoria website. There’s all different types we see – some spectacular ones, some fairly run of the mill, and the occasional one which is just plain odd.

One website we came across recently was for a bed and breakfast in country Victoria which was simply not designed for people like you and I to view, but structured in such a way to appeal to search engines like Google and absolutely nothing else.

Upon browsing the contents of the website in question, we went away with an infinitely greater knowledge of every possible way of rephrasing the words “bed & breakfast”, “romantic escape”, “luxurious property” and “boutique accommodation”, without learning very much about what they were actually offering to their guests. Navigation of the site was provided using menu items which were bursting with superfluous strings of words where just one simple word would have done. And to make matters worse, information on the local area was provided in the form of slabs of text copied directly from Wikipedia, despite the fact the B&B hosts would have been in a much better position to write their own unique description of the town and its attractions from first hand experience of running the property and living in the district for years.

Now comes the crucial bit. It’s quite possible this attempt at search engine optimisation (SEO) may in fact encourage Google to rank that property’s website highly for many varied search terms, and thus deliver a good stream of visitors looking for B&B accommodation to that site. However, you can be guaranteed that most of those visitors will be so put off by being confronted by a site which appears dedicated to rephrasing every word in existence related to “bed & breakfast”, that they will simply move onto another site rather than trying to extract any useful information that is buried deep within what it little more than a smorgasbord for search engines.

So, is it really worth building a website which ranks highly in Google if it only provides very little useful information and results in visitors clicking off to another website almost immediately?  Wouldn’t it be better to build a website with content that is interesting for humans to read and spend time on, even if you don’t get quite the same number of initial visitors as a site designed only for search engines?

This is not to say that websites shouldn’t be optimised for ranking by search engines However, if such optimisation is done, it should be done in subtle ways so as not to ruin the experience for the website visitors.  After all, the ultimate aim is to get people engaged in your accommodation and make a booking, not showcase a scoreboard of how many people visited your website.