Category Archives: Web promotion

Free listings for tourism businesses and events in Victoria

Tourism businesses and event organisers may spend a significant amount of money and time on promotional activities, but did you know there are many high exposure opportunities on the internet where they can be promoted for free?

Events

There is always plenty going on in Victoria.  From community festivals to markets, concert, sports tournaments, shows and international events, there is always something happening, no matter what day of the week or time of the year it is.

Promoting events can be a costly and time consuming exercise, but when it comes to exposure on the internet, Victoria 365 should be your first priority. This website presents a huge collection of events that are happening 365 days a year in Victoria.  All listings are free of charge and there are self-serve facilities so you can instantly register and update your listing as often as you like.  Simply go to the list your event page to get started.

One of the exciting features of Victoria 365 is that your listing is stored in the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW).  This national database is used as a source of content by over 100 distributor websites, which means that not only is your event featured on Victoria 365, but it will also appear on other websites which publish event information without you having to do a thing.  It offers a fantastic opportunity for wide exposure on the internet for minimal effort and zero cost.

Victoria 365

Dog friendly restaurants and cafes

Australians love their pets, and dogs are the most common of them all.  It is estimated that there are close to 5 million pet dogs in Australia, with around 40% of households owning a dog.

As Australia becomes more dog-friendly, people are increasingly taking their pooches with them when they leave home, providing company and sharing a common experience.  Whether it is a coffee or meal at a cafe, a trip to the beach, or even a holiday away from home in dog-friendly accommodation, dogs are being welcomed in more and more places.

If you operate a dining establishment in Victoria that has areas where dogs are permitted, you can list your business for free with Dogs On Holidays.  That website is a comprehensive guide to enjoying Victoria with you dog and includes listings of dog-friendly accommodation, restaurants, beaches, parks, activities and events.  While the accommodation listings require a small cost to list, all restaurant and cafe listings are completely free of charge.  It’s a great way to gain good exposure for your dog-friendly business.  Simply fill in your details on the advertising page and your listing will be published promptly.

Dogs On Holidays

Tourist attractions, tours, wineries, markets, restaurants and pubs

Visitors to Victoria are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding interesting things to see, enjoying fascinating experiences and indulging in the amazing food and wine that Victoria is renowned for.

Many businesses which cater for tourists, day-trippers or visitors are able to be listed for free with Travel Victoria.  The Travel Victoria website is a valuable resource and features many thousands of listings including tourist attractions, scenic tours, cruises, wineries, breweries, markets, restaurants, cafes, pubs, farm gates, public sporting facilities and accommodation.  All listings (except for accommodation) are free, and submissions for inclusion can be made on the advertising page.

Travel Victoria

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.

 

 

Increasing business exposure through Facebook

With the high proliferation of social media usage these days, any business that wishes to increase their market share needs a visible social media presence.

Facebook is currently the world’s largest social network, having been first launched in 2004. For most businesses, Facebook should be at the top of the list when looking to increase exposure through social media.

A business page on Facebook prominently displays the number of “likes” by people visiting the actual page or its embedded feed on other websites.

Some business owners treat the number of Facebook likes as a status symbol whereby a large figure is a clear statement that not only is the business well-known, but that it is also much loved by the public. They also believe that an increasingly large number of likes will create snow-ball effect in terms of popularity, as visitors to the Facebook page will be impressed by the significant number of likes and feel that they too must join the masses and also like the page.

In order to increase the number of like on a business Facebook page, business owners may employ a number of methods. In terms of gaining popularity through use of the internet, owners can:

  1. Include links to their Facebook page on their own website, thus providing an easy way for website visitors to also add to the tally of Facebook likes. This method is particularly effective for websites that receive a good number and diverse range of visitors.
  2. Highlight their Facebook page through email postings, blog postings, or comments by their Facebook page on other Facebook pages.
  3. Promote their Facebook page through Facebook’s promotional services. If provided with a daily advertising budget, Facebook can target Facebook users whom it thinks might find a business page interesting, as well as allowing the business owner to restrict the promotion to a certain demographic. A “suggested page” box promoting the page will appear on Facebook for designated people, encouraging them to view and/or like that page.
  4. Buy Facebook likes. There is a whole industry that is devoted to selling businesses Facebook “likes” in bulk for an insanely small amount of money. For example, one such service we came across promises to deliver 10,000 page likes for just $200. Using Facebook’s official promotional services could typically cost 20 times that amount, or $4,000.

While buying Facebook likes from third parties may seem to be a great cost-effective solution to build up a business profile, it can either be a waste of money or cause a business credibility issues. This is because those bulk bought likes usually come from a massive pool of fake Facebook profiles that promoters have at their disposal. The actions of these fake Facebook accounts look even more dodgy when many are of a completely different demographic that would typically like a particular page. Would you really expect that a 70 year old grandmother from Iceland is going to like the Facebook page of a skateboard shop in Mildura?

The consequences for businesses buying artificial likes are:

  • It can put genuine people off liking that page. Since all these profiles are fake, there will be no further interaction on that business’s page other than the initial like. Interested people visiting a Facebook page may be very suspicious of liking it if they see it has something like a staggering 50,000 likes with virtually no one liking or interacting with specific posts.
  • It does nothing for brand exposure. After all, exposing a business to tens of thousands of people who don’t exist is pointless. They can’t even tell their Facebook friends about it as they are fake too!
  • It won’t generate any engagement with a target audience. A business may have some amazing photos or information to share on Facebook, but with no genuine people listening, what’s the point?
  • No generation of leads or sales. Fake people don’t buy things nor do they visit websites linked within Facebook postings. So if the ultimate aim of the business is to generate income, then marketing to fake people is not going to generate any return.
  • Many likes that were paid for may disappear overnight. Facebook regularly runs checks to weed out and remove likes by what it deems to be fake people. Businesses may be wasting money buying what ends up being very short term likes.

You can easily identify a business Facebook page that has built up most of its likes by purchasing likes in bulk from people that don’t really exist.

Compare these two examples of Australian travel Facebook pages, illustrated below. They are business pages with a similar number of likes and regular daily postings. The big difference between those pages is the “people talking about this” figure which refers to the number of people actually engaged with that page and its postings.

In general, a page with a good level of engagement gets a figure of between 5% to 10% of the total number of likes. Anything beyond 10% is outstanding. In this first example, the engagement figure is 9.5% which is quite good. It appears to be a Facebook page which has been built up from a genuine and real user base with an ongoing interest, so the number of likes is a good representation of its popularity. In the second example, the ratio of engagements to likes is an appalling 0.2%.  You can be almost guaranteed that most of those likes are generated from fake profiles which have no interaction with the page other than the initial like.

Facebook business page
A Facebook business page with likes by real people that interact with the page.

 

Facebook business page
A Facebook business page which appears to have most of its likes bought in bulk using fake Facebook profiles that obviously don’t interact with the page.

 

For businesses who want to increase their exposure on Facebook, don’t bother with fake people and likes – after all, they cannot buy anything, they won’t interact, nor can they spread the word to their friends. Facebook pages that are mainly made up with fake likes can be easily identified and may create a negative impression of that business. Businesses who want to build up a good Facebook profile should therefore only seek real likes by real people.

Some tourism operators are not taking the internet seriously

cruise
Cost cutting by removing your tourism website is not the answer

Isn’t it frustrating when you see some tourism operators dismiss the value of an internet presence when most travellers are now using the web and social media to plan and book their trips?

Consider this recent example.  A cruise operator that takes passengers on wilderness cruises through a remote part of Gippsland surrounded by a rugged national park (we won’t name them here to protect their privacy) has had their details and website listed on many tourism websites including that of Parks Victoria. Recently, the cruise operator’s website went off-line, so we found their email address and alerted them to the fact.  The reply we got back (we’ve edited it for clarity) is below:

Unfortunately our web site has been discontinued –
not enough hits to justify the cost

What an unexpected reply!

Firstly, the cost of a .com.au domain name, plus simple web hosting with a reputable Australian provider, will set the cruise operator back around $70 per year. How can this tourism business justify removing their internet presence to save the tiny annual website operating cost of $70? You may wonder how many thousands of dollars they were instead spending on brochures to put on the shelf of the local visitor information centre or the big bucks they were splurging on colour newspaper ads.

Secondly, their statement that the number of hits didn’t justify the web presence is unqualified. How many hits did they want? Looking at the counter they used to have on their website, we estimate they got about 1,000 visitors (real people, not web robots) per year.  For a small operator in a remote area, that’s not too bad, particularly as there’s much potential for future growth if they start doing some more active promotion on the web.  All they needed was the right people to come across the website, and they could have had booked out cruises galore.

Let’s be really clear about this – an internet presence in the form of a website is one of the cheapest ways of giving your tourism business exposure in the travel market.  Once you have a website, people will have something concrete to reference on related websites. Here at Travel Victoria, we showcased their business on our tours and cruise pages, for free, giving them good exposure. Now we have nothing to link to, so their listing gets deleted as we have no authoritative source of information to present to our website visitors.  Same goes for social media.  People who want to discuss or share details of this amazing cruise through one of Victoria’s most pristine wilderness areas simply have nothing official to refer others to. People want to instantly see the cruise schedule, costs and photos of the journey so they can see if it is of interest to them.  The cruise operator’s website could also be used to inspire other people who wouldn’t normally do that sort of thing to actually experience it.

With the low cost of domain registration and website hosting, tourism businesses should consider an internet presence as being mandatory for their survival. The last thing they should be doing is wielding the cost-cutting axe to save a tiny $70 by killing off their website and effectively their entire internet presence.

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.

Official tourism websites – Victoria vs. Tasmania

Competition between the states with their tourism websites

Each one of Australia’s states and territories has their own official tourism website.  If you own or manage an accommodation property, it is certainly beneficial to have some exposure on these official sites as they are used by a wide range of travellers.

Victoria’s official tourism website is Visit Victoria, while Tasmania’s equivalent is Discover Tasmania.  When it comes to advertising your accommodation, they are quite different.

Go to the Discover Tasmania website and you will find around around 1,050 accommodation listings for this small state with a population of 495,000 people (2011 Census). Pop over to the Visit Victoria website where there are around 1,400 accommodation listings in a state which is home to 5.35 million people.

So why does Victoria, with more than 10 times the population of Tasmania and being home to the second largest city in Australia (i.e. Melbourne), have only a slightly larger listing of visitor accommodation on its official tourism website? It mainly comes down to cost.  Accommodation listings are free on Discover Tasmania, hence anyone operating an accommodation business in Tasmania can receive, at no cost, exposure on that state’s official tourism website. To do so, they just need to register their business in Tourism Tasmania’s TigerTOUR database.  In Victoria, accommodation listings on Visit Victoria cost $250 per year, although this is reduced to $100 for accredited tourism businesses. This cost therefore discourages some accommodation operators in Victoria from listing on Visit Victoria.

This raises an important question. Should official tourism websites for Australia’s states and territories provide free accommodation listings in order to promote tourism and encourage people to stay overnight and contribute to the local economy?  Tasmania and Victoria appear to have different views on that idea.

Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket with Google AdWords

Number one
Your accommodation at number one on Google, but at what cost?

For those marketing accommodation on the internet, Google Adwords is the easy way to get your website to the top of the page when people search for somewhere to stay. But the cost can be significant, and could you achieve similar results for considerably less cost?

Firstly, most people searching on Google trust the unpaid (or “organic”) listings more than the paid listings, according to reports by Forrester Research.  After all, even the dodgiest business can get to No.1 on Google for a few dollars through paid ads, while a number one ranking on the organic listings is something that is based on hundreds of important factors, including your website’s content and the number of other websites providing links to it.

Secondly, the cost of Google Adwords is significant and it is constantly rising as people bid higher and higher amounts to appear the top of the paid listings.

Appearing at the top of the organic (unpaid) page rankings in Google for very generic accommodation terms is often beyond the power of a single accommodation provider’s website due to the very specific content they are presenting. So the next best option is to list that accommodation on the No.1 site that people click on. That provides access to an unlimited source of visitors, and they aren’t being charged for each one.

Here is a specific case example. Say someone is looking to stay at Orbost, which is located half-way between Melbourne and Canberra (or about a third of the way to Sydney) if you’re driving via Gippsland along Victoria’s east coast. Orbost is an ideal place to stop overnight to break up that long drive. So a traveller would typically search for “Orbost accommodation” in Google, and at this precise moment in time, the results of that search are shown below:

Searching for Orbost accommodation
Searching for Orbost accommodation on Google

Notice that “Orbost Motel” (at www.orbostmotel.com.au) is paying to have their accommodation at No.1 in the paid section. Using the Keyword Tool in Google AdWords, we estimate that to appear at No.1, and keep above the booking.com and wotif.com ads, they need to be prepared to pay up to $3 if someone clicks on them. Even if they only get one click per day, Google AdWords is costing them almost $1,100 per year. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll even get a single booking from that huge outlay.

Now, what if Orbost Motel simply listed their property on the No.1 unpaid (organic) ranked website for Orbost accommodation, that being us here at Travel Victoria?  As soon as someone clicks on “Orbost accommodation” link, they would see the motel listed.

The cost comparison is remarkable. Their AdWords campaign will cost a minimum of $1,100 annually – it could be even 2 or 3 times that amount depending on how many clicks they get. On the other hand, a fixed $69 annual listing with Travel Victoria gives them unlimited exposure/clicks gained from an audience that would more trust the page Travel Victoria has on Orbost accommodation than the paid listings at the top of the page.

One of the accommodation properties listed on Travel Victoria in Orbost, Longhorn Ranch Units, had over 2,000 people looking at their full page property listing during 2011. At $3 per click in AdWords, those results would have cost them over $6,000 last year – a huge difference from the $69 they actually paid to achieve those results by simply listing on the No.1 website in Google’s unpaid section for Orbost accommodation.

In summary, Google AdWords has its uses, but sometimes, depending on your circumstances, you can get a much better value from appearing on the website of a page that is ranked at No.1 in Google’s unpaid listings.

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.