Posted in Online Marketing on May 06, 2014 by Andrea Mann
At Blue Magnet Interactive, we're only as good as our moms claim that we are. Luckily for us, our moms all seem to think we're pretty great… but do they have any clue what we actually do at work? When they brag to their friends about their very own "SEO expert", do they think their kid is optimizing sites for search engines or officiating social experiences? On this Mother's Day, we decided to put our moms to the test. See how well the moms behind Blue Magnet Interactive understand the ins-and-outs of online marketing.
*Questions adapted from Moz's blog: "How My Mom Thinks Search Engines Work"
1. What do you think I do at work all day?
Kelsey's Mom: I think you do many things at work - I suspect you approach what you do using some of the knowledge and experiences which you have learned in college, some from life, some from your family and a lot because you are an incredibly intuitive, gifted and creative person. I expect you work with great passion and focus…hopefully not too intensely, as you can be a bit intense at times when you are passionate about something - also you're kind of a big deal.
2. What does SEO stand for?
Kelsey's Mom: Service Excellence Office - anyway that is what it is where I work. Otherwise, I have no idea.
3. What does PPC stand for?
Kelsey's Mom: I can think of two things - Presales Price Calculator - which I use to price services at work or Project Plan Coordinator - which is also a role of someone at work who oversees status of projects and their documentation. Bet that is not what you are looking for.
4. What is a Hashtag?
Kelsey's Mom: When I was growing up it was something left in the bottom of a bowl you smoked…of course I never did that ;) but that's what I heard. Today is it an overused phrase for the number sign, #, which can be overly annoying when talking to people under 21.
5. If you were looking for a mechanic close to you, what would you do?
Kelsey's Mom: Talk to my close friends on who they use for a mechanic - depending, of course, on how well their cars run. I have one friend whose car is trashed - they LOVE their mechanic - I would never go there.
6. If you were looking for advice on how to train a dog to stop barking, what would you search for?
Kelsey's Mom: My slipper or a rolled newspaper.
7. How far down the page on the search results will you look?
Kelsey's Mom: I read the first three sentences - if you don't have my interest by then you won't.
8. If you don't like the results for those searches, what would you do differently in your second search?
Kelsey's Mom: Flip the words around - so instead of "Mothers Day" I would rerun it as "Day Mothers" - always interesting to see what happens.
9. How do search engines like Google decide who to put at the top of a search result?
Kelsey's Mom: I'm certain it has to do with a combination of who pays for what advertising and analytics on hits for pages that are more popular than others.
10. How do search engines make money?
Kelsey's Mom: I suspect selling space on their pages….or their souls like the rest of corporate America.
11. If you owned a small flower shop, how would you try and get to the front page of Google for when people searched "fresh flowers"?
Kelsey's Mom: Well I would ask Google how much does it cost to get to the front page and then decide if it fit my budget or just take my chances.
If you need a reference before partnering with Blue Magnet Interactive, just call one of our moms. We promise they'll give an unbiased review of how amazing we are at SEO, PPC, and social media. Thank you, Mom! Happy Mother's Day!
Posted in Social Media on April 21, 2014 by Stephanie Hilger
If we can learn anything from Facebook, it is that change is inevitable. While it can be overwhelming to log in and notice that nothing looks the way it did five minutes ago, often times these changes are for the best! Facebook's latest round of updates should be influential in your admin's content strategy, will improve your organization within the Ads Manager, and can result in more efficient and cost-effective campaigns. Check out what is new on Facebook in the last couple of months and why this matters to your hotel!
Facebook Update #1: Facebook's Pages to Watch provides more information
What's new: Facebook has finally made the Pages to Watch Section on the admin panel more robust. Previously, this section only showed a high-level glimpse of your page's growth compared to up to five other pages of your choosing. Now located within Facebook Insights, you can compare more metrics to gauge the performance of your hotel’s page and your posts.
Pages to Watch can be found under See Insights, at the bottom of the Overview section.
Why your hotel should care: You can measure the frequency and engagement of your hotel’s Facebook posts against your competitors'. If your competitors are continually gaining more page likes than your page and have higher engagement (more shares, likes, and comments), is it because they are posting more times each week? Keep this in mind as you create your upcoming content calendar so you can continue to improve your hotel’s Facebook engagement as well. If one of your competitors is consistently outperforming the other hotels in your comp set, take a look at their Facebook timeline to get a feel for what type of content they are sharing and what their strategy is. Is the hotel using better images in their posts? Is their content more relevant to their target audience? Are they constantly running promotions or giveaways? Make note of what works well for other hotels and adjust your hotel's posting strategy accordingly!
Facebook Update #2: Facebook Campaigns changes the ad structure
What's new: Previously, Facebook’s campaign structure within the Ads Manager consisted of two levels: campaigns and ads. The new campaign structure consists of three levels: campaigns, ad sets, and ads. Each ad set has its own budget and schedule, and target audience.
Why your hotel should care: The new campaign structure is especially helpful for promoting different events, targeting different groups of people based on interests, tailoring ad copy to each audience, and allocating your budget accordingly.
For example, imagine you are a Chicago hotel and your Facebook Ad budget for April is $50. Your hotel’s overarching advertising objective for the month is to build awareness about your property and gain quality Facebook fans that are likely to travel to Chicago within the next year. You decide to target two upcoming Chicago events that will likely capture your target audience: Chicago Half Marathon and Chicago Bears home games (since the Bears schedule is set to be released mid-April, fans of the Bears' opponents are likely to start planning which games they are attending at Soldier Field). Under Facebook’s new campaign structure, your hotel’s April campaign would consist of two ad sets: (1) Chicago Half Marathon and (2) NFL fans. Each ad set would consist of its own target audience and budget. The Chicago Half Marathon Ad Set targets Facebook users who live in the United States, are interested in running, and like pages similar to "Nike". Your hotel is dedicating $30 of your total Facebook ad budget to Half Marathon ad set. The NFL fans ad set targets people who like the NFL, ESPN, are fans of teams that the Chicago Bears are playing at home this season, and live in Green Bay, WI and Minneapolis, MN. Your hotel is dedicating $20 of total ad spend to the NFL ad set. The new Facebook campaign structure then allows you to create multiple ads within the ad set so your hotel can target by users’ interests, relationship status, location, etc. You can tailor each ad with unique copy to ensure it resonates with the intended audience and control the amount of money you want to spend on each ad.
Overall, this means a more organized process for hotel's that are running multiple ads and the ability to target niche communities more effectively.
Facebook Update #3: Facebook Ads provides more effective targeting options
What's new: Facebook has simplified their ad targeting options based on four main categories: location, demographics, interests, and behavior. Location targeting is more accommodating; Advertisers can now create a campaign including or excluding any combination of zip codes, counties, cities, or states. You will also notice that Facebook has said goodbye to hashtag and keyword targeting and is now concentrating on targeting the overall interests users have vocalized. This means you can choose to target one subject such as "hockey" and Facebook will show your ad to users who have liked or expressed interest in topics related to hockey.
In even more exciting news, Facebook's Partner Categories is now being integrated into the Ads Create Tool under Audience > Behaviors. Partner Categories allows marketers to target people based on their activity outside of Facebook, such as recent purchase behavior, the types of products or services they buy (home goods, cars, etc.), and the device they use to purchase. Before this Facebook ad update, advertisers had to go into Facebook's Power Editor to utilize this awesome feature, now it is integrated into ads to create a more efficient targeting process. You can read more specifics, and see what Facebook has to say about these updates via Facebook for Business News.
Partner Categories can be found in Behaviors within the Audience section.
Why your hotel should care: Some of the highlights to the Facebook ad updates include more values for relationship statuses (i.e. civil unions) and enhanced targeting capabilities, so you can now narrow down your audience to be as specific as "people engaged within the last 3 months." Demographics now include information such as workplace and job title - watch out LinkedIn...
This new, streamlined Facebook ad targeting will ultimately result in more efficient, cost-effective campaigns and, in turn, your hotel can get directly in front of the types of people that are likely to book rooms.
Facebook Update #4: Facebook redesigns page layout
What's new: Your hotel’s Facebook page will soon have a similar layout to that of your personal Facebook profile. Your hotel’s timeline (which consists of the page's posts) will appear on the right column of your hotel’s page and the left column will include all of your hotel’s business information (map, hours, website, likes, page tabs, etc.). Currently, all of the business information is at the very top of your page's timeline.
In true Facebook fashion, certain page administrators have been invited to join the waitlist for the new layout, but Facebook has not released an official timeline stating when this change will roll out to everyone.
Why your hotel should care: With this new page layout, Facebook is (seemingly) giving less prominence to page tabs. Page tabs will still be included on the business page, but tabs will no longer have thumbnail images, so they won’t stand out as much on the new layout. At Blue Magnet, we typically optimize hotels’ Facebook page tabs with calls-to-actions, like a Book Now app, Plan a Meeting app, TripAdvisor review app, or custom-built iFrame for giveaways and promotions. So, if your hotel is hosting a social media giveaway or has a booking widget app integrated on its Facebook page, it will be a good idea to highlight this information within your hotel’s Facebook posts as well to increase its visibility.
Example of old Facebook page layout. Note the prominent page tabs and the size of the property's rating.
Example of new Facebook page layout. The page tabs no longer have images supporting them at the top of the page (there will be images for these page tabs further down your timeline in the left-hand column). In the new layout, the star rating is larger and more prominent.
Check out Facebook’s example of the new page layout here.
Facebook Update #5: Facebook's Newsfeed clean up
What's new: Facebook is making an effort to get rid of posts and stories in the newsfeed that come across as spammy to users. Facebook has broken down the types of posts and content that will be penalized as a part of this process:
Why your hotel should care: If your hotel has a good Facebook content strategy in place, you won't be affected by these clean up initiatives. However, it is always important to keep best practices in mind when creating your Facebook content calendars and brainstorming social media promotions. Smaller scale giveaways asking fans to "like" or "share" a picture where one randomly selected person will win a one-night stay at your hotel will no longer be an efficient way to boost page engagement. Also, be sure to keep your hotel’s content refreshing. If you have a special offer that you are trying to promote, don't keep sharing the same image over and over again alongside the offer details. Instead, try using different visuals and mix up the copy every time you post about the offer.
Additionally, don't feel obligated to link out to your hotel website in each and every status update. Only post links that are relevant to the content your hotel is publishing. When you are posting a link, make the link destination clear so users know where they are going to end up when they click on it. After all, this will ensure you are receiving quality traffic to your hotel’s website, which will result in a higher conversion rate. If you think you are being sly by getting Facebook fans to unknowingly click a link to your website, you will likely see a high bounce rate, meaning the user didn’t want to end up there.
We’d love to hear your opinion! What do you think of Facebook's page redesign? Are you finding it easier to organize your hotel's Campaigns with the new layout in Ads Manager? Tweet us @blue_magnet with your comments or questions!
In case you missed our hotel mobile strategy workshop at the Online Revealed Canada Conference this year, we're sharing our deck so you can ensure your hotel is properly optimized on mobile!
ORC2014 Mobile Strategy Session Description:
With so many people using their smartphones and tablets on-the-go, it’s vital for hoteliers to be targeting a mobile audience in each stage of travel – from planning to booking to experiencing. Does your hotel have a mobile-friendly website and is it providing an optimal user-experience? Is your hotel effectively capturing nearby searchers looking for a last minute room? Is your hotel team proactively encouraging your guests to share their positive experiences on Facebook? If your hotel does not have a mobile-strategy in place, than you may be losing potential guests to your mobile-savvy competitors. In this session, Blue Magnet Interactive will walk you through the necessary mobile channels that your hotel needs to be optimizing to increase bookings and drive more revenue in 2014!
Want to Get Started?
Be sure to download Blue Magnet Intearctive's Mobile Strategy Checklist to kickstart your hotel's mobile strategy!
Posted in Online Marketing on March 27, 2014 by Stephanie Hilger
Are you visiting Chicago for an industry conference or tradeshow? Stopping by the Windy City to meet with clients? If you're looking for the best place in Chicago to eat brunch or a happening bar downtown to grab a cocktail with colleagues, Blue Magnet has you covered. In order to help you work your way through Chicago's fine dining & drinking scene, the Blue Magnet team compiled some of our favorite places to eat or drink and some hidden (and some not so hidden) gems to explore. We promise there is no shortage of exciting things to do in Chicago!
More Blue Magnet Brunch Recommendations:
More Blue Magnet Happy Hour Recommendations:
Triple Crown or Lao Hunan (Chinatown)
Nha Hang Viet-Nam
More Blue Magnet Cheap Eats Recommendations:
More Blue Magnet Wine & Dine Recommendations:
Architecture River Boat Tour
More Blue Magnet Things to See & Do Recommendations:
A few more Chicago recommendations that didn't necessarily fit into any of the above categories, but we felt were still worth mentioning:
Are we missing one of your coveted Chicago spots? Tweet us at @blue_magnet and tell us why it's a Chicago favorite in 140 characters or less!
Posted in Online Marketing on March 18, 2014 by Kim Armour
You have been hearing about the benefits of a vanity site for your branded hotel for years, and this year you have finally allocated some of your hotel’s marketing budget to this important initiative! Now that your new hotel vanity site is live, you are excited and anxiously anticipating improved results and online revenue increases. But what type of results should you be expecting in the first year? This is a question that clients from branded hotels often ask us at Blue Magnet when we are launching a new hotel website, and although it may be easier said than done, we always encourage hoteliers to set realistic expectations and measurable goals for all online marketing initiatives on day one!
Why Should Your Hotel Invest in a Vanity Website?
The benefits of a vanity website are undeniable. While you need to budget appropriately for a new website (and may have sticker shock at first), it is important to remember that a vanity website is a long term investment for your hotel. Blue Magnet often recommends new vanity websites to our clients for reasons including:
As the screenshots below depict, a Crowne Plaza hotel found it challenging to accurately portray the unique charm of their property on the brand site (left). So, Blue Magnet designed and developed a custom vanity site for the hotel to highlight its features and set it apart from the standard Crowne Plaza hotel (right). The hotel took advantage of all benefits listed above in designing and launching the vanity website that clearly captures visitors visually with strong photography and better user experience.
Defining Expectations for Vanity Website Performance
Assuming your hotel already has a vanity site, then many, if not ALL of the reasons listed above, must have convinced you to take your hotel’s online marketing to the next level. From Blue Magnet’s extensive experience and expertise in vanity site management, we have proven that all of these benefits work together to produce impressive results. While each hotel website has its own rate of improvement and unique goals, there are common trends with each site that can be used to best set your expectations for the performance in the first year of the site going live. It is also important to note several different factors that can influence each hotel’s online performance, including:
In the first year that your hotel’s site is live, you should expect an upward trend in visits and revenue referred from the vanity site when managed effectively. At Blue Magnet, we have seen a wide range in positive ROI for all vanity websites. In most cases, it is important to note that year one’s ROI takes into account the up-front cost of development of the site. Moving forward, in year two, year three, and so forth, as the site establishes its credibility in search engines and without the one-time cost of the site build, ROIs trend upward YOY. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we can calculate ROI, we need to ensure your hotel’s new vanity site gains visibility in search engines.
Ranking in Search Engine Results Pages
What to Expect?
What to Expect?
Reporting from Google Analytics can provide excellent insights to the website’s performance. In the screenshot below, you can see at a glance the site’s performance in growing traffic after first launching the site and improving MOM with occasional drops that may be due to seasonality. Again, it's important to note, that although there are occasional dips in traffic, the overall trend is positive over the life of the campaign.
What Needs to Be Done?
Site Revenue and ROI
What to Expect?
What Needs to Be Done?
Beyond the Numbers
With any vanity site, hoteliers should always look for more marketing opportunities with the site. Although it’s difficult, I advise you to not to get too caught up in the numbers when your site launches; rather, think about the core components of the site that can ultimately help your hotel achieve new traffic and revenue records. With your vanity website you now have a new marketing channel with enhanced capabilities apart from the brand site, and listed below are important site elements that you should utilize to help your hotel reach its goals!
Best of luck with your new vanity website! Set your expectations before the launch of the new vanity site and outline a multi-faceted marketing strategy to help you achieve your hotel’s goals. By understanding the critical areas to optimize your vanity website, you can expect to see all performance metrics rise throughout the year and continue to improve year over year. While vanity sites should be designed to provide the best user experience from the get-go and SEO’d before launch, active site management and strategizing are necessary for the site to continuously perform up to or better than your expectations.
Posted in Online Marketing on March 11, 2014 by Maddy Fuller
As a hotelier, you may realize the importance of understanding your audience when creating effective marketing strategies, but do you know you how much easier it just became to really get to know your audience? Thanks to a new addition to Google Analytics, you can now snoop a little deeper into the behaviors and lifestyles of the people that visit your hotel's website. Google Analytics recently added Demographics and Interests tabs to its reporting, providing hoteliers with a unique insight into the age, gender, and lifestyle traits of their websites' visitors. This added knowledge allows hoteliers to create a better user experience on their hotels' websites and refine their marketing strategies to target potential high-value guests.
Before getting the opportunity to dive into Google Analytics' new data, you must enable the new reporting function. For detailed instructions, please visit Google Analytics Support. Once the reporting has been enabled, you will be able to see your website data broken out into two categories - Demographics and Interests. It's also important to note that for both Interests and Demographics, the information is based on a percentage of your total site visitors and should be viewed as estimation. Therefore, the data in both of these tabs may not be a completely accurate representation of your site's visitors, but it can definitely show you valuable trends.
How is this Information Obtained?
Information provided in the Demographics and Interests tabs in Google Analytics is derived from the implementation of the DoubleClick cookie. Cookies are small files, each with their unique identifier, that are saved in a visitor's browser and allow servers to differentiate one browser from the next. The DoubleClick cookie uses this same premise to keep track of which ad has been shown to which browser and is therefore able to track conversions. For example, when a user views your website where you have enabled the DoubleClick cookie and then later uses the same browser to visit your site again and converts.
What Does the Demographics Tab Show?
The Demographics tab segments Google Analytics data into three sub-sections: overview, age, and gender.
By noticing these trends, a hotel can uncover high-value guests that it may not have considered marketing to before and can tailor site content based on these potential visitors. Why do 55-64 year old guests select this hotel instead of its competitors? Do they like that this hotel offers free breakfast and valet parking? Do they love that the rooms are extremely spacious? That this hotel has a free airport shuttle and 24/7 concierge? As a hotelier, make it your mission to determine what elements are important to this target age group - even if that means asking some guests within this age range next time they check-out or reading through months of TripAdvisor reviews! Highlight these areas of the hotel on its website callout boxes and hotel special offers to continue to increase conversions within the 55-64 year old age group.
What Does the Interests Tab Show?
The Interests tabs provide insights into your visitors' lifestyle interests such as food, travel, sports, and news. The Interest tab is segmented into four areas: Overview, Affinity Categories, In-Market Categories, and Other Categories.
The data provided by the In-Market segment can help target your PPC ads. By analyzing the data in the new Google Analytics tabs, you are not only able to determine which age groups and genders are most likely to convert, but this information will also help you when selecting the target audience for your ads. Similarly, you can easily refine your marketing lists by eliminating any ad spend that you are currently using on low-value customers and increasing spend on customers with a high conversion rate.
By taking reports like In-Market segments into consideration before creating your next PPC ad, you can create specific ads to focus on each category, which should result in a higher conversion rate. Take the In-Market data above - if your hotel is located next to botanical gardens or a local greenhouse and you are trying to reach the group of visitors that are interested in home and garden, you should highlight that information in your ad by including your close proximity to the venue in the ad copy and link the ad to a landing page dedicated to the local attraction.
Understanding the lifestyles and demographics of people who visit your site will allow you to discover new opportunities, tailor your hotel's online marketing strategy and provide a better user experience during the guests' planning and booking stages. Enabling the Demographics and Interests tabs in Google Analytics is beneficial for a hotel and can provide openings to expand content on your site, better target your ads, and add new amenities or packages that cater to high-value audiences.
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on March 04, 2014 by Michelle Laing
If you're anything like me, you may occasionally find yourself Googling acronyms you overhear colleagues, clients, friends, or even your little nephew say in order to decode their seemingly cryptic code. In the fast paced digital world we're all living in, shortened phrases can save us time… when we know what they mean. Unfortunately, we don't always know what they mean and oftentimes they vary across industries and professions. In the hotel marketing world, it's not uncommon to overhear some conversation along the lines of: "Will you log out of the CMS then check the CTRs of our latest PPC campaign and update the KPI report by EOD? Please, and thanks!" You stand there for a second, puzzled. She wants her to do what?!
In this post, we'll uncover the mystery behind some of the most commonly used digital marketing acronyms to help hoteliers make sense of our hotel online marketing jargon.
CMS: Content Management System
Content Management Systems are web-based tools that allow you, as a website administrator, to easily update your site's content without needing to be intimately familiar with HTML coding. A CMS helps you arrange how your website will look, determine what it will say, and point to where your links will lead. The beauty of a CMS is that it takes care of much of the "behind the scenes" work that non-technical website admins might otherwise spend hours attempting to figure out. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we build our clients' websites on open source CMSs like Joomla or Wordpress, which provide user-friendly interfaces and allow clients to have more control over their hotel's website in the long run.
UX: User Experience
Remember the last time you visited a website that took so long to load that you gave up on your search? Or when you landed on a homepage that was so cluttered with text and flashing images that your eyes didn't know where to look first? Or, my favorite, when the website's text is in such a searingly bright color that you can barely make out the words on the page? These are all examples of poor user experience. Since websites are meant to be marketing tools that help generate sales, your hotel's website should be designed in the most user friendly way possible.
Wondering what makes a website user friendly? In two simple words: site architecture. A site with a good UX usually has a fast page load time, logical link structure, clean layout, and no 404 errors. To put it bluntly, if your guests aren't thinking about how impossible it is to book a room on your website, your site is probably providing a good user experience!
CTR: Click-Through Rate
In layman's terms: CTR = total people who clicked your content / total people who saw your content
In advertising terms: CTR = total clicks / total reach
Example: 750 people clicked your Facebook ad / 25,000 people saw your Facebook ad = 3% CTR
Click-through rates ultimately indicate how compelling your content is. Was it compelling enough to get a visitor to click the button, link, or ad? As a hotelier, you may have heard your marketing specialist refer to CTR when reviewing your hotel's email marketing campaign (what was the CTR of the link to your website?), assessing your hotel's Expedia TravelAd reports (what was the CTR of shoppers actually clicking the ad they were exposed to?), or when reporting how well your hotel's Facebook ad performed (what was the CTR of Facebook users who saw the ad and actually clicked the link to "like" your page?). The more relevant and interesting your content is to your audience, the higher the click-through rate will be.
Strategic marketers have gotten very creative with ways to increase their campaigns' CTRs. In reference to website links, one of the smartest marketers I know once said, "Where there's traffic, there's hope." The higher the CTR, the more website traffic, the better and the chances you'll sell your hotel rooms! See where I'm going with this?
PPC: Pay Per Click
Pay Per Click is an advertising model that we talk about mainly when referring to online ads. These types of ads show up as "sponsored" results on search engine result pages. We use PPC advertising to capture the attention of customers who would likely otherwise click on the first organic search result they see. The beauty of PPC is that advertisers only pay for desired actions taken by their audience rather than paying for an advertisement's total exposure.
*BONUS acronym* "CPC" stands for "cost per click" and is an advertising metric often referenced in conjunction with PPC campaigns. For example, while running a PPC ad campaign, you may find that your average CPC is $0.35. In other words, you are paying $0.35 each time someone clicks your ad. PPC advertisements should be highly targeted using keywords and demographic metrics. More on PPC tips for your hotel here.
Search Engines Terms
SEM: Search Engine Marketing
Here's a topic all of us at BMI could go on and on (and on and on) about, but instead, I'll kindly give you the short summary. Search Engine Marketing refers to a whole slew of online tactics we use to improve a website's overall ranking in search results. Specifically with hotel marketing, our SEM efforts combine search engine optimization (and all that SEO entails), local listings, social media, link building, and PPC advertising (aren't you glad you already understand that acronym?!).
SERP: Search Engine Results Page
(Pronounced like "Slurp" but without the "L". Try it. It's kind of fun to say.) I'm willing to bet that you already know more about SERPs than you think. Any time you enter a search term or phrase into Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine, the information and links to related websites that the search engine returns on your screen make up SERPs. Some of the key components you'll see on SERPs include organic search results, sponsored search results, social search results, rich snippets of information that Google thinks you'll be interested in, and Google's "carousel" of location based results.
Local Search Terms
NAP: Name, Address, Phone
NAP (also sometimes called NAP-W or NAP-U ["W" stands for "Website", or "U" for "URL"]) refers to your hotel's online identity. In the messy, unpredictable world of local listings, the more consistently your hotel's NAP appears across listings, the more trusted your hotel will be in the eyes of search engines (and guests). So, for example, you don't want use your hotel's 1-800 number in one listing while using its local number in another. Also, be careful not to abbreviate addresses in some listings (St. vs. Street) while fully spelling them out in others. While Google is pretty darn smart, it can be easily confused by conflicting NAPs. Bottom line: to ensure your hotel avoids an identity crisis and establishes authority in search results, NAP consistency is key!
Social Media Terms
Re-tweets are one of the most important Twitter metrics for measuring successful patterns of audience engagement. RTs are essentially social re-shares of your message to a new audience that was otherwise out of your reach. For example, let's say your hotel wants to drive room sales so you tweet a special discount code. Your followers will see your discount code, and, if the deal is juicy enough, one of your followers may RT your message to his network of followers. This ripple effect will allow your message to be seen by not only your followers, but also by the followers of anyone who RT-ed your message. The more RTs your tweets get, the wider the reach and exposure your message will receive. Ensure your tweets are informative, compelling, or humorous to increase your chances of getting a RT.
AWDLY: Are We Done Learning Yet?
There are hundreds of other digital marketing related acronyms out there, but by understanding some of these more commonly used terms, you'll be able to better understand your hotel marketer's reports and recommendations.
If you're ever unsure of what a digital marketing acronym stands for, tweet us at @blue_magnet and we'll do our best to explain it to you in 140 characters or less!
Posted in Blue Magnet News on February 28, 2014 by Matt Bitzer
We pay Senior Account Manager Abby Heft in melted nacho cheese.
It's possible that she concocted the idea upon hearing that circus elephants are sometimes compensated with peanuts…in cartoons. In fact, within her original employment agreement at Blue Magnet she crossed out the proposed salary and wrote in "nacho cheese," then approved the revision with the initials AH (and cheesy fingerprint smudges) to lock it in.
But while you, sane reader, may question her logic, you simply can't argue with Abby Heft's performance, as our first Blue Magneteer Award winner of 2014! Fueled by a steady income of liquid gold, Abby bounds over hotel eMarketing hurdles like Superman leaps tall buildings…if he were on a raging cheese high.
Dizzying Highs & Terrifying Lows
But with every dizzying cheese high comes the inevitable, terrifying lactose low. It turns out Abby felt like she was hitting a wall with one of her favorite Pacific Northwest hotels. Site performance was starting to plateau, local competition in the market was heating up, and general site growth was beginning to taper off. But Abby loves her hotel client in Bellevue, WA. So much so, in fact, that it prompted one team member to question that if she loves it so much why doesn't she marry it. So, as with any committed relationship, Abby wasn't about to toss in the towel without a fight.
Abby To The Rescue
After analyzing the situation, Abby's first goal was to generate more web traffic by optimizing the site for "Bellevue hotels" related keywords, a competitive term with high search volume with which the hotel had always struggled. Taking action, Abby re-optimized every page and scrubbed away hundreds of spammy links pointing to the site. It wasn't long before the keyword "Bellevue hotels" rocketed to the top of the charts for search query volume in Google Analytics' Search Optimization charts.
In addition to SEO, Abby also revised the hotel's on-page user experience by including more enticing special offers and prominent calls-to-action in key positions throughout the site. As a result, the number of guests who checked room availability on the site jumped 76% for the fourth quarter of 2013 YOY. Most importantly, that increase in clicks yielded a cheese-melting 18% surge in standalone site revenue this quarter over the same period last year!
Not to worry, Abby--as long as you keep working your magic, Blue Magnet promises not to cut the cheese.
Sitting Down On The Job Pays Off As Patrick Is Presented With The November 2013 Blue Magneteer Award
Posted in Blue Magnet News on February 27, 2014 by Matt Bitzer
If there is one thing Patrick McCarthy prizes above all else, it's a good sit. No distractions. No interruptions. No nonsense. Just a comfortable chair for settling in for an indeterminate period of time. A truly fine sit, however, would not be complete without the accompaniment of a good book in one hand and a tumbler of Wild Turkey in the other, according to McCarthy.
Still, whiskey and literature aside, Patrick has claimed the November 2013 Blue Magneteer Award, standing sitting tall above the rest with his intense focus on SEO and outstanding leadership. And it's all thanks to a mighty fine sit that lasted the entire month of November.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing great American obesity epidemic and its simple, one-click, press-of-a-button lifestyle, inactivity has become the latest boogeyman conjured up by the media these days, threatening Patrick's cherished pastime. Yet, despite recent studies clearly identifying the undisputed and very serious health risks of prolonged human immobility (like that of the common computer user), Patrick's resolve has only strengthened with every ossifying American joint and every hunching American spine.
Fortunately for Patrick, unlike the rest of the human population that may have been ill-equipped for the sedentary life, Patrick's preferred extracurricular activity has properly conditioned him for a career in the "doing something with computers" industry--a perfect fit for Blue Magnet.
Now, that's not to say Patrick's stationary lifestyle is an indication of a lackadaisical, unmotivated or unproductive approach to work. Quite the contrary! He's simply most productive while tethered to his favorite chair…any chair.
The Source of Patrick's Power
Some have theorized that his spine is composed of pure adamantium with obvious Wolverine-like regenerative properties, elastically reshaping to its original, healthy form like a memory foam mattress. Other rumors persist that due to a terrible accident as a young boy he received a controversial heart transplant from a two-toed sloth-a heart unaffected by the burden of static inertia. Still, some have suggested that the guy simply prefers not to move, happily shaving off years of an active existence in favor of a life less mobile.
Leading Like a King Glued To His Throne
As a Senior Account Manager and expert in all things SEO, Patrick not only skillfully shapes his clients' sites into revenue-generating masterpieces, but also trains and strengthens the Blue Magnet team on SEO best practices, ensuring that, though they may not have the marathon, desk-time endurance as Patrick, their digital minds are just as honed.
Specifically, Patrick recently conducted a full site audit and implemented a thorough search engine optimization overhaul of the entire site for a new client located in Turks and Caicos. Not only did his efforts yield a 54% increase in overall organic search impressions month-over-month (increased online visibility), but generated an amazing 60% increase in overall organic search clicks month-over-month (active engagement with our site). In addition to executing crucial SEO tactics throughout the site, Patrick redirected and restructured the entire site for a clean implementation of the site's architecture behind-the-scenes. These efforts combined generated significant online visibility and user engagement with the site.
Posted in Online Travel Agencies on February 24, 2014 by Abby Heft
OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) – hoteliers love to hate them. Unfortunately, they’re an important part of your hotel’s eMarketing strategy. Joe Schmo down the road doesn’t know anything about rate parity or the exorbitant margins your hotel has to pay when guests book a room on an OTA; however Joe Schmo does know that the Travelocity gnome is adorable and that those William Shatner Priceline commercials are hilarious. So, when he’s looking for a hotel in city X, Joe turns to his favorite OTA to begin shopping.
Although many hotels typically offer a best price guarantee to counter OTAs and encourage guests to book directly with the hotel, it’s seemingly difficult to get their message out to everyone. So if they have rooms to fill, it’s often best practice for hotels to just play along and fight the OTA battle.
Expedia is the giant in the OTA landscape. If your hotel is playing nice with OTAs and you need to sell rooms quickly or have specific need dates, then Expedia’s TravelAd solution is a great advertising opportunity. Many hotels enroll in the Expedia Travel Ads program at some point or another– but are they using the ads strategically to get the most bang for their buck? Probably not.
Here are 5 tips for hotels to increase their ROI from Expedia TravelAds:
1. Be sure your your hotel’s Expedia listing is optimized. The first thing to check is your hotel’s thumbnail photo – is it the best representation of your property? If you don’t have a great exterior shot of the hotel, it doesn’t hurt to use a pool image or a beautiful room or lobby photo. This is your hotel’s first interaction with a potential guest – showcase your hotel’s best assets! You can also add up to 4 photos for each room type. Make sure each room type has at least has 1 photo, but try adding 4 if possible so you can create a visual experience for your shoppers. This can be the view from the room, an amenity photo, a bathroom photo – anything that will help sell your room. Lastly, check your descriptions and available amenities. Are you highlighting everything a guest will love about your hotel? Is all of the information completely accurate? Guests will not appreciate false promises – and you can be sure incorrect information will come back to bite you in the reviews later on.
2. Read a few of your hotel’s best Expedia reviews to determine what to highlight in ad copy. Maybe all of your guests are raving about an outdoor fire pit during winter – might be worthwhile to try out an ad highlighting that inviting amenity in your copy. This is actually a good place to get ideas not only for TravelAd copy, but also for hotel descriptions and your website copy. Keep in mind, TravelAds don’t need to be written for SEO – your goal is to grab users’ attention so they click for more information. Write compelling travel ad copy that will resonate with your potential guests!
3. Don’t set Search/Booking dates if your hotel has ads targeting Travel Dates within the next couple of months. For example, if you have an ad targeting travel dates during the first week of March, it’s pretty likely that folks are booking right now in early February. You don’t want to miss out on those potential guests traveling in March if you have your ad scheduled to appear only for guests searching towards the end of February. The Travel Dates are important – Search/Booking dates, not so much.
4. Be sure you cap your hotel’s spend by setting a daily/weekly/monthly budget. Otherwise, you could spend your entire ad balance in the blink of an eye. If you are continuously maxing out your budget early in the day, either look at possibly increasing the budget or set a reminder for yourself to turn your ads on in the afternoon and have them paused at the beginning of the day. Manually turning your ads on later in the day will ensure that your ad only appears for a shopper searching in the afternoon and evening, and it is likely that your competitors have already run out of their budget by then and are not showing at all.
5. Make friends with your hotel’s Expedia Market Manager and Travel Ads Account Manager. These guys can be a wealth of information and can be really helpful in planning your Expedia TravelAd strategy. If you notice that all of a sudden your hotel is not getting any bookings or if the “recent market price” for your TravelAds skyrockets, a quick phone call with your Market Manager can usually provide you with insight and new strategies. Also, Expedia’s Market Managers are generally cool folks! At Blue Magnet, we look forward to chatting with our Expedia Market Manager contacts any chance we get… that’s how we’ve uncovered some of these fantastic strategies for our own clients’ ads!
By following the 5 tips above, hoteliers can start working towards improving their Expedia TravelAds ROI and increasing occupancy during need periods. With so much competition on OTAs, it’s tricky for hotels to get in front of potential guests and convert them into actual guests. Expedia TravelAds can help maximize your hotel’s exposure to a plethora of innocent shoppers, but it’s the hotelier’s job to make sure that first impressions turn into sales!
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