Category: Technology

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Local Listings Critical Under New Google Maps

Search engine experts both within the lodging industry and outside it have already written on the previews of the new Google Maps, announced in May. Most have described the ways the appearance will change, some expressing concern, others joy. Few have taken a hard look at what the new Google Maps will mean about your Google+ Local Listing. [pullquote]If you're not actively using Google+ Local, you will have to change that, for your business to survive.[/pullquote]For the past several years those who deal with online marketing in our industry have stressed the importance of claiming your Google+ Local listing (or its predecessors), completing all the information, uploading photos and videos, etc. With the change to Google+ Pages for the listing, you can add posting regularly to the Page as another requirement. Despite this encouragement, many have failed to claim their listing, or have not updated it regularly. All that must change, if you want your business to survive - let alone prosper. Do you think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at your Google+ business page. You do have a Google+ business page, don't you? Hover your mouse over the top left where it says "Home", and select Dashboard from the pop-out menu. There is only one area of primary interest, for our purposes. Look at the chart called Insights. Near the bottom of that chart, click "View Insights". The boxes at the top tell the tale. The first box tells how many followers you have - need to work on that later. The second box, with the big number (we hope) tells how many people saw your Google+ page because it came up in their search results, even if you're not doing anything with it. Nice. Now the cold water to the face: the third box, with the much, much…

‘Password’ Is Not A Secure Password

Is there such a thing as a secure password? It seems like every month or so there is a similar announcement. Last month Yahoo! was hacked, with hackers exposing something like 450,000 user passwords. The month before that, it was LinkedIn where 6 million user passwords were exposed. And these are just the latest episodes. You (the user) has no control over the security (or lack of it) by an online service such as Yahoo! or LinkedIn. But there are efforts daily by hackers to log in to user accounts by guessing passwords - there are even automated programs (downloadable on the internet) to automatically try to repeatedly guess insecure passwords, and take over your account. The message from these attacks is not that you shouldn't use these services (though you should not use them without thinking about the security implications, and whether or not you really want to put your information in that semi-public location). The real lesson is found in the passwords that were disclosed. [pullquote]Password security is a myth.[/pullquote] Sooner or later some site you use will be hacked, and your password will be stolen. From that time on, unless you can change your password before the hacker gets into your account, they will own your account. Is there better security than passwords? The short answer is "yes." One way is rarely used, but it is called public key security. Briefly, you would use software to create an encrypted key. You keep a private version and a public version would be uploaded to sites you use (like Yahoo!, LinkedIn, etc.), and the two must be used together to gain access. However, most of today's sites and web browsers simply aren't ready for this. Google has come up with an intermediate approach, called "2 step verification." To use…

Pinterest: Not Just YASN (Yet Another Social Network) for B&B’s

We've been hearing a lot of buzz about Pinterest lately, but surprisingly little of it comes from within the Innkeeping community. I say it is surprising, because Pinterest seems almost as if it was made for innkeepers - it is easy to use (we jumped in for our Freeport Maine B&B, and were happily pinning away in minutes), plentiful graphics grab the attention of the visitor, and it is so addictive that users stay connected for a long time. According to comScore, Pinterest ranks just behind Google+ in number of visitors, and third (behind Facebook and Tumblr) in the amount of time a visitor spends on the site. This is very impressive for a site that is not yet open to the public (you can join using a Facebook login, or you can request an invitation on the Pinterest home page). So what is Pinterest? Pinterest describes itself as a virtual pinboard, but we think it is being far too modest. From where we sit, Pinterest is a fantastic tool for sharing interests, or ideas, with others. It seems to be a combination of bookmarking sites (like StumbleUpon, Digg, or Reddit) with photo sharing sites (like Flickr, Panoramio, or Photobucket), with the added ability to comment, share, etc., that you find on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Why do people share? The reasons for sharing seem as varied as the backgrounds of the people sharing. Some are sharing their own memories or activities, much like other sites. But since Pinterest allows (even encourages) sharing of sites you visit (they retain info attributing the original source), you can also share your interests, dreams, and ideas. Why would an Innkeeper use Pinterest? There are several reasons to use Pinterest. First, as Heather Allard notes, "If you had the opportunity to make your business…

5 Ways B&Bs Can Use QR Codes

This week's post is a guest post from David Mitchell. David is the founder of webmarketing4hoteliers.com - a website dedicated to B&B owners and Inn Keepers serious about ‘getting more beds filled’ and 'making more money’ through effective marketing on the internet. For those seeking 'how to' information on QR codes, you may want to look at our article on getting started with QR codes. B&B marketing can be quite a challenge as the competition is always tight no matter what star rating a B&B has or in what country it’s located. Marketing your B&B is no longer just about letters, email flyers and an effective website. A very high number of B&B searches and bookings are completed on Smartphones and Tablet PCs – these are the new ways of the world. The ‘age’ of the simple "mobile phone" that cannot connect to the internet is nearly over. Smartphone shipments exceeded those of "basic mobile phones" for the first time in the most recent three months and accounted for 52% of the 42m units sold. Professionals, businessmen, students and working Mum’s all have these high tech communication devices. Not like the old Jurassic cellular phones or worse, the pagers, a Smartphone can literally do everything your desktop PC can. You can e-mail, chat, make a phone call, surf on the Web, listen to your kind of music, watch videos, create documents and spreadsheets etc.. and all these features in a machine that’s just about the size of your hand. The latest mobile marketing trend is the QR code. Abbreviated from Quick Response code, it is similar to a barcode where an information or a text is encoded in it. QR codes can be read when scanned by a Smartphone or a QR barcode reader. This kind of code has made…

Attracting B&B Guests: How does that work?

A few of you may have noticed that we seem to have taken a bit of a hiatus over the past several weeks. In fact, our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast had a very busy summer, and there wasn't much time for About the Inn writing. Now that our busy summer and fall foliage seasons are behind us, it appears things will be back on a more even keel, and we hope to be able to publish more regularly. How do you attract B&B guests? In the past several years, most smaller lodging properties have become aware of the importance of attracting guests through an online presence (oddly, though, some still seem to question the need - or maybe they question the long-term viability - of an internet presence). Gone, or nearly gone, are the days of buying print or television ads in huge volume, in hopes that a few visitors will be enticed to become guests. For the smaller properties, in particular, this is a good thing, as few can afford the high prices charged for print advertising, let alone the several additional orders of magnitude for television campaigns - all for ads for which there is little hope of tracking their success, and for which industry analysts say the return on investment (ROI) is very small indeed. So, then, all a small business needs to do is find a way to slap up a small website, and all the marketing is done, right? Unfortunately, many small properties seem to have adopted exactly that strategy, and are beginning to pay the price in reduced occupancy. Print media (with the exception, to some degree, of direct mail), and for that matter television, tries to sell by sending an uninvited message to a large, but generally arbitrary, audience. The primary reason…

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