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Google search changes again

Google search changes again. There are Panda changes and Penguin changes, now Hummingbird changes, and Google has removed keywords from our Analytics, and we have to figure out what to do with Google+ and Google Local Business listings aka Google+ Local (or is it Google+ Local Business Pages this week?). What is an innkeeper to do? How can you keep up with all the changes, in order to make sure your business is successful? [caption id="attachment_878" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo by ljmacphee on Flickr[/caption]As one of my teachers (far too long ago, now) used to say, "When you are up to your ears in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp." He meant, of course, that the pesky details that force themselves on your attention will often keep your focus away from your real objective. In this case, the details of each change in the online marketplace can keep you from working toward your ultimate goal. More Google search changes In addition to the changes mentioned in the opening paragraph, there are two very recent major changes from Google that clamor for your attention. The first, and older of the two, is the carousel in local search. Not all searches result in a carousel, but this is changing and growing as Google rolls it out. It places a black-bordered filmstrip-style carousel at the top of the search results, with photos related to the search result to catch your eye. The second is that Google has made all searches "secure" searches (meaning they use a secure https connection), with the result that Google no longer reports keywords from its searches in Google Analytics. Neither of these two changes is minor. Being in the carousel means you show up (with a photo) at the top of…

Go-Trippin: New Type of Promotion on Google

As innkeepers, we are accustomed to working very hard to get our websites to climb the rungs of the Google search engine results (SERPs). But the Google algorithm is a moving target, and its frequent changes mean we are constantly chasing the algorithm with our SEO techniques. Enter Go-Trippin - a new website, created by Acorn Internet Services, presenting information on local activities furnished by innkeepers. This may sound like a directory of local businesses, but it is much more than that, in its own subtle way, Go-Trippin's opportunity is entirely unique. Go-Trippin does bear some resemblance to a traditional directory, in that contributors also have a listing for their B&B on it. However, that is not the real purpose of Go-Trippin. Also, like any new directory, it is likely to be some time before that generates a significant amount of traffic to your website. The real value in Go-Trippin is its ability to promote the authority of each person who write for Go-Trippin. Every post contains special tags, identifying the author and the geographic area they have written about. As an added bonus, posts may appear on Google's Niantic Labs' Field Trip app. Available only for mobile devices, Field Trip supplies users with recommendations for nearby things to do, places to visit, and local businesses nearby. Go-Trippin capitalizes on this, as who better to tell people what there is to do in their areas, and make recommendations of local businesses than innkeepers? [pullquote]“We are doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space. It could be medical, it could be travel, whatever. And trying to make sure that those rank a little more highly, if you are some sort of authority or a site that according to the algorithms we think…

Changes in Google search results – what should you do?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so it is said. Google itself says it changes its search algorithm over 300 times per year (almost daily!). However, it seems beyond question that some changes require more attention for small business websites than others. When there are changes in Google search results that would penalize your website, for example, or when credit is given for particular formats or content, a change is surely warranted. Various search engine experts have observed that a number of changes have been occurring in the Google search results. These changes have suggested, among other things, that there may be less value on links to your website than in the past, usage of keywords on the page may be declining in importance, and social signals (references in social media) may be less important than had been previously observed. Search experts Moz (formerly known as SEOMoz) released a preliminary view of their analysis of current search ranking factors. The analysis is heavy on statistics and arithmetic, of course, but the summary is quite clear. Things are changing, but the old ways are still the strongest - at least for now. After analyzing the technical data and surveying numerous search experts, Moz found that the data supports the ideas that there may be changes around inbound links, keywords on the page, and social references, but at the moment, these items remain important. In fact, sites which are among the top search results are those which are strong in these areas. That said, The strongest social signal is from Google+. This corresponds with our observations, that Google is placing increasing emphasis on the Google+ Local business pages, and keeping posts current. This is a major departure from several years ago, where it could have been said…

How Effective is Your Website?

How effective is your website? You probably check where you come up in search engine results, claim your Google+ Local page, link to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, and use Instagram and Pinterest, right? But once your guests get to your site, what do they look at? How effectively is your website delivering the goods? You could ask the same question about your blog. You may write about different things (food/recipes, things to do in the area, specials, events, etc.), but which ones do the visitors to the site actually read? Is your blog or website really effective at delivering on the promise that the guest finds in the search results? There is a way to see if your website is effective For a technical explanation, and more ways to analyze things, you may want to check out Avinash Kaushik's recent blog post, that provided the idea for this post. For our purposes, we'll look at a fairly simple way to check what guests find useful on your blog or website (and what they don't). In other words, how effective your website is. In fact, at the end of this post is a link to a spreadsheet that will give you very pretty results, if you provide the raw information. Get the Categories your site uses The first thing you'll want to do is look at your website (or blog) and consider the primary categories of the site. This may be the top level menu items on your navigation menu, or you may need to do a bit of organizing. For many inns or B&B's, this might be: Rooms and Rates About Breakfast Availability Specials Things to Do Directions If you have other areas, like a Photo Gallery, or whatever, feel free to add that, too. If you're looking at…

Help Google Understand Your Website with Microdata

Before your eyes glaze over because we used the word "Microdata", hang in there just a bit longer to see how you can easily help Google (and other search engines) better understand your website. Google Wants Relevant Sites (Really!) Let's start with the idea that Google really wants to present a searcher with relevant and useful search results. Yes, they may have ulterior motives, like selling advertising, but for now, that's not the main point. In order to understand your website, and be able to present the results to the searcher when they are relevant, the Googlebot "crawls" your website, and indexes the content (the words) so it will know what your website is about. The other search engines do something very similar. [pullquote]What if you could help Google know what searches your site should show up for?[/pullquote]What if you could help Google be sure it understands your website (or specific pages) better, so it will more accurately catalog your site, and make it more likely your site would show up for the right searches? That would be awesome, right? Well, that's what we're going to look at today. This isn't new. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have been working on it for quite some time, and in 2011 created a site called schema.org for just this purpose. You'll want to visit that link after you finish reading the rest of this post. :^) Let's work backwards from the end result. If you look at search results, you'll see something like the image at right (click for larger view). Where does all that stuff come from? If you've done nothing to your page, it comes from a variety of sources around the web - including directories, review sites, your site, etc. BUT, if you use metadata (or similar things), you may…

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