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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…

A Consistent Marketing Message – How Often Should I …

Most innkeepers seem to have an awareness of a need to present a consistent marketing message. They want their website to appear uniform from page-to-page. They want their blog to look like their website - even if it is hosted separately. They want the style of their newsletters or their booking engine to match the style of their website. Going a bit farther, maybe they even want their Facebook page, Google+ page, or other social media pages to resemble their website theme. [pullquote]Think of it from the perspective of your guests...[/pullquote]If you have done all (or most) of these things, you have presented a consistent marketing message in one sense - a consistent appearance. Some refer to this as "branding". But today we will be looking at a different type of consistency in the marketing message - one which is not often mentioned in the B&B world - the frequency with which it is delivered. In doing so we'll step back a bit from the technical, and look into the murky uncertainty of the psychology of the guest, to consider the impact of our choices. When we build our website, we may update it with new photos, a new recipe from time-to-time, etc., but for the most part it remains static. Whether we like to think so or not, it is essentially an online brochure for our business (and yes, it is possible to feed changing content to the website from the blog, Facebook page, etc., to keep it current - but that is not our topic for today). Let's look, instead, at things that require repetitive publication: blogs, newsletters, and social media. In previous posts, we've discussed ways to automate posting of blog posts to social media - there are many tools for that (including plug-ins for your blogging…

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…

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…

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…

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