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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…

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…

Guests Come From Search, Young Guests Come from Mobile

Where do bed and breakfast guests come from? How do the find you? At the Mid-Atlantic Innkeeping Conference there were some great presentations. One of the special opportunities was to hear from the members of LocalU, a group of nationally recognized experts in local search - who present papers and seminars on local search opportunities. This one was geared toward B&B's and small lodging properties. Much of the valuable information has been presented in a blog post by Mike Blumenthal, one of the LocalU members, in the form of a survey of members of the public on how they find a bed and breakfast. Many of the results are not so much surprising, as validating. That is, many of us understand that our current guests are 45 years old or older, and that they are often less up-to-date in technology than younger people. We also understand that younger people are more likely to use mobile devices for things that older people would do on a laptop or desktop computer. The eye-openers come when this information is validated, and put into context, so we begin to see what the future would look like, and how we can begin now to make our preparations. The survey is on the LocalU blog, and is well worth reading.

Why You Need Goals in Google Analytics

With all that is written about Google Analytics on a daily basis, it is hard to imagine the some businesses still question the need for tracking goals in Google Analytics. Yet they do just that. Recently we were asked to justify why a small bed and breakfast should bother setting up goals in Google Analytics. Our cynical side struggles to keep from answering that you don't need them - so long as you don't want to know which sources are sending website visitors who click certain things, visit certain pages, buy certain products, book their stay, or view certain videos. More recently the addition of Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analtyics adds another important consideration - tracking sites that contribute to all of those things - even if they are not the source of the "last click" to them. Why Goals are Useful [caption id="attachment_670" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayneandd/[/caption]What you define as a goal is pretty much up to you. Examples would be completing an online booking, downloading your printable brochure, signing up for your mailing list, watching a video, requesting more information, etc. The steps to set up a goal are in our earlier post on using goals in Google Analytics. Of course, the ultimate goal (especially for Multi-Channel Funnel reports) is an Ecommerce transaction - the visitor has actually booked a room or made a purchase. Multi-Channel Funnels With the addition of Multi-Channel Funnels* (sometimes called MCF), goals have become even more useful. First, some explanations. You can not use Multi-Channel Funnels without having set up at least one goal. We won't repeat our overview of MCF, but a brief explanation of some terminology is appropriate. Marketers use the term "funnel" to refer to the path a visitor takes to reach the goal. Visitors may start at different…

Your Webmaster Should Take A Look At This

Yesterday (16 July 2012) Google's Webmaster Central Blog published a post explaining "semantics" (more about that in a moment) of web pages, urging sites to use semantic markup (specific types of HTML), and several "Do's and Don'ts". Could this be a signal of an upcoming algorithm change? A Bit of Background This will be the geeky part, but a bit of background will help understand what may turn out to be significant about the Google Webmaster Central post mentioned above. If you prefer, just skip to the last section for the punch line. The code used to create web pages, generally speaking, is HTML. The actual "tags" used to designate elements (headers, paragraphs, blocks, etc.) is called "markup." There are standards for properly creating pages with HTML, and those standards change and are updated as new browser features and other online capabilities become available. Google (and other browser and search firms) are usually represented in the updating and standards for HTML. The latest version of the HTML standards was HTML5, which was not officially released. One group has gone forward with it, while another has renamed HTML5 as HTML and continues it as a work in progress. We'll refer to both interchangeably as HTML5, for purposes of this post. HTML5, not fully supported by all browsers at this time, replaces some generic markup with "semantic" markup. For example, before HTML5 you might have a section of your HTML markup called a "div" - a generic block that could be used for any purpose. One div might be your navigation links, and another might be a feed from your blog. These could be differentiated by an "id" so a div with an id of "nav" might be your navigation links, and a div with an id of "feed" might be your…

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