Saturday, 12 December 2009

Get ready for Local Mobile Marketing - New Tools to Reach Your Local Market.

Using mobile devices to deliver local business information in situ, applications are being developed to allow mere mortals to browse the data warehouses of the internet gods. So, local businesses get ready - the future of direct marketing is right outside your front door - literally.

Earlier this week Google announced the launch of a new concept, which seeks to unite brick and mortar businesses with online social networking and online local business information. By placing a small sticker with a bar code in their shop, restaurant or bar windows, local businesses can enable a potential customer to access internet reviews and real-time information about the business using their mobile phone - opening the opportunity for direct marketing and live adverts in an entirely new and accessible way.

One hundred thousand local businesses in fifty major US cities have been invited to join the "Google Favourite Place" effort. Once signed up, each business will have their own "Place Page", which is then accessible from any mobile device by scanning a unique QR code found on the Google Favourite Place sticker.

This initiative will make local information accessible in a way never before seen. It may also be the realisation of a long-standing prediction that mobile phones and handheld devices are the new frontier in advertising and on-the-spot marketing. And this time it just might succeed because it's the customer requesting the information rather than the business pushing it out. Once the idea has been tested, launching the effort will require a minimum investment and customer buy-in as the receiver, the information and the delivery method already exist.

Not only will this enhance information delivery, but Google's Favourite Places will help smaller businesses get listed and displayed on Favourite Places and Google Maps making them both more visible and their service history more accessible. And for customers and business alike, discovering local "gems" or avoiding "tourist traps" needn't require a local expert. With Favourite Places anyone can easily tap into a community of local connoisseurs and find what they are looking for in the urban haystack.

As with many Google initiatives, Google Favourite Places is limited to use within the US. For now. However, after an initial testing period we fully expect to see stickers in the windows of local business in major cities around the world. See it below:

The question of course is will Yahoo or Bing follow in Google's footsteps? Most surely they will. But as the vanguard, Google places itself at the cutting edge of innovation and wins the hearts (and pockets) of many. Launching this, along with many other new tools and applications, Google connects the wealth of knowledge available to businesses and their customers in a way that would have been far-fetched, at best less than a decade ago.

Another company who is changing our perception of what is possible is a Dutch company called Layar. Layar is a mobile application which uses what is called Augmented Reality to place more information at the fingertips of mobile users.

Augmented reality does exactly what is says on the tin - it enhances reality as we know it. The application adds a new dimension to browsing in real time by using the camera lens on any mobile device to give the viewer more information about their surroundings than is visible to the naked eye. Take home buying or house letting as an example. With the help of "Layar" when standing on a particular street a user can view which homes are for sale, see their prices, square metres and specifications - all through the lens of a camera phone. What's more you can programme your personal search criteria and set a price floor and ceiling or whether you are looking to buy or rent. The applications for this type of interface seem endless. Virtual Advertising and sales does not get much more instant or real time than this.

Thousands of projects like this are springing up around the world using mobile phones as the interfacing and information delivery device - and for good reason, too. Research suggests that people more often leave their home without their house keys or their wallets than without their mobile phones. Our mobiles bond us to the world and enable what has become known as pervasive communication - always-on and constantly connected. With so many new applications popping up, the prediction that the mobile phone will take this "pervasive" communication to the next level seems to be coming true. What yesterday seemed unbelievable today seems unavoidable.

Want to know how you can monetise your business via mobile devices or networked devices, contact us today!

by Velit Dundar and Iselin Skogland

Monday, 23 November 2009

Get your Direct Contacts on TripAdvisor in 2010

In January 2010, TripAdvisor is set to launch their Business Listing Classifieds for hotels and accommodation providers. The Business Listings will enable hotel to be listed on TripAdvisor with their direct contact information including a phone number, e-mail and a link to their website. This offers hotels a never-before-seen opportunity to reach out to potential guests directly via TripAdvisor, one of the most popular guest review rating sites in the marketplace.

For TripAdvisor of course this is a chance to monetise its website traffic and existing popularity and to be a first mover to offer hotels the possibility to target guests directly rather than forcing their guests through a third party to make the booking

So, what does this mean for hotels, resorts, and other accommodation service providers around the globe?

  • For a low annual fee starting from £180 (€200) your hotel can be listed on TripAdvisor – an affordable sum of money even for the smallest B&B.
  • This is an opportunity to get your contact details directly communicated to the TripAdvisor visitors with an opportunity to direct the visitor to your proprietary website instead of other third parties sites.
  • A listing on TripAdvisor could contribute to your online visibility and expose your hotel to millions of visitors and potential guests. (TripAdvisor (and its related sites) have over 25 million monthly unique visitors).
  • TripAdvisor is the most popular social network for travel comments which will help to build awareness of the products and services you have on offer.

With over 25 millions visitors a month TripAdvisor trumps all other travel social media sites. Moreover, research indicates that between 70% and 81% of consumers read online travel reviews before make their purchase decision. And more than 70% trust comments on social media sites such as TripAdvisor. Many of our hospitality clients have already expressed their willingness to pay for a business listing on TripAdvisor – and we believe that as this concept develops it could become one of the leading traffic and revenue drivers to a hotel’s website – even giving Google a run for their advertising money.

Whether it will be as revolutionary as it seems remains to be seen, but what we do know is that TripAdvisor has taken a clear step to enable hotels to communicate directly with their own contact details – making it an industry first.

As with all such opportunities, there may be several factors that will diminish the effectiveness of such a listing – at least over time. The first is what is the added value when all hotels’ in a market are listed on TripAdvisor with their direct contact details? Will the cost then increase to create a financial incentive for higher positing in the listing? Second, if a hotel has very low popularity ratings (on TripAdvisor), a poor website or a low capacity to handle incoming requests – would the vote tip against paying for such a listing? Lastly, and perhaps the most important question – how does a business listing fit into the overall online strategy and positioning of a given hotel? Without clear objectives and in tough times, spending £200 or more may not provide the best return on investment nor give the expected results.

Notwithstanding the above questions, we believe that this is an excellent opportunity. Especially perhaps for the small and medium hotels and resorts enabling these to circumvent the indirect sales’ channels traditionally promoted on such sites and attract guests direct – leaving the hotel with more customer ownership and the possibility to piggy-back on a strategically important site such as TripAdvisor.

For more information about Business Listing go to To learn more about our offering and to find out how to improve your online conversion, please contact us here!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

With OTAs or Without OTAs? Move Your Hotel Online!

The Change in the Relationship between Hotels & Third Parties

One of the hottest topics in the industry these days is the ending partnership between Choice Hotels and Expedia. As the online travel market leader, Expedia has more than 40 percent of the market share. This makes Expedia one of the most important partners and sales channels for hoteliers around the world.

The benefits of working with Online Travel Agents (OTA) have in the past been unquestionable. However, with the recent changes in the rules of engagement this view seems to be shifting. Before going into detail of those developments let us review some of the reasons why hotels are finding it harder to work with online travel agencies like Expedia and why the Travel giant may have started introducing more strict terms and conditions for its hotel partners.

Some year ago now, a large share of online travel agent revenues came from the commissions of airline ticket sales. Deregulation, increasing operating costs, and many other factors have over time forced airlines to cut down on commissions and many have introduced a more direct-to-consumer approach to distribution. This direct approach has come to include:
• Best online pricing policies
• Stronger loyalty programmes
• More advanced price yielding
• Improved passenger relationship management by adopting CRM and eCRM techniques
• De-coupling their product - offering additional services/benefits for passengers who wish to purchase these for an added fee.

With the economic downturn impacting consumers’ purchasing behaviours, the market has become a consumer-driven market. The customer is once again in the driver seat – always looking for better bargains, deals, and offers. So despite the direct-approach having cut down distribution and marketing costs, it has had a negative effect on the availability of tickets and the profit margins of the OTAs – who sell flights as part of their offering. Whereas before profits came from both airline ticket sales and hotel room sales, today most online travel agencies make more of their revenues from hotel room sales commissions – an area where Expedia has historically have maintained a very high level of profitability. Airline tickets today are viewed more as a service to the consumer, who is then likely to book their hotel stay (along with other products and services).

For the online travel agencies, dwindling profits from airline tickets and a higher focus and reliance on hotel room sales is, from what I can gather, the reason why online travel agencies like Expedia have had to introduce more stringent terms and conditions. They are setting precedence and showing that they would rather loose a deal than work with partners who cannot accept these terms. This sends a strong message from a traditionally powerful player in the travel agent world that they will not back down. At the same time Choice representing a large hotel chain, is also making a clear point that they will not be intimidated by the potential loss of incremental revenue and that they can and will pursue other channels of distribution that will work with their third party terms.

So, will we see more of this power display from Expedia – and will other chains follow Choice’s example? Both are sending very strong messages into the marketplace, but the end result remains to be seen. What we can say is with an industry which is suffering from decreases in occupancy and revenues due to the economic crisis, coupled with over-supply in some areas, it seems unlikely that many other hotel companies will follow suit.

The decreases in the number of travellers (especially the corporate markets) and the increase in competition and pricing transparency have made it more difficult for hoteliers to keep their rates high and many have had to slash their prices in order to stay afloat.

The approach that is needed in these tough times is a more analytical approach and more in-depth analysis. Hoteliers should be pushing to cut costs, looking for new partners and bettering the relationships with the existing partners and developing a more comprehensive B2C strategy.

OTAs have in the past been very good at predicting consumers’ needs and their buying behaviours. By offering services and products according to those [changing] needs; they also manage to gain their trust. This is an areas hotels have, at least online, failed to do.

The questions hoteliers should be asking now are:
• Can we work to develop such trust among consumers?
• How we our products and services more attractive?
• How can we benefit from a direct online approach?

There no one-size fits all answers to these questions hoteliers should take this opportunity to implement new direct-to-consumer sales and marketing methods and over time reduce their dependency on the online travel agents – thereby lowering costs and improving loyalty.

With less than 12% of hotel websites allowing online bookings in 2008, hoteliers have not yet begun to touch the surface of the possibilities. As the market changes at a rapid pace, hoteliers have to first catch up to the consumer and then begin predicting customer behaviour in order to meet their future needs. Differentiation in products and services and more customer friendly technologies and offerings will increase the demand to the hotel and accelerate the move to a more direct approach.

As an internet marketing agency, e-HotelServices firmly believer that by working with a competent online marketing partner hotels can take the bull by its horns, get a step ahead, and invest in their future by bringing guests to their properties at a lower cost, with more control and customer loyalty than what hotels have been able to in the past.
Working only with OTAs and tour operators is not always the smartest or the cheapest option. If hoteliers want to partner with online travel agencies, they should decide to work only with OTAs that meet their needs in terms of added value, incremental revenue, reaching new target markets or other benefits that they cannot themselves achieve directly. Hoteliers should also carefully consider the impact the partnership will have on their revenues both long term and short term – as well as the impact on the hotel’s competiveness, branding, and positioning in the market place.

According to many researches over 80% of all travel search starts online with a search engine. As such, having high visibility in the search results will increase the chances of driving potential guests to the hotel website. However, getting the guest to the website is not enough, converting these lookers to bookers is paramount to make this strategy a success. The elements that need to be considered are:

• Increasing the navigability and accessibility of the website
• Engaging with visitors by speaking their language, addressing their emotions and encouraging them to finalise the booking before leaving your website

To achieve this hoteliers must have a clear web strategy and a direct approach to have an impact on the visitors’ purchasing behaviours and convince them to make the booking on their website instead of other third parties sites. So for most hoteliers that means installing a good booking engine that allows not only room booking, but packaging, add-ons, and online self-management (may we recommend

In the move to end their relationship, Choice Hotels is forced to adopt and implement this strategy very quickly. Ending a relationship with a leading player and one of the most important revenue drivers such as Expedia could not have been easy for Choice Hotels. It has meant a scramble to implement a more direct approach to compensate their potential loss. But what Choice Hotels (or any other hotel that finds themselves in their situation) has underlined here is that it is more important to have clear goals and a strategic action plan and that the organisation has to be ready to start the implementation straight away. Unless this type of fundamental move is done right it is likely not to produce the expected results and damage the organisation.

Here, some important points for consideration:
• Create a clear positioning strategy
• Clarify your USPs and competitive advantages
• Analyse your competitors,
• Identify channels to reach your target markets,
• Differentiate your products and services,
• Anticipate future needs and introduce solutions to satisfy these needs,
• Innovate and be bold to try new approaches

Having clear objectives and by defining the abovementioned questions prior to implementation will make life easier for any hotel or hotel chain who want to adopt a direct-to-consumer approach.

If you are looking for a partner – or for a how we can help you improve your visibility and become more self-reliant, contact us.

Velit Dundar

Thursday, 15 October 2009

SEO Strategies for Hotels

SEO (search engine optimisation) is simply the process of increasing your website ranking in the SERPs (search engine result pages) by implementing the best SEO practises and techniques. A website should be built within the SEO, search engines and the website visitors in mind.

The internet as a distribution channel becomes the most important one for the travel and hospitality industries. In today’s market place over 80% of all bookings start with a search engine online. This makes having visibility in the SERPs crucial in order to become successful in this competitive and fast changing environment. So the question will be; how to increase your website ranking by implementing SEO? What kind of SEO activities should be implemented and how?

I always recommend starting with the basics. The traditional SEO basics are:

- Unique titles for each page,
- Meta data keywords, description which will reflect the content of each page,
- Keywords in the title & headings,
- Link building,
- Unique content,
- Alt tags and image & video tags,
- Anchor text links
- Search engine friendly URL. (e.g. if you are a hotel in London, including the name of the hotel with the place name which is London will benefit you.

The below screenshot will give you a better understanding about it:

Basics are no longer enough to secure a high organic visibility online. In addition to the basics, a hotel or a travel company should implement:

- Destination related sources and information including guides etc.
- Use photos and interactive media such as videos with tags to increase your universal search results.
- Engage with social media to create buzz and engage with visitors online.
- Create a blog, post and update regularly.
- Add fresh content regularly.
- Create a website for various devices and browsers such as mobile, iphone, blackberry, safari, firefox etc.
- Make sure all links are working properly.
- Build and optimise your website with the visitors in mind. Increase your website navigation and accessibility and make the check out page clear.
- Use call-to-actions.
- Avoid the optimisation for Search Engines only. Always keep your website visitors in mind.

It will take a while to see SEO results in the search engine result pages (SERPs); expect a wait of a couple of weeks to possibly months. You need to be patient and continue implementing the best SEO practices. Search engines especially Google, start indexing more frequently and in my last post I have mentioned the Google Next Generation search infrastructure which Google Caffeine has launched. The idea behind this is to give real-time search results which will be reflected more on the social media arena but will definitely have some effect on the other SEO practices. The other point you need to consider is the frequency of changes in the search engine algorithms. Today’s techniques may be obsolete tomorrow. You need to keep an eye on the changes and make sure your website has all the requirements to guarantee a high organic ranking.

In addition to SEO and e-marketing practices, a hotel or a travel company differ from other e-tailers or shopping sites. They are not selling materials; they are selling dreams and different experiences. Their way to convert the SEO traffic to revenue is by taking your website to the next level. Increasing the accessibility and navigation of your website, make it both user-friendly and search-engine friendly. Ensure that your website offers real-time booking facilities and more. The communication with your guests starts with your website so make sure your website is smiling and welcoming to them. This is where the experience will start and the first impression will develop. Once you create this connection, your website will not only drive traffic and increase visibility but also drive revenue. Starts the experience right now!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Next Generation Google Infrastructure: Google Caffeine

Google has announced a new secret project called Google Caffeine – the next generation web search infrastructure. The idea behind it is to crawl a larger chunk of the web, index and rank changes in the organic search algorithm on a more frequent basis. Basically Google inviting web developers to previews the new Infrastructure and try get their feedback.

Google and other major search engines fail to respond to the daily and real time search results. Millions of new content is added, shared and posted on the web everyday. This push search engines to increase their indexing capacities and respond to this new content more frequently. A while ago I heard a lot of search marketers asking which is better in terms of search (mostly real-time search) “Google” or “Twitter”? Even Matt Cuts mentioned that they are different and to benefit the most you need to use them on a relevant basis. For instance a search about real-time feedback and communication Twitter may provide more useful and better results, however most of the results may be spam. Google is better when searching for general terms, trends and information etc. Today’s consumers are more demanding and looking for more real-time results and that is what makes Twitter so popular. With Google’s new infrastructure, it seems that the competition is taken to the next level. Google has the potential and resources to make this happen but we need to take into consideration that Twitter’s new initiatives, contributions and investments from other search engines will bring the new concept of search which will shape the future.

To give you an example of one of the impacts on Google search results: When searching on Google for “London Hotels Reviews” here is the list at 11:00 am

Here is the result page for the same day at 14:30 in the afternoon. As you see changes and number of comments and reviews and content changed. This is what we will see more in the near future. Of course when you visit the next day the page you will notice changes in the search results.

Real-time and blended is going to be a powerful foundation in the search market. With the new infrastructure, Google aims to be leading in this as in the general search. Twitter has changed the way of search work and proved how real-time can be an important aspect. As mentioned in the beginning of the article, everyday there are hundred of thousands new content, posts and comments generating on the web, the only way to compete and provide the most relevant search result is by implementing real-time and blended search. This is what the future shows and we are now in the future.

I would love to hear from you about this subject. Please feel free to add your comments.

Thank you!


Thursday, 6 August 2009

News and Market Updates From The Online Marketing Show ‘09

The majority of the seminars and presentations at this year Online Marketing Show naturally were focused on how to remain competitive in the tough economy. As experts anticipate the effects of the downturn to continue into 2010 and some even into 2011, budgets are tightened and businesses are careful to spend money on marketing. Every penny is counted and resources are spent with the utmost care.

As a result of this corporate belt-tightening, marketing efforts are focused on existing customers to return to the business, rather than on trying to generate new business – the old Pareto principle at work, in other words. Despite this trend, there are plenty of examples of new developments and changes to existing technology and techniques that offer businesses the opportunity to reach new customers and increase revenues at a lower cost than ever before.

As the economic turmoil lowers spending, marketing budgets are changing. An increasingly greater part is ear-marked for online marketing use and less of the marketing spend is allocated to the traditional media. One of the reasons for this shift is that as a marketing channel the internet provides effective measurement and tracking tools many times at little or no cost, putting the business in the driver’s seat. This makes the online marketing channel unique in that businesses can monitor and track any money that is spent online and accurately measure the return on investment – affording normal businesses the information they need to make more informed decisions. On the flip side, as more companies embrace digital marketing, staying ahead of the competition will require a more targeted and comprehensive approach to succeed. Search engine algorithms change and new tools, media, and marketing channels are launched everyday. In order to stay in the battle for online visibility these changes have to be monitored, adopted and implemented as part of an ongoing strategic e-Marketing planning and implementation programme.

Some of the topics that were of particular importance to implementing and maintaining such a comprehensive online marketing programme are search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), Social Media and Mobile Marketing, also topics given special attention at the Marketing Show.

During several natural search engine optimisation presentations, it was stressed that staying ahead of the competition can no longer be done by implementing the basic elements of SEO. As more business enter the e-Marketing marketplace, search engines adopt to new search behaviours, a changing marketplace and competitive landscape in order to as closely as possible match the term searched with relevant and high quality results. As such, algorithms change more frequently and increasingly employ the use of blended and semantic search. Search engines now index blogs, online PR site, images, video and the myriad of social media sites in order to place business sites on the organic search engine results pages (SERPS) as effectively as possible. As such, a search engine marketer today has to consider these elements when looking at ways to increase a business’ ranking, in addition to implementing (and keeping up to date) the traditional and more basic SEO activities.

Social Media continues to be a very popular topic. Especially with the proliferation of Facebook, Twitter and the many other social networks, a marketer inevitably has to consider these networks as pillars of their online marketing strategy, if they are to be successful. Consumers have become publishers and now control a business’ brand and reputation to a greater extent than ever before. The ubiquity of technology has shifted the power from the large brands to the people. And consumers talk. Openly, in public online spaces about the businesses they engage with and about their experiences, both positive and negative. Some research has found that up to 90 percent of customers read reviews before making a purchase decision. The implications are astounding and businesses around the globe will have to follow the conversation in order to respond and engage in ways that has never before been possible. Not “listening” or engaging when it is expected can have devastating effects on a company’s online credibility, which today, translates into real-world money. Here the use of social media analytics software tools, which can help a brand monitor these simultaneous brand “conversations” flourish. These tools can help facilitate what has become an almost impenetrable communication jungle to bring the business into a position of influence.

Pay-per-click (PPC) was also high on the agenda. PPC has the power to above average returns (ROI’s) and gives a business the opportunity to track costs and revenues, conversions, and lost business. However, as the number of companies who run PPC campaigns rise, so does the cost-per-click (CPC), making it inherently more difficult for companies to remain at the top. To counteract this trend, one of the suggestions discussed at the Marketing Show, which I personally have good experience with, is to bid on different types of keywords (broad, phrase and exact matches), ensure landing pages are optimised, keep an eye on competitors and vary bidding by parts of the day, seasonality and geographical targeting. These techniques in combination or as part of a strategic e-Marketing plan would yield higher returns if done right.

The last and perhaps hottest topic at the show was mobile marketing. The usage of the iPhone and similar mobile devices have made browsing the web easier and more affordable on-the-go leading to a plethora of new applications, techniques and software arising in the marketplace. Google Android, Google’s mobile operating system, is an example of such an application. Only last year around 17 million people accessed the internet via their mobile device just in the UK. This of course means that they way websites are built, the way we do marketing, and the way we target our customers will have to change over time – as we go from desktop computers, to laptops to mobiles giving access to information wherever, whenever.

Other developments such as the usage of 2D bar codes are increasing. For the uninitiated 2D bar codes differ from the normal 1D bar codes in that they can store much more information (not like your standard 1D bar code that you see on products at your local grocery store). 2D bar codes can store information such as product reviews, ticketing information, booking confirmations, and much, much more. Millions of mobile phones can read 2D bar codes in the UK and this is predicted to rise. The suggested implication is that these types of information transmitters will change the way we understand the concept of wireless mobility and perhaps the long-awaited paperless society.

The mobile area is a rapidly developing area and it is exciting to see these developments have the potential to improve and change many archaic and long-overdue processes.

Velit Dundar


The Online Marketing Show ‘09 took place in the Grand Hall at Olympia on the 30th of June and the 1st of July, 2009. I spent two days at the event and attended several of the seminars and presentations. I hope my summary of the event recaptures the highlights from this event.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Why Social Media Matters to the Hotel industry?

Social Media is one of the hottest trends nowadays. We hear everyone talking about social media and the number of users increases day by day.

The idea behind social media is to connect people and friends and provide them the platform to engage with each other. Most commonly used social media tools are: blog, facebook, twitter, myspace, youtube, linkedin, tripadvisor and many more.

Why is it important?

We are living in an information age which is fast changing and more competitive. The internet provides endless sources of information and gives the platform to connect the market and share information.

People like sharing information, comment and talk about their experiences. Social media at this point provides the platform to make their voice heard by everyone.

According to many researches people trust their virtual friends comments and recommendations more than hotels and companies. Over 70% of people looked at a review before they make their hotel booking in 2008. What this mean is that more and more people are using review sites such as TripAdvisor to gather information about people's experiences who stayed there before. And these reviews affect their purchasing behaviors’.

As you see Google and other search engines display more social media related search results:

Search Results from "Yahoo"

Search Result from "Bing"

This is not the only reason why hoteliers should consider Social Media and define a clear strategy for Social media channel. There is another as important reason which is Universal (Blended) Search which effects your online visibility and organic ranking.

“Also known as blended or federated search results; universal search pulls data from multiple databases to display on the same page. Results can include images, videos, and results from specialty databases like maps and local information, product information, or news stories. (according to”

Why Universal Search?

- Because it is the future, because search engines like Google and Yahoo start increasing the usage of it.

- Because search engines want to provide the most relevant results to the visitors, they blend the search with text, images, audio, video, blogs, maps and other applications to make it happen.

- More importantly it is free and increases your organic ranking.

Implementing Social Media Marketing Strategy will increase your organic ranking and online visibility. It also helps build awareness and branding and reputation.

Make sure you have a clear social media plan and strategy to benefit from online visibility and visitors purchasing behaviors and keep your credibility online.

Velit Dundar

Friday, 26 June 2009

Some of the webinar questions from the Audience

After the Webinar in May, we had several very good questions from the audience. We have picked out some of them and posted our answers below. If you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

"How I could get the best from SEO?"

SEO is a long-term commitment. It takes between 3 to 6 months to get marked results, sometimes longer.

In order to benefit from SEO, you need to implement SEO as an ongoing activity. Starting from your website titles, keywords and content, adding meta tags, keywords and descriptions to the coded html pages, implementing a linking strategy, creating new content frequently, implementing and managing a blog, online PR and social media activities and much more.

You need to be careful when starting SEO implementation as some of the tactics you may get or hear from others might not be acceptable by the search engines. This kind of unethical SEO implementation is called "Black Hat SEO". Search engines' algorithms change very often and they get smarter every year. Part of their utility, is that your website activities are easily noticed by the search engines, but that also means any unethical practices you do will also get recorded. Such activities can damage your ranking and in some bases the search engines may block your site from their lists, or list your website as spam. As such, you are advised to follow search engine recommendations and keep your website updated accordingly.

"How I can register with Google for Local Business directory to appear on their front page with the map?"

In order to register to Google's Local Business Listing you need to have a Gmail account. You can follow the link to start:

During the sign up process, you will also be asked to give your phone number for verification purposes. Please note that at the end of the registration process you will be given a code which Google will ask you when they call to verify your details. You can opt to activate your listing "now" or later. If you select now, you will receive a phone call asking for the code. Once you have verified this code, your business listing will be activated. Please note however, that it may take a few weeks to be displayed on the Google maps.

"How to register for Google Analytics?"

In order to register to use Google Analytics you need to go to Google Analytics, create a profile and add your website. Once you have activated your analytics account, Google will provide you with a string of code. You will need to copy this code and paste it to all pages within your website. It will take a couple of minutes to be activated and then you will be able to receive data and monitor your website traffic.

I will include a session about Google Analytics in our upcoming webinar. During this webinar you will learn how to set a Google Analytics account, how to get the data, what kind of metrics you need to monitor, conversion etc.

"What kind of message hotels can send by Twitter?"

Twitter is a micro-blogging site, which allows you to share messages with your network of friends and followers 140 characters at a time. It is a new way of communication and is gaining in popularity. It is generally used for personal communication purposes, however some businesses have seen a commercial benefit in using it to communicate and engage with customers and would-be customer groups.

Anyone, can follow you and receive a notification when you have posted a new message on Twitter. Many brands such Virgin has millions of followers, who all receive notifications whenever Virgin posts a message, new deals, and other information about Virgin. Although twitter is very popular, commercialising or turning Twitter into a revenue generating channel has even the Twitter management team wondering. At the moment registration is free and everyday more and more companies join this site. The caveat to making Twitter work for you will be to create interest, add value, and encourage those who follow your brand to recommend you to their friends. To do that, requires time and effort from all staff.

Here is as an example we applied for one of our customers:

I hope this example will give you some ideas about the messages and the informal tone of this channel.

"What software do you recommend to do SEO"

I am not sure what exactly you mean by SEO software as there is no tool that actually does the SEO for you, to my knowledge. Related to SEO are keyword search tools, content management systems that allow non-technical users to access a websites code, analytics software and directory submission software. Perhaps you could clarify this so that I can better understand what you are looking for: email me at

What I think you might mean is a search engine and directory submission software, and these do exist. However, I would recommend manual submission as the number of submission required in order to increase your ranking and PageRank (website popularity) is somewhere between 50-100 popular directories and search engines.

"I didn't get all the meeting can you send me the ppt by email"
We added the webinar with audio to our website as it is too large to e-mail directly. To view the whole presentation, please visit our website: and request the link or if you attended, please see the email sent 24/06/09 for more information.

"Is there any study on the credibility of social media marketing as perceived by potential guests? Any metrics on how much business (as % of total revenue) is actually generated through social media marketing?"

According to PhoCusWright's Consumer Technology Survey , 2008 - 84% of travellers reported that they have read a travel review online before booking.

In the same survey; 91% of respondents said they read reviews about hotels, while, 70% of respondents are likely to post review on hotels.

This survey, from a credible source, tells us something about the impact that social media have on travellers' booking decisions. And it is not only telling about online bookings, but these social media review sites affect bookings made offline as well.

However, this data does not give us enough grounds to assume anything about revenues, but a customer of ours, went from number 3 to number 1 on TripAdvisor and saw definite increase in their bookings and revenues as a result. This will of course not be so easy to measure in every hotel as there are many factors that influence bookings. It is however, safe to say that the social media play a role, an important one at that in swaying a guest to book with property A versus property B, if property B consistently gets negative reviews, and property A consistently gets positive review.

Another important aspect that is also not easily measurable, is the positive effect the social media have on brand awareness. From the hotels we work we can see that social media (and not only review sites, but other types of social media sites as well) helps their online reputation by giving the hotels a forum for interacting with their guest post their stay, build relationships and loyalty. Also, it is a great way to boost website rankings particularly if the hotel has a blog, posts photos, has a Facebook profile and the likes.

To conclude, it is inherently difficult to quantify how much revenue social media generate directly or indirectly. Part of the reason for this is that people's booking patterns are not linear. There are other factors that influence this as well. However, whether we can quantify the exact contribution of revenue or not, it suffices to say that this is a channel that has an influence on people's perceptions of your offering, whether a hotelier is actively managing this channel or not. So, our advice would be to anyone wondering whether they should start looking into social media as a marketing channel, you're customers and guests are already talking about you, so why not join in the conversation?

If you or anyone else comes across studies, surveys or data that can help further our understanding of the social media channels, please send them to

"Organic & paid search results are crowded with many similar competing products. For non-branded hotels/chains, credibility level could be low in comparison to their big brand counterparts. They will need services of an e-intermediary like Travelocity, Priceline etc. Does internet really provide for disintermediation?"

In SEO and PPC ranking the ranking does not depend on the popularity and credibility of the hotel chains. Rankings depends your website's search engine friendliness and your webmaster following SEO guidelines and best practices when building and maintaining the website. The same applies to PPC search results though in a somewhat different way. E.g. your ranking will depend on CPC (cost-per-click), keyword relevancy, quality score, landing page and more. Fortunately, for smaller hotels, these elements have nothing to do with how big a hotel chain is or how much credibility it has elsewhere in the marketplace.

Because the internet offers the opportunity to small and medium non-branded groups or chains and even to independent hotels to compete with the big brands (both on the supplier side and the intermediary side), it does in a way provide for intermediation. Of course, that's not to say that it is not a competitive marketplace and that usually larger chains have more money to spend online, but our experience shows that even a completely new hotel - read more about one of our clients, an independent property who with the right strategy, won the online game even without the use of any intermediary.

On the topic of credibility, branding is very important as it may open the door for new customers, but considering that approximately 60% of European hotels are independents there is a lot of room for growth and plenty opportunities that exits today evening out the playing field. One such channel, as we have mentioned earlier, are review sites. With over 91% of people reading reviews before making a booking, there is a strong case for hotels and resorts of all shapes and sizes, brand-affiliated or not, to make sure that their brand is maintained, invested in, and looked after online, as well as offline.

If you have any other questions that you would like answered or would like us to review during our next webinar, please let me know by filling in the contact form here.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Webinar: Creating Successful e-Marketing Strategies for the Travel & Hospitality Industries

The internet has become a unique sales and distribution channel for the hospitality and travel industries, but many are uncertain of where to start and how to get the most out of the channel.Our FREE webinar will help you get started, so sign up now.

Among other things, the internet has changed the way we do business and communicate with each other. For the travel and hospitality sectors, the internet has given companies new opportunities to differentiate themselves to their customers who are increasingly starting their purchases online. Nowadays, having a representative and operable e-business unit is a piece of real estate as important as your hotel, travel agent or call centre - it has become a "must" in order to remain competitive and survive especially in these tough times. Arguably, businesses cannot afford to stay a "brick and mortar" business only - they must market to their online customer in conjunction with their offline marketing to stay ahead.

However, implementing a well-functioning e-business department in an organization requires strategic planning and attention to detail that may ellude the e-novice. This first webinar in a series of four will outline how to create successful e-marketing strategies and to help you plan and implement your e-strategies.

What: "Creating Successful e-marketing strategies for the travel & hospitality industries"
When: On May 28th, 2009 at 14:00 British Standard Time (15:00 European time)

By attending to this webinar you will answer these questions:

  • Why is e-Marketing so important?
  • What are the benefits of e-marketing?
  • How do I create an e-Strategy for my business?
  • How do I develop an e-Marketing Plan? What should I consider & how do I prepare it?
  • What should be included in my e-Marketing Plan for 2009?

Who Should Attend?

  • E-Marketing & e-Commerce Professionals on all levels
  • Sales & Marketing Professionals on all levels
  • Hotel GMs
  • Assistant GMs
  • Managers/Directors
  • Anyone else who is interested in learning more about e-Marketing

So sign up today, it's FREE so click here or copy and paste this link into your browser: