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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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October 28, 2015

Why Priceline Believes in the Death of Search Engine Optimization (Travel Tuesday)

October 28, 2015 | By | No Comments

The Death of Search Engine Optimization

Want to know one cause for the rising cost of guest acquisition? Look no further than the declining prominence and effectiveness of natural search as Google increasingly places paid ads higher on the search results pages. This reduces both the number of natural results per page and your guests’ opportunities to see those ads. The problem has become so pronounced that, in a report from Skift’s Global Forum, Priceline.com CEO Paul Hennessy announced the death of search engine optimization. Money quote:

“As far as SEO is, my view on that is it’s more of a desktop thought because as the devices get smaller and smaller and smaller, the number of choices from an SEO perspective on mobile decline dramatically. And so I believe it is a paid world.”

Well, that’s a bummer. If you subscribe to Hennessy’s worldview, you’d have to expect your paid costs will continue to increase. But you already know that. You’re living that every day.

However, this particular cloud really does have a few silver linings. For one thing, this hurts the folks trying to disrupt you as much as it hurts you. And, in some ways, more. For instance, Tnooz says that Airbnb is increasing its host fees as way to pay for Google advertising (a topic we covered a little bit in this week’s Hospitality Marketing Link Digest). That’s a mixed blessing for hoteliers, as it will drive up the rates Airbnb hosts charge — and will help protect hotel rates in those same markets.

Additionally, OTA’s, which by definition should possess lower quality scores than the hotels whose brand terms they sometimes bid on, have to pay higher costs than hotel marketers on a per-click basis. Or, at least they do when you focus on creating high quality content for your hotel’s website to show Google you’re a better answer to a guest’s questions.

Also lost in all of this is the fact that Priceline currently is hiring SEO product managers—and probably would love to see hotels reduce their SEO efforts. I don’t know about you, but I’d take Hennessey’s comments with a grain—if not a whole chunk—of salt.

Is search growing? It’s complicated. Desktop search isn’t really growing, while mobile search is. But, as Hennessy accurately points out, fewer opportunities exist for your hotel to appear in mobile search due to the size of the screen and Google’s increased use of paid placements in the search results. Add to that the fact that guests often substitute apps in place of “traditional” search, and you can see why this is a mess. Even if its growth has slowed, search remains an important part of traffic and reservations for your hotel’s website. And, I can’t imagine abandoning search engine optimization or paid search marketing as a positive at this point.

Instead, the real takeaways for your hotel marketing include:

  • SEO and content marketing remain a cost of doing business—and likely will be so for some time to come
  • Quality content continues to improve your natural search rankings and drive down your paid media costs by improving your paid search quality scores
  • Link-building activity—a key component of SEO activities—can help drive referred traffic in addition to its assumed “SEO benefit”
  • In other words, effectively executing your SEO and content marketing strategies drives business

In fact, the more nuanced—and in my mind accurate—quote in the Skift report comes from Evan Reece, Co-Founder and CEO of Liftopia, right at the very end of the article:

“So perhaps the way we think about SEO now, it is dying a bit. But delivering value to users has been a huge driver of success even within that old world, and brands that focus on that value creation will likely benefit from Google’s new world of delivering that value.”

As long as you continue to focus on creating high-quality content, that’s snackable, sharable, and sharp (something I talked about in my 2016 Trends report a few weeks back), and expand your use social for promotion, you should still expect to receive benefit from search for some time to come.

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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July 30, 2014

The State of Search Marketing – Thinks Out Loud Episode 83

July 30, 2014 | By | No Comments

What's the state of search

The State of Search Marketing Headlines and Show Notes

You might also enjoy this look at what your customers expect from e-commerce in 2014 and my slides from the “Digital Marketing Directions – Exploit the Trends that Shape Travel Marketing” talk I gave recently:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 14m 19s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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July 24, 2014

Panda Attacks: What You Can Learn from eBay’s E-commerce SEO Mistake

July 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

E-commerce SEO tipsFor the last week or so, I’ve been looking at ways to improve your overall e-commerce effectiveness, noting why e-commerce will continue its strong growth, and why e-commerce and mobile go hand-in-hand. But search remains a huge part of effective traffic driver for many businesses. The question you need to worry about: Is your e-commerce SEO up to snuff?

You see, eBay, who you’d think would be really good at both e-commerce and SEO, committed one of Google’s deadly sins: They presented consumers with a large number of thin, uninteresting pages. And Google struck back, delisting tons of pages and cutting eBay’s search engine traffic by greater than 33% (according to Search Engine Land). Well, earlier this week, we all learned that this Panda penalty will cost eBay almost $200 million in revenue this year.

Um… yikes.

The only good news from this story is that you don’t have to let this happen to you. Instead, you can learn from eBay’s mistakes to improve your e-commerce SEO — and stay in Google’s good graces. Here are a few ideas on how to do that:

  • Provide your customers useful, helpful, relevant content. Ebay’s biggest problem, by far, was the number of truly awful pages on their site, with many showing a product image, headline, and little else. Create rich, detailed product descriptions for your products and services, work to attract relevant links from appropriate channel partners, and continue to improve your site’s response time to demonstrate to Google — and to your customers — that you offer quality content.
  • Focus on your most important product pages. Your time is your most valuable resource. Don’t waste it worrying about the pages and products no one sees. Instead, put your web analytics and sales data to work, see which products and pages your customers spend the most time with, then focus on improving those pages first. Over time you can then roll out what you’ve learned to the rest of your site.
  • Mobile matters. I know, I know. I’ve talked about the importance of mobile in search and e-commerce for a while now. But I’m serious. It really matters. Mobile now accounts for at least a third of all search traffic. And Google has admitted that mobile-friendly sites rank better in mobile search than those that make it hard for customers to browse, shop, and buy. Regardless of Panda or anything else Google may do, you risk losing customers to competitors if they can’t find your site in Google — or use it when they arrive. Improve your overall e-commerce usability and your mobile presence to help your customers

I’ve looked at each of these items in more detail — plus offered 5 more e-commerce SEO tips — in my latest Biznology column: e-Commerce SEO: How to avoid eBay’s $200 million Panda mistake. Check out the entire list when you get a moment.

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Digital Marketing Directions: Three Trends Shaping 2014 Hospitality Internet Marketing. Again, it was built for a travel audience, but its lessons apply across industries. The full deck is here:

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the e-commerce and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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June 6, 2014

What Google Won’t Tell You About Search Engine Marketing

June 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

Do you know what a search engine really is? Do you know how search engine marketing is continuing to evolve? No? Well, eMarketer has some crazy research out this week that talks about how companies are shifting US mobile ad dollars to search apps and how that will affect your business:

“As smartphone and tablet usage continue to increase, users are becoming more sophisticated, blurring their mental division between browsers and apps. Mobile marketers are responding to the fact that mobile search behavior is becoming less comparable with its desktop/laptop counterpart, and as a result, the market for mobile search advertising continues to fragment.”

Once upon a time, I posed a trick question, asking you all to consider the following image and answer which of the apps shown were search engines:

What is a search engine?

The reason it’s a trick question is because all these apps are search engines, with many vertical apps today taking the place of “traditional” search. As eMarketer notes:

“Google owned 82.8% of the $2.24 billion mobile search market in 2012… Google still dominates browser-based searches on mobile devices, but niche search apps are also becoming much more prevalent. This caused Google’s share to drop to 68.5% in 2013, according to eMarketer estimates, while the long tail of “other” companies increased share from 5.4% to 22.9%. This year, we expect Google’s share to fall again, to 65.7%, while the “other” category reaches 27.3%.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that Google’s shrinking, only that the use of mobile apps is growing faster than search overall as a means for customs to get answers to their questions.

So, who’s winning? It’s not just “search engines.” While “…search stalwarts like Yahoo and Bing” do well, a whole category known as “Other” has gained significant share. Who are they?

““Other” also includes niche service providers such as travel metasearch apps like KAYAK, job search apps like Indeed, e-commerce sales apps like Amazon and contextual search apps like Shazam… and Yelp is one of the companies beginning to emerge from the pack”

So, Google’s fallen from roughly 83% of all “searches” to only about 2/3rds in less than two years, with Yelp, Amazon, Kayak, and others gaining huge volumes. This demonstrates why I’ve suggested that local search increasingly is all about apps and that search engines will look very different in the coming months and years.

That’s also why I continue to recommend you improve your marketing through a variety of tactics:

  • Build your email list and social connections. Bypass any intermediary — search engine or otherwise — and talk directly with your customers.
  • Explore alternative marketing channels. Evaluate channels in use by your customers and seek ways to help them accomplish their goals in those channels.
  • Learn from market leaders. A number of outstanding companies are using mobile to deepen their relationship with customers. Watch for best practices and look for opportunities to apply them to your business.

I can’t tell you for sure what search engines will look like in a year’s time — or whether your customers will use “search engines” at all. However, I can tell you how to prepare so that no matter how your customers search, you want to be sure they can find you.

Interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Digital Marketing Directions: Three Trends Shaping 2014 Hospitality Internet Marketing:

Finally, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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May 12, 2014

What in the World is Happening with Local Search?

May 12, 2014 | By | One Comment

Man using smartphoneThere’s some interesting stuff going on in the world of small business web marketing, particularly with regard to restaurants that has huge impact on local search. Check this out:

Now, some folks suggest this is all about Google competing with Yelp. And I suspect that’s true.

But I also suspect that’s only part of the story.

For one thing, that doesn’t take into account what other players offer at all. Square’s Order app (only available in New York and San Francisco, at the moment), TripAdvisor (though only in France, I believe), and OpenTable, for instance, provide similar functionality and, more importantly, valuable relationships with restauranteurs.

On top of that, most of the write-ups I’ve seen about these acquisitions fail to note that, according to Yodle, “…more than half of SMB owners do not have a website (52%) or even measure the results of their marketing programs (56%).”

Instead, here’s what I think is happening — and why you should care.

I suspect the real reason for these moves is the current shift among consumers towards app usage. Google has relied on search to fill its coffers for years. And as consumers instead use apps to find, research, browse, and buy from local vendors they know and trust — and all evidence suggests they do — Google could easily find itself on the outside looking in. Square, by offering low-cost credit card readers to many small businesses, has gotten a toe-hold with those businesses directly. And they’re starting to use that toe-hold as a stepping stone (if I can mix metaphors), to drive customers to those businesses.

Just like a search engine would.

OpenTable already does the same thing. So does Yelp. And TripAdvisor.

All these tools rely on content from their small business partners. Content that used to be the domain of search engines and, increasingly, appear as the domain of apps.

What all this reflects is the reality that consumers don’t search on the desktop the way they once did (this is the part you should care about). Mobile is changing customer behavior in seriously meaningful ways.

Google sees it. Square sees it. TripAdvisor and Yelp and Foursquare and Facebook and plenty of others see it too. The question is whether you’re doing everything you can to ensure your business benefits, too.

[Note: Updated to include reference to TripAdvisor’s purchase of LaFourchette (which I left out originally) and Yelp’s launch of Yelp Reservations, which, literally happened about 12 hours after I first hit publish. Again, interesting times, well worth watching.]

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, you might want to register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Digital Marketing Directions: Three Trends Shaping 2014 Hospitality Internet Marketing:

Finally, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including: