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August 20, 2019

How Worried Are You About Google Next Year? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 255)

August 20, 2019 | By | No Comments

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How Worried Are You About Google Next Year? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 255) – Headlines and Show Notes

Google’s making more noise about ways to stick it to brands and businesses, potentially charging for (currently free) features in Google My Business. Even if your company doesn’t depend on these specific features for your business, it’s part of a larger pattern that demonstrates again how “gatekeepers gonna gate.” And, as we’ve talked about before, that’s a troubling trend. If you’re not worried about Google next year, it begs the question, should you be?

Since we’re begging the question, the latest episode of Thinks Out Loud comes out and asks, how worried are you about Google next year? And whether you’re worried or not, what should you do about it?

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Relevant Links:

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Neumann TLM 102 Cardoid Condenser microphone and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB audio interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 18m 44s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Notes

  • Should we be paying for Google My Business features?
  • Over half of Google searches result in no clicks
    • as Fishkin points out, a US congressional panel recently asked Google if it was true that less than 50 percent of searches lead to non-Google websites. It was a simple Yes-No question, but the Big G eschewed giving a direct response. Instead, it took a dig at the authenticity of the data cited – without denying it.
  • Should you be scared? Well, it’s a complicated question:
    • Some folks could argue, based on the failure of Google+, the coming shutdown of Google Hangouts, Google Glass, Google KNol, etc. that the company doesn’t know what they’re doing
    • For one thing, Google kills products.
    • For another, it often incorporates features of those products into new products or directly into search.
      • Look at Google Trips and how those features are re-appearing in Google Maps and how several Inbox by Gmail features have made their way directly into Gmail
      • Google Showtimes was a movie search; those features now just appear in Google search given the right search query. For example, “movies playing near me” or the title of a given movie.

Gatekeepers gonna gate.

  • I’m troubled by Google’s access to data
  • They get smarter all the time
  • I’ve been asking whether we should trust data since at least 2014 and hinted at it much earlier than that.
  • Where do you think they learn what people want?
    • Oh, right, folks tell them every day both in use and in queries
    • They’ve got a huge advantage
    • And you could definitely argue they use it unfairly
  • AI won’t take your job. Smart people who use AI will
  • I’m not counting on Congress even with all the recent rumblings.
    • I said Congress would likely do something about this…in 2011. Heh.
    • I’m pretty good at understanding tech trends; I clearly don’t know enough about politics. 🙂
Tim Peter

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May 10, 2019

The Hotel Marketing and Distribution Trend You Care About Most This Year

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

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Hotel marketing and distribution: Why Google matters

Let’s talk distribution for a minute. Yeah, I know, distribution is one of the least sexy aspects of the hotel industry. It’s also one of the most important, especially for hotel owners and independent hotel operators. Hotel owners, operators, and brands looking for ways to reduce costs and increase profitability need to continue thinking about how they’re going to acquire guests in a cost-effective manner. Also, hotel marketing and distribution are joined at the hip. And the whole topic is about about to get much, much more interesting.

Why? What’s going on here?

In a word, it’s Google. Google is what’s going on here.

The Beast That Scares the 800-lb. Gorillas in Hotel Marketing and Distribution

Google isn’t the 800-lb. gorilla of the hotel industry. No, Google is a much larger and more ferocious beast that has all the industry’s 800-lb. gorillas running for cover. Google is stealing mindshare — and potential margins — from OTA’s and other intermediaries every single day. No less an observer than Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom plainly stated that Google represents his company’s biggest competitor. In his words, “The internet has been littered with the bodies of companies put out of business by Google.” Okerstrom’s job is to make sure Expedia isn’t one of them.

Okerstrom is right. It’s no secret guests increasingly use Google as the first stop in their decision-making journey. And with recent integrations of Google’s artificial intelligence-powered, travel booking capable Assistant into Google Maps on Android and iPhones alike, expect even greater use of the search giant when guests plan their stay. There are over 3 million searches on Google every minute, with more than half of those on mobile and roughly 20% of those using voice. That’s at least 300,000 voices searches every minute, many of them targeted towards travel. Everyone’s scrambling for share, further driving up the cost of acquiring guests.

For example, Expedia, Booking.com, and others — OK, Expedia and Booking’s subsidiary brands and metasearch channels — recognize this shift, spending more on marketing and advertising with Google to drive more traffic to their direct channels. That’s a switch, huh? But it’s a fact. To drive traffic to its sites, Booking.com paid Google in Q3 alone last year somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion.

Nice neighborhood, eh?

At the same time, as Google increases the amount of metasearch and paid inventory in its search results page, it’s also driving up costs for individual hotel owners and operators. Worse, without solid connectivity solutions — which far too many independent hotels lack — hotels can be shut out of Google’s latest product offerings and miss out on direct revenue opportunities altogether.

How to Deal With Google’s Domination of Hotel Marketing and Distribution

So how can you ensure you earn your rightful place at the table and gain booking share without significantly increasing your cost of guest acquisition? Here’s how:

  • Develop a comprehensive distribution strategy that includes both search and metasearch. Search is a distribution channel. And the search landscape gets more and more challenging every day. SEO, paid search, voice search, metasearch, AI, schemas, and whatever else Google rolls out next can’t be considered in isolation. Each plays a role in driving guests towards your direct booking channels and in delivering flow-through — positive or negative — towards your bottom line. Similar thinking should shape your OTA agreements. Do your internal team, website development firm, and marketing agency understand how to best make these work together to deliver the lowest total cost of distribution for your property? This is critical question that your property must get right. Otherwise, you risk continuing to fund OTA’s bidding against you in search, driving up the costs of your hotel marketing and distribution, and further risking your property’s distinct value proposition.
  • Offer destination content to gain guests earlier in their decision-making journey. Data shows that guests who start their research on OTA’s book on OTA’s. I strongly suspect the same will be true for Google before long, most likely in the form of metasearch and partnerships. Already, Google displays a remarkable number of paid listings and metasearch results before getting to organic results. This is a huge problem for hotel marketers. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, guests who don’t come to your website never get the chance to book direct. It’s critical you use content about your destination to move deeper into the long tail of search, getting guests to your site early in the journey and for terms that aren’t flooded with paid/metasearch offerings already. Google’s AI-driven search results place significant value on quality content. Give them — and your guests — something worth finding.
  • Focus on increasing conversion rates on direct channels. Here’s a simple truth: It’s always going to cost you something to get guests to contact you. You’d damn well better make sure they convert when they do. It doesn’t matter whether guests come to your website or call your reservations line; every lost opportunity increases your cost. Take a close look at where your reservations come from, how effective your direct channels are at turning interest into action, and how to improve those results to get the best return on your spend.
  • Ensure your connectivity options support Google — and potential future competitors. Do your direct channels appear in Google’s metasearch results today? Or does your property only appear via intermediaries? The latter is a clear sign you’re paying more for reservations than you should — likely much more. Make sure your team is working towards placing your property’s direct channels front and center in metasearch on Google, as well as on other metasearch partners who offer the opportunity to challenge Google in the future. Or accept the fact that you’re always going to pay more for bookings than you should. But that doesn’t seem like a good long-term plan to me.

Conclusion

Distribution funnels through a limited number of chokepoints and gatekeepers. And, at least for the foreseeable future, the number of gatekeepers continues to shrink towards just one: Google. If Expedia worries about Google eating its lunch, you might want to given the search giant some thought too. And then you want to put those thoughts into action.

Google may be the beast that 800-lb. gorillas fear. That doesn’t mean it should scare you. Individual property owners and operators may not be 800-lb. gorillas. But unlike the big guys, they can run through the jungle much faster. Think about your hotel marketing and distribution strategically and you’ll be able to outrun the big guys for a long time to come.

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing customer behavior will shape your marketing going forward, 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 check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Finally, you might enjoy some of these past posts from Thinks to help you build your e-commerce strategy and your digital success:

A version of this article originally appeared on Hotel News Now as "The Distribution Trend You Care About Most in 2019"

Tim Peter

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March 2, 2018

Mike Moran on Content Marketing, Site Search, and AI: The Thinks Out Loud Interview (Thinks Out Loud Episode 214)

March 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

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Mike Moran on content marketing, site search, and AI

Mike Moran on Content Marketing, Site Search, and AI: The Thinks Out Loud Interview (Thinks Out Loud Episode 214) – Headlines and Show Notes

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil Sound PR 30 Large Diaphragm Multipurpose Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 28m 6s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Tim Peter

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October 31, 2015

Google, Mobile, E-commerce. What More Could You Want? – E-commerce Link Digest

October 31, 2015 | By | No Comments

What more could you want than a look at Google, mobile, e-commerce, and moreReady for the weekend? Even more important, are you ready for this week’s link digest? Well, let’s see. This time we’ve got posts about Google, mobile, e-commerce, social, streaming video, bitcoin, net neutrality, plus a couple inspirational posts that help explain how to succeed in digital—and in business overall. I mean, really, what more could you want? Enjoy:

  1. Well, Google’s been busy lately. First, Search Engine Land says that Google warns webmasters again not to use sneaky, mobile-based redirects, proving once again that mobile is where Google’s putting tons of its energies these days.
  2. While keeping with the Google and mobile theme, a recent episode of our Thinks Out Loud podcast asks, “Google, Apple or Facebook: Who’ll Win the Mobile Web?” Spoiler: it’s too soon to tell. But check out the whole episode to understand why. And on the same topic, Quartz explores why Google can’t stop talking about mobile until it comes to real numbers.
  3. Another Search Engine Land piece offers a great FAQ all about the new Google RankBrain algorithm, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve its search results, and Search Engine Land also reports that the search giant now provides RLSA to AdWords Shopping Ads with its shopping remarketing lists. . Cool feature, and very welcome for e-commerce marketers.
  4. Quartz highlights a couple of breaking bit coin stories this week, including the EU admitting bitcoin is a currency and that AmEx just made its first bitcoin investment. I’m planning to delve deeper into what makes bitcoin important for the e-commerce and digital strategy space in the next few weeks. These Quartz articles will give you a head start on the topic.
  5. Business Insider shines a light on the latest from the NFL featuring its experiment with streaming. The A/V Club pours cold water on the league’s announcement that 15.2 million unique users viewed the stream in an article thoroughly submerged in snark, but still notes:

    “…three seconds of involuntary football fandom might not sound like much, but look at the product being offered. This was a game between two dreadful squads hailing from second-tier cities. It was played early on a weekend morning, and people in Buffalo and Jacksonville could see it on TV, giving them little reason to watch it online. Yahoo’s web stream was engineered to lack appeal… When Yahoo’s engineers were able to dupe 15.2 trillion people into spending more than zero time on Buffalo-Jacksonville, they succeeded in moving the needle. League officials can be happy…”

    It seems there may be something to this streaming thing in the future after all.

  6. Changing gears, eMarketer rounding up research from top marketers and found increasing audience engagement remains a key objective in social media marketing. Some wag once even went so far as to say that tactic represents the single most effective way to improve your brand’s digital marketing.
  7. A great piece over on KissMetrics says, “It’s Time to Kill These 8 Deadly Online Marketing Myths.” Yep. I agree.
  8. A recent article from the Harvard Business Review that states “Companies Value Curiosity but Stifle It Anyway​” provided the inspiration for my post, “Learning How to Fail.” Failure in e-commerce and marketing happens. Learning how to do it right ensures they’ll let you stick around to do it again.
  9. PSFK details five key retail trends every brand should invest in. Brilliant list, and well worth your time this week.
  10. And, finally, Ars Technica updates us all after the EU voted in favor of Internet fast lanes and slow lanes, striking a huge blow for net neutrality. This is a monumentally stupid idea. As I’ve said before, net neutrality matters for businesses large and small. This isn’t a partisan issue. It isn’t “socialism.” An open Internet benefits consumers and businesses, large and small alike. Stay tuned for more on this topic over time.

Hope you have a fantastic weekend, Big Thinkers. And here’s hoping you have an amazing week ahead too!

If you’re interested in learning more about making the social, mobile web work for your customers, be sure to check out these “8 Excellent Autumn E-commerce and Digital Marketing Posts,” these “6 Must-See Mobile Commerce Messages for You,” this set of “9 Digital Marketing Must-Reads for You This Weekend” and other entries from our E-commerce Link Digest series, plus these “7 Special E-Commerce and Digital Marketing Trending Topics: The Top Posts of September, 2015.”

And if you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure and 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

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: