Founder and President of Milestone Internet Marketing
First and foremost we wish our readers a happy and prosperous New Year.
In 2013, searchers evolved the way they sought information on the Internet, and towards the end of the year, search engines released their updates to better meet modern queries such as voice and conversational search. In 2014, we will clearly be able to see the effects of these new ranking methods. Social outreach, conversational intent, authority of the site, relevancy of the content to query and overall content quality will significantly impact the way your websites perform.
Some key changes in search algorithms include the Hummingbird update, expanded knowledge graph results, inclusion of social signals as a ranking factor, local carousel results, penalization of sites for poor mobile experiences and higher download time. As we gear up for a robust 2014 by recognizing critical digital trends and setting up key resolutions, let's review the critical changes in the areas of search, social, paid and OTAs, as well as how these shifts impact our digital strategies and marketing plan.
Join Benu Aggarwal and the Milestone team on Wednesday, January 29 for a deeper dive into the Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2014. The 60-minute webinar will be followed by a 30-minute Q&A session, so bring your web marketing questions and make 2014 your best digital year yet!
When: Wednesday, January 29 from 10:00am - 11:30am Pacific Time
Before diving into individual trends, it is important to evaluate your digital marketing plan. There are four major areas of your plan that you should examine: where you are, what you want to accomplish, how you get there and over what channels/platforms you can achieve your goals. Once you have an understanding of the path, you need to understand how to measure effectiveness across each channel. After understanding the objectives of your digital marketing plan, prioritize the most relevant goals and take well defined steps to accomplish each one.
Google's most recent algorithm update, Hummingbird, changed the way results are delivered to queries. There are several factors and key components together are influenced by this new update. Google examined conversational search, used this to enhance its knowledge graph, and now has the power to comprehend different types of searches. The engine will examine each component of a search, from left to right, and ask who, what, where and how. Each answer will be delivered from Google's enhanced knowledge graph. The search engine can then put the pieces of the puzzle together to better understand the search.
How do I adapt my content to this algorithm? Google will be looking to deliver the most relevant results to each query. So, what makes a result relevant?
Relevancy is determined by several factors, and the most important element is intent. Ensure that your content satisfies a particular query, as well as a synonymous query. If you want to rank for the search, "Find a hotel near the Santa Clara Convention Center," then your content should have a page dedicated to its location in Santa Clara. Your page should expand on the topic and talk about how your hotel is located near the convention center. In addition to supplying conversational and relevant content about the topic, your page should feature enhancements that support the content, such as a map, structured data schemas, reliable links to an official site that provides additional information and social channel interaction. The most important piece of this puzzle is adding fresh content to your pages, through blurbs, updates, news and social engagement deeming your site as an active and reliable source. In the example below, we are sharing different sources you can utilize to keep your website and promotion channel content fresh, relevant and engaging.
Impact of Social on SEO
The hottest trend for social marketing for your business in 2014 is utilizing social marketing to drive tangible ROI both directly (driving traffic from social networks to existing conversion points) and indirectly (benefiting from the impact of social signals on SEO). As the impact of social media on search increases, it is important to align all of your content strategies to provide high quality content that fills the needs of your target consumer and enables them to make a purchase. Individual social networks may come and go, but having a robust content strategy will enable your business to increase revenue by giving your consumers what they want.
To achieve the goal of driving direct and indirect revenue via social media, study your social channels to see what consumers are saying about you and your market, and determine their underlying need. Create visually compelling content on your website - blogs, specials, packages - that fills this need. Then craft engaging messages with quality multimedia targeting the relevant demographic groups on each of your social networks, driving traffic back to your website content and your conversion points. By tapping into the necessities of your consumers, you can create compelling and interactive social networks that encourage consumer interaction while making your website more relevant to the search engines, driving organic traffic and increasing overall business and sales.
Mobile Experience and Responsive Site Design
In 2014, the prediction is that mobile Internet traffic will exceed desktop traffic. Therefore, Google incorporated the mobile experience into their search algorithm, and favored sites with a good experience in their ranking algorithm. In order to achieve a positive experience across all devices efficiently, Google recommends one URL. Allow your server to detect which device a customer is using and present them with a custom experience based on that device. The layout of your site should be adjusted based on the screen or window size of the user's device and customer intent as sown in the image below. By using a single URL, you increase your domain authority and eliminate the need to maintain separate mobile sites at different locations.
Top tips for success in mobile:
With the explosion of mobile, accurate information about your business on Apple, Google and Nokia maps and mobile friendly apps, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor becomes vitally important.
Reassess your PPC campaign's performance on mobile devices and ensure you are effectively allocating budget and tracking metrics. Along with online mobile conversions, ensure you are tracking offline (phone) conversions from mobile devices. Mobile call tracking tools allow you to track the number, length and actual call recording by dynamically inserting a forwarding number to your ad campaigns.
With the astronomic growth in mobile ad spend, you should optimize your campaign for a mobile device showing localized, organized content and images to the user. This allows for a more enhanced user experience and ultimately helps you increase bookings.
Ensure that your mobile site is integrated with your CMS so you can edit content based on user intent. This will allow you to effectively update all content in one place.
Google Local, Bing Local and Hyperlocal
Enhanced listings will continue to have a solid impact on local results. In the realm of hotel sites, travelers are using Google maps and location-based search extensively. It is critical to ensure that the information presented about your property is accurate on all of the local channels and consistent with the information on your website. Milestone has seen a direct impact on engagement and ROI from properly optimized channels. It is important to claim search friendly domains, enhance your channel with relevant posts and optimize your profile with accurate information, images, and videos. On hyperlocal channels such as Foursquare, Instagram and Pinterest, the supplied data is just as valuable as local directory data. It actually becomes more enhanced through real-life interactions and provides a strong social backing to your online authority. Be sure to capitalize on these channels by creating online time-bound specials, such as check-in offers and use these channels to develop a robust online presence.
Links and Authority Off-Page
Quality of links and citations is always important when building long-term relevancy for your domain. Search engines give more value to accuracy, quality, trust and authority of citations and links than the quantity of links. In fact, links coming from bad domains have a negative impact.
Tips for analyzing links and authority:
Reviews are extremely valuable in small business authority
Reviews build trust signals with search engines
Both structured and unstructured citations bring equally valuable authority to sites
Consistent URL, name, address and phone number (UNAP) information is critical
Traditional link building will diminish in value and return
Public relations, social interactions and media drive high quality traffic
Milestone highly recommends setting up consistent UNAP information for your business, across all promotional partners, including your brand site and online channels. Once you set up and educate your team about consistent UNAP information, ensure that robust link-building and citation strategies are deployed on an ongoing basis. Every press release, blog post, article and customer review offers an excellent opportunity to receive solid links that build trusted citations for your domain.
Paid Search - Evolution of New Channels and Platforms
Paid search experienced major updates in 2013 from the increase in popularity of metasearch programs that lead to an astronomical increase in mobile ad spend as compared to 2012, as well as the introduction of new programs like Google Remarketing Lists for Search Ads, Google Display Select and Facebook Retargeting. In the ever-changing landscape of paid search, it is crucial to cover the basics, such as track first-click, last-click and multiple click-keyword conversion attribution, and to ensure ads have enhanced site links extension, call extension and call-to-action clearly defined.
Tips for successful PPC:
Image ads, which are still in beta from Google, should be enabled for your campaign, if available. We have seen an increase in click through rate (CTR) and conversion for our campaigns where we have enabled image ads.
Define a clear-cut goal for your campaign. The goal is to increase visibility and branding or generate more conversions and revenue. Based on your goals, make sure your campaign is running on the appropriate channels.
If the primary goal of your campaign is to generate conversions and revenue, then start your campaign on Google, Bing, Yahoo! or Google Hotel Finder. If the goal is to generate brand awareness, then prioritize channels like Google Remarketing, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Metasearch is a platform that feeds hotel rates by searched dates. Google Hotel Finder, TripConnect, Kayak and Trivago are some of the hotel metasearch channels that have really taken off. The impact of hotel metasearch will only increase, especially with hotel rates data permeating into organic search results. Google search engine results pages (SERPs) now show hotel rates information from Google Hotel Finder, and TripAdvisor announced that it has built similar integration with Bing where hotel rates from TripAdvisor will show into Bing's SERPs.
Schema and Semantic Search
Semantic search has become more crucial for gaining valuable insight on query and searcher intent. Search engines continue to gather the most relevant information about businesses, things and people through structured data (schemas). This structured data helps organize the most desirable information about businesses, things and entities, so that the search engine can index and produce quality SERPs, understand the association between words used on the site and comprehend the real intent behind the words used in a query. Schemas increase the possibility of getting your most relevant site information directly in front of the user. Common schemas which can be used for your business include the hotel, images, brand, videos, things to do, attractions, events, and reviews. Google webmaster shows you all of the schemas used on your site and if the Google bot faces errors while indexing them. Use the rich snippet tool (http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets) to test which schemas your site is utilizing. We highly recommend ensuring your CMS and sites are using schemas to organize content.
Website Architecture Conversion Secrets
Search engines want to make sure that users have the best search experience on their screens. Speed, crawlability and usability have a big impact on conversion. Even a one-second delay in page-load can cause a 7% loss in customer conversions! Ask your webmaster to provide regular reports on how your site is performing in terms of speed, usability and conversion. Broken links, duplicate title and description tags, duplicate content and 404 and 301 errors can cause site indexing and crawlability issues. Each site is given a crawl budget by the search engine, and as a webmaster you want to make sure the entire budget is spent indexing more relevant information on the site quickly. Moz tools, Google Webmaster, GTmetrix and YSlow are great for checking the performance of your site across all devices.
Analytics and Tracking
We know that search engines are rewarding businesses that focus on ensuring a compelling and positive customer experience. A good conversion practice is to give your customers what they want. Attribution tracking, demographic tracking and cross device tracking are initiatives that help you figure out what customer actually wants, what is causing them to covert, which device they are using, and where they are in the purchase funnel.
Google Analytics recently launched demographic information. With demographic tracking enabled, we can look into a site's audience interest, gender and age group. Demographic Tracking offer insights to who is visiting my website. With the keyword report going away, demographic tracking fills this gap perfectly.
Attribution tracking allows you to track multiple click-keyword conversion, not only first/last-click conversion. Google Analytics is testing a new way to track image impression attribution. There are plenty of tools that allow you to track and generate reports for first-click to last-click keywords that are triggered in the buying funnel. Make better keyword purchases for non-branded terms at lower cost and improve conversions. Most analytics software is providing a better understanding of cross device tracking. The key for business is to find out which channels are impacting the conversion funnel, where people are in the funnel, what information they want and how can we encourage them to convert.
The Milestone Perspective for 2014
As we journey into 2014, businesses and hoteliers need to embrace the evolutions of a dynamic digital marketing space to create a robust strategy. To enhance your online presence and drive revenue, it is critical that your websites and mobile sites are designed for search relevance and to engage and convert users by providing fresh, conversational and compelling content and integrating these channels with an enduring social media presence. Align all of your strategies and create multimedia content that target the wants of your consumer and enables purchasing. Some insights to remember are: design your site to each device using a single URL, use quality links and citations, deploy tracking analytics tools and give people a positive experience. Increase revenue by staying connected with the search intent of your target market, and provide them with content they want.