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Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in All Matters SEO, Social Media

Everything WeChat

Ever wonder what Chinese consumers use as their social media platform? Well, it is not Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

As of January 2017, there are over 846 million active WeChat users, making WeChat the 4th most popular mobile app in the world and 2nd most popular in China.

So what exactly is WeChat? WeChat is a free instant messaging application that provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, sharing of photographs and videos, as well as location sharing.

WeChat Features

  • Moments, a blend of Facebook and Twitter, is WeChat’s main social media feature. It allows you to maintain a user profile where you can post photos and status updates. One of the main selling points of WeChat is that it offers users an enhanced privacy experience where you can control which of your friends can see what you like and comment without having to block the user.
  • Heat map allows the Chinese government to track irregular assemblies of people to determine if more security is needed. Users can also use this map to determine when they should visit a certain location based on the crowd and how busy it is.
  • WeChat wallet is a convenient, secure and efficient  tool that allows users to pay via their phone. Over half of WeChat’s users have linked multiple bank cards to the app. This is a huge win because China is known for fraud and cyber security issues. Like Venmo and Facebook Messenger, WeChat allows you to pay your friends while texting.
  • WeChat also allows you to generate your own personalized QR code. This feature allows you to transfer money to people you are not friends with by simply scanning the code off your phone.
  • Shake is another feature that WeChat offers that allows you to meet new people. You can simply shake your phone and if someone is in the same area shaking their phone, their profile will pop up and you can send him or her a greeting.
  • In China, a red envelope or red packet is known as a symbolic monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions. The color red symbolizes good luck and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits. During the Chinese New Year of 2016, 8 billion payments occurred via WeChat.

Types of WeChat Official Accounts

There are three different types of official WeChat accounts:

  1. Subscription Accounts are commonly used for daily news and broadcasts. They allow businesses to send one message per day to their followers. However, users can only access the content by accessing a subscription subfolder.
  2. Compared to a subscription account, Service Accounts will offer advanced features and focus on providing services instead of message broadcasts. Followers will receive push notifications from the businesses once a week and businesses can build their own applications within a Service Account.
  3. Enterprise Accounts, also known as Corporate Accounts, are an enhanced version of how Western businesses use platforms like Slack. Companies can set up private group chats, share memos, and project management systems within the account.

International vs. Mainland China

Due to China’s business requirements, WeChat has differentiated the benefits of WeChat accounts between mainland China and the rest of the globe. If a business has a Chinese phone number, the business qualifies for a Mainland China WeChat Official Account. This allows users all around the world to access the business’s official account. On the other hand, if the business is outside of mainland China and owns an international account, then only non-China users can access the international account.

Currently, only mainland China registered businesses can have their WeChat accounts verified. There are no differences between an unverified and a verified subscription account. The main disadvantage of an unverified service account is that the business does not have access advanced features.

Mini Programs

In the next few years, WeChat’s main focus will be on mini programs. Essentially, this feature follows a “one app rule them all” concept where users can use an app just by scanning the QR codes or searching on WeChat. Even though there are no official WeChat app stores, mini programs are directly competing against the Apple Store and Google Play App Store.

WeChat Mini Program

(Image Source: Chozan)

There are a couple main benefits to mini programs:

  • Using an app within WeChat allows a user to skip the registration process because his/her personal and payment information is already available on WeChat. Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, will support WeChat to protect the customer’s information. With a secured wallet, users are more willing to purchase via mobile app, therefore will increase the mobile spend in the future.
  • Only light apps, simplified applications, are allowed on mini programs. Therefore, the apps will be fast and easy to use. On top of that, users are more willing to try new apps as the apps take up less space on a smartphone.

As WeChat continues to grow in China, companies around the world are incorporating this app as part of their marketing campaigns. The future of WeChat remains as a leader in mobile apps and technology.

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Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in All Matters SEO

Top 5 SEO Tools You Might Not Know Exist

In 2015, I wrote a Decoded post entitled “Google Tools You May Not Know Exist,” outlining some of Google’s hidden gems for digital marketing. I now want to continue this theme with some examples of free SEO tools that you may not know exist:

1.) Moz Tool Bar

This is a must-have for digital marketers. Moz Tool Bar is a web browser extension that provides valuable SEO data for any website including on-page metrics (title tag, meta description, H1 Tag, etc.), Link Metrics and Technical SEO metrics.

Moz Tool Bar

(Image Source: Morgan Merron)

2.) Moz Open Site Explorer

Moz Open Site explorer allows users to pull a comprehensive report on all backlinks for a given site. Whether you are pulling this information for your own site or a competitor there is always great action items that arise out of knowing information about backlinks. A few searches a day is completely free but anything beyond that, you will need to enroll in Moz Pro.

Moz Open Site Explorer

(Image Source: Morgan Merron)

3.) Search Engine Net Market Share

Ever wonder which search engines have the most market share? Reference this data rich website to pull information on market share for search engines.

Search Engine Net Market Share

(Image Source: Morgan Merron)

4.) Buzzsumo

What’s SEO without user-friendly content? Buzzsumo allows users to input a given topic and get analytics on what content is performing best. A few searches a day are completely free of charge.

Buzzsumo

(Image Source: Morgan Merron)

5.) The Beginners Guide to SEO

While this extensive guide on all things SEO isn’t necessarily a tool, Digital Services considers knowledge to be a tool in and of itself! Reference this 10 chapter guide to gain base level knowledge (and beyond) on all things SEO.

The Beginners Guide to SEO

(Image Source: Morgan Merron)

Do you have an SEO tool that you love not covered here? Share what it is and what you use it for in the comments section below and let’s get this conversation started!

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Posted by on Mar 28, 2017 in All Matters SEO

Digital Marketing Glossary

With the digital marketing and search landscapes constantly changing, even the most digital savvy of us can get lost in the shuffle. Google is constantly updating algorithms and releasing new features, so it can start to feel like a full-time job to keep up. Luckily, that IS our full-time job at Digital Services by Marriott. We’ve compiled a list of our top search and digital marketing terms to get you up to speed. No promises that this entire list won’t change in the next couple of months though!

SERP– Search engine results page (SERP). This is the page that search engines show in response to a query by a searcher. This page will look different depending on the search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) but the main component is the list of websites or blue links that provide answers to the query.

SEO– Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting traffic from the free, organic or natural search results on search engines. Primary search results are listed on the search engine results page based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users.

Keyword– A word or phrase that describes the contents of a web page. Keywords help search engines match a page with an appropriate search query.

Local Search– A search to find something within a specific geographic area, such as “downtown hotel DC.” Local search results can appear in many different places on a SERP, but are typically accompanied by map pins. These results show the address and phone number of the company with a link to directions, if appropriate. Sometimes these listings are grouped into a “local pack.”

Local 3-pack– The top three results Google determines most geographically relevant to a local search. These three results will show at the top of the SERP in a special list accompanied by a map. Search terms that contain a geographic reference (“near me”) or services typically fulfilled by a local business like a hotel or bakery.Google SERP

(Image Source: Sang Froid Web)

Local Citation– Anywhere online that a business is mentioned by name. Business directories like Yell, Foursquare or Yelp are made of local citations. Being listed correctly on these sites is an important ranking factor for local search. They provide search engines with credible information about your business so the search engine understands the business exists, is legitimate and what you say about your business is true and accurate.

Incognito search– a setting that prevents the user’s browsing history and web cache from being used during a search. Since search engines take a user’s location and browsing history into account to deliver results, incognito search is a good way to search from a “blank slate.”

Incognito Search

(Image Source: Mary Cline)

Knowledge graph/panel– A system that Google launched to understand facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected. A knowledge graph displays on the SERP and is intended to provide answers, not just links to search queries so that users do not have to navigate to other sites to gather the information.

Knowledge graph

(Image Source, Mary Cline)

Google+– An interest-based social network that is owned and operated by Google. The platform was redesigned in November 2015, and currently focuses on Communities and Collections. Marriott owns all hotel Google+ listings under a bulk feed, and grants management access to stakeholders as needed. Please reach out to your MDS Client Services Manager for questions about your hotel’s Google+ listing.

Google My Business– a free tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing business information, the owner can help customers find their business or any relevant information about it.

UNAPURL (address of a world-wide web page), name of hotel, address and phone number (UNAP). This is an important ranking factor for search engine optimization.

OTA– Online travel agency (OTA) that allows users to book hotel rooms, flights, train tickets, etc. These sites may be focused on travel reviews, trip fares or both. Examples include Expedia and Booking.com.

API– Application program interface (API). A set of routines, protocols and tolls for building software applications. APIs specify how software components should interact.

CTA– A call to action (CTA) is a type of online content that drives the user to click-through to engage with a brand. This can be an image, button, link, etc. that encourages someone to book, download, register, call or act in any way.

PPC– Pay-per-click (PPC) is a model of internet marketing where advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. Search engine advertising is one of the most common forms of PPC. Advertisers bid for ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links when a user searches a keyword related to the business offering.

HTML– Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is a computer language that is used to create websites. HyperText is the method by which you move around on the web by clicking on special text called hyperlinks which take the user to the next page. Hyper means it is not linear, so it is possible to go to any place on the internet and there is no set order. HTML is a language with a set of code-words and syntax just like other languages.

Alt Tag– An alt tag describes what is in an image on a website and its function on the page. Screen readers for the blind and visually impaired read out this text to make an image accessible. Alt tags and title tags strengthen the message towards search engine spiders to improve the visibility of the site within search engines. The alt and title attributes of an images are commonly referred to as alt tag or alt text and title tag.

UX– User Experience (UX), or a customer’s experience when interacting with a product (i.e. website). User experience design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction and loyalty by improving the ease of use and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product. The concept most commonly applies to digital fields today.

Rich snippets– Describes structured data markup that operators can add to existing HTML so that search engines can better understand the information that is contained on each web page. Major search engines use this markup to present richer search results, allowing users to more easily find the information they are looking for. In the example blow, the search result shows a star rating, the number of votes, the price and the platform supported because Rich snippets were employed.

Rich snippets

(Image Source: Positionly)

Title Tag– A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page and concisely describes the page’s content. Title tags are displayed as the clickable headlines on the search engine results page and are important for usability, SEO and social sharing. In addition to the SERP, they also appear in web browsers and social networks.

Title Tag

(Image Source: Mary Cline)

Description Tag– A piece of HTML code that provides a short description of a web page and is included in the code, but is not visible on the page itself. If a web page has a description tag, Google shows it if there is semantic similarity between the description tag and the content of the web page, and there is similarity between the user’s search query and the content of the description tag. If a page does not have a description tag, Google typically shows sentence fragments on the page that contain the search query.

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Posted by on Mar 21, 2017 in All Matters SEO

If Your Hotel Went Through a Renovation, Start Fresh on TripAdvisor

For hotels that renovate their properties, don’t forget to let TripAdvisor know that you went through a renovation. Once you prove your hotel went through a major renovation, your old reviews will be deleted.

All that’s required is to provide building permits, materials invoices or press releases to prove that the renovations were indeed structural and completed.

Upon its approval, TripAdvisor will wipe the slate clean so your hotel’s page won’t be bogged down by negative reviews relating to bathrooms, guest rooms, carpet, smells, etc.

You’ve probably heard this from your Account Manager over and over again, but reviews are increasingly more important to rank in Google so be sure to make sure your reviews are cleaned up!

For more information, check out TripAdvisor’s Help Center or the screenshot below.

TripAdvisor Help Center_Renovation Information

(Image Source: TripAdvisor Help Center)

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Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in All Matters SEO

PR! PR! Read All About It!

2017 perpetuates the age of information overload. Read the latest celebrity gossip, look up stats on your favorite sports team or learn a new recipe in just seconds with a simple search query.

Although the ever-growing library of online content is convenient when searching for something, it has become increasingly difficult to create content that stands out from the clutter. As a result, marketers continue to fight for the coveted top spot on search engine results pages.

When planning your SEO strategy, odds are that writing a press release isn’t at the top of your priorities list. Press releases are often overlooked because they don’t immediately contribute to significant jumps in search engine results. However, when done correctly, they can have a positive impact on your hotel’s visibility and website traffic.

Press Releases & SEO

Press releases don’t have the most impressive SEO reputation because they actually have very little SEO value. We can’t stuff them with high search volume phrases and expect great results. Press releases are most beneficial when written with the intention of creating buzz-worthy content that others want to share.

Not to be confused with link spam (a method which Google penalizes), press releases can positively impact search engine results placement by encouraging organic links back to your hotel website. The goal of every press release should be to inspire others to write their own unique content about your topic, share your release on social media or garner the attention of the press – earning natural links back to your hotel website.

Quality Over Quantity

It’s easier said than done. How are you supposed to take a topic about your hotel and influence others to share it or link to it? It all comes down to the topic.

You want to select a topic that creates a buzz or sparks interest about the hotel. Although we may find extended-stay packages and spacious guest rooms to be interesting, generic hotel details aren’t considered news-worthy and sharable.

Syndicating another piece about how beautiful your meeting rooms are won’t be beneficial to your SEO strategy if nobody reads it, so add real value by creating a press release about a topic that is unique to only your hotel. What sets you apart from competitors? Is this something your audience will care enough about to share?

If you’re a Washington, D.C. hotel playing with the idea of writing a press release for the Fourth of July – writing a PR about how great your location is won’t help you stand out from every other Washington, D.C. hotel press release around the holiday. But writing a PR about how you host a rooftop party with an incredible view of the national fireworks display gives you a unique angle to help boost the post’s visibility.

The Brainstorming Phase

Think of your next press release as a time to brag; show some personality and let the audience know exactly what makes your hotel unique. When in doubt:

  • Did the hotel/staff win an award recently?
  • Are accommodations undergoing extensive renovations?
  • Is there an upcoming event taking place in or near your hotel?
  • Do you have organizational announcements to share?
  • Are you sponsoring a local group?
  • Can you add a new spin on a holiday promotion?

Let’s do our part to put an end to the constant flow of superfluous content – starting with our press releases. Produce only valuable content that adds a unique, news-worthy perspective. Both your readers and marketing strategy will thank you.

Strategy Image

(Image Source: Pexels)

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Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in All Matters SEO, Digital Industry News

How to Maximize Your Hotel Special Offers

Special offers are a key component in driving traffic and direct bookings back to your hotel website. But with so many different brands and hotels offering similar deals and packages, how do you make yours stand out amongst the bunch and ultimately get your customer to convert?

Sell an experience

When searching for hotel deals and offers, customers are usually more focused on their travel experience as opposed to just the room itself. So what exactly are travel shoppers looking for? Besides wanting to save money, online shoppers are looking for an offer they can’t refuse. So give them exactly that and make it only available by booking direct. And with packages that aren’t tied to a percentage offer, try and focus on the human element around the offer experience and how it will enhance the buyer’s time on property, rather than just the savings. Keeping your hotel story in mind when creating a special offer is essential in order to create an authentic connection with your consumer. When it comes to design and copy, don’t forget the basics like great images and photography, catchy but concise headlines, descriptions with important keywords, terms and conditions, and a clear and prominent call-to-action. Does your hotel have a renowned restaurant or amazing spa? Determine your hotel’s unique features and use these as a selling point within your offer. These can really lend themselves to certain guest segments who are looking for particular offer experiences around spa, golf and more.

Marriott Offer Example

(Image Source: Delta Hotels Edmonton South Conference Centre)

Using visual story telling within your merchandising

It’s important to not only ensure that your homepage is visually rich, but that your special offers are, too. Take a page out of retailer’s books; 41% of retailers said site merchandising was a leading priority for their digital business in 2016. In order to do this, try to use descriptive storytelling text to add context to your website and promotions that include details about your rooms, offer amenities and unique features. Additionally, over 90% of consumers say enticing visuals are the most important factor in their purchasing decision. So when possible, try and convey your offer story visually through your property images rather than just generic stock photography. And last but not least, make your special offers easy to find on your hotel website by utilizing homepage messages and other onsite merchandising tactics.

Mobile matters

Ensuring your special offer landing page is easy to navigate and optimized for every device is crucial getting the end user to convert. Here are some quick stats to prove this point:

  • If your landing page isn’t optimized for mobile, it will be abandoned by 40% of mobile visitors who will look for another result
  • 66% of e-commerce time is being spent on smartphones
  • 6% of consumers will delete emails if they don’t look good on mobile
  • 45% of consumers have unsubscribed from promotional emails because the emails or website didn’t work well on their smartphone
  • In 2017, almost 60% of traveling bookings in the US will be done on a mobile device

Having a mobile responsive website, as well as mobile optimized special offers pages, are essential for a seamless experience across all devices.

Email and third party merchandising

Contrary to popular belief, email is not dead. In terms of ROI, email typically outperforms social media and paid search. And because it is generally one of the most cost effective choices compared to other digital marketing tactics, it’s a great tool in pushing out your special offers while driving direct bookings. With email marketing, try and plan your deals content two months out from launch during peak seasons. If you’re participating in a paid business account with third parties such as Trip Advisor, Yelp, Trivago, etc., make sure you are taking advantage of their special offer placements and refreshing them on a regular basis to avoid offer fatigue and to cater different offers around seasonality. Paid social campaigns are also a relatively inexpensive option for promoting special offers. And effective promotions stand out on social media by incorporating a hotel’s story rather than just around a generic discount. Creating a sense of urgency and exclusiveness, beautiful imagery and a strong call to action will set you up for success in this channel as well as across your hotel website.

So there you have it! Keep these best practices and strategies in mind and your special offers will be set up for conversion success. And check out some of these additional resources:

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