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Posted by on Dec 15, 2015 in All Matters SEO, Local Search Updates

The Latest Google Update: TrustYou Reviews

We all know that Google is constantly tweaking and updating their search layout to provide the best possible results to searchers. The latest tweak will now provide review summaries from a 3rd party called TrustYou on the Knowledge Panel. The review summaries are broken into themes such as Rooms, Service and Location. TrustYou manages reputations online by tracking review content, and providing that content to sites like Kayak, Trivago, Sabre, and now, Google.

 

Trust You Reviews

 

The Google Knowledge Panel shows these TrustYou reviews first before the Google reviews are listed:

 

Trust You Google Reviews

Moz’s 2015 study on Local Search Ranking Factors did find that reviews make up about 8% of the weight for search results. As Google is incorporating reviews more on their results pages, your hotel reviews matter more than ever.

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Posted by on Jan 13, 2015 in All Matters SEO, Local Search Updates

Why Are Our Competitors Ranking and We Are Not?

CompetitorRankings

That is a question all SEOs hear regularly. Visiting SearchLove San Diego this past Fall gave me an opportunity to take a step back and look at this question with fresh eyes. Dana DiTomaso, Partner at Kick Point, shared some great thoughts on “taking down your local competition.” This post will share some of her ideas from a hospitality perspective.

As SEOs or marketers, we often think about all the great things our property offers. But how does a user pick a hotel, restaurant, spa or other local business? How does a user determine if a business is legit? How does a user trust that this business is actually as great as they promise in their flashy images and bloomy words on their website?

Google aims to serve up what the user wants to see and assesses the search query through a variety of factors. MOZ, an SEO industry leader, lists the following local search ranking factors:

  • Business Signals: What categories does my property fall into? How close is the hotel to the attraction/city?
  • External Local Signals: Is the UNAP (URL, Name, Address & Phone Number) consistent? How many citations does the site have? How qualitative are these citations?
  • On-page Signals: Is your NAP information present? Again, do you have keywords in the titles? How authoritative is the domain?
  • Link Signals: How qualitative, relevant and authoritative are the links coming to my website?
  • Review Signals: How many reviews does my business have? Do they come from a variety of sites?
  • Social Signals: How authoritative and engaging am I on Google+, Facebook and Twitter?
  • Behavioral/Mobile Signals: What signals does the user send via their click-through rate, mobile clicks-to-call, etc.
  • Personalization.

When trying to influence these signals and get ahead of competitors, keep these questions in mind:

1. What keywords do we try to rank for on the search engines?

2. Are these targeted keywords really relevant to our business?

3. Who is ranking for these keywords?

So where are there opportunities to get ahead of your competitors? Here are a few:

Place Page:

  • One thing that particularly stands out here is the question of the centroid. Dana DiTomaso pointed out that the centroid is where Google thinks the centroid is. If you consider your business to be in the city center but Google disagrees, you will be unlikely to rank for “city center” search queries. The same can also happen in reverse. If you’re unclear of how Google views your location, pull up Google Maps and search “hotels in [your city] city center,” for example. Now check out where your property falls in relation to the other properties listed.
  • Next, take a look at the reviews and see if your location is something your guests talk about. I have seen cases where hotels think they are not close enough to an attraction to include it in their SEO strategy, but guests positively mentioned the proximity on Tripadvisor. This is a great opportunity!
  • Also, review your Google My Business page and make sure it’s complete, categories are filled out and your UNAP matches your website exactly.

External & Link Factors:

  • Regularly audit your citations and ensure your UNAP is consistent and appears in all the important places with accurate information. However, don’t get listed on a site that doesn’t pass the “sniff test.” If you wouldn’t trust it as a user, chances are neither will Google.
  • Also, find ways to build up the links you have coming from local businesses to your website. If someone hosts a conference at your hotel, ask them to link to your website. Also, train your sales team to ask for links back from vendors and other local businesses that they work with. If the partnership is relevant for your guests, it will be relevant to search engines, too.

Reviews:

  • Encourage reviews, keep an eye on them and respond to them. This is one of the best ways for you to support your local rankings.
  • Note: it’s important to get a variety of reviews, so don’t just request reviews on one particular page. To get started, read Moz’s Guide on “Implementing a Review Acquisition Strategy” or check out some of the review advice from our team.

If you work with an SEO partner, such as MDS, you likely have many of the above mentioned items covered by your program. But remember, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to make sure your UNAP is accurate. When your URL, name, address or phone number changes, let your SEO team know immediately. Pursue link opportunities and pursue the right review strategy. If you can master these factors, you’ll find yourself asking, “Why are my competitors ranking and I am not?” much less often.

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Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Local Search Updates

UNAP Consistency, It’s About Trust

Back in September, I traveled up to NYC to attend Local U. Local U is an intimate one day conference run by some of the most trusted Local SEO professionals. Representatives from Google were also in attendance and presented on how Google views Local.

You may be wondering, what is Local SEO? When a user goes to Google and searches for “hotel in DC,” “restaurant in Boston,” “dentist office in Olney, MD” or “South Beach nail salon,” these are all searches with local intent. The user wants to see results for the actual physical type of business or service he/she is looking for in the specified area. Search engines set aside a separate part of their search engine result pages just for local results.

For hotel related searches in Google, this now is seen as a 3-pack (RIP Carousel):

Local SEO

Google has a separate algorithm to determine what businesses show up in local results. This algorithm is as complex and evolving as the algorithm that determines the classic organic results.

At Local U, the presenters went into detail about many of the factors that can help your business rank in local results. One factor that was discussed in multiple presentations was UNAP consistency. UNAP sounds a little technical, but it’s actually a pretty basic concept!

  1. What is UNAP? UNAP stands for URL, Name, Address and Phone Number. In one presentation at Local U, UNAP was shown with an image of a finger print. You should think of UNAP as your online identity. It is unique to your hotel and only changes if you are changing your identity.
  2. What about UNAP is important? Consistency. Everywhere a search engine or a user looks for information about your hotel, you want to ensure your UNAP is accurate.
  3. Why does consistency matter? It’s about TRUST! The representatives from Google at Local U made it very clear; Google wants to provide the best results possible. Google does not want to put businesses in local results that have closed down or show incorrect information from a business. This provides a poor user experience. For search engines to feel confident in showing your hotel in local results, they need to trust that your hotel is an open and operating business, is located at an exact address that a customer could easily find and has a working phone number where a customer can reach you. If search engines start finding different variations of your name, address, phone number or URL, they have less trust in putting your hotel in local results.
  4.  Why can’t search engines get my UNAP directly from my website? There are millions of local businesses all over the world. David Mihm, one of the founders of Local U, pointed out that many local businesses still don’t have websites. And many local businesses that do have websites still have not implemented technical best practices that would allow the search engines to easily read their name, address and phone number. Also, some businesses are not good at updating their website with correct information when they close down, change names or move locations. Even as more local business start websites and get better at updating information and implementing technical best practices, it is assumed that UNAP consistency is still important. Search engines need validation from multiple sources to TRUST your hotel’s information.
  5. If my business is already ranking in local search, do I still need to worry about UNAP consistency? Yes! Search engines are constantly scanning the web for information, and you want to always ensure they find the correct information about your hotel. If not, funny stuff can start to happen! Search engines might start showing that your hotel is closed, display an old phone number for the hotel or show your hotel with the hotel down the street’s address.
  6. What can I do to help my hotel’s UNAP? In the MDS program we take care of a lot of this for you, but we can always use help! Ensure that everyone at your hotel is aware that your hotel’s UNAP is exactly how it is listed on your hotel website. And never use other variations of your hotel’s UNAP on or offline. Keep it consistent and keep building the trust with search engines!
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Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in All Matters SEO, Local Search Updates

Finding Quality Links for your Hotel Website

Google’s original name in 1996 was BackRub, based off the saying “you rub my back, I’ll rub yours.” Sounds scandalous, right? Imagine a world full of people saying, “I don’t know, just BackRub it!” The name was intended to signify the importance of “linking” in their search engine algorithm (picture this: a line of people all linked up arm to back, arm to back), which set them apart from those nostalgic crawlers like Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista or Lycos.

According to MOZ’s 2013 Survey on Search Engine Rankings Factors, linking is believed to be the most important factor. Yes, keyword strategy is still important. But, if you want to get to the top of the “stack” for that high-volume destination search phrase in Google, the more quality, local and relevant links you have pointing to your website, the more likely you are to succeed. Please note that important word ‘QUALITY.’ For the purposes of this exercise, we will define a quality link as:

  1. A website that is relevant to your hotel
  2. A website that would drive qualified and appropriate traffic to your hotel website
  3. A website that is highly visible within the search engines, including Google, Yahoo and Bing

As search engines have evolved and wised-up to numerous link scamming tactics, it is important to focus on the quality of the links, as opposed to the quantity of links, you are able to secure. Below are a few tips to help you find the right links for your hotel:

  • Start with your reviews and your website – When a hotel guest leaves a review, more often than not, they reference why they came to your hotel in the first place or what they did while they were there. Research your reviews to find reoccurring points of interests that your guests are talking about. Do these reoccurring places/themes have a website? If so, that is a perfect opportunity to reach out for potential reciprocal linking.
  • Surf the web – In some instances your hotel is already mentioned in various blog posts, articles or referring sites without a link back to your website. Perform searches for your hotel’s name in Google! Find articles by using the “news” tab. Although researching results may be time consuming, it’s an easy way to find additional linking opportunities.
  • What are your competitors linking to? – Conduct searches for your competitors to see where they are mentioned or linking. Chances are there will be opportunities for your website, too.
  • Brief the sales team – Discuss the importance of generating quality links to your hotel website with the sales team. They can use this knowledge and add it to the conversation while they build relationships in the community.
  • Photographers – Wedding and event photographers typically have great local authoritative blogs or websites with quality linking opportunities. If they’ve worked at your hotel, chances are they are posting recent work to their website.

Now that you’ve found a few websites that you consider ideal for your property website to be referenced on, you can begin reaching out to their respective sales teams (typically located somewhere on the website). If you already have an established relationship with the place of interest, reach out to your contact. Good luck and happy link building!

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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in All Matters SEO, Digital Industry News, Local Search Updates

Google Personalizes Maps with Search History and Social Cues

Originally published in MDS’ Fall 2013 newsletter

In 2005, at the onset of Google Maps, most of the world was mysteriously missing from the product launch. Fast forward to today, and Google is touting their product as the premier mapping provider for over 200 countries, and really, who can rival them? They’ve spent the last eight years on data accuracy and harnessing crowd-sourced information from you and local businesses themselves.

Google_Maps_logo

Google Maps, G+ page

 

Google has data accuracy that no other provider can claim, and they’ve set out to redefine modern mapping again. The same way personalization was such a priority for them in search, they asked themselves why every person across the globe looks at the same map. What if each map could adapt to you, be built for you? 

As you search the map, star places you like and leave reviews, the map starts to adapt and can suggest things like restaurants you might enjoy or the quickest way home. In other words, the more you use the new Google Maps, the more helpful it becomes.

In the new Google Maps, which was announced last summer, you influence the local results through your search history and social data. As the map learns about you, it can suggest the fastest way home or to work, start to understand what types of local businesses you frequent, and highlight new places to try based on your tastes. This new emphasis on discovery is much more social in nature, with reviews from friends based on your social network. Gone is the old user interface, with the traditional “7-pack”, and in comes an experience where the map itself is the user interface. Drag your mouse around the map, zoom into specific locations, search – all features and functionalities are integrated into an overlay on the map. Showing related search data is not a new feature for Google, yet showing related searches neatly below your original search box is powerful.

Select an individual result, and the data from your Google+ Local listing appears in the top right. The majority of your information is pulled in from your Google+ Local listing, with the exception of reviews and the five-star rating scale (pulled from Zagat and Google user reviews). If your property has a decent number of reviews on other review sites, including Yelp, be sure to view the terms popping up under your star rating to see what notable phrases or terms people are writing about your property. If it’s not favorable, it may be time for new content generation to get people talking about a new renovation or promotion. Check out the bolded results Google displays when your property is selected as the red balloon. Those could be properties users are clicking after yours, or ones Google’s algorithm has decided could similarly satisfy a user’s search query.

Find out who the top reviewers are in your market by clicking Places from Top reviewers. Have a Facebook page? Friend them. Utilize your PR team to build direct relationships and offer something of value.

Be sure to watch http://www.google.com/maps/about/explore/#content. What have your experiences been with the new map? Do you see Google’s geographic data becoming an invaluable asset in augmented reality (say, Google glasses?)

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