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Everything WeChat

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

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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.

Top 5 SEO Tools You Might Not Know Exist

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in All Matters SEO

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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.


(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!

Digital Marketing Glossary

Posted by on Mar 28, 2017 in All Matters SEO

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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

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.

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

Posted by on Mar 21, 2017 in All Matters SEO

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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)

Meet Lindsay Gonitzke

Posted by on Mar 14, 2017 in Announcements

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In 2016 the Digital Services team doubled in size, with no plan to slow down any time soon! To keep everyone in the loop and put faces to the names, I will be introducing various team members on the blog.

I recently conducted a Q&A interview with Lindsay Gonitzke, Director of Client Services, who oversees the entire client management team. Lindsay has been on the Digital Services team for many years, and has seen the team significantly grow and evolve over time. In the interview below, Lindsay shares her history with Digital Services and where she sees the team heading in the future.

LINDSAY GONITZKE, Director of Client Services

Q: Tell us about your career at Marriott: Lindsay Gonitzke
A: I started with Marriott in 2010 as a SEO Account Manager servicing domestic and international hotels. I began working with many properties in Europe, and helped to grow our program roots while developing specific offerings to meet the demands of the region. From there I continued to service our hotels through SEO while overseeing a team of Account Managers. I eventually lead the Luxury/ Lifestyle group within Client Services and helped to develop unique programs and initiatives to meet the demands of our Luxury and Lifestyle brands. From there I took on the role of Director of Client Service.

Q: How would you describe your role as Director of Client Services?

A: I oversee a team of talented digital client service managers, providing best-in-class service and digital solutions to all Marriott brand hotels, globally.

Q: What projects are you focusing on right now?

A: Creating scalable solutions for future growth within the US and APAC regions.

Q: Where do you see the Digital Services team/Marriott going?

Continuing to evolve our programs and services to provide a wide-range of digital solutions for our hotels, globally. Additionally, I see us continuing to develop services to support our new Starwood family brands.

Q: What is your favorite part of working at Marriott?

A: The people! Hands down Digital Services and Marriott has the most talented and hardworking individuals I have ever worked with.

Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

A: Preferably like to be outside at the beach, paddle boarding, running, hiking or playing with my son.

Q: Can you share your best travel experience?

A: I am a beach lover, so I would have to say Hawaii. I have been a few times and just absolutely love the scenery, culture, water sports and mai tais!

Lindsay Gonitzke Family Picture

The Evolution of the Content You Click On

Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in Social Media

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Prior to social media, getting a variety of opinions on a topic required multiple trips to various websites. For example, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first premiered, getting film reviews was no easy task. I remember having to jump to the New York Times, Washington Post and a few other sites just to get an opinion on whether or not to see the movie.

Prior to popular social sharing platforms, experience online was what I refer to as “fueled by boredom.” Previously, there wasn’t an effective way to share content. At work when a coworker would find an entertaining video, they would call over colleagues to share it in the moment. There was not yet a way to quickly share content with a large group of friends while simultaneously communicating much like today’s social media feed.

Covering a Wall with Bumper Stickers

Thanks to a multitude of social media channels, consumers have become evangelists for the brands and topics they share on social media. What was once an avenue to share what you ate for dinner on Twitter, has now become an endorsement for the latest hashtag, with each post becoming a modern day bumper sticker of endorsement.

Personalities Over Personalized Websites

In 2016, nearly every social platform found its way to Moz top 500 domains further proving that brands need to pay attention to how they are positioned on each social platform. In many cases, I prefer to use Facebook to find information rather than the brand’s official website. But what tempts me to click the like or follow button to continuously receive content? Personality.

Personality can be shown in a few different ways. On Twitter, brands who continuously respond to playful tweets (Cinnabon, Dominos, Taco Bell) are notorious for having an engaging audience. Much of this can be attributed to the content being more than just a quick response for an inquiry. But what if your brand wants to create content that redefines the laws of virility with every post?

In late 2015, I experienced a perfect example of Buzzfeed using personality to build their audience on social media while never needing to visit their website. Buzzfeed has been a long time powerhouse for content that drove traffic to their physical website. That was until they introduced the world to freshman personality, Matt Bellassai, through a weekly segment called Wine About It. Through this weekly segment, Matt would spend time talking about his issues with a certain topic, while casually enjoying a bottle of wine. In most cases his issues were highly relatable, enticing users to share with friends (who had not yet been introduced to Buzzfeed). Through the sharing, Buzzfeed was able to create communication within their Facebook while increasing exposure.

Growing a Personality as a Brand and the Rise of the Fan Group

Not long after generating a proven track record of success with Wine About It on Buzzfeed’s social channels, Matt Bellassai left his Buzzfeed video success to start his own brand. For many this came as a huge surprise as Buzzfeed boasts the right amount of exposure not only on Facebook (number 1 ranking domain on the Internet) but also the physical Buzzfeed website presence (234th ranking domain on the Internet). Many were also left asking, will this momentum continue with a smaller audience?

What made Matt’s transition possible is a fraction of Buzzfeed’s followers being what I consider to be a “fan group.” These small, passionate fan groups are often smaller subsets which have built a reputation of not only sharing content on their social platforms, but also specifically target sharing relatable content. For example, if you were to see a piece of content that triggers a relatable moment, you are likely to share the moment by tagging a friend/follower on a platform. In addition to displaying the share on a social network, this occurrence is also creating a targeted notification to users the content has been shared with. Meaning, fan groups are now helping brands/personalities extend relatable moments.

The Rise of the Fan Group Model

A variety of digital brands have already started to action on creating content for a “fan group” under a paid model. Popular anime streaming community, Crunchyroll, has implemented a paid subscription based model (roughly $7/month). It is designed for dedicated fans of anime and manga storytelling by leveraging a vertical approach. Crunchyroll has utilized fan groups to dive deep into a specific niche audience to generate revenue. From there, slowly expand its following by providing extras like news, forums, e-commerce, live events and manga, all on a very niche website with a large percentage of subscribers under the age of 35.

Popular subscription based sites like Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll have seen great success with charging a small fee for subscriptions. Does this mean that subscriptions for niche audiences for nearly $40 a month aren’t possible? Tech news site The Information has been making a strong case for higher priced subscriptions with a goal of appealing to business professionals. Through a subscription to The Information, subscribers are given deep analytic reports and written articles for tech professionals, while still reaching a broader pool of entrepreneurs or people who don’t pay for content today, but may be willing to do so. Again, the target of tech professionals willing to spend money for news could be barren. However, The Information has shown multiple cases for subscriptions as a business experience to for businesses that allow for subscription based budgets.

 Relating to your Fan Group

Developing a fan group can be difficult at times. However, the beauty of passionate fan groups is that through effective messaging, brands that make content for a specific group will often find the greatest engagement. In many cases, brands initially believe that in order to gain any traction, all content must appeal to the masses. But actually, starting small (with fan groups) and through a snowball effect, could generate the greatest reward. If you were to make a piece of content, instead of trying to attract an entire country, try making it for a smaller area (like a city or state).

If you were to create a piece of content about a specific area, you are likely to appeal to a fan group of some kind. For example, if a hotel in Chicago was to create a “Top Ten Local Pizza Pies,” the odds of finding a fan group for local pizza is highly likely. Local pizza experts are likely to read the article, and share a memory with their network friends for nostalgia purposes. In most cases, within the share, will be a direct tag of fellow friends.

Crafting for the Click     

When creating content, please be advised that your content can fall into two content categories: tempting to click and tempting to share.

Users’ experience with tempting to click content is often in the form of advertisements for clothing sales or content described as “click bait.” Content of this category rarely generates much publicity from consumers, due to lack of interest in sharing with others. I have found a great way to test if content falls into this category, is by applying Betteridge’s Law. This law states that all headlines with questions can be answered “no.” To try for yourself, read an article that asks a question in the headline, if after reading the article, the answer is no, you have likely digested tempting to click content.

Tempting to share content is often shared and endorsed across social accounts are a noteworthy article. By sharing these articles, your post becomes a modern day bumper sticker showing that you endorse the given viewpoint on a topic.

Personal vs. Social Clicks on Content

When creating content, it is important to be aware of whether your content will generate a personal click, social click or both (depending on the topic). To illustrate types of clicks, you can apply the diagram below.

Two Types of Clicks

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Content that appeals to your guilty pleasures will often generate a personal click. These clicks tend to remain private with consumers and are not shared with their followers. Certain shopping experiences can also fall into this category, depending on the item. Someone who recently bought a new appliance might not feel the need to share their new purchase with the world. With the addition of Facebook’s Recommendation feature, shopping can often position itself into a social click which will generate engagement.

Social clicks tend to be the driving force for fan group content. Brands that appeal to specific cultural experiences can often generate a personal click, which can transition into a social click. Using the pizza pie example from before, a reader might utilize a personal click to check nutritional information and leverage a social click for a pizza buying rewards program. Nostalgia has been a long time catalyst for consumers and continues to show growth. Causes often create an emotional appeal and generate sharable clicks on a much greater level than nostalgia in that emotional connections are highly relatable where as nostalgic experiences are more exclusive.

The Next Step

It is important to understand that fan groups are not built overnight. When creating content on social media, create content that can resonate with others and can be related to specific cultural experiences.