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Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in All Matters SEO, Social Media

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips

Michael Rosenblatt was one of two MDS 2017 summer interns. During his time with us, we challenged him to write a blog post about content that he learned while working with our team.

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips(Image Source: Pexels)

When we think of Facebook and Google, we tend to categorize one as a social network and the other as a search engine. Where they certainly have subtle differences, both companies have the same objective in mind which is to keep consumer attention for as long as possible. Initially, Google’s mission was to pass its users along to different sites as quickly as possible. Over the years, that mission changed to finding ways to make money off the user while they’re searching. In 2011, Google+ was launched as a means to enter into the social realm. The internet giant couldn’t seem to figure it out as they went through many failures and false starts.

As Google was stumbling to emerge into social, Facebook kept growing larger and becoming more influential. By 2010, Facebook was approaching 500 million users with real names, birthdays, photos and a network of connections. From a hotel perspective, the growth rate and number of active users of Facebook is what makes it so enticing. Given all the data Facebook provides, creates for a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on potential guests for your hotel. When creating a Facebook Ad, your hotel can optimize the ad by targeting specific location, demographics, age, gender, interests, behavior and connections. Due to specific targeting, your hotel should have a precise idea of who they are intending to reach. One imperative element your hotel should consider is optimizing for SEO keywords. The idea is to choose keywords that are relevant and provide value to your hotel. An extremely useful tool to assist you with this is, Moz’s Keyword Explorer. This tool provides accurate monthly search volume data, an idea of how difficult it will be to rank for your keyword, estimated click-through rates and a score representing your potential to rank.

Why SEO for Facebook is Now Important as Ever?

Little-to-none of Facebook’s activity is indexed by Google or other mainstream search engines. Therefore, it is essential to start optimizing your hotel for Facebook’s internal search.

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips:

  1. Facebook social signals can have a lot of potential for SEO value – use it as a channel to build traffic and links back to your hotel website.
  2. Name your profiles correctly and fill out the entire profile completely – use the full name of your hotel across all social media channels. All areas of the profile should be completed: photos, bio, videos, links, topics, tags – whatever the channel offers, take full advantage of it.
  3. Take advantage of the customized meta titles and images when you share links in your posts. Facebook will automatically pull in images and titles from your website to display in a carousel like post – however, you can choose which images you wish to upload and edit the text.
  4. Link to legitimate accounts – remember relevance is important and if the social media profile of a group or user looks unnatural or keyword-stuffed, your reputation is at risk.
  5. Ensure UNAP (URL, Name, Address, and Phone Number) are accurate and consistent. Never use variations of your hotel’s UNAP.

As Facebook continues to grow past its current 1.9 billion users they are going to keep innovating ways to capture the user’s attention. One of those ways is by continuously improve the user’s search experience. Google is aware of this threat, as of July 19th Google announced to redesign their mobile search app with a personalized feed. The offering is called “Google Feed” which you may note is very much like Facebook’s “News Feed.” Facebook and Google are battling for attention online so it is imperative they each continue to innovate and evolve. With that said, it is important to stay up on the latest trends for both platforms in order to optimize them for your guests. With this post, I wanted to specifically highlight successful SEO tips for Facebook. Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has a history of being updated on a continuous basis. Therefore, staying up-to-date on these changes is critical to the success of your hotels presence on the platform.

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Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in All Matters SEO

Another Day, Another Google Algorithm Update

Google Homepage(Image Source: SiteCenter)

We hear it time and time again: Google has updated its algorithm. The news breaks and we suddenly find ourselves scrambling for answers on these algorithm changes, which may have already taken place. Or, better yet, there is actual confirmation of an update from Google. In the past, Google regularly announced algorithm updates and how the changes could affect search results. Today, however, many of us wonder if Google’s current lack of transparency is of concern for website SEO, which leaves us questioning what we really need to know about Google’s algorithm updates.

The Basics

Google ranking systems sort through billions of webpages to give users valuable and relevant results. These ranking systems are made up of algorithms that analyze what users are looking for and what information to return in the search engine results page. Google continues to update its algorithm 500-600 times a year in efforts to improve the user experience. Over the past several years, most updates have been minor, but there have been a few major updates that could have affected your website’s natural search rankings.

Main Updates

Panda The Panda algorithm was designed to target websites with low-quality content. It required sites to up their game in terms of usability, user experience, creating meaningful content and refraining from creating duplicate content. In October 2016, Google stated that the Panda algorithm would analyze all of the pages of a website and may decide to demote the site’s search engine rankings as a whole based on its overall quality on an ongoing basis.

Penguin The Penguin algorithm began rolling out in April 2012 and focused on penalizing websites with artificial incoming links. In October 2016, Google announced that the newest Penguin 4.0 algorithm devalues or ignores spam links and would reverse any penalties from the first phase of the Penguin update.

Hummingbird Hummingbird aimed to give end users the right answers to their questions, correct facts, statistics and articles that were dense with high-quality content that related to their queries. It was in part an attempt by Google to provide better responses to voice queries, specifically within the mobile space.

Pigeon The Pigeon update focused on local SEO, which drastically changed the way Google interprets, modifies and handles location results. The local search algorithm tied deeper into web-search capabilities, including hundreds of ranking signals with such features as the Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more. It also improved Google’s distance and location ranking parameters.

Fred – With the March 2017 Fred update, any site content seen as invaluable, low quality, outdated or too ad-heavy is guaranteed to start seeing massive drops in rankings. Also, backlinks to the main site with old content has started seeing a clampdown by the update.

What to Consider

While it’s important to educate yourself on larger-scale updates, you do not need to obsess over the granular details of every algorithm change. Below are things to consider next time you get word of another update:

  1. Post-Update World – This phrase refers to an SEO world that has no official identifying/naming of algorithm changes, no confirmation that an update has been rolled out and no information on when exactly that rollout occurred. Updates are becoming more infrequent, so if you do see ranking changes, don’t panic; with so many unannounced updates, we shouldn’t take ranking changes as permanent.
  2. Wait to React Although you may want to make changes to your website, the smarter thing to do it wait a few days or even weeks to see if your site truly was impacted. If you aren’t taking part in “black-hat” SEO, your site probably was not impacted negatively.
  3. Know Your Data Industry leaders also explain the importance of knowing your data before concluding that search ranking decreases are coming from a Google algorithm update. Did your competitors see changes? Were you impacted in just Google? Did all your website pages see a traffic drop? If you answer “no” to many of these questions, chances are, you weren’t hit with a Google penalty.
  4. User-focused Commitment – Although we don’t know all the factors Google uses to rank, we know its mission is to help each search user find the correct information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. You will benefit by focusing on your users and their needs, instead of short-term results that can crush your site’s long-term viability.

Algorithm updates can seem overwhelming, but, at the end of the day, if you are doing SEO right—creating good, user-focused content and earning links from credible and niche-specific sites—you should be okay. Stay updated by credible sources, but don’t worry about knowing what every minor update did or didn’t do.

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Posted by on Jun 20, 2017 in All Matters SEO

Russia – A Country of Opportunity and Growth

My first visit to Russia was in December 2010 (yes, Russia in DECEMBER!) when it was minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit. At the time, I wouldn’t have described the ground as snow covered – it was more like blocks of ice. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to go back four more times, visiting both Moscow and St. Petersburg. Amazing and interesting, Russia is filled with many surprises.

Russia is the world’s largest nation. Bordered by both Europe and Asia, it has everything from a beach, to forests, to mountains, to major cities. This diverse country has over 144 million people, which is two times the size of the U.K.’s population and about 50% less than the U.S.

To drive across Russia (about 10,500 km) from the most western city of Kaliningrad to the most eastern city of Vladivostok, it takes around 6.5 days. By train, it takes seven days with over 80 stops. And to fly, it takes 11 hours. To put into context the immensity of the country, you could fly or drive from New York to San Francisco and back again more quickly.

Visiting Russia is not easy, but it’s not impossible. A visa is needed by most nationals, but there are some exceptions. For example, a U.K. national can easily get a Russian tourist visa from the processing center in London; it involves completing a long form and answering a few questions, but it’s attainable.

There is an incredible amount to see and explore when in Russia. Moscow is, of course, the largest city – just standing in the middle of Red Square leaves you amazed. This iconic, historical site is one that every student learns about at school.

Chris Robinson_Russia Trip

(Image Source: Chris Robinson)

In St. Petersburg, you cannot fail just to walk the canals, explore the architecture and watch the trams run up and down the streets. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, which took the years between 1883 and 1907 to build, is simply a stunning building.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

(Image Source: Chris Robinson)

Russia has seven major airports open to passenger travel, with three located in Moscow and others in St. Petersburg, Simferopol, Koltsovo and Sochi (home of the 2014 Winter Olympics and the annual Russian Formula One race). There is also a major train service to several European countries, such as Austria, Germany and Hungary.

Next year, Russia will host the 2018 soccer FIFA World Cup across 11 cities which presents a massive opportunity for Russia to “sell” itself to the world, plus there is a major opportunity for residents to experience the country.

Outbound travel from Russia in 2016 was tough, as the FX rate between the ruble and the U.S. dollar (USD) dramatically changed. In January 2014, 3 rubles bought just over $1 USD, now it takes around 5.5 rubles to get $1 USD, but in early 2016, it was as high as 10 rubles to the dollar. This made overseas Russian travel expensive and unaffordable. The good news is, the foreign-exchange rate has improved and continues to ensure that Russian nationals can travel the world.

In a recent study by Russian Tourism, it identified, like any national market, there are, of course, different types of consumers in Russia. There are those who visit places like Thailand and Southern Europe to see the sun and relax. Then there are those in the travel market who visit such destinations as UAE, France and Germany – all popular with the Russian consumer.

The internet in Russia is a little different than most countries, with Yandex being the largest search engine. For more information on that, check out this blog from Petra Baer on the differences between Google and Yandex at https://www.mdsdecoded.com/blog/can-you-yandex-it-please/.

According to Live Internet Stats, since 2015, the number of Russian internet users has grown by over 30% to 102 million, which is just around 71% of the population. The U.S. is currently at 88% internet usage, so room to grow for sure!

While Yandex is Russia’s largest search engine, it has many other services, including:

  • Yandex.direct, an auction-based, text-based ad-placement platform
  • Yandex Maps
  • Yandex.money, which is like PayPal
  • Yandex.taxi, a similar service to Uber

The key with this is, the internet in Russia is growing and the digital community/consumer base is growing. Though the market is complicated, especially because of the language difference, nothing is impossible. If you understand and get it right, the opportunity to attract a new market is clear.

Marriott International recently launched a new Russian website, www.marriott.com.ru. Now Russian-speaking travelers can book hotels around the world in their native language.

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Posted by on May 23, 2017 in All Matters SEO

Links MDS Loves

It’s been a busy month in digital. As per usual, lots of changes and updates have kept our jobs interesting. Check out the below to see what the MDS team has been reading!

What have you been reading lately? Share your favorite articles below!

Computer_Notepad_Coffee

(Image source: Pexels)

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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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