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Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Stats, Data and Analytics

Top 5 Reporting Best Practices

Reporting, the most exciting digital marketing topic to discuss, no? As the Digital Reporting Manager at Digital Services, I am tasked with creating (with a lot of help of course) the reporting formats that you have come to know and love if you’re enrolled in one of our programs. It’s safe to say that I play a large part in all of your review meetings. How do I manage and cope with the stress of this responsibility you ask? It’s a great question that I don’t have an answer to, so if you have any tips I’d greatly appreciate them.

When I’m tasked with creating a new report format, I try to follow the below guidelines. Although everyone tells a story in a different way, these simple concepts can help produce reporting formats that work universally.

1.) The Right KPI’s

We have several different programs that focus on different elements of digital marketing, thus it is important to build out different report formats for each of our programs. We start with the important question of, “which metrics are these tactics influencing most?” and ensure we emphasize these metrics in the beginning of reports.

2.) Tell a Story

Good stories and storytellers provide context! Context is important to developing a full understanding of what is happening. To provide context in reporting, incorporate metrics that, although may not necessarily be a direct impact of your program and strategy, CAN help explain the bigger picture about what is happening.

3.) Avoid Red and Green (if possible)

1 in 10 people in the world are red/green color blind. Remember the prime time football game last year when one team decided to wear all green uniforms and the other decided to wear all red? It was a nightmare/headache for 10% of the population. Imagine building a report that 1 in 10 people might not be able to understand. Additionally for those 9 of 10 folks who are not color blind, red and green have pre-connotations associated with them. Green typically means “good” and red is typically associated with “bad,” which can be a huge hang up during reporting review. Try to use contrasting colors on the color wheel like blue and orange. Our team typically utilizes Blue/Green.

Red Green Color Blind

(Image Source:

4.) No Pie Charts…EVER!

Ask anyone in the reporting world and they will probably tell you the same thing; pie charts are a bad practice. The purpose of chart visuals is to easily communicate results. However with pie charts, it is difficult for the human eye to detect portion sizes, and thus can be confusing in trying to understand results. Additionally, when adding in more attributes for comparison, the pie chart becomes even more difficult to comprehend and you lose the ability to label the visual because there is no space. Let’s take a look at an example. Would you be easily able to identify in ascending order parts 1-5? Difficult to do, right? Pie charts can be very deceiving so we try to stay away from them in our reporting.

Pie Charts

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

5.) Feedback Welcome!

As I mentioned earlier, everyone tells a story in their own way. Based off this concept, typically a lot of feedback on how to format reports is generated! Keeping an open mind and welcoming feedback from everyone is the best way to build and further develop a reporting format that all involved parties can agree upon. Set up a system to have different departments review your reports to gather feedback on how your colleagues view reporting differently.

These 5 best practices can further enhance your current reporting, and save you a lot of time. Share your best tip in the comments below!

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Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in All Matters SEO, Stats, Data and Analytics

Google Trends Guide for Marketers

With keyword visibility data declining and market research costly, digital marketers are turning to creative resources (such as Facebook Graph search) to learn more about their audience, competition and content strategy.

Enter Google Trends. Born in 2012 out of Google Insights for Search, Google Trends uses search data to show how often a particular term was searched. Not only is the tool free and easy to use, it is also customizable, allowing you to look at specific date ranges or regions and make comparisons. Google Trends is a powerful resource for marketers to learn more about the trend of a search query and to inspire popular content ideas.

The functionality of Google Trends can be divided into 2 purposes:

  1. Trends: View current or past trending search queries
  2. Explore: Research the popularity of search queries


Trends provides timely insights into hot topics during a specific time range. Similar to Twitter’s Trending list, Trends showcases popular search queries that are generating a lot of buzz, such as the State of the Union Address, Super Bowl and Blizzard of 2015.


When you first visit the Google Trends website, the home page showcases various interesting lists and charts. This is the “News Feed” of Google Trends, focused on interesting trending search queries.


In the upper left-hand corner, several options are listed in the drop down Trends menu:

  • Year in Search 2014: Recap of 2014 search trends
  • Trending Searches: Ranking of current popular search queries for the day
  • Trending on YouTube: Ranking of current popular YouTube video search queries for the day
  • Top Charts: Lists of most popular search queries each month sorted into categories which can be filtered by country, category and month (back to 2004)

So how does a marketer use this information? Consider the Trends lists an ever-replenishing source of content inspiration, making for timely posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. Is extreme winter weather trending? Snap an Instagram photo of your pool or beach, inviting shivering followers to travel south to warm up. Is the new iPhone release trending? Send out a Tweet, reminding followers to download the Marriott app on their new phones.


Not all Google Trends topics are social-worthy or appropriate for your profile, so use the trending content carefully and sparingly. Since your social content should be hotel or travel related, Google Trends should only serve as an inspiration and not be over used.


In Google Trend’s Explore tool, users can research search query trends within a specific time or region. It is important to note that Google Trends does not show hard numbers, so users will only get a sense of relative popularity of that term, such as seasonality or year-over-year growth.

  • Search Terms: Compare the popularity of up to 5 terms over time


  • Locations: Compare popularity of a search query in specific regions


  • Time Ranges: Compare popularity of a search query over a particular time range


For businesses, the Explore tool is handy when you are curious about larger regional or seasonal trends. It can help answer questions like “how did this citywide event impact search interest?” or “is my decrease in natural search visits out of the ordinary or seasonal?” Just think of how much easier it would be to plan content out for the year, already knowing the time span of natural search interest for annual events, food and tourist attractions, and then plan PRs and website content accordingly.

In addition to search query popularity research, the Explore feature makes it easy to keep an eye on competitors. Because Google Trends will not return data for search queries with insufficient searches, specific hotel names will not return Google Trends data (unless you are a larger and more well-known hotel.) However, it is easy to monitor the popularity of large brands or new competition entering the market. For example, in their recent public letter to their shareholders, Netflix cited Google Trends data to show the drastic increase in popularity of search queries for their newest competitor, Popcorn Time, in the Netherlands.


Warning: Because Google Trends is limitless, the site can be a huge time suck! The tool also has a great Help Center in case you get stuck. Have fun practicing with the Trends and Explore tools and share any interesting finds in the comments below.

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Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in All Matters SEO, Social Media, Stats, Data and Analytics

How to Make Content That People Care About

You’ve heard it a million times (from your boss, from your MDS Account Manager and from the digital industry as a whole); SEO success relies on fresh, dynamic, interesting content. Sure, that sounds simple enough. If you make great content, the users will follow. But generating content that your audience actually cares about can be a hefty undertaking. The first step in creating engaging content is to understand your audience, what they care about, what they like and what they actually want to see. (After all, there’s a lot of noise on the internet, how can a marketer cut through the clutter?)

Social media is a great place to start digging into your audience analytics and learn about your followers. This past year, MDS attended a SEO conference called SearchLove San Diego, where Simon Penson from Zazzle Media presented on Facebook Graph Search and its ability to reveal a particular audience’s likes and interests. That’s right, fellow digital marketer, I’m telling you that there is a free tool out there that allows you to tap into the minds of those who already like your business, so that you can discover what additional interests that particular audience might have in common, and then make content accordingly that plays into those interests. Jackpot!

Facebook Graph Search allows marketers to slice and dice social data in a variety of different ways. For instance, maybe you want to know “which other Facebook pages are liked by people who also like your business” or “which of your followers have a certain interest and are over the age of X.”  Below is an example of the tool’s vast social search capabilities.


Use Facebook Graph Search for Your Own Content Generation

Let’s say I’m a marketer interested in seeing what Facebook pages are liked by the people who also like Marriott International’s Facebook page. From the below screenshot of this exact search, I can see that people who like Marriott International’s Facebook page also like pages such as Travel + Leisure magazine, The White House, J.Crew and Virgin America airline.


I can also use Facebook Graph search to reveal the favorite interests of people who like Marriott International. From the below screenshot, we can identify that those who like Marriott International also like things such as Shakespeare, chocolate, traveling and makeup.


Quantify the Data

While these findings are certainly interesting and can provide marketers with a peek into the world of their target audience, how can we quantify it? One tool Penson suggested was the Facebook Ad Center (specifically, the Promote your Page section of the tool).


Note: to access this tool, you need to be the admin of a Facebook page. However, once you enter the tool, you can discover various types of information that are unrelated to your page (which is our particular intent in this situation). For instance, let’s say that because I am interested in generating content for Marriott International, I first need to know the potential reach of the Facebook audience here in America (my audience for this example):


From the above screenshot, I can tell that the potential reach of Facebook users in the United States is 178,000,000 people. To put this number into perspective, I also need to know the potential reach of the actual Marriott International United States audience:


From the above screenshot, I know that the potential reach of the Marriott International audience in the United States is 4,200,000 people. Getting closer to making some meaningful, actionable data.

As we learned earlier in this exercise, Facebook users who like Marriott International also had in interest in chocolate, so let’s take a look at the potential reach of those who like chocolate and are also located in the United States:


From the tool, I can see that the potential reach of all the people who have shown an interest in chocolate is 20,000,000. But here is where this data really starts to get interesting – the combined reach of United States Facebook users who like both Marriott International and chocolate:


Aha! So now we are getting somewhere. The potential reach of people who like both chocolate and Marriott International is a staggering 22,000,000 people! So how can we determine the percentage of those who like Marriott International (in the U.S.) who also like chocolate? Penson has an easy formula:

((Audience 1 + Audience 2) – Total Reach of A1+A2) / (Audience 1) x 100

Quantifying Facebook Graph Search Data

So, using Penson’s equation and the above information discovered from Facebook Graph Search and Facebook Ad Center, we can determine that:

((4,200,000+ 20,000,000) – 22,000,000) / (4,200,000)) x 100 = 52.38%

Which means that 52% of the Marriott International Facebook fans in the U.S. also like chocolate. If I were to repeat this calculation for other interests or topics that I know my audience has an interest in (such as Shakespeare, makeup, travel, J.Crew, etc. via Facebook Graph Search), I can determine whether 52.38% is a lot or a little based off my particular audience’s track record.

Draw Content Conclusions

And there you have it, folks. A quantified way to look into the interests of your business’ target audience! This process could be repeated for any like, interest or topic (discover favorite restaurants, favorite hobbies, favorite places to shop, etc.) that your audience is interested (or disinterested) in as compared to the general Facebook audience. Once this process has been repeated multiple times, a marketer can deduce what percentages are particularly high (or low) for their specific audience. If 52.38% turns out to be a high number for Marriott International, perhaps the company would want to consider creating visual content about the chocolate found in different countries, or create a video where travelers do blind chocolate taste tests, etc.

Quantifying social data helps marketers to dig into what their audience cares about and then plan and create content accordingly. Good content lives forever and is the gift that keeps on giving. It can be repurposed, reformatted, chopped up and pieced back together. If it is truly relevant to your audience, it will never lose its value. But bad content that your audience is uninterested in sinks quicker than a rock in water (and is also a waste of moolah!).

MDS offers a variety of content creation services – talk to your Account Manager if you’re ready to start differentiating your hotel from your competition!

Are you using Facebook Graph search for content generation? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in All Matters SEO, Digital Industry News, Stats, Data and Analytics

Google’s Pigeon Update: 4 Things Hotels Need To Know

Like your property reservation system or the operating system on your smartphone, complex systems need updates to stay relevant and useful. The complex algorithm that powers Google’s search engine is no different. Google frequently makes updates to the algorithm to ensure that search results are both relevant and useful. These algorithm updates encompass changes to the signals, factors and triggers that determine how well a website will rank in search results.

Not all algorithm updates are created equal, nor have the same impact on search results. Each update seeks to ‘fix’ a different problem Google has identified. Game changing algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin sought to rid Google’s index of low quality ‘thin’ sites and punish those using manipulative tactics.

Pigeon, unveiled by Google on July 24th (and named by Search Engine Land), is a very different type of update. Pigeon is an update to Google’s local search algorithm for U.S. English queries that includes deeper ties into its traditional ranking factors – this includes the hundreds of ranking signals used in traditional web search. Pigeon makes local search more closely mimic traditional organic search rankings. Google told Search Engine Land that the new algorithm improved its distance and location ranking parameters.

So, what does Pigeon mean for your hotel?

1. ‘Traditional’ search ranking factors now play a larger role in local

  • The optimization performed on your hotel website will now play an even more important role in local rankings today and into the future.
  • Though Pigeon puts higher emphasis on traditional rankings factors, it does not downplay prominent local ranking factors. Some of the most important factors include high quality reviews, optimized local listings and the need for a Google+ Local page which provides local carousel with your hotel’s name, photo, location and Google Review rating.
  • In sum, Google is now simply drawing from a larger set of inputs to determine local rankings.  That’s not a bad thing.


2. Larger brands and websites appear to be rewarded

  • The results are still coming in – and it takes more than two weeks to see the full impact of an algorithm update – but early data suggests large national brands and websites were rewarded with higher visibility. Google puts lots of trust and authority on large websites with strong technical foundations, content optimization, social signals and links from trusted sources. Large brand websites like often have a leg up when Google makes these types of updates.

3. Local directories have gained higher visibility

  • As a result of putting more emphasis on traditional website ranking signals, local directories like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Urban Spoon and local newspaper directories saw positive gains.
  • Data also suggests OTA (Online Travel Agents) like Expedia,, and others saw an increase in visibility within traditional results. Fortunately, OTAs are not eligible for local carousel rankings as those listings are reserved only for physical businesses.


4. Service industries saw major local disruption

  • Service based industries – lawyers, plumbers, construction firms, relators and many others –saw major changes in results, while restaurants and hotels only felt minor rumbles.
  • This is mostly due to significant changes in how Google displays what are called ‘local packs’ results. Hotels are largely part of the 1% of search results that receive carousel-style results, not map packs.


A bit more about ‘traditional’ ranking factors

SEO is a technical game, which is why a program like MDS is so critical to your hotel’s digital success. Google’s algorithm is made up of thousands of ranking factors, but we can boil them down to five areas applicable to your hotel:

  1. Optimized content and meta data
  2. Links from trusted sources
  3. Correct location and UNAP (URL, name address and phone) data
  4. Social authority
  5. A technically strong website foundation

MDS’ program focuses on these five areas, which via Pigeon are now more important to your hotel than ever before.

Still want to learn more?

If you have any questions about Pigeon, please reach out to your Account Manager, or leave a comment below. We welcome conversation on such an important topic! Algorithm updates always generate a lot of news, interests and excitement – but they also can cause a lot of heartburn. Let us know how we can help!

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