Yelp, Bing, Siri. They all want a piece of the Google pie. Will they get it?

Monday marked Apple's Worldwide Developer’s Conference keynote, where they announced the latest versions of its Mac OS X and iOS operating systems. During the keynote, the largest announcement stemmed from Apple's decision to integrate Bing, not Google, into Apple's Siri tool. This marks a fundamental shift in thought and leaves others skeptical as to why Apple would partner with a Microsoft anything given the two's history. 

Siri will now include web results from Bing when it doesn’t have a direct answer for the user, replacing Google as the provider of supplemental web results. Bing Corporate Vice President Derrick Connel later stated:

Starting this fall with iOS 7, Bing will power Siri’s new integrated web search. When users ask Siri a question either the specific answer or web search links will now be delivered automatically so users can find information even faster.

Bing was designed from the outset to be a great place for web search helping customers quickly find what they are looking for and get more out of search. We are thrilled that all the great results people have come to know and love on Bing.com will now be available to Siri users on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

To add fuel to the Google melee, Yelp (another company bent on thwarting Google) announced their revamp of search results for mobile. This new "Nearby" feature will enhance users to find more localized search results. Considering Yelp's primary audience is those who are looking for small businesses (often in the trade industry), local search would yield more insightful results. A large number of small business focus all of their marketing efforts to Yelp and forego traditional and Internet marketing. They see Yelp, and its user reviews section as the most critical aspect to their online presence. 

Never to be outshined, Google made a major announcement in that it is readying ranking changes for mobile content. New ranking algorithyms suggest that mobile content will play a major role in defining mobile search results. Many businesses today have mobile sites however their entire desktop website hasn't been fully optimized for mobile. Thus, redirects are used in place of these non-mobile friendly pages. These redirects have been suggested (by Google themselves) as a factor for poor ranking ability.

It is widely accepted that smart-phone internet usage will surpass desktop users. The resulting effects will be monstrous for those solely focused on desktop only websites. 

So who will win this battle of mobile search? Certainly there are other factors including the unforeseeable changes to come from all involved. The Google empire knows how many are knocking at its door and certainly continues to make strides in combatting such competition. But who really knows how this will shake out. Perhaps another player will enter the realm and completely revolutionize how we search… yet again. 

ICND Spring 2013 Online Marketing Workshop Success!

If you didn’t go to our Spring 2013 Online Marketing Workshop in Myrtle Beach, SC, you missed out on a great time! The workshop was held at the ITT Technical Institute of Myrtle Beach where we found the space plentiful and staff very helpful. A big thanks to Courtney DePaul for her support of our workshop. We opened up the event with friendly registration by Summer Adams as she gave everyone an itinerary and USB key of all the presentations to take home.

Before entering the room, we invited our guests to participate in a fun photo booth prepared by our designer and photographer, Chris Campbell. Team ICND had fun with the photo booth as well. For more photos and fun check out our Facebook album and be sure to “Like Us”. As the sessions took place, we had great one-on-one interaction with our guests and speakers. It was a collaborative effort of presentations and Q&A. We hope to do more follow-up on the topics: SEO, PPC, Social Media, Email Marketing, and Responsive Web Design with additional whitepapers for download on our website. For more information, please visit our website www.icoastalnet.com or contact your Account Manager. by: Vanessa Humes

ICND invited to Google Engage program!

InterCoastal Net Designs was recently contacted by the folks at Google to be a participant in their Google Engage program. We are excited to partner with Google in this exciting new program that’s specifically for companies like ICND. The benefits from this program are great for both ICND and our Pay Per Click or Google Remarketing clients. Our PPC team now has a direct line to Google and if there is ever an issue or question about a client’s Google Adwords account, we have a contact at Google that will help us immediately. ICND can now learn through access to Google’s online courses, webinars and events. Lastly, any new Pay Per Click client of ours can receive a $100 Adwords coupon towards their account. That’s a great jump start to your online marketing campaign!

We feel honored to be apart of Google Engage and we’re already starting to see the benefits! Google Engage is specifically geared towards helping small business agencies. ICND prides itself on its 14 years of small business experience, and the Google Engage partnership is a sign of our success in the online marketing industry. If you’re interested in trying PPC now is the time because we a have limited amount of $100 Adwords coupons! Contact our staff to learn more.

 

Clarion Hotel Pairs Up With ICND for Internet Marketing Campaign

When it comes to online marketing, having a strategy is key. However, if you’re not an internet marketing specialist it can be an overwhelming task. InterCoastal Net Designs is excited to announce their new partnership with the Clarion Hotel of Myrtle Beach. We recently launched not just one campaign for this well-reknowned hotel, but three! Clarion chose Pay Per Click, Social Media Marketing and a kick-off social media contest to stay at the top of mind of their client base.

We often tell our clients, if you want quick results, then PPC is the way to go! Our PPC specialists are experienced in managing accounts that result in ROI and high quality scores, and in the long run a projected lower Cost Per Click.

And if you’re still in the dark on social media, it’s safe to say your company is dropping the ball! We are excited to take over Clarion’s social media marketing and foster brand awareness and client engagement for our new client! ICND is also handling the ins and outs of a social media contest for Clarion. We recently saw one of our client’s company pages grow from around 1,500 fans to 40,000 in the span of a week! With Facebook’s current algorithm in place, this kind of growth ensures that your brand will be all over the Facebook newsfeeds of your potential clients. When it comes to the vacation rental industry, fans are engaged with scenic photographs and the promise of the perfect getaway and Facebook is the place to start dreaming! We can’t wait to see the results of the Clarion Myrtle Beach contest.

If you feel like your company isn’t getting the online attention it deserves, it’s time to nail down an online marketing strategy. Any combination of our services from SEO to social media will increase the visibility of your brand and the combination of campaigns is sure to bring home the bacon.

Thanks Clarion, ICND is thrilled to start this partnership which is sure to be a success!

Brand Marketing Via Print Materials

Clients often come to us for website design and development needs, basically anything online! However, people overlook how essential print materials are for the entire branding process. We recently launched a website for Valor Motor Company, however, the recent print brochures and business cards that InterCoastal Net Designs created are a necessary supplement to their online marketing efforts. Potential clients often look to the web for quick information, however, having a business card in hand can create a sense of relationship and push the customer to call or swing by the office. Please check out the recent print materials we created for Valor Motor Company, assisting their complete brand development efforts. SEERngv is Valor Motor Company’s cutting-edge car that runs on 100 percent natural gas. ICND oversaw the production of the brochure for this environmentally-friendly vehicle.

Contact your Account Manager to learn more tips for complete brand development. ICND is your one-stop place for full marketing efforts.

Vacation Rental Marketing – Overcoming Booking Hurdles

Having the right tools in place for your vacation rental company can be essential to your business’s success in the next season.  From a site that is easy to use, lead tracking software to manage your leads, and collecting information from your customers and leveraging this information for your marketing and business need are becoming fundamentals for experienced vacation rental companies.  If you attended or missed Rezfest, here’s some insight on some key industry research based on the studies completed by HomeAway and some opportunities prepared for you to overcome some of these problems .

1.    Not having access to accurate calendar availability information on website.  How frustrating! The majority of Vacation Rental travelers on company and vacation rental by owner sites reported this problem and it’s the easiest to fix. This is at the core of any booking engine integration.  Having this information available to the customer so they can put in their dates and find true availability is crucial to your success.  Our booking engine integration solutions not only show your availability, but rate tables, amenities, pictures, reviews (integrated with FlipKey), and easy online booking (but we’ll get to that later).  When a customer puts in a date at the beginning, we never ask them to re-enter that date.  Everything is fed through your API and the less redundancy the better!

2.    Slow or No Response from the Owner/Property Manager.  EEEEK! As bringing in second place, a majority of leads are not getting tended to and off to the next company. As a manager or owner, this has to be the one that really makes your blood boil.  You’re paying hundreds or thousands of dollars each month to send leads to your website and they are not being contacted.  What are you using to manage leads?  ICND has a Leadtracker solution that is easily integrated into your site and to collect leads from any portal sites like HomeAway and Flipkey.  It allows you to send and automatic response, assign leads round robin to reps, see which leads were contacted, which ones were not, set up template replies, view the entire contact conversation, and mark which ones booked.  If you have our vacation rental booking engine, you can even tag properties and drop them right into the email. Which feeds into our next problem.

3.    Needing to inquire about many properties before making the commitment to book a vacation rental home.  Hey we all want to have choices and a lot of times there just isn’t enough info on your site, or it’s not organized well.  Links to photo galleries, videos, virtual tours, reviews should all be easy to find.  Your descriptions should include all the selling points and details.  A bulleted list of amenities makes it easy for people to find the options they are looking for.  Our booking engine includes and quick contact field on each property detail page so that people can inquire.  You can also tag favorites and view them all at one time.  And again, the Leadtracker comes in tagging each of the properties they viewed so you can help hone them into the vacation rental that is going to best serve their needs without them starting all over.

4.    Not having access to accurate rental information on the website.  Users want as much information as possible to make their purchase.  Especially if they’ve never rented from you before or stayed in the area, there is a lot of unknown and they are trusting your website to portray accurate information.  Any information that is out dated or inaccurate adds to their uncertainty.  Spend the offseason time making sure your website and all of the unit descriptions are clear and up to date.  As you are making maintenance updates, make sure this is communicated to your staff that makes updates to your descriptions.  If you are utilizing a good booking engine integration like the one we have here at ICND, you’ll be pulling all your descriptions and pictures straight from your property management software so there is no duplicate entry and maintenance.  This allows for one convenient place to update and maintain your information.

5.    Inability to use my preferred payment method (check, credit card, wire transfer) Do you allow people to book online by credit card.  Sure there’s only a certain amount of ways to allow people to book online, but the more options you give them the easier it is for them to book themselves and lessen the load on your staff.  Explore different options with your payment portals and attend conferences like RezFest that will tell you about the latest and greatest options for payment methods.

6.    Signing the rental agreement and getting it back to the owner/property manager. There are some online options for this.  The best thing to do is simplify your rental agreement as much as possible so that the basics are covered and customize one if you have to.  With our booking engine, we put the rental agreement on the booking page before they put in their payment information.  This allows them to at least agree to the terms and conditions to cover the basics.  There are also options like verisign that allow for electronic signatures.

7.    Losing one vacation rental home while negotiating for another one.   In the heat of the season, this is possible, though it rarely happens.  Having your booking engine integrated with your property management system allows to make sure this doesn’t happen.  As well as making sure it’s easy to book online with enough accurate information.

8.    Need to talk to the owner/property manager before booking.  We all know what this is about… Most of the time this is people asking for discounts or specific questions about the unit.  This is a very small percentage so you should be proud that you are putting enough information on the site people are able to book with confidence.  Having a good, updated web presence allows people enough security to know that your business is legit.  If you haven’t updated your site in 2-3 years, you may be out dated and this may be why people aren’t booking your properties online.  There are many sketchy business out there, and when people have to put in their credit card numbers, it’s starts creating some anxiety.  Make sure you are putting your best web presence forward.

9.    The whole process took to long.  This applies to everything.  Although this was the smallest percentage of complaints it really ties everything together.  Was it easy to find your site via the search engines?  Did they find you via Social Media sites, IE Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest?  When they found you via Social Media, did you make it easy for them to book? Was your site presentable and user friendly?  Do you have your booking engine integrated to your site and are you tracking your conversions?  What’s your bounce rate?  Do you have good pictures, reviews, testimonials, amenities, descriptions, everything someone needs to make sure that the thousands of dollars they are spending on their vacation are going to be well worth the money.

At ICND, we have  comprehensive, scalable solutions so you can tailor your services to your needs and budget.  From website design, booking engine integrations, online marketing services (SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, & Social Media, to lead tracking and guest communication emails (pre-arrivals & post-departures), we have it all under one roof.  Get started with us today by calling 1-866-249-6095 or email info@icoastalnet.com today!

How mobile is impacting all aspects of digital marketing

It’s no joke that the mobile market is the fastest growing marketing aspect in our age.  At the end of last year, more iPhones were sold then babies were born. The number of users moving to a mobile device is growing at exponential rates.  As more and more people find your business on a mobile platform there are a few key things you should consider along the way.

#1 – Email Marketing – Email is not dead, it’s just moving more mobile.  More than 40% of email is read on a mobile device.  Most of them are on iPhone and Android operating systems and some are also on ipad and tablets.  Most importantly is to have a mobile version of your email and point your call to action to a place on your site that is mobile friendly.

Think about when you read your email.  You’ve just brushed your teeth and climb into bed.  You check the latest round of emails that have come in after you watched your favorite TV show.  You check Facebook and go to bed.  You wake up in the morning, check what time it is on your phone and pop open your emails to see what interesting news you received.

We are never NOT busy, so when we are at lull in our day, waiting in line, waiting for our computers to reboot, waiting for our food to arrive, we are on our phones trying to keep our inboxes in check.

If you want to make your email marketing work, make sure you can follow through online!

#2 – Social Media – Social Media marketing is alive and well.  And just like we check our email on mobile devices, we are also checking our other lifeline, Social Media on mobile devices at a growing rate as well.  More and more of our social engagements needs to be tailored to mobile.  Social media will be more about reaching the friends of fans and leveraging your most loyal and engaged fans to be ambassadors of your brand and share the good news.  When posts have a lot of likes and shares, and people comment on them, a lot of times this is shown through friends of fans feeds.  That’s where your reach and new likes are likely to come from.

#3 – Location based Advertising – This is very up and coming and on the edge, but even more targeted than behavioral targeting, mobile targeting is collecting data on where users have been.  Go to the grocery store every Saturday?  Wouldn’t it be great to target those customers with some recipes including your product Saturday morning.  Want to reach people who visit Myrtle Beach in June but live in Charlotte?  All of this information of where we are taking our phones is collected.  It’s just a matter of time until it’s available to target ads to be served to you that really apply to your behavior and where you are going.

#4 – QR Codes.  If I see one more QR code on an email or website, I’ll croke!  QR codes are used to push people to your mobile website not to just put on your website or email to make it look like you know what you are doing.  Are you thinking people are printing your emails and hanging them on the fridge?  QR codes should be used for your print advertising and other promotions that you might be doing where you want someone to visit your mobile website to see an offer.

#5 – Search – Local, Local, Local.  If you don’t do anything else with your search engine optimization, please, for the love of God, please make sure your location of your business is correct.  Any directories you are listed MUST be updated with your new addresses, phone numbers, etc. so people know where to find you.  Fill these profiles out to the max with pictures, videos, coupons, toll free numbers, hours of operation, what you do.  Remember, content is key with anything search related.  What services do you offer that people who be searching for?  Make sure that’s in your profile.

#6 – Increase your mobile presence with a good mobile site – it’s not about how fancy your mobile site is, but about how you organize your information and how accessible it is.  Really, you don’t want to versions of your site, but having a good simple site that is responsive to what size screen it’s being viewed on is really the best choice.  This can be done in a grid system of CSS we are currently experimenting on.  That way if you make a change to your homepage then it feeds across all of your different sized sites.  But as if we didn’t have enough browsers to check when we make changes, we are also going to have to make sure we check through mobile devices as well.  Optimization and usability are key!

Bottom line.  Brands that are not leading with their mobile foot by 2015 will have a disadvantage from their competitors.  For more information on mobile marketing and websites, contact us today!

 

5 Ways to Increase Bookings without Drastically Reducing Prices

It’s getting down to the wire and your numbers aren’t matching up year over date and your boss is starting to put you into a panick.  Can you drastically reduce prices and blast it through email, social media, and promotion and catch up?  Sure you can, but here’s 5 different ways to improve your bookings all year round!

1. A picture speaks a thousand words. Are you telling them you have a great place to stay or showing them? Do you have professional photography?  Are your balcony shots all blown out and you can’t even see the amazing views your condo has? If your selling oceanfront, but you aren’t even going to give them a taste or what it looks like, you can be really missing the boat.  Is it good lighting or are you taking pictures in a cave?  With the wrong lighting, you can make it look like your selling a room in trailer park and not giving the full effect of your prestigious oceanfront room.  It will also keep your visitors on your site to offer plenty of pictures, virtual tours, and videos.  Give them as much information as they need to feel like they’ve got a great vacation.  And don’t hide your links to these different views.

2. Put your money where you make money.  Are you watching your marketing campaigns and tracking onthly  in peak seasons. 3. Boost your CPC performance. leads and revenue?  Avoid overspending on keyword phrases and campaign that aren’t bringing you in revenue.  A lot of times it’s not the amount of traffic you drive to your site, but the quality of traffic you drive to your site.  Make sure you are reviewing your traffic and campaigns at least quarterly, if not mWhere are you distributing your product and do you have the option to do a pay per click rather than a flat fee or by impression.  It’s really old school these days to still pay a flat fee or by impression.  It’s all about the click because, let’s face it, that’s all you care about anyways and good performance factor to use across all your campaigns.  Which OTA’s or portal sites are converting best for you and which ones aren’t?  Where are those portal site getting the traffic from?  These are all valuable places for you to look to invest.  But you should be enjoying the economies of scales from these OTA’s.  They get paid big money across the blanket in order to offer you a piece of the pie and put the pressure to make sure they are performing.

4. Participate in search engine optimization and social media. If your are not in the SEO game, it’s not too late.  No matter what kind of site you have, you don’t want to be linking out to other sites for content.  Hire us or a content writer to fill in the blanks and give your site the “stickiness” you need to keep people on your site.  Offer reviews from your customers about their stays, information about local area attractions, and think of unique and current things you can offer on a blog that will make people share your content.

5. Add Value before you discount – Before you start slashing prices, remember everyone loves something for free.  Whether you can offer breakfast, dvd’s, chairs and umbrellas, show tickets, do what you can with local vendors via trade or in cash to offer some better value.  Tell the umbrella company to give you a deal on 100 umbrellas and two chairs, it’s their job to upsell them on the other rentals they offer.  Tell a show you’ll give a way 2 free tickets, but most people come with more than that.  If it will help them drive sales, many times they’ll work with you on a price and it’s a win win for everybody.

It’s hard work to put heads in beds, but you don’t need to give away the farm.  A good, easy to use site that offers a lot of value and information can be all you need to bring home the bacon!

Local Search Marketing

With Google stating a mere 20% of their searches have any local relevancy it’s time to cast a broader net and employ local search marketing techniques for your business site. But what exactly does this mean? It means focusing on other local search engines and not just Google and these days there are plenty of them around. Following are the most popular ones you’ll want to focus your local SEO improvements around. Keep in mind that when you rank well with other search engines it will improve your ranking with Google.

local search marketing1.    Facebook.
Make sure your business is listed under Facebook Places and that the information provided is correct. If you haven’t already, building a page for your business is a good local search marketing tool worth utilizing.

2.    LinkedIn. Set up a page for your company and encourage your employees to add profile pages. Linking the two together can improve your ranking.

3.    Twitter. To target local SEO set your company profile’s Location using the city name and state. Enable the “Tweet Location” to be added to your tweets and utilize the Description field.

4.    Foursquare. With the ability to search for businesses the Foursquare site is turning into a strong local search engine for many. Claim your listing on Foursquare and customize it as much as possible.

5.    Pinterest. To optimize for local SEO on this image sharing site include local keywords, link to your business, post relative images, and describe what you’re posting in detail. But local search marketing goes beyond post-and-forget. You need to interact with the Pinterest community by commenting, repining and posting to public boards.

By bringing your business to the forefront on social marketing sites such as these you will see your ranking improve overall.  Social media is no longer limited to friends socializing and sharing photos. More and more people are using them for their search capabilities to obtain information on local businesses in lieu of going to a website.
 

Utilizing Video As An Internet Marketing Tool

Internet marketing with online ivideoWant to be on the cutting edge of Internet marketing? With YouTube being the second largest search engine on the Internet, online video is one of the newest and hottest ways to market your company.

Many people are overwhelmed at the thought of making an online video for their business because they’re camera shy or think it’s more involved than it actually is. It’s actually quite simple and videos don’t have to be very long at all. Most digital cameras can record a video. Many computers come with a video cam installed or you can attach one that can record videos. Or you could use a simple video camera like the Cisco Flip video to record it.

Make a short video of a couple minutes duration promoting something your business does or offers. It’s not necessary to mention all of your services in one video. This is definitely a time when “less is more”. Get creative with it. Be witty. Bring in props. You want to make your online video anything but boring and once you’re comfortable with it, make additional videos. Internet marketing that allows you to be creative is marketing that is going to work wonders for your business and is marketing that you can do yourself. If you don’t have the creative desire or the time, hire the project out. But definitely climb on board with this type of marketing.

What causes this to be such a successful tool for Internet marketing is the use of your keyword phrases. Using them in your video titles, descriptions and tags helps your videos to achieve higher search results. Optimize your “About Me” section and “Channel Description” areas by using your keywords. Set up Playlist Categories titled after the services you offer and other keywords you want your business associated with. Then take your videos to other video sharing sites and post them there as well as on your company's website.