CiiRUS-Integrated Australian Site Launches

ICND has been in the vacation rental industry for two decades and a key component of that success is our partnerships. We’ve worked with our partner CiiRUS Vacation Rental Software to launch Uptown Apartments. This marks ICND’s first collaboration of many to come with CiiRUS. This site is the second Australian launch for both ICND and CiiRUS.

 

 

 

Now let’s learn a bit more about our new clients, Uptown Apartments. Uptown Apartments’ site harnesses the power of CiiRUS software and our booking engine while utilizing WordPress to manage all content and contacts. The homepage features a seamlessly integrated quick search component linking to all available properties. Custom features include:

  • Featured properties that pull based on highest availability in a specified time frame
  • Urgency features, allowing guests to view number of property views in a 24 hour time-frame
  • Property availability calendars with nightly pricing
  • Rental add-ons offered at booking, notifies property manager of request

Uptown Apartments is a husband & wife owned company specializing in executive apartments in the Sydney & Brisbane areas. The entire rental fleet is located in high-demand locations. Their properties are perfectly suited for business trips, vacations or long-term stays due to relocation or home renovation. Each apartment is outfitted with all amenities including complete kitchens, washer/dryer, linens and free cable/wifi.

As we announce our first CiiRUS launch, we’re also announcing that ICND is integrated with their software and ready to serve the custom web design needs of all CiiRUS customers. Contact us to learn more!

Vacation Rental Marketing Do’s and Dont’s

With so many SEO tools floating around the internet, it can be hard to understand what to believe. Raven, SEMRush, Moz and other similar tools have site audit features that crawl your website and spit out a list of items that are hindering your site’s performance.

With so many different issues highlighted by just one of the many site audit tools out there, getting your website optimized can seem like a daunting task. To help you better understand how to optimize your site and not waste time blindly following a third-party audit tool, we created a list of Do’s and Don’ts of Digital Marketing.

Digital Marketing Don’ts:

DON’T get caught up with the “perfect score”
Using a third-party site audit can be great start when looking for ways to improve your website. They can be provide valuable insight about issues and opportunities related to your site, but they should never be used as the be-all and end-all resource for site optimization. Good SEO always starts with good on-site content and a good user experience.

SEO and how to utilize the 80/20 rule in your digital marketingDON’T spend time on social media just promoting yourself (80/20 rule)
Social media is made to be just that- social. It’s not a platform to purely promote your rentals or specials, and should be used to create and monitor social interactions regarding your brand. The best way to balance this is by making 80% of your posts fun and engaging, while the other 20% can be promotional.

DON’T think you can manage your PPC campaign yourself without experience
There are so many ins-and-outs of PPC that it takes years of daily use to master. Without knowing which tools to use inside Google or Bing ads, you could be setting yourself up for a huge spend without a good return on investment. It’s best to leave stuff like this to the PPC experts.

DON’T buy links to your site or participate in linking farms
It’s not enough to just get as many links as you can to your website. Google also takes the quality of your referring domains into account when determining how you rank. Have too many questionable backlinks, and you might not even rank at all! Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there that will hunt down toxic backlinks for you so that you can disavow them in Google Search Console.

DON’T upload photos or images straight from their source (camera, stock site, etc.)
The files needs to be compressed, sized appropriately and be given an appropriate meta description and file name. This affects many different aspects of SEO, and could be something that you’re missing out on.

DON’T use Headings (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) for their appearance
HTML is for content and headings help search engines easily understand page structure. If you’re looking to change the appearance of something on a page, your best bet is to utilize CSS, a styling language. Using HTML headings to change the appearance of a page element will massively impact how Google and other search engines see your page.

Digital Marketing Do’s:

DO spend time on your own website & look at competitors’ sites
Take a look at the functionality of your website from a user’s perspective. How useful is the site? How easy is the booking process? Now take a look at some of your competitors’ sites, how does your site stack up?

The power of visual content in SEO and digital marketing
source: coolerinsights.com/2015/02/visual-content-marketing-asian-insights/

DO spend time creating quality content
Creating quality content is a great way to build your brand and get a potential customer’s attention. It’s important to keep in mind that this content should be relevant to your business, deliver value to the consumer (entertainment, good information, etc…) and be more than just blocks of text. This means videos, photos, maps, illustrations, and other visual & interactive elements should all be part of your content strategy.

DO use Google My Business
And update it often! Google My Business has been around for years, but Google has recently put some serious time and effort into boosting its functionality. Make sure you take the time to completely fill out your profile with accurate information, photos, and create posts from time to time. Finally, encourage your customers to leave honest reviews on your GMB profile and reply to them. This will help your local SEO and even get you included in the local map pack.

SEO long-tail keywords, search volume, and conversion rates.DO target long tail keywords – it’s easier than you think
Sure, everyone wants to rank #1 for “<location> rentals.” However, spending time on a few lower-volume long tail keywords such as “<location> oceanfront home rentals” can bring in a ton of good traffic. Furthermore, if you have good quality content for a few long tail keywords, it boosts your ability to rank for “<location> rentals” because you are becoming an authority for all the different types of rentals in the area.

DO make sure your site is optimized for mobile
Back in July of 2018 Google announced that mobile page speed is now a ranking factor in mobile searches. See how your site performs on mobile, and learn what you can do about it.

DO make sure your website is HTTPS
Would you want to give your information to a non secure (HTTP) page? Google knows it’s not a good idea, and, as of July 2018, warns users if they’re visiting a site that isn’t secure. Oh, and it’s a ranking factor. Enough said.

DO establish the N.A.P. of your organization & standardize It
Having a million citations doesn’t do your company much good if your business name (N), address (A), and phone number (P) aren’t the same across the board. There’s plenty of great services out there that will monitor this for you.

Google Local Search Update Now Includes Posts From Google My Business

Your Google My Business posts will now be featured in local search results- if you have any.

New Google My Business Posts feature on a mobile local business SERP

As more and more users are choosing to use their phones for basic browsing instead of a traditional computer, mobile SERPs (search engine result pages) are more important than ever. That’s why so many successful businesses hire a digital marketing company that understands Google’s ever-changing ranking algorithm.

Google My Business allows business owners to determine how, or if, their business is displayed in Google Maps, Knowledge Graphs and Organic Search. There’s also an option for business owners to create posts and share information about their business.

The four main types of posts are:

  1. What’s new posts A post regarding general information about your company that can include a photo/video link and a CTA button.
  2. Event posts – These posts require a title as well as a start/end date and time. These posts can also include a photo/video, CTA button, and other information.
  3. Offer posts – Allow business owners to share deals or promotions offered by their business. These posts automatically have a “view offer” CTA button added to them, but may also include a photo/video, terms and conditions, coupon codes, links and more.
  4. Product posts – Share details about a specific product offered by your business. These posts must include a title and photo/video, but can also include a CTA button and other information.

Pro tip: Posts can be up to 1,500 characters, but Google says that the ideal length is 150-300 characters. So keep it simple!

For more information about Google My Business Posts, check out the official Google guide.

It’s important to note that the Post tab only displays on mobile searches at the time of writing this post. Here is the desktop result for the same search as above:

Google My Business update and how Posts display on a desktop SERP

Will creating Posts help me rank better?

It’s tough to know for sure. According to a Search Engine Land case study from 2017, Google My Business Posts are “low-impact, low-effort tasks” that are best utilized when combined “with other tasks to help improve Local SEO for a small business.”

The same study showed that Google My Business Posts had a “mild” impact on rankings. Now that Google is putting more attention on Posts, they could play a larger role in the future.

So if the Posts feature has been around for a while, what’s the big deal?

This is the second major update to the Posts feature in just three weeks, meaning that Google is either planning or testing something. The first major update came on July 31st when Google announced a big change to their Post Insights dashboard.

For now though, it’s hard to say exactly where Google is going with this. If you already publish posts to your Google My Business profile, head over to the Insights tab and see if they are yielding any beneficial results. If you haven’t published any posts yet, it could be something that’s worth looking into- if Google is giving it this much attention, there could be something big on the horizon.

Are you looking for Search Engine Optimization and other digital marketing services to help your business outshine the competition? We would love to be in touch.

Google RankBrain: Google’s Third Most Important Ranking Signal

In the not so distant past, Google announced their new algorithm  “RankBrain”, making it more apparent that user-focused websites are now more important than ever when it comes to SEO for vacation rental websites.

The algorithm studies the satisfaction of users who land on your website, and promotes sites with higher favorable outcomes for an end user. The actual design and functionality of your website has always mattered, but this information proves that it also boosts your search engine rankings.

So, all in all, an easy-to-use website that is rewarding to the user carry’s ranking weight more than ever!

How Can Your Website Satisfy Users?

First thing’s first, organic click-through-rates are crucial. The first step to analyzing whether traffic is pleased with a website can be based on whether or not the website is clicked often for key search terms. Simply put – high volume of clicks = strong website. A low volume of organic clicks signifies that your website didn’t satisfy the search term entered.

The second portion of RankBrain is the more revelatory piece – the RankBrain algorithm places a high focus on overall user experience. A user leaves your site in less than 3 seconds? Google RankBrain signifies this as an unsatisfactory experience. The content on your website didn’t keep users engaged. Not a good sign. Bounce rate, dwell time and pogo-sticking are key factors that RankBrain analyzes. Bounce rate & dwell time are commonly used terms. However, pogo-sticking is used to describe the process where a user clicks the #1 ranked site and backs out, clicks the #2 ranked site and backs out, finally lands on site #3 and spends time browsing. RankBrain would detect that site #3 provided the visitor with information they liked or needed (and subsequently, may move it up in the rankings.)

On the flip side – if bounce rate, dwell time and pogo-sticking is low (or less prevalent) on your website, Google recognizes that the user had a pleasant experience and ranks your website higher. These measurements are known as user experience (UX) factors.

What Does This Mean for My Website?

Every portion of your website’s development matters. Ranking doesn’t begin and end with blogging, linking and keywords. Your website needs to include the following (to name a few!):

  • Aesthetically pleasing and functional design
  • Seamless programming for user-friendly experience
  • Innovative website tools and fresh features
  • Pertinent and engaging content

At ICND, we think this is pretty cool stuff! It means to us that every member of our team, whether they’re a digital marketing guru, graphic designer or project manager, plays a key role in our client’s marketing success.  It’s not just an “SEO team” thing anymore to rank! Everyone plays a role.

Want to learn more from the experts? Contact us directly!

Blogging Tips For Vacation Rentals

What To Know About Blogging

Blogging is an extremely helpful tactic in many ways when it comes to marketing. It can add to various aspects of your overall marketing including SEO, Social Media and even Sales. But what makes blogging so powerful and furthermore, how do you write a good blog post? Let’s face it, everyone has a blog. Some are successful and some are not but those that are successful can really add value to your marketing channels.

Writing Is Half The Battle

Many people begin blogging and just expect some sort of magic to happen. It’s like the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” Well, that isn’t necessarily true in the case of blogging. Writing is half the battle, the other half is promoting. You really have to spend some time thinking about where your audience consumes the most content and come up with a strategy to promote it through those channels.

Picture Of Computer And Icons

For example, a popular blog promotion channel is social media. Social Media is a great way to distribute your content to an audience that has some sort of interest in you or what you are talking about. You can also recycle content through your social channels to stretch your content a little further. It is not uncommon to promote the same blog post twice in a month, most likely it’s going to be seen by different people anyways.

You can also look at other avenues of promoting your blog such as forums, message boards, email, etc…Reddit and Quora are two popular avenues worth looking at. Anywhere you can post it that is related to your audience group is an avenue of promotion.

Links Are Your Friend

If you are looking to improve the SEO value of your blog, then “Interlinking” is huge. You can do this by linking to other blog posts you have done, linking to search pages, or even important pages on your website. By making these links you are passing what is called “Link weight” and importance to these pages and basically telling the search engines, “Hey, these pages are important and matter.” Remember not to go overboard, you don’t need a link in every sentence. Three to five links in a blog post is all you need to be effective.

The same value goes for external linking or linking to other websites. The idea behind a blog is to benefit the reader, so providing them with links to extra information that is relevant and helpful is a great thing to do. By doing this, you are providing great content to your reader and becoming an authority.

Optimizing For SEO

It is very important that you start writing for Humans and not for Google. Forget about keyword density and using your keyword three times. Some of the best performing blog posts are the ones that are personable and easy to read. Remember, you have people reading your blog and the more they like it, the more search engines will like it. If you are looking to make your blog “SEO Friendly,” here are some things you can do:

  • If you are using WordPress which is a great blogging platform, try installing the Yoast Plugin. You can then check all the configuration settings to make sure all the information that needs to be on there for search engines is.
  • During the writing process, Yoast will give you suggestions on keyword density and “SEO Value.” It’s important to take note of these and use them when you can, just don’t force it.
  • Think outside of the box with your content. Photos, charts, videos, and infographics are all forms of content. Visual aids add a great value to the reader, diversifies the type of content you are producing, and breaks up blocks of text.

Hope Page Of Answer The Public

Looking For Writing Ideas

Sometimes it’s tough to start writing and finding a topic worth writing about. Luckily, there’s a tool for that and it’s fairly new! AnswerThePublic.com gives you blog post ideas based on popular searches people do in your area. For example, if you are in the Outer Banks you can type in “Outer Banks” and it will give you a list of keyword variations that can spark some great writing ideas. Who knows, you might even strike on some content gold!

Don’t Wait Any Longer

If you aren’t blogging then you’re missing out. When done right, it’s not only great content for your audience but can bring a lot of value to your overall marketing plan. Consumers are always looking for information on their purchases and a vacation is no exception to the rule. They want to know as much as they can about the area, food, culture, things to do, etc… So providing that content for them can give you happier consumers and help create bookings in the process. And if you get lost, we have been blogging and helping others blog for years. Now go start blogging!

Digital Marketing Myth 1 of 4: Your Google Analytics Data is CORRECT

Myth #1: Analytics is always correct!

As a digital marketing agency we hear a lot of wives tales when it comes to vacation rental marketing. Many of these myths exist in the Vacation Rental Industry when it comes to marketing and can really cause confusion when it comes to measuring results. We are all about the truth, and nothing but the truth, which is why we are going to bust a very common myth for you today: Your Google Analytics Data Is Accurate. Yes, that is a bold statement, but we didn’t say it’s not accurate, just that it isn’t always accurate.

Wait a second, you’re telling me that Google Analytics data isn’t correct? Well, let’s just say sometimes the numbers can be misleading and sometimes requires some digging the find the real data. One great example of this is how revenue is attributed to a user. But first let’s talk about how that process works.

How Google Analytics Works for a Potential Rental Guest

When a user visits your website Google Analytics sets a cookie for 2 years and this is called the first touch source path. Let’s say they visit your website a second and third time, but on different devices each time, those are different touch source paths with the same user. Finally, they book on the fourth session to your website and the revenue is then attributed to that last source.

Now, this is IF that person uses the same device, such as their home computer, through this entire process.  In the vacation rental industry, we KNOW that’s not the case. They will visit your site 3-7 times before booking!

The following graphic is a bit more accurate for the life cycle of a rental guest.

In this instance above, analytics will attribute the BOOKING to the Home Computer, as a direct visit.

So Where Are My Guests Really Coming From?

So what about the four previous sessions? Especially if the first session originated from a social channel or a PPC campaign, it would be really great to know that those things are actually pulling their weight! But instead you see that the booking came from a direct search because by the time they booked, they knew exactly who you were and what they wanted. Sometimes the data can be misleading if you don’t do some digging.

In this picture you can see the differences in Last Interaction compared to First Interaction for Organic Search and Paid Search. Those numbers are completely different and it is important to note that the First Interaction will not be attributed to the revenue generated by a user. Ok, so this is all good information… well, we think so. But how do you start tracking these users to show that what your doing is making a difference when it comes to what matters most, Revenue?

Start using different attribution models and multi-channel funnels to monitor PPC, email and social media. This will allow you to see where the correct attribution lies in regards to specific channels.

 

Customers Using Different Devices Mess Up Your Data Too

Another aspect of this data is the fact that people tend to search on one device and book on another. For example, most people tend to begin exploring on their phone because of the convenience and ease of use and then later on will book on a desktop computer. Maybe people still don’t feel secure purchasing their family vacation on the phone or maybe mom wanted to get everyone’s opinion before she put money down on the rental, we really don’t know but we do know that there is a split in the data.

Why is this important you may ask? Well, Google Analytics is not basic and therefore the data it provides should not be interpreted as basic. What we are trying to do is paint a picture of what our audience is doing and what is really working so we can do more of that.

Everything in the sales process matters but finding what sparked the interest of your buyer can mean the difference between you just doing marketing and you truly knowing what really works and what doesn’t.

Chances are, your PPC campaign you didn’t think “was working”, probably is. Start looking at your 

different attribution models. They can be found in Analytics here on the left:

 

#BookDirect Day Is Almost Here | February 7th

What is #BookDirect day? We know it, you know it, but most consumers don’t know that there are some major benefits when you book direct with a vacation rental company. Well, February 7th is our day to educate the public about all the advantages of booking direct with your company. We think it is so important that people understand that they can still reach out to vacation rental companies and still have a unique, personal and positive interaction.

#BookDirect day isn’t a day to bash Online Travel Agencies and that isn’t the goal for February 7th, but it is a day to show people that there are some amazing, unique brands out there that can offer some great prices and amenities when they book directly with the company. Let’s all use this day for a positive impact on our industry.

Lady doing research on laptop

 

You may be wondering, how can I make a difference? That is a great question and #BookDirect day is only impactful if we all do our part. Here are some things you can do to help spread the word and be heard:

  • Use the hashtag #BookDirect. We have the power to make this viral and if we are all talking about the same thing, it will be! Use the hashtag wherever you post, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc… And remember, keep it positive.
  • Send out an eblast. Email is a great way to tell your audience about something specific and this is definitely a perfect time. You can highlight the fact that it is #BookDirect day and that there are advantages to booking directly with your company or any vacation rental company. Most importantly, tell people that you care about them as an individual and not as a number, no one wants to be treated like a number.
  • Blog about it. Use this opportunity to create some great content for your blog. It is a great way to tell everyone exactly what you think about #BookDirect day and it will also add to your site’s SEO.

The most important part about #BookDirect day to us is showing that the people booking are still people and not numbers and we need to show consumers that we still think that way. With the online changes in the vacation rental industry and such a huge push to fast, convenient booking, consumers get put into boxes and categorized like cattle. We think that every consumer is unique and should be treated that way.

As a Digital Marketing and Website Design company we do our very best to build products that treat consumers like people and not numbers. We also want your company to share it’s story and one of the ways to do that in today’s age is by great website design and digital marketing.

If you want to know more about #BookDirect day check out this article by VRMintel and find out how you can get involved. Let’s all do our part in making #BookDirect day a day of education and show our consumers that we care about them, their family, their friends and most importantly their vacation. Join the movement and spread the word on February 7th!

Orlando, We are Coming For You!

Orlando, VRMA we are coming for you! Not only are we coming for you, we are fully loaded and ready. We let our own marketing director out of his room, and he has some great informative information for you wont find anywhere else. Paul has been in the vacation marketing business for over 11 years now. He has some great insights and has seen all the trends and hype throughout the years. The Digital Marketing world is scary. After all, one mistake could wind up costing a good chunk of change out of your marketing budget with nothing but a head scratch and bewilderment to show in return.

In order to make your business decisions, you have to rely on the bits and pieces of info you acquired from random webinars, articles and even sales tactics that could put a little fear into you if you don’t comply. So on October 18, let our very own Paul Hanak help you decipher some of those rumors, myths, and help you make better marketing decisions for your business!

 

Palmetto Vacation Rentals Launches A Newly Redesigned Site

The owners from Palmetto Vacation Rentals recently decided to upgrade their site. Len felt that the site was too busy and distracting for guests. Now it has streamlined specials, easier navigation putting the most important information into the hands of guests. Easier maintenance and administration reduces the amount of time spent supporting the site so the team can focus on helping guests to ‘Find The Best Myrtle Beach Vacation Rentals’

We did a major re haul on their property detail pages as well. As you can see below potential customers have lots of choices.

The top features an option to compare the favorite properties the user may want to compare, and recently viewed properties just in case!

Palmetto Vacation Rentals

They can share this property via social media channels to show anyone the property. If the customer is not quite ready to book and wants to know more information, the option to do so is right there on the page! There is even an option the print the page, and it will come out in a printer friendly format

Implementing these items into a new site, not only makes the site more user friendly, but also drives up the overall conversions.  Take a look at the new Palmetto Vacations site and see what your site might need to be adding to help your guests overall experience.

 

Article written by Tonya Harmati .

 

Get Less Abandoned Bookings

4 Quick Wins for Getting More Direct Bookings

By Vanessa Humes

As vacation rental marketers, we work so hard to get visitors to the website and into the booking funnel. We watch them spend minutes on the site (using technology like HotJar) finding the perfect rental and even get to the booking page. But then it happens. The mouse stops moving. The session ends. WHAT?! If this is what you have been experiencing, here’s a few easy things to do, and some more complicated that will help you drive conversions and more direct vacation rental bookings.

1) Add Urgency Features to your booking pages. We first saw these on hotel sites in 2015 like Hotels.com and thought, “Hey, what a great idea. Let’s try that on our vacation rental booking engine”. Since then, it’s become almost a staple. Urgency helps communicate to the visitor that there other people searching on the site, this property has been viewed, or that your dates are popular and you should hurry up and book.
2) Make the booking experience super quick and easy – even on mobile.
By “super quick and easy” we mean less clicks and easier forms. No more than a couple steps. Find your rental, here’s a page to book. Sometimes other booking engines break up the check out into steps, but we don’t. One page, easy to navigate forms, and boom – you’re booked.

3) Give them a deal. Are you hiding your specials? Why? Specials drive conversions, especially when you make them easy to book online. Simple promo codes at check-out are convenient ways to allow for discounts. Or you can add a modal pop-up to collect email addresses and give a specific amount off, like $25. Implementing this is sure to drive conversions and add email addresses to customers who are ready to book direct with you!

4) Send them an abandonment email. If Amazon does it, you should probably do it too and here’s the results to prove it. When a guest gets to the check-out page and abandons the form, we like to send them an email a few hours later. Sometimes people don’t want to do it on their phone, or just want to triple check with their traveling party. So make it convenient and send them an email directly back to book their stay. We also have a pretty cool trigger on the bottom of the site to get them back to where they left off with booking.

Don’t make them think!

So there you have it. ICND is the leader in bringing these great ideas to the VRM industry first. These strategies are proven to help drive direct bookings on your website. You worked so hard to get them there, you might as well put as much effort into having the features to help get them to book with you. For more ways to drive bookings, check out our websites in live action in our portfolio or contact us today.