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.

How to take advantage of Google Search Trends

Google trends is one of the best and most versatile tools available for any marketer out there. There are literally billions upon billions of searches performed in Google every single day. So why not gather that information and use it at your will? You can use Google trends to discover basic data about your brand, your market share, your competition and seasonal trends.

“Google Trends gives you a glimpse into the topics the world is searching for.” The trends begin in the year 2004 and go forward. These trends can be sorted by types of searches (web, image, news, products, or YouTube), geographical areas, time span, and categories, and the tool allows you to compare up to five search terms at a time.

There is a variety of ways you can use Google trends to gather the data you want the most.

When performing a search on Google Trends, you have the option to set four variables or parameters. (default shown in bold)

  • Web Search – Image search – News Search – Product Search – YouTube Search
  • Worldwide – Option to choose a specific Country
  • 2004-Present – Past 7 Days – 30 Days – 90 Days – 12 Months- Choose a Year
  • All Categories – Arts & Entertainment – Autos & Vehicles – Beauty & fitness – Books & literature – Business & industrial – Computers & electronics – Finance – Food & drink – Games

 

For an example take a look at these screenshot. You can see the search term “Charleston vacation rentals” and see the interest over a period of time for that specific search term.

 

This example shows  you the interest over time of the keywords, Outer Banks and OBX. As you can see year over year, there has been less searches performed for Outer Banks. However, you can see people are starting to use the term OBX instead of the full name.

 

 

Understand your competitors

They say, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. The best way to beat your competitors is to understand them. You can learn a lot from your competitors graphs. If they are doing well, you can research the “peaks” and see how it was created. If they are doing poorly, you can research on what to avoid and understand how to adapt your marketing strategy.

Monitor Your Brand

If you are not monitoring your brand, you should be! When you monitor your brand, you should be looking out for active ways that you can improve your market share and positively increase your brand presence. Google trends can provide you with a detailed report on how you are faring. Just enter your company’s name and it will show you the information of “interest over time” via a graph and data on how searchable your brand on a per year scale.

Seasonal Trends

If you need to write content for your blog, or for your website, understanding seasonality is a critical factor. There is no point in publishing content that your audience may not likely to engage with. Google trends can help you find the most relevant topics for the time of year, you need. This will drive your content creation and give you ideas on what your audience is attracted to.

Building your brand online can be a daunting but rewarding task. Explore the benefits of Google trends and see how it can get you ahead of your competition. If you do not want to be bothered with all this research and data, let InterCoastal Net Designs do the work for you. We have a full vacation rental marketing and SEO team at your disposal.

Give us a call today at 866.249.6095!

 

Article written by Tonya Harmati .

Top 5 Rental Website Conversion Tactics to Boost your Bookings

Do you find your website generating a large volume of traffic but not yielding enough conversions? This is one of the many challenges many vacation rental managers face when it comes to their digital marketing success. Identifying the potential causes of failing to convert those lookers into bookers is the first step into solving this very common problem.

Can you answer these questions that as a marketer or manager should be able to answer?

Think about your online conversion rate.  If you get 1,000 visitors to your website a day, but only convert 2% that’s 20 reservations.  But what if you could increase that percentage to 10%?  That’s 80 more reservations a day you are making online.  This is why website conversion optimization is so important.  We want you to increase your traffic, but we want you to also focus on converting a higher percentage of that traffic.  That’s where the real money is.

It’s important that you have a team that knows what they are doing: where to put things, how to word things, what color to make calls to action.  What makes a person go or stop, and how to funnel traffic throughout your website.  That’s what we specialize in Conversion Focused websites.

 

The Top Conversion Tactics

Conversion Tactic #1: Make it Mobile!

It’s really important visitors can navigate your site from any mobile or desktop device.  Most people are shopping on mobile devices and make their purchases on a desktop.  This is the same with travel purchases. But mobile conversions are on the rise, so you need to be thinking about your mobile architecture and usability for mobile navigation.Incorporate marketing – people open their email, see start shopping

For 30% mobile 80% bookings come from desktop.Mobile traffic is up 200% in the past few years.

 

Conversion Tactic #2: Up Your Elements

So let’s talk about some of those elements that help funnel your traffic.  One of the most important things it to make sure your quick search is above the fold.  Use cool verbiage in your calls to action, like “Begin Your Adventure” rather than just “Start  your Search”.  Use brighter colors to call their focus for book now.

It’s online marketing’s job to get traffic to your site, but it’s usability and functionality that uses some psychology to make them book.  This is a screen shot of our booking engine.

The visitor has landed on the website and began to search.  They could be shopping around for price and availability.  We’ve incorporated urgency into our booking engine.  We show that search has only produced X amount of properties, or 82% of our inventory matching your search results is booked, reserve now, or showing that 22 people have viewed this property in the last 3 hours.  These elements show the visitor, they need to take action before their selection is gone.

Conversion Tactic #3: Make It Easy!

In order to find a property, you’ve got to have the tools to help them.  Having a refine search with popular features is necessary for your visitors to drill down and find the perfect property.  If you’re a hotel, this maybe different for you, you only have a couple room types, but making it easy for them to find those room types, pricing, and ability to book them.

Then you want to make sure you are tracking our searches.  What are your most popular arrival dates?  What is the average length of stay people are searching for?  Do you have a lot of people looking for something that is pet friendly, but only a handful of pet friendly properties.  This could open up opportunities for you to expand your inventory.  Let’s say you get a lot of people searching for 3 BR oceanfront at the <xxx> Resort, but you only have 1.  This could be an opportunity to market to owners there telling them you have the demand, but you need more supply.  Having tangible results from actual searches performed on your website could be a powerful tool to potential owners – especially with the analytics to back it up.

Conversion Tactic #4: Focus on the Booking Page

Take a look at your conversion rates from your check out pages.  This is probably one of the most important pages.  You work so hard to get a visitor there.  Obsess over this rate.  We pay so much attention to the pretty pictures and design, and you may think this is just a standard form.  It’s not.  We’ve learned from improving our clients check out pages and also from looking at what the big dogs do –

  • strip out your navigation,
  • make the form easy to fill out and fit on one page,
  • and easy to fill out on a mobile device
  • have your totals adjust as they add on or opt-out of things like travel insurance
  • make sure they know it’s secure, and make sure it’s simple.

Conversion Tactic #5: Watch the Users and Adapt

Navis is going to tell you a lot about what happens to a lead after they’ve made contact with you or booked, but if they didn’t get there –say they landed on your website and bounced or exited before booking or making contact, you have to take a look at your funnels in Google Analytics.  This is going to be going in and looking at your pages, page views, and conversions from those pages.

Say they land on your specials page, but don’t know how to execute the special.  Well it can result in an exit rather than a booking.  If you see high bounce or exit rates on your pages at any point in your funnel, you are going to want to drill down and figure out why.  You can install more tracking through Crazy Egg heat mapping or watch video clips of visitors looking at your site and what they are doing.  This going to tell if your visitors are getting lost, if they are backing out at the check out pages, or trying things that will help with conversions.  Maybe it’s a call to action, maybe your promo code field is not visible, you have to dig in and see what visitors are doing to help make changes to your funnel.

Final Converting Thoughts

“Beautiful websites don’t generate leads”. There are a ton of fantastic web designers out there that can create a great and beautiful website, but they may not be centered around conversions. We like to call those websites “All flash and no cash”. When you go with ICND,  you are choosing a company that has researched and implemented the elements that will help you increase you conversion rates.

VRM Intel Live 2016!

Stay in the loop.

If you’re like ICND, you hate missing out on industry news.

Your company realizes that vacation rental marketing strategies change drastically from year-to-year (heck – sometimes even month-to-month!). That’s why you need to join us in Wilmington, NC on October 26th for the 2016 VRM Intel Live! Conference.

You’ll get the chance to see some of the top names in our industry give never-before-seen presentations you simply can’t afford to miss!

Just to name a few:

2017 Marketing Plans with Amy Hinote

Cutting Costs and Increasing Profitability with Ben Edwards

Listing Site Optimization and Independence with Amber Mayer


Click here to get the full schedule for VRM Intel Live! 2016.

Don’t let the competition pass you by.

In an industry that changes as rapidly as Vacation Rental Marketing, events like VRM Intel are of utmost importance. But it’s not simply the fact that you’ll learn new strategies at the conference that makes it so important.

The thing is, everyone who attends will learn these new tactics.

That means that if your company has decided not to attend VRM Intel Live! this year, they are essentially handing over the reigns to all their competitors – who will surely be there.

Join ICND in making sure the foothold you’ve worked so hard to achieve isn’t lost completely due to a single poor decision.

Get your name out there.

But VRM Intel Live! isn’t all about the competition.

You know as well as ICND that getting your well-earned good reputation out into the industry while building new business relationships can be equally important. This conference is the perfect opportunity for that.

Some of the biggest names in the vacation rental marketing industry have already signed up to attend, so don’t miss your chance to meet them face-to-face & in one place!

Can’t make it in October?

That’s perfectly okay! Team ICND will also be attending the VRM Intel Live! Conference in Sandestin, FL on November 30th. It features all of the same presentations and events, so we hope to see you there too!


Click here if you still need to purchase tickets for the Wilmington Conference.

Check out Team ICND at VRM Intel Live 2016!

Can’t attend the conference, but want our marketing advice anyway? No problem – reach out to us via Facebook, Twitter, or drop us a line at 866.249.6095 – we’re always here to help!