Blog category: google

Yahoo! to test Google Adsense with search results

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, April 10, 2008

Yahoo! has announced that it will start a limited test of Google AdSense for its search service. This will see relevant Google ads being displayed alongside Yahoo!‘s own search results. The press release says that the test will apply only to traffic from yahoo.com in the U.S. and will not include Yahoo!‘s extended network of affiliate or premium publisher partners. But its an interesting development to see these two working together. A taste of things to come perhaps?

See Yahoo press release

Labels: yahoo, sem, google

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Travel 2.0 issues: How can I listen to online conversations?

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, May 12, 2008

“Before you jump in and partake in online social media, you need to first listen to online conversations that involve you”, writes Foncho Ramírez

Technorati reported that the year 2008 began with more than 120 million active conversations published online in several blogging networks. Online conversations are more and more crucial for your business. As we know, the best way to start participating in this media is first to listen. But there are thousands and thousands of themes out there, how can I find relevant streams of information for my market and company? How can I start participating in these social networks? Before you jump in and partake in online social media, you need to first listen to online conversations that involve you.

Use a feed reader and sign up for regular updates of your favorites sources of information. A feed reader is a web application which aggregates or gathers together syndicated web content as news headlines and blog entries creating a single location for all your relevant updated news sources.

Go and sign up for one now! Here is a short list of well known free and web based feed readers to join: Google Reader, Netvides, Bloglines. Click on the links, review the services and select the one you like the most.

Now that you have downloaded or signed up for a feed reader you have to add subscriptions from your favorite news sources, such as this Bookassist travel industry blog. Just look for the RSS symbol in any blog or webpage and you subscribe to it as a reader.

The second way to listen your market on the net is to set alerts for your hotel keywords. From my point of view every hotel needs to set alerts: in Technorati for blogs, in Google Alerts for general websites and in Tripadvisor for guest reviews that are related to their hotel. These are the most significant online applications for managing your hotel reputation on the net and you need to know what is there so that you can make sure your image is handled correctly and fairly.

The alerts systems mail you every time their search engine spider finds a new file on the internet with your keyword term in it. This is a very powerful tool and is very helpful for hotels finding hidden clients reviews, comments, questions, special offers, etc. You can set any type of terms like your hotel name, your brand, your closest touristic attractions or even your own name. You can add any keyword term for the search and as many as you want.

This “listening” system will work as your basic collection engine for information in social media. Any time someone talks about you in the net you will be able to hear it and answer it faster that anybody else.

Foncho Ramírez is Senior Search Engine Specialist at Bookassist’s Madrid office and is a Google Adwords Professional

Labels: yahoo, travel2.0, tips, sem, marketing, google

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Get your business onto Google Maps

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, May 19, 2008

You can add your hotel to Google Maps as a Business so that it shows up if people are searching for hotels, notes Des O’Mahony.

People are increasingly using Google Maps to find local information, first locating the area of interest and then using Google Map “Find businesses” option as shown here.

It is vital that you get your business listed, and it’s very simple. It all happens in Google’s Local Business Centre.

If you don’t have a Google account, do this:

  • First, go to Google Maps on maps.google.com
  • Either move the map to your hotel’s location or use the search to type in your street address and it should locate you properly.
  • In the search results column on the left you will see a link that says “Put your business on Google Maps”, click on that
  • If you have a Google account, log in. If not, take a few minutes to create one.

If you do have a Google account, log in, go to “My Account” in the menu bar and choose “Local Business Centre”.

Once in Local Business Centre, choose to set up a new business:

  • You will be asked to specify your business’s details and contact phone number - this will be used to verify your entry so make sure you are near that phone to complete the process
  • Choose your category as “hotel” or other as appropriate - you can add more categories if you cater for other services such as conference, wedding etc
  • You should consider uploading high quality photographs to give users a feel for your product, up to 10 are allowed
  • Once you have gone through the addition of all information, you will have the option of having the information verified by phone, by SMS or by postal verification - if you choose phone, the system will display a PIN number on screen and will phone the main business number that you gave immediately, asking you to enter that PIN. (You must be able to take that automated call directly as it will not be switchable through a switchboard. But you can give a direct line as your main business number and, once the call verifies you, you can then edit your business profile to switch the main business number to something else.)
  • Once verified, you will be quickly live, usually immediately. To check, go back to maps.google.com and use the “Find businesses” option to search for your category in your area, eg “hotel” and you should appear.
  • You can edit your listing at any time by logging in and going to the Local Business Centre

Note that if you have a series of offices or hotels, you can set up multiple locations.

Also, in the Local Business Centre you can track access to your listings and see if it is popular. To make maximum use of this, you should ensure you have online reservations as an additional attribute. You will more than likely also see your business listed by other vendors - it is up to you whether you want that to continue or not.

The screenshot above right shows Bookassist being found “locally” in the marketing category.

Dr Des O’Mahony is co-founder and Managing Director of Bookassist

Labels: tips, sem, marketing, google

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Google Local launches in Ireland - Kinda

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, May 20, 2009

It’s not rolled out across all searches on Google in Ireland, but it is certainly alive and kicking for hotels.

Google recently enhanced their search results pages with the addition of local business results (Google Maps) to searches targeting locations within Ireland. While these results have been available for some time in other locations such as the US and UK, this is the first time that searches for Irish locations have triggered maps as well as web links.

The implications for website owners are that the nature of the results page on Google has changed dramatically. It is no longer sufficient to list highly for location searches in the standard results, if you do not perform well in the map results. The figure below shows the results for a search using the phrase ‘hotels in Dublin’. The clear winners of this change are the sites that appear high in the map listing, as the previous first web listing has now been relegated from first to eleventh place on the page.

Google Local in action today for the search “Dublin Hotels” with the top six hotels availing of Bookassist’s Traffic Builder online marketing service

The blended search results are also triggered by property name searches (see below), so it is important to ensure that your listing in Google maps is well managed. We’ve previously highlighted the usefulness of Google Local as part of Google’s drive towards blended search in this blog entry: Get high search ranking through blended search results.

A property name search on Google Ireland today, now showing Google Local information

To maximise the benefits of this change, go to http://www.google.com/local/add/ and log in with a Google account.

You can then claim your map listing by going http://maps.google.com/ and searching for your property by name. Click on the “more info” link and then on the “Add or edit your business” link. From here you can confirm your web and email addresses as well as your physical address and phone number. You can also correct any errors in the map location for your property. When all the important details are correct, you can the concentrate on enhancing your entry by adding a good description, uploading photos and videos, as well as other details such as free wifi or parking.

Labels: seo, sem, marketing, google

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Google folds Mapping and Address Extensions into Adwords

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, August 24, 2009

Google Adwords now allows you to extend your advert content to include Google Local information right in the advert (in other words Google Maps) and further enhance the utility and visual appeal of your adverts.

As an example of this in action, Bookassist’s Traffic Builder team have recently completed the addition of Google Local to a number of campaigns - for example a search for Camden Court Hotel (camdencourthotel.com) in Dublin reveals the map content added to the advert (the “show map” link at the bottom of the advert below):

When you click the “+” next to the map link, the location opens up directly in the advert. A similar search for the Mespil Hotel (mespilhotel.com) again shows this functionality, where the map is now embedded directly in the PPC advert, include the “get directions” functionality:

According to Emel Mutlu, a member of Google’s AdWords team writing on their blog on July 24th: “Location extensions allow you to “extend” your AdWords campaigns by dynamically attaching your business address to your ads. This new feature will be fully available in the coming weeks, with some advertisers having access to the feature starting today.” The features have landed in Ireland now and are extending to other countries.

Local business adverts are now no longer a separate entity, but are identical in form to the new local-enhanced Adwords adverts. This also helps streamline the Adwords process for advertisers.

This extension to Google Local shows that the adverts are themselves beginning to mix the media available to Google - Google have already implemented blended search (see: article on blended search) where different search elements like maps, video, news are listed in search results along with the traditional website results.

Folding blended search ideas in Adwords seems to be the direction this is going - expect to see embedded video and other items soon.

Labels: strategy, sem, marketing, google, adwords

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Google inserts Ads into iPhone maps - Pay Per Tap (PPT) ramps up

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, October 05, 2009

Google has recently launched sponsored links directly on iPhone’s (and iPod Touch’s) native Google maps app. When searching for services in an area on the maps app, for example searching for hotels on a map, sponsored links can now appear alongside regular service links as shown in the example below of a “New York hotels” search. Sponsored links get a special marker compared to the usual pin also (as shown on the right).

If the user taps the sponsored link, the usual screen containing phone number, address, and directions appears but additionally shows some brief, italicised ad copy under the name of the business.

Can we propose a new acronym - Pay Per Tap?

The service doesn’t appear to be live in Ireland yet. Clearly, the drive towards mobile advertising is in full swing, with mobile the next battleground for pay per “tap” (PPT) funds.

See Inside AdWords

Labels: strategy, sem, mobile, marketing, iphone, google, adwords

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Content Continues To Be King

By Des O'Mahony | On Tue, October 06, 2009

In late September, Google finally confirmed officially what many of us have suspected for years - that the tag attribute (hereafter simply “the keywords meta tag”) in web pages has no effect on Google search results rank.

Fundamentally, what this means is that attempts to tell Google what your web site is about don’t work - Google will figure this out for itself thank you. Pretending to be something you are not won’t work. Tricks to make yourself look better than you are won’t work. Google of course uses various methods of its own to determine where you should rank in search engine results and will largely see through attempts to spoof it. Primary among those methods is to ascertain what the content of a website really is. Getting the content right is the single best way to ensure Google’s approval - plus it serves to entice and engage online readers, and to build quality incoming links.

Some Tags Are Better Than Others

There’s a bit more to the tags issue though. Web developers/designers insert various tags and tag attributes into web pages that are either necessary or useful and that are used by search engines, but not necessarily for search rank. For example, if you choose “View > Page Source” for a web page in Firefox, for example, the code behind the page you can see will contain entries like:

The keywords meta tag has traditionally been applied to inform search engines of the primary focus of the website. This is the one Google doesn’t read anymore, saying that “Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag”. a tag”.

On the other hand, Google is not the only game in town, and Bing has a slightly different approach saying that the keywords meta tag “is not the page rank panacea it once was back in the prehistoric days of Internet search. It was abused far too much and lost most of its cachet. But there’s no need to ignore the tag. Take advantage of all legitimate opportunities to score keyword credit, even when the payoff is relatively low.”

Search results do make use of other tags however, at least for result display purposes. The page title and description meta tags are used by Google directly in displaying its search results - for example the first result in the figure below (click to enlarge) shows the title and description meta tag that we “fed” to Google using the code shown above. While the effect of the title and description meta tags on the actual search result position is not clear, it is certainly important to have them correct and meaningful for the user who ultimately looks at those search results since they must create an impact and give immediate information if you are to capitalise on your search ranking. At least this is one area over which you have definite control.

The Dual Online User

This highlights one key tenet in getting your website just right online. It needs to be right for dual users - firstly, for the search engine that has to read and assess the site and determine how to return the address in search results, and secondly for the viewer who will click on results and ultimately interact with your site. The approach to optimising for these dual users is quite different but there are overlaps, content being the primary one.

What Search Engines Like

Google works very hard to make sure that its search results are as relevant as possible to the search phrase used. The more accurate Google is, the more likely people will continue using it and the more money it will make from displaying relevant adverts. So Google really needs to get it right.

The Google webcrawler program trawls the web and reads the code behind web pages, attempting to categorise the sites in its database. While the algorithm it uses to assess websites is no doubt complex, it is basically a dumb machine and must make judgement calls only on what is presented to it in plain text. The domain name, page title, the description tag are a starting point, but unless the information and wording contained therein are backed up by solid content on the page that reinforces the title and description, then the Google webcrawler feels that something is amiss and the ranking of the site will suffer.

To take an extreme example, suppose your page title is “Boutique Hotel in Dublin”, and your description tag is “We are a boutique hotel in Dublin”, but then your entire page content is about dog kennels. Then the Google webcrawler won’t consider your site a good result to show to anyone who is searching for information about “boutique hotels in Dublin” or about “dog kennels” for that matter. The structure and the content are simply not matching up. A web page has to do exactly what it says on the tin or it will be punished.

When a person searches for a specific phrase, like “boutique hotels in Dublin”, then Google really wants to display information about “boutique hotels in Dublin” and about nothing else. The likely best candidates are websites that have domain names that use the terms “boutique”, “hotel” and “dublin” AND page titles that use the terms “boutique”, “hotel” and “dublin” AND page content that makes regular use of the words “boutique”, “hotel” and “dublin” (preferably repeated use to up the keyword “density” of the content, but not too much use so that Google again is suspicious of your motives!). If external websites have links to this site that use the terms “boutique”, “hotel” and “dublin” in the text of the link, then Google further approves since other websites appear to be sending people to the site based on the same search terms, so the external link endorsement is worth something to Google.

Getting To The Top

So it is clear that the content of your website really needs attention to ensure that any search terms you want to be found for are targeted in your copy and are matched with page titles, descriptions and where possible web domains. For example, if as a hotel, your location is a key issue for your business, then refer to it at least four or five times in the content on your home page. Likewise for any other issues important to your business: if your spa treatment is a primary earner, then have a spa treatment page, with a title referring to spa treatment, a file name referring to spa treatment, content mentioning the spa treatment a number of times, images with file names relating to spa treatment and image alt descriptions referring to spa treatment and so on. Remember, the webcrawler that is trying to assess your page has no interest in colour schemes, Flash content, text rendered as images, photographs or aesthetics - it can only read information clearly presented to it in text form, so you need to get every element of the page “singing off the same hymn sheet” in order to make your point.

Good Content

Writing good content that can target keywords of the right density to Google but still be interesting enough to catch the online user’s eye is a difficult task. But it is also important that the content evolves as far as Google is concerned. Continually refreshing content is therefore critical also for search ranking, and one of the best ways to tackle the content issue is through the use of blogs.

Blogs are an easy and natural way to write content. Hotels can write on specific events, festivals, nearby attractions, recipes from their kitchen, unusual guests requests, all sorts of things, and use the blog simply as the newspage for the site. These entries make for interesting reading and are naturally full of good keyword content about your hotel and your area. It is also a way to involve more of your staff in contributing content and give them more ownership of the customer experience, as well as inviting customers to comment also.

There are many hotels who now build their entire web presence around a blog and booking engine only, eliminating completely the static brochure approach that typifies many hotel websites. For a good introduction to what blogs can do for your hotel and for your hotel website’s content, check out the video Interview with Juli Lederhaus of Hawthorne Hotel in Massachusetts available on YouTube.

Get What You Deserve

The bottom line is: the best way to get to the top of the search engine results listings is to deserve it. Forget the tricks and instead strive to give information that people are actually looking for and are interested in. With the recent launch of Google’s Sidewiki, people will increasingly pass public comment on your website in any case, so chances are you will begin to get feedback that you must tend to through dynamic content whether you like it or not.

Content of websites continues to be king. In the end, for search engine position and keeping users interested, there really is nothing else to beat it.

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder of Bookassist, the leading online strategy and technology partner for the hotel industry. Follow Bookassist on Twitter at twitter.com/bookassist

Labels: youtube, web design, tips, strategy, seo, marketing, google, domain names

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Google introduces sitelinks in PPC adverts

By Des O'Mahony | On Tue, November 10, 2009

Google today introduced sitelinks embeddable in the PPC advert to bring users directly to specific pages on the advertised website (live in Ireland campaigns this afternoon). The new sitelinks are configurable in the Adwords campaign and appear only when the advert is displayed in top of page position.

Google recently enhanced PPC adverts with mapping and address data also.

See Inside AdWords: Increasing choice and relevancy in search ads

Labels: traffic builder, sem, ppc, google

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Be careful who you link to from your hotel website!

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, March 19, 2010

Some third party channels suggest that hotels link back to them in a reciprocal link exchange and that the hotels will benefit from this. True, there is certainly a benefit. But there is also a cost that may outweigh that benefit.

Hotels may consider that displaying a link to well known third parties will make them look good in the eyes of a potential customer. But hotels need to be very careful about who they link to or they may end up damaging their direct business by doing so.

The issue relates to what the search engines think, not what the online customer thinks.

About Links
Links between websites are important not just for the convenience of users but because they allow search engines such as Google to determine the relative importance of websites for users.

There are two kinds of links to consider - inward links that link to your website, and outward links from your website to another site. When inward links are matched with outward links between sites, you have reciprocal linking. However the benefit may not be evenly balanced in reciprocal linking.

PageRank (or PR) is Google’s numerical value of how important a web page is and therefore its search results positioning. PageRank is calculated for a site by looking at the quantity and quality of all inward and outward links. The actual way that Google determines relative importance, and therefore position in the search results, is complex. But for the purposes of this article we will take a simplified view and think of every link you make to another site as a vote for that site (though not all votes carry equal weight).

If a search engine like Google sees many different sites all linking to a particular site, then that site seems to have a lot of independent votes and therefore seems to be more important, more relevant, than sites that have less incoming links. It begins to win in the search engine results election. Its PageRank is enhanced.

Little Things Add Up
If every hotel makes a link to some particular third party site, say a booking channel or a review site, then all those hotels are implicitly voting for that third party site to rise in the search engine results.

The third party therefore gathers many small votes together for its single website and significantly enhances its PageRank. But even when it reciprocates links back to the hotels it is spreading the links out across all the different hotel websites, donating just a small share of its vote, or PageRank, back to each individual hotel.



Therefore each hotel is gaining a small slice of PageRank from the third party channel (a small vote), but the third party channel gains all the slices of PageRank from all the hotels (all votes). Even if each of those votes is pretty insignificant, taken together they can add up to a very significant endorsement indeed.

The benefit for the third party website in terms of PageRank is therefore far higher than the benefit for each hotel in receiving a reciprocal link.

Are You Helping Your Competitor?
Whether it is a booking or review site, the third party site is likely to be a competitor of direct business on the hotels’ websites. Hotels are therefore actually enhancing competition for their own sites by linking to such third parties, pushing them up the rankings, and ultimately contributing to diverting more business from their own websites to the third parties.

From an online customer perspective, hotels linking off to third parties makes the hotel site less “sticky”, in that it presents the online customer with an array of options for booking nearby or similar properties even though your hotel may be quite bookable. It also presents your customer with the convenience of booking through a third party that may already have their details saved from a previous transaction. Either way, you are simply reducing your chances of successful direct bookings.

There are many ways to link to other sites without transferring your page rank. You may want to do this because you want to display a link that benefits your online customer, but does not give a PageRank vote to that site. This can be done for example by using links that include the attribute rel=“nofollow” such as:

the link text


But if the external link is to a third party booker or review site that advertizes booking, then the value of the link to a direct customer of yours is minimal anyway. Reciprocal links are important, but they are best if they are non-competitive.

Should You Vote?
So should you vote? The moral of the story is that you need to be very careful who you give your vote to. Just like democracy, you may think that one vote doesn’t really make a difference. But if everyone votes it can make a very big difference indeed, and how you choose to vote can have significant impact, one that you may regret.

Labels: third parties, strategy, seo, reviews, google, brand

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Facebook bigger than Google for hotels? Not quite

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, May 24, 2010

There’s been a lot of talk about the traffic on Facebook and how big it is, surpassing even Google recently. What really is the consequence for the hotel sector of this kind of traffic?

A report by Max Starkov at HeBS shows that certainly Facebook is one to watch. There are interesting case studies that show a real revenue comparison between Facebook and Google related links to hotel websites. But as Starkov says: “Facebook is definitely here to stay and has experienced tremendous growth, but it is not going to replace Google as a travel planning tool anytime soon. “

Get the whole story here at http://bit.ly/dfIRR1

Labels: social media, google, facebook

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