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March - 2012 - issue > Technology
Top 10 2012 Resolutions
Benu Aggarwal
Founder-Milestone Internet Marketing, Inc.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Milestone Internet Marketing is a full-service Internet marketing company exclusively for the travel industry. Milestone has been providing online hospitality marketing and consulting services since 1998. They work with over 1000 hotels, resorts and travel clients to design websites and market and promote their properties on the Internet and currently drive over $500 million in annual revenue to their clients.

In 2011 search engines made significant changes to the algorithms to improve the quality of search results for the consumers. As an online marketer, staying on top of all the latest changes can be a daunting task. The key to staying relevant is creating content across all channels that your customers value. The ten tips below give a strategic path to ensuring that your marketing efforts have the best possible ROI in 2012.

1. Site/Content Freshness, Relevancy

After several algorithm updates in 2011 – especially Google’s Panda updates and several Bing updates – search engines have confirmed that they give a higher relevancy to websites with fresh content.

Site Freshness Score

Any webpage is given a freshness score based on when search engines first indexed it. This score can boost the content for certain search queries and declines as the content ages. The frequency and amount of content changes makes a big impact on the score.

Which type of content makes a difference?

Bottom-line: sites that change more often by adding valuable, time sensitive information have a big impact. News sites tend to rank high due to their fresh and timely content. Link from a site, which has a high freshness score, is more valuable than from a static site. A site’s freshness score can be influenced by a new page, post or by adding news worthy information and not by just adding/changing keywords on the page.

What does this mean for businesses?

Make sure your site platform is built to scale, and offers features such as blog, polling feature, contest, and reviews for user engagement so that you can keep the content of your site fresh. 2. Focus on Improving User Experience – site Usability Enhancement List

Although technical SEO elements such as on-page tags, headers and many more are very important, ultimately it is the user’s experience with the site that matters. Positive user experience is now a part of search engines’ ranking factor.

Site Usability Enhancement List

Site owners should pay special attention to site / page bounce rate, site download speed, browser and platform compatibility, site crawl rate, deployment of rich snippets and semantic tags on the site and site analytics to understand user behavior with their site. Check to see if your site is programmed in HTML5. Use tools such as Page Speed by Google and Yslow by Yahoo! to check crucial site performance metrics. It is a great idea to put together a handy list of site improvements. Site improvement is not a one-time event; it should be checked and adjusted almost on a monthly basis.

3. Using Mobile Effectively.

The mobile market is growing significantly. According to eMarketer, US mobile commerce sales (including travel) increased 91.4 percent to reach $6.7 billion. The number of mobile buyers will nearly triple by 2015. Over 40 million access social networks daily via mobile, and eventually there may be more mobile web users than PC users by 2015.

Most of the mobile searches are local and last minute in nature. People are using mobile platform to check-in, for social sharing, multimedia sharing such as photos, songs etc. Voice search engines such as Apple’s Siri are helping in increasing mobile search engines queries.

Check to see if you are promoting effectively on Mobile platform

Businesses should start paying serious attention towards mobile. They can incentivize their customers by offering mobile specific coupons, check in specials, run paid ads for mobile-specific campaigns etc. There are several reasons a business should create a search friendly mobile site in 2012 if they have not done it yet. If you have a mobile site, chances are your site will show up for queries coming from mobile devices and the conversion from a mobile site will be better by offering customers precise content such as click to call, maps, and ease of booking offers right away.

4. Leveraging hyper local Channels

With the growth of mobile phones, geosocial and hyperlocal sites have become lucrative channels to connect with a local target audience. Businesses should leverage some of the most popular UGC/hyperlocal channels such as: Yelp, Google+, Foursquare, Facebook, etc. by offering mobile check-ins, offers and tips. Businesses can associate use of an offer with physical locations. Customers can use Google+ business profiles or Yelp or any other profile to check in and redeem offers on mobile devices. Customers can choose to share check-ins publically, keep it private or share it with their circle of friends.

5. Maintain a Handy List of Most Valuable Local Citations/Links and Perform UNAP Audit

Local citation and links are still important ranking factors. Quantity of citations is considered the fourth most important SEO factor for local search ranking. Businesses should secure local citations, listings, and links regularly and establish the correct URL, Name, Address, and Phone Number (UNAP). Users often find multiple listings for same location on map results due to one business having different URLs or phone numbers. Ensuring UNAP consistency greatly helps in ranking high in local search results.

6. Cross Channel Optimization

We are seeing higher ROI for businesses who diversify their promotion efforts across other search channels. Check your webmaster logs for keywords driving the most traffic and optimize other channels such as local, paid, and social for those keywords. Content calendars can be used to plan a strategy for different channels.

7. Social Media Marketing Plan – Targeted and Planned Approach

Social media is now an integral part of search. Search engines have confirmed using social signal as part of their ranking algorithm. We strongly recommend developing an integrated social media marketing plan which should include information on: which target channels and why; what goals you are trying to achieve; your target audience; and the type of content needed to connect with this target audience; etc.

8. UGC – Rating and Reviews

Product and services with reviews have higher conversion rates. As a business, getting reviews on different UGC channels such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google and your site is important. Search engines now include quantity of reviews as part of their ranking factors. Users make their decisions based on quality of reviews. As a business our job is to listen, engage, respond, and solve. 9. Deals, Offers, Coupons and contest.

The US economy is finally gaining consumer confidence but consumers are looking for deals, coupons and offers across all channels. Living Social, Groupon and other social media deals sites are seeing record number of transactions.

Deals and offers do not always mean deep discounting. Businesses should consider offering packages across all channels. Value-add offers and deals help improve customer engagement and trust. Daily deals and offers also receive prominence in search engine result pages.

Businesses should saturate all channels. It is easier to do well in video and image search as compared to web search. Leveraging these channels leads to a significant amount of additional website traffic. Some of the crucial steps are: optimizing images and videos on your site, creating search friendly KLM maps and creating a place to host a blog. Google+ business profiles are increasing every day. 77 of the world’s top 100 brands now have Google+ pages. Google+1 has started to impact paid ads and will have further impact on paid search in 2012 since Google now displays +1 button next to all paid ads. We recommend creating Google+ business profiles along with all other social profiles. Some of the promotion strategies include connecting with customers and creating circles, etc. We all know that it is hard to accomplish all the resolutions set up for any business. However, consistent efforts towards above top 10 2012 resolutions will help yield a very positive ROI for all your online marketing activities.

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