Social media – top tips to maximise your reach

Clients often say to me that they’ve been plugging away at Twitter or Facebook and not getting much response, so should they bother continuing? It can seem a bit of a waste of time when not much comes back from your efforts. However there are some things you can do easily and other things you shouldn’t as these put potential followers off –

easy wins – 

1) set up your account and find interesting accounts to follow eg competitors, people you know, people in your area, comedians you like, footballers/celebrities/politicians whatever you’re interested in. Then when you log in you’re more likely to see content in your stream that engages or amuses you, and this will motivate you to log in regularly.

2) follow some accounts in your industry that have a lot of followers and a lot of engagement with their followers. This way you’ll learn from them what needs to be done to build and most importantly, engage followers.  What you’re looking for is not just followers – but followers who engage with your business, who click through to your website and spend time on it/visit several pages, and BOOK!

3) just spend a few minutes each day on your chosen social media account & add some fresh content -could be a picture taken that day of an attractive scene/event, a recent testimonial, a new offer, a question to followers,  chat about a forthcoming event either in your business or in the area – it just adds a personal touch which is what social media is all about. Potential new followers will look at your activity and see that you’re posting regularly and will follow you.

4) This is not an easy one but it is important to build your email list so that you can have direct contact with readers to send them more detailed and personalised messages. If people like what they see of you on social media sites its far easier to get them to subscribe to regular communications from you.

5) ask people to follow you, and make it easy for them to do so. eg place a link to your Twitter account on your homepage and in your emails with your customers. Even a short message in the postscripts of the emails (“Follow us on Twitter”)  can increase your following significantly.

Don’t do this – 

Hard Sell! So many new accounts start up and before they’ve said anything at all about what they’re offering, they try to hit you over the head with a ‘stay with me now’ or ‘eat here today’ pitch. Major turn off. Softly does it. It’s a social medium, not a selling one, so try to build up followers who are interested in your business but might not be ready to buy at the moment. Social media is the ideal way to keep them warm, and to keep them connected to your business until they’re ready to buy.

Post too much – again many new accounts get very enthusiastic at the start and are posting away every 2 minutes and replying to anyone and everyone in their streams. Exhausting. Pace yourself. If new followers see that you’re posting a lot they might not follow you as you’ll clog up their streams with your posts and they will miss other posts. You see many accounts on twitter with 5000 tweets but only 50 followers! These people are basically talking a lot to themselves.

Have unclear goals – what is it you want your social media account to do? Are you just raising awareness of your services to pick up more passing trade? Do you want people to click through to your website or come along to an event your holding? Do you want them to book direct or call you? Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter? Be clear in your own mind about your targets as then you’ve got half a chance of enticing followers what you want them to do.

Put your social media shares on autopilot. You wouldn’t let your computer talk to your customers so don’t automate your social media posts! I confess that we do have some posts that are automated (we use Hootsuite, very good) as there are recurring features that people like but we intersperse these with hand crafted shares with new info that comes in from our clients. So this one is a matter of ‘do as I say not as I do’ I’m afraid!

Don’t automatically direct message people that follow you – it is mighty irritating and completely pointless as everyone knows these are automated messages; #don’t #over-#hashtag; NEVER use tricks or bots to gain followers, or buy followers.

Which social media is best for my business is another question we get asked a lot. You would choose the best place to spend your time between Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google + depending on your ideal target markets. If your market is young women then FB is probably the place to spend your time & build up your Likes; older women and visual content Pinterest is growing rapidly; Twitter is great for short snippets of info on special offers or events, and Google+ is a must for search engine optimisation. You must have a G+ account.

What shall I post about? Mainly people follow businesses on social media because they’re hoping for offers & special deals, that’s the bottom line (remember these don’t have to be massive discounts, just something a bit different eg voucher for a bottle of wine at your local pub when your guests eat there). However they’re also looking for things to do so post info about forthcoming events.

The real answer to the what to post’ question I’m afraid is that it depends on your audience and what they like to consume, and the only way to really figure that out is by posting different content and seeing what gets the best reaction. If you find that your followers really love when you post links to your special offers page on your website, photos of your dog- whatever it is that proves popular — do it again! Social media is about interaction so if you give your followers the type of content they’re looking for, you’ll be rewarded in the long run because followers will feel more favourably towards your business. I realise that is very airy fairly and all we really want to know is where’s the booking, but building loyalty and maintaining contact is what it’s all about.

Social media is definately getting more visual so one firm recommendation is to use images in your posts frequently.

Followers attract other followers so keep working at it, steadily, a few minutes a day, as it’s a good way of keeping your name in front of prospects and former guests so that they think of you when they’re next ready to buy. But don’t expect overnight success!

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Capturing & Retaining visitors

We’re just doing yet another redesign of the Tourist Guide – seems like moments ago since the last one but it was 18 months and the online world has changed dramatically since then with the increased use of mobile handsets (phones, tablets etc), so we have to make the site a more ‘responsive’ one. I’ve dusted down my notes and updated them and here are the top tips for making sure the new site captures & retains interest in 2014 – famous last words!

  1. The blink test – it’s well known that you have the time it takes to blink to make a positive impression on a website visitor. So a slow downloading site is a no no, they will be far far away by the time those lovely high resolution images and graphics are presented on screen. Keep it clean and simple & keep those pages loading quickly. You can test the page speed of your site using this free tool from Google –
  2. Make it clear what you’re offering. If you’re running a B&B say ‘Welcome to our B&B’ not ‘Welcome to our home’. Have a nice picture of your B&B on the top of the homepage as that’s clear and compelling. I’m being told to ’embrace the white space’ so that the pages look cleaner and the focus is clearly on the words (less is more etc) on the page, not the banners/links/articles etc. I’m struggling with this a bit but going to go with it so there will be a lot more white space on the new Tourist Guide. To start with at least….
  3. The Headline Counts. 8:10 people read a page’s headline, but only 2:10 read the 1st  paragraph. Forget ‘Welcome to our website’, and hone in on your USPs – ‘Award winning breakfasts, close to town centre, cheap rates, 4 poster beds, overlooking …’
  4. Easy to use navigation. I’m not saying our visitors aren’t bright but we need to help them find exactly what info they want, quickly & easily otherwise they’ll go elsewhere. So make it easy for them to book, to find out if you take dogs/have disabled access/where you are on a map etc. The top navigation tabs should include Contact, Booking & Map or where to find us.
  5. Photos, photos & more photos. You really don’t need to say much if you’ve got good photos. People will see you’re offering a comfortable bedroom, spacious sitting room, friendly bar, excellent food etc and seeing is believing, reading is not.
  6. Simple language. Assume people are in a hurry. Clear, concise, easy to scan, viewer focussed language (ie ‘you’ and ‘your’ not ‘me’ and ‘our’), think about the benefits not features of what you’re offering (eg near the pub is a feature – being able to walk back from the pub is a major benefit!). Think about your target market and use the language they’d use
  7. No kinks. Watch out for broken links, typos, spelling mistakes etc. You’re trying to build up credibility with your viewer, especially if you want them to book online through your site, so they have to trust it and kinks will destroy their trust.
  8. Put it first. Info at the top of the page is more likely to be seen that info at the bottom of the page (ie beneath the fold or screen size). Occasionally I see sites that list all the don’ts and can’ts at the top – we don’t take dogs/children/online bookings/credit cards etc which will just put people off. Of course you need to filter out & provide full terms and conditions but not at the top of the homepage.
  9. Optimize for mobile phones and tablets. Why should I suffer alone?! Seriously though, we’ve seen our traffic go from 15% using mobile devices to access the Guide in January 2012 to 48% in August 2013, so there’s no choice. Make text concise, call to action buttons and links clickable, minimise large images
  10. Be clear about what you want people to do  so you can lead them in the right direction.  If you want them to book a table or a room make it clear how they do this – online, by phone, email? Offer them a best price guarantee so that they won’t be tempted to go elsewhere. If you want them to call you tell them they’ll get the best rates by phone. And when they’ve got to the contact/booking page, don’t distract them, let them get on with it. One client adds a lot of ‘upsell’ options at the booking stage which is fine to an extent but if you offer too many choices they might decide it’s easier to go elsewhere.
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Conversion Rate Optimisation

So now that you’ve done your search engine optimisation (SEO) work and got lots of visitors coming to your website, you want to convert those visitors to bookers. For most of my clients the booking is the end goal so that is what their website should be focussed on – getting that booking and not letting the visitor bounce off and book somewhere else, or, heavens forbid, go to an online travel agency to book via them which will mean you have to pay their £ commission. Convert the booking direct on your website and avoid having to make those commission payments!

However, a booking is not always the end goal, and it may not be the only goal for a website. For example, you might want someone to download a brochure, make an enquiry via an email contact form, sign up for your enewsletter or call you, but whatever it is it is essential to be clear about that end goal so that you can monitor your conversion rate. Simply, if 100 users visit your website and 10 of them ‘convert’ to a booking/enquiry/download then you have a 10% conversion rate. If you could increase that to 15% then you’d have a 50% increase in bookings/enquiries, which would be very nice!

So, bearing in mind the average attention span of a website visitor is 8 seconds and shrinking, we have to make our landing pages  (these are the pages on our website that people ‘land on’ when they visit our sites. Generally these will be the homepage but you might find from your website analytics that other pages on your site are popular too eg special offers page) are optimised for instant conversion.

Key points

  • Be clear on what you want people to do and then tell them what you want them to do! Book now, sign up, click here….
  • Make it immediately clear what you’re about and what your offer is. If you offer bed and breakfast say B&B at the top of the page, not accommodation, as accommodation could be self catering, camping….
  • Make sure your pages load quickly
  • Make sure all links are working correctly – if a visitor clicks on a link that goes nowhere you’ll lose them.
  • Minimal navigation – the landing page should be one click away from where you want them to go – to the booking page, sign up page, download page, whatever it is, make sure it’s just one click away. The more clicks between landing and conversion the lower the conversion rate will be.
  • TEST TEST TEST Run a different headline each month and see which one gets most click throughs. Change the colour of your Calls To Action to make them really stand out. Change the size of you text – some audiences like bigger text. Change the images regularly to keep them fresh and in season. Start with a short, one-paragraph description of your offering and try a longer description after a month to determine which kind of content works best for your target audience
  • Images90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 X faster in the brain than text. So put some good photos of your offering high on the landing page so that visitors have a tangible idea of what you’re offering.
  • Testimonials – make sure there’s a link to your testimonials page on your landing pages as these are very valuable aids to your credibility and give new visitors a lot of assurance when they’re booking (you’ve only got to look at the popularity of TripAdvisor to see that)
  • It might be that the visitor isn’t ready to make a booking as they’re still at the research stage. You don’t want to let them go though so try to capture some of their information through a simple lead capture form – ‘sign up for our regular enewsletter/special offers here, be the first to hear about our new menus’ etc. You just want a first name and valid email address so don’t ask for info that you don’t really need – address, phone number etc – as that is very off putting.
  • Also make sure there are social sharing buttons on your landing pages so that visitors who aren’t ready to book but do want to keep in touch can easily follow you on Twitter/Facebook/Google
  • Monitor Monitor Monitor! So you’ve got your data today in terms of current conversion rate (100 visitors, 10 sign-ups = 10% conversion rate); now you make the changes and in a reasonable period of time (depending on how much traffic your website gets, but say a months time) check the results from your website analytics – have you had more bookings or signups as a % of your traffic numbers? Have you gained more social media followers or enews subscribers? Did any of your social media followers share your offer with their followers?  Then test different variables and keep monitoring those results!

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Google Places

Google has been working hard on ‘local search’ and this gives businesses serving their local areas a great opportunity to be highly ranked for keywords related to their local area eg Restaurant Ipswich, B&B Bury St Edmunds etc. You may have seen when you did a recent search that on the first results page a map appeared and business were listed in the left hand column with a marker on the map in the right hand column (see illustration below for a search of ‘Ipswich Restaurants’ – click on it to enlarge)


It’s not easy to get on the first results page through Search Engine Optimisation techniques so this is a good opportunity for you to propel yourself on there with a local listing. This is a free service from Google.

The location of your business, the industry that you’re in and the keywords that you are targeting will influence your listing in Google Places. Please note you have to be physical in an area to be listed in that area – so if you’re in Halesworth you can’t register as a Southwold B&B for example.  However if you’re located near to X please include in your listing as people often search for say ‘accommodation near Jimmys Farm’ and if you’ve included that in your description you will be returned for that search (but only if you are providing accommodation near Jimmys Farm! don’t try to fool Google, it won’t work). So please register with Google Places

1) Select a business category that most closely matches yours

2) If you have keywords in your business name (eg The Red Lion Pub, Newmarket) this will help your rankings for a search of Pubs in Newmarket

3) References and citations – the more you can get your business mentioned online by other sites (including twitter, facebook etc as well as other websites) the better as this adds credibility to your listing. So try to get your website listed on as many other sites as possible to show Google that your business is real. Please note that these references don’t have to be links to your website, so someone might mention your website but not link to it (see previous blog about link building which is still very important) and for local search that is fine.

4) One thing you need to be careful about it making sure that your data is consistent everywhere – so exactly the same name (ltd or not ltd?), address, postcode & telephone number. If you have multiple listings with slightly different information Google might think this is spam and you won’t be listed.

5) When you’ve got your business listed the next thing to do is to attract reviews. You’ll see from the Ipswich Restaurants snapshot above that some of them have Reviews. Basically Google has always been driven by relevance and quality and Places is an extension of this as they deem that businesses that have ‘social verification’ ie reviews are better quality and therefore more relevant to online searchers than businesses that aren’t listed and aren’t reviewed. So the Places listing is broadly speaking – very broadly – a recommendation of local hotels, plumbers, pubs etc. Obviously the more positive your reviews the better as Google will trust you more and then rate you higher. So encourage your satisfied customers to write a review, and eventually this forum may well replace TripAdvisor?!

Go for it

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Google+ – what’s it all about?

As we know, Google is a search engine ie you type a keyword into a blank box and it does it’s best to return websites that best match your keyword. However, Google is ambitious and online world domination seems to be it’s aim so it bought up YouTube to control online video, set up Gmail to control email accounts, set up Maps & Streetview and so on & so forth. We haven’t seen the end of it yet.  As Google dominates the search results (it provides 80%+ of the traffic to the Guides, for example) everything it does has to be followed fairly closely by us online types if we want to get our sites ranked highly. So in June 2010 when they launched their own social network (think Facebook or Twitter)  = Google+ we all duly signed up and hoped for great things. It has 90 million users today which compares favourably with LinkedIn on 135m, but not quite as well against Facebook, which has 800m users.

deerruttingdunwichheath1012So what’s all the fuss? When it launched, Google+ was aimed at individuals and did a lot of what Facebook does in terms of encouraging people to share their news, post photos, get involved in discussions etc, but with some enhancements (eg Hangouts which are  online group video calls (think Skype). However in November last year they launched business pages and got really interesting (I know, I have to get out more). Bearing in mind that Google is THE dominant search engine, you could imagine that links from their very own social network to your website, or reviews about your business  on Google+, might carry more weight than reviews on say TripAdvisor, or links from Twitter? Not hard to imagine.  So for me at the moment the search engine optimisation benefits of Google+ (ie those links to your website and the ‘social verification’ that reviews can provide) are a more important aspect of Google+ than using it to find new visitors to Suffolk , or even any new prospective clients.

What’s a Google+ business page and should I have one? 

Basically you can create a page on Google+ (see link below to register) and broadcast your business wares. You have to create a personal account first (this prevents spammers from creating illicit pages), so register, link your new account to your website (or advert on the Guides if you don’t have a website) so that people can easily +1 your page, and provide your full contact details. Once created, post a few messages so that people can see what you’re about. Don’t hard sell – “my B&B is the best in the world” – as this will just switch people off and they won’t follow you. But some snippets about what’s going on around or in your business – events, pictures etc are good. When you’ve done a few posts then you can start to build followers – don’t try to do that before you’ve posted anything as people don’t like to follow blank pages!

So link your new Google+ page from your website, tweet a link to it from your twitter account, let us know about it so that we can follow you, and search on Google+ to follow interesting accounts so that you can interact with content posted by that account (eg your local butcher! You might then be able to endorse their products. Hopefully they’ll find a way of reciprocating). The idea is to develop relationships with contacts, prospects and existing customers to get repeat business. You can’t do this with a website but with these Google+ pages users can interact with you by  +1 (ie endorsing) your content, leaving comments/reviews and posting pictures (eg “look at this fantastic photo of me at The White Horse Tattingstone Beer Festival last night” – this would be tagged under The White Horse Tattingstone Google+ page so one of their customers has just created a buzz for them!)

Because there aren’t a huge number of consumers on Google+ yet in reality this is going to take some time to build up – business pages are only a few months old after all. But it’s worth getting in now and securing your business page name, and posting some content every now and then as this will help build trust in your page.

In the meantime it’s all about SEO – in a nutshell. But it won’t always be so please do sign up to Google+ and create a business page – now! And then follow the Suffolk Tourist Guide and Suffolk Weddings Guide pages, & join the community groups  All About Suffolk (or All About Suffolk Weddings if you prefer, or both)  and come and chat with us about how wonderful Suffolk is! If we don’t promote it who is going to?

Sarah Quinlan

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Basic online marketing terms – what are SEO, SEM, SMM..?

In today’s world it is not enough to simply have a website for your business. You have to drive people to your website and to do that you need to know a little about online marketing (if only to prevent you getting ripped off by some cowboy – we loathe all cowboys except the John Wayne types). So to get your business right out there where the eye balls are you need a plan.

1) Keyword analysis plays an essential role in online marketing.  A keyword is basically a word that is key – funny that – for your business. So if you run a B&B the word B&B Is a keyword ( as are B&Bs, bed and breakfasts, bread & Breakfasts (it’s true, bread and breakfast is a popular search term!) but Pub is not a keyword unless you run a pub that offers B&B. Keywords tell search engines what you’re about. It’s as simple as that. If you’re a B&B you must use the words B&B all over your website, your twitter and facebook pages etc. Don’t be shy.  Preferably use these words at the top of the page and in the left hand side as, like us, search engines read top to bottom, left to right so they assume what’s at the top of the page is more important than what’s at the bottom. If you use the right keywords you will get targeted website visitors ie the ones who are going to book or buy and that’s what we’re interested in, not traffic for it’s own sake.

2) Search engine optimisation or SEO deals with elements of a website that are on the page eg keywords, titles, pictures etc. The point about SEO is that it helps your website to  rank higher in search engines so that when someone types in say Hotels in Ipswich your Ipswich Hotel appears at the top of the list and visitors click on your lick and reach your Hotel’s website.  A professional SEO person can look at your web page’s content, titles, names, layout and internal linking structure to improve your website’s visibility in search engines.
3) Search engine marketing, or SEM, will work with off-page elements and external aspects, such as link building, to improve your website’s rankings. As discussed before the search engines view links like votes – the more votes the more credible you are – so it’s important to ask for links from relevent websites.

3) Pay per click (or Pay Per Lead in our case) or PPC, is another popular tool that allows you to start generating targetted traffic to your website very quickly. The advantages of PPC include exceptional targeting ability, full control, fast exposure and the ability to determine profitable keywords. The main disadvantage is that it can be expensive (some clicks will cost you more than £1 each!! You need to make sure that traffic is converting to a business lead for you, not just browsing)

4) Email marketing is the Golden Goose – basically you build up a list of ‘interested parties’ (eg guests who’ve stayed with you before or eaten at your restaurant, or subscribed to your newsletter on your website)  and then send them emails about your business on a regular basis (not regular like Christmas – more than once a year is good! But it doesn’t have to be weekly either – maybe 4 times a year) letting them know about any special offers, new packages, refurbishments, new menus etc. As these recipients are ‘warm leads’ ie they know you already there is an improved conversion rate so you increase your sales,  build relationships with customers and keep updated with your customers’ information. So instead of your regular client coming to your restaurant every 6 weeks why not try to encourage them to come once a month? Email them a little enticement to encourage them to come more frequently – if you can get them to come 12 times a year not 8 you’ve got a 50% increase in your business!

5) Social media marketing is a newer technique in the online marketing world and uses online social communities like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest etc to target potential and like-minded customers. These social networking sites allow users to share comments, video and images very easily so your message can go ‘viral’ basically at no expense to you. So if you run a pub that hosts a lot of live music events, start a Facebook page, get visitors to Like you, encourage them to shoot videos of the musicians and post them on YouTube (free, costs nothing, can be done with a smart phone), build a community online who will then become regular offline supporters too.


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Quick Top Tips on what makes a successful Hotel website?

  • High visibility. Good SEO (search engine optimisation), SMM (social media management, pointing traffic to the site from Twitter, Facebook etc) & lead generation activity is essential.
  • The website needs to be simple and fast
  • with Easy navigation
  • Fewer, better images  – people buy with their eyes and consumers are definitely wanting more visuals (including video)

Sell the destination Suffolk Coast

  • People listen to other people – so if you’re on TripAdvisor – and you MUST be – then have a stream of TA comments clearly visible as that will probably be the most influential space on your homepage.
  • Phone number prominently displayed. Of course we’d love visitors to book online and turn up without too much personal engagement, but the reality is that many guests prefer to talk to someone, ask questions and book over the phone. So make it as easy as possible for visitors to contact you by whatever means they prefer – phone, email, text, tweet etc – & improve your look-to-book ratio.
  • Capture the lead on the site. Take an email address or lead the visitor to the booking page. Don’t let them bounce off to an Online Travel Agency as you’ll have to pay commission. Make it clear that visitors get the best deal (or at least can’t get better) by dealing with you direct.
  • Up to date content – people will bounce straight off if they see out of date offers or articles.
  • Succinct text
  • Strong Calls to Action – tell people what you want them to do and make the path to that goal (eg booking page, or contact us page or subscribe to newsletter link) as easy to navigate  as possible
  • Not too many pages
  • Reflect the property in both appearance and feel
  • Sell the location (or link through to us and we’ll sell it for you with our up-to-date information on What’s on, events, festivals, dog friendly beaches etc. You don’t have to do that work)
It's Suffolk Asparagus Season so come to Suffolk for fantastic local food

It's Suffolk Asparagus Season so come to Suffolk for fantastic local food

  • Software installation not required – I really think long and hard about adding any new software from unbranded sources to my PCs so don’t put up an unnecessary barriers to engagement
  • I’ll add to these tips as we go along but if anyone has any comments please shout!


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Quick Guide to Website Effectiveness

Today’s post is all about what makes a website effective so when you’re thinking about commissioning a new site, or reviewing your current one, these are the things to look for –

  • Where do your eyes go first? Generally we have ca 8 seconds to grab a visitors attention otherwise they bounce away. So your website must hook them straight away. Make sure the first thing they can see is 1) what they expect to see – no nasty surprises. If they’ve searched for a campsite in Southwold and you’re a B&B in Clare they are going to bounce straight off. 2) something interesting enough to keep them there on your site eg attractive pictures
  • Is it clear what your website is about? – you have limited time to get your message across (eg best Pub in town) so don’t distract the visitor with too many rotating images or pop-ups. Tell the visitor what you’re selling clearly & simply
  • Is the important info ‘above the fold’? ie top part of the page. Often people have a lovely picture at the top of their page which might look great but does it tell the visitor what the Unique Selling Proposition is, and why they MUST book there? If they have to scroll down and search about they may well bounce.
  • Is there a clear call to action (CTA)? If visitors like what they see you need to clearly tell them what you want them to do – click here, book now, call us, sign up for our newsletter etc. Choose one or two strong CTAs and make them easy to find (and action – make sure the ‘Click Here’ button is clickable!)
  • Topiary Spider from Suffolk based Millers Meadow Camping & Campsite

  • Are the colours and pictures aesthetically pleasing? I visited a site yesterday that was predominantly orange and yellow – I didn’t stay long. Images are CRITICAL – people buy with their eyes – so take a bit of time over this, and keep them up to date – a winter scene of your garden still on your website in July is not going to convert your visitors from lookers to bookers as easily as a Summer scene.
  • Is the font easy to read? Bear in mind the profile of your client base here too – the older they are the bigger the font should be! (I’ll probably be sued for age discrimantion for saying that but there we are). It’s all obvious really – make it easy for your visitors.
  • Menu items should be nice & clear, and should take your visitor to where you want them to go eg Book Online page. There should always be an About Us and a Contact Us menu tab – make it easy for people to contact you by offering every method you have – phone, email, text etc.
  • Get those sign ups! Make sure you have a form that people can fill in so that you can capture leads from your website and store their email addresses – see email marketing posts about this.
  • Social media links – If you have a Twitter and/or Facebook account put a link to it on your website so that people can Follow you and then you can communicate with them. So even if they don’t want to give you their email address at least you have some way of promoting your business to them on an ongoing basis.

That’s all for now folks! Just work through these little tips and let me know if you have any feedback.

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How to measure and optimise your online marketing performance – Part 1

So this is Part 1 of an introductory Guide to this topic, more will follow but this is the start for anyone who is new to the subject of analytics but wants to learn more. As the person who optimises the Suffolk Guides (Tourist, Hotels and Weddings) I try to walk the talk or talk the walk, whichever way round it goes. So this isn’t just theory, this is what we do and why we do it. So let’s dive in –

Why Analytics is important

Basically you don’t want to waste your time or money so you need to know what’s working and what’s not. Then you can drop the stuff that doesn’t work and improve the stuff that does. That’s it in a nutshell. Analytics takes out the guesswork – it gives you the evidence you need to decide what to prioritise in terms of your time and hard earned cash.

Which bits of data to track?

Now I’ve persuaded you of the value of tracking and analysing your data, the issue is what to monitor as there is obviously masses of information that you could look at but life is too short, you just need to know the important bits.

So let’s assume that you have a website and want to attract more traffic to it; that maybe you do a bit of email marketing and want to know if anyone is responding to your emails; you might have a blog and want to know if anyone is reading it (tell me about it!); you might have a twitter or Facebook account and want to know if the hours you’re spending slaving away trying to write witty posts is really worth it etc. Each one of these will have a different analytics package so we’ll look at each in turn.  

How to measure your website and landing pages

Your website is the core of your marketing efforts. All roads should point to your website. Every tweet you tweet or campaign you run should be designed to drive traffic to your website and possibly to specific landing pages (by landing pages I mean any page on your website other than the homepage. So if you’re running a special offer you might create a new page on your website just for that offer, including terms and conditions etc etc and then you’d drive traffic to that specific (landing) page rather than to your homepage. That way you can monitor specifically home much traffic that special offer has generated and work out whether it’s worth running again).

When you have visitors on your website you have the chance to convert them to bookers/buyers – this is why you need to get them on there.

Visitors and Unique Visitors = the number of visitors to your website and the total number excluding repeat visitors. So you might have say 100 visitors and 80 Unique Visitors as 20 have been on your site before.

Obviously here we’re looking for a good upward trend in both visitors. If the number of visitors isn’t increasing then you need to look at your content on your website, your marketing campaigns and your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to make sure that the search engines are showing your website to visitors for the keywords you want to appear for. (see other articles on these subjects in my blog)

The more repeat visitors you have on your website the more ‘sticky’ your site is deemed to be ie people have found content they like and are returning for more of it. This is a good thing as the repeat visitors are statistically the ones who are more likely to book.

However you don’t want all your visitors to be repeat visitors otherwise you can’t grow – you need a healthy balance of repeat and new visitors. On the Tourist Guide about 70% of our visitors are new and 30% repeat and more importantly the total number of visitors is growing – over 550,000 in 2011 compared with 368,000 in 2010.

Traffic sources – it’s useful to look at where your traffic comes from as it’s good to have a diversified range of leads so that if one goes wrong for any reason you’re not stuck. There are several different types of traffic sources

  1. Organic – this means that traffic has found you by searching online and putting in keywords that you rank highly for eg if you put ‘What’s on Suffolk’ into any search engine the Tourist Guide should appear first for that – if you then click on our link you would be an organic visitor. This is the best really as the visitor has hopefully found exactly what they’re looking for at the time that they are in ‘buying mode’ and is more likely therefore to book. They also don’t cost you anything to obtain if you do your own SEO.
  2. Referrals – this mean traffic referred to you from other websites eg your advert on the Guides. This is a good thing as the traffic is likely to be highly targeted and the endorsement of the referring website adds to the credibility of your website. This is one reason why it’s good to build relevant links. Eg So if you’re a B&B near Jimmys Farm you might ask Jimmys Farm to add a link to your website on their website as people visiting Jimmys Farm might be needing a place to stay.  (don’t tell them I sent you though otherwise I’ll be in trouble, but you get the picture!). So build up those links.
  3. Direct – this mean traffic that have typed in your websites URL into their browser, or saved your website as a favourite (or clicked an untagged email or document link).
  4. Other – this could refer to traffic brought to you through paid search (these are the ones in the right hand column of the page of the search results, the sponsored links or Ads as they’re now called)

Most & least popular pages – you want to see what pages on your website are attracting and retaining traffic so that you can do more of one and drop the other. Basically you can see from these pages the content that your visitors are interested in, and then you can give them more of that. So if, for example, your special offers page is attracting lots of attention then make sure you have plenty of special offers running. If the special offer page isn’t attracting any traffic but the Luxury Breaks page is, then dump the offers and make sure the Luxury Breaks page is constantly refreshed.

Also on your most popular pages it’s a good idea to add a subscription link so that you can build up your email database, or a Facebook like link or Twitter follow link etc so that you can capture this traffic and start to build a connection with them before they bounce off.  

CONVERSIONS!  – sorry for shouting but this is the key metric – this is basically the number of visitors who land on your website who actually book (or, if not book, take an action you want them to take eg subscribe to your enewsletter database). This is the Holy Grail – if you get 100 visitors but none of them convert then you can generate lots of traffic but they might not convert either, so then you need to focus on conversion not on traffic generation. (To find out how to improve conversions see other articles in this blog)

Bounce Rate – this is the % of new visitors who leave your website without visiting any other page on your site, or taking any other action (eg subscribing to your database). This is bad – if you have a high bounce rate then it means that visitors are not finding what they want and are going away without you getting the chance to convert them to bookers. It could mean that you are using the wrong keywords to get traffic eg maybe you rank highly ‘campsites’ when you no longer offer this service, or you don’t have any clear calls to action (book Now! Call us now!) on your landing page so people don’t know what to do, or maybe there’s so much going on people are confused (this is a common statement regarding the Guides -we’re working on it). Whatever your bounce rate is try to get it down – about 10-20% is fine, you can’t please everyone.


Coming soon

How to measure (Search Engine) Optimisation

How to measure paid search/PayPerClick

How to measure social media marketing

How to measure email marketing

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Key mistakes hotels make with travel review websites

Basically the cardinal rule with review sites is to engage with them – they’re not going to go away, and they will probably get even more influential, so all you can do is to try to manage them. So even if all your reviews are positive, there should still be some level of management response to demonstrate your interest. This is the top key mistake –

1. Not showing that you care

If a review has potential to be damaging to your reputation, somebody should respond to it pronto before it does too much damage.

The response should be written thoughtfully, carefully and intelligently so that everyone who goes on to read it will get the impression you run a thoughtful, careful, intelligent business.

People want to see that you care. They want to know that if they have a problem, somebody at the hotel will seriously attend to the matter.  Research from TripAdvisor shows that 71% of travellers believe management responses matter. So you don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to respond.

2. Accountability

When you write a response, put your name to it and your title. People need to know that the response has come from an individual and preferably someone who is taking responsibility.  This builds trust in your hotel. An anonymous, depersonalised response won’t.

3. Inadequate proofreading

Unfortunately it only takes one careless error to give the impression that your management is either not well-educated or not that bovered (see what I mean?). So get someone to quickly check over your response before it goes out otherwise you’ll give a sloppy impression & your response will be counter productive

4. Responding in anger

Big no-no. Attacking the reviewer is REALLY risky – they may be a pain in the rear, you might have done everything you possibly could to make their stay perfect and the review may feel completely unjust but…. don’t do it, you could scare away potential guests. Keep the tone of your response cordial. They don’t need to know your teeth were gritted when you were writing it.

5. Failure to deal with a seriously problem raised in a review

Another major no-no – if somebody says you have a problem and you don’t respond unfortunately other people might assume that the problem is real and will avoid you as a result. If you don’t make it easy for dissatisfied guests to complain and respond to them when they do, there’s a real danger that they will get even morre irritated and go on to create more in-depth negative reviews and negative buzz – the average Facebook user has 130 friends so word can spread very quickly if you don’t respond. Make yourself available to intercept those reveiews & take the heat down before they become damaging

If the review has any chance of being accurate, then be completely transparent about how you are addressing the situation.

6. Failing to ask for positive reviews

Whenever you let a satisfied guest walk out of your hotel without asking for a review on a specific review site, you are letting opportunity slip right through your fingers. Extremely satisfied guests, especially those who are first-time visitors, are the most likely to follow-through and write a positive review for you. Just put a notice up on your reception for when guests check out (or put a line on their receipt) reminding people that you’re on say, TripAdvisor, and requesting them to write a review on the site and share their experiences with others. If you don’t ask you’re less likely to get.

It’s also really helpful to have up-to-date reviews on a site – if the last one was posted 6 months ago it has less authority than one posted yesterday as the old one doesn’t reflect your hotel currently. So this is another good reason to encourage reviews 

Other tips

  • It’s a good idea to respond to some positive reviews – not every one, but just occasionally to show that you’re monitoring the reviews and take them seriously.
  • Try not to repeat the same comments over and over again as this will begin to look like an automated response and people will feel a lack of sincerity. Mix up your responses.
  • BEWARE of asking guests to write reviews when they are still staying with you. If a guest uses your IP address then the review site might think the review has come from you and is fraudulent. This happened in mid 2011 to one medium sized hotel (not in Suffolk) and Trip Advisor red flagged them and downgraded them, leading to a 25% reduction in their bookings virtually overnight.
  • TripAdvisor is the dominant UK review site and in 2011 exceeded 50million reviews, but there are others eg Google Places, Yelp, HolidayCheck that you should keep an eye on.
  • Use conversational English in your responses – no big words
  • If you are certain a post is malicious or fraudulent, then use your capability with the review site’s management tools to report it and to request its removal.
  • This is not so relevant for Suffolk just yet but one day it will be – voice recognition technology on mobiles enables travellers to login to apps on their phones (eg Siri for the iPhone) and request advice on where to stay eg ‘I’m going to Bury St Edmunds with the family and want a hotel tonight for under £200 – where can I stay?’ and the app will provide suggestions based on family friendly, price, location, availability that night and recommendations/reviews. Clever stuff. Watch this space….

Share your experiences and best practices here ….

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