Thursday, 12 December 2013

DOs & DON'Ts for SEO marketing

Search Engine Optimisation is maximising your webpage to achieve higher recognition and listing on search engines through natural (unpaid) search. You should be taking into account all major search engines but Google has a 65% market share globally. If you’re marketing to Asia then there are differences; for instance Google only has a 17% share in China with Baidu having an 80% market share, so do your research on local trends.

Do use meta descriptions, keywords and tags
Use a few concise meta descriptions, tags and keyword for your pages- then repeat them in your content. Don’t use too many – this counts for all search engines. If you have Chinese translation pages, Baidu has a website tool that tells you trending keywords so you can include these in your descriptions to maximise exposure – but you must use keywords relevant to your page. Try to register with search directories – some take a while and some (Yahoo) you can pay for, but they will immediately improve your ranking.

Don’t use ‘black hat’ tactics
If you stuff website with irrelevant keywords, cloak them, and add links to spam sites - Google will punish you. You are also preventing people from finding the relevant material they are searching for. You can even be removed from searches for this, so keep your content relevant and true – you will attract less visitors; but the right visitors. This goes for Social Media too – don’t buy likes, it won’t increase your bookings.

Do Optimise
Add ‘alt’ tags and a title for your images so they load faster, reduce them in file size so they are optimised for the space, and keep your page sizes under 100kb throughout the site – search speed has been incorporated into ranking for search results. Make sure you have a ‘contact us’ page and site maps for both users and search engines.

Do write great content
Despite many changes to Google with the latest algorithm - Hummingbird, overall content is still the most important factor for search. Big changes were made to keyword searches which anyone using Google Analytics will be aware of, but the purpose is to value the content of the whole site for relevance, and provide better search results for users. Focus on useful content for your users – tourist information, places to see, places to go, and information on your hostel. If your bounce rate is high, your content is not that relevant.

Don’t forget your key business
Yes, you need good content on your areas and activities for guests, but your website should be a booking tool and point of information about your hostel primarily. The rest of the information is great, but secondary. Make sure you are marketing yourself as a great place to stay and have an intuitive site that leads to booking. You want people to read about you, book and share positive reviews. Make sure your social pages all use your url also, it’s better for your brand and counts on search too.

Hostel Health Tip
Beware that on China’s Baidu search – Flash and JavaScript don’t work!

To find out more about changes to Google search with Hummingbird
see our blog article HERE.

Monday, 11 November 2013

WYSE Travel Confederation article:
Travel to learn, not to escape

November 11, 2013 by WYSE Travel Confederation

"The global rise of student mobility is closely linked to trends driving the booming youth travel industry. Young people seek meaningful travel. Study and work abroad do exactly that for students. This provides opportunities for education and accommodation providers, observe youth travel experts Samuel Vetrak and David Chapman."

Read the article here:

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Google's change to secure search and your SEO strategy

Google's Secure Search changes and what they mean to your hostel marketing
If you have and SEO strategy in place, you probably need to now rethink it. As Google has moved to secure search (using HTTPS), the ability to use and predict keywords trends in your online marketing has just been made a little more complicated.

The move to secure search means in simple terms, that you won't be able to track users by the keywords they've inputted into their search, as Google will no be passing their keyword search data to websites anymore. This is a big upheaval to SEO and anyone with an online strategy - you may have customers finding you through Bing or duckduckgo, but Google is the platform for around 65% of searches.

How does this affect your marketing?
Up until now, knowing what your customer is searching for, such as"best party hostel Barcelona" means not just knowing what your potential customers are looking for, but also what words and phrases are key to search. You then use these magic words in all your online marketing across all channels - your website, your blog, your social media, in the hope that repeating it will get you to the front page of Google when this is searched for so that your potential customer has a good chance of finding you. In short - you're speaking their language. The problem now, is you won't know what language that is.

The time spent tracking and adjusting various phrases and keywords is not not really necessary anymore when using Google analytics. You will still find keywords from other search sites while they're sharing this data, but you will need to change your strategy as times change. You are still attracting relatively the same people and have the same product offerings, but the patterns and trends in the customer will be more of a mystery than a means to attract them.

So what now?
It's not all bad news. It makes predicting changes in trends difficult, and if you're creating an SEO strategy without a professional you may experience some trial and error, but there are benefits too. Now the challenge is placed on creating content that is really relevant. Actually really relevant. You can no longer rely just on phrases that have buzz words, but your content has to be what someone is actually looking for. Writing great content such as city guides, top tourist attractions, bars, beaches and things to see will always be a safe strategy for getting traffic to your website, but they might not always be looking for a place to stay. The changes now force you to embrace a strategy that makes your key business your key content, and will rank it as such. Make sure you always have content for your primary purpose as a place to stay, as this should be the focus of customer's searches.

If you have a simplistic strategy in place that focusses on getting to the first page of Google and focussing on search terms, then this will mean some changes for you. Everyone in marketing shouts about content being king, and now this is more true than ever. Make your content relevant to your service and you will attract customers when it is relevant to their searches. Focus on drawing customers with content of real value and you should attract the right prospects for your business.
If you need some expert help - call a doctor!

What do you think of this article? Contact us at

Friday, 18 October 2013

How to Get More Facebook Shares - by Mari Smith

Mari Smith is an excellent Marketeer who created a great infographic to help you get more 'shares' on facebook.  Follow the advice below and you can't go wrong!

Monday, 14 October 2013

How to Create Great 'Brand Positioning" for your Hostel

What does this mean? Well, your brand is not your product (in this case your hostel) – it is the perception of your product. So, you need to identify how you want people to see your product before you start your marketing campaign. Then you can work out effective and fun ways to achieve this.

The first step to creating your ‘brand positioning’ is to create a ‘Statement’. This means a lot of brainstorming, honesty about what your unique value and proposition are, and get all your team’s ideas together. Put together a list of everything that is important for your business, your team, for you and your customer. Synthesize your results to include everyone’s point of view, give it a couple of days to think about it, then come back and decide your ‘Statement’.

When you have all the information in front of you – it should read like this:
- Your Target Market
- Definition of the market you are in
- Your Brand Promise
- Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise

This sounds simple – your market is backpackers, the age range and demographic is mostly open, and you’re offering a place to stay that is hopefully safe, fun, friendly, clean and good value for money. And your reviews, ratings and testimonials on your website and social sites provide the Reason to Believe.

What are you really selling?
You and your competitors are all selling beds – but ultimately, what is the experience you are selling? What do you really offer that is different from other hostels? Is your demographic really ‘everyone’? Who are you targeting? What nationalities are you promoting to? What translations do you have on your website? Do you encourage group bookings? What are you known for? What activities do you offer or can you recommend? You must work out all of these things before you begin to market yourself. Also make sure you identify what you don’t want to be known as – if you’re a party hostel then make sure you tell people if they want to sleep, to stay somewhere else!

Stay focused. The more focused you are, the more individual and distinctive your brand will be.  Try to find your exact section of the market, your promise and one or two reasons why that promise is believable. Remember you are also positioning yourself against competitors, so make sure you have a good understanding of their positioning too.

Product Message
Once you have established your positioning, put together the following, and make sure everyone in your team knows about it:

- Key Statements:  your benefits/unique selling points in a couple of key statements. These will be repeated      like mantras in all your marketing.
- Differentiators:  In marketing speak – what makes you different from the rest?
- Positioning:  Make sure everyone knows what you want to be known as.
- 25 words:  This is one sentence about you that says it all.

Now you have you message and product identified, you can build your brand.

Build your Brand
Now you have created it, you have to make sure you use it. This means keeping your brand identity ‘true’ (don’t stretch your logo!) and populate it across everything from your facebook to your invoices. This should be consistent – you will want it to look professional in everything you do, and to remain clearly identifiable. Read our article on ‘Building your Brand’ to see the checklist of what to do.

Manage your Brand
Once you have decided on your brand positioning, and have begun to build it, make sure you keep it well managed. Your “Reasons to believe” come in here, because your brand makes a ‘promise’ that the experience will be positive, and as you described. If you tell your customers you have an amazing party atmosphere and when they arrive you bar is under refurbishment, they will be disappointed. You need to manage expectations when they differ from your usual promise (such as when you are having renovations done etc.) and if something goes wrong, as it sometimes does, you have to recover your customers’ trust by managing the experience. Things can go wrong and you can still get a good review, but only if you manage it correctly. If you had a bad customer experience with a well known brand, you know they will respond to it immediately and try to gain your brand trust again – usually with discounts, exclusive offers or something free. Decide your standard protocol for dealing with complaints at front desk, online, through social networks, and make sure you send out consistent, positive responses to manage your brand.

Also, don’t forget that managing your brand is also a positive experience, not just crisis management! When you get positive reviews, thank the customer, share it on your website or social channels, and make sure the customer feels it was worth telling people. Good reviews and feedback from happy customers are your best friends, remember 51% of people follow friend’s recommendations when it comes to where to stay.  Your customer will feel more inclined to visit again, recommend you, read your email marketing rather than thinking it’s spam, and remember it as a positive customer experience, even after their visit! This is marketing gold dust, so don’t think the customer experience ends when at check-out. Find out more about Positive PR in our free article online.

Good Luck!

If you have any questions about this article, feel free to contact us at

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Is Google+ the Best Discussion Forum?

Google+ is trying hard to be what all forums (back when the internet was invented) have always hoped to be. Relevant. Forums and chat rooms have been around in one way or another since the internet was invented, but so has spam and an overwhelming amount of irrelevant material from prolific users and sharers. The idea behind forums being to share relevant information and start topical discussions has taken a backseat for years.

Overwhelmed with sales pitches and dancing animals? LOL? With so many different mediums now, it's almost impossible to know where to make your posts and read other people's posts, let alone get genuine advice. The biggest sites, such as facebook groups and LinkedIn face constant spam postings and self-promotion instead of being used as a tool for discussions. And for asking questions or seeking genuine advice, you will certainly receive replies that sell you something. I know that my inbox has become full of updates that aren't relevant to me. Is this perhaps where Google+ can step in?

Being the behemoth company they are and ranked #1 in the world, Google had an obligation to create something to challenge or better the existing forums out there. Google+, Google Circles, Google Hangouts, Google Talk, Google+ Communities - what is it all about?!
Well Google+ allows you to create a topic or community or discussion, and talk about it - the same as the other platforms. You can follow what you like, join in what you like, and see a whole host of recommendations for you. You can also have private and two-way conversations as it incorporates Google Talk network directly, as does Gmail. You can also use its instant messaging function, or one of the many IM third party services out there, such as Pidgin. If you want to interact by video or watch youtube clips as a group, then you can use Google hangout. This is essentially a chat session for up to 10 people, with the usual requirements of a webcam and microphone. To be used with select circles or users even.

Google+ Communities focuses on just that, the community. So instead of a category for film that includes documentaries and horror, it's broken down further to find what is relevant to you. You have the ability to create Categories within your Communities (but the Community itself has an owner), so you can drill down to issues that you're interested in, and avoid irrelevant material (and perhaps even less spam due to the 'moderator' function). Being Google there is high tech monitoring taking place, and repetitive content and multiple posts are weeded out and deleted, so this should keep your Community as spam free as possible - better for user experience. Then there is even a community for moderators, a group if you will, to report back on issues. This sounds like prefects in school, but if there are people willing to monitor and keep clean the Communities, then it should work.
Where facebook and LinkedIn groups fall down is control of the groups postings. The are also generic postings that discourage other members from joining discussions as they're not focused enough to engage people. The online community welcomes new platforms, and Google has recognised and embraced this. With millions of users and the easiest member engagement, could Google+ create value in forums rather than playing the numbers game? It's for the user to decide.

Do you use Google+? Do you find it a happier place to avoid spam and interact?
Let us know your thoughts!