Do you wonder what Google is up to that will affect us in the vacation rental industry? This year I decided to find out and went along to SMX Sydney for 2 days a few weeks ago. SMX runs at locations all over the world discussing the latest trends in online search marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO). SMX Sydney was intense and wide ranging, but there are a few shifts that will help vacation rental / holiday rental owners.
Google allows local businesses like holiday rentals to have a free listing on Google Local – that is the list of 7 businesses next to a map high in the Google search results for your target keyword search. Eg type in ‘lorne accommodation’ and you’ll usually see a map with flags and a list of 7 businesses below the top 3 search results. I say usually, because Google plays around with how often it shows the map and Local results. There are special rules like consistency of Name Address and Phone number (NAP), and you have to create a page in Google plus specific to your business. VR takeout: This is one feature we should all go for and it’s free. More details in a future post.
Google + (Google Plus)
This is Google’s social platform – its answer to Facebook. The guru consensus is that Google Plus is not challenging Facebook and it is not succeeding as a social platform, but it is becoming an important system for identifying who you are in the Google world and for creating a trusted identity. Is it a free SEO ride to push your website to the top of Google results? The answer is no – a qualified no, with the gurus saying it is helpful indirectly. The consensus is that Google plus is poorly explained to the common user by the geeks at Google and it will languish as a social platform. However do not write it off. Dan Petrovic the well informed director of Dejan SEO considers it so important for the future that he spends two hours a day, every day, on Google Plus. Gurus like Dan don’t do things like this lightly Takeout for VR owners: is it is very much ‘watch this space’.
Over half searches globally are now done from a mobile device! This is a seismic shift over the past three years. Google is starting to introduce incentives for websites that are responsive on a mobile device. However getting your VR website working for mobile is complex and there are not yet simple tools on the likes of WordPress to make your site Mobile responsive. VR takeout: expect to be punished by Google if your website is not mobile friendly and expect to pay an expert to help you become mobile friendly if you want to rank highly in Google.
This is Google’s advertising system, Google’s main income source. It continues to go from strength to strength and of course is changing to accommodate the shift to Mobile search. Adwords is still a great tool for VR owners. Users commonly make a lot of mistakes in their Adwords accounts which are costly and lower the effectiveness of the Adwords spend. This is especially relevant to VR owners who use Adwords. One speaker who had actionable tips on effectiveness is Mona Elesseily. Check out one of her articles here. VR takeout: VR owners with Adwords campaigns need to check them periodically for effectiveness. A few small changes are likely to result in higher click rates and lower costs.
Can Facebook help get more vacation rental bookings? The message is complicated. Facebook online integrated with off-line campaigns is being used effectively by some big search companies but it is costly, unpredictable and competitive. On the other hand Facebook ads are highly effective for many companies. Success rates of 2% are possible, a factor of 100 more effective than typical online advertising. VR takeout: don’t expect to get bookings through your own Facebook page, but it is worth experimenting with Facebook ads, just like Adwords.
Hummingbird is worrying the search gurus. It is a new move by Google to give better search results. It anticipates a user’s intention to understand an ‘entity’, and it delivers better results to the user about that intention. Sounds woolly, but it is actually being used by Google to give better search results. It adds another layer of complexity to those wanting to list higher in the Google search results. The very big global companies like Disney who spoke at SMX can understand shifts like this and are implementing changes in their back end to please Google. As for little folks like us in the VR industry, forget it and let it wash over.
Big gets bigger
This takes me to a very important longer term trend. The Google search results are gradually over time becoming dominated by the larger companies. It was once possible for VR owners to target some unusual keywords and get great SEO results. For example I was able to list at number one or number two in the Google search results for my local area, but no longer. Hummingbird will make ranking by VR owners harder and harder. SEO is becoming more and more sophisticated, with large companies spending a lot on multiple teams specialising in just one part of SEO to give effectiveness. This is far more than a small owner can hope to do Google will sometimes promote good content such as VR blogs providing good local information about an area that is refreshed frequently. But forget a free ride to the top of the Google search results.
Concluding VR takeouts:
- Over time the big directories like Homeaway, Stayz, Airbnb will take a stranglehold over our market.
- Google Local is one thing small VR owners can do well and benefit from. More in a future post.
- Google and Facebook ads can be very effective.
Do you have a successful strategy using Google ads or Facebook ads to get more bookings? Leave me a comment.
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