Travel and hospitality marketing: Do you know how internet users are searching for your restaurant?

October 14, 2011

Every month people do millions of searches for the perfect restaurant.

Information  about your location, quality and type of food you serve will drive customers to your website. And restaurant.

As an expert in travel and hospitality marketing, it’s my job to understand how people choose one brand over another.

Today many of those decisions are now being made with the help of search engines.

Take restaurants, for instance.

According to SEO expert Mark Sprague,  in one recent month alone Google reported 23 million searches for specific information on restaurants.

The top three categories after general informational searches? Location, quality and type. As in “Where are the best Italian restaurants in Denver?”

Together, those three categories account for 3 out of every 10 searches. The first keyword, “location”, alone accounted for 13.5 million or over 50% of those searches.

When searching for quality, people put the word “best” in their query 1.2 million times, and the word “top” 345,000 times.

If they’re searching for a type of restaurant, people search by nationality (Chinese, Italian, etc), food (seafood, burgers,etc), style (family, romantic, buffet, etc…) or delivery.

When searching for content, the top 3 requests are for reviews, guides and menus.

Recommendations on how to optimize your website for search engines:

1.  Weave the themes of location, quality and type into your website copy.

2. By a 3-1 margin, consumers are more interested in quality than value. So stress quality over value in your website.

3. When consumers search by brand, they already know you. But if they’re searching for new restaurants, they focus on quality and look for positive reviews. So make sure you are encouraging happy customers to review your concept in Yelp and other online directories.

4. Since  location is so important, add your business to the local search service databases of Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Top 10 types of searches people are doing for restaurants:

  1. Informational – 65,650,450 searches
  2. Location based – 13,577,700 searches
  3. Type of restaurant – 4,261,540 searches
  4. Quality of restaurant – 1,835,520 searches
  5. Restaurant business – 1,299,270 searches
  6. Restaurant by brand – 1,236,530 searches
  7. Request for content – 850,020 searches
  8. Value – 500,660 searches
  9. Industry events – 376,600 searches
  10. Restaurant directory – 218,000 searches

If you’d like to go deeper into this subject, Mark Sprague wrote an excellent post that recently appeared on Search Engine Land on restaurant searches.


A travel marketer’s guide to organic vs. paid search

September 23, 2011


Organic search rankings take longer to build, but last longer.

New research sheds some light on the effectiveness of organic versus paid search.  But there are good reasons to use both.

Search engine optimization has become a key weapon in every travel & leisure marketer’s marketing arsenal.

But  many travel marketers are asking the same questions: “What are benefits of paid versus organic search? And what’s more effective?”

There are at least 4 reasons to consider organic search:

  1. If you’ve got the time and staff hours to create quality content, you don’t pay extra for your search rankings.
  2. Organic listings generate more click-throughs because they offer unbiased information.
  3. Organic results tend to last longer. Your rankings can last for weeks or months.
  4. Organic search can offer a better ROI because of the limited expenses associated with it.

There are at least 5 major benefits of paid search:

  1. The search engines don’t charge you a fee to place or run your ad.  So you only pay for users who click through on your ad.
  2. Pay per click ads can level the playing field for small businesses because your ad can run alongside a much bigger brands’.
  3. You can set up and run a pay-per-click campaign in a few days. By comparison, it can take months to raise your organic search rankings.
  4. Advanced metrics allow you to alter your campaign in real-time to respond to either good or bad performing ads.
  5. Pay-per-click campaigns utilize geo-targeting, effective keyword research and demographic site selection allow you to target your viewing audience much more precisely.

User experience research firm User Centricrecently released a study that sheds new light on the effectiveness of organic versus paid search:

  • Organic search results were viewed 100% of the time.
  • Participants spent an average of 14.7 seconds on Google
  • They spent an average of 10.7 seconds looking at organic search results on Bing.

But when it came to paid search ads, fewer people looked at them:

  • 91% looked at center paid search ads for Google, and 90% looked at center ads on Bing.
  • Only 28% looked at right-side ads on Google, and  21% looked at right-side ads on Bing.
  • Only 17% looked at upper left side ads on Google, while 18% looked at them on Bing.
  • Users spent less than a second look at center paid search ads for both Google and Bing.

Hitwise’s latest numbers also shed some light on success rates:

  • Google may do more searches, but Bing’s success rate is 16% higher.
  • 81% of all Bing and Yahoo searches resulted in a click.
  • 66% of Google searches resulted in a search.

When travel & leisure marketers should use paid versus organic search:

  • If you’ve got the time and staff to write quality, relevant content for your blog and social sites, organic search works great.
  • If you’ve got to deliver results immediately, and can invest the time to test and adjust paid search may be your best bet.
  • Bottom Line:  organic search takes a lot of time and effort to build, but lasts longer.
  • Paid search has more hard costs associated with it, but you can get it up and running faster and it can deliver a quicker ROI.

How are you using search?

What kinds of results are you getting?  What have you learned? Talk to us.

How to win the search rankings battle in the leisure marketing industry.

March 7, 2011

Search engines base rankings in part on the type and style of content.

Is your website optimized according to standards Google has set for your industry?

If you’re a leisure marketing professional you have to know and follow the rules by which search engines rank websites in your industry.

Let’s take the leisure marketing sub-category of restaurants as an example.

Recently, one of the experts at Search Engine News shared some of the rules Google has set for restaurants use to get  Google reward a  better ranking to your restaurants with Fast Casual Magazine.

10 tips for improving a restaurant’s search engine rankings:

1. Link to your menu from your home page.

It’s the main reason people come to restaurant websites, so you need to make it easy to access.

2. Create a PDF menu.

Google has an easier time indexing text on PDFs than if you scan the menu. Plus a PDF is easier to download, print and share.

3. List daily specials.

Deals are indexed higher because people are always looking for good deals.

4. Display your prices.

Google Maps and other web services try to provide a price. If they can’t find yours, it can lower your rankings.

5. Participate in a menu distribution service like Dotmenu.

Not only do these services get indexed by the search engines, but they also share your menu with a wider audience.

6. Make even the small print readable.

The more small print you have on your site, the lower your usability scores, which can lower your rankings.

7. Input your menu as text, not as a scanned document.

Google is now able to scan many types of images.  But the indexing isn’t perfect.  Images also slow down your site, which lowers your search rankings.

8. Leave off the special rules, exclusions and warnings.

These scare customers and the search engines away.

9. Create ALT text for images, hyperlink logos and add keywords to the metadata in your PDF documents.

These make your PDF documents more scannable by the web crawlers.

10. Avoid Flash.

Flash slows down your site, which lowers satisfaction scores and search rankings. Search engines also can’t read text in flash scripts.

Thanks again to the editors of Fast Casual and Search Engine News magazines for developing this valuable content. You can find the complete article at

Travel and leisure marketing: Answers to your questions about Google Instant.

September 29, 2010

Google Instant made no change to the ranking algorithm, so rankings for specific keywords won't be affected.

Eric Vreeland recently hosted a popular Hubspot webinar on the effects of Google Instant on your SEO strategy.  The day after the webinar he posted the following questions people asked at the seminar.

1.  “How is Google Instant going to change my ranking for keywords and keyword phrases?”

  • Google made no change to the ranking algorithm, so rankings for specific keywords won’t be affected.
  • But because Google is now predicting what people are searching for, more websites will target predicted keywords, which will create more competition for those keywords.

2.  “How will Google Instant affect my SEO strategy?”

  • Because Google Instant presents results before the user even hits enter, most users won’t visit the second page of search results or scroll below the fold.
  • This makes it more important than ever to rank in the top three results for specific keywords.

3.  “Are there specific aspects of SEO that will be heavily affected by Google Instant?”

  • Page titles and meta descriptions will play a more important role than ever as these are the two items that a user will see as they scan the page when they search.
  • That means if you can write something compelling and grab a searchers’ attention, you will get a better click-through rate.

4.  “How does Google Instant affect my PPC (Price Per Click) strategy?”

  • Google Instant will create more competition among companies wanting to rank in the top three, which will lead to higher CPC costs.
  • So do thorough keyword research before you start your campaign, closely monitor your keywords and adapt accordingly.

5.  “Should I optimize for partial searches?  For instance, if my keyword starts with a “W” and weather is the first keyword Google Instant returns,should I try to optimize for this keyword?”

No. If someone was searching for something else and your website popped up as a result, that wouldn’t be a good lead for you.

Here are all 10 questions and Eric’s complete answers.  If you have time to watch it, you can access the entire hour-long webinar here.


Top 10 SEO thought leaders every travel and leisure marketing pro should read.

September 1, 2010

illustration of the words "Search Engine Optimization" stacked on each other

Hubspot just published a listing of some of the top SEO blogs.

Hubspot recently ranked the top 23 SEO blogs for CMOs who want to learn about the latest SEO thought leadership.

More and more, CMOs of travel and leisure brands are asking how they can raise their organic search rankings. Recently Kipp Bodnar contributed an excellent post on Hubspot listing some of his favorite SEO blogs.

Hubspot’s Top 10 SEO Thought Leaders:

1. SEOmoz Blog – SEOmoz has become the gold standard for SEO information and how-to articles. Its team of contributors offers an article per day to help expand your SEO knowledge.

2. Marketing Pilgrim – Andy Beal and his team of talented writers break search engine and internet marketing news and discuss major industry trends impacting marketers.

3. Search Engine Land – This is one of the best search engine blogs for in-depth news and analysis of the search marketing industry.

4. Search Engine Journal – From link building to the newest changes from Google, Search Engine Journal covers news and tactics related to the search engine marketing industry.

5. Search Engine Roundtable – For detailed discussion and explanations of the fine details of search engine marketing, Search Engine Roundtable has you covered.

6. SEO Book – For reviews of the newest SEO tools to analysis of search engine changes, check our SEO Book.

7. ReelSEO – ReelSEO is a resource for marketers looking to learn more about online video’s impact on search engine marketing.

8. Yoast – Yoast is a how-to focused blog that covers tactics for improving SEO as well as user experience for your website.

9. aimClear – The aimClear blog includes articles about a wide range of search marketing topics, including SEO and PPC.

10. Biznology – This blog discusses many SEO-related issues but has recently focused on content marketing and its connection to SEO.

To read about another 13 top SEO blogs, visit Hubspot and read all of Kipp’s post. If you’d like to read Hubspot’s free 23-page report on how to increase  your organic search rankings, you can find that here.

3 ways Google’s new indexing engine will bring profound changes to travel and leisure marketing.

July 14, 2010

Google Caffeine indexes the web 50% faster than Google's old engine. What does that mean to you?

Caffeine’s lightening fast indexing speeds will create new opportunities for travel and leisure marketers who are quick to react and willing to experiment.

Click Z published a fascinating article by Gary Stein recently on the profound effects Caffeine’s faster, fresher indexing will have on online marketing.

That was then. This is now:

  • For the last decade, Google has used the 80/20 rule to indexing.  Since 80% of the content on websites stayed the same, their crawlers focused on indexing the  other 20% of the content that changed.
  • The web today is about sharing real-time experiences, which requires indexing more content more regularly.
  • To keep up, Google has updated its indexing technology to collapse the time between when a website updates its content and when it’s viewed.

3 ways Google Caffeine will change the way you do leisure marketing online:

1.  Updating your content will become more important than ever.

Google’s spiders are more attracted to new content than ever before.  So updating must be a part of your online marketing strategy.

And the easiest way to for a leisure brand to do this is through social media. Just make sure your content is still relevant to your site’s core topic.

2.  Experimentation and exploration will become the norm.

Because Caffeine indexes with lightening speed, you will be able to experiment with new ideas and see the results quickly.

Then adjust your strategy based on your findings.

3.  Keeping an eye on your competitors will become a much higher priority.

A shift in the index is going to cause a change in your rankings. And constantly shifting content will cause your rankings to change with greater speed.

So pay close attention to where you are relative to your competitors. And when the rankings start to shift, see what changed in your content and your competitors’.  And react accordingly.


The most powerful online leisure marketing machine is not a machine at all. It’s Lady Gaga.

June 27, 2010

Lady Gaga has become the queen of online marketing.

Lady Gaga is the most popular celebrity online. And a walking case study in integrated online leisure marketing.

Lady Gaga:  An online brand that’s gaining audience share every month.

If you asked me today to name a leisure brand that best links web and social media tools into one powerful marketing machine, my answer would be a person:  Lady Gaga.

This self-professed “fame monster” leverages 3 different websites, her own facebook, myspace and buzznet pages, a twitter feed and a youtube channel to gain millions of fans and sell millions of songs.

Lady Gaga by the numbers:

Last month, Lady Gaga added 1.5 million facebook fans, 483,130 twitter followers, and 19,213 youtube subscribers, bringing her online following to:

Lady Gaga uses every trick in the online and social media strategy book:

1.  Her sites contain compelling content.

Her web and social sites are jammed with stunning costumes, videos, photos, interviews and  articles.

3. Each site has a great breadth and depth of content.

Every day, her sites post new information on her concert tours, interviews with the press, photos of a recent video shoot, and more.

Each site is visually and verbally rich in content.

4.  Content is shared between sites.

She has 8 different web and social sites.  And although each one has original content, all of these sites share common content.

5.  All of the content is sharable by fans.

When you press the “share” button,  280 different bookmarking and sharing sites show up! And she links to other musicians’ sites.

6.  Each site makes it easy to purchase music and merchandise.

You’re never more than 1 or 2 clicks away from purchasing your favorite song, t-shirt or co-branded product.

7.  There are plenty of places for fans to talk about her.

Her sites are full of chat, comment and discussion features.

I counted 125,000 posts on this site alone!

8.  There is an underlying strategy holding it all together.

Each site has its own audience and purpose. Yet they work together to feed the insatiable appetite of fans.


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