I’d like to start this article a little differently by saying this:
The objective of the article is to provide a very simple introduction to search engine rankings.
I will provide the very basic elements of achieving high search engine ranking for web sites here, but please be aware that much more information than provided is required for those high rankings
The Internet and World Wide Web is no longer a new phenomenon. Most of us use it every day, however we still don’t understand the full benefits of this powerful medium to the resort industry.
Internet technologies have rapidly created a society that demands information and options – right now! Due to endless amounts of information being available to the consumer, they are now in control of the information search and acquisition process.
Consumers are used to being able to find the information they are looking for almost instantaneously. With consumers holding higher expectations and having access to more information than ever before, the power has shifted to them. That being the case, it is vital that we give them what they want.
2 million Australians book a holiday online each year
The Internet is a very real source for attracting visitors and increasing bookings. Did you know that 65% of Australians use the Internet? And that 16% of these Internet users have booked a holiday online?
That equates to over 2 million Australians who book their holiday via the Internet each year. 2 million highly qualified potential consumers that can be reached via your own branded web site.
The smallest resort can compete on an equal footing with the giants!
That’s all well and good, but how does one access that market? The answer to that question is simpler than most would believe.
When planning a holiday, the vast majority of consumers do some ‘Internet research’. They go to a search engine and type in a few key words concerning the location and type of holiday they are looking for, e.g. “Gold Coast accommodation”.
Based on these key words the search engine spits out pages and pages of results. 85% of consumers look no further than the first two- (2) pages of results. What that means for you is that if you want your web site to get looked at it needs to be ranked within the top 20-40 search results!
How do you achieve high search engine ranking?
Search Engine Optimisation of your web pages
A big term that basically means developing your web page in such a way that the search engines rank that page highly for the search term you want.
Let me explain.
Search engines such as Google send out what is called a ‘spider’ to search through all the web sites that exist on the World Wide Web. The search engine allocates a ranking to that site based on a whole range of criteria. This criteria includes:
- The number of times a key word or phrase (such as Gold Coast accommodation) appears
- How many other web sites link to the page (and what actual words link over)
- What the heading is
- …and much, much more
Other aspects might include:
Title bar – if you use Internet Explorer, this is the blue bar at the very top of the window. It should contain the most important keywords you see on your home page.
Content – you need 200-350 well written words on your pages, not flashy graphics. It is important to keep the content simple and easy to understand.
Meta tags – these are the words search engines look for to list your site in their indexes. To see if your site has meta tags, click the “view” command. From the pull-down menu, select “source.”
When the window opens, look for two commands near the top: “meta name description content,” which should carry content describing your company and products, and “meta name keywords content,” which should list applicable keywords for your site (eg. Gold Coast accommodation).
Search engines change the rules
Now, notice how I said “Other aspects might include?”
There’s a good reason for this. Search engines constantly change the way they rate web pages. As I write this article for instance (April 30, 2004) having other web sites link to your web site is essential for high search engine rankings.
The meta tags I mentioned fell out of favour a while back…but could well become used again next month.
What can a high search engine ranking do for you?
The answer is simple: plenty!
Just consider the volume of potential customers that a search engine can send to your site free of charge and the kind of business your site could do if you optimised your site even slightly!
Ok, so your web site is optimised for the search engines, what happens when the consumer actually gets to your web site?
What happens when they get there?
Once the consumer clicks through to your web site, they don’t stay for very long.
People are time poor and want to find the information they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible. If they haven’t found the relevant information within 3 clicks, then the visitor will abandon your site.
This means designing the web site so that it is informative, entertaining, and sticky (by that I mean people stay on the site to look around). A web site must help visitors find what they want and allow them to quickly conduct their transactions.
So what do consumers look for on a resort web site?
We researched this quite exhaustively and found two- (2) simple answers.
Makes perfect sense really doesn’t it? After all, those two- (2) aspects are the very first question most people about.
But how many resort web sites exist that hide this information somewhere in their site or worse, don’t display it at all?
That’s crazy! On the web, if you don’t give the visitor what they are looking for, they will quickly go off elsewhere.
Let’s quickly recap.
To give yourself a chance at obtaining a booking your site must attract people who are interested in taking a holiday where your resort is.
Here’s my big three- (3) recommendations for resort web sites:
- be optimised to give the site every chance of ranking highly in the search engines
- provide up to date tariff information, and
- show room availability.
Based on extensive experience with Internet resort marketing and independent research, we have compiled the ‘Top 10 things‘ you can do to improve your web site.
- Ensure the rates are easily accessible (I’d suggest at the top of the Home Page)
- Display up to date room availability on your web site (at the top of the Home Page)
- Have an easy to use enquiry / booking form on web site.
- Hot Internet deals attract considerable interest (the assumption is that the person will receive a discount / special deal by booking online).
- Ensure the ‘look’ of the site portrays an image of quality.
- Respond quickly to enquiries – 24 hours is way, way too long. Under an hour is best. The quicker the better.
- Indicate the resort’s proximity to major landmarks, CBD, beaches, cafes, shopping centres etc.
- Have photos of staff on the web site as consumers react better to human faces.
- List the hours of reception on the web site to let people know when you are available to take their call.
- Have an online newsletter that visitors can subscribe to (and have all of your guests details here as well) – before you know it you can email 200 previous guests and other interested people with a special offer for that slow weekend coming up.