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Pinterest is Doing What Google Can’t Do For Search

This post was originally published on MCNG Marketing’s Medium account.

How Pinterest is becoming a leading search engine on its own, and slowly doing what Google couldn't do in the world of search.

How Pinterest is Becoming a Leading Search Engine

There’s a bit of a quiet revolution going on in the world of search, and I don’t think Google is blind to it. However, I do think that many social media marketers and SEOs may be blind to the search revolution that’s happening.

Pinterest is slowly becoming, nay, already is, a search engine, and that may be it’s primary function in the near future. More and more people are going to Pinterest first to search for keywords, and then heading to Google. Especially female users of Pinterest, who adore Pinterest as their primary social network.

In my opinion, Google has been doing a better job over the years of showing websites related to the intent of a search. What’s lacking though is that it has never truly been strong at giving results to people that assist them in the quality of their daily lives, nor providing actionable inspiration.

People are still shocked when I tell them that Google has something called Recipe View to assist searchers with discovering recipes and creating recipes. Sadly, the reaction is a slight “Oh that’s interesting,” then followed by “I’m probably not going to use it.”

Pinterest has been strong in this regard, that it’s a search engine that can drum up excitement when results are shown. Their search engine is about helping people find new ways of creating a life, whether it’s putting you in a day dream state to go travel, or it’s just small craft you want to try to make.

A good example of this is the following. Type in the words, “garage organizer,” into Google. You’re going to get results with a bunch of products that will help you organize your garage. But it doesn’t give you a strong visual idea of how to get this done.

When I searched for those words on Google, the first three results were from Costco and Home Depot. This would be great if I was looking for products, but my intent was to look more for a how to organize a garage resource.

How Google's search engine shows text and product information results, while Pinterest shows lifestyle results.

But Pinterest…oohhh meee…oh myyy…it’s like a visual orgasm of what an organized garage can look like with pictures that would even make Martha Stewart blush. From that point on users of Pinterest can select which pin they would like to click on to get more information, or to get ideas of how to organize their garage within a few seconds.

This is an example of a Pinterest search that shows lifestyle and inspiration results.

Pinterest is presenting a catalog of potential blog posts and resources about how to organize a garage.

Recipes, DIY, and Activities

I honestly can’t think of a better place to go where I can find recipes that show the final product, DIY hairstyles, and activities I can do with my niece, and do so rather efficiently, all in organized and visual manner.

While text based searches are great, and have their relevance, they seem a little underwhelming to the senses. The majority of us would rather have a picture that is worth a thousand words that we can process easily within a few seconds, then to process a thousand words and take minutes to process the same idea.

This is why I think Pinterest poses a serious threat to Google in many ways. It provides a lot of digestible information, in a very fast manner. It is the search engine for lifestyle seekers, and a big reason why it should be part of any retail or hospitality business’ social media strategy.

With over 70 million users contributing visual content, the amount of resources available to be searched on Pinterest is just going to get bigger.

Will Google ever be able to do what Pinterest does for search? In my honest opinion, probably not.

Introduction to Social Media – Where to Start


Introduction to Social Media -The Hows, Whats, and Whys

Big Headache
It can be extremely overwhelming to jump on board social media, especially since it seems that everybody else is ahead of you by about a decade. It also doesn’t help that the social media landscape changes as often as the temperature in Seattle. It seems every year there is a social network star that is born, and hundreds of more that try to rise to that success but ultimately fail.

If you’re wondering how and where you should start off with social media, this blog post will offer you guidelines.

How to Approach Social Media:

1) Be Patient and Keep at It

Social media is a new language. For those that may be in the baby boomers or older, it can be odd to have so much information bombarded to you at once, or that it may seem so strange that people are offering personal information so freely. It’s important that any person new to social media keep an open mind and just watch as a spectator to learn from others.

Treat social media as a spectator sport. When I first watched football, I didn’t really understand what the rules were, and with the exception of the quarterback, I didn’t understand the roles of other players. But over a few months I learned a few rules here and there, and was able to figure out the rules with the help of the Internet. But i did it in chunks.

Once I did, I found watching football more entertaining, though I’m a hockey fan first and foremost. But I kept an open mind and stuck with it. You need to stick with social media, don’t abandon it. It won’t go away.

2) Choose a Network that You Would Enjoy Being On

Facebook:

Take your time and choose one network that you feel would allow you to stimulate conversations with people and will allow you to have fun doing it. For most of us, Facebook (or a similar platform like Friendster) was our first social network platform. This is the most common one because it allows us to keep in touch with friends.

If you genuinely care about what your friends are posting, or care about what they are doing, then this is a good platform to start. Start off being intimate, and if that means staying in touch with only 30 friends, then that’s all you need. Honestly keeping up with 400 isn’t all that fun. Take time to comment on people’s status if it’s of genuine interest to you.

Pinterest:

Pinterest is a great social networking site if you love beautiful fashion, pictures of the most beautiful places in the world and you love seeing food. It’s also a great place if you happen to be into arts and crafts and need to sell goods. It’s expected that Pinterest will drive more traffic to websites than Twitter within a month or two of this blog posting.

The one advantage that Pinterest has over other networking sites is that content tends to have a long shelf life. If it’s an interesting picture or pin, as they call in Pinterest, then it can keep getting repinned again and again for months on end. And provide spikes in traffic in the most unexpected times.

Twitter:

Twitter is a great place to go and just chat and follow some of the people you most admire, and to start having conversations with people that you normally wouldn’t be able to reach. This is more of a conversational social network, and sharing knowledge that’s relevant to the people you want to attract is important.

But it can be a bit overwhelming, make sure you take it slow at first.

For this particular network, treat it casually to start and spend a few minutes a day to get a feel for the etiquette and if you feel there’s a conversation worth jumping into, then by all means, jump in.

If your find yourself a social media introvert, then this may not be the best social media platform to start with.

Linkedin:

Linkedin, the ultimate social networking site for business professionals. This is a great place to connect with others that you may want to stay in contact with but don’t want to add to Facebook. This particular medium is good for making industry contacts and when targeted right can generate high quality leads. The mindset that people come with on LinkedIn is one of professional business, and less of cocktail chatter like Facebook and Twitter.

A great way to connect with others is to write recommendations for them on the site. Only do so if you are making a genuine recommendation. It’s such a great marketing tool, for our own website we find that the amount of time spent based on traffic coming in from LinkedIn was 8-9 minutes. While those that came in from other sources were 1-1.5 minutes.

Google Plus:

Google Plus is starting to gain some momentum back, but has been described as a place more for techies and is quite male dominated. This is a great social network to reach out to influencers and have conversations with them because this is often the LEAST congested network for them.

Unlike the search function for Facebook, the search function on Google Plus will allow you to find communities, pages, and posts with ease and accuracy.

What’s also popular is Google Hangouts a tool where people can broadcast live talks, demonstrations or lectures, and you’re able to see people’s reaction and adjust accordingly. A great feature is also that Hangouts can be recorded as YouTube sessions automatically.

Generally social media falls under 3 categories, microblogging, these are sites like Twitter, Social Networking Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook that rely on status updates and longer profile creations , and visual networking sites like Pinterest, Flickr and Instagram.

The world of social media is huge, and isn’t limited to only those networks. Other popular networks include Tumblr which is a blogging platform that has gained great momentum among a younger generation who don’t find Facebook appealing. In China Sina Weibo is a social networking site that’s huge, but under the careful eye of the Chinese government. In Japan, Mixi is common to use.

The number of social media sites are in the hundreds are are listed here. I even just read that teens and tweens are now flocking to Pheed, which has received over 1 million users over a short period of time. What’s interesting to note is that digital natives and those that are in their teens are using social media on their mobile phones, since they don’t have a day job they aren’t likely to use a desktop to access their social networks.

3) What to do Next:

Engagement:

You have to treat your social networks the way you would when you move into a new town. It’s kind of scary, you may not know anybody and you have to build up a network of new friends. If you approach social media with the same mindset, and are very patient with it, you’ll find that you’ll make some excellent friends and networking acquaintances.

It does take time, and a lot of patience. And often, like real conversation in life, you most likely will need to be the initiator of those conversations. Learn to ask questions that peak people’s interest. Or comment on other people’s conversation. Most importantly don’t be passive for more than a week. Passive networkers don’t get known. Active networkers do.

4) Watch out for Social Media Fatigue:

Social media fatigue is quite serious, and it’s becoming part of the trend of people sitting and watching T.V. If you find that you’re getting overwhelmed from social media, then I would suggest you do and one thing.

1) Meet People. Nothing will replace social media like face to face conversation. It builds more trust than anything else.

2) Also go exercise. It will keep the blood in your brain going and help you stay alert.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, here are a few blogs I would recommend you read to get more in depth knowledge.

If you have any questions about social media or would like to know more of how we can help your brand be more engaged feel free to contact us at vince @ mcngmarketing.com

Photo courtesy of: Vernhart

How Hotels can Increase their Web Traffic

Shangri-La Hotel Downtown Vancouver Large hotel chains such as Starwood, Shangri-La and Fairmonts have large marketing budgets and have dedicated web teams to help them remain competitive across the world, but how does an independent hotel or motel in a city increase their web traffic and compete with the large chains. I’m going to go into detail on how hotels with smaller marketing budgets can attract more customers to their hotel website.

1) Start Blogging About Your City to Increase Web Traffic

Most guests that stay at a hotel are either their for business or pleasure. Either way, all of your guests are probably very curious to know what’s going on in your city. While there are several travel guides like Frommers and Lonely Planet, this doesn’t mean that you can’t start a blog that informs potential guests about why your city is such a wonderful place visit.

Spend about once a week to create new blog topics of interest to your guests. If you’re not sure what would be of interest to them, ask existing guests what would have helped them prepare for their trip before they leave your hotel.

I’m going to use my hometown, Vancouver, as an example. Here are some potential blog posts that I would suggest for a hotel in Vancouver to write about to increase their web traffic.

1) Top 10 Free Activities to Enjoy in Vancouver
2) The top 5 Concerts that are taking Place in Vancouver in the Summer
3) Top 10 Can’t Miss Restaurants to Eat in Vancouver
4) Fun Family Activities in Vancouver During the Summer
5) What to See in Vancouver in One Weekend
6) The Best Ways to Get Over Jet Lag
7) Top 10 Places to Get A Suit Made Last Minute in Vancouver
8) Top 10 Honeymoon Places to Visit in Vancouver
9) Seattle and Vancouver? What’s the Difference for Tourists?

The important part of starting a blog is to think like an actual hotel guest. Chances are your website already has some great information about rooms, rates, about the spa, and availability. But what’s the next thing that most guests’ want to know? They want to know what there is to do.

By continuously updating your website on a regular basis to adjust to the seasons, you can attract new customers from out of town that are looking for information that you are providing. These people would be considered warm leads in booking a hotel with you.

Consistently blogging helps with search engine optimization (SEO). Google search engine loves fresh content. They love it when writers contribute great content. And by contributing on a regular basis, you can compete with much larger hotels.

3) Target Niche Keywords to Rank Well for Google

Targeting words such as “Vancouver Hotels” and expecting to be on top for that search word in three months is nearly impossible, at least it is if you don’t use black hat SEO. Especially if you have to go against the big boys like Expedia and Travelocity who spend millions of dollars to stay on top of rankings. It’s more important to use your website’s blog posts and copywrite to focus on keywords (aka search words or phrases) that will help you increase your web traffic.

If I had a hotel in Vancouver and I happen to be near Rogers Arena where the Vancouver Canucks Play, I might aim for the keywords, “hotel near Rogers Arena.” Other examples might be, “Hotel on Robson Street”, or “Dog Friendly Hotel in Vancouver”, or “Kid-Friendly Hotel in Vancouver”, or “Lesbian Friendly hotel.” The goal is to look for words that have low competition that you can rank well for quickly, instead of spending 2 or 3 years to rank well for like the phrase “hotels in Vancouver.”

It takes time and patience to research niche keywords, but by aiming at niche keywords that your competitor is most likely not going to aim for, you’re able to reach that target market, and as you start ranking well for those niche keywords, you will start ranking better for the more competitive terms like “hotels in Vancouver.”

4) Ensure Your Pictures are Titled Properly for Search Engine Optimization

If you’re running a hotel, chances are that there are potential customers that want to see what your hotel looks like. And yes, they’re probably going to go to sites like Trip Advisor to see, but there will be a few people who are going to Google for Images of your hotel. This is where you can drive more traffic to your website. Pictures that are clicked on in Google Image search pop up and then when closed lead to the site that the picture is on. This means a picture on a hotel website that says, “pool” is going to get lost in a sea of other photos that are titled pool. However, if you labelled your hotel “Shangri-La Pool in Vancouver” Then when people Google Shangri-La Vancouver under Images, the pool will show up.

This goes for bedrooms. Instead of giving a picture the title King Suite, title it King Suite at Burrard Inn. In order to do this properly, ensure that your photos are renamed before you upload them. Instead of having the photos named, DSC13532.jpg.

5) Provide an E- zine to your Newsletter Subscribers

I would highly suggest creating an e-book that highlights in detail about the wonderful activities that go on in your city, and update it every year. Travel books are popular. There’s no second guessing that, but why should travel books get all the attention. Why shouldn’t you create an e-book that people will start to get to know and download it from your site in exchange for subscribing to your newsletter.

Since many of your guests are booking flights months in advance, they probably are curious to know what’s happening in Vancouver at around the time that they arrive. Being able to provide them a seasonal guide of what’s happening will make their life much easier in terms of planning their trip. You can also use the e-zine and have some space to highlight advertisements about hotels and amenities. Also provide advertising space for your partners in the tourism industry.

Since the e-zine is free, don’t be surprised if you see it slowly spread over the Internet in the most random places. Having people view the e zine, and mentioning your hotel will definitely get a few searches online. Providing potential guests with valuable information makes them comfortable and your hotel look like an expert about the city.

6) Hold Contests for Local and Out of Towners to Build Links

Part of driving more traffic to your website, and being able to rank well within search engines is through link building. Here’s the short and sweet of what link building is, it’s when other sites links to your site. Just like right now I’m linking to Shangri-La in Vancouver downtown. When you have high quality authoritative sites linking to your website, this is an indication to Google that this site must be important.

You can have ten random websites link to your hotel website, but one link from the Huffington Post or the Globe and Mail is worth more. There are creative ways to get there, but for a small hotel a good way to link build is to look for travel bloggers, or local bloggers to work with and offer contests. Offer a free one night stay at your hotel. Ensure that when your contest is being held with bloggers that they have a link connecting to your site.

If you are in Vancouver, then you may want to pair up with a Seattle lifestyle blogger for the contest to get more out of town guests. Do you research carefully as not all bloggers are created equal. Notice how often they blog, how long they have been blogging for, and what other giveaways they have done in the past.

While it may seem like a tremendous effort, driving traffic to your website is a commitment that pays off. Once you have amazing content on your website, it stays there and will continue to drive traffic to your site. Surprisingly it’s not the new content that will drive most of your traffic, it’s the older content that will. And since most hotels go on for years and years, you can guarantee that if you do what was mentioned above, you’ll see a wonderful payoff for your hard work.

For more information on how to create a great online marketing strategy for your hotel feel free to contact MCNG Marketing.
Photo courtesy of Shangri-La Vancouver Hotel.