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5 Tips to Improve your SEO beyond Keywords

SEO Link Building You know about keywords, and how important they are for getting your website found. Now you’re ready to take the next step and learn more about the world of search engine optimization. If you’re relatively new to SEO, there are a few things that you can do to help boost your website’s rankings beyond writing keywords in your content.

This article is designed for beginners, but it’s also a good refresher for intermediate level search engine optimizers.

1) Create Internal Links

When you start your website or blog I would suggest focusing on creating great content for your blog. However, the trouble with a new blog is that you don’t have a lot older content that you can refer to. But once you have written some more posts or create more content you want to start linking to those specific urls that the content resides on. This is known as internal link building, and doesn’t just apply to posts, but can be done to link to product pages, landing pages, and so forth.

Internal linking is helpful because you pass on link juice to those other pages. Imagine link juice as vote of confidence. Every time you link to your own article, this is considered a vote of confidence according to the search engines. Right now I’m passing on some link juice to this article about driving web traffic to a hotel website.

You don’t want to go overboard with this technique as it will ruin the reader’s experience. Think strategically about what pages or articles you want to rank well for and strategically think how other pages can link to them.

2)Use the Right Anchor Text

Strong Chains When you link to your own articles or to other websites, usually these links are highlighted in a different colour from the rest of the text. The following term, Vancouver Digital Marketing Agency, the highlighted part is known as anchor text.

Anchor texts are useful because it gives search engines another piece of information of what the directed webpage is about beyond the actual written text itself.
Let’s say you wrote an article about using Pinterest for marketing, if you want to rank well for search words Pinterest for marketing, then you want to create anchor text that says those keywords, and not using words such as social media marketing or the common deadly anchor text of, “click here.”

You should not abuse the use of exact match anchor text with the title of your article or for keywords you want to rank high for, or else you may be punished by Google. Especially if the anchor text is taken out of context and isn’t even remotely related to the rest of the article.

Don’t go rushing and linking 200 of your internal articles using the exact same anchor text such as Pinterest for marketing for all of them. You might want to switch it up and use more organic anchor texts such as, marketing using Pinterest, Pinterest is designed for marketing, or Pinterest for business marketing.

If Google believes you’re manipulating the system, then it will find a way to punish your website. This is what happened a lot of them during 2012 during the Panda and Penguin updates. It’s not quite over yet, there have been some major ones, and reportedly that Friday March 15th, there may be another Penguin change to Google.

This is why if you ever get a chance to write for another blogger or business magazine, you want to choose your words carefully. Instead of saying click here, you may say read this article about “How to Generate Leads with Linkedin.”

3) Develop Relationships with Other Bloggers and Businesses

You’ll often hear the term link building and its extreme importance in the world of search engine optimization. Link building is the process of having legitimate websites link back to your website. The reason I say legitimate is because Google has punished many sites that have used manipulative ways to gain links such as through link buying, or linking to low quality sites that add no content value to readers, link networks, or through content farms (such as e zine articles).

When you’re able to develop relationships with other bloggers you’re able to propose writing an article on their blog, known as guest posting. Depending on the guidelines of the blogger, you may be able to put a link in the article back to your website with a specific anchor text.

When that website links back to you this is considered a vote of confidence to Google, and helps you rank higher for search results. The more credible and visited a website is, such as the Wall Street Journal or Tech Crunch, the higher the vote of confidence to the search engines. The “credibility” of a site is often know as page rank.

Another factor is also the number of websites that you get a link from. If you get one from both Tech Crunch and Wall Street Journal, that’s the same as two thumbs way up that your site or blog is credible.

4) Label Your Pictures Properly

One of the important things you can do to improve your search engine results is to title and label your pictures appropriately. Instead of saying DSC_145 or something weird like that, rename them so that it says PinterestMarketing.jpg. (I’m guilty of practicing this poor labeling at times).

For my site, I labelled a picture “Using Iphone” and so I get some traffic for an article about Foursquare from those that are searching Google for an image related to that.

Don’t rename the picture to something that isn’t relevant. If you want to rank well for the word, clown for hire, in Google, don’t rename your cat pictures in your blog to that. That doesn’t make sense , and Google may punish you over time.

There’s something known as Alt text, this is alternative text that will show up when the picture fails to load. Fill this information with the keyword that the picture represents and this will help Google be able to understand more about what that picture and the content is about.

5) Webmaster Tools

One of the essential tools you need to improve your SEO is Webmaster tools. I would recommend starting that you sign up with Google Webmaster tools and find out if there are any 404’s. (This is known as links that don’t go anywhere, here’s an example of a 404 by Tech Crunch).

Tech Crunch 404

Though Google says it doesn’t affect search results, it’s more about good housekeeping. As you start to have more websites, it’s important to keep track of broken links.

However let’s say that you wanted to pass on link juice to a specific article on your website, if that link leads to a broken link, then the link juice is wasted, which could technically go to another site. Especially if that site has been getting a lot of traffic and has high page rank.

Those are some ways to be able to take the next step after writing keywords in your article, if you’re looking for a great resource on SEO for beginners, I highly recommend reading SEO Moz’s guide. Rand Fiskin, the team, and the community at SEO Moz, do a wonderful job and is an excellent source for SEO news.

Photo Courtesy of Ward

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.