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Ms. Bressler

Website / Online Mechandising / SEO

Benefits of Organic Search Engine Optimization: A High ROI Marketing Strategy

By Hillary S. Bressler, Founder & President, .Com Marketing

So before I can convince anyone about SEO, I need to teach them "what is SEO and why should I do it." SEO is the science and art of attracting "free" organic traffic to your site. And this works in a way that is different than any other form of online marketing. It is a long term and high ROI marketing model. Dollar-for-dollar, search engine optimization offers the most cost-efficient website traffic-building tactic and can also deliver significant competitive advantages.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the process of insuring your site listing appears among the top results of a search in engines such as Yahoo! or Google. The higher a website ranks in the search results, the greater the chance that the site will be visited. SEO is not to be confused with paid search, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC), where an advertiser pays when their listing in the "Sponsored Links" section of a search engine page is clicked.

A 2006 by Radar Research states that 75 percent of advertisers use organic search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, making it the most popular form of search engine marketing. Paid search came in second, with 71 percent of advertisers using this channel. Paid search comprised about 86 percent of total ad spending, while organic search accounted for a mere 12 percent of ad spending in 2006. Because of the competitiveness for some keywords, a significant number of dollars can and are being spent on paid search while SEO delivers results for significantly less.

What are your SEO options?

If your hotel is considering SEO as part of your Internet marketing arsenal, you'll find a dizzying array of options from vendors: phone consultations; website audits; on-going SEO consultation; and SEO consulting with implementation. You'll likely also consider undertaking SEO in-house versus outsourced professional services.

What are the Benefits of SEO?

1. SEO offers excellent return on investment (ROI)

Even though SEO produces one of the lowest costs per impression as compared to other traditional and online marketing strategies, it is often overlooked because hotel markers are made to believe that their site is SEO friendly or rely on 3rd party sites to do the work to come up on the search engines. SEO is by far the greatest ROI that I see time and time again. Proper SEO takes time and effort and lots of it. Typically you can expect to pay around $1,500- $3,500 per month on a professional and legitimate SEO program. The ROI on this for a hotel averages between 5 to11 to 1 return on investment, meaning that for every dollar you spend in SEO you drive $5 or more in revenue back to your property.

2. Customers are looking for you

Search is a rare marketing method, because your customers are looking for you or a product like yours. With SEO, you scientifically target the people who are already looking for what you have to offer. With other marketing efforts, you basically throw your money to the wind and just hope your message reaches the right people at the right time. If someone is searching for "Boston hotel Copley Plaza" and you are not coming up on that search, you have potentially lost that sale.

3. Decrease 3rd party commissions

The most revenue will occur if you drive traffic directly from the search engines to your hotel's website without having a reservation going through a 3rd party like Expedia. Many hotels have spent money on their websites and have good online reservation systems, but still relay on a majority of reservations from Expedia and Orbitz. Make it a goal to decrease these expenses and increase online reservations through aggressive search engine optimization. We see that your average daily rate and thus profitability increases dramatically with just a small shift to direct bookings.

4. SEO has longetivity

When you spend time and money getting your site listed organically, it doesn't dry up instantly when your money does. SEO works best when it is worked on continually; however, if you do find that your marketing budget has been cut, it will take some time before your site completely drops from the search engines. Once in place, a properly designed and optimized site stays for a long term in the rankings compared to the pay per click (PPC) option. This is marketing heaven in today's up and down economy. However, keep in mind that at some point you will lose your rankings once you quit a SEO program since the Internet is ever changing and others will move up to take your place.

5. SEO helps boosting a hotel owner's confidence

There is nothing better to boost confidence than seeing your property appear at the top of the listings on a Google search. Bring your owner in to the office and run a search - they will be pleased and flattered. Make a point of letting them know that you have done your homework and the term you used is one of the most searched by consumers. Oftentimes in an industry we think in our terminology not the searchers. That is why hiring an outside SEO firm that will not only look at the most popular terms but what is the likihood of actually coming up on that term will be make that investment pay off and insure you have the right focus. For example, "Orlando hotel" is very popular but very difficult due to the competition, however, "Hotel near Disney" might be easier and quicker to achieve placement.

6. Better user experience

One of the most basic elements for good search performance is insuring the site is well built. Many companies that come to .Com Marketing for our SEO expertise proudly tell us they just launched a new website and the web designer told them it is search engine-friendly. All too often we are the bearers of bad news, as their site has major issues that require changes to become a SEO-friendly site. While traditional ad and web agencies are capable of designing great-looking sites, few of them are designed to be search engine-friendly. The best solutions are either to find an agency that has both SEO and web design expertise under one roof, or to involve your SEO consulting partner early in the website design and programming process.

As an added benefit, implementing basic search engine optimization guidelines and strategies on your website should mean that web visitors have a more pleasant user experience. A good SEO firm will always start the SEO process with an analysis of your hotel's website or what we call a "web audit." As these recommendations are implemented we start to see results very quickly and also give the hotel the added value that the site is designed better as well. The website audit allows us to make specific ecommendations to improve its search engine-friendliness and map out a strategy for ongoing SEO. While some audits concentrate only on SEO, it's also common to see better consultants audit site usability, navigation and, especially for e-commerce sites, conversion to sale.Getting the most out of search engines as part of a marketing campaign is an on-going process, not a one-shot deal. Professional SEO consulting includes strategic direction, client education and implementation of recommendations. This last point is critical-my SEO account team prefers to make the necessary changes to our clients' sites themselves, since failing to implement in a timely manner can undermine the campaign results and ultimately waste the investment in SEO. SEO is a marketing strategy that gets good results for those who are willing to implement it strategically and on an ongoing basis. And remember, most importantly, SEO is working for you 24/7 - so you can sleep peacefully knowing that all those insomniacs are still finding you.

Hillary S. Bressler, is an authority on interactive marketing and a national online marketing pioneer. She is the founder and president of .Com Marketing, specializing in the travel, healthcare, and b2b industries. She established .Com Marketing in 1997 after identifying the need for the marketing of Web sites. Her interactive agency has served CVB’s, hotels and travel companies all over the U.S. such Marriott & Renaissance Offshore Resorts, Marriott Vacation Club, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Universal Orlando Resorts, City Pass, and Signature Travel Network. Ms. Bressler can be contacted at 407-774-4606 ext 203 or bressler@commarketing.com Extended Bio...

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