Google Page Speed Update: Will Your Hotel's Website Be Impacted?

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GOOGLE’S PAGE SPEED UPDATE IS NOW ROLLING OUT TO ALL USERS

Search Engine Land and our agency Google representative have confirmed that Google’s Page Speed Update is now being released to all users.  As of July 9th, 2018, Google “has begun incorporating the new Speed Update algorithm in the mobile search results as a search ranking factor”.

Google has confirmed that right now, the update “only impacts the slowest of sites on the internet”. But….what does Google consider slow or the slowest in terms of mobile site speed? Our Google agency representative stated that RANK COULD BE AFFECTED FOR PAGES THAT LOAD SLOWER THAN 3-4 SECONDS. In addition to page rank and organic performance, it’s also important to understand that pages with slow load times also impact your paid advertising performance. How much of the traffic from your hard earned paid advertising dollars are bouncing from your site because the page takes too long to download? This can add up to a lot of wasted advertising dollars.

How do you know if Google’s Page Speed Update could impact your website? In Google’s most recent blog post on the Page Speed Update, they state that, “Although there is no tool that directly indicates whether a page is affected by this new ranking factor, here are some resources that can be used to evaluate a page’s performance.” These include Google’s Test My Site Tool.

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Our Google representative encourages immediate action to improve page speed if your site is loading slower than 5 seconds. Back in May we dove into the importance of mobile page speed for organic search rankings. Now is the time to act, don’t wait until your site is negatively impacted. Chances are, it is already seeing the negative impact of advertising dollars wasted on site visitors that bounce.

Reach out to GCommerce today to inquire about how we can help improve your site’s page speed.

How to Win on Mobile: The Increasing Importance of Mobile Speed for Organic Search Rankings

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MOBILE SPEED EFFECTS ON ORGANIC SEARCH RANKINGS OVER TIME

Google recently came out with a new tool to help companies compare their mobile performance against their competitors and measure the impact that decreasing mobile page load times can have on revenue. It’s not surprising to anyone in the marketing world that the results are significant. Users are increasingly demanding of websites to load as fast as possible, with slower websites experiencing noticeable increases in bounce rate as well as drops in other engagement metrics like time on site, pages per session and event/goal completions.

This move by Google is the latest in a series of initiatives by the tech giant to emphasize the increasing importance of mobile experience in the modern internet landscape. Looking back to April 2015, Google updated their algorithm in a release dubbed by webmasters as “Mobilegeddon”, giving priority in their SERP rankings to mobile- and tablet-friendly websites when the query was made on a mobile device. In May of that same year, they released a statement saying that mobile searches exceeded those of desktop in 10 countries, including the US & Japan. In November 2016, they started experimenting with mobile-first indexing, wherein a site’s mobile version, if it had one, would be used as its primary version, with the desktop version being displayed only if a mobile version was not available. Those sites without a mobile version would most likely see a decline in their SERP rankings while sites with a mobile-friendly experience could receive a boost in rankings regardless of the device on which the search is being made. Fast-forward to January 2018, Google released a statement explicitly calling out the fact that page speed will now be a ranking factor on mobile searches like it has been on desktop starting in July of this year.

One question you may be having is why Google is taking such a strong stance on mobile. The answer is multi-faceted, but it all comes down to providing users with the best possible experience, which ultimately benefits both users and Google. By optimizing your site for a mobile user, using techniques such as responsive design, fast page load times, utilizing caching and providing high quality content, your site is more likely to be engaging to users and therefore rank higher on Google’s SERP. Google benefits by providing users with the highest-quality content in the top positions which builds trust and makes users more likely to use them in the future, while you benefit with increased website traffic, higher conversion rates, and more engagement with your site. It’s in Google’s best interest to keep this feedback loop continuing and to get webmasters to perpetually try to optimize their sites for an optimal user experience, which is why we’ve seen this progression from merely stating that mobile experience is important to announcing to the world that it is definitively a factor in their rankings and providing businesses withtools like the Impact Calculator that should encourage them to make strides in the short term to that effect.

TOOLS TO MEASURE THE IMPACT OF PAGE SPEED ON YOUR WEBSITE PERFORMANCE

Back to Google’s new mobile tools for a second. The top section of the page allows you to compare your site with those of your competitors to see how your mobile speed stacks up. This is a great tool for benchmarking and assessing if you’re currently ahead of, in line with, or way behind your competition. In the below example, we would recommend to our client that they make immediate changes to their website to get on level terms with their competition as they are lagging behind all but one of their competitors.

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Revenue Directors and business owners will most likely be more intrigued by the Impact Calculator, though. It will ask you for data regarding average monthly website visitors, average order value, and website conversion rate. Based on this information, it will give an estimate of how much incremental revenue can be generated by lowering your site’s mobile page load time on a scale in increments of 0.1 seconds from your site’s current load time down to their minimum threshold of 0.6 seconds.

If you play around with the slider function, you’ll notice that the faster a web page loads, the more incremental revenue it is expected to produce. We noticed that the relationship did not appear to be linear, so we tested a couple of our clients on the tool and found the following:

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Client 1 (Original Page Load Time of 5.0 Seconds)

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Client 2 (Original Page Load Time of 2.8 Seconds)

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As you can see from the graphs, incremental revenue starts to increase exponentially as page load times approach the minimum of 0.6 seconds. While that minimum isn’t currently attainable for many websites, it’s certainly something everyone should be striving for given the potential payoff.

The nice thing about decreasing page load times is that it positively affects other metrics that you may not have thought about. It’s obvious that bounce rate would decrease while time on site and pages per session would increase, but could this affect organic search results, too? While no one knows exactly what’s in Google’s search algorithm, we already know that they have come out and said that site speed is a ranking factor and that mobile page load speed will be a ranking factor starting in July. It’s also been shown through independent testing that the top positions in organic search results typically have lower than average bounce rates and higher than average time spent on that page. By increasing your mobile site speed, you’re helping your site’s pages rank better for organic results, thereby supplementing your other SEO efforts. As mentioned previously, higher organic rankings should produce higher website conversion rates and therefore more revenue, something every business owner can get behind.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT FOR HOTEL WEBSITES?

You may be thinking that this all sounds great but it’s not currently a priority, and you’d rather focus budget and time on channels with predictable ROIs. The thing about that is, you’re wrong. Mobile traffic is increasing every year and has accounted for the majority of worldwide searches since 2015. Most of your users are most likely on mobile devices or will be in the near future. Also, in preparing for Google’s eventual worldwide switch to a mobile-first index, it’s even more important to have a mobile-friendly website and for mobile page load times to be lower, since a domain’s mobile site will be used as the primary site in Google’s search results. They are making it clear with their actions that this is the direction they want websites to move towards, with those who don’t comply being penalized and pushed further down the SERP, never to be seen again. It’s in your best interest to take the necessary steps to optimize your site for mobile now, and make a concerted effort to keep it that way moving forward. Mobile traffic and faster speeds are the future.

HOW TO USE PAGE SPEED TO IMPROVE YOUR SEARCH ENGINE PERFORMANCE

Get in touch with us today if you’d like more information on how GCommerce can help you gain incremental revenue from increased mobile site speed and optimize your site for a mobile experience.

Tropicana Inn & Suites' New Website Increases Conversion Rate and Revenue

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Have you ever wondered just how important a website is to a business?

GCommerce launched a beautiful new website for Tropicana Inn & Suites in Anaheim, CA in October 2017. A deep focus on branding, user experience and design with a focus on conversion rate optimization had a dramatic impact on the hotel’s digital presence and bottom line.

Functionality plays a huge part in the overall user experience and performance for any website. The creative and design team at GCommerce Solutions understands this and makes sure to implement hospitality specific best practices to all of our website builds and designs.

In the case of Tropicana Inn & Suites, it was a Design Ready Architecture (DRA) build that was put together with their new branding and content initiatives. The Tropicana specific DRA that was used took into consideration keeping a user on the website and giving them all the information needed right at their fingertips.

The most important factors considered for Tropicana’s layout & design was:

  • Having a testimonial section right on the website.
    • This keeps a user on the page and provides transparency; keeping them from having to search for another website’s reviews helping to ultimately keep the user on the property’s website.
    • This shows success in the 6% increase in average session duration since the launch of the new website.
  • Highlighting the most visited pages right on the homepage to help keep the user engaged and easy navigation to find the information they require.
  • High quality and professional photography. Per Hospitality Net, after price, photography is the most important factor for travelers and prospects.

LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE ACTUAL NUMBERS AND HOW THE NEW WEBSITE HAS IMPACTED DIFFERENT MARKETING CHANNELS

The following results were found after comparing data from the old website vs. the new website post launch.

OVERALL WEBSITE PERFORMANCE

Overall website Performance

Lets delve deeper and review how the new website helped the individual digital marketing efforts.

PAID SEARCH ADVERTISING

Paid Search

FACEBOOK ADVERTISING

Facebook Advertisement

Well designed with user experience and conversion rate best practices in mind, a new website can make a dramatic difference in your hotel’s performance and bottom line. Your website is your online storefront, You want it to be welcoming and portray a true representation of the property’s experience. The user experience should be easy to navigate and help lead your user through the booking funnel. Such as the snap navigation and booking widget used for Tropicana Inn & Suites that affixes to the top of the browser and follows the user down the page. You want the user to be able to navigate your site from anywhere and allow them to book their room from any point of their journey.

GCommerce Solutions would be happy to help with your new website. You can submit a request for more information here or give us a call at 435-214-5301.

Guerilla Marketing Through Facebook Advertising

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To some, April represents a race against the clock and scrambling to file taxes. To others, it equates to tax rebates and impromptu purchases. To hoteliers, it symbolizes struggle: the struggle to capture lost revenue resulting from mud season; the slow wait for the snow to melt and trails to dry. The solution? Connect consumers and their new-found disposable income with hoteliers looking to put heads in beds. The results of seasonal transitions are thoroughly understood by GCommerce. As residents of a resort town working with multiple hotels and resorts who must face the challenges of operating around seasonal traffic, we understand the trials and tribulations associated with putting heads in beds during these downturns in traffic. To ensure low cost-per-acquisitions (CPAs) and high return-on-investments (ROIs), hoteliers must ensure their marketing efforts are efficient. The ability to advertise on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-1000-impression (CPM) model, with both costs well below that of display advertising or media buys, allow hoteliers to deliver on the aforementioned objective. To date, GCommerce has seen an average ROI of 40-to-1 on Facebook Advertising campaigns.

FACEBOOK ADVERTISING: BUILDING YOUR NEXT GUERILLA MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Step 1: Match Need Periods to Upcoming Events

To the Tivoli Lodge, an iconic mountain town property, summer and winter mean high occupancy and a high ADR. Spring and fall however, equate to lower occupancy and a struggle to capture minimal market share. Crossmatching need periods with local events, those that put heads in beds, allow properties to combat seasonal lows.

Step 2: Determine Interest Surrounding Upcoming Events

Once a comprehensive list of upcoming events has been identified, determine what, if any garner enough buzz to be identified as an Interest on Facebook. Using Facebook’s Detailed Targeting tool, we’ve identified that the following Vail events garner enough traffic to build a campaign around – Vail Film Festival and Bravo! Vail Music Festival.

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Step 3: Create an Informative Landing Page

A successful landing page will educate site visitors, providing thorough details about the event, and engage your audience, beautifully illustrating the experience that awaits.

Step 4: Develop Ads with Relevant Imagery and Copy

An eye-catching, vibrant image is a must. As our attention spans dwindle, it is imperative to capture the attention of those scrolling through their news feeds. Similar to your landing page, the ad should provide event details, yet focus on selling the experience to come rather than the product at hand. Your words must send your reader into a daydream, allowing them to imagine themselves at the event, as well as the experience they’ll have while staying at your property.

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Step 5: Launch Your Campaign!

Satisfied with your landing page? Do your ads provide engaging imagery and captivating content? If your answer to both is yes, then you’re ready to launch your campaign! GCommerce recommends the utilization of conversion tracking through Facebook and custom URLs developed through Google’s URL Builder to track key data via Analytics. Challenged with need periods resulting from seasonal transitions? Look to Facebook Advertising to execute guerilla marketing efforts by targeting local events and attractions as a way to increase awareness, drive qualified traffic to your site, and capitalize on your new-found prospects. Questions? Concerns? Allow us to help launch your next campaign!

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A/B Testing: Why and How We Do It

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If you’ve worked with any form of digital marketing, the phrase “A/B Testing” is bound to have come up at least once during your experience. In short, A/B testing is a tool used to figure out the best digital marketing strategies for your business through testing different variables. A/B testing is frequently used with many different channels including email, social, website, and display. Variables can be related to copy, imagery or even user experience functionality. For instance, a popular A/B test includes testing out different subject lines for the same email to see which drives more engagement. A/B testing allows you to single out what the most compelling aspects of your digital marketing are, which can help drive strategy and successful returns.

HOW TO A/B TEST

1. DEFINE YOUR GOALS AND HYPOTHESES

The first step to a successful A/B test is to understand two major things: your business goals and the goals of your buyers. If you don’t know why you’re A/B testing in the first place, it’s difficult to pin down the right variables to test. Understanding who your buyers are and what they want helps you understand where tension may be occurring in your messaging. Is your offer in line with what your customers want? Is your copy consistent with your landing page or imagery? Are customers understanding what you’re trying to say? These are a few common pain points in digital marketing that can be used to not only understand what you should test, but what metrics and hypotheses are important to your test.

Hypotheses are used to provide a sound foundation for your A/B test. Kevin Ho at Wishpond provided a simple framework for developing a quality A/B testing hypothesis:

ABHypothesisImage1-300x166

Using this framework can help develop strong A/B testing hypotheses in-line with your goals and objectives. Use these hypotheses to guide your metrics and test development to always bring it back to the bottom line.

2. DEVELOP YOUR TEST

Once you understand these important pieces of information, the next is to develop your content. The name “A/B Test” is an allusion to the fact that you are creating two different versions of one piece of content (Version A/Version B) and only making changes to a single variable. Common variables are email subject lines, landing pages, a call-to-action button, or even the image associated with your content. You will then distribute these two versions to your sample.

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In order to keep your data clean and informative, you should only run one test per campaign. This is to make sure that any increases or decreases can be directly attributable to the single variable that you are testing. For instance, if you decide to A/B test your copy and your imagery, how do you know which one impacted your engagement? The example below illustrates the testing of one variable for a hypothetical Facebook ad, the image. Notice the copy, link and CTA remain the same.

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3. TEST, TEST, TEST

A/B tests are not done overnight, you want to make sure you are generating enough traffic and engagement to justify any decisions you are going to make regarding future marketing initiatives. Therefore, it is important to let A/B tests run anywhere from a few days to a few weeks in order to make sure that results are substantial enough to take confident action. However, it is also important to make sure that you aren’t letting your A/B tests run too long because this can also negatively affect your data. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what the appropriate amount of traffic or length of time is, but be sure to make smart decisions about when enough data is truly enough.

4. ANALYSIS + DECISION MAKING

The goal of A/B testing is to obtain actionable data about your marketing tactics. What this data looks like and whether or not you consider it actionable is up to you and the goals of your business, but typically you eliminate the lower performing variation or use the data to inform a new A/B test. Your data will either prove or disprove your hypotheses or be found inconclusive. Either way, this data should be used to optimize your digital marketing efforts through reducing inefficiencies by obtaining a thorough and clear understanding of what your customers are looking for.

SUMMARY

The goal of any business is to increase its bottom line and A/B testing allows you to do this by optimizing your marketing strategies. It’s important to understand why and how A/B tests are used in digital marketing in order to remain informed on what messaging and experiences your customers are looking for. While there are endless amounts of variables to test, following the above advice can help you craft an effective A/B test and increase your digital marketing returns.

How To Boost Engagement With Your Email Marketing

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If your business isn’t utilizing email marketing, you’re already missing out on one of your most lucrative segments of highly qualified and brand loyal customers. Think about it, these are guests who have stayed at your property before or opted in to hear what you have to say. However, often times businesses are faced with the daunting reality of designing, developing and launching email campaigns that have low engagement and, therefore, low returns. If email marketing is so important, then how do businesses ensure that their campaigns are engaging and effective?

SEGMENTATION

All great email campaigns start with your email lists. Who are you sending your emails to? Are you segmenting your lists to personalize and target potential customers correctly? The number one rule of marketing is to know and speak to your customers, and segmenting is an effective way of making sure that the right message gets to the right customer at the right time. Asking yourself “Who are we targeting and what would interest them” before designing a campaign is a surefire way to kick off on the right foot. You can segment email lists based on many things including demographics, interests/behaviors, or even their position in the conversion funnel. The more relevant the message is to a customer, the more likely they are to engage with it. Segmenting correctly can increase open rates, click-through rates, and conversions while decreasing unsubscribes and avoiding spam filters. Below is a graphic (See: Effects of List Segmentation on Email Marketing Stats) of how list segmentation impacted global marketing stats for Mailchimp:

Related GComm case study: https://bit.ly/2lReOjP

Image: https://stocksnap.io/photo/YK0PRWX6MC (Business)

Related Graphic: https://bit.ly/2lQ4Ujo

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DELIVER GREAT CONTENT

Now that we’ve answered the first question: “Who are we targeting?” the follow-up is “What do they care about?” The whole point of segmenting is to get the right message to the right person, so what is the right message? Understanding your segments is key to sending the right information. For instance, are you targeting business or leisure travelers? Business travelers might be interested in conference rooms, technological capabilities, or app-based concierge services that can cut down on time while leisure travelers may be more interested in local “insider” information on your hotel’s locale or new services or amenities. Again, relevancy is key, and customers only care about what you have to say if it will directly affect their experience with your brand.

While creating great content is a starting point, make sure that whatever great content you’re creating shines through in your subject line as well. According to Hubspot, 33% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email solely based on the subject line. Keep it short, sweet, and simple while still keeping it personal by teasing what’s inside without giving it away. You can use online subject line testers that can give you performance estimates based on keywords. Utilize these services to make sure that your customers are getting what they want in your email marketing campaigns.

Related GComm Case Study: https://bit.ly/2kylD8V

Image: https://stocksnap.io/photo/7GJLOO70WH (Exploration)

Alt Image: https://stocksnap.io/photo/XKJDEWN1B6 (Local)

MOBILE FRIENDLINESS

Instead of reiterating, possibly for the 100th time, how important mobile is in today’s digital marketing, I’m going to leave you with one statistic from Litmus: 54% of all email was opened on a mobile device as of March 2016. So how exactly do we cater to these mobile email users that make up over half of your list? The first step is to ensure that your email template is mobile responsive. Nothing is more annoying than getting an email built only for a desktop and having to zoom in and out to read and click links. Most email clients offer mobile responsive pre-built templates to make your life easier, but if you’re custom designing a template, be sure that its mobile user experience is functional and seamless. Other tips include utilizing one column layouts, limiting clutter by keeping copy simple, short and to the point, and a personal favorite: use buttons for your call-to-actions. Text links are a thing of the past, having to zoom in and tap on a single word or phrase is time-consuming and off-putting for mobile consumers, it’s also visually disconnecting. The better and more simple option is to use buttons for your primary links, and noticeably long text for your secondary links. Constant Contact reported click-through rates of up to 30% just by using a button for their primary CTA. However, buttons alone aren’t enough, be sure to stay creative when designing your call-to-actions avoiding friction phrases such as “book now” or “sign up” that can turn a reader off to clicking. (See: Most Emails Are Opened On Mobile Devices)

Image: https://stocksnap.io/photo/67AWU2C0IR

SUMMARY

Email lists are one of a business’s greatest assets, providing easy access to brand loyal customers that have the potential for high return. Boosting engagement is key to email marketing success, and leveraging segmentation, great content, and mobile friendliness can help make sure that what you have to share is relevant and engaging for customers. When designing an email campaign, always be sure to ask yourself “Who am I targeting and what interests them?” to get in the right mindset for delivering the right message to the right customer, at the right time.

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