Tourism, Web-Development, and SEO: A Match Made in Heaven

In 2004, 33 million US and Canadian Leisure Travel Hotel and Hospitality consumers bought, booked, or found their trip online for a total of 65 billion $ in travel revenues through the Internet. This represents a full 59% of the total $120 billion Leisure Travel market. (These numbers are not exaggerations: the source for these numbers is online research leader Forrester Research.)

About 65% of all travelers did at least some of their travel planning online. For example, the ‘young adult’ age group (19-25 yrs) spent $2.5 billion on on-line video gaming, yet that same age group spent a truly astounding $25 billion on on-line travel. The reason for the huge number of people researching their trips online is simple: online travel planning makes sense.

Online travel planners are wealthy consumers who like to travel. They travel more frequently, and they spend more than the average consumer. Average spending is $3,400 per trip and on average they do this 4.9 times per year. Even better – these travel planners that find you online are inclined to be NEW customers who would not have found you otherwise.
These customers are looking for you, but based on our research, they are not finding you. A full 98% of web users use search engines (iprospect.com), and 65% of North Americans use search engines to come to a purchasing decision (Enquiro.com).

Most people are drawn to regular search engine results rather than to paid placements (Enquiro.com) which is why search engine optimization is the best form of search marketing. Consider how you use searches and you will know that the value of showing up on the top of Google’s first pages when someone looks for a hotel, resort, or other facility in your region is huge.

Forecasts show that the Strongest Online Sales Growth areas for the Leisure Travel industry include the following:

1. Hotels (1/3 of all leisure/travel dollars spent online!)

2. Vacation Package Sales

3. Resort and Convention sales

These revenues are there for the taking: showing up on top of searches in your area is the way to capture them. But you need to show up on top because 70% “rarely or never” look past the first results page, and 91% of users modify their search criteria if the first 3 results don’t meet their needs (iProspect.com).

What does it cost to bring in these visitors? The cost of a strong search marketing campaign will surprise you. It can be as little as $1,500-$2,500 for a campaign that will bring in literally hundreds of new guests. Search optimization is simply the most cost effective way to reach a wide audience. Consider how much money is spent on traditional advertising (which often produce questionable results) and compare the results. Shifting some of this purchasing to the Internet will bring a much larger return.

Critical Success Factors: based on consumer stages:

1. The ability for customers to find a website.

2. The ability for customers to find information/functionality within a website.

3. The content offered by a website.

4. The functionality offered by a website.

5. The overall look and feel of a website.

6. The ability for a customer to join into a relationship with a website.

A focused combination of efforts that will produce positive results:

1. Content.

2. Links from other websites.

3. Paid placements.

4. Website submissions.

5. Titles and metatags.

It takes time and a consistent effort to achieve good results. As with anything truly worthwhile, there are no quick fixes, no magic bullets.

Increasing Revenue Because Your Web Efforts Yell, “LOOK AT ME” Via Technology

You have a business; not any business, it’s your business. Like most businesses you are faced with increasing burdens of taxes, competition, employee concerns, cost of money and many other issues. You want an advantage. You have thought about beefing up your web presence but are not familiar with the many different avenues on how to approach the need with a sensible solution. Better yet you do not want to not learn how the technology works, your busy, you want to know what it will do for your customers and ultimately your bottom line. Finally, you want to create an affordable and sustainable effort that allows a web based technological platform to create the needed value for your current and potential customers. This article provides a simple overview on how to understand that process.

The first subject on this short journey is the most critical. When you pursue a partner in web development there is a list of criteria that should be met. The first item and most important is an understanding what your customer value needs are. The conversation between the client and the web development company needs to be crystal clear on the requirement needs of the end user or customer. Most significant is the need for the company to clearly identify with what creates real value with their current and potential customers. There is a great deal of ways to broaden this awareness, traditional methods such as “SWOT analysis” or more complex approaches such as “voice of customer” all work but they need to be accomplished before you can address web platform needs. The next two areas are of equal importance; 1) Creative and 2) technological prowess. If your web development company is very creative but cannot write great code then they cannot create a final winning solution. Likewise if you sign with a company that understands and writes the most logical front end and back end code for your web applications but does not present that code in a creative and appealing manner; all is for not.

A few things that round out the requirements. Make sure that the company is accountable to you, you’re the boss and both parties need to understand that. This includes respecting timelines, responding to questions and keeping you in the loop on the entire development process. Find a partner that offers an affordable solution. There are many web development companies, make sure that you partner with one that offers a reasonable cost to the value that you are receiving. It is a world market and the cost of value required should be explored. Many companies have paid 3-6 times more than what the real value of similar web based solutions. Get several quotes on upcoming projects. Ask the required questions to ensure that you are receiving like value from each web solution company, find the affordable solution. Make sure that your web development partner offers an ongoing solution for your web based needs. Demand that the final agreement includes 1 year of maintenance/warranty issues. Have a clear understanding of what the performance will be for issues that take place in the future with the site by getting a commitment that they will stand by their work. Ensure that the company has a solid historical representation by contacting their prior clients.

Make sure that your web development company understands the depth of technological offerings. There are many ways to skin a cat these days, but web developers get caught in what they know not what is available. Often you will find web development companies sell you on solutions that they are familiar with instead of what is the best solution for your customers. Make sure that they are well versed in the latest web technology. At minimum web development companies need to be well versed in both front end and back end applications. Here are a few to be familiar with and how they can provide value to your customers

1. HTML 5.0

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and has been the code that your web browser reads in order to create visual and audible web pages. What is important about HTML 5.00 is that it is the current development of the HTML language that will allow a further integration of standard HTML coding toward a rich media environment. The key to the latest version is that it creates additional flexibility to produce a media rich environment for your customers without the addition of API’s. They do not fully expect HTML 5.0 to be completed until around 2014 but if your web development company is not paying attention to how the current development of HTML will add to a more dynamic media environment now and in the future, look for a company that offer new age solutions.

2. Flash

Adobe offers an amazing range of products to enhance the web experience. One that needs individual mention is Flash. There is an attempt to promote HTML 5.0 over Flash content but there are many things that only Flash can accomplish. Flash is critical to media rich environments and will be hard pressed to be surpassed in areas like games, desk-top widgets or any other application that requires advanced animation and techniques. Flash has been criticized in the past for overall CPU usage but the latest version of FLASH has reduced the need, in addition programmers of Flash need to be attentive to the CPU requirements of the venue the application will be ran on. As our customers progress from the Desk top to the smart phone, overall understanding of CPU usage is critical to overall customer experience. Finally, it is not uncommon for development companies to embrace HTML 5.0 and not FLASH or vice versa. To provide the richest and most fulfilling media environment for your customers choose a web development company that is versed and willing to write code in both.

3. CSS

Cascading Style Sheets is the language that allows the look and formatting of HTML. The separation from document content (HTML markup) and the styling of the markup allows for a great deal of flexibility on how the content is presented. Style sheets are responsible for the look and several style sheets can be created to allow more flexibility in how your web content is presented in different browser venues (i.e. Mobile phones, print, screen reader, etc. ) Recently we reviewed a large corporate web effort that was done primarily in old table html format. We estimated that the overall effort could have been done in 1/6 of the time using CSS style sheets, in addition the lack of flexibility in all the venues the application was viewed. Bottom line is the Web Development Company needs to be well versed in CSS.

4. JavaScript

They say that HTML is the structure, CSS provides the style and JavaScript creates interactive encounter that allows web pages to be more of a fulfilling experience. A few items that JavaScript applications address; validating form input, changing images, background effects, calendars, calculators, links & Buttons. The list goes on and on. You can have great content with appealing style, but also ensure that your customers experience client-side technology like JavaScript. You will find that the same page without JavaScript is a different page from a web experience comparison. Create the most interaction with your customers by utilizing good JavaScript code.

5. PHP/MySQL or ASP

Web sites today not only need to be media rich, they need to be dynamic to address the spontaneous needs of the users. PHP and MySQL, or ASP is server-side technology which will allow the web page to provide a liver user experience. Text, Images, Video can all changed in response to different contexts and conditions. It is important to have an understanding of the needs of your customers so dynamic pages can be created to produce content that is specific to the overall value need of the end user. In addition make sure that your web development company has a program to enhance the Search engine optimization of your dynamic pages. Historically the dynamic production of the content of these pages has been less visible. Solid SEO programs in place will combat this and allow your pages to index with the major search engines faster than your competitors.

6. Web Video & Images

Going forward it will become more about the best overall media experience on web platforms. Now is the time to outpace your market opposition by offering better video, images and content above your competitors. Web Video once uploaded to your site and social marketing avenues gets reprocessed from site to site. This creates an enormous amount of exposure for your company. If the video is done well or has an attraction with segments of viewers it could go viral. In addition as consumers become more sophisticated with how to search on the internet the “long tail” of keyword search will allow video tags and image tags to be found by a more intended market segment. Bottom line is this, get rolling on video productions for your business. It does not matter if it is product introduction or company information put it on your website and introduce it to YouTube and like social media sites. Decent video production for the web is affordable and your efforts will pay off.

7. SEO

They say, “If you build it they will come”. In the world of the internet they say, “If you build it with an excellent Search Engine Optimization program they will come.” Bottom line is build it, but do not build it without a solid Search Engine Optimization program in place. Any good Web development company will have people in house that can develop a solid program for you. If they are crafting a web solutions from scratch demand that a program be involved in the package. Any web investment needs to be complimented with a solid plan to bring future customers to your site. There are several avenues to accomplish this. If you research search engine optimization on the web you will be able to review several good and bad approaches. Most important is the need to for a program, ensure that your program comes with actionable and verifiable benchmarks so you know that the search engine program is working. There are several ways to track gain in the optimization area, hold your web developer accountable to specific criteria.

The reality is that consumers and the internet are completely entangled. As progressive generations grow the reliance on web searches and on line shopping will continue to displace more traditional methods of” business to consumer” or “business to business models.” Most realize the inevitability of that statement, many others will in the future. Embrace all of the technology now; get ahead of your competitors. As a business owner you can hire the most talented web development firm available, but, in order to be at the top of your contribution toward internet marketing. You also have a learning curve to address. The longer you are engaged in the web technology process the more you can contribute and compete. If you are thinking about a web presence get started, if you already have one look at make improvements. Tomorrow could be too late.

Why You Should Hire a Real Web Developer and Not Just Some Guy’s Cousin

The mistake that many online entrepreneurs make is that they cut corners when it comes to their web design. Your website is the “face of your company,” and you should not trust its presentation to just anyone. The next time someone says to you, “My cousin did my website and he can do a good job for you,” just say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” The teenage kid three doors down calls himself a webmaster. That doesn’t mean you should trust him with your livelihood. You should treat your website design as if your business depends on it…because it does.

Before you take the first step toward hiring a web designer, you’ll need to determine the goals you want your website to accomplish. Whether your business is totally online or this website is another channel to market your existing bricks and mortar storefront, the impression you give will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

The problem with hiring someone who knows someone is that you may not get an honest assessment of his work. Get a list of his past clients and contact them. Ask them about their experiences with this particular web designer. Look at their sites. Is the website consistent with their company’s goals? Are their sites easy to navigate? Would you buy merchandise from this website?

The best way to find a good designer is to ask existing business owners to make recommendations based on their experiences. Get a list of possible candidates, but don’t make your decision too quickly. Check out each web designer’s personal site. Look for these essential details:

* Is the site visually appealing (colors, design, alignment, consistency)?

* Is the site easy to navigate?

* Do the pages load quickly?

* Is it easy to read?

* Is the contact information, privacy policy, terms of use, etc. clearly visible?

This is just the beginning. You’ll want to work with a web designer that understands the goals of your site and how it complements your business. If you’re building an e-commerce site, you must hire someone who has e-commerce experience.

What could happen if you decide to “save some money” and hire that guy your cousin knows? I heard about one business that was more concerned with making their site look cool than making it easy to navigate. The result? They lost countless dollars in profits because their website visitors just didn’t know what to do once they landed on the page.

Just today, I read about a website owner that hired a friend to build his site. The problem was that the friend registered the domain in his name, and the business owner had to threaten legal action to get the domain back.

Still want to hire that guy your cousin knows?

When it comes to website design, it’s best to keep business matters separate from personal matters. Don’t cut corners to save a buck. Outsource the work to a reputable web designer who will look out for you and your company. If you hire just anyone to build your site, the money you “save” today will cost you a lot of business tomorrow.