2017 Digital Marketing Roadmap: What you need to know

Digital Marketing Expert Alicia Whalen

This is what you need to know before we go any further.

It is not about following the latest technology or social media channel, but more about knowing how your target customers are navigating the internet, where they are most likely to find your brand online, and what it takes to get them to buy.

Here is a rundown on what is happening now in digital marketing for you to use not as a bible, but as a place to start when planning for 2017.  I will focus this post on the most important “Channels” as Google Analytics organizes it.  Driving more traffic to the website with a focus on best referring channels will inevitably result in more sales.

How to benchmark digital marketing performance and prepare your 2017 plan:

Check your Google analytics (or other analytics platform) and do a benchmarking report to compare improvements month over month, and year over year.

aliciawhalen_ideahatching-com_blogpostUsing Google Analytics to benchmark and pivot: You will need to pivot in 2017 as consumer behavior and platform algorithms will change – quickly.

Set up campaign goals and KPI’s including; increases in Organic referral traffic (from Google and Bing), Social referral traffic, and dig deeper into Referring sources of traffic as well.  Also look at decreases in bounce rate, and increases in time-on-site as an indication of user engagement.  Organic traffic typically sees the highest amount of engagement, which is also why it remains an key digital marketing tactic.  Search visibility is critical for any brand, product or service.

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This approach to benchmarking at a macro level can be scaled to any business, whether your website gets 10,000 unique visitors a day or 10, and will help to shift strategy, spend and tactics as needed.  Now we are ready to talk tactics.

Things in the digital space are changing fast, and so is consumer behaviour.  

 

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1. Search: Organic Search, Paid Search (Google Adwords and BING)

 

Google Adwords:

Google Adwords has become expensive. Depending on the conversion, the cost to enter Google paid search may not be as efficient as it once was.  It is highly competitive, and even “long tail” keywords and phrases are now out of reach for many brands to buy.  This makes the cost-per-aquisition higher, and out of reach for businesses who may have seen great ROI in the past.

I recommend a focus on Organic SEO and Local SEO for 2017 – ensuring that at the very least, your brand or business is listed properly in Google Maps and local listings.

Being found in search is paramount, so be sure to run your website through an SEO check. This will ensure that all the basics are covered including; A check for broken links, proper H1 tagging and meta data, site speed, mobile optimization, Google search console and verification and more. Optimize your website first to be sure the taps are open before you worry about anything else.

Next, plan your content according to the primary search terms, phrases and content that your brand needs to be found for.

For example If you make vintage record players, ensure that all of your Youtube video’s, Facebook posts, Blog articles and website content are related both to the product, and the topics that will interest the customer. Blog posts about the resurgence of Vinyl, and where to find records as an example, will speak both to the customer, and to the search engine. Don’t forget to SEO optimize product information and product categories – especially if your product is available on Amazon or other marketplace channels. Make sure also to review product listings for duplicate content.  Google will penalize for duplicate content and broken links.

Website content and social media:

Keep your content calendar for social media channels, articles, Blogs, and videos focused around the target topics, keywords and phrases for your business. Drive links back from social posts for increased “Social Signals,” and tag all of your content. Social Signals are important to SEO.

Take Action:

 

Bing Organic search has picked up steam in recent months. I have also seen some great success with Bing PPC over the past 12 months.

Why?  Microsoft reached 21.9 percent marketshare in July 2016, up 0.1 percent from June, while Google dropped 0.4 percent to 63.4 percent. This brings Microsoft close to 22 percent market share in the US search business, making it the second most important player after Google.

Take some time to verify your website with BING (as well as Google search console), and budget for some BING PPC for 2017.

 

2. Programmatic Ad buying and Re-Marketing:

 

Digital display and paid search marketing has certainly become smarter, and marketers have learned more about what to do with it. Is a programmatic ad campaign a silver bullet?  Probably not. But used as part of a fully integrated plan to increase reach, website traffic, and even to “steal” reach from a competitor, programmatic media buys have proven to be extremely efficient.

 

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The key is to understand what will work with your target audience, and what it is that you are looking to achieve.

As it is with re-marketing – the general population is on to us. They know we are following them. In some cases they are glad we are, and are happy to allow it – as long as there is a benefit to them.  Benefits include time savings, ease of booking or a special price offered for booking direct.

With programmatic ad campaigns and other display and ppc remarketing buys, the key is to do it well.  If programmatic advertising is “not working” for your brand, I would suggest checking the user experience; the landing pages, and desired conversion point for your campaigns.  If reach or website traffic are your desired KPI’s, then ensure that your spend on programmatic is proportionate compared to your other tactics.  If an increase in sales is the objective, then ensure you are A/B testing campaigns and working with your agency to define objectives.

Most programmatic ad buying platforms can give marketers specific information about “lift” in search terms and other KPI’s outside of just CPM and CPC metrics. Make sure to work with your vendor and agencies to identify specific goals and optimize the user experience to get the best results.

Take Action:

For 2017, you might want to explore programmatic ad buying for a specific campaign, brand launch, as a supplement to another larger multi-media buy.  Try it instead of, or with some of the Google Search Display or PPC allocated Adspend if conversion is your main objective.

 

3. Facebook:

 

Facebook initially drove organic reach and audience engagement in droves – for Free. Then it didn’t. Now it does again – you just need to pay for it.  Not unlike any other digital medium, Facebook has tested the waters with many different monetization models.  Just last month the algorithm removed much of the advertising from newsfeeds, most likely in an attempt to reassure users.

As of this week, it looks like those ads are right back in the newsfeed.  All business and brand pages now need to pay to “boost” their messages to get into user newsfeeds – this has been the case for some time now.  Make sure to allocate adspend to this in 2017.

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There is no organic reach for Facebook business pages without some kind of paid boost and adspend.  With that said, Facebook has been collecting demographic, psychographic, emoticon reaction data, location data, brand preferences, facial recognition data, relationship status, and the name of our cats, dogs, fish, kids and BFFs for years now – and their advertising platform uses all of this insight to serve its users Ads.  Now, as it was once with Google Adwords, the cost to entry for advertising or boosting Facebook page posts is relatively low compared against some other digital media tactics.

You can read more about Facebook’s changes in my recent article “Facebook Zero: RIP Organic Reach on Facebook.” I would caution that anything can (and will) shift with Facebook over the coming months – including the cost of entry to advertise.

This is still early days and your budget will most likely need to increase over the next year. Now is the time to test what ad units and content work best.

 

Take Action:

If you have not tested Facebook as a paid marketing channel – you are missing a great opportunity.  Set up some content testing and target groups that include friends of friends, interests, geographic region and more.  Video posts tend to get the most reach, followed by photos, and now LIVE content.  Make the content short and sweet – and make sure to link back to landing pages on your website. Those “Social Signals” back to the website are good for SEO.

You might also consider a Facebook Live strategy in 2017 depending on your business.  Make sure that you are not simply repurposing content from Periscope, Meercat or even from YouTube as both Facebook and YouTube will index native content better. (Native content is content produced for the channel and originally posted to the channel, then re-posted somewhere else).

It is good as a general rule to keep content “native” to the channel you are distributing it on whenever possible.

 

 

4. Social Media: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter

Note that I did not put Facebook in the “Social Media” section of this article.  Facebook is pure marketing channel now, and should be approached this way – outside of measuring the “Social Signals” or referrals back to the website.  Don’t bother with any content on Facebook that is not purposeful – and boosted with ad dollars.

Snapchat

Yes Snapchat – or now “Snap” is a game changer, but unless you are a YouTuber looking to attract more audience, a celebrity, or a brand with a whole bunch of money to throw into a channel that may drive some reach, I would not place budget towards Snapchat just yet.  More on Snap – and other game changers in my next post.

I would however put resources and a plan in place for Instagram.

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Instagram runs on Facebook’s Ad platform, and now with the addition of “Instagram Stories” Instagram is looking to keep their user base growing, and to keep the users who may have moved on to Snapchat as an alternative right where they are.  The jury is out whether or not Instagram stories can be monetized, but with Instagram’s reach and tie into Facebook’s Ad platform, it will become an important channel for both customer acquisition and engagement.

Take Action:

Define a strategy for Instagram and reserve some resources to test adspend in 2017.  

Put a plan in place for leveraging social media and crowd sourced content to drive traffic to the website, or place of conversion.  Consumers will continue to flock to Social media channels with media time spent increasing just as fast as user adoption.

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4. Technology:

The Marketing technology of today has given us a tremendous amount of time and resource savings, workflow efficiencies, creative efficiencies, extension of reach, smarter targeting and more.   I bring this up in this post specifically because technology costs money.

If you are going to adopt technology to improve your marketing efficiencies – ensure that there is a defined ROI that can be associated with each tool.   Marketing technology should allow you the ability to add more dollars towards ad spend, or to maximize resources in driving the bottom line.

Technology is only as good as its implementation. Remember this when looking at adding the new shiny objects to your marketing tool kit.

 

What’s going to blow up in 2017?

Although it is good to have “what’s next” on the radar, ensuring success with your marketing investment for 2017 means staying focused on tactics that move the needle – channels and tactics that have proven successful to drive brand reach and sales.  In my next post, I will highlight what I think will be “game changers” for digital marketing in 2017.  These game changer’s will most likely not make it into your marketing plan until 2018.

 

 

How to un-tap social media and measure ROI with technology

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I was recently asked what technology or innovation in digital marketing that I was most excited about. Although I am biased in my answer, I am always excited to see the results when technology can provide both innovation, and results in the bottom line.  

There are many successful case studies of brands leveraging user-generated social content to tell their stories. Early adopters have been rewarded with deeper relationships with influencers, powerful website and marketing content that is so captivating to their audiences that they are staying connected to the brand website longer.

The longer that eyes remain engaged with the content, the more meaningful the  experience will be in learning about the product, service or experiences that a brand offers.

 

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The technology behind user generated content marketing is not new. However, executing the strategy around the technology to fully leverage the thousands of images and video content being created around every brand, product or experience, is the key to ensuring that an investment in technology or software generates the return on investment that it should.

How to un-tap the power of social media

Greatwaterway.com

Ontario’s www.thegreatwaterway.com invites visitors to become part of their story.

There are hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces of content being created and shared about your brand every day.  Consider the amount of social content being posted and shared by these two popular brands, just in the last 30 days:

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This is the “visual word of mouth” that the socially connected consumer has created, and that wise marketers have untapped in helping them to reach, capture and retain both new influencers who will be their best brand ambassador’s, but also more engaged customers – at the point of transaction.

What should marketers be thinking about when determining a technology platform and  strategy to capture and un-tap crowd-sourced content as part of the marketing mix?

 

Influencer marketing

Photos, videos and brand stories are being created and shared by Instagrammers, top influencers on Twitter and YouTube stars who have an engaged community of followers en mass. Rewarding influencers with a shout out, a follow, or a reward, and featuring their content alongside other brand messages is a means of not only generating good content – but also in building an army of powerful brand ambassadors.

The future of influencer marketing is to be able to build and engage with a wider net of influencers, who may have niche communities and a smaller audience as a whole – but powerful content and more targeted reach. Marketers must find a way to manage and measure this in order to gain reach.

Social Media Contesting

Social media contesting works to engage new Fans on Facebook, but are these leads being nurtured and developed into a perspective customer or brand ambassador?  How do you determine a return on your investment when the transaction or lead generation has occurred outside of the brand web asset?

The idea is to pull the contest to a landing page on the website instead of running it through Facebook or YouTube, and manage both the content assets, as well as the entries to ensure that the lead generation you are looking for is not simply lead gen for Facebook. Leverage social media channels as the powerful marketing vehicles they are – and drive your customers back to the point of conversion.

 

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Nova Scotia tourism was recently named by SKIFT as one of the Top 25 Destination Websites in the World, with a specific mention of the creative use of crowd-sourced content.

 

Managing permissions and rights for images and videos

All UGC marketing platforms, or social media aggregators of content worth looking at should have the ability to pull in and re-publish social media content and provide an automated permissions request built in. Outside of the obvious reasons to obtain permissions to use content posted on Facebook or Instagram, asking permission also gives marketers the opportunity to initiate a conversation with posters of content, encourage more content submissions and increase the number of shares. This also allows the brand to build an arsenal of images and videos that can be re-published to become part of the brand marketing strategy.

Adding fresh social media content to the website will immediately improve the stickiness of the website and keep customers close to your point of conversion longer. Consider nurturing relationships with professional photographers who use Instagram as a means of promoting themselves. Work with them to showcase their work – and tell your story. Follows and shares are the currency of the social media economy, and content creators will be thrilled to be recognized and supported by your brand.

Social data asset development and management

Sourcing photography and video production from vendors can be an expensive hit to your bottom line. In addition, research shows that user generated content is more engaging and more trusted than professionally produced content. It is important for marketers to start to build asset libraries of user generated social media images and videos to add into the marketing mix to keep it fresh and vibrant. In addition, keeping image and video assets sorted and categorized by content type increases marketing automation and efficiency.

Lead capture and measuring ROI on social media

Many companies struggle to find their ROI from social media, but believe it or not, you can gauge the return on your social media investment. By using technology and analytics, marketers are now able to track conversions on a sign up, App download, purchase, or page visit as a means to measure the impact that social media content has on their sales.

They key is to use social media channels as marketing tactics to drive users back to the point of conversion, not send them back out to Instagram once you have the customer on the website.

SEO and Website content

Website bounce rates, time on site, and average  number of pages per visits have been illustrating to marketers for quite some time that websites are not engaging or as good at closing the sale as they once were.

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Consumer user behaviour has changed, but most brand websites have not kept up to ensure that their storefront is engaging to a new kind of customer.

Consumers spend more time on Social Media channels than ever before, and less time on websites. By showcasing social stories on the website,  visitors are able to engage and share social media content from the website, and are more likely to remain on the website, instead of bouncing out to Facebook or Instagram. By giving users a similar experience they get on Instagram or Facebook – brands will keep customers on the website longer, and have the chance to further engage them to sign up or buy.

In addition, “Social signals” – or referring traffic back from a social network have also become a key factor in Google’s search ranking. Marketers need to continue to add links to social media posts to encourage users to go back to the website and engage with the brand. By providing similar content on the website, marketers can capture and retain that lead longer, and also increase the amount of fresh SEO friendly content added to the website.

 

What’s next in the technology behind UGC marketing platforms?

 

Personalized delivery of social content upon returning to the website, within marketing messages – and in emails.

This can be done now with platforms such as Hashtagio, allowing brands to tag and categorize UGC content to be searched and re-published at any time, to any place.

Automated tagging of visual content via AI technology

Although this is the not so distant future, I would caution that many brands are not even fully leveraging crowd sourced content now.   There are only a few brands that are fully un-tapping the potential in injecting social stories into the marketing mix.  Testing how crowd sourced content can impact the website performance and sales should be the first step before investing in automating the tagging of content.

It is the curation and categorizing of the content itself, as well as the implementation and measurement of success that is more of a priority for most brands.

 

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Technology and marketing automation are on the minds of marketers more than ever before.

Keep this advice in mind when researching solutions for managing user generated content, or any other software or technology for that matter. Software bells and whistles will not be the key to tapping into the power of crowd-sourced content. Take the time and deploy resources to the right implementation strategy. The results will be improved efficiencies in social media marketing, proven ROI and of course, increased sales.

 

By Alicia Whalen

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.17.50 PMAlicia Whalen is a blogger, speaker and Chief Evangelist for Hashtagio the platform pulls in social content by Hashtag, Location or @handle. Content is tagged and searchable and can be republished on brand websites, in emails, and in other media. The Hashtagio UGC marketing platform provides automated rights management to obtain permissions to use images, and advanced analytics to brands build direct connects with Instagrammers, tweeters and Youtubers. Hashtagio is a social data asset management tool, a UCG marketing platform, and a website marketing automation tool that allows brands to fully leverage social media stories.  

7 Must Do’s before you re-build or migrate your website

 

It must be that time of the year. Are you having the February “I hate my website” blahs?

 

Your website is your cash register. Whether your website has 30 pages, or 300 pages. Whether it is ugly, or just hasn’t been updated since your first born University Grad finished grade 8, there are some important steps to take before you decide on your next website developer, CMS platform, consultant or creative agency:

  1. Understand your goals: How will your website update improve your overall marketing and sales efforts?

Your website is your point of sale. How will it support all of your digital marketing efforts including search, social media, offline marketing, and review management and brand awareness?

I too have undergone a website refresh.  I wish that I had considered many of the items on this list before I changed my wordpress theme – and then subsequently had to comb through 7 years of posts to update broken links and long lost plug ins.

  1. What functions to you expect your website to have and why to you need those functions to improve conversions? 

Do you need a Blog? Do you want to integrate social content to your website? Do you need a better check-out function?

This is an important exercise as the website CMS you choose will need to have the flexibility to work with your ecommerce solution, mapping functionality (if applicable), social plug-ins, and other functions of your website.

If your mandate with the new website is to improve website conversions, then your chosen developer or platform will need to accommodate by having social media plug in’s, a Blog platform, RSS feed, or a gallery.

If you are limited in resources to manage updates and creative changes, as well as the financial resources to continue to “add on” –  you will need a platform that is easy to update and manage without a team or agency support.  There are “do-it-yourself” solutions that may cost more initially, or monthly – but may save you some costly headaches in the future.

In my case, what I needed what a WordPress theme that was not different than the original theme I had used.  A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal.

“A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal”.

 

  1. Document current website performance for future benchmarking

Use Google Analytics (and any other analytics tool in addition) to understand what is working and what needs improvement with the new website.

Look at a typical month, as well as a year-over-year comparison over a period of time and identify key metrics that include:

  • Number of unique visitors per month Bounce rate.  The bounce rate should be under 40% at a minimum.
  • Time on site (2 minutes, or preferably more than 2 min. per user session)
  • Current SEO keywords used to find the site.  If your website was verified in Google’s Search console, you will see this in Google Analytics.
  • % of overall traffic coming from organic search and top performing referral traffic.
  • Device usage breakdown – this illustrates how much of your traffic is coming from desktop, mobile or tablet devices. This is important to know when re-designing a website or moving to another platform. You must design for your user, and most of us are spending much of our time on mobile devices and tablets.
  1. Website asset inventory: Create a site map – or road map of all pages of the website.

Inventory your website assets that include content pages, images, video’s, blog posts etc.  Using Google analytics, determine high performing content pages, and highly indexed pages in search, and ensure you have a site map of all pages in the website.

If you are migrating to a new website platform, create a 301 re-direct plan to give your new website developer or platform provider. This will ensure that you carry over pages that were indexed in Google to the new website.

TIP: Many web designers miss this important step. Ensure that a 301 re-direct strategy plan is completed before you pull the plug on your current website. If you are working with a SAAS based platform, make sure that there are resources available to assist you with this as you make the transition.

  1. Checklist – Must have functionalities for best performing websites:

Template designs, or pre-formatted design websites (for those of us who cannot code to save a life) are both cost effective and proven.   CMS platforms, Design and theme layouts become templates because they have been used successfully for other similar businesses. Remember, the website has to be functional and visually pleasing. Consider this when working with your next website developer. New design is not always the best route to take.

“Take a consumer first approach to your website.  Build what they like, and they will come.”

 

Prepare an action list for the new website. This should include:

  • Mobile optimized website option included. (This should not be an add-on as any website/theme today must function well on a mobile device)
  • Mobile responsive design option.
  • SEO plug in or CMS platform that is SEO friendly (every page of a website should have unique on-page keywords, and back end meta-data to show the search engines the site is relevant and should be indexed for those keywords)
  • Rich media asset manager: Check for storage, ease of use.
  • Plug in’s to Marketing Automation tools

Note: Some photos and video asset manager’s are cloud based, and some may be included as part of a full digital marketing platform where photos and video’s can be pushed out to the website, as well as other digital marketing platforms including social media, and other online directories. Ensure you have taken the steps above to understand what you expect from your website to understand what you need to efficiently manage your content.

  • Easy to use CMS: A website that is easy to update on the fly – with or without a designer or programmer is easy to find. Simple website updates should not incur additional costs to update on a regular basis.
  • Google Analytics plug in or place for the code: All websites should be tracked via Google analytics. This is a universal and free analytics platform. Make sure that your analytics is set up under your property Gmail account so that you may carry your analytics data with you if you migrate to another website again. If you are working with an agency to support you with analytics, ensure that you have a second Google Analytics code added that is your own.
  • Social media plug ins and share tools.
  1. Once the website is live:

Ensure that the 301 redirect plan has been applied so that none of the pages on the previous website become “broken links”.  Google does not like broken links and will penalize.  Verify your website with Google and BING search console. This will give you access to your SEO tools in Google analytics, and also may speed up the re-indexing of your new website in search.

       7.  Benchmark Improvements

Measure your new website month-over-month to benchmark improvements in search visibility, website user engagement (metrics like time on site increases and reduced bounce rates) and of course increases in sales.

A website is never done. Continuously optimize and adjust your website content based on best performing content pages, successful content shares in social media that drive traffic back to the website, user feedback and of course – increases in sales.

It’s that simple! 😉

 

 

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google's Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google’s Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

The key to success in digital marketing = Happiness

I posted a version of this article originally on my Blog in 2011.  I am excited to share that the LinkedIn Pulse Publishing platform is certainly worth the investment of time and commitment to good content.  I am thrilled and humbled by the feedback I have received from this article both on LinkedIn and Twitter.  I look forward to ongoing contributions.  The response is inspiring!

 

LinkedInPulse_AliciaWhalen_SocialSellingWorks

 

 

This is a fast paced digital world we live in and we as marketers are always looking for new ways to get customers to buy.

Why is this relevant now in the age of an exploding digital media landscape where consumers are living online and across multiple devices like never before?

 

Perhaps we need bring marketing and advertising back to basics and take a queue from our favourite MadMen Ad exec. Don Draper says: 

“ Advertising is based on one thing:  Happiness. “

 

Bring digital marketing back to the basics.  There is content coming at us fast and furious – whether in search engines, on social networks and news portals.  We are witnessing a digital media convergence where more and more media is available online across multiple platforms, and to add to that we are accessing digital content across multiple devices. How do we really make consumers happy now?  Is it still as simple as delivering on a promise and providing a product or service that makes your customers Happy?

I think so!  Now, how do we engage with consumers who are changing their online user behavior as quickly as Facebook changes its profile layouts?  We are marketers are constantly second-guessing where we are allocating our marketing dollars, seemingly because of the following fears:

 

FEAR of missing the next big thing.

RESOURCES – both financial and human.

CONFUSION about what tactics to focus on as the online world shifts again – and again – and again.

 

My advice? Bring it Back to Basics:

  1. Know Your Customer (this will make them Happy)
  • Check your website analytics for top referral traffic and keywords used to find your website, then continue to build on the content that is attracting and engaging your customers to ultimately buy from you.
  • Use a social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social or free tools like Google Alerts, Facebook insights, Twitter analytics or others to “listen” to your customers and understand how to make them Happy.
  • Allocate time and resources to understand changes in how your target audiences are researching and transacting online.  Read and educate yourself about digital marketing tactics that work to make customers happy.  I know a few things that work.  Price transparency and the delivery of a brand promise.  Pretty back to basics right?
  • Most importantly, if you’re taking the time to ‘listen’ to your customer’s online– be sure you act on that information. Simply monitoring the conversation without adjusting your strategy, or communicating with your brand ambassadors will not help you understand how your consumer wants to receive your messages now and in the future.
  1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Understand Your Objectives
  • What are your objectives in your digital marketing campaigns?  Are you looking to increase sales? To build a new audience? Launch a new brand? Increase brand engagement?  It will make both you and your customer happy if your advertising is delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right consumer.  Win win win = Happy!
  • With all of the new tactics available to marketers today, it is more important than ever to set specific and measurable objectives for campaigns. This makes me nostalgic for the Mad Men days really.  This whole marketing thing has become a little bit mind numbing.
  1. Stick With What Works.
  • If you have already developed an active Twitter following and you’re seeing ROI (in sales and or website traffic etc) keep going!
  • Continue to build on what works to make your customers happy. Build a team of Tweeters to help in building and engaging your audience further or in providing CRM – think about what would take a successful campaign to the next level.
  • If Google AdWords campaigns worked well last year to drive targeted traffic during need times, or to sell specific packages or products – build on it and do it again with a new twist, or put some dollars towards other search channels such as the Yahoo/ BING network that might provide a smaller reach but more conversions.  Don’t be afraid to test new channels.  Consumers are spending a great deal of time online, therefore advertising budgets need to adjust.
  1. Search is still king.  Your customers are Happy when they find what they are looking for.
  • Focus on making sure you have a strong web presence across all online channels that help to guide your consumers to transact.
  • Ensure you have taken care of the basics like search engine optimization, good creative and content, Google Places optimization, a good mobile version of your website etc. and then you can focus on other channels to build your traffic.
  1. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.
  • Make sure you integrate your campaigns online and offline.
  • Your brand’s digital footprint should have a consistent tone, creative brand message, and should always drive your target consumers to transact. This is key and is sure to make them Happy.  Ensure that all your brand web assets are navigating customers to act.
  1. Test + Measure and then Adjust.  This makes stakeholders Happy.
  • Measure performance in analytics and benchmark against past campaigns to continue to improve advertising efficiency. Make sure you have defined KPI’s in place such as increases in unique website visitors, increases in time on site and of course –  sales.
  • Did you launch a new Blog that has increased traffic to the website by 20%? How do you grow it from here or how do you encourage more transactions on the website as a result of the Blog traffic? Test, measure and adjust.
  • Have your efforts on LinkedIn increased leads to your sales department?
  • What can you do to ensure you grow these successful marketing channels?
  • Do the tactics outlined in your Marketing Plan work to build on what you have already started?

Keep it simple – stick to the digital marketing tactics that will help you achieve your objectives and don’t worry about all the noise.

It can get overwhelming to look at all that is available to us today. If you execute marketing programs efficiently, with the proper focus on measurement of ROI, which is very do-able in the age of digital media, you may have the confidence and extra resources to be able to adjust and try new things.  This will make you a Happy marketer!

To take a lesson from Mad Man, Don Draper – Budget + target demographic + medium = time for a scotch.  

Just make them Happy!

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media. She is the co-founder of www.acoupleofchicks.com and the digital marketing conference for tourism www.onlinerevealed.com  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.  Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at www.ideahatching.com 

 

Online Revealed Conference Highlights: Expedia's Hari Nair presents the Latest in Canadian Travel trends

There is so much to cover in reviewing the content that was expertly delivered at the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference held earlier this month.  Speakers from Expedia, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn + many other leaders in the digital tourism space brought unique perspectives, digital and social media case study’s, key learnings, and most important, tips on innovation, integration, and the importance of digital marketing strategy.

 

Online Revealed brings together the best and the brightest in the travel industry together from across Canada and into the US to share best practices, case studies and experiences in digital and social media marketing, with speakers hand picked to provide the best in online marketing education.

I will endeavour in posts to follow to provide some key insights, content from the 15 digital and social media marketing workshops that were presented, and trends and tips shared with delegates of the 8th annual event.

The first of our recaps outlines the Canadian Travel Trends that were presented by Expedia’s Vice President of Market Management for North America, Hari Nair.  The detailed report of Hari’s presentation can be found on the Online Revealed Blog, with some of the key insights outlined below.

Also, I would be remiss not to point to the reviews of the event by Hotelier Magazine, Restaurants and Hotels and Travelweek, who were among the delegates at the conference.

Expedia’s Hari Nair Presents Expedia’s latest research on Canadian travel trends.

Some key highlights included:

  1. Year-over-year hotel revenue by geographical source shows bookings on Expedia (for travel in Canada) are 32% from Canada, 25% from the USA, and 11% International.
  2. Rates are dropping closer to booking, but Canadians are shifting down from preferring luxury priced travel, to a value brand price points – where the International traveler has showed an increase of 182% in 4-star luxury bookings across Expedia travel sites.
  3. Consumers have increased same day booking by over 30% (noting the increase of mobile access as well as a caveat to this trend).
  4. Expedia’s data indicates that Canadians book travel packages, but Canadian hoteliers need to continue to package travel throughout the year (even in peak seasons) as consumers are willing to spend more, as long as there is perceived value overall.

The full article is available on the Online Revealed Blog with additional statistics and trends covered in the opening keynote presentation.

Hotelier Magazine also covered the event, and provided this recap of the conference.

“Experts at the conference agreed that when it came to travel marketing online, content was king. Travel Marketers need to optimize content on their online properties by utilizing a mix of tools, such as photos, reviews, blogs and social media that’s right for them. In addition, mobile was picked as the fastest growing trend with Expedia’s Nair pointing out that “You don’t want to just look into mobile, you want to invest into mobile.”              – Hotelier Magazine

Restaurants and Hotels.ca also provided some key takeaways with a 2-part conference recap:

“Marketers are spending 88% of digital marketing budget on PPC (pay per click), which yeilds 6% CTR (click thru rates), while 12%  (on average) or budgets are invested in SEO (search engine optimization), which yields 94% CTR”     –  Restaurants and Hotels Magazine

My next posts will cover some of the other speakers and takeaways from the 15 workshops, highlights from the annual Google eTourism Awards, closing keynote Mitch Joel, and key insights from the 2012 Destination Benchmarking program, which compared Canadian destinations in online performance to each other, and to International peers in NewZealand and the US.

Online Revealed Conference Highlights: Expedia’s Hari Nair presents the Latest in Canadian Travel trends

There is so much to cover in reviewing the content that was expertly delivered at the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference held earlier this month.  Speakers from Expedia, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn + many other leaders in the digital tourism space brought unique perspectives, digital and social media case study’s, key learnings, and most important, tips on innovation, integration, and the importance of digital marketing strategy.

 

Online Revealed brings together the best and the brightest in the travel industry together from across Canada and into the US to share best practices, case studies and experiences in digital and social media marketing, with speakers hand picked to provide the best in online marketing education.

I will endeavour in posts to follow to provide some key insights, content from the 15 digital and social media marketing workshops that were presented, and trends and tips shared with delegates of the 8th annual event.

The first of our recaps outlines the Canadian Travel Trends that were presented by Expedia’s Vice President of Market Management for North America, Hari Nair.  The detailed report of Hari’s presentation can be found on the Online Revealed Blog, with some of the key insights outlined below.

Also, I would be remiss not to point to the reviews of the event by Hotelier Magazine, Restaurants and Hotels and Travelweek, who were among the delegates at the conference.

Expedia’s Hari Nair Presents Expedia’s latest research on Canadian travel trends.

Some key highlights included:

  1. Year-over-year hotel revenue by geographical source shows bookings on Expedia (for travel in Canada) are 32% from Canada, 25% from the USA, and 11% International.
  2. Rates are dropping closer to booking, but Canadians are shifting down from preferring luxury priced travel, to a value brand price points – where the International traveler has showed an increase of 182% in 4-star luxury bookings across Expedia travel sites.
  3. Consumers have increased same day booking by over 30% (noting the increase of mobile access as well as a caveat to this trend).
  4. Expedia’s data indicates that Canadians book travel packages, but Canadian hoteliers need to continue to package travel throughout the year (even in peak seasons) as consumers are willing to spend more, as long as there is perceived value overall.

The full article is available on the Online Revealed Blog with additional statistics and trends covered in the opening keynote presentation.

Hotelier Magazine also covered the event, and provided this recap of the conference.

“Experts at the conference agreed that when it came to travel marketing online, content was king. Travel Marketers need to optimize content on their online properties by utilizing a mix of tools, such as photos, reviews, blogs and social media that’s right for them. In addition, mobile was picked as the fastest growing trend with Expedia’s Nair pointing out that “You don’t want to just look into mobile, you want to invest into mobile.”              – Hotelier Magazine

Restaurants and Hotels.ca also provided some key takeaways with a 2-part conference recap:

“Marketers are spending 88% of digital marketing budget on PPC (pay per click), which yeilds 6% CTR (click thru rates), while 12%  (on average) or budgets are invested in SEO (search engine optimization), which yields 94% CTR”     –  Restaurants and Hotels Magazine

My next posts will cover some of the other speakers and takeaways from the 15 workshops, highlights from the annual Google eTourism Awards, closing keynote Mitch Joel, and key insights from the 2012 Destination Benchmarking program, which compared Canadian destinations in online performance to each other, and to International peers in NewZealand and the US.

A Canadian online travel marketing conference turns 8 and goes back to its travel roots

Patricia and I launched the first Online Revealed Canada travel marketing conference over 7 years ago, with an idea to educate Canadian Tourism professionals about how to market travel online.  At the time, we were all new to concepts such as Search Engine Optimization, writing content for the web, website usability, website analytics, and why we even needed to know about all of this as tourism marketers.

Looking back, we are amazed at both how the conference has grown, and how the tourism industry has changed to keep ahead of such a fast evolving new media world.

The first conference held in Ottawa in 2006 (in association with the Canadian Tourism Commission) drew more than 180 attendees, and had a focus on educating travel marketing professionals about ecommerce, and how the web was evolving as a key marketing and distribution channel for hotels, attractions and in destination marketing.  The inaugural event opened with a keynote presentation from eMarketer founder Geoff Ramsey, who once again made a guest appearance at our 5th anniversary event in Montreal.

Coming off of the success in Ottawa, we moved Online Revealed in May of 2007 to Toronto to reach further into the market. Over 200 attendees spent two-days learning about concepts from Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Syndication, Web 2.0, Revenue Management and more, with 15 workshop rotations and numerous keynote speeches and panels, with annual networking receptions, including the Travelzoo party becoming a must attend event, and the now annual Google eTourism awards.

2008 brought us to Calgary, Alberta where we hosted over 230 of Canada’s leading tourism professionals including Destination Marketing Organizations, Hotel Brands, Tourism Associations, Search Engines, Technology Companies and Tourism Marketing experts.  Yahoo! Canada was the premier sponsor, and the two-day event brought 16 workshops, 3 panel discussions and 3 keynote presentations addressing the critical issues influencing tourism in Canada.

2009 saw Online Revealed hosted in Niagara Falls with over 300 attendees, and high profile internet marketing experts from Google and TripAdvisor elevating the conference to new heights, as well as a keynote by well-known TV personality Arlene Dickinson of the Dragon’s Den.

In 2010, we celebrated the 5th anniversary in Montreal with over 250 industry Professionals attending, and Online Revealed 2011 in Toronto (the first year that the conference was co-located with the Canadian Hotel Association Conference).  The conference exceeded expectations with over 500 attendees, and incredible content including a keynote by the mastermind behind Google Maps; Michael T. Jones, Chief Technology Advocate, Google.

ORC 2012 Speakers2012 was the conference’s 7th anniversary, with record attendance and once again, held in Toronto, and co-located with the Hotel Association Conference.  2012 saw the launch of the Destination Marketing Online Benchmarking report with 16 participating Canadian DMO’s.  The report will continue to evolve moving forward to build a research-based approach to benchmarking online marketing successes against Canadian Destination marketing organizations, and against international tourism destinations such as New Zealand and the USA.

Conference content has expanded with innovative topics including; mobile marketing, social media marketing, and keynotes from both Nikki Germany, head of Industry Travel, Google Canada as well as Steve Irvine, Director of Facebook Canada.

The inaugural conference in 2006 produced by “a couple of chicks who knew what they were doing online, and thought they could show the rest of the industry,” has since evolved to become the go-to event for the travel and tourism industry in Canada to learn, connect and be informed about the ever evolving world of digital marketing.

Our focus from the start was to provide hands-on education, and actionable tactics for marketing tourism online, and a community of shared resources and support.

8th Annual Online Revealed Canada conference logoPatricia and I are excited to be back on the road, and back to our “travel roots” for the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference, which will be held this April 2-4th, 2013 in Windsor, Ontario at Caesars Hotel and Casino, with an anticipated attendance of 450, who will once again come together to connect, learn and share with industry experts and peers – successes, opportunities and strategies in marketing tourism and travel online.

In just 7 years, Online Revealed Canada and A Couple of Chicks™ eMarketing have produced 7 Conferences and 6 road shows educating over 1,600 industry professionals by providing over 100 workshops and presentations.

We would like to thank Tony Pollard, and the Hotel Association of Canada Conference, for co-locating our events during the past two years in Toronto.   We would also like to thank all of our past attendees, sponsors, partners, clients, colleagues and friends who have participated in shaping what this event is today.

Moving into our 8th year, we are busy preparing for our best event yet!  As we look forward to the next Online Revealed chapters, I wonder where the next seven years will bring us?  Mark your calendars for April 2-4th for Online Revealed 2013 and we will see you in Windsor!

Join the Online Revealed Community:  Online Revealed on Facebook

Online Revealed on Twitter                         Online Revealed Blog


The collective social story one post, tweet and ping at a time

I am feeling especially reflective as we approach the end of 2011.  It has been quite a year.  It was not the Christmas music, and sappy TV commercials that brought me to this place; it was actually Facebook’s introduction of Timeline that triggered my pause for reflection – that and a Twitter exchange between myself and one of my esteemed Twitter colleagues.

We were musing [within our 140 characters complete with hashtags of course] about how Social Media has made us into “Life Scribes” as it were, documenting not just pop culture and news applicable to the masses, but also the daily life, relationships, work, connections, the desires and dreams of well…everyone on the planet.

I was reviewing Mashable’s most memorable tweets of 2011,  amoung them of course were tweets reflecting on the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs.  I personally will always remember where I was when I read that first tweet.  As I shared this experience with millions of others; celebrities, and just every day you and I people,  I realized that I was using my iPad to watch and listen to reflections on the life of one of the people who made this all possible.  Of course I had to offer my thoughts on his passing as a contributor to the conversation, [because thats just what we do…we just can’t help ourselves anymore] and my iPad allowed me to take part in the collective sentiment that was shared by millions – as it happened.

Social media and our ability to always be connected and interconnected has made us all story tellers, journalists, photographers, artists and sometimes therapists. The devices that connect us to our social networks have enabled us to participate in our world far outside what we were able to do only a few years ago.

Consider that we are now getting birthday wishes from people from all area’s and times of our lives on Facebook.  Well wishes posted to our walls from childhood friends, to business colleagues, to family and friends –  allowing us a connectedness to people and experiences that would have been impossible to maintain and grow in the past.

This summer, I also experienced the sudden passing of a dear friend and mentor through social media.  Through posts on Facebook, I shared and heard from others who Clive Hobson had touched throughout his life, people and sentiments I would have never known in attending a service or reading an obituary.

We are sharing music, personal photo’s, locations, and are able to express ourselves with words; comments and reflections [and sometimes overused quotes from dead philosophers, Deepak Chopra and Oprah…but I digress…], but more importantly, we are now contributors to the collective story and not simply passive observers.

As a self proclaimed “Life Scribe“, I feel especially responsible to reflect on my highlights and observations of the past year as they played out in our digital world…so here they are:

1. Google tries to catch up:  Google+, and changes to search algorithms reflect consumers adoption to social media.

2. Tablets are the new black: iPad2, Blackberry Playbook, Amazon Kindle +++ make their way into our homes and offices and become a go-to device, and allow us to connect like never before.

3. Twitter found its place: The social media platform with the most nay-sayers found its place in the world this year as the place to be and be seen – and for up to the minute news, updates and access to celebrities and brands.

4. Mark Zuckerberg: Yes the man behind the machine is still working it out in his hoodie – with a few more public appearances this year keeping us all guessing what’s next.

I wonder where our new collective narratives will take us in the coming year…all I can promise is that I will do my part in documenting it.

the evolution of an online marketing agency

Reflecting on the past 6 years, it is amazing just how much the online world has changed. When Patricia and I started A Couple of Chicks eMarketing over lunch in September 2005 (now that is another story!), we were inspired by a great idea and a passion for sharing what we knew about how the internet was changing how we reach our customers.

It was our mission to make sense of how the internet was going to change marketing and distribution, to demystify online marketing, and to provide a fun and non-intimidating approach to educating brands about the power of the web.

At the time, our primary focus was on developing strategies for marketing websites, and above all for making sure that websites could be found in the search engines.  It was all about search engine optimization (SEO), paid search marketing (PPC), and website usability – and specifically about showing marketers how to leverage this new powerful distribution channel to reach their customers.

Today, 6 years later we are living in a world where consumers are not simply going online, but living online. The pace of change has been fast and new media has pushed marketers to keep up in an ever evolving online ecosystem that now includes Social Media, Wifi Mobile access from devices such as smart phones and tablets, Cloud computing, instant messaging, Video sharing, VOIP technology and so much more.

It has been quite a ride! On behalf of Patricia, and our entire team of 14, thank you for sharing in our adventure – and specifically thank you to all of our clients who have allowed us to share in their growth and success.

We look forward to what the next 6 years brings!

How Google+ will change search

Since the launch of Google+, Google search results have omitted Tweets and Facebook ‘Likability’ in its search results – but the question is will the consumer adapt to a new type of social network or are we too comfortable where we are?

My guess is that Google will leave us no choice but to adapt, but usage will not be the same as Facebook and Twitter.  Some recent usage stats show that although Google+ launched strong that users and time on site is declining instead of growing.

I predict that Google+ will not be the either/or social network replacing Facebook, but will become a social search engine.

Google+ will most likely change search completely because the web as a whole has become socially integrated, with friend recommendations driving consumer engagement in content and thus high rankings in search and overall online visibility.

Google+ will give the search engine what has been missing, something that algorithms alone could not provide – aggregated data on consumer preferences, habits and interests as an indicator of relevancy.

Google is trying to do what they have done with content on the web from the start – organize content based on user preference. By aggregating the social web, Google is able to understand consumer behaviour like never before, and own the data – which is what makes Facebook so powerful.   Marketers have the ability to target their marketing messages based not only on user activity, but by circle of user’s activity, interests, social buzz – along with all of the other demographic information they have only been guessing about until now.

The number of Google+ likes that content has will affect ranking in both the paid and non-paid organic search results. If Google+ is adopted in the way the Google hopes, a Google+ “like” (for lack of a better term) will be an important indicator for ranking content as relevant.

If users adopt, Google+ will have access to consumer preferences, demographics and psychographics (much like facebook has gathered over the past few years) like never before. More than that, they will be able to tie that knowledge in to Google Adwords making it a marketing vehicle that will be able to serve almost personalized ads based on what Google knows we like.

So the question is, will Google+ take over as the social engine of choice?

Of course Google is hoping for that – but Facebook is not going anywhere. Facebook has been so widely adopted by consumers that I predict it will maintain and continue to grow its user base.  It will be interesting to see though how Facebook will evolve from here. Perhaps Facebook should add a search engine? (back at ya Google!)

Will users adapt?  Google+ needs to focus on integration into all their products and educating users about how to use their +’s.  My guess is that consumers will adapt, but not as a replacement to social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Times are certainly changing in search. It will be interesting to see if Google+ has enough mass appeal to bring Google to the next level…whatever that may be.  Make sure you Google+ this post, Tweet it and Like it on Facebook – now that’s alot of love to give – and I thank you for it!

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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