Milestone Talks To Matt Cutts From Google: Best Practices For Promoting Hotels Online.
By Milestone
Friday, 14th March 2008
Last weekBenu Aggarwalhad the pleasure of interviewing the head of Google's Web Spam team; Matt Cutts -He is very well respected person in the SEO community for communicating and enforcing Google Webmaster Guidelines.

To find the video of this interview and the actual dialogue which has the full questions and answers please visit the Milestone Blog http://blog.milestoneinternet.com. This is a basic summary of some of the questions and answers asked by Benu Aggarwal and answered by Matt Cutts. -Again, a special thanks to Matt Cutts for his time and support!

The topic of our conversation was the Impact of Search on the Lodging Industry and Web 2.0. The questions we asked Matt ranged from simple search engine guidelines to very specific questions about the strategies to succeed on search engines. We included questions regarding web 2.0, fresh content, videos, etc. and the impact of these elements on search engines. This 20-minute video interview offers cutting edge information for the SEO world. So, sit back and open your minds to highly informative insights that will change the way you approach web marketing. Note, due to the size and length of the video, it was broken down into two 10 minute sections.

A Special thanks to Matt for meeting with us and answering these questions in great depth. We appreciate your time and coaching!

What are the top ingredients for any small business that wants to be successful on the net?

Content is King! If you want to have a high-quality website you need to have great content, because having great content will enable your website to rank much easier in the search engines. Once you have great content, it is important to focus on how to market your site. Think about various tactics you can use in order to capture your visitor's imagination. It can be anything from contests, newsletters, guides, festivals, etc. However, great content is definitely the primary focus.

After great content comes promotion. The question here is how to successfully promote your site? The goal is to derive interest for your website, and in order to do this you need to brainstorm, come up with cool ideas, neat tricks, and other approaches to stirring up commotion about the website. Also think about how your website actually looks in a search engine. The SERP (Search Engine Results Page) lists many different websites, what would entice somebody to click on yours? With Google, through the description tag, one has a good amount of control over what their website will look like in the SERP's.

Once you have traffic pouring into your website, now the focus shifts to conversion. The key element to conversion is simple and easy to use navigation. Enable the user to convert on any page and make sure all pages are no more than just a few clicks away. A good way to tell whether your navigation is simple is to bring in an outsider and have them try to perform action on the site without any instructions. If he/she succeeds than your navigation is simple to use.

If you have a very small business with a limited budget, and they are anxious to try everything in internet marketing, what should they try first?

A website comes first, because you want the small business to be able to make money. Or at the very least have a way for consumers to contact the business and even find the business. Then I would say a blog, because if you are a small business you probably have a unique personality and a blog would be a great way to get heard.

Many people are scared to have blogs, because they are afraid of negative comments and entries. They do not understand the concept of moderation and do not understand some uses of a blog such as putting press releases on there.

There are many things you can do to get around this problem. You can disable comments all in all or you can easily moderate any comments and only allow constructive comments to go through. It is also important to understand the benefits that blogs have in terms of creating user generated content and the value of this content to search engines.

If blogs are the main Web 2.0 channel you recommend, is there anything else you could recommend for small businesses?

Definitely videos. If you are creating a video this is a pretty simple process with great results. All you really need to start with is a tripod, a camera, and a room. Then you quickly record it, put it on You Tube for free. There is very little cost and very simple to start out.

It is a struggle to explain to small business that organic search engine results are a moving target. Instead of focusing on ranking for a specific keyword the goal should be to focus on relevant traffic and how to increase this traffic. Some clients get phone calls or emails from companies saying we guarantee top search results.

Everyone gets the phone calls and emails from these spammers that promise top search results. However research reveals that most people do not just simply search for keywords such as "San Jose Hotel" instead they search for "

San Jose Grand Prix places to stay". Basically look through your logs and see what people are searching for. Or you can look at your traffic and try to optimize for that.

What are some other web 2.0 strategies that you would recommend for businesses such as hotels?

Web 2.0 is a great way for businesses to connect to people on a personal level. Whether it is social book-marking, social networking sites, Flickr photo sharing communities, I think this would be a huge help. Images - if you are going to be staying at a hotel you have never been to. Having a virtual tour or video of the hotel would be a reassurance to anyone that, hey you can see what my hotel looks like and you don't have to be scared to stay here. This is a way for a business to have a voice and personality. MySpace and FaceBook is a great way to get exposure in front of consumers and be able to offer consumers helpful information instead of annoying them.

This is a common question we are asked, why should we not buy multiple versions of our domain, misspellings, plurals, etc.

It is much easier to go with one domain versus 20 domains because it will be much easier for people to remember that domain name and come back to it. In theory, one can buy misspellings but then they should redirect them to the main domain website. What you don't want is a competitor reporting you for spam abuse because you have the same exact website on 20 different domains.

I always thought title tags should sound natural and not be keyword stuffed. Nowadays I am seeing company's keyword stuff there title tags and show up high on search engines. What do you recommend?

I would stick to what sounds natural and is best for consumer. Most sites are ranking high not because of the title tag but because they have a well optimized site that has been around for a while and they simply decided to go over board and stuff the title tag. Google gives some points to the title tag, but it is best to think about the consumer and come up with titles that are compelling to the consumer.

Do you think Google Coupons or only coupons will eventually replace print publications?

There is a place for everything. I do not think just because of Google Coupons and the internet,print publications would disappear. However, I would say that most hotels are not paying attention to all of the opportunities. We have mentioned blogs and videos but local is another huge one!

We have been doing a great effort for mobile devices and I think in the past year I have been struggling with what is going to be the future? Should mobile sites be designed for iPhones or SmartPhones?

The short answer to this question is the target market. If your target market is in the

United States, it is quite evident that phones are going to get better and smarter. Soon phones will be getting even smarter, and have browsers that will be able to support richer websites. So I think the focus should be to concentrate on creating good websites that would look good in mobile browsers as well as regular browsers, instead of creating specialized websites for smart phones only.

For a successful website what are the most important steps and the way to go about research, content, design, and promotion? What is the most fundamental element?

Research is huge and content is huge and if you do good research, then you save a lot of work on making the content good. Once you have good content the last step would be promoting it and letting people know where they can find this great content.

About Milestone
Milestone Internet Marketing, a leading provider of internet marketing solutions for the lodging industry. Milestone currently works with over 500 hotels and is a preferred vendor for several major lodging industry brands and lodging associations. Milestone is also well known as a lodging industry educator for its Hotels to HTMLs internet marketing training workshops and book. Milestone has conducted the workshop for AHLA, CLIA, Best Western, Hitec, Eye For Travel, Wyndham, Choice, Oregon, Wisconsin, AAHOA, Regional Coops, Management Groups with over 60 sessions conducted in 2006. Milestone's portfolio of services include developing online strategy, website design, search engine marketing, pay-per-click marking, email marketing and several web 2.0 services including blogs, rss feeds, podcasts, etc. For more information, contact (888) 350-8396. www.milestoneinternet.com
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