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Top 5 Tips for Boosting your Search Engine Rankings

Okay, so you have worked really hard to get more visitors to your website and more enquires/bookings or sales.

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Grant Osborne, Director of Strategy & Performance First Rate New Zealand

You know Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important and have tried to 'optimise' your page title tags and increase the number of relevant keywords used on your website. You may have even tried some Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising such as Google Adwords.

But you are still not being found on the first page of organic search engine results, and all the PPC has done has put a hole in your back pocket. With more and more visitors to New Zealand researching online - and with the Rugby World Cup just around the corner -  you know there is a big opportunity for increased business, but you are just not sure what to do next.

Sound familiar? You are not alone. Here are five suggestions that may help you in getting your online marketing and SEO on the right track:

1. Own your keyword niche and be realistic in your expectations

The reality for small operators is that you are unlikely to rank in searches for more generic keywords without significant investment.

If you operate a bed and breakfast in Auckland, it is unlikely you will be able to rank well for 'New Zealand bed & breakfasts' or even 'Auckland accommodation' - there are just too many other players out there. However, you may have a chance to rank highly for a more specific search such as 'bed & breakfast Auckland'.

Likewise, if you operate a skydiving company in Rotorua, it will be extremely difficult for you to rank for 'Rotorua attractions' or even 'things to do in Rotorua'. You should instead be focusing on getting top results for 'skydiving Rotorua', and related similarly-targeted keywords.

You should work on gaining and maintaining top ranking results for phrases that combine "[location]+[brand]", and phrases such as "[location]+[category/niche]".

PPC/Google Adwords can assist to ensure visibility for search phrases, even if your website is not ranking well for these terms. But don't go too broad with the PPC or Adwords you choose. Think about return on investment: you will get more for your money if you make sure you are visible to those people most likely to book with your business. Exact match is your best friend when it comes to online marketing.

The top ranked natural search engine result gets 45 to 55 per cent of all clicks on the first page and if you are not there, you are missing out. If you have already optimised your website structure and content as much as possible (by including key search terms within your content near the top of the page, in page titles, etc), look at what keywords are working, and do more optimisation around them - and also ensure you take a look at off-site factors such as other websites and blogs that link to your site.

2. Establish online partnerships

Partnering with other organisations/websites can help you extend your website reach and be seen as an 'authority' on a given topic. By creating links between your own website and those of like-minded businesses, you can boost the number of visitors that are linking through to your website via search results, and also leverage off existing visitor numbers to a partner's site.

To discover potential partnership opportunities, perform a search in Google for "[location]+[generic category]" (e.g. "Dunedin attractions") and see what websites are displayed in the search results. Identify those that are complimentary rather than competitive and approach them with your request to feature on their website.

The search results for most location-based phrases also brings up the Google Maps results. If you are not on Google Maps results and do not have a Google Places business account, I strongly urge you to open one and claim your listing.

3. Engage with and understand your target market's behaviour

It is important to listen to your customers, understand their needs and improve your offering to suit.

TripAdvisor has become a leading source for travel reviews and can rank highly in search results when travellers are searching for holiday accommodation. When consumers are visiting a foreign country and looking at an unknown brand, they are likely to seek reviews either from friends or strangers before purchasing.

Despite having good search rankings, if your reviews on TripAdvisor or similar websites read "This place stinks, stay somewhere else" or "dirty hostel and rude staff" you will not get the business you might have otherwise got! Likewise, good reviews may entice a traveller to try something new.

Understanding what others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.

Facebook is an excellent tool to listen to what people have to say and then respond to them. Perhaps travellers are looking for specific information and your website is purely transactional - there would be an opportunity to increase value. Perhaps the same questions are asked in enquiries over and over - use this information and make this information prominent on your website to increase conversions.

Understand that overcoming purchase objections or barriers is a critical part of increasing your bookings. Listen first, then act.

4. Publish unique, engaging and useful content

As you understand the needs of your customers more, develop and publish content that will appeal to and engage that audience. If it is relevant and engaging (or humorous) enough, consumers will find it, read it and share it with their friends or post it to their blog. This does two things:

  1. It increases awareness and can tap into people's networks of similar-minded individuals, extending your reach without the media costs associated.
  2. Links back to your website from these reviews or mentions on blogs and other websites may assist with search engine rankings.

The power of strong content should not be underestimated.

5. Differentiate and over deliver

With so many tourism operators each vying for travellers' attentions, it will be those who offer a great service and consistently deliver a fantastic experience that will get positive reviews and be talked about. In the online world, these positive mentions generate inbound links to your website and boost your search engine presence - which means increased visitors to your site and the potential to boost your business and bookings.

These things combined - and applied consistently - will work together to deliver results and give you an unfair advantage over your competitors, at least until they catch up.

Grant Osborne is Director of Strategy & Performance at First Rate New Zealand and has  been instrumental in developing  innovative digital solutions that drive 'real world' results for many leading New Zealand, Australian and International companies. See their website for more information on Search Engine Marketing and working with First Rate.

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