What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been!

In 1973, Chris was a young man, making his initial way in the world as a student at the University of Montana and the Manager of a local ski shop. He got the chance to go to the big ski show in Las Vegas. And thus began a long run in an industry that has also been very much a part of his life.

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Are You In On the Conversation?

A long time ago, (1991) in a far off place, (here, then) the internet was played out on BBS boards and travel agency offices in a DOS world. They really didn’t know much about each other, but there they were, none the less; seeds of today’s internet. On one hand, the airlines were delivering their product to consumers through the travel agents. On the other hand, a community of like minded citizens was forming for every kind of interest with anybody who could get their TRS80 hooked up to a telephone line.

Somebody came up with the bright idea to create WWW and soon thereafter http. As the phenomenon gathered momentum, the folks from the BBS world bemoaned the encroaching commercial onslaught on their beloved communication tool and, well, travel agents… are hard to come by now and treated as a nuisance by the airlines today.

I don’t need to tell you what went on between then and now, because you’ve hopefully been here for this part of the story! So, lets fast forward through trillions of dollars of online commerce and a googol worth of forum posts to find yourself at the doorstep of the end of the first full decade of the internet. Whew!

For those purists that thought that communication and collaboration would take a back seat to finding a size 6 pair of red shoes…how wrong you were! Today we can join a community of red shoe wearers and the size 6 group will tell you which ones will work out best for you. We didn’t let the wheels of commerce get in our way of collaborating! Instead, as humans, we found a way to micro niche the heck out of every facet of life.

So, I ask you this. If you are a business in today’s’ hyper-informed world, are you in on the conversation? You might think you are. But it can’t hurt to get a check up! Here is what it takes:

Web Site – Seems simple enough. But do you have a site that fits the needs of your customer? Is your information and pricing easy to find. Is it easy to get my questions answered? It better be because I’m in a hurry and those that make it “plain as day” win.

SEO – Have you had your site optimized so that it can be found on the search engines? Do you allocate some effort each month to grow that asset? Some have and some haven’t – and – some haven’t done it right. If all sites were optimized, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out of a job. We could also throw a subset of PPC and media buys in here. These tactics are all designed to attract people to your offer.

After you have these two basics down you are ready to get into the meat of today’s marketing. I call it “the conversation”.

Blog – Step one is blogging. This is good for so many reasons that have to do with the two basics above. But more importantly, it enters you into the conversation going on out there (or is that here?). You become a voice about what interests you. In time, you may even become recognized as an “expert” which can be worth some hefty bonus points.

Social Media – One of the latest acronyms to know, hands down, is SMM. Social Media Marketing is the art of conversing and collaborating with an agenda. After all, everyone has an agenda. So, why not use yours to grow your business? Beware, though; when you start conversing dynamically in the social world it’s very easy to shoot ones foot. Social Media Marketing is also the fine art of listening. It is not about shouting that you have the best red shoes. That is for other people to decide. Your job is to provide information, instruction and a level of intelligent compassion when you start walking around the streets of Facebook, Twitter, Technorati and the gazillion of other large and small places where business can interact smartly with their customers and potential customers.

Many people will not engage in the conversation for fear of doing something stupid or looking bad. Still others will put it aside for lack of time. If you join either of these camps you lose the opportunity to be “in” on the conversation going on around you. The conversation is like a fresh garden in need of cultivation every morning. So get out there and “make it a great day!”

Travel Marketing: Coupons, Discounts and Deals

While many firms and websites are suffering due to the current economic trends, one online business segment is up – DEALS!

Simmons Market Research Bureau just released a report indicating that coupon use is up by 22% over the same period last year. Web search trend monitors such as Alexa show some discount related sites enjoying triple digit growth this year.

“People are shopping earlier, and looking harder for deals,” says John McAteer, head of retail at Google. “Two years ago, people thought coupons were dead, that consumers didn’t have the patience to cut and clip them. But there has been a resurgence.”

This trend is bleeding over to the travel sector in a big way. While many mainstream travel sites have seen a downturn in visitors, niche sites offering specific destination savings have seen a surge in traffic. Travelers that have already made a destination decision are searching for the best deals on everything from lodging and meals, to activities and services.

“My email box is full of specific requests for savings coupons every day.” says Steve Hoodecheck, CEO of Vacationcoupons.com. “Our winter ski vacations site, Skicoupons.com is seeing record visitor trends, up 113% in November 2008 compared to the same period last year. People know exactly what they want; specific lodging price points, ski rental deals, discount lift tickets along with resort activities, services and dining coupons.”

Here are a few ideas on how your website can take advantage of this search traffic trend.

Create a deal, discount, web special or coupon page on your website. Contact us here at RighNow Communications to optimize the page, so it can be found in the search engines. “These types of search terms have a high probability of success. The competition is light, making them relatively soft targets for search engine optimization.” says Chris Tucker, Owner of RightNow, Inc.

Expand your Pay-per-Click campaign to include savings specific search terms, and direct those clicks toward your web-specials landing page. RightNow PPC customers can contact us directly for assistance with this process.

Add a coupon to your Google Local page. There is a location that you can add a web coupon that is easy to update. This is an effective method for converting customers, even after they have arrived at their destination. Learn how to create a Google Local page.

Get listed on travel coupon sites like skicoupons.com. Web searchers are already looking for resort specific deals on these portals, generating additional potential customers for your product or service.

These strategies will pay off big-time in the coming months for those marketers willing to embrace the discount and deal mentality of online shoppers.

Coupon Traffic – Up, Up, and Away!

Travel Websites Experience Visitor Loss

Don’t shoot the observer … Shoot at the observation!

The online travel sector has experienced a general downturn in visitors looking to “get out of dodge” in the fourth quarter of 2008. Its easy to explain, but hard to deal with. Money’s tight, transportation costs are up, the economy is staggering, and attentions have been focused on politics, just to mention a few factors. Estimates from various sources inside the travel industry put the decline in traffic from 10% to over 40% compared year over year, 2007 to 2008.

Looking at some of the online travel blue-chips metrics courtesy of Alexa you can see an overall trending decline since summer.

Here we Compare Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz traffic trends for the last 12+ months.

Travel Website Trends

There is no quick and easy turn-around solution, but let me give you a formula for failure; Worry and Wait to see what happens. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word, “Wait” as “to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized…” Now that’s no way to build your business!

Here is what are we doing over at Netrafic to help you fight this trend. Plus, some ideas to help you keep and grow your market-share during this stagnant period.

Build Organic (free) Traffic:

Netrafic Can Help With the Following:
Tune your organic SEO program to get the best positions you can.

Optimize your inclusion in Local Search

Build additional relevant pages about your market to attract more natural search.

Launch a blog, news feed, or article area on your site to keep fresh content in front of the search engines.

Socialize your brand by creating content on top visited networks like YouTube, delivering visitors.

Ideas You Should Explore Within Your Organization:
Create alliances with similar businesses in your market to swap banner advertising. Pick up the phone to expedite this.

Offer an incentive or discount; price conscious travelers are looking for saving.

Joint Venture with website owners that send out regular emails to your demographic. Ask for a plug, and return the favor by offering a link, a banner ad, or some other exchange.

Tap your email database to offer past customers incentives to return and revisit.

Re-market to your current visitors by offering an incentive to return this season, stay longer, or a “friends and family” style discount.

Increase Paid Advertising:

Analyze your Pay Per Click advertising for ad effectiveness and ROI.

Lower your PPC advertising cost by improving the quality of your landing pages. Google rewards websites that offer top quality content with a reduced cost per click, without losing position.

Improve the conversion potential of your landing pages by offering multiple methods of contacting you or finding out more about your service or offer. Keep it simple!

If You are a Netrafic PPC Client We Already Have You Covered!

The good times will roll again, things will get better, and businesses that market aggressively will survive. If your travel market segment is winter travel, pray for snow. If you are a warm weather destination, pray for more snow!

Travel Stocks, Now That’s Another Story…