International SEO – Google Offers a Helping Hand

Out of Beta and into the real world, international real world that is! Google has just announced adding a new section to Google Webmaster Tools, labeled “International Targeting”. If you operate a website that targets visitors from more than one country, and in more than one language then this may be of serious interest to you.

Webmaster Tools Dashboard

Dashboard in WMT showing the International Targeting Option

In an effort to respond to the public out-cry for help identifying issues with hreflang annotations (the markup that enables search engines to serve the correct language or regional variation of a page in order to provide more targeted results for searchers), Google offers webmasters a tool that makes note of two of the most common problems associated with language targeting and hreflang annotations:

Missing Return Links

The first issue Google helps identify is related to missing return links; if an annotation is not confirmed from the page it is pointing to, there will be an error. For example, if page A links to page B, then in-turn page B must link back to page A, otherwise the hreflang may not be properly interpreted by search engines. For each of these errors, Google identifies where and when detection took place as well as where the expected return link should be.

See the Example Provided by Google:

Example from Google Webmaster Tools of Missing Return Links

Identifying missing Return Tags

Incorrect Hreflang Values

The value of the hreflang attribute must either be a language code in ISO 639-1 format such as “es”, or a combination of language and country code such as “es-AR”, where the country code is in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format. If the language or country codes are not in these formats then Google reports the issue and provides an example URL to assist with fixing the problem.

Unknown Language Code Report from WMT

Example of Unknown Language Codes in WMT Reporting

For more information on getting hreflang right checkout this recent article from David Scottimano detailing examples & insights for those who need and use international SEO for their website.

Showcase Your Vacation Rental or Real Estate Listing with a Floor Plan

Adding a floor plan of your vacation rental to show potential guests generates a measurable improvement in your number of bookings.
TruPlace, formerly Mouse on House, commissioned an independent study of over 1,400 vacation rentals that demonstrates a 97% increase in revenue from bookings for properties using their interactive floor plan tours. The amount of time it took to book the property also was measurably shorter. Likewise, at Blizzard, we find that properties with interactive floor plan tours on their property pages generate more revenue.
floor plans increase reservations

The reservation revenue per property for properties with interactive floor plan tours was 97% higher than for those properties without floor plan tours.

virtual tours and floor plans

The booking lead time for properties with interactive floor plan tours is 12 days shorter than for properties without tours.

What the study could not measure was the cost savings in phone calls. The number of phone calls that it took to book the property was presumably smaller, because anyone with questions about the layout of the property was able to find out the answer to their question online. Let’s look at why this is the case. Your goal is to get reservations. Once someone finds your website, how can you turn a looker into a booker? The websites that anticipate the traveler’s questions, and answer them, get more reservations.
Travelers’ questions:

  • Where is it located, exactly?
  • What’s the place like?
  • How much is it?

When it comes to what is the place like, getting a bird’s eye view of the floor plan answers that question in  a split second. In a glance, your potential guests can answer such questions as:

  • How noisy does it look like it will be?
  • Where can I watch TV in the middle of the night without waking up my family?
  • Where will I be relative to the kids? The other people we are staying with?
  • Does my room have a view?
  • Where is the balcony/deck relative to my bedroom? Relative to the kitchen?
  • What is the kitchen like?
  • Are there stairs?
  • How many bathrooms are there and where are they?

Real-Estate-Floor-Plan-Vacation-Rental

What’s the difference between an interactive floor plan tour and a 360 virtual tour?

An interactive floor plan is a floor plan that is clickable. It combines still photography with a floor plan of the entire property so that the visitor can have a high level view and navigate through the home. A 360 virtual tour combines videos or still images in order to provide a simulation of walking through a location.

Interactive floor plan tours can be made just from architectural floor plan renderings; the property does not need to be built yet. Also they are mobile friendly and load more quickly than 360 virtual tours.

360 virtual tours, on the other hand, can provide  a full 360 degree view of the rooms, and if when done correctly, are more entertaining content to put on your website.

Unlike videos and 360 virtual tours, a floor plan gives the traveler a great deal of information in a single glance. That is not to say, however, that videos and 360 virtual tours do not do well. Everyone likes to be entertained. However, if you have videos or 360 virtual tours, make sure that they are actually entertaining; or your potential guest will quickly grow weary of watching them!

Having entertaining content on your website, such as videos and 360 virtual tours, can increase your website traffic and the amount of time that people spend on your site. These are good indicators for Google and can increase your website’s position in search results. Having floor plans and interactive floor plans on your website can help potential guests decide whether to book a specific property. For that reason, interactive floor plan tours can generate more revenue than 360-virtual tours, because the potential guest can click on the floor plan and quickly answer many of the questions that they have.

Do you have a property owner who wants more bookings? Ask them if they are willing to pay for an interactive floor plan tour.

Attention All WordPress Users: Update Your All In One SEO Pack

Wordpress Secuirty

The All in One SEO plugin’s security has been exploited. Hackers have found a new entry method into your website via the All in One SEO WordPress Plugin. Specifically, hackers can now use privilege escalation and cross site (XSS) attacks on your website. If you update your plugin you will be, at least temporarily, immune to these attacks that hackers are currently exploiting. If you’re looking to make a switch, Blizzard recommends WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, which is a similar SEO plugin with more functionality that has not been exploited

Do I really need to update my plugin? Yes. With this exploit, hackers can edit your meta title and description, which in turn could decrease your SERP rankings. Not only can this exploit hurt rankings, hackers can maliciously attack your website by executing JavaScript code on the administrator control panel.

You have three options; delete the All in One SEO plugin, update the plugin to the latest version or install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. Please take action immediately to avoid any attacks on your website. If you have any questions regarding taking action on this, please contact us.

Join VRMA Today!

For a limited time, VRMA is waiving the $3 per unit portion of dues for any management company joining now until July 31, 2014.

Property Managers:

As the trade association for the vacation rental management industry, it is important for VRMA (Vacation Rental Managers Association) to continue growing our membership as there is strength in numbers and unity.  

Now, you can join or rejoin VRMA for only $300.  Join Today!

Not merely an education—think of it as an advanced degree

In promotion, we mean business 

  • Changing the way you get noticed—Discover Vacation Homes and Getting Away Together—innovative promotion comes from member collaboration and association action
  • Providing the press with compelling global facts and stories about the advantages of vacation rentals that are managed by professionals—just like you

Advocacy is a team effort and VRMA leads the team, championing game changing standards, values and protection


Finally, real savings—really

Blizzard University – July 24 & 25, 2014

Blizzard University - Glenwood Springs, July 2014 - Get signed up today!

Doesn’t a trip to the beautiful mountain town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado this summer sound like a wonderful idea? Why not make it a learning experience as well! Join us July 24 & 25, 2014 for another Blizzard University Workshop. Learn from the internet marketing specialists in this 2-day informative workshop geared toward beginner to intermediate internet marketers and vacation rental managers. Book Today or visit our workshops page for more information.

Blizzard creates new partnership with Local Market Launch

As local search becomes more and more important, we have recently explored options to make sure Blizzard is using the top performing business listing management and syndication services. We are happy to announce a new partnership between Blizzard Internet Marketing and Local Market Launch for submission of enhanced data profiles to more than 250 local directories.  They will create and claim listings in directories such as YP, Manta, City Search, Hotfrog, Foursquare, Kudzu, YellowBot, Express Update, Local.com, FindTheCompany, Angie’s List and TRUSTEDsearch.org as well as push out our client’s data to major portals like InfoGroup, Acxiom, Localeze and Factual on a monthly basis.2014-05-22_0906

Through Blizzard’s partnership we are able to offer a discounted price with an annual renewal fee.  We are excited to move to this new platform giving our clients the best local presence possible resulting in high citation marks and improved Search Engine search results.  Call us today to find out more about how Blizzard can help your Local presence across the Internet. 888-840-5893

Blizzard University Webinar Series #1

In case you couldn’t make the first of our Blizzard Internet Marketing Webinar Series on

Top 5 Online Marketing Tactics for High ROI

We will be doing these once per month and have guest speakers as well – we hope you can join us in the future!

-Eric Fullerton