There’s a Place in Pinterest for everything

Back in November 2013 Pinterest introduced its ‘Place Pins‘ to give Pinterest users the ability to map their favorite destinations. Pinterest developers had noticed that users were pinning, re-pinning and favoriting over 1.5 million places every day. They wanted to help inspire people to go out and do more things, explore when on vacation. Many users began creating boards centered around their next vacation, adding pins of places they wanted to visit in that specific destination locale, basically creating a mobile-friendly itinerary for themselves and their friends and family.

Photo Credit: Travel ChannelWhile Place Pins is great for the average pinner to plan and brainstorm daily vacation activities, they are also a great marketing tactic for the travel and tourism industry. Many vacation rental and resort lodging websites have pages dedicated to local attractions, restaurants, fun family activities, etc. that visitors can use to plan their trip. Why not take these to the next level and expose an audience to your activities pages through social networking. Creating a Pinterest board dedicated to your local restaurants, including a place pin for each and linking the image to your activities landing page, will not only create more website traffic but also help your customer become more familiar with the area and ease the stress of planning activities when traveling.

With Pinterest and all other social networking sites, being mobile friendly and giving access to such activities easily via a mobile device is extremely helpful when the majority of travelers are bringing along their smart phone, tablets and iPads.

So, if you haven’t yet began using Place Pins for your company’s Pinterest Board, I suggest you start. Here are  few suggestions for Pinterest board creation that can include mapping and linking. This list could really go on and on so be creative!

  1. Vacation Homes
  2. Parks/Beaches
  3. Hiking Trails
  4. Attractions
  5. Restaurants
  6. Ski Resorts
  7. Music Venues
  8. Sports Stadiums
  9. Medical Facilities

One thing to keep in mind when adding Place Pins, the ability to map depends on FourSquare’s location API. So if a local business isn’t listed in FourSquare you may not be able to ‘map it’. That doesn’t mean you can’t link your image to your website landing page to bring someone there instead. After all, that is the purpose of most social media marketing. Happy mapping!

DIY: 3 Great Website Tools to Check the Speed and Health of Your Pages

With the dawn of the mobile revolution, it has become more critical than ever to have a website that is not only responsive by design for multiple devices, but also fast and mobile friendly.  Statistics show that in the hospitality world 30-40% of users are increasingly using mobile devices to research and book vacation rentals.  It is clear that Google rewards websites in both organic and paid search placements with higher rankings when a user does not use the back button after getting to a landing page.  While this is only one small factor in consideration, it makes a big difference from a usability standpoint when a customer is using a phone or tablet to open a website over a cellular network.  Gone are the days of testing page speed with your desktop computer as T1, T3, Cable, and Fiber connections are much more commonplace in urban areas.  So how can I really tell if my website will open fast for all my users?  How do I isolate the cause of those problems?

If I were you, I would not rely on just one tool to test my website.  Keep in mind, you will get varying results depending on server locations, bandwidth being used, time of day, etc.  So make sure to test a couple of times and get an average.  As well, in this example we will only test the homepage of a website.  I strongly encourage you to test new landing pages used for your AdWords campaigns as well as any that may have extra functionality, forms, widgets, or just a lot of pictures…All of these below are free tools!

1.  WEBSITE OPTIMIZATION For many years, I have referenced this tool as a starting point to get a quick glimpse of how the different objects on my webpage are being seen by crawlers.  http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

The 2 main things I look at are:

dowload-times

page-analysis

Check out the red highlights in the analysis tool then ask your webmaster how they will address these items.

2. Pingdom Pingdom is great in many ways as you can sign up to get alerts when your website goes down via email or text message.  I use tools.pingdom.com to get even more in-depth with what objects are slowing my website down in addition to THE ORDER that they load.  Sometimes just having some objects load at the end allows a user to see the important stuff and gives time for the other secondary style sheets and .js calls to load.  You can drill down to see specifics, get a “performance grade” and it will also keep a history so you can see how well you have improved over time.

http://tools.pingdom.com/

performance-grade

 3.  Google Page Insights - Lastly, I will check Google’s Page insights to see what score they provide.  It is out if 100 and theoretically the higher the better.  The nice thing about Insights is that they break down all the links, server calls, and objects and let you know where your biggest opportunities are for optimizing for page speed.

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/

google-pagespeed

Remember, most times you can tackle 2 or 3 biggies – usually image size, caching, and order in which objects load to make a dramatic difference in your website’s page speed time.  In the end, the effort is worth it because it will result in a lower bounce rate, higher rankings, and a better overall user experience.  Many have said for years…you only have 8 seconds to make that first impression!  Now go OPTIMIZE!

Best Practices of Mobile Website Usability in the Hospitality Industry

The key to ensuring a positive user experience for your guests on your hotel, resort or vacation rental mobile site is to simplify and streamline. Smart phone users are often on the go and are looking to quickly and easily complete their goal. Ask yourself, “What goals would my guests like to complete on my mobile site?” Is it to book a stay on the mobile site? Is it to call in to book a stay? Or is it simply to improve their stay by having easy access to relevant information?

More often than not the mobile user on a hospitality site is looking for your contact information. This could be a phone number to call for booking or other information, or this could be a physical address to use to navigate to your site. The number one rule for hospitality mobile sites:

  • Have your address and phone number boldly displayed on every page of your mobile site and make sure it they are clickable!

Next, since this is not every mobile user’s goal, there are a few more important usability rules to follow. Whatever your guests are looking to accomplish, the first step is to make all goals easier to achieve by cutting down as much excess media and content as possible. Make sure you provide enough content to support your goals but don’t overload the site. Keep in mind while designing your mobile site: [Read more…]

Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

If you haven’t noticed, people really like to use their cell phones.

Whether it’s emailing, video chatting, finding directions, or wording with friends, there are very few things that you can’t do on a cell phone and very few people who could live without it.  (Is there a support group for that? I should probably find one.)

As cell phones have become more advanced surfing online has become easier to do as well.  Consequently there has been large and steady increase in mobile users visiting websites.

In July and August, 2011, the average lodging website received 10% of its traffic via a mobile device, and during the same months in 2010 that was only 4%.

Here is a chart from BlizzardTracker showing this growth in mobile visitors over the past year:

During August, 2011, the average lodging website (based on 190 websites) received:

  • 4,759 visits from mobile users
  • Over 13,000 page views
  • A length of visit of nearly 4 minutes

Whether you do or not, people are searching on their phone for lodging options. If your site doesn’t work well on a mobile browser, visitors will get annoyed and go to your competitor’s site.

You don’t necessarily need a full functioning site, but you do need something to satisfy 10% of your traffic.

Have you checked your site lately? 

How well does it work in a mobile browser?