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Search Engines 2005 - 6 Things You Need to Know

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March 01, 2005
Search Engine | Optimization
Debra Kristopson - dkristopson@ndtc.com

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© 2005 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

While the Internet may not be new, there are changes occurring within the Internet search engines environment that are important for you to be aware of both as a hotelier and as an individual. Not all of these changes are necessarily in your best interest.

As a hotel operator, it is important for you to decide whether these issues impact your business and if so, what actions do you want to take?

This article contains issues you may want to discuss with your Web designer. Your designer should be conversant in how to best address these issues.

Big Brother or Good Business?
Personal Privacy

The Web site www.Business.com has added a people search to its suite of services.
Even if you choose not to follow through on anything else in this article, you must look to see what information is listed for you in this Web site. Once at the site, choose the people option at the top of the search box and enter your name. If your profile is found, there is a strong possibility that your name, title, current company, telephone number and e-mail address are present. There may also be information on your education, prior work history and references made about you in the press. If your profile is not there today, it may be there in a week, a month or at sometime in the future.

Each person must decide for themselves if this is an invasion of their privacy. While all of this information is public knowledge, there is something disconcerning about seeing the information so easily accessible all in one place. There’s also the strong possibility that at least some of the information is incomplete or inaccurate, but unless you take action the information stays as is and the person researching you won’t know what is or isn’t real.

One of my strongest complaints with this site is that while it states that only you have the right to maintain your information, there is no check and balance in place to verify that I am the profile I login in as. Unless you have already registered as the user against your profile, anyone can sign in as you and take ownership of your profile.

The moral of this story is to register and lock your profile or remove it by e-mailing remove@eliyon.com

Big Brother or Good Business?
Intellectual Property
Another Web site, www.WhoIs.sc, has added your full registration and keyword meta tag information to its site. Once at this site enter your Web site name. Keyword meta tags are a fundamental part of the search engine optimization process and historically have been protected like the Holy Grail.

Is this an invasion of your intellectual property? Arguably, many technically proficient Web designers have the knowledge to hack competitors’ keywords, however, I don’t know of anyone who ever thought that a Web site would display them for all the world to see. Odds are you’ve paid a firm to perform search engine optimization (SEO) and to develop your list of keywords was a substantial part of that effort.

If you believe this information is proprietary you should block them from searching your site.

The Internet and Trademarks Collide

One widely accepted SEO technique is to use complementary and competitor names in your search engine positioning. For instance if you are a resort located in Orlando, then Disney might be one of your keywords. The logic behind this is that someone vacationing at Disney would need to stay at a hotel and you want your hotel to be considered.

A recent French court ruling might change all of this (see Google insert). Most SEO-industry watchers expect similar lawsuits to be filed in the United States. Now is a good time to evaluate your SEO strategy and adjust if necessary.

Image-based Search Engines
Are They Operating in Your Best Interest?

It used to be that we wanted search engines to index our sites. Now, you need to change your paradigm and ask yourself if all search engines are operating in your best interest. Image-based search engines are fairly new and highly controversial.

There are others but try www.picsearch.com or www.google.com (select images). Both of these search engines have the ability to scan your site and capture information about the photography on your site. Both state that this information may be protected by copyright but then both allow you to capture the image for whatever use you choose. They go directly to the image file contained within your Web site bypassing any logic you may have placed in your Web site code to prevent your images from being scrapped.

If you wish to protect your photography, you should block image-based searches.

Two of the More Popular Scams
Don’t Fall for Them

Have you received e-mails that state, “Your Web site has been removed from the search engines” or, “We guarantee your search engine placement in the top 10?”
Neither are true. Hit delete and go on with your day.

Think of a guaranteed search engine ranking at the most basic level. If 15 Chicago hotels all signed up for a service which guaranteed top 10 ranking on the phrase “Chicago hotel” on MSN – it physically couldn’t happen.

Normally these companies will work with variations of your desired keyword phrase. The resultant variation may no longer have the impact that you were after.

Foreign Language Search Engines
New Avenues!

Many of us take for granted that search engines are English language based. That’s no longer true. Most major search engines offer foreign language variations, plus there are additional search engines for which there is no English language counterpart. The foreign language search engines currently cover 71 languages including the following languages: Arabic, Brazilian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

These search engines offer an entirely new marketing venue for you. First, you may reach a segment of a foreign country’s population which you’re currently not reaching. This could be very important for certain resort destinations or major metropolitan properties. Second, you may reach a segment of the U.S. population which is bi-lingual and prefers to search the Internet in a language other than English.

As an added benefit, these search engines are much less populated, therefore your may be able to achieve a more visible search engine ranking.

But the good news comes with a price. Your existing English language site won’t qualify you for listing on the foreign language search engines. In order to qualify, you must have at least one page on your site in the foreign language and you must submit your site directly to the foreign language search engine.

Rather than duplicating your entire English site, one solution is to create one page in each language that you believe could be important to your business. On this page you should summarize who you are and then link to your pre-existing English site. This will alleviate the need to maintain multiple versions of your site.

As the Internet evolves, it’s going through growing pains, some good and some not so good. The Internet remains one of the most cost effective methods to disseminate information on your property and I staunchly believe that every company should have a strong Internet presence. However, the Internet is unlike your printed collateral or any other advertising media. Here you are subjected to many external forces and a rapidly changing environment.

Debra Kristopson encourages you to regularly speak with your SEO provider and evaluate both new opportunities and new risks. If you have any questions, please e-mail her at dkristopson@ndtc.com.

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