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ACORN NEWS October 20, 2008

Middleburg, VA
Briar Patch B&B

Pikes Peak Area Bed and Breakfast Inns, CO

Columbia, NJ
Rosemary Inn

Mobile, AL
Kate Shepard House

Hermann, MO
Hermann Hill Inn & Vineyard

Asheville, NC
Cumberland Falls

How long has it been since you did any significant updates to your web site?  If it has been more than 2 years since you added professional photos or updated your design, navigation, and search engine optimization/marketing, it is time to take a close and careful look at the message your web site conveys as compared to your competition. 

What could your site become with a re-design? Allow us to give you a quote on web site overhaul – you won’t regret making this important investment in your business.  

Call or E-Mail Marian Talbert at 877-226-7699

To view all of our new designs, check out our Portfolio of New Designs

SEO Horror Stories - Just in time for Halloween!

I recently had a call from one of our long time Acorn customers, who was concerned with their current search engine placement. Their traffic had been steadily dropping since February of this year -- up to 50% most months, and their organic listing for 'City + Bed and Breakfast' in Google, Yahoo etc. had totally disappeared.

As we began to investigate, we realized that the Meta Titles, Descriptions and Internal Links had been changed, and 3rd Party Tracking code had been added to the home page.

What we were able to determine was that another SEO company had solicited this customer by telephone in January of 2008 and our customer thought, What could it hurt? So they gave them a try. As traffic dropped, this company really couldn't explain why, and as the organic listings disappeared, again, this company was unable to solve the problem and get the Inn's listing back on the major Search Engines.

I am happy to say that within 7-10 days of reparing the damage caused by this other SEO company, our customer is back in the top 20 organic listings for their 'City + Bed and Breakfast' phrases and traffic is beginning to return.

So - the moral of this Halloween Nightmare is: if you are solicited by another SEO firm, CHECK THEM OUT!

Go to Google and see what you find other people saying about them under the following phrases.

  • Company Name + Scammer
  • Company + Scam

  • Or better yet, call and speak with our Sales Team at 877-226-7699. We are happy to share other "Horror Experiences" we've seen cross our desks.

    Renewing OnLine Directory Listings in 2008-2009

    When contacted by your various online directories to renew your listing in 2008-09, one of your considerations for renewal should include this question:  How many unique visitors did they send to your web site?  You can answer this question by checking your Unique Visitor Session traffic stats within your Acorn/Urchin stats tracking account. 

    Acorn/Urchin tracks unique visitor sessions:  how many different visitors come to your site one or more times within a given period of time.  Don’t be confused by big numbers represented by the number of “hits” you received; a hit is the terminology for tracking all the files that are requested from your web site: such as html pages, images, java script files, etc. Many, many hits make up one tracked page of your site.

    Often Directory renewal representatives contact you and encourage you to renew your listing based on “hits” which in fact may be the number of views your listing has enjoyed by people visiting their site, but does not in fact mean those viewers clicked through to your personal web site.  To determine those clicks to your web site, go to your Urchin tracking tool and see for yourself just how many different, prospective guests that directory sent to your web site over the course of 2007-08. 

    The real question then is:  how many bookings did they send you?  Only Acorn’s Intell-a-Keeper booking tracking tool can tell you that.  For more information on that tracking tool, contact Sharon Rowe or visit the Acorn Internet Services web site for more information.

    Upcoming Conference Schedules:  Fall/Winter 2008-09

    Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Colorado (BBIC)  
    Rocky Mountain Heights: View Innto the Future 
    November 9-10, 2008 - Estes Park, CO

    Maryland Bed and Breakfast Inns [More Info]
    December 9, 2008 - Baltimore, MD

    Mid Atlantic Innkeepers [More Info]
    January 11-14, 2009 - Hot Springs, VA

    BBAA (Bed and Breakfast Association of Alabama) [More Info]
    January 18-20, 2009 - Lake Guntersville, AL

    PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers) [More Info]
    March 30 - April 2, 2009 - Atlanta, GA

    SnippetMaster 202:  Building Hyperlinks

    Do you get requests to set up reciprocal links on your web site, or want to link to another merchant (restaurant, art gallery, museum, or outfitter) in your community and you aren’t sure how to accomplish links using SnippetMaster?

    Here 10 easy steps to hyperlink like a professional!

    1.  Using  Mozilla/Firefox as your web browser, open Snippetmaster and select the page of your site you want to edit (in this case, your links page or perhaps area attractions)

    2.  Type or paste in new text you are adding to your page
    Note:  Review the Copy/Paste steps contained in our October 2007 Acorn Newsletter: SnippetMaster 101

    3.  Highlight with your cursor any text that you want to become a hyperlink (the slickest way is to highlight the name of the business you are linking to)

    4.  Then click on the hyperlink icon (the little chain looking icon which is next to the anchor, 13th from the left when hovered reads "insert/edit link"); Note: this icon will not be available unless you have highlighted text

    5.  A pop up window will appear and the first field is "Link URL"

    6.  In that field insert the link which must be the full link; example:  http://www.acorn-is.com

    7.  In that same window, in the Target field, select from the dropdown: “Open in New Window (Blank)” – this keeps the visitor on your web site after they have closed the link window

    8.  Click the Update button in the lower left corner of the pop up window

    9.  You will see your selected text in blue now

    10.  Highlight your linked text, and from your Styles dropdown (upper left of your tool bar), select ContentLink and that should correctly format your hyperlink text & color

    11.  Select the Preview option and hover your new hyperlinked text, noticing in the very bottom left hand corner of your computer screen the destination URL that appears

    12. If you like what you see, close the preview window and hit SAVE

    13. If you didn't like what you see, close the preview window and continue to work on editing your hyperlink

    Speaking Their Language
    Attracting More International Travelers to Your Inn

    Following is an article Acorn recently submitted to PAII for publication.  To learn more about adding these tools to your web site for less than $100, contact Sharon Rowe

    INNfo: PAII’s Weekly Newsletter of 7/15/08 (Volume 3 / Issue 27) highlighted trends and statistics related to fewer visits to the U.S. by international travelers, including possible reasons why our country isn’t enjoying its piece of the tourism pie.

    What can you do to make your inn more attractive, welcoming, and appealing to the International Tourist – and do your part to increase that slice of “international tourism pie”?  Start by “speaking their language.”   While it is true that many international travelers speak and understand English as a second (or third) language, why not take that first step toward being more hospitable by appreciating and respecting their native language. 

    No, we aren’t suggesting you enroll in language classes … even if you did, which language would you pick?  What you can do, however, is make your web site more welcoming by utilizing simple language and currency translation tools available free from Google and Yahoo. 

    Language Translation Tools:

    In less than an hour, you or your webmaster can add a free language and currency translator to the home page of your web site.  It provides a simple dropdown menu that allows the visitor to select one language that with one click will populate your entire web site text content with one of several available languages including Spanish, Italian, French, Dutch, Japanese, German, Chinese, and more.  

    We’ll now discuss how two popular language translation tools work – Google Gadgets and Yahoo Babel Fish.  Just follow these simple steps and you’ll see how easy they are to install on your site and have them start working for you.

    Google Gadgets

    1. Go to Google.com
    2. On their menu/tool bar (Web, Images, Maps, etc.) – select More
    3. Drop down menu – select Even More
    4. Under Communicate, Show & Share – select Translate
    5. Select Tools
    6. Click on Gadgets Powered by Google in the upper left image box
    7. Select Find Gadgets from the upper left navigation/menu area
    8. Select Google Site Translator Icon
    9. Click on Add to your Web Page and follow the set up instructions

    Yahoo Babel Fish

    1. Go to BabelFish.Yahoo.com
    2. Select Add BabelFish Translation to your site
    3. Select the Tool option on the right hand side of the split screen and follow the set up instructions.

    Note:  The language translation tools work only on page content or text; it does not translate most page navigation or drop down menus because those features are images within a web site design.

    Currency Conversion Tools:

    We’ve just made your website more comfortable for the foreign traveler to peruse your site and make their travel plans.  Why not take one more step and include a currency conversion tool that will help them see just how far their native currency will go when staying with you during their next U.S. visit.

    We would recommend placing a currency conversion tool on each page of your web site where you provide pricing information about your rooms or packages.  Again, in about an hour or less (depending on the number of pages involved), you or your webmaster can add this feature to the appropriate pages of your web site.  There are several free products available, but we’ll reference a few of the more popular ones.

    XE – Universal Currency Converter


    OandA / FX Converter

    Visit one of these Acorn web sites to see these language and currency conversion tools in use:

    Casa Escondida Bed and Breakfast, Chimayo NM

    Red Feather Ranch, Ft. Collins CO

    The Carriage House Inn, Chatham MA

    As John Power, USA Airways VP of Marketing & Sales stated when he called on all players to step up and provide a welcoming experience to the international traveler:  "Whose customers are they really? Is it the airline, is it the hotel they stay at, is it the sightseeing operator that they go to do an experience with, is it the car rental company? Ultimately, they're everybody's, and everybody's got to be on the same page."

    Do your part, get on the same page and show the international traveler that you are aware and interested in making their visit to your town (and your inn) a comfortable experience the minute they visit your Home Page!

    Blogs – Should you or shouldn’t you?

    We have been doing a bit of digging on this subject, working to separate the “fluff and buzz” from what might truly be effective in supporting the search engine optimization of your web site.  If set up correctly, we think the additional content and links a Blog can generate are beneficial.  If you are interested in learning more, contact Sharon Rowe or Marian Talbert for a quote. 

    You can also visit the Acorn web site for more information about Blogs.  The general parameters are these:

    • Set up a free Blog account in Google.blogspot.com or EBlogger.com (one and the same)
    • Design your entries to be chatty and not necessarily the direct voice of the innkeeper – don’t oversell a package for example but talk about it in a conversation way, describing a guest’s experience when enjoying their getaway at your inn.
    • Title your entries with the same attention to detail as we do when building your titles/metas – what are the keywords people are typing for a honeymoon, family reunion, babymoon retreat, girlfriends getaway, etc.
    • Always include a link back to your inn, and if possible to a specific page that supports a topic or package.
    • Once you have set up your blog, we can add a button to your web site that says “Read our Blog” and correctly link the two.
    • You must be committed to posting entries to a Blog on a weekly basis – if that sounds horrifying to you, don’t even start a Blog.
    • You can enter several blog posts and set a calendar to post them on a particular future date which makes it easier to keep up with during your busier times!
    Embedding Videos on your Web Site!

    If you have a video or are thinking of having a video created, then we can add it to your web site.   There are several companies that allow for your video to be played from your web site by offering a place to store it.  We have used Google and Vimeo for this service. 

    Doing this allows for the video to play immediately instead of waiting for the video to be downloaded.  The service is free.  It usually takes us about an hour to convert the video to a format that is accepted by the video hosting provider, upload and then embed into your web site. 

    Below are two examples of videos using Google and Vimeo.

    Google Example | Vimeo Example

    Contact Mark if you are interested in adding this service to your web site.

    Mobile Friendly Web Site – Now is the Time!

    More and more travelers are making their booking decisions while on the road from their cell phones, Blackberries, Palm Pilots, and I-Phones.  We have the ability to build a mobile-friendly set of core web pages that a guest could access from a prominent button in the upper left portion of your home page – the first section a guest would see on their mobile phone when hitting your web site. 

    We recommend your Mobile Friendly Site consist of:

    Home Page - a short description of your inn, your address
    Rooms & Rates – a simple table with a room picture, short description & pricing
    Directions – map & written directions
    Reservations – a page that has your phone number and encourage them to call for last minute availability – after all, these folks are calling from their car as they roll into town and will be making a very last minute decision to stay with you.

    Contact Marian Talbert for a quote.

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