Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success

This post also appeared on Social Media Today

Internet Marketing

Search engines are continuously collecting data from every web page so that they can better serve their online users. It may appear that they act like librarians who try to find the right book to satisfy their patrons. Evidently, the search engines’ systems are capable of taking a lot of information before they split up the best results for their users. Every search engine has a secret recipe which is called an algorithm. The algorithm turns all the information into useful search results. It goes without saying that the web pages which appear in the first page of search results are placed in a better position than other sites which feature in the latter pages of the same search query. Therefore, certain web sites are ranked higher in search results. Some sites are more popular than others as they are easier located on the web.

Search Engine Optimization (or simply SEO) is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines. All the major search engines including Google, Yahoo and Bing present search results along with links to web pages and other content including videos or local listings. Such content is displayed and ranked according to what the search engine considers the most relevant to its users. Of course, the sites’ content cannot lack proper visibility. Websites cannot afford to become buried in search results. A recent saying among millennials goes; “The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google’s search results.” There are several key ingredients that site administrators ought to consider as they develop their quality content. Ideally, the content strategy of web sites should resonate with the individual internet users in the following ways:


  1. Keywords Based on Search Intent
    Search results will feature pages with information containing the few words which were inserted by internet browsers in their search query. Therefore, keywords maintain their vital role in optimization. They determine page rank as they drive relevant search traffic. Keywords are still the primary entry method to the search process, whether initiated by conversational or exact match searches. It is very advisable to integrate keywords in URLs, titles, body texts and internal links to align meta-information of content with the search intent.Recently, the release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm has expanded rank requirements beyond keywords. Although greater emphasis is now placed on conversational search, Hummingbird did not eliminate the need for keyword targeting. Interestingly, this week Google announced its latest update, namely; Panda 4.0. Google maintained that it wants to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into its top search results. In other words, Google strives to remain relevant, as it is assuring its users that they will get the answers they are looking for.
  2. Quality Inbound Links for Authority and Discoverability
    Quality inbound links between websites matter. The webpages which link to other sites will often strengthen their URL link for search engines. Quality content will naturally gain quality links. Yet, link-building strategies should never be disregarded. Inbound links continue to influence search rank and visibility. Search engines will always evaluate the authority of inherent, linked content. Therefore, links are one of the best indicators of relevance and credibility. That’s why savvy site developers often keep focusing their attention on gaining quality links through organic, white-hat methods such as reciprocal linking.
  3. Responsive Design for the Mobile User Experience
    As the mobiles’ share of digital traffic continue to rise, content should be optimized for an enhanced mobile users’ experience. Mobile internet has already surpassed desktop traffic. According to a recent comScore survey, mobile devices accounted to no less than 55 percent of all digital site traffic in January 2014. In addition, comScore maintained that 89.4 percent of mobile media users had accessed Google sites via smartphones in January 2014. Consequently, marketers need to optimize their content for mobile search. Key mobile considerations that factor into responsive design may include page load time, content length, voice search behavior, image and video processing as well as formatting and structure. Mobile consumption habits and responsive elements can be at the forefront of web site administrators. It is in their best interest to ensure a fluid content consumption experience across all devices.
  4. Social Sharing Functionality to Enhance Social Signals
    When relevant content is widely shared across different social networks, search engines may respond by identifying and incorporating all social signals in their search results. Strong social engagement often signifies content quality and resonance. Therefore, site developers ought to place social sharing buttons to facilitate their content promotion for further dissemination – through other digital media. The frequency of user updates may also attribute rank value to dynamic data. It is very likely that in the foreseeable future, social actions will gain greater influence. Google’s algorithms are increasingly becoming more sophisticated as they continue to expand to include broader web and social connections.
  5. Authorship Mark-ups for Rank Influence
    Apparently, both Google’s and Bing-Klout’s Authorships have incorporated their users’ social influence and digital presence in their rankings so as to improve the quality of their search results. In a sense, there is an opportunity for web site administrators to pursue engagements with influencers. Previously, the credentials to display author information may have included web signals such as authorship mark-ups and email verifications. The new qualifications now include relevance and engagement levels of content. This latest development reaffirms the tie between high quality content and SEO.

In conclusion, this contribution suggests that the recipe for a good SEO is changing all the time. Content strategists and marketers who care about their e-reputation realize that they have to come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links. They have to make sure that their websites offer great content for different search engines. A SEO strategy demands consistent high quality content which is meaningful and purposeful for target audiences.


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A snapshot of the tourism industry in Malta

This article appeared on the The Sunday Times of Malta

Malta is often portrayed as a safe and pleasant environment. Moreover, the smallest EU State was consistently ranked amongst the top countries in the world for its quality of life index. According to a latest economic impact report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, 2014), last year the travel and tourism industry in Malta has contributed to 13.6% of the country’s GDP. This figure is expected to rise by 5.6% during this year. WTTC (2014) reported that the tourism industry alone has generated more than 25,500 jobs, directly. This figure is forecast to grow to 27,000. It translates to 15.5% of the total employment in Malta and Gozo. Arguably, positive results do not come by chance. In the last decade the Maltese governments’ concerted efforts may have helped to ensure that our tourism industry remains a major contributor to the Maltese economy. The fruitful and collaborative relationships among tourism stakeholders also augur well for the sustainability of our tourism industry. Malta’s national tourism policy (2012-2016) builds on proactive frameworks of previous policies, whilst keeping pace with contemporary trends in travel and tourism.

A recent report (2013) by the economic policy department within the Ministry of Finance aimed to establish a strategy for accommodation development, whilst taking into account the type of accommodation required, the optimum mix, market developments, the market segments, limiting factors and environmental considerations. A number of actions have already been undertaken or are being dealt with in this regard. Emphasis is being placed on supporting investment in tourism product development by the private sector. This is being accomplished through the allocation of €120 million of EU structural funds (from the 2007-2013 programming periods) and additional national funding. Some €10 million were allocated to a Grant Scheme for Sustainable Tourism Projects by enterprises, including small and medium sized enterprises. This scheme directs funds towards the economic development of the tourism sector and is intended to support product upgrades, enhance accessibility, increase innovation, strengthen marketing initiatives and promote tourism projects that aim to tackle current challenges in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Given that a large number of tourism businesses in Malta are operating either directly in tourism or in related sectors; it is important to maintain or increase current tourist numbers and tourism earnings. While there is scope for any increase during the peak summer months, there remains room for significant improvements during the shoulder months. In response, Malta is seeking to attract tourists from a spread of markets which will be attracted by niche products. Some market segments may respect Malta’s unique heritage and may have the propensity and the resources to spend more. Malta is striving to make the islands more accessible for all. Two EU co-financed Calypso projects were implemented between 2009 and 2013. The first one focused on research analyses which define the present product offering. This project also identified certain areas which have to be addressed in order to untap the social tourism market. The Maltese tourism product and service quality can be differentiated to attract visitors with personalised services and accessibility needs. The second project was approved in 2011. Its major objectives was to assess the degree of accessibility within selected tourist zones around the Maltese Islands. It has also given recommendations for improvements. A special allocation was directed to the maintenance and promotion of rural localities by supporting the establishment of walking trails and small scale infrastructural interventions which, in turn improve rural and natural areas. This latter project is being co-funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is increasingly focusing its energies on environmental initiatives. Today’s travellers are becoming more demanding on sustainability issues and green travel. This may pose a number of challenges for the industry practitioners to constantly update their methods of operation to be in line with the constantly changing market requirements. Eco-certification is the national scheme which ensures the environmental, socio-economic and cultural sustainability of hotels in the Maltese islands. It has been recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as fully reflecting the GSTC criteria. The scheme was launched by the Malta Tourism Authority in 2002. Some 16.2% of hotel accommodation establishments, covering 3, 4 and 5 star categories (accounting to 32% of beds) in Malta are eco-certified (MTA, 2014).

In spite of the record figures in terms of tourist arrivals, bed nights and tourist spending, the tourism stakeholders are very aware that not everything in the garden is rosy. The ToM Business Supplement reported (27th March) about a number of unlicensed accommodation establishments who last year evaded VAT and taxes. It goes without saying that such accommodation establishments may have not been subject to any form of quality control on their product. Such unlicensed accommodation establishments may have also created some distortions in price structures, particularly for hospitality enterprises. Interestingly, another ToM article (25th March) featured a summary of some findings from an MTA research about the highs and lows of tourism in Malta. For instance, it reiterated the importance of improving aesthetics in Maltese tourism zones. It reported that eight per cent of visitors said they would not return to Malta. Apparently, some informants complained of a dirty environment, excessive building, bad experiences with accommodation, poor transport and unfriendly locals. This same article hints that MTA may set up quality assurance structures as it wants to measure sustainability. It mentions some of the challenges of the tourism industry and makes a few recommendations which resonate with the national policies.

In conclusion, this contribution suggests that frequent situation analyses (and longitudinal studies) may possibly give a better picture of our product offering and service quality. Certain findings may be an eye-opener for some stakeholders as there are some issues which will have to be addressed in the foreseeable future.

The views expressed in this article are my own –


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