Tuesday 15 January 2013

Search Updates Hurt St. Lucia Apartment Owners and Local Tourism Companies


Google has dropped every small, local apartment complex from the first page listing. In their place are: Direct By Owner, HomeAway, TripAdvisor and major consolidators and directories. Oddly, even the Government and the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association sites are not showing up on the first page for searches like "St. Lucia apartments for rent."

The change is dramatic. Local apartment rentals that were listed on page one have gone. Just evaporated overnight. Check it out with a search for the phrase above or variation of it.  It is a long tail term that is one of the most searched terms used by travelers looking for self-catering accommodation for their St. Lucia holidays.


It's part of the big clean up and the new effort to list only credible authority sites. Also, someone searching for apartments will often want a list of apartments. From the search engines' point of view,  listing directories is a simple solution to the problem of too much content of suspect quality.  Google is on the war path with shabby content and by playing it safe with known name directories, it is cutting out the small, local property owners who provide the product that these Saint Lucia vacationers are looking for.


So what can the small apartment owners do in the face of declining occupancy when they can't get their properties listed on the first page of search results? Not being on “page one results” leads to a drop in leads of about 80% and that is very bad for business.

Villa and apartment owners can of course advertise on Google and with these big name sites. For a lot of them, it's too expensive.  The apartment market in St. Lucia is struggling with small marketing budgets and big hurdles. They are reluctant to pay for advertising that is expensive and has a short life span. Once the ads have run their course, they disappear.  The cost of a Google ad (adwords)  can be several dollars a lead and as travelers are very fickle, shopping around at an average of 20 or so sites before they buy, the close rate is low.

On average, 95% of travel shoppers do not buy on sites like Expedia and destination sites while shopping around. On the other hand, it makes sense to build authority and create quality, lasting content. That is a sustainable marketing option; good content and authority last. Before the latest search updates, they were also what got you to the top of search results. Now it seems International Companies with massive lists are winning out over local property owners with rooms, flats, villas and apartments to rent.


The good news is that you can still build authority that will influence ranking. It's a long process and cannot be done overnight; but done right, we are seeing a gradual increase in ranking. It's a matter of time before this turns into a page one listing, more leads and more direct bookings.

For a St. Lucia apartment owner client, we have been developing content and links which are finally beginning to show some results. The site is moving up and we expect it will be on page 1. Why? Because Google is looking for authority sites with excellent content and visibility and this is what property owners need to do.

You build authority with good content and by letting people know about it. Building authority is not about promotion. It's about content that travelers are looking for. One strategy is to find a new perspective on a major attraction and do your own story and video on it. See Ladera - stay in comfort and holiday in style.


It used to be that one could influence ranking with just a couple of good videos. Now we need a campaign with not less than a dozen videos. The videos need to be strategic, released over several months, with a carefully crafted message that reinforces itself without overdoing the keywords and links.  Variety in tags, keywords and links is now the essence. So the campaign will include using a closely related set of words with links that are not over-optimized.


Not long ago “G” told us to use keywords in our links (anchor text) so they would know what we are promoting. Today they are telling marketers that it is not natural to link back with the exact keywords we are targeting. One needs to vary the link words and use the raw URL as well as words like "Click Here" and "Visit" etc.  Also vary the words using related words like vacation, holiday, travel, getaways etc. Use words like flat, room, house, suite, studio, villa, apartment interchangeably where they make sense. This is part of what is called Latent Semantic Indexing. See more at http://lsikeywords.com/
So if you find you have fallen off the search results, it could be that your back-links (sites linking back to you) are too optimized and now look unnatural. You need to change these links and add more random words so that they will now look natural.


Our campaign for PoinsettiaApartments.com is progressing slowly. We have published several videos, written many blogs, added content to the site and issued several press releases. The site has moved to the third page results. We will be publishing and promoting 8 more videos in this campaign.

Here is some of the Video collateral.

Villa Interiors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NzTD7knt40
Stay in Comfort, Holiday in Style http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSmUncZZkqY
Long Term St. Lucia Living http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF4iu9ocbFo
Overview of Poinsettia  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv7xeWXmjBo

Resources: Organic Search results for "apartments for rent in St. Lucia"

Contact support (at) axses.com for more on these tourism video marketing campaigns
Tel: 246 429 2653