A critical way to draw guests to local vacation homes, Carl Stephenson said, is to maximize use of SEO for a business website. (Photo by Dave Raith.)
ORLANDO – There are a lot of companies today that help businesses create a website to promote their goods and services, but just having a site online is no longer enough, Carl Stephenson said.
What’s even more important, he added, is what they do with it – and how much they try to maximize their SEO potential.
“Every page that we built in there,” Stephenson said, “you want to make sure every page is optimized for SEO.
“Don’t,” he added, “settle for anything less.”
SEO, of course, stands for Search Engine Optimization – or ways of increasing the visibility of a website in an online search engine’s natural search results. The more frequently a site appears in a Google or Bing search results list, the more visitors it will receive.
There are different kinds of SEO – image searching, local searches, video searches, news searches and industry-specific searches, among them. SEO has become a key aspect of Internet marketing strategies, and today there are a growing number of “search engine optimizers” like Stephenson who provide SEO services to other businesses.
Stephenson is the director of business development and marketing at GuestStream, a firm based in Denver that specializes in marketing plans for the hospitality industry, including website design, conversion testing, and vacation rental software solutions.
“Let’s say you’re going to build your website and you have your content ready,” he said. “Now what do you do? You need a content management system.”
In the very competitive world of Central Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry, the most sophisticated marketing techniques can provide a critical edge, said An Flamand, the owner of USA Vacation Homes, a property management firm in Davenport that specializes in vacation homes rented on a short-term basis.
Flamand said she used GuestServices for her company’s site, USA Vacation Homes, and added that learning more about SEO options has been a big help.
“It really has done miracles for my company,” Flamand said.
Flamand is also the president of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group that represents this region’s growing number of property managers who operate vacation homes. When CFVRMA held its annual Trade Show on Nov. 15 at SeaWorld, she invited Stephenson to talk to the members about SEO issues and the work that GuestStream does.
“They have the knowledge of the SEO side that we all need to learn,” Flamand said.
Stephenson said his firm is ready to help anyone in the hospitality industry find ways to improve their website so they get maximum benefit from it.
“My background in property management goes back years,” he said. “We can help you create – or upgrade – to a superior website system.”
Hospitality industry websites, he added, need to be user-friendly, attractive to look at, and should provide good information that guests can use.
“We look at professional designs for websites,” he said. “I want to see you guys be as successful as you can be. Your website gives you that ability.”
Find ways to make the site appealing, he added.
“Who does not do online booking today?” Stephenson asked. “If you don’t book online, you’re really missing the boat. And then there’s photography. I think it’s always been important. Lately, the trend is images. The properties that have good images, they book more. You’ve got to be diligent and come away with good images.”
The vacation home operators should also use social media to promote their websites, and post reviews of their homes.
“Reviews are key,” Stephenson said.
But another very key aspect, he added, is search engine optimization.
“A pretty hot topic this year is SEO,” he said, adding that more and more businesses are using host sites like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Propretary to create their websites.
“WordPress is the most popular, by a long shot,” he said. “I would say the WordPress platform is the one really starting to get some traction. The reason we’re moving to a WordPress content is you can make changes yourself. There is a lot of Google SEO built right into WordPress. So the question is, where do you want your web presence to take you?”
Getting that search engine visibility and high rankings, he added, are crucial today.
“There’s trust in people who use your site, and then there’s Google trust,” he said. “They’re doing this more now. It’s not done by people, but by robots. You want to make sure you get your ducks in a row so when Google looks at you, it’s a site that ranks high in Google trust. Make sure you can actually be found. You need to make sure you are out there, as many places as you can be.”
But also keep in mind, he added, that the Internet and its rules change on a daily basis.
“I don’t trust anything over three months old,” he said. “You need to have a solid foundation. You’re going to have to do your homework to find out what is your solid foundation. And once you do, you have to build on that.”
To learn more, log on to GuestStream.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.


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