2012 saw a massive shake up in the SEO world. The Google Penguin update in April destroyed the livelihoods of millions of internet marketers and supposed SEO experts. The hypocritical American corporate wiped out the little man and handed the first page slots to itself and its corporate buddies. The excuse was the need to improve content from searches. The real reason is that Google hated the fact that people learnt to get on the front page for their particular search terms without paying Google money for adwords. They called this ‘black hat’ promotion.
There are no doubt many Thai villa owners as well as developers and estate agents in Thailand who were doing link exchanges as well as sending links to their sites via article directories and the like who were penalized this year.
To these people I would say there is no way back. There is a lot of rubbish talked about removing all the links (as if that is feasible) and submitting to Google for re-consideration. The chances of this helping are slim. It is a monumental waste of time.
Travel related searches are now dominated by Wikitravel, Agoda and Trip Advisor. They are all big corporate entities that don’t really give local information by local people. They are all about selling hotel rooms or about getting free user generated content that is one sided.
How can you compete?
Well one answer is to boycott Google. Bing and Yahoo are returning much more varied and interesting search results. Persuading people to use these search engines starts with you.
Another option is to start a new site if your site was hit. Google rates new sites with regularly updated content much higher than old sites with ‘too many’ targeted backlinks.
The other option which many people are going for is social media. It is a way to bypass Google and get traffic from referrals. In Brazil more people use Facebook than they do Google.
It is difficult but the way to get social media to work for you is to engage with your audience. To put up snippets that people will react to. As for linking it is different to SEO. It is not reciprocal. Rather the more people and posts and photos you can like or re-tweet or pin the better your chances of being noticed and being drawn into wider social circles that can give exposure to your villa.
Twitter is perhaps the worst of the social media. It is full of people who ‘follow back’. They don’t care about your tweets; they just want to bolster their follower numbers. Twitter streams are full of streams of selfish people not listening to each other. Having 100 followers who are social media marketers is useless – everyone is selling and no one is buying.
Much better is Facebook. It is easy to set up a Facebook page. Often they rank well. They allow a forum for people to post comments, photos and video. It is a genuinely engaging media that keeps people on page and could lead to sales. Communities of travellers meet and their opinions hold weight with their peers.
So if you have a villa you want to rent or sell then set up a Facebook page and start to get your friends to the page. Once you have 30 likes you get stats from FB. These stats aren’t much use but it is the first hurdle and a sign you are heading in the right direction.