Saturday, 10 March 2012

Deciphering the meanings within PPC

This is a business development post and part of letting you know our story as we grow and develop as a company.  Obviously over the last few weeks we've been working on the site, things that need improving, deciding what our immediate priorities are business development stuff as any business does.  But we have been branching out into PPC and this is what I'm going to look at within this post.  

For the uninitiated PPC stands for "Pay per click" basically it is the type of on-line advertising which is the text adverts you see on top of a Google search result or along the right hand side of a Google search result.  Bing, Yahoo and other search engines also use more or less the same type of advertising.  Other places that you can see PPC adverts is perhaps displayed in the text around your email, on websites that are linked to PPC programs from search engines.  

The primary benefit of PPC is that it allows you to advertise in places that are really specific to your business. And means you can tailor your ads to appear at the top of the right searches, even if your ranking within the search results is not very high.  You get to write the ad yourself, so you can look at what searches people do, think about what your business does and try and then create an ad which people are likely to click on, when they click on your ad they are taken through onto a specific page within your website, in order to buy a product or service your business offers.  It can be your homepage, but as anyone who has tried PPC will tell you, ideally you want to match your pages as closely as possible to the users searches, so the likelihood of buying that product or service is maximised when they land on whichever page.  If people do buy you product or service, this is called a "Conversion".  I hope you're with me so far.  So these are the basic principles of PPC.  

One of the things I love about the internet is that there are plenty of gems to be found for free, obviously there's lots of rubbish too, and you have to sift through it.  As I worked on growing my understanding of PPC I found lots of handy information, the problem was that much of it assumed an existing knowledge PPC and the terminology that goes with it.  So I found myself having to conduct research into my research in order to make sense of it.  I know, that's what you expect when you start getting to grips with a completely unfamiliar field.  Anyway, I spent some time learning what a number of abbreviations mean.  So below I have hopefully saved you some effort if you are also new to the world of PPC.  

PPC Definitions

“CTR” – Click through rate, action taken after a user has seen an ad, read it, thought it is relevant and clicked on it so as to arrive at the landing page of the advertiser.  

“CPC” – Cost per click, how much each individual "Pay Per Click" advert costs.  

“Ad Creative” – The short paid for advertisement that appears above the search results when a user runs a query through the search engine.  

“SEM” – Search engine marketing – A blanket term which includes SEO, PPC and PPC Blog advertising or “Contextual Advertising”. 

“Contextual Advertising” – PPC advertising promoted or displayed around related content.  Eg an advert for travel insurance placed on a travel bloggers page.  

 “Negative Keywords”    These are words which you can specify to Google which will not appear in your ads.  Negative keywords are part of your strategy to target ads effectively.  The more comprehensive the negative words list, the more measurable the success of the ads placed.  A perfect example of a negative keyword is a word that could have two or more meanings.

The “Head” – Usually keywords that set you apart from other websites.  These are a small number of highly brand specific words.  

The “Long Tail” – The words used in ad that are specific and make it far more detailed, these will usually be at the end of the three word “headline”, on the 1st line of your ad.  

“Quality Score” – The value assigned to each PPC “Ad creative” by the search engine.  The quality score of each “ad creative” will determine where the advertisement rank, from 1 at the top to3 at the bottom.  The “ad creative” with the highest “Quality Score” will rank at the highest position.   

“Quality Score” is determined by three factors:
1) The individual keywords CTR
2) The quality of text displayed in the “ad creative”, the relevance of the keywords in the “ad creative” and the keywords of the “landing page”.
3) And the competitiveness of the CPC of the words used.

“Rank Number” – Each set of results will be ranked, so whatever “ad creatives” are displayed they will be displayed in one of three positions.  The “Rank Number” is determined by CPC bid price X the “Quality Score”.  
Benefits of a high quality score
1) Having a higher quality score lowers per click of an “ad creative”. 
2) The higher your ad will appear on the tier of three PPC results if your “Quality Score” and your “Rank Number” are higher.  If your Quality Score is low it may not be displayed at all. 

“Keyword Matching” – 

Broad match: keyword and allows your ad to show on similar phrases and relevant variations  - (The broad match modifier may also be used to further refine your broad keyword matches: +keyword.)

Phrase match: 
Allows your ad to show for searches that match the exact phrase

Exact match: 
Allows your ad to show for searches that match the exact phrase exclusively

Negative match: 
Ensures your ad doesn't show for any search that includes that term

I hope the definitions above help those who are new to the world of PPC, and with luck after we've road-tested our PPC campaign I will post other helpful PPC tips.  

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A List of Eco, Ethical and Responsible Travel Organisations on Twitter

I've become aware of late of the various eco-tourismethical tourism and responsible tourism organisations who are on twitter but I sometimes feel like there's a lot of us working towards the same ends, but we're not always as in touch as we could be.

I've put together a list of people who I follow on twitter and I am sharing the list here. I have featured the ones below as a taster of the entire list as a whole.  To follow the entire list on twitter just click on the link below.  

Sustainable TravelSustainable Travel @STI_travel
STI's mission is to positively impact communities and travelers worldwide through sustainable tourism development that delivers measurable results.

Hidden BritainHidden Britain @HiddenBritain
We’re a charity helping local communities to realise their tourism potential, creating a fantastic place to visit for everyone and supporting the local economy

Resp Tourism CanadaResp Tourism Canada @ICRT_Canada
International Centre for Responsible Tourism Canada - promoting & developing the concept of responsible tourism in Canada

World Green Tourism
World Green Tourism @WGreenTourism
ADTA and EAD initiative to promote sustainable tourism globally - especially in the Middle East . Tweets news on the region and titbits from further afield.

Mary MulveyMary Mulvey @ecoireland
Ireland only Ecotourism criteria approved by Global Sustainable Tourism Council 2012

Chitwan Jungle LodgeChitwan Jungle Lodge @ChitwanJungle
I'm Nistha Shrestha, Marketing Exec for Chitwan Jungle Lodge, a quiet little family-run lodge located deep inside the Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

Nat Geo TravelerNat Geo Traveler @NatGeoTraveler
Traveler championed sustainable travel before it was cool and celebrates cultural and authentic journeys. 

Carin CowellCarin Cowell @EcolodgeMorocco
Founder of, a bamboo retreat experience on the gorgeous Atlantic coast of Morocco, where sustainability and responsibility matter.

Tourism ConcernTourism Concern @tourismconcern
We're the only organisation in Europe actively campaigning on tourism & human rights issues. Our mission is to ensure that tourism always benefits local people

Joie de Vivre HotelsJoie de Vivre Hotels @JDVHotels
Joie de Vivre manages over 30 boutique hotels, restaurants and spas located in Calif. and Ariz. and is opening in Palm Springs and Chicago in Feb. 2012.

The Social TravelersThe Social Travelers @SocialTravelers

French Marketer, loves life, people, nature, real food, travelling near & far. Keen to share small ideas for greener adventures just 1 little step at a time.

One World 365One World 365 @oneworld365
A directory of meaningful travel opportunities including volunteer work, jobs, teaching, conservation, eco / adventure trips & tours worldwide

Ethan Gelber
Ethan Gelber @thetravelword
The travel blog of the WHL Group (, the largest local-travel company in the world, connecting mindful travellers to responsible experiences.

Dedicated to promoting ecotourism since 1990.

Kate T Kate T @Thedivehub
Applying responsible tourism principles to scuba diving, making a difference - one dive at a time! Kate Turner @SustainableTrip
Helping travelers find sustainable tourism destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean! Created by the Rainforest Alliance, a nonprofit organization.

Stephen ChapmanStephen Chapman @maketravelfair
The original sustainable travel Blog network. Make Travel Fair is about unleashing the potential of travel to educate, engage and inspire

Ecotourism FeedsEcotourism Feeds @EcotourismFeeds
GO GREEN ON THE ROAD!!Tweets and retweet to inspire to conserve local nature and cultural differences!

Himalayan FootstepsHimalayan Footsteps @Himalfootsteps
Himalayan specialists. Follow for adventure with altitude and attitude. Olly tweets news from Himalayas, ethical travel & travel tips.

Irene LaneIrene Lane @GreenloonsEco
Founder of Greenloons | educates & connects eco-conscious travelers with certified ecotourism operators & accommodations | aims to visit a new country each year

Ecotourism AustraliaEcotourism Australia @EcotourismAus
Ecotourism Australia is committed to growing and promoting ecotourism and other sustainable tourism experiences

Katie Katie @QualityUnearthd
tweeting about anything that grabs my attention, eco-builds, yurts, retreats, quirky stuff and even, sometimes, QU holidays!

Muskoka FoundationMuskoka Foundation @DoGoodAsYouGo
We equip&inspire a network of travelers to live the idea of use what you know, to do good as you go. Programs create skills, independence &sustainable change.

If you think you can recommend any organisation who is worth adding, I'll happily add them.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Destinations Travel Show 2012 and Web Comparisons

Firstly, let me apologise for the large gap between this and the last posting.  I have been spending a lot of time tightening up the website and there's still a lot to do.  Anyway I managed to prise myself away from fun-filled data entry, and write up my notes on on the "Destinations - Holiday and Travel Show 2012".  I thought I'd share my thoughts with you here.  

I went to the first day of this years Destinations Show in Earls Court in London, which I’ve been going to for the last few years.  This years was not hugely changed from previous years.  And something that surprised me, was that most of the stands have numbers and occupy various spaces, and are made up of national tourism offices from various countries, tour operators, cruise operators, they all looked so plain, thin bits of metal with card dividers, the stands look like a they were from a trade fair, the stands themselves looked dated and didn't reflect what they were selling.  Another very major gripe is the presence of non-travel related stalls that are just there selling jewellery, massage aids, photography studios, basically just stuff. Their presence just really reduced the value of the show.  

Anyway to get on to my major point.  Holidays are all about the "experience".  Yes, you'll hopefully have lots of nice memories, photos and perhaps some souvenirs that actually have some meaning for you, but the experience is key.  The main thing that struck me above anything else at the show is that there is very little of an actual experience that comes from the show itself. 

Having someone with a name badge smile at me and (for the record plenty of people at the stands looked like they would rather have been anywhere else).  People standing there with brochures, answering questions.  It’s really nice to actually have objects or things or experiences that spark your interest.  People with brochures seems to be missing an opportunity.  Interesting things on show were an Icelandic jeep with the biggest tyres I’ve ever seen on a 4x4, but I imagine the mountains of pose more of a threat to the jeep that it does to them.  Another long haul Safari vehicle which looked just like a very high-riding bus. 

There were the celebrity speakers who were doubtless very familiar to most people who watch documentaries on UK TV. I have to confess to not seeing any of them, but I am sure they gave very interesting presentations.  But outside of these speakers there's not a huge "experiential" dimension within the show itself.  I'm not saying I want to be greeted by faux Maasai warriors on arrival, or go for a short ride on a camel.  But frankly, if I had gone to the show looking for ideas I think I'd have asked myself, why I didn't just type "Travel blog" into Google and start to troll through the search results.  That's not to say every travel blog is worth the time or that the show was so bad.  But I feel should have walked out in a daze of elation, excited by the show I've just visited, thinking about or even booked a holiday.  I really don't think that from this years show many people will have done either.  

What do I suggest?  I don't have a clear and simple one sentence answer, but I definitely think it should market itself as an "event" rather than a "show" because the "show" element is really lacking and I think over time, the number of people attending will gradually drop off more and more, unless something is done to actually get people involved and engaged.  

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Travel, The New Year and SEO

2012 is here and yes I have to confess to a fair bit of blog neglect, well with today that all changes.  

It's been goo to have the holiday season, and with the new year is seems like the world of sustainable travel seems to be growing daily, Google alerts for ecotourism seem to be on the rise, which doesn't necessarily mean that ecotourism is on the rise it may just be the obvious of more bloggers and journalists writing about it but I'd like to think that there's a chance that it's growing on a really tangible level.   

SEO, three letters that I think we're gradually gaining more of an overall understanding of. is gradually going up the Google rankings, are we anywhere close to where we want to be, no not at all, are we getting there, I think so bit by bit.  If you'd like to help, feel free to check out  

What's next?  Watch this space.   

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas is coming...but where are you going

Like everyone else at this specific time of year, I'm feeling that it's "almost Christmas, but its not quite here just yet" feeling.  It's December we're comfortably into double figures date wise, people aren't starting to slope off on their holiday trips if they're taking them.  Obviously for advertisers it's about getting word out and going absolutely crazy in terms of hyping whatever they're being paid to advertise, for them its most definitely Christmas. 

For most people Christmas is a time for returning to the family home, or having family to stay or visit, or family whatever.  As perfectly typified in "Planes Trains and Automobiles" (okay I know it was actually Thanksgiving, but it's sort of similar) For many the journey home to the family can  be the returning home for the first Christmas since leaving home, young people who've just moved out or have gone off to college.  Their life as new adults and the sort of renegotiation of terms with parents who are still used to the idea of charging into their youngsters bedrooms and telling them to get out of bed, that they are losing the day etc.  

Or new parents spending their first Christmas together as a family in their own home rather than going back to the home of those who are now "the grandparents".  It's complicated time of year, its strengthening ties that may have weakened a bit, or realising that a few people have drifted further away and you'll not be seeing them again.  Usually asking people what they did for Christmas illicit a pretty dull response. So I thought I'd try and find the most ambitious or self-aggrandising Christmas and I think I found it.    

So..... and no prizes for understatement or subtlety here, William the Conquer chose Christmas Day 1066 for his coronation as King of England.  Christ's birth, his coronation are you seeing the link?  Probably for the time an inspired bit of public relations, but then if you've got a load of knights to do your bidding you're probably less interested in what people actually think. So he probably had some family round, perhaps some light torturing of prisoners, but we can be sure they didn't have turkey that year due to the discovery of the Americas not being due for another few centuries.  
Anyway that's me for this week, so have a good weekend, Happy Christmas etc and I thought I'd leave you with this.....  Perhaps not too much of a "Baaa... humbug!" type quote, but it made me smile.... 

"Christmas.......Several weeks of Hell for Christ's sake!"

Monday, 12 December 2011

What is the difference between a Traveler and a Tourist?

Leading on from my posting on the 6th of December (shameless self-promotion of my own blog, oh yes, what irony) I briefly touched on what the most stupid thing was that you may have overheard a tourist say.   I started to think how do would you classify a tourist, I have classified it  in the past as the following - mostly people see themselves as travellers and other people as tourists.  But I although I think that's true for most of us I think it might be better to come up with something slightly deeper, not a lot, just slightly.....

So starting with the dictionary 
tourist  (ˈtʊərɪst) 
— n
1. a person who travels for pleasure, usually sightseeing andstaying in hotels
    b ( as modifier ): tourist attractions
2. person on an excursion or sightseeing tour

   [trav-uh-ler, trav-ler]
1. a person or thing that travels.
2. a person who travels or has traveled in distant places orforeign lands.
3. traveling salesman

So basically, I think you don't need to be travelling on business to regard yourself as a traveller.  But, we're all ready to point the finger. Living in central London as I do, at times, I can get somewhat frustrated by being looked at strangely when I bump into tourists who have decided that it would be advisable to stop in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.  "Tough!"  You might say, "Take it Barnes, that's living in a busy capital city" and for the most part and I'd agree with you, just like people letting out horrific farts on the tube which make everyone in the carriage stare accusingly at their fellow travellers, hoping to scare an apology out of someone. 

Before the nostrils start to burn
It's part of life in the capital, and so it is, but I can tell you that these people stopping suddenly are definitely tourists and not travellers because even if they have spatial awareness at home, they seem to assume they don't need it or forget they will need to remember it, when lots of people moving fast in directions and the people moving fast are unblessed with the powers of telepathy, then slam into them as they have randomly decided to look up, or down, or reach into their bag, or wonder where their friends have gone, or whatever it is that has made them stop suddenly.  

So, in rough terms, and by now what feels like a slightly rant deflected thought later, I think a "traveller" or "traveler" should be defined as someone who moves to or through places and environment without disturbing everyone around them, either fellow "travellers/travelers" or people going about their daily business who are in the locality.  I think that's sort of fair.  

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How hotel chains can learn from Scandic

When most of us think of Eco-Tourism we think of the small lodge in the jungle which is solar-powered, and recycles all the human waste etc etc.  But the reality is that it's not just a field for small independent operators any more.  Many of the chains are starting to make serious commitments to both the environment and their local communities.

I'm not going to do a deep case study of the Scandic Hotel Chain, although I think it's probably worth doing at some stage so, perhaps keep an eye out for that.  Basically put, Scandic is a mid range hotel chain from Sweden, with both a strong offering for business travellers and families, the Scandic chain is spread through out the Scandinavian countries, and is gradually expanding into other countries in Northern Europe.  But what marks out Scandic from most of the other hotel chains in Europe is that their Sustainability Programme reads like a "how to guide" to Sustainable Hospitality.

They started developing their programme back in 1993, hats off there, certainly well ahead of the curve, and they have been refining it and improving it ever since and quite frankly it really shows.  I imagine one of the hardest things to do if you start an environmental policy from scratch is knowing where to start.  In looking through their comprehensive programme, you can see that they worked and worked on it.  

I can't deny a degree of self-interest because we list a number of their hotels.  But the main reason is because our whole ethos at is to take the word "Eco" or "Sustainable" or "Ethical" and not have these terms that just mean something to special interest groups but to put in into the mainstream of travel.  And by focusing on Scandic, perhaps we can push some the other hotel chains to thinking about how they can improve and actually bring a degree of competition to eco policies within the larger hotel groups, to have the most developed eco offering for their customers.  
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