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Planning Your 2018 Digital Marketing Budget

In our previous article we discussed how 2017 has been an exciting year for digital marketing with a focus on key trends impacting your online presence in 2018. The next step is to start planning your budget for the coming year. Businesses need to decide how much to spend on digital marketing, which channels to optimize, and where to make investments in new technology while keeping up with the budget allocated for the financial year.

Start Here

Most businesses don’t have an adequate budget to fully invest in all aspects of digital marketing. There is an ongoing struggle to optimize the spend between the practical reality of running a business and a wide array of marketing options. The ultimate goal is to deliver the right content to the right user at the right time. Utilizing the steps to achieve that goal will help you allocate your digital marketing budget most effectively.

Everything you do from a budgeting perspective must start with your business goals. At the very outset, you must decide what is most important:

  • Are you trying to drive more revenue?
  • Do you care mostly about customer acquisitions?
  • Do you wish to maintain or grow your brand?
  • Are you interested in building brand loyalists?

Depending on your goals, the strategy you implement and technology you deploy may differ.

Map goals to your tactics and results

Once your goals are decided you need to map these to tactics to accomplish those goals.

For example, if you want to drive more revenue, you could focus on:

  • Increasing the number of orders
  • Converting first time buyers into customers
  • Increasing the size of the order
  • Increase sales from existing customers
  • Decreasing customer churn ratio

 

If the goal is to drive build brand reputation and develop loyalists, then you might focus on:

  • Increasing social media engagement
  • Developing and distributing engaging content
  • Incentivizing customers to sharing or engage with your content

 

Once the tactics are set, identify the channels and customer touchpoints you are going to use to reach those goals. For example:

  • What search engines might be best to reach your audience?
  • What kind of display advertising do you need and which network might be most beneficial?
  • Which social networks are most relevant for your business?
  • Are there 3rd party channels such as online travel sites (OTA’s) and meta search engines that you should consider?
  • Which customer review channels are important for your business – Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, Google Places or others?

 

Finally, you should measure what you do across channels to help you optimize your spend and resources. A proliferation of multiple devices accompanied by the evolution of customer behavior has created new challenges in tracking and understanding the customer journey.

Businesses must understand the relative contribution of all marketing channels. Identify problems and opportunities in all stages via channel, medium and source and finally check what changes may be needed in the marketing spend. It is very important to map goals to channels and tactics to really drive home the impact of your digital marketing plan in the coming year.

Key Focus Areas for Your 2018 Digital Marketing Plan

Start with your website!

Once your goals and objectives are defined and supported by relevant strategies, KPI’s and channels, inventory your existing digital assets starting with your website. Then look at your content strategy and map it to your end users’ needs. To do that, consider the customer intent and personalize their experience. Users desire different types of content depending on where they are at in their journey.

For example, the content needs at the awareness stage are totally different for someone who might be at the conversion stage. At the awareness stage, the consumer might want to know more about what kind of activities are available at a destination, compared to someone at the conversion stage, who wants to know specific terms and conditions to close their transaction.

It’s also critical to know your audience. Who is your website target?

  • Are they predominantly male or female?
  • What age demographic does your target audience represent? Are they millennials, middle age or baby boomers
  • What interests do they have? Are they movie lovers, or perhaps they like shopping or maybe they like the outdoors. Understand the makeup of the audience you are trying to target.

 

Once you understand your audience demographics, you need to map that to personas. What does your typical consumer look like? What are their preferences? What are they seeking in their experience with your business? Are they adventurous or do they just want to relax?

Finally, align digital assets to your goals and targeted personas. Think about the stages of the customer journey – what kind of content does your targeted persona need to move through the customer journey to the goal?

It’s important to keep in mind that you might have to saturate all your available channels to serve your audience and different personas.

Make Sure Your Website Appeals to Your Targeted Personas

Refresh your website: If you haven’t refreshed your site in three years, we suggest you do so. If you have recently refreshed your website make sure that you have upgraded it with the latest technology and make sure that all content is up to date.

Content is still the king: Map your content to the customer and their journey and make sure that you have a content strategy that covers the spectrum of your customers journey.

Focus to deliver the best mobile experience: Make sure that you provide the best mobile experience for your users. Consider Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web App (PWA) technology to provide needed speed.

A secure website (https) is a must have for 2018. Not only is it becoming a ranking factor from Google, users feel more confidence when using secure websites.

Make sure that you have a budget to increase your website conversions and work on elements of your site that you need to optimize.

Use FAQ’s and Schemas to power your voice search: Be prepared for common user questions and make sure that they come to your site for answers rather than go to a competitor’s sites. Go beyond “business type” with rich schemas and schemas across your entire website.

Don’t forget speed: Make sure your website is as fast as possible, not only on mobile but also on desktop. Speed is critical for the entire spectrum of customer journey.

Lastly, all customers are important: Cater to 100% of your audience. Often businesses look at ADA conformance from the legal perspective, and forget about the opportunity to provide all of their customers a rewarding experience. With 20% of Americans having some form of a disability, ADA helps you cater to their needs as well.

Develop an Omnichannel Marketing Plan

Omni channel strategy begins with very strong and powerful SEO and Local presence. People need to find your information quickly and it must be 100% accurate all the time. That means SEO and Local search are critical to ensuring that customers and potential customers find you online and in real life.

Consider the components of SEO

Make sure that at the beginning of the year you have a technical digital analysis which covers your platform technology elements. What does your digital presence look like in comparison to your competitive set? Ensure your content is the latest and most accurate. For example, an incorrect address on Google maps means customers can’t find you and that means lost revenue. Make sure your information (URL, Name, Phone, Address) is accurate and consistent in the digital eco-system.

Social content strategy

Provide content to your customer based on the way that they look for information. Make sure the information is useful, relevant and shareable, whether it’s information regarding upcoming events, amenities at your hotel, or the latest photos from the pool party.

Digital advertising – be everywhere

From a digital advertising perspective, it’s critical to be everywhere all the time. One of the important aspects for planning your 2018 digital marketing strategy is that you be on all devices all the time. Whether it is meta search advertising, paid search advertising or programmatic or social media advertising, make sure that you reach your customers on all platforms with all the relevant content.

Map goal to media mix

By understanding your 2018 business goals, you are ensuring that the budget is not just about assigning some resources towards your digital assets but also understanding how it applies to your media mix. For example, if you care more about guest acquisition, allocate more spend towards the awareness stage. On the other hand, if you wish to drive direct revenue, focus more on the conversion stage. Thus, it’s very important to align your goal to media mix.

How much media budget is right?

It is different for every business. Ultimately, it comes down to understanding your business needs, what is the desired impact and who your target audience is and different market. It’s also important to monitor your competitors. What are they doing there and how does it impact your business?

Email Marketing

Use emails to personalize communication and drive engagement, special offers or services.

Measure, Optimize, Repeat

One of the most important tasks is to measure your efforts. If something isn’t working, change it. Then measure it again. And repeat. Successful digital marketing is not “set it and forget it.”

Analyze your marketing impact on the journey

If you are a Milestone customer then you would be able to utilize Milestone Insights to understand how the customer journey is being impacted by the advertising and marketing strategy that you have implemented. For example, you can look at your social media spend and consider new ways to optimize it. Or what about PPC? Should you be spending more or less on PPC? You could answer the question – how do I mix both of these channels to get a better ROI? Being able to analyze your ROI and determine what is working for your business is critical to optimizing your digital marketing budget in 2018. Whether you are doing it through Milestone or utilizing other tools, make sure you are paying attention to the right things.

So, what does your 2018 Digital Marketing budget look like?

  • Start with your website and ensure you are delivering a rich experience.
  • Invest in local search and SEO.
  • Invest in both social media advertising and social content marketing. Make sure that you take advantage of both combined.
  • Invest in digital media and PPC based on your goals. Broaden your reach with display advertising, remarketing or meta search advertising.
  • For retailers, think about Google Shopping and Amazon advertising as a great way to get your message in front of your audience.
  • Make sure you include at least one analytics tool.


Source: Paid Search

Milestone Newsletter – August 31, 2017

THE MOST RECENT DIGITAL MARKETING NEWS

A source for the most relevant stories regarding your digital marketing presence

Is Your Digital Marketing Budget Allocated Appropriately?

This has been an exciting year for digital marketing. Siri and Google alone are handling 452 billion voice searches per year and changes in consumer behavior are altering the nature of search… read more

Webinar: Digital Marketing Essentials for Your 2018 Budget

If you missed out on our latest webinar, or just want a chance to review (it’s pretty dense with budgeting info) you’re in luck! read more

Continue reading Milestone Newsletter – August 31, 2017

Is Your Digital Marketing Budget Allocated Appropriately?

Trends Impacting Your Online Presence in 2018

This has been an exciting year for digital marketing. Siri and Google alone are handling 452 billion voice searches per year and changes in consumer behavior are altering the nature of search. Mobile devices are leading the way and making search more personalized. Consumers are more engaged than ever thanks to seamless cross-device experiences and access to apps. The future of search is here; be it “Intelligent Assistants” (Siri, Alexa, OK Google or Cortana) guiding searchers with answers, the exponential growth of digital products or making the most of micro moments. Businesses have no choice but to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Is your business prepared to capitalize on the digital trends that will be most impactful in 2018?

Trend #1: Mobile is consumers “go to” device.

Mobile has become the primary device that consumers use to solve daily challenges: maps, calendars, email, planners, communication, payment gateways, apps, voice search. You name it and a mobile device is likely involved. In fact, 60% of searches now happen on mobile devices. In hospitality, 2017 saw 39% more “near me” searches than 2016 according to Google. In addition, comScore believes that by 2020 more than 50% of searches will be voice powered (that’s only 3 years away). Most of these searches will be done on mobile devices but we shouldn’t forget that a whole host of “headless” devices like watches and personal assistants will also contribute to the growth of voice search.

Users are leveraging mobile devices to solve their pain points. According to Google, 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find products, services, or experiences. These interactions are called Micro Moments. Google found that 84% consumers use search engines on their desktop or tablet and 88% use their smartphone to initiate an intent-driven micro moment.

Micro Moments can be divided into 4 major categories:

  • KNOW moments. Consumers are seeking answers to their questions, for example, “Does Hotel Nikko in San Francisco provide free shuttle service from the airport?”
  • GO moments. Users are looking for an address or location of a business.
  • DO moments. Users are looking for things to do near their current location such as restaurants, museums, theme parks and more.
  • BUY moments. Consumers are looking to make a purchase, either online or offline.

The impact of mobile is just not limited to user interaction. We are living in an era where mobile interactions are driving revenue and ROI across industries. Research suggests that 65% of smartphone users continue their shopping experience on a PC, 2% of first-time visitors complete a purchase and 50% of mobile visitors visit a physical store location within a day.

Trend #2: Multiple digital touch points for consumers.

The average consumer now owns 3.8 internet connected devices like mobile phones, personal assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home), tablets, and PC’s. In some cases, consumers interact with their devices verbally and are not necessarily going to see content while getting answers to their problems. Digitimes estimates Amazon will ship about 10 million Echo devices by the end of 2017. These “limited” screen interactions and “headless” interactions that have no screen, will create a whole host of new marketing opportunities and problems in 2018.

According to comScore consumers are also likely to view the same piece of content at least 5 times, often on different devices at the same time, before they make a purchase decision. For businesses, this increases the complexity of presenting offers to consumers and expecting them to convert.

Trend #3: Consumers want relevant information quickly.

Speed of access to information remains incredibly important to the consumer. Despite all the advances in network technology and download speeds, consumers continue to demand faster access to information.

In fact, a web page that takes more than 3 seconds to load will lose more than 50% of visitors. This directly impacts conversion and revenue.

Alongside speed, consumers also want relevant content. Seventy five percent of consumers say that personally relevant content increases the likelihood of a purchase.

Finally, consumers trust third party reviews. They visit authoritative sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor to read the insights other consumers share about a product or a business which impact the purchase decision

Trend #4: Search is still King.

Search remains at the heart of the digital experience. Consumers go to devices to search for information and so long as consumers use a search engine, it will be important to keep optimizing for the search experience. Being present when the consumer searches will always remain important for business. Google remains at the top of the pack in the core search space but also drives significant traffic via image search, YouTube and Google Maps. Search is at the center of any experience today. Make sure to take that into consideration as you think about your 2018 digital strategy.

Now is the right time to start planning your 2018 digital strategy. While planning, it’s important to include the possible impact of the latest trends in your budget.

Key takeaways for your 2018 Digital Marketing Budget Plan:

  • Mobile is the “go-to” device. Optimizing for multiple devices and multiple touch points is critical.
  • Think Micro-moments: As consumers turn to mobile devices to solve a pain point (micro moments), brands can leverage these opportunities to deliver relevant content and solutions.
  • Voice assistants have arrived: Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant etc. are quickly becoming the way users seek out information.
  • Search is still King and users are looking for answers, not just links.
  • Speed, relevance, and trust matter the most to the mobile consumer.


Source: Paid Search

How Can You Make The Most Out Of Your Digital Marketing Plan In 2018?

Measure, measure, measure.

Milestone Inc. recently published a new white paper – Maximize the Impact of Your Digital Marketing with Better Insights. Focused on ensuring a company’s digital marketing spend is applied effectively and correctly, the white paper tells business owners:

  • Why it’s critical to understand what your consumer is doing
  • Why you must understand how your consumer is finding you and completing transactions

“At the heart of digital marketing, we still have a fundamental concern,” said Walter Paliska, VP of Marketing for Milestone, “marketers struggle every day with understanding what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. Providing insights into solving that problem is the focus of this whitepaper,” continued Mr. Paliska.

Forrester Research has estimated that by 2021, businesses will spend nearly $120 Billion on digital marketing; including website, search, display advertising, online video, email marketing and more. In order to optimize spend and stay ahead of the competition, measuring the effectiveness of digital marketing efforts has become a critical component of the modern marketer’s arsenal of tools.

The white paper is available here and can be downloaded for free.

For more information about Milestone Insights, visit Milestone at www.MilestoneInternet.com/products/insights or call us at 408-492-9055.


Source: Paid Search

Video: Digital Marketing Essentials for Your 2018 Budget

If you missed out on our latest webinar, or just want a chance to review (it’s pretty dense with budgeting info) you’re in luck! You can watch the video by simply entering your name and email in the box below.

Some of the broad strokes of what we cover:

  • Staying ahead of consumer behavior and what’s driving change
  • Thriving in 2018 with the best digital marketing tactics
  • Earmarking the most impactful technology investments


Source: Paid Search

Upcoming Webinar: Digital Marketing Essentials for your 2018 Budget – 8/17

It’s that time of year again. Everyone is putting together their 2018 budgets and carefully weighing priorities and possibilities. To be sure you don’t overlook anything critical, please join us Thursday, August 17 at 10:30 am (PDT) for our new webinar: Digital Marketing Essentials for Your 2018 Budget

  • Stay ahead of consumer behavior and see what’s driving change
  • Thrive in 2018 with the best digital marketing tactics
  • Earmark the most impactful technology investments
Webinar Registration


Source: Paid Search

We’re so excited! And we just can’t hide it.

In less than three weeks we will be hosting our digital marketing conference July 17 and 18 at Hyatt Regency Chicago. In addition to having an opportunity to connect with our customers personally, we also spend time together learning and teaching each other all things digital marketing.

Engage 2017 brings together a select group of digital marketing experts from the hospitality, finance and retail industry. You will have the opportunity to learn strategies rarely discussed in public forums, and immerse in a full day of learning with co-attendees that represent some of the best-in-class practitioners of digital strategies.

To highlight just a few of the amazing topics we will be discussing:

Google’s Head of Hospitality and Travel, Elizabeth Palomino, will be presenting The 3 ‘A’s’ of digital marketing: Audience, Automation and Attribution, and how they matter in your consumer digital journey.

In addition, Ann Payne from Google will be on hand to answer any questions you may have. It will be an amazing opportunity for you to have your very own Google expert!

And you won’t want to miss Dr. Chris Anderson, Director of the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University who will present his research on how your hotel can actually benefit from poor reviews. How is that even possible? Come and find out!

Along with Dr. Anderson, we are delighted to announce a session by Eric Papczun, President of InnerActivate and former President of Performics, who shall share his thoughts on leadership in digital organizations an area of immense importance as the spend on digital channels grow and brands look for higher ROI from these investments.

Additional highlights include:

• Real-world case studies on Conversion Rate Optimization & Revenue Recovery techniques that can help maximize your digital marketing investment

• Competitive analysis, digital marketing analysis cheat-sheets, including budgeting and audit sheet formats to help you prepare for 2018

• Learn the secrets of Enterprise companies and retailers and how you can apply their lessons

• How do you optimize your digital marketing spend? How do you know that you are getting the best results from your PPC, display or remarketing investments?

We have so much amazing content, we can’t cover it all here. Check out the agenda for more details: https://www.milestoneinternet.com/education/engage-conference.aspx

For a limited time only, the conference is being offered at $595, a $100 discount. And there are still a few hotel rooms available at Hyatt Regency Chicago for the conference rate of $209. For more information:

We really hope to see you there!

Register Now


Source: Paid Search

Is Your Slow Hotel Website Costing You $100K Per Year Or More?

Milestone websites outperform competitors by up to 2,200%

In a new research report, we published our findings on hospitality website performance. The report compares over sixty-five websites developed by 4 of the leading providers of website design and development services in the hospitality industry, the results of which are published here: Breaking speed records: How Milestone websites compare to their competitors. The research showed conclusively that Milestone websites consistently outperform their competitors on several key fronts:

  • Milestone websites load faster: On average, Milestone websites loaded up to 128% faster than the four competitors.
  • Milestone websites appear sooner: Again, compared to the four competitors, Milestone websites rendered nearly 400% faster than the competition.
  • Milestone websites are not as resource heavy: A typical Milestone website was found to be nearly 200% smaller than the competition.
  • Milestone needs fewer files: Milestone websites were found to need 113% fewer files than the competition.
  • Finally, Milestone websites were “ready” faster: in measuring latency, Milestone websites were found to be over 2,000% faster than the competition.

“The need for speed in website design may not be as obvious in an age of high speed internet and 4G LTE,” said Walter Paliska, our VP of Marketing, “the truth, however, is that speed has never been more important,” continued Mr. Paliska. In fact, Kissmetrics data shows that 40% of visitors are likely to abandon a website (mobile or desktop) if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Google’s research backs this up as well. Their findings highlight that more than half (53%) of mobile visitors will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, and each 1 second delay in website response means a 7% drop in conversions.

“Website speed is directly related to whether visitors will stay on your site and whether they will do anything on it once they are there,” said Mr. Paliska. Research firm StatisticBrain estimates the average US full-service hotel books about 240 rooms per month. A hotel with an average daily room rate (ADR) of $150 per night could lose as much as $120,000 per year in revenue simply because of a slow website.

According to research by Google, the average US travel and hospitality website can take as much as 10.1 seconds to load – an excruciatingly long time in an age where consumers expect instant load times and experiences that feel “native.”

“At Milestone, we have always focused on beauty and performance,” said Mr. Paliska, “A gorgeous website is great, but it’s of little use if 70% or 80% of users won’t wait around for it to load.”

The full research report is available here and can be downloaded for free. For more information about Milestone and our website development services, customers can visit Milestone at https://www.milestoneinternet.com/verticals/hospitality or can learn more by calling us at 408-492-9055.


Source: Paid Search

Milestone CEO, Anil Aggarwal, recognized as 2017 Owler Top Rated CEO

Milestone, a leading provider of digital marketing software and agency services for hotels, retailers and financial services companies, announced today that its CEO, Anil Aggarwal, was recognized by Owler as a Top-Rated CEO in Silicon Valley. Out of 167,000 CEO’s, Anil ranked #19 with a score of 97.1.

“I am honored and humbled by this award. An award for the leader is truly an award for the entire team because the leader is merely the reflection of the team. So, I congratulate each Milestone employee for this award. Your excellent work and effort is getting noticed by the industry and this award is a testament to that. Silicon Valley has very good quality teams and companies, for Milestone to garner this award is a big “milestone” everyone should enjoy.”

For the first time, Owler is honoring the top-rated CEOs on their platform. CEOs are rated by members of the Owler community, who have collectively contributed more than a quarter million ratings this year. Owler analyzed those ratings, ultimately distributing 1,000 awards to the highest rated CEOs from over 167,000 CEOs on Owler. Winners span from 50 cities and 25 industries worldwide. Anil was in good company, making the list alongside leaders of Salesforce, LinkedIn, and Netflix.

2017 Owler Top Rated CEO Awards provide a complete market view of a CEO’s rating, which includes ratings from employees, competitors, followers, and general Owler users.

Anil has served as CEO of Milestone for XX years, transforming it into a digital marketing powerhouse.

CEOs are rated by members of the Owler community. Owler analyzed those ratings and distributed 1,000 awards to the highest rated CEOs from over 167,000 CEOs on Owler.

“These winners are truly the best of breed: they beat out the other 99.4 percent of leaders on our platform to win a coveted 2017 Owler Top Rated CEO Award,” said Jim Fowler, CEO at Owler.

Congratulations to Anil and everyone at Milestone


Source: Paid Search

Milestone Inc. Receives 2017 Best of Chicago Award

We are thrilled to announce that Milestone Inc. has been selected for the 2017 Best of Chicago Award in the Internet Marketing Service category by the Chicago Award Program.

The Chicago Award Program identifies companies that have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. Milestone was chosen because of our ability to enhance the positive image of small business through service to our customers and the Chicago community. Milestone was recognized, in large part, because, along with other honorees, we help make the Chicago area a great place to live, work and play.

Each year, in and around the Chicago area, the Chicago Award Program chooses only the best local businesses. The companies chosen exemplify the best of small business; often leading through customer service and community involvement.

This recognition is a result of our dedication and efforts as well as the work of others in our organization that have helped build our business. Our team is now a part of an exclusive group of small businesses that have achieved this selection.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2017 Chicago Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Chicago Award Program and data provided by third parties.


Source: Paid Search

Speaking Engagement: How to use Social Media to Drive Direct Bookings

AAHOA Town Hall Meeting (South Pacific Region)
Location: BLVD Hotel
10730 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
Date: June 7th, 2017
Time: 5:30pm – 9:00pm
Topic: How to use Social Media to Drive Direct Bookings
Southern California continues to be one of the most competitive hospitality markets and hotels are contending for the loyalty of one particular demographic, millennials. We’ll explore ways to properly execute social strategies at your hotel to attract your target audience and achieve the highest ROI.
Speaker Profile: Craig Carbonniere of Milestone Inc. is a 15 year hospitality industry veteran who is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with hospitality clients in Southern California. Prior to becoming a supplier, Craig managed various hospitality disciplines for Grand Pacific Resorts, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, and The Walt Disney Company. Craig also serves as Vice President of Communications for his local HSMAI chapter and is known as a trusted advisor for developing hotel ecommerce strategy.
Craig has conducted numerous educational sessions for the lodging industry including those for AAHOA, California Hotel & Lodging Association, Anaheim/Orange County Hotel & Lodging Association, Wyndham Worldwide, and other major hotel associations.


Source: Paid Search

[Whitepaper] Recover Lost Website Revenue and Drive a Higher ROI Just Like the OTA’S Do

The hospitality industry spends billions of dollars every year driving traffic to their websites, yet 81%* of visitors leave before completing their booking. This presents the hotelier with two key challenges. How do you reduce the number of booking abandonments? If visitors do abandon, how do you get them back to your site to complete the transaction? Do what the OTA’s do. Implement a revenue recovery strategy utilizing several popular digital marketing tactics. Studies show that one third of visitors to your website start a reservation but only 2% complete the booking. With the average hotel’s conversion rate around 2-3%, maximizing the conversion rate is critical. Also important, enticing that visitor to book direct, rather than with an OTA.

Do these statistics panic you? Well, the good news is that all is not lost. Studies also show that over 30% of customer’s reconsider booking the same day and over 50% within the same week. Sounds like an opportunity, right? Wondering what can you do to increase your website conversions and directly influence revenue and room nights for your property?

The Revenue Recovery Module is one of the most effective ways of directly enhancing your bottom line and driving online bookings for your hotel. By utilizing the tactics below, you can gain back a reservation that would have been previously lost. Download our whitepaper to know more.

Download Now


Source: Paid Search

Milestone Continues Winning Streak with 9 Communicator Awards for Website Design

Milestone, a leading provider of digital marketing software and services for hospitality, retail and finance, is proud to announce that 9 client websites have won Communicator Awards. Six website designs were awarded the highest Communicator Award of Excellence and 3 were awarded Communicator Award of Distinction.

Grand Solmar Land’s End Excellence
Mystic Hotel Excellence
Old Edwards Inn Excellence
Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center Excellence
Turf Valley Resort Excellence
Watermark Baton Rouge Excellence
The Chase Park Plaza Distinction
Randy Watkins Golf Group Distinction
Vagabond Inn Distinction

With over 6,000 entries received from across the US and around the world, the Communicator Awards is the largest and most competitive awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals.

The Communicator Awards are judged and overseen by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), a 600+ member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media. Current AIVA membership represents a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms including: Condè Nast, Disney, Lockheed Martin, Monster.com, MTV, Time Inc., Tribal DDB, Yahoo!, and many others.

“The Milestone team works very hard to ensure that our clients receive the best in terms of design and technology,” noted Walter Paliska, Vice President of Marketing at Milestone. He added, “Our continued recognition is a huge testament to the team’s dedication to developing beautiful, creative websites that convert visitors into customers.”

 

To learn more about Milestone’s award-winning website designs and digital marketing strategies, attend the annual digital marketing conference – Engage 2017 – in Chicago, July 17-18. For more information about this conference, please visit: http://www.milestoneinternet.com/2017-digital-marketing-conference.aspx.

For more information about Milestone’s digital marketing software and services, please visit: www.milestoneinternet.com, email [email protected] or call us at 408-492-9055.

About The Communicator Awards:
The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for communication professionals. Founded by communication professionals over a decade ago, The Communicator Awards is an annual competition honoring the best in advertising, corporate communications, public relations and identity work for print, video, and interactive. This year’s Communicator Awards received thousands of entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world.

About Milestone

Milestone is a leading provider of digital marketing software and services for hospitality, retail and finance. We provide a full range of solutions including website and mobile design, content creation, SEO, analytics and competitive intelligence. Our best in class technology and solutions drive revenue and ROI for clients across the globe. Over 2,000 companies do business with Milestone, including leading hotel chains, major retailers and financial services companies. Milestone has garnered over 300 awards and a reputation for blending outstanding design with advanced technological capabilities. Milestone is one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s fastest growing companies and is an Inc. 5000 company.

 

###

Contact:

Angela Lyons
[email protected]
408.200.7918


Source: Paid Search

If You Missed It: Google Webinar on Monetizing the Customer Journey Now On Demand

Milestone and Google co-hosted a webinar titled Get the Most Bang for Your Buck out of the Customer Journey on Wednesday, May 17. The recorded webinar is now available on-demand for those that may not have had the opportunity to attend.

“Digital marketers are busy, we realize that, and the webinar was a huge success, filled with highly informative content and key takeaways,” said Milestone Vice President of Marketing, Walter Paliska. “We wanted to ensure anyone who was not able to attend has an opportunity to see the webinar at their own pace,” continued Mr. Paliska.

The Milestone/Google webinar focused on three key areas of the customer journey and how it relates to your business:

Micro-moments in the customer journey
The Google and Milestone teams discussed the customer journey and the micro-moments that are associated with hospitality consumers. They also shared critical data on consumer behavior as it related to travel, how consumers choose their hotel and their use of technology.

Strategic takeaways related to the moments
Milestone shared strategic insights at each of the micro-moments to help hoteliers put the micromoments
data within the context of marketing strategy and gave examples of some of the
techniques hoteliers could use to leverage the consumer customer journey.

Real-world examples
The webinar also provided the audience with an opportunity to learn how Milestone clients have benefited from strategies and technologies presented and how they were able to boost conversions, ROI and direct revenue by optimizing their spend in the customer journey.

Watch the webinar on-demand now
Milestone would like to invite those who could not attend to watch the complimentary webinar on demand here


Source: Paid Search

Milestone Launches Customer Communication Initiative

Milestone continues its tradition of excellence in education this week. Kicking off our customer communication initiative was global marketing expert Bill Hunt, his reputation in the SEO industry is unmatched and he has been a long-time partner to Milestone, working closely with our product teams and our customer success organization. He led the team in an extensive two-day discussion focused on effective communication for non-linear themes such as omnichannel strategies. At Milestone, we recognize that many of the strategies we recommend may seem confusing and we know that explaining what we mean well, concisely and effectively is key. Bill worked with our team this week on creating that compelling story that explains the benefits of omni-channel strategies, while removing the complexities.

Bill has also been working with our customer success teams in identifying key opportunities in digital marketing strategies that align with our clients’ corporate goals and objectives and how to continue to effectively utilize the confluence of organic and paid search strategies by identifying opportunities between organic and paid search strategies. Key parts of the sessions focused on the role of OTAs in the digital marketing mix, and on how to map strategies to our customer needs as the market continues to evolve.

Ongoing training from some of the best in the industry is one of the key reasons that Milestone continues to be the leader in digital marketing software and services for hospitality, retail and finance, our customer success teams continue to evolve and stay ahead of the technology and marketing curves, to put themselves in an ideal position to serve our customers in the best possible way, which of course, in the long-run, is why we are in business..

About Bill Hunt

Bill is the President of Back Azimuth Consulting, which focuses on helping companies understand the Voice of their Customer via their cloud-based keyword data mining and management platform, which aggregates keyword data into a single web-based application enabling marketers to quickly identify actionable insights into the interests and needs of their target market while helping to eliminate inefficiencies and missed opportunities. Clients include many global brands such as HP, Cisco and the entire portfolio of Pernod-Ricard.

Bill is considered the top thought leader on Global and Enterprise Search Engine Marketing and is an internationally recognized search marketing speaker having spoken at conferences in over 30 countries. Press, industry analysts and corporate leaders frequently seek Bill’s advice to effectively leverage Enterprise and Global Search Marketing and Social Media strategy.

Bill Hunt with Milestone – Chicago Customer Success Team

 

Milestone – Santa Clara Customer Success Team


Source: Paid Search

Google Launches Local Events Search, Milestone is Right There with Them

Yesterday Google announced a new feature as part of their mobile search results capabilities. Mobile users can now find local events happening near them by simply searching for them on Google. This capability is a continuing effort to make mobile devices more beneficial to users as mobile usage by consumers continues to soar.

The new local events feature relies on Google identifying sources of local events data from websites that have events calendars enabled, and that are properly tagged with the relevant schemas. Milestone customers are already benefitting from this new feature if they have Milestone’s Event Calendar feature enabled on their website and populated with local events.

“Staying ahead of the trends has always been a huge priority for Milestone,” said Walter Paliska, VP of Marketing for Milestone. “We were there when schemas became important, we were there when Google AMP was launched, and we are right there now with local events.”

Milestone customers who have purchased and deployed the Events Calendar don’t need to “do” anything to have their properties included in search results. In fact, in preliminary testing conducted at Milestone, our clients are often appearing on page one of local events searches being conducted on mobile phones, simply through the event data that is already posted on their websites. As consumers continue to expand their usage of mobile devices, having access to events and things to do in their area is critical to a successful experience. Location-based businesses like hospitality companies, banks, financial institutions and retailers can take advantage of these opportunities to not only solve real-world problems for their consumers, but also to create exceptional experiences for their customers.

Screenshot of search results for Milestone client The Abbey Resort in Fontana, WI.

Milestone customers who don’t have the Events Calendar feature on their website can add this capability easily by contacting Milestone at 1-408-492-9055 or by email at [email protected] Location-based businesses that are not Milestone customers are also welcome to inquire about moving their properties to Milestone to benefit from advanced technologies like Local Events Listings as well as the myriad of other technological advancements that have made Milestone a premier provider of digital presence solutions for location-based businesses.


Source: Paid Search

Milestone Wins Hermes Creative Awards for Exceptional Web Design

Milestone, a leading provider of digital marketing software and services for hospitality, retail and finance, won two platinum, two gold and one honorable mention for client websites at the recently announced Hermes Creative Awards.

The Hermes Creative Awards are an international competition for creative professionals and agencies. The Hermes Creative Awards are administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals and recognize the highest standards of excellence in traditional and emerging media and honors individuals and organizations for their outstanding achievement.

Milestone’s visually compelling custom website designs are created by an award-winning team with extensive website design and digital marketing experience. Built with Milestone CMS, a next generation cloud-based content management system architected for high performance, consumer-facing web sites. This platform has been built around three core principles: speed, mobile first capabilities and compatibility with modern search technologies like voice search and machine learning. Milestone websites are fully responsive, with user-friendly navigation and are designed to drive conversions and generate higher ROI.

The following website designs were chosen for recognition:

Platinum Award: The Chase Park Plaza (http://www.chaseparkplaza.com/) – an historic, luxury boutique hotel located in downtown St. Louis

Platinum Award: Grand Solmar Land’s End (http://www.grandsolmarresort.com/) – a luxury Cabo San Lucas resort at the ocean’s edge

Gold Award: Seaport Boston (http://www.seaportboston.com/) – a Boston waterfront hotel at the heart of the seaport district

Gold Award: Acme Hotel Company (http://www.acmehotelcompany.com/) – downtown Chicago’s trendiest lifestyle boutique hotel alternative

Honorable Mention: Randy Watkins Golf Group (http://www.randywatkinsgolf.com/) – owner and operator of three Mississippi golf courses

“It is wonderful to have the privilege of working with some of the most talented people in the country in my 20+ years of leading Milestone,” said Benu Aggarwal, Founder and President of Milestone. “We are blessed to have committed clients who trust us to utilize the latest technologies and strategies to produce amazing work and I am honored that industry leaders recognize our talent and capabilities.”

To learn more about Milestone’s award-winning website designs and digital marketing strategies, attend the annual digital marketing conference – Engage – in Chicago, July 17-18. For more information about this conference, please visit: http://www.milestoneinternet.com/2017-digital-marketing-conference.aspx.

For more information about Milestone’s digital marketing software and services, please visit: http://www.milestoneinternet.com/.


Source: Paid Search

CH&LA Southern California Speaking Event – Top Ten Trends for Digital Marketing in 2017 and Beyond

Event: Southern California Hotel & Lodging Conference

Where: Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center, 601 W McKinley Ave | Pomona California, 91768

When: Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 12:00am – 12:00pm

CH&LA and AAHOA have partnered to bring the largest one-day conference and trade show in Northern California to the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center this year. Each year over 450 hoteliers attend this special event to get educated on a variety of industry topics and to attend the trade show to see and buy the latest new products and services.

Click Here for More Info

About the Speakers:

Tammie Carlisle is a 16 year hospitality industry veteran who brings an extensive background in hospitality sales and marketing to Milestone where she is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with hospitality clients and industry associations in the Western United States. Tammie has also spoken at several CH&LA and CABBI events and conferences in previous years. Tammie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of California Santa Cruz.

Craig Carbonniere, Senior Business Development Manager for Milestone, is a 12 year hospitality industry veteran. He brings an extensive hospitality management background to Milestone and is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with hospitality clients and industry associations in Southern California. Prior to becoming a supplier, Craig managed various hospitality disciplines for Grand Pacific Resorts, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, and The Walt Disney Company. Craig also serves as Vice President of Communications for his local HSMAI chapter and is known as a trusted advisor for developing hotel ecommerce strategy.


Source: Paid Search

CH&LA Northern California Speaking Event – Top Ten Trends for Digital Marketing in 2017 and Beyond

Event: Northern California Hotel & Lodging Conference

Where: South San Francisco Conference Center, 255 Airport Blvd | South San Francisco CA, 94080

When: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 12:00am – 12:00pm

CH&LA and AAHOA have partnered to bring the largest one-day conference and trade show in Northern California to the South San Francisco Conference Center this year. Each year over 450 hoteliers attend this special event to get educated on a variety of industry topics and to attend the trade show to see and buy the latest new products and services.

Click Here for More Info

About the Speaker: Tammie Carlisle

Tammie is a 16 year hospitality industry veteran who brings an extensive background in hospitality sales and marketing to Milestone where she is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with hospitality clients and industry associations in the Western United States. Tammie has also spoken at several CH&LA and CABBI events and conferences in previous years. Tammie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of California Santa Cruz.


Source: Paid Search

ADA Conformity: It’s More Than Just Lawsuits

You may have heard about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but do you know how it applies to your digital presence?

What is the ADA?

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. As part of the ADA, the law mandated that websites should abide by a minimum set of best practices to ensure that users with impairments would have equal access to the world-wide web. The challenge with the ADA conformity clause is that Congress did not establish any guidelines regarding what qualified as an ADA conforming website. Over the years, as the legal system has dealt with lawsuits related to ADA conformity and website access, courts have leveraged guidelines established by the world-wide web consortium (W3C), as guidelines by which to interpret the ADA conformity of specific sites. The W3C guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are organized in three different levels, level A, AA and AAA. The court system has largely held that websites must meet level A and AA guidelines to be considered “conforming.”

Why care about ADA?

The default answer, of course, is legal protection. Over the past few years a series of well publicized law suits have been brought against website owners, particularly small to mid-sized businesses, resulting in awards that range from as little as a few thousand dollars to many tens of thousands of dollars. While protecting your business from ADA lawsuits is a very viable reason to ensure your website is ADA conforming, there is a much larger issue at play. In fact, by not providing ADA access to your website, you are simply alienating the nearly 20%* of US

consumers who have some form of disability. Having ADA conformity on a business website is more than good legal advice, it’s smart business advice.

How ADA Impacts your site

Having established that ADA conformity is a good business proposition, what exactly do you need to consider before making your site ADA conforming? ADA conformity for websites is largely based on four core areas:

Visual How does the website work when visually impaired visitors arrive? Is it screen-reader friendly? Are there elements of the site that are only accessible with a mouse and do not have keyboard access?

Auditory Auditory conformity is largely focused on the interaction of audio and the user. Specifically, do any videos included on the website contain closed captioning?

Tactile Can users access your website without relying on a mouse? Is keyboard navigation of all items on your site, including carousels, possible?

Cognitive Cognitive conformity deals with issues around font size, color, contrast and accessibility for users who may have learning or interpretive impairments.

The ADA Opportunity

The fact that nearly 20% of Americans have some form of a disability should be of significance for any business. The challenge of ADA conformity for your website starts with protecting yourself from lawsuits. In fact, since 2015, in the hospitality industry alone, more than 240 lawsuits have been filed, many receiving awards between $10,000 to $75,000 per lawsuit.** When you consider the cost of updating your site, the benefits of becoming ADA conforming are obvious. There is, however, a second, more important consideration. ADA conformity is more than just about protecting yourself from suits. In fact, a website that is not ADA conforming creates a barrier to the 20% of Americans who have disabilities; becoming ADA conforming is not just safe, it’s good business.

Keys to conformity

There are three key considerations to ensuring that your website is ADA conforming: Technology, process, and design.

On the technology front, the most important question is about your Content Management System (CMS). Is your CMS capable of creating ADA conforming websites? Do you have alert-systems in place in the CMS that will flag when ADA conformity issues are introduced in your site? For example, when installing 3rd party applications website owners should make sure to understand the impact of these additions. ADA conformity is not a “do it and forget it” approach; modern websites are constantly evolving, changing, and being updated. It’s critical to have a CMS that is able to not only create ADA conforming content, but is also able to identify ADA problems in your website.

With the constant evolution of websites, having an ADA-friendly development process is also critical. If your website development is done in-house, you need to ensure that planning and testing for ADA conformity is a core part of your website design and development process. If you work with an agency or a third-party vendor it’s important that your vendor have a well thought out and documented process for creating ADA conforming content and checking for problems.

Finally, ADA conforming design must consider a whole set of subtleties and nuances that might escape the untrained eye. Once again, it’s essential to ensure that your in-house or agency designers understand ADA conformity issues and have had experience dealing with ADA conforming design.

Examples of Issues with ADA

To understand the complexities of ADA conformity, consider a couple of quick examples of some of the subtle changes that must be made to a traditional website to achieve ADA conformity:

  • Skip to content ADA conforming websites must provide a means for a user to quickly skip non-screen-reader friendly content like hero images and jump to the text part of your website.
  • Manual carousel control Website carousels may be popular and fashionable, but they can create problems for users who have disabilities. ADA conforming carousels must be manually controlled and avoid excessive use of animations.
  • Full keyboard control How much of your website can be controlled and used with just a keyboard? Having full access to all content without having to rely on a mouse is a critical part of ADA conformity
  • Screen reader friendliness Is your website friendly to people with visual disabilities? Is your content screen-reader friendly?
  • Field label problems Finally, consider something as simple and, seemingly, straight-forward as a form on your website. While placing field labels within the field may provide a “unique” look, it often makes the form unreadable for screen readers.

Getting certified

You can self-certify for ADA conformity. In addition, there are several third-party organizations that will provide ADA conformity audits to provide you with a full report, either confirming that your website conforms to ADA guidelines as of a specific date, or providing you with an audit of the changes necessary to become ADA conforming. There is no such thing as a “guarantee” that having an ADA-conforming website will provide 100% protection from lawsuits. It does, however, significantly lower your risk.

Summary

The issue of ADA conformity for websites is not new, and is not likely to go away any time soon. Any consumer-facing business, but especially location-based businesses like hospitality, retail, or financial-services businesses, should make ADA conformity a core part of their business strategy and of their website development process. Not having ADA conformity as a central goal of your website strategy, is simply asking for trouble, and sends the wrong signal to your client-base.

* https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/miscellaneous/cb12-134.html

** https://www.wsj.com/articles/companies-face-lawsuits-over-website-accessibility-for-blind-users-1478005201


Source: Paid Search