3 Tactics for Local Marketing During Tourist Season

If you’re using the Internet for local marketing in an area with a lot of tourist traffic, here are some strategies that you can use to make it more effective.

1: Go Local with Google

Go to Google.com/local and click the link labeled “Put your business on Google Maps”. This will give you options to add a listing for your business right on Google Maps. The advantages of this are many, but one to consider has to do with GPS. The Google Maps service can be used as a navigation service on mobile devices. This means that visitors can get live directions to your shop, which is too good to pass up. As a tip, having a Google+ page is a great enhancement to this.

2: Get Reviews

If you’re in a tourist area, you probably have locals who come into your business all year round. Encourage them to leave write reviews of your business on Google. One of the ways you might encourage people to do this is to offer some sort of a prize or other incentive to write the review. Remember, however, that it’s getting ethically grey to ask them to write a good review in return for some sort of compensation. You can get around this by making it into a best review contest or something similar.

3: Get Listings on Local Sites

Make sure you take opportunities to get advertisements or mentions on local sites. This allows you to piggyback on the SEO of those sites and, if Google smiles upon you, it might just bring up your search engines ranking and allow you to get more visitors to your site.

Be sure that you include a map to your business on your site using Google Maps if you’re using their service. This allows you to package everything up nicely so that your visitors are brought right to the directions to your business from Google, your reviews and so forth if they use the map service to navigate to your business.

Local marketing is important, but it’s useless if out of town visitors cannot find your business. Using Google Maps and their reviews service, you can take care of this easily.

Google has recently released some updates to its search quality technology, so it’s a good time to reassess your local marketing and make sure you’re using all of the technology available to maximize its value.

How Will Penguin 2.0 Impact Your Websites

Penguin 2.0 is out and, according to Google, 3.1% of all websites would be impacted. Also, this update would impact oth English and non-English language websites. This is the fourth time that a Penguin update has been released, but this one is a bit different from the previous releases. The last two have been data refreshes. Penguin 2.0 has an updated algorithm, making it a more significant release than the previous two.

Impact on Websites

More webmasters may be impacted by Penguin 2.0 than were impacted by the first release, even though that release was estimated to affect slightly more sites than the newest version, according to Google numbers. All releases of this algorithm are designed to fight sites that are using black hat SEO techniques to get impressive search engine visibility without delivering when it comes to content.

Matt Cutts, who works for Google’s Search Quality team, said that this newest version of Penguin is more “comprehensive” than the prior version of the anti-spam technology on a recent video blog. Advertorials, for instance, will be targeted so that they do not have as much of an impact on search engine positioning as they do now.

Not as Bad as Webmasters Might Think

If you have been putting a lot of time into your search engine optimization, Penguin 2.0 is no reason to panic, according to Cutts. Google is working to help designers whose sites may fall into the grey area between black hat and white hat, provided those sites really do have some value to users.

Google is also trying to address a problem that some users have reported involving the way that domains are crowded in the deeper pages of search results. It’s not uncommon to execute a Google search and, 2 or 3 pages into the results, run into a block of results that all come from the same domain. The technology that Google is deploying is designed to lessen these effects.

Spammy Languages

Google did say that search results in languages that tend to be plagued with spam pages will be more affected by the new version of Penguin than other sites. English-language sites, however, should see little effect, provided that the content that they offer is good enough to meet Google’s standards. Paid links, advertisements that have been increasing search engine ranking and other issues, however, are getting addressed in this update, according to Cutts, and webmasters may see some changes in their positioning if they’ve been relying on such techniques to get good placement.

Shared Hosting or VPS/Dedicated Hosting?

Shared hosting is a cost-effective solution for many sites. The rates are lower, the features are oftentimes almost as good as what you’d get with VPS or dedicated hosting and, if your website is not bandwidth intensive, it might seem like the right way to go. There are some concerns you should keep in mind, however.

Some Things to Consider When Deciding On a Hosting Platform


When you’re on shared hosting, you are sharing your server space with however many other websites that the hosting company has decided to include on that server. When someone makes a request of the server, the server offers up whatever page is associated with the request. In most cases, other users of the same server will not have the ability to alter or deface your page. If, website-hostinghowever, one of the other users on your server does not have robust security or has other security holes, it can allow a hacker to gain access to that server, and that could potentially give them access to all files on that server – including your files. They could potentially have the access to delete or alter your files and data, or even steal confidential information. A hacker can also set the server to offer up a phishing page, no matter which page on the shared server a user requested. This means that even if you are careful and diligent in your security practices, mistakes of others can leave you wide open.

Resource Allocation

Another major complaint we hear is sharing of resources. Remember, every website on a shared server – and there could be hundreds – also has a need for cpu, memory and bandwidth. All of this is shared between the websites hosted on that server. If someone starts using a lot of resources, it could hurt your website and slow things down. Most hosting companies have certain controls in place to prevent this, but I can tell you that it does not always work. Each physical server has an initial and an operating cost – the cost of the hardware and software and the ongoing cost to keep it running – cooling, power, bandwidth and maintenance. In order to get the most ROI of their servers, some hosting companies will put as many accounts on a server as they can get away with. Some use bait and switch tactics – when you initially sign up, you have ample of resources, but over the next few months, you will find your site slowing down for no apparent reason. Some hosting companies will simply cut your access if you start exceeding certain parameters without warning. You should evaluate all this before you decide on a hosting company or hosting plan.

Examples of some issues we have encountered:

Hostgator – Overall their services are very reliable, and their support is good and they don’t nickel and dime you; however, if you have a database intensive application, they may simply block your access to your own database without any warning. This is happened to one of our clients twice before they signed on with us. Hostgator later apologized, but as you can imagine, the website was down for a bit till we were able to connect another database. We ended up moving that client to a dedicated server.

Go Daddy – Go Daddy is another reliable hosting company, but we have encountered their bait and switch tactics more than once. We now recommend to our clients to avoid them for any applications using a database and that includes many such applications such as Joomla or Magento. For instance, their shared plan “Ultra” is supposed to be super-fast, and when you first sign it, it is great; however, within a few months, I suspect they start withdrawing resources, as we have seen in numerous cases where the website starts to really crawl. There had been no changes or updates to the websites and when we complained they emailed you cookie cutter responses about how we should optimize our website. Go Daddy also nickels and dimes you to death – charging for private domain registrations, email accounts etc.

1&1 – This is also one of the top tier companies and their main strength is their support as well as all-inclusive packages. Most of their packages have just about everything included, including at least one free domain and free private registration.. They are not the fastest either, but they are good for non-database intensive applications. One of their biggest shortcommings is the inability to have fine control over your packages.

Disclaimer: Even though these hosting companies have their faults, they may have their place in your website strategy. We own or manage multiple accounts at all three of these companies, so we have intimate knowledge of each, and depending our clients needs, we may recommend one of their companies.

Why VPS or Dedicated Hosting Might Be Better


security-holeWith either VPS or dedicated web hosting, you get more control over the server itself. This means that you can set up passwords that are strong enough for serious websites, you can control access to your site more reliably and, of course, you don’t have to worry that other site owners on the same server have created security problems that your site may end up paying the price for.

Maintenance and Costs:

While VPS and dedicated server can be lot secure, there are obvious cost considerations. Whereas you can get a reasonable shared server plan for $10-$20/month, VPS and dedicated servers start at around $50/month for very basic configurations. Also, in most cases, unless you get the managed option, where you pay the hosting company to manage the server, you will have to have some in house expertise to setup and maintain the server. It may cost you $250-$350 initially to get everything set up including firewalls, antivirus, OS hardening etc.

You also have the option of purchasing your own server and keeping it on premises or even host it independently at a data center.

Passwords Matter:

There are likely several different points of access that are password restricted on your server. This will include administrative interfaces such as cPanel and admin pages on CMS software such as Joomla! or WordPress. It’s important to make sure that your passwords are set up to be genuinely secure. The real advantage in not sharing server space is that you don’t have to worry about other companies or site administrators setting up their security in a way that threatens the security of your own site. With shared hosting, this can be a concern and, for businesses that want the best possible security, having your own server is always a good thing where security is concerned, particularly, if you have an ecommerce website or are collecting sensitive customer data.

Very few web development companies will take the time or effort to analyze your specific situation when it comes to hosting. At Level9Solutions, we will take the time to understand your business needs and your overall website strategy before making appropriate recommendations.

Verify Your Website Links

When you’re working on your site’s search engine optimization, getting backlinks is a basic part of the strategy for any site. In the process of getting those links, you may be creating a security nightmare for your users. Some of these attacks may put your users at risk for phishing attacks and other security risks that can have dire consequences and that might cast your site in a very bad light.

Open Redirects

Open redirects aren’t actually security flaws in and of themselves. They are oftentimes tied to useful site features. For instance, one of these redirects might make it easier for a user at your site to find an off-site resource and track where that user went in the process.

These redirects, however, can be exploited. Savvy hackers can change them so that the user clicking on the link that redirects them ends up at a site that is part of a phishing attack, that attempts to install malware on their machine or that takes other malicious actions. You should have your site checked regularly to make sure that your redirects are functioning properly. These redirects can be camouflaged in ways that make it very difficult – and sometimes impossible – for the user to tell that they’re being directed to a malicious site. The hacker may, for instance, hex code the destination so that there’s nothing obviously wrong with the URL, which can deceive even very knowledgeable and careful users.

Broken Links or Just Bad Links

Beyond someone actually exploiting a security hole, websites come and go and domains are sometimes bought up by entities that transform useful sites into porn site, malware sites or worse. The only real solution to this problem is to pay attention to user complaints and to regularly check your links to be sure that they’re directing users where you want them to go.

Watch out for complaints that someone got a virus off your website, even though such a complaint may seem ridiculous to you when you first read it. The users making such complaints may not know exactly what happened and blame your site for something another site did, but they may well have got to that malicious site from your own.

Your site’s links should be inspected regularly. This should be a basic part of site maintenance. In addition to checking to make sure that links aren’t broken, make sure that links that are functional are still going to where they went when you first put them on your site. Your visitors deserve at least that.

Website Templates & Themes can Lower Your Development Costs

Many of my hardcore designer colleagues would disagree vehemently with me on this topic because I have a different opinion. Using templates and themes can cut thousands of dollars out of web development costs and that is a fact. This is particularly the case if whatever business happens to be using them requires a great many different sites for search engine optimization or cross marketing. Do they make your site look like everyone else’s? To some extent, probably, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here are some reasons why.

Format Sometimes Connotes Credibility

Take a look at newspapers. They all follow relatively the same design on their pages. Newspapers are designed to convey information- and advertising- and the format that most of them use has, over the years, proven itself to be the most effective toward that end. If your site concentrates on conveying information to the reader, you may want to consider the fact that having a format that’s your own, but very similar to what you would see on venues in the same business, may increase your credibility a bit. News sites, for example, do tend to have similar formats, simply because it works.

Navigation Is a Primary Concern

Most users are likely to look for navigation menus at the sides and on the top of your page. Keeping them there makes it easy for the visitor to find the links they need to get to the information they want on your site. Most templates will have some variation of the top or left hand navigation menu and this is a part of the page you probably want to avoid reinventing. Some sites manage to do so creatively without reinventing the wheel. For example, images and text can be used along the top of the page to give a site a fresh new look without making things confusing for the reader.

Some Things Don’t Need to Be Original

There are some elements of modern page design that are so standardized and that work so well that there’s no reason to pay to have them developed from scratch. For instance, the classic blog format of image above text is very easy for people to understand, does the job and can be employed creatively to great effect. Having a completely unique design may give your site some appeal from an aesthetic standpoint, but it also may cost a lot of money for very little return on investment.

A word of caution though – a website built from a template still takes a lot of effort and time, particularly in customizations amd copywriting work, but by using pre-built theme when appropriate, a business can save you thousands of dollars.

Before you get too worried that your site isn’t original enough, consider the fact that some things are rather standardized simply because they work. Sometimes, you just don’t have the budget to commission a from-scratch website but so what?

Website Annoyances

Three trends that are very popular right now on the web may be making your site a lot less appealing to visitors. Whether or not this is the case will depend upon your target demographic but, if you’re adding features just because it seems like everyone else is, you may want to pause for a moment and consider whether or not your audience really appreciates it.

Feature 1: Endless Scrolls

Sites with large image galleries – such as many of those on Tumblr, which serve as good examples – have been increasingly utilizing auto load features that remove the requirement for users to page ahead when they reach the end of a gallery of images. The problem with these features is that they hang some people’s browsers to the point where they have to manually shut down the process and restart their browser. Consider whether having a lot of frustrated users is really worth the convenience this is supposed to offer, particularly if you run a lot of image content on your site.

Feature 2: Log In With Your “X” Account

These are all over right now; most of these features ask people to use their Facebook account to log into a different site. The issue here is that it directly contradicts some of the best security advice out there: use different passwords and credentials for different sites. Users who utilize one password or account to access many different sites are putting themselves at risk if they happen to have the account they use.

As one further element on this, not everything people do online is really something they want to share. For instance, if they buy new draperies at your online store, throwing a bunch of invitations up at them to share that on every single social network may be more annoying to them than anything else. Share buttons are excellent, but get too heavy handed about asking your customers to do your marketing work for you and they just might want to go somewhere else.

Feature 3: “Sign Up for Our…” Overlays

By the fourth of fifth time a visitor comes to your site, they’re likely to get irritated if their reading keeps getting interrupted by an overlay that asks them to do something they have either already done or already know they’re not interested in. There are plenty of creative ways to pitch a newsletter or mailing list and many of them are far less intrusive than overlays that keep popping up over and over again.