cabinquest.us

a service for privately owned vacation properties

Archive for the ‘CabinQuest’ Category

New Filter Feature added to CabinQuest.US

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It has been a long time coming. I always thought that CabinQuest should have a filter feature where the user could select certain search criteria such as the number of bedrooms, price or customer rating of the cabins they are searching for. So I have spent the last development cycle creating the filter feature.

I looked on the Internet to see if I could find certain design qualities that made for a good filtering system. One of the main aspects I was concerned about was affecting the speed of the site. Currently over 90 percent of my pages are delivered in a second or less. My search wasn’t very productive so I just laid out the plan as simply as I could.

I needed a group of selection fields that would post selection values back to the page. I needed to store the selection and use it to drive the creation of two things. First was to build new dynamic queries that would persist the selections across all of the pages that the user went to. Second was to calculate the new results in every instance. Creating two PHP functions to provide both of those features I was soon returning filtered data to the web page and updating statistics to help the user determine whether they needed to refine the selection criteria or not.

I like these types of features because they give me different types of information to look at. For example when I select 2 bedrooms in the filter and then select different states I start seeing some states with many 2 bedroom cabins and some with none. So then the question becomes, can I start marketing to cabin owners based on that type of information. Or would cabin owners look at that and understand that simply updating their listing information can give the consumer a better chance of finding them.

This feature is getting released this afternoon, so I’ll update you later on the affects that I see from it.

s

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

September 12th, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Posted in CabinQuest

A little bit of SEO

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Now that I have a social media integration and email campaign going I thought I’d spend some time on SEO again. This time I targeted two different areas.

The first was page speed. Google Analytics and pagespeed test has always indicated that I have blocking javascript on my above the fold content. So I committed myself to fixing that. The main problem was that I was using a jquery menu system which meant I had to load jquery first unless I wanted a very ugly page to flash by on load. So the first thing I did was to replace that with a pure CSS solution. This worked for all of my public facing pages but the pages. Google is now registering 0.00 seconds on many of my pages. My internal pages still using a significant amount of jquery but I was able to load them through scripting at the end of the page and that also helped the speed of those pages.

Content Keywords

Concentration of keywords

The other thing that I worked on was thin content. Several years ago I thought it would be a great feature to have links to all of the state and national parks, and then show the cabins that were closest to those parks. In practice however many of these pages either showed little or very similar content and Google/MOZ kept telling me that I have lots of thin/duplicate content. So in I removed all of the code that generated those pages and am now sending 410 status code to get them cleared out of the search engines.

 

As you can see by the content keywords report from Google webmaster the top words on my site were the ones generated by the state and national park links. I’m thinking that state, park, wildlife, lake, management, national, natural, historical, refuge, game and recreation should all drop off the list and cabins, resort, rental, and lodge should rise to the top. It has been a week and a half and I haven’t seen a change in this but I’m going to let this ride for a while and see what happens.

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

August 31st, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Posted in CabinQuest

Summer of SEO (or not)

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This summer, I had become pretty disgusted with trying to get Google to generate more traffic for my site. It seemed like anything I did, wasn’t working. So I decided to un-Google my strategy for a while.

I started with building in Facebook integration. I had actually started with hybrid-auth as the backend for it but found that to be too complex for what I was doing. So I went back to the facebook API and built it from scratch. That worked much better for me. I provided an easy login and targeted the ‘review’ page for each cabin. I started getting 1 or 2 new users every day which was great but I’m not getting them to comment as much as I thought they would.

Along with that I built an email campaign process. Most of my users have been the cabin owners themselves but now I have consumers logging in as well so I want to reach out to them monthly and get them back to the site for a look. So far this has worked well. And even with the falling Google numbers we are maintaining traffic with this direct marketing process.

I like this out of the box thinking for my site. I haven’t had to work traffic like this in the past but I hope that have alternatives to the sources will provide more stability in the future.

s

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

August 30th, 2015 at 2:13 am

Posted in CabinQuest

SEO campaign for CabinQuest.US

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Since Google has been doing these Penguin and Panda updates it has been an interesting task to determine what pieces of a website is causing the search engine ranking to fall. Some of these are easy. Such as Payday loan and other sites that tend to be real spammy. Most of us know what they look like when we see them. But there are other things that are not so obvious.

A few years ago I was interested in an email spam filtering technique referred to as Bayesian filtering. It used a process where it recorded every word and object in an email and then after the user identified email that was spam, it compared the user identified spam messages to find similarities that existed in the spam email that was not in the non-spam email. It wasn’t surprising that certain word combinations would identify an email as spam such as “payday loan”. But what was interesting to me is that it also identified certain codes in html messages that set the color for backgrounds and borders. In comparing that information it was found that spam could be identified by the colors that were used in the email messages.

I like to think about this Bayesian filter example when I think about SEO. I’m not so sure that the colors of CabinQuest.US have much in common with spammy sites. But I wonder about other things. Like outbound links and how many go to sites that still exist. If I have a high percentage of unreachable links, could that be something that is similar to the sites that Google is trying to limit?

I also look at the number of trashy links that are generated from my site.Over the years the structure of the site has changed and if I haven’t kept up with 301 redirects it could reflect poorly on my site.

I’m not so sure that I want to study spammy sites to make sure that I don’t have anything in common with them. But it is a thought.

s

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

January 2nd, 2015 at 1:57 am

Posted in CabinQuest

Learning to travel by Surfing CabinQuest.US

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I often sit in front of the TV and work on CabinQuest.US. Tonight, I’m watching KC play Denver. I sure hope KC can get some points in this 4th quarter. But that’s another story.

Tonight I was working on an issue where the map wasn’t displaying how I wanted when a city was selected. I tracked down the little piece of javascript that wasn’t doing it’s job, added an ‘=’ sign to an if statement comparison and all was well.

Then I needed to test it to make sure I didn’t affect something else that I didn’t mean to. It’s during my testing that I find little treasures in the data. A lot of times I click on the same links all the time. Eureka Springs, AR and Logan, OH are areas that I’m pretty familiar with so I do a lot of testing with them.

Tonight, I just happened to click on New Jersey and looked at the trending cities. I noticed that Cape May is topping the list. Following the link I see a big cluster of properties on the Cape May peninsula. I had been stationed in New Jersey in the 80’s but had never made it South of Asbury Park. So I wasn’t familiar with this part of Jersey. I think it’s fun to discover new travel hot spots.

One of these day’s I need to surf all of the states in CabinQuest and find the hot spots in each state. I could just run a SQL query on the database, but what’s the fun in that.

So if you’re looking for vacation hot spots try clicking on each state and looking at the trending locations list. You might just find something you never knew existed.

s

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

December 1st, 2014 at 4:08 am

Posted in CabinQuest

Trending Locations at CabinQuest.US

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As I work on my SEO plan for 2015, I have been looking at the trends for last year. I have set some targets for CabinQuest.US in general. First I am focusing on cabin rentals. I have always tried to include cottages, bed and breakfasts, resorts, lodges and privately owned vacation rentals in general. But for 2015 I will focus all SEO efforts on cabin rentals and the cabin rental industry to carve out my niche.

Based on that I am also focusing on the locations that really matter. I want to direct people to either my homepage or the city locations that have large concentrations of cabins in their vicinity and they have already been trending on CabinQuest.US. 
If I look at my stats from 2014., I see that Eureka Springs AR and Logan OH are locations that are already trending out of the 5000+ locations represented on CabinQuest.US. Out of those I queried for the top 10 locations by total hits for the year and then diagrammed their hits by month from January through October.
If you look at the top locations for 2014 you see that the top two far surpass the next 8. And those 8 aren’t significantly different. Most of them are locations that I would expect to see in the list are there. It could be argued that Logan and Rockbridge OH are really the same location because of their proximity to each other.
The one odd ball is New York, NY. I find it interesting that I’m getting organic traffic for New York to a site that is focused on cabin rentals. I may find that this changes as I drive more traffic to the site with my SEO initiatives.
So in summary, What I find is a list of targets that I want to leverage in my SEO plan for the 1st quarter of 2015. Besides targeting the home page. I’ll look at specific links, keywords and content building strategies to build traffic to the landing pages for these locations. 
S

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

November 26th, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Posted in CabinQuest

A Miserable Year for Organic Search

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Organic Search has been the cornerstone of Cabinquest.US traffic over the past several years. I have seen a steady increase in traffic every year with the peak season being in July and August as I indicate with the blue line in the graphic below. Right around March 20th, I noticed the first change. When I was expecting to see the traffic climb to summer highs, there was a drop and then flat line through summer.
 
 
 
As you can see, right around the 1st of July we had an outage and then until August 24th the flat line continues. Then on the 24th a very dramatic drop in traffic causes a significant drop in adsense revenue. The end result is that on this site that should have done $10k this year only did $5.9k.
 
So thinking through the year, considering the Google changes that have been talked about and the why’s and what for’s I’m trying to make sense of it. One of the things that I realized early in the year is that we had millions of mal-formed URL’s being generated from the site. Not sure how this happened but the site should only have 40-50,000 URL’s. So throughout the month of April I worked on routines to remove the URL’s.
 
 
 
I created a process to validate the URL’s and use a 301 redirect to send them to the correct URL or actually send a 410 to indicate it was just bad. As you can see in the chart above significant progress has been made on getting rid of the bad URL’s but there is still some to be made. I have about double the URL’s indexed as the site actually has.
 
During the summer months we also worked on fattening up the data. Many of the records I had were only address and contact information for the properties. So we researched the various rental properties and updated the general descriptions plus ensured that the address information was correct.
 
We also added structured data to the site so that each property was indexed with very particular information listed for each one. I hope that these two items will pay off as the site recovers. 
 
And if you notice in the top graph, my site is starting to recover. It’s a far cry from what I expected this year but hopefully I’ll see better traffic next year.
 


Written by steve@cabinquest.us

December 31st, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Posted in CabinQuest

Monday morning surfing

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Over the past couple of years I have noticed some interesting patterns at CabinQuest.US.  Monday morning surfers. Actually the trend is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we have more traffic than any other days of the week, but Monday is usually the highest. 

statsI imagine that after enjoying the weekend off from work people are already contemplating what they want to do for the next weekend . Fridays and Saturdays are typicallthe days with less traffic. More people are out enjoying their favorite weekend pastime. I suppose the traffic that we do get are from the folks that didn’t get something planned or are stuck at work.

The other interesting thing to me is that Bing is being much more effective at sending traffic to us than it used to be. I noticed that on August 20th it actually beat Google for the first time. If you consider the merging of Bing and Yahoo then they easily surpass Google. It makes it very evident that we shouldn’t just consider Google in our SEO practices. Bing and Yahoo are very much in the race. Plus there are so many other ways to get traffic to your site including social networks, legitimate links from other sites in the same markets, even print media.

What do you think? Is there a way we can use this type of information to better market to the users of our sites?

s

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

August 24th, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Posted in CabinQuest

Cabins, Resorts and Lodges offers 45 day trials

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CRLhomepageCabins, Resorts and Lodges announced yesterday that it is offering 45 day free listings to all new users who register in the next 30 days. This is an opportunity for everyone who is interested in listing their vacation property on a nationally marketed website to explore all of the features available on the site.

Included in the free offering are 5 listings per user. This can be 5 totally separate vacation rentals or a list of 5 cabins at one resort. Along with the 5 listings, each listing is allowed 6 pictures and a video to really display the properties unique character.

Each of the listings provides for all the standard information about vacation properties such as the number of rooms, how many people can sleep in the rental, the number of bathrooms, and total square feet. They list details such as the type of view that is provided, the type of holiday that is best suited for the stay, and many amenity types.

An online booking and availability calendar is included with minimal fees for the online transactions.  Check in/Check out times, policies and terms and conditions can be set as well.

Google maps provide the capability to provide exact location of the property. Since many cabins are not on well traveled roads they don’t always show up where they should on the map. Users are able to pinpoint exactly where their property is located. Additional fields are provided for a description of the area and directions on how to get to the property.

One of the best features is the SEO. The HTML page title and meta data for description and keywords can be set by the users. This gives them the opportunity to highlight features of the property that are indexed and displayed by search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The site also offers Spanish and French menu’s to help viewers around the world easier access to all of the listings.

Starting at $180 per year for 5 listings is a generous offering to property owners that want to get the most out of their money. Other options for highlighting listings within search lists and featuring listings on the home page are also available. More information can be found at http://www.cabinsresortsandlodges.com/sales.

s

 

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

July 17th, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Posted in CabinQuest

Data and application update project

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I am moving forward with a data update project for CabinQuest.US and Cabins, Resorts and Lodges. We have about 18,000 properties that do not have complete information. Mostly phone numbers, email addresses and URL’s. But also some descriptive text as well. This is just the first stage of validating all of our listings. CabinQuest.US started off primarily as a directory of vacation properties but will be moving to a subscription service. This will mean that the current records will be used to market to the property owners to get them to validate their information and subscribe to premium services. Or if they don’t want the premium services the record will revert to a “directory” type of listing with minimal features. All of this process requires that our data and the state of the record be much more comprehensive.

We have also opened up to the international markets with Cabins, Resorts and Lodges. Over the years I have had requests to market properties in other countries but our application wasn’t capable of doing that. We now have the data structure and application in place to get that done. The new application will also support multiple languages. French and Spanish are set up and ready to go and should be released in the near future. It also provides for much more robust content management and newsletter/communication systems to help maintain better relationships with both the property owner and vacation planner.

I’m really looking forward to the next few months and we get these new products and features fully functional.

S

Written by steve@cabinquest.us

July 11th, 2013 at 6:49 am

Posted in CabinQuest