3 Things to Know About How SEO is Changing

Search engine optimization – or, SEO – is changing dramatically and in a number of ways. Some are always asking if SEO is dead. Others have long said declaratively that indeed, SEO is dead.

SEO and the search results haystack.

Help readers find that needle in the search engine results haystack.

In reality, SEO does still exist as a way of making web sites accessible and more friendly to readers and search engines. There are certainly things you can do to help your idea or business be more visible via search engines. It just isn’t as expensive as it used to be.

And, that’s a good thing.

1. Search Engine Algorithms Are Smarter. Much Smarter.

In the past, SEO was about tricking search engines by including lots of keywords used in ways that were only search engine friendly and not reader friendly. That resulted in less than engaging content. But, people got found, and it worked for a time.

Now we know that Google’s search engine algorithms utilize artificial intelligence in ways that help search engine results closely mimic how a human brain would search and process the information. That means your content can again be geared toward the reader. As it should be. So, from now on, one of the best SEO practices you can use is to first determine what is important to your audience.

2. Multimedia and Images Are Increasingly Important.

Why? If for no other reason, they are more engaging. Some time ago, Facebook saw engagement increase by 65% once they made their Timeline feature more image-oriented. That’s a pretty telling phenomenon.

The results of more engaging content means more quality traffic and greater potential for sharing and links. And, that will help boost your search engine ranking.

But, the key to images being search engine friendly is to include alt texts – what does the image depict? How does it help tell your story? And, don’t forget those filenames. There are things you can do to help with file organization just as much as SEO.

3.  Fresh, Indexable Content.

In addition to the applicability of content to a specific topic, search engines are now looking for a broader scope of relevance – and content that is fresh is considered more relevant than older, stale content. So, keep those web sites and virtual tours up-to-date.

And, if that content is fresh, then you need to be letting search engines know that its been updated. Sitemaps are the key to seeing that content gets indexed and that search results keep up with your fresh content.

How All of This SEO Stuff Applies to Whitepoint Smart Tours

Because Whitepoint smart tours are available to include in web sites and specifically in WordPress sites, we’ve worked to make sure that Whitepoint helps make scape content search engine friendly.

For example, all scapes are indexable by search engines with a sitemap generated on our servers. By its very nature, Whitepoint helps content creators mix text with engaging, interactive images – while keeping it all up-to-date as easily as possible.

And, in the end, creating content that is engaging and delivers what your audience wants is the best SEO strategy.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites (Part 2)

In Part 1 of Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites, we explored some things to keep in mind when building travel oriented websites that are available to mobile users.

One of the most important parts of mobile travel websites is the visual content. And, that’s where a virtual tour – or better yet, a smart tour – plays a role.

Tours in Mobile Travel Websites

Whether you are marketing a hotel, resort, golf course, or summer camp, you know the importance of sharing the best your property has to offer. Luckily for the tourism and hospitality industries, there is no shortage of compelling visuals to attract visitors.

For years, the virtual tour was a way of providing a walkthrough of a place – as with real estate or hotel properties. The problem with virtual tours is that they now have to compete with a lot of other visual content, and in comparison, they often lack compelling detail to make them stand out. That’s a nice swimming pool, but is it mineral or chlorine? How deep is the deep end? What about the shallow end? Is there a swim up bar? An image doesn’t effectively answer all those questions.

Now, add the complication of mobile devices, and the platforms for virtual tours of the past have an even tougher time competing. If you are looking to build a tour, find out if the platform requires Flash. (Yes, they’re still out there.) If so, you’ll likely want to reconsider. Support and the required workarounds continue to make Flash problematic for many users.

Different Formats for Smart Tours

A tour image to introduce a smart tour

A good introductory graphic can include both a logo and a loosely drawn map. The map doesn’t have to be provided by a cartographer – often, a simple representation can have a bigger impact for mobile travel websites.

So how do you arrange a tour of your destination? First, ask yourself how you want to present the destination. Will your tour attract new customers? Or, will it serve existing visitors? The answers to those questions may guide your format decisions.

We’ve found that there are three distinct ways that provide the best user experience and simplify content collection.

For our purposes here, we’re going speak in terms of building your tour using the Whitepoint platform and its scape/scene/whitepoint logic. However, the basic principles remain the same regardless of how you structure your tour.

The northeast portion of our sample city tour for mobile travel websites

Breaking your map image up into geographical areas can create a more compelling experience and enable you to add more detail. For example, breaking the previous introductory tour image up into the city’s quadrants can provide for focus on a particular area or district of the travel destination.

Break Your Scape (Tour) Into Different Portions of a Map – This approach is good when you have greater detail to share.

  • Scape Image (Introductory Image): The map. Scene points can mark the different areas of your map. This enables you to break it down into the Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest quadrants for example.
  • Scenes: Each scene is a different area of your location’s map.
  • Whitepoints: The different places within each area of the larger map . . . for example: a lodge, a dock, or a restaurant.

Use Your Map as a Single Scene – This approach is good when you have less detail to share.

  • Scape Image: A nice logo or introductory graphic.
  • Scene: The map image of your destination.
  • Whitepoints: The places that are plotted on your map. If you don’t have many locations, this is fine. But, if you have lots of points of interest to plot, it won’t make for a pleasant experience on mobile. This is the main reason for breaking the map down into areas as described in the first option above.

Point of View Walking Tour – Take some pictures of your destination location on a nice day and provide a point of view perspective walking tour of the property.

  • Scape Image: A map graphic – perhaps with a logo or introductory graphic included.
  • Scenes: Start at the welcome center or visitor arrival area. Each scene is a representation of what your visitors will see.
  • Whitepoints: The places and points of interest your visitors see along the way. Consider the details regarding the swimming pool mentioned above, for example.

However you decide to arrange your tour, don’t forget the importance of meaningful content on mobile travel websites. Travel destinations are perfect for providing compelling visuals and useful information – leverage this advantage.

Do you have questions about arranging a smart tour or gathering your content for mobile travel websites? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below or reach out on Twitter – @WhitepointMobi.

Updated August 25, 2016.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites (Part 1)

Mobile travel websites – that is, travel oriented websites that are available to mobile users – have become critical for any destination looking to attract visitors. Hotels, resorts, summer camps, arts districts, and even entire cities are now realizing that they need these sites as part of a larger strategy to compete for attention . . . and of course, tourism dollars.

Think About It: Mobile and Travel = Peanut Butter and Jelly

Travel and mobile devices on the beach

Mobile travel websites help visitors determine not only where to visit, but where to go once there. Are you taking another selfie over there?

Mobile and travel go together like peanut butter and jelly. Visitors to your website – and destination – are more likely than ever to use a device. Statistics on mobile usage and adoption are (not surprisingly) through the roof. But, for the travel and hospitality industries, aggressive adoption is even more of a no-brainer.

After all, just like their devices, the travel audience is mobile: They are on the go.

What’s surprising is that so many in the hospitality and travel industries still have websites that aren’t even mobile-friendly. Worse, Google even dings you for that now – one reason they offer a free mobile-friendly test for web sites.

There is really no reason to ignore the mobile-friendly requirement. There are many tools to help ensure that website content is handled automatically according to device and screen size. This practice is called responsive design.

If you’re using WordPress, a third party theme such as those provided by StudioPress can do the responsive design work for you. And, they do it extremely well.

The Different Forms of Mobile Travel Websites

There are many forms that mobile travel websites can take. Depending on the intention of your site, consider providing different flavors and amounts of content types. Reviews, ratings, blogs, deal finders . . . the big thing is keeping content engaging. Over time, you may find that your audience is looking for certain content over other kinds. If so, adjust accordingly. Keep it flexible, and take time to understand your audience.

The Importance of Visual Content for Mobile Travel Websites

Whatever the content, one thing is for sure: A mobile travel website must include lots of photos. User expectations are also shifting in such a way as to expect new and different images regularly. It’s understandable. In the age of Facebook and Instragram, it isn’t too much to expect regularly updated content.

And, let that serve as a reminder – be sure the website ties in social media. But, don’t rely solely on social media. There are still a lot of things that websites do better than a Facebook page or Twitter account can do.

And that brings us to what is often still thought of as a virtual tour or walkthrough . . . a smart tour. This format can help attract new visitors or help others better understand what you like or don’t like about a particular destination.

Our next portion of this series – Part 2 of Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites – will be dedicated to incorporating smart tours using the Whitepoint framework into a mobile travel website.

Do you like (or dislike) the ideas above? Other ideas? Questions? Drop us a comment below or reach out on Twitter @WhitepointMobi

Updated August 25, 2016.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Our Virtual Campus Tour Software Is Now An Even Better Deal

We now have an additional benefit that is exclusive to schools: We are offering a free uplift for all academic institutions from our Pro Plan to our Premier Plan.

This makes a virtual campus tour solution even more affordable for any school – from universities to charter schools to daycare facilities.

Here’s How our Academic Offer Works

If you’re a school or part of a school and want to use Whitepoint to provide a virtual campus tour, you’re in the right place. Maybe you want to use Whitepoint as an educational technology tool. No problem. Simply view our Pro Authoring option. Order, and we’ll confirm that you’re an academic institution based on your email address.

Here’s What Our Academic Offering Means for Your School

Whitepoint virtual campus tour demonstration

Whether a small private school or a globally recognized campus, Whitepoint is now an affordable virtual campus tour software for all.

This offer provides plenty of benefits that are perfect for schools:

  • More smart tours that can be built by students, departments, and staff.
  • Custom branding capabilities.
  • Greatly reduced cost.
  • Low, affordable monthly subscription.

Technically, this is a limited time offer, so we can’t guarantee that it will be around forever. If you have been looking for a virtual campus tour solution, this is a great chance for your school.

A Virtual Campus Tour and Educational Technology In One Package

Now, your school can provide a virtual campus tour for your web site and mobile devices without taking on app development or reconstructing your web site. Building a virtual campus tour can also offer students experience in content management and curation as an educational technology tool. Or, you may wish to use Whitepoint as an educational tool in the classroom.

With the benefits of our Premier Plan, you can construct up to 10 scapes – for example, you may wish to break your virtual campus tour into separate smart tours. For most schools, 10 scapes is plenty. For larger schools, separate departments and even classrooms can have their own authoring subscriptions.

Several Virtual Campus Tour Plans Available

Compare the Basic, Pro, and Premier offerings today. Order the Pro plan, and we’ll do the rest.

Reach out or comment below and tell us about your virtual campus tour needs. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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Introducing Our Virtual Tour Partner Program

In retail, medical, real estate, and countless other industries, clients increasingly need the ability to share meaningful and compelling visual information – a smarter virtual tour of products or places.

Virtual Tour Meet Smart Tour

Virtual Tour Partner Program for Web Design Firms and Freelance Web Designers

Web design firms and freelancers who want to offer smarter virtual tours and a mobile app presence to clients should sign up for our Virtual Tour Partner Program.

Whitepoint offers its smarter virtual tour (or, smart tour) framework that enables delivery of that information via web sites, of course. But, one unique advantage with Whitepoint is the mobile app presence that clients get immediately  – content is updated in one place and simultaneously reflected across web site and mobile app.

Web designers and web design firms know their customers and the opportunities there are for providing more compelling information about places and products.

Hence, The Virtual Tour Partner Program

Whitepoint is now offering its Virtual Tour Partner Program to web designers – freelance or firm – providing an immediate new revenue opportunity.

Just for signing up, web designers and firms can get the Premium Package for the cost of our Pro Package – just $29.99 a month.

Almost half the cost.

And as if that’s not enough . . .

  • There is no limit to the number of packages you can buy and sell.
  • There are no restrictions on what you charge your customer or clients.
  • There is no limit to the potential related services you can offer in providing Whitepoint smart tours to your customers.
  • You’ll get priority support and attention from our team whenever necessary.

Find out more of the details and how to sign up at Whitepoint’s Partner Program page.

Potential Customers and Uses

We’ve found some of the greatest potential in real estate (especially luxury home virtual tour uses), medical offices, retail stores, museums, galleries, and cultural districts, for example.

But, as we’ve said earlier – designers, you know your customers best. And, we’re sure you’ll find new applications for the Whitepoint smart tour framework. We’re continually amazed by some of the ideas we see. In fact, we love sharing them here in our virtual tour technology blog.

Interested? Contact us.

Happy #whitepointing!

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Building a Free Custom Tour App with Whitepoint

Everybody wants their own custom app. What few realize is that beyond the substantial upfront expense, you now have ongoing expenses, tour app updates, and you’ve got to drive traffic to that app as well – just like a web site.

And for most, driving traffic to a web site is a tough enough challenge.

So Many Custom Apps, So Little Time

Before we get into how Whitepoint offers free custom tour app capability to almost anyone, let’s clear the air on one topic: There are already a lot of apps out there.

Custom tour app for a village view

You bring a unique perspective and viewpoint to your subject – whether it’s a town, a school, an exhibition, or a piece of real estate. A custom tour helps you communicate that perspective.

Launching another tour app means taking on more marketing duties to push that app. Jeremy Olson details the uphill challenges in a great Smashing Magazine article on app marketing.

Save yourself some of that trouble. Whitepoint has designed its tour app building platform so that you can focus more on the content generation for the tour, than developing, packaging, and getting people to download yet another app.

Leverage an Already Existing Free App

As a result, when you build a tour using Whitepoint, you’re not generating another new app – your tour (called a scape) is immediately available via iOS and Android from the free Whitepoint app.

Yes, people will have to download the Whitepoint app to access your tour, but you’re already starting out with several advantages including an existing user base on a tested tour app technology.

This also means that people won’t technically be downloading your standalone custom app – instead, they’ll be viewing your own custom Whitepoint scape. If you have a physical location, we even have nifty stickers that you can use claiming your location as a Whitepoint site and providing the QR code for download. And, that’s one more thing you won’t have to do.

But Wait, There’s More (To this App)

Your scape is also simultaneously available to desktop Web surfers with our ScapeViewer ™ technology. That means that with a simple snippet of code on your web site, you can link the same tour that your app users are taking. No app download necessary.

This also means that you’re immediately synching content delivered via iOS, Android, and desktop browsers at one time and in one place: at the Whitepoint Authoring Panel. And, yes, that’s right – you’re not updating content for three different platforms separately.

So, How Do You Get Tour App Capability for Free?

For most, Basic Authoring is more than enough capability. If additional capabilities are needed – including custom branding opportunities – there are options with expanded features for that. Get started with Whitepoint right now.

For your visitors or tour users, the Whitepoint app download is free.

And, how do you start building your scape? Take a look at our YouTube video on beginning authoring. In short, it involves little more than building a Facebook profile, adding pictures, and tagging them.

A Real World Example: The Arts Community

There are a number applications for Whitepoint across countless industries. For example, let’s look at the arts:

Odds are that you’ve thought of a similar application given the above examples: How about real estate tours? Office tours? Medical office tours?

And, once you have your scape built, you have a lot of flexibility in terms of driving your business. We’ve studied a few innovative ideas for content delivery using Whitepoint, including Google TV and tour kiosks. You can also save your scape to dedicated tablets which visitors use to access the tour app onsite.

This is all fun stuff – and it’s a lot cheaper and less time consuming than taking off with your own custom app development project. Got ideas or comments? Just send them to us below or by Twitter, Facebook, or Google +. We’d love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, happy #whitepointing.

Updated March 28, 2016.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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3 Ways Your Web Agency Can Make Money With Whitepoint

Is your web agency or online marketing business looking to expand its revenue streams? If so, great! And, if not . . . you should be.

Luckily, there are a number of ways you can drive revenue with Whitepoint depending on the revenue goals and business model of your specific web agency. We’re sharing a few of them here based on recent conversations and questions from businesses like yours.

The Key Is Flexibility for Your Web Agency

As you may already know, we offer free plans for anyone to build smarter virtual tours of places and things. As a web agency, your value is the ability to generate and maintain useful content, and that’s what your clients demand from you.

The Whitepoint platform is designed with maximum flexibility in mind. That means you as a web agency can deliver content in a number of ways, as you’ll see below.

We provide the platform to help manage and structure both the content itself plus its delivery.

And, you? You get to focus on delighting your clients.

#1 – Deliver a Custom Tour App At a Fraction of the Cost

Just turn the key - opportunity for your web agencyWe offer the ability to deliver custom iOS and Android apps that deliver a customized smarter tour experience utilizing the Whitepoint platform and tour logic. You get immediate access to the back end, administrative, and CMS style infrastructure that helps you design, manage, update, and deliver that smarter content.

This means greater, ongoing revenue opportunities for your web agency. Interested? Reach out.

#2 – Offer a Custom Tour App That Integrates Multiple Client Accounts

Just turn the key - 2 of 3 opportunities for a web agencyDo you have an existing or prospective client such as a cultural district, real estate development, tourism bureau, or region? Or, do you see an opportunity to create one?

Whitepoint can be used to provide an app-based smarter virtual or walking tour of the area. Accounts – such as restaurants, museums, and retail shops – pay to be included as stops along the tour either as scenes or whitepoints.

And guess what? Each of those stops – whether restaurant, museum, or shop – are candidates for their own Whitepoint scapes too. Sound good? Let us know how we can help.

#3 – Manage Whitepoint Scapes For Customers

Just turn the key - 3 of 3 opportunities for a web agencyIf you or your customer aren’t feeling the whole custom app thing, you and your clients can leverage Whitepoint’s free iOS and Android apps to deliver smarter virtual and walking tours. You’ll want either our Pro or Premier authoring subscription plan for your client.

From there, you design, manage, and update content to your client’s wishes. We’re here to help your web agency leverage this opportunity.

Finally, Whitepoint Makes It Even More Profitable For Your Web Agency

As a web agency, you qualify for our Virtual Tour Partner Program which offers deep discounts to you . . . just for being an agency.

Need help or more ideas? Got questions about a particular job? We want to hear from you – reach out today.

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Virtual Touring Software for a Variety of Industries

We’re continually amazed at the variety of businesses and industries that work with Whitepoint’s virtual touring software platform. One interesting idea recently came from a caterer who wanted to use a virtual touring software to showcase their catering displays and menu.

It makes sense – it’s one thing to see a plate of pasta. It’s another to also understand the ingredients in that pasta or to be able to identify it among other dishes in a dazzling display of culinary delight.

Virtual Touring Software for . . . Everyone?

photo of coffee shop display case with lots of delicious options - how could virtual touring software be used?

It’s just a case in a coffee shop right? But what are all of those delicious options? And how can you use virtual touring software to share them with customers?

The fact is that virtual touring software has a place as a digital marketing tool in almost any business or industry. And, this is only becoming more pronounced as reliance on images increases in marketing along with the proliferation of mobile devices. People want image-rich content. And, they want it more and more on their mobile devices.

The big difference is how we define “virtual touring” and the virtual touring software behind it. As we’ve stated elsewhere, at Whitepoint we’re working toward a goal of smarter, more interactive virtual touring geared toward mobile devices.

The need for smarter content in real estate marketing is obvious. But there are tons of other industries and businesses where the need is developing: hotels, resorts, automotive, retail, museums, galleries, restaurants . . . you name it.

How Users Find Your Business’ Tour in the Whitepoint App

Screenshot from Whitepoint virtual touring software

Screenshot from the Whitepoint app showing the search box and “find by category” button on the app’s main screen.

Users need to download the Whitepoint app for iOS or Android. Once they have that, your tour can be accessed by browsing the categories displayed on the right of the Whitepoint app’s main screen.

Additionally, they can search for your tour using the search box in the top right of the Whitepoint app’s main screen.

As an author, you have the ability to categorize any scape you build and to add descriptive text that helps users find it.

Depending on the nature of your business – if your users are in an on-site scenario such as the lobby of a building or in a museum exhibition – a little signage and QR codes can assist them in the two step process they need to follow: 1) Download the app and 2) Locate your scape.

Even More Options for Sharing and Highlighting Your Scape

As if that isn’t enough, our virtual touring software offers the ability to simultaneously provide your tour for users on desktop computers outside of the Whitepoint app.

And, if you sign up for our Premier Authoring subscription plan, you can have your scape featured on the app’s main screen for even easier access.

Curious how Whitepoint’s virtual touring software can be used in your business? We want to help. Reach out here or contact us at Whitepoint

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#EdTech in Action: South Asheboro Middle School

With a little help from technology, students at South Asheboro Middle School – as well as their community – have benefited greatly from the efforts of enterprising staff at their school.

EdTech in Action

Walking tour app and EdTech

Students at South Asheboro Middle School created a Whitepoint scape to guide others on a walking tour of their historic downtown. Above, their custom scape image – with scene points – depicts the town.

Featured recently in a community publication, their story is an excellent case study in how education technology tools can enrich student learning.

As Barry Barber, technology facilitator at South Asheboro Middle School, states in the article:

From researching the history of Asheboro at the public library to taking a tour with a local historian, the students have learned a lot . . . Putting together the information into a mobile app has given our students real-world experience in collaboration, creative thinking, and problem solving.

A recipient of a small education grant in 2014, the group has spread their technology purchases across disciplines, stretching the value of those tools and maximizing their educational application.

But, at the heart of any effort like this are good people that make things happen.

A Featured Whitepoint Scape

We’re proud to present the Historic Downtown Asheboro walking tour – built by students at South Asheboro Middle School – as a featured Whitepoint scape, available in the free Whitepoint app on iOS or Android.

Good work students and educators!

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The Art Basel Miami Week Guide 2014

Art lovers, each year we update and edit our guide to the Art Basel Miami week fairs. Well, it’s that time again.  If you’ve never been, it’s unbelievable the amount of art (and number of people) that descend upon Miami. The weather isn’t bad either.

Want To Include Your Fair or Installation in Our Art Fair Guide?

Use the contact tab or tweet @WhitepointMobi with #ArtBaselMiami and let us know.

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