Catherine "Cat" Seda

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The End of a Blog

Happy 2010!

It has been months since I’ve posted to my blog. And I’m okay with that. It’s the end of this blog. My business has been changing directions and I’m going with the flow to see where I go. So, instead of moving to WordPress or TypePad at this point, I’m leaving this blog as it is. There’s a decent amount of content here. Plus, I don’t want to break the links.

Thank you for reading my blog (and articles, newsletters and books). Every time I hear from a reader, it makes my day. I really enjoy helping my fellow entrepreneurs! You may see articles and/or blog posts from me in the future…perhaps in magazines or online communities…

Before I go, if you don’t have my Top 10 Internet Marketing Mistakes Report for 2010, you may want to download it now—it’s free.

Also, I’m often asked if I can recommend a few good freelance Web designers and graphic designers. I sure can. Here are great designers I’ve worked with over the years who could also be great resources for your business:

Sara Richardson-McCreery

Vic Spindler

Steven Kennedy

May this year bring you, your family and your business many blessings!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Search Engine Advertising Edition 2

If you haven’t picked up the second edition of “Search Engine Advertising” yet, get it today and get $200 in free clicks from Microsoft (the coupon code is in the book).

I also want to give Kevin Lee, PPC expert and CEO of Didit, big kudos for writing the second edition. In 2002-2003, Kevin’s team at Didit helped me catch click fraud and broken tracking links in my clients’ PPC accounts. I’ve always been impressed by how much valuable information Kevin shares—especially his use of statistics and case studies. I knew he would give the book a new perspective (PPC has really evolved since I wrote “Search Engine Advertising” in 2003 and there are so many different ideas to consider).

May the second edition help you with your PPC strategy! If you enjoy the book, please tell your colleagues about it. And if you could take a minute to write a book review on, we’d appreciate it.

I’ll see your site at the top!
Cat Seda

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hyatt Interview

Happy New Year! May 2009 be a year of joy, peace and prosperity. Will you be traveling this year? If so, you may want to check out yatt’it. “What’s yatt’it?” you ask.

yatt’it is Hyatt's online travel community. It was launched in March 2008, with 43 Hyatt destinations featured. Currently, over 200 Hyatt concierges are participating in yatt’it, providing their perspectives as local experts, and 37 destinations were recently added to yatt’it for a total of 80 destinations. Amy Wang, Associate Manager of Hyatt’s Gold Passport Marketing, talks about yatt’it…

What is yatt’it?
yatt’it is Hyatt's online travel community where Hyatt Gold Passport members and Hyatt concierges can share insider tips on destinations worldwide. Everyone is welcome to browse and email/social bookmark helpful tips to others; however, only Hyatt Gold Passport members and Hyatt concierges can post content. yatt’it offers travel tips and advice from three key sources: 1) Hyatt Gold Passport members, 2) Hyatt concierges, 3) Frommer's

We also have a partnership with FlightStats--a web based company providing real-time airport and airline information worldwide. Our partnership with FlightStats allows yatt’it users to use the FlightStats tool right within yatt’it without having to leave the site. There is also a mobile version of the site for users on the go:

How many visitors a month does your community have?
We are currently averaging 65,000 unique visitors a month with a 95% repeat visitation rate. There are 8,000+ yatt’it members. More Gold Passport members are joining yatt’it and new Gold Passport members are joining the program via yatt’it everyday.

How did you, and how do you today, grow your community?
During yatt’it development, we had an Alpha and Beta development phase where we invited Hyatt Gold Passport members and over 100 concierges worldwide to visit the development site to contribute their tips and provide feedback. Our launch communications plan included emails to our Hyatt Gold Passport members as well as print, online media and out of home advertising. yatt’it is also thoroughly imbedded throughout Hyatt websites. As we continue to add more destinations and features to yatt’it, we are communicating with our Hyatt Gold Passport members on a continuous basis.

How do you measure your community’s success?
For quantitative measurement we look at site traffic and membership growth, as well as engagement metrics such as posting volume, page views and tips viewed per visit, time spent on site, to name a few. We also monitor activities and results as yatt’it members cross over to other Hyatt sites and their activities on those sites.

Since yatt’it launched, the site has also been featured in many print publications (the October 2008 Harvard Business Review) and team members have been invited to speak at conferences regarding yatt’it (TravelComm 2008 in Chicago).

What specific impact has yatt’it had on Hyatt’s business?
We have data that shows members who have not had a recent stay with Hyatt are still engaging with our brand through yatt’it, which is very important to us. This allows us to further identify who these people are and continue engaging them with Hyatt and Gold Passport. Even though yatt’it is about Hyatt destinations, we have also received occasional feedback regarding our hotels and services through yatt’it which then becomes a great opportunity for us to engage directly with these customers.

Can you share a “sneak peek” at what you might do in 2009?
We are currently still working on these enhancements with no ETA confirmed. However, we most recently added the social bookmarking tool which allows users to post their favorite posts on Facebook and iGoogle pages.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

VirtualTourist Interview

How did VirtualTourist, created by two travelers in 1999, become the colossal community it is today with over 1 million registered members? According to Giampiero Ambrosi, VT’s general manager, the key is to listen.

What is VirtualTourist?
VirtualTourist is a worldwide travel community where travelers and locals share travel advice and experiences. Among other things, we offer tips and reviews about everything from hotels to restaurants to nightlife, but aside from that we also have a real world community with active forums and offline meetings.

How many visits a month does your community have?
1 million registered members, 6 million unique users per month, 30 million page views per month, and 25 marriages (that we know of).

What are your community’s most popular features?
Our forums are hugely popular--85% of our forum questions are answered within 48 hours and each question receives an average of seven replies. We also monitor our forums very carefully, so unlike a lot of other forums, there’s no free-for-all arguing or “advertising” to wade through.

Our off-line meetings, which are entirely member-organized, are a big part of what makes us so popular. Sometimes the meetings are just a small group of people who get together for a day of sight-seeing and sometimes it’s a group of 200 who gather for an entire weekend. A lot of really hard work goes into them, and it’s something our members really look forward to.

How did you, and how do you today, grow your community?
It’s really the wealth of information on our site that grows our community. We also just use good old-fashioned customer service. We listen to what members have to say, use their suggestions, and do whatever we can to make their experience great.

How do you measure your community’s success?
Certainly we keep track of things like traffic and press mentions, but, although it sounds hokey, we really measure our success by things like member feedback. We’ve had people tell us that the site has changed their lives, that they were inspired to travel because of the site, or that they can’t imagine not being a member.

At what point did VirtualTourist become a successful business?
The business was started in 1999 with a lot of optimism and the dot-com bubble burst in March of 2000, so it was really a rough road. For a while we were running the business out of an apartment and surviving on coffee punch cards. It’s been profitable and successful for a long time and the future looks really bright. In July 2008, VirtualTourist was acquired by TripAdvisor.

How does VirtualTourist generate revenue?
Advertising is our main source of revenue, but that said, there’s a very clear line between editorial content and advertising. We don’t spare an advertiser bad reviews and we wouldn’t include a positive review just because someone is advertising with us.

Can you share a “sneak peek” at what you might do in 2009?
Aside from a whole new look, we’re going to make the site much more user-friendly, interesting, and above all, fun. Additionally, we plan to give our community more options to participate in sporting or charity events around the world. We had sort of a dry run this fall when we sponsored a VirtualTourist team in a motor race across the Caucasus Mountains and we’re already putting together a few more off-line events like that. We’re also in the planning stages of creating awards for some of our top contributors, which is something we’ve wanted to do for a while. All in all it should be a very exciting year.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How to Win Sales and Influence Spiders

I forgot to second book, "How to Win Sales & Influence Spiders," is now available in Polish and Japanese! To get the book in Polish, you can contact Malgorzata Jaroszewska (Malgorzata.Jaroszewska[@] To get the book in Japanese, you can contact Yoshio Kimura (Yoshio.Kimura[@]

I *hope* the second edition of my first book, "Search Engine Advertising," will be available next year. We shall see...


Monday, December 01, 2008

Extravigator Interview

Do you have a taste for luxury travel? Then consider joining Extravigator to trade tips with like-minded travel enthusiasts. With the abundance of travel communities on the web, Extravigator stands out by reaching out to a specific type of traveler. Dan Richman, founder of Extravigator, explains how NOT appealing to a mass market is best for his travel forum.

What is Extravigator?
Extravigator is an independent and open forum for world travelers, with discriminating taste, to share their advice and insider knowledge. Although it is free to join, not everyone who applies for membership is granted one. The application process is deceptively simple. Depending on what hotel people provide as their "favorite hotel" during the application process, we either grant or deny membership. It's a very informal way of weeding out those who do not fit the profile of our ideal member. Each application for membership is individually reviewed.

How many visits/unique visitors a month does your community have?
We launched in October 2007. Today we have roughly 4,000 unique visitors a month and growing. We also have about 850 members.

What are your community’s most popular features?
Photo uploads in comments.

How did you, and how do you today, grow your community?
Extravigator is a slow growing community. The main goal is to attract stylish travelers. It's not designed for mass market appeal. So, much of Extravigator's growth comes from word of mouth.

How do you measure your community’s success?
By the amount of participation in discussions. The home page of Extravigator currently states that there are now 227 discussions that have been started. On average, most discussions have between 3 to 6 comments in each discussion. Generally, the amount of discussion would be quantified as the number of comments per day. It's difficult to give a percentage of increased traffic since traffic has fluctuated significantly in the first year of operation. Oddly enough, the largest traffic spike came from an obscure web design blog named CSSMania. Other large traffic spikes came from blogs such as Luxist, All The Best, and an insignificant mention on Gawker. The LA Times also featured Extravigator in their Travel section earlier this year, but this was only detected from a large increase in traffic from Los Angeles. Most of these mentions often translated to a few hundred unique visitors for a 24-48 hour period and quickly tapered off after that.

At what point did (or will) Extravigator become a successful business?
In many ways, Extravigator already is a successful business. It's already made a slight profit in its first year. But it has a long way to go. The site will truly be successful when every discussion on the front page is less than 24 hours old at any given time.

How does Extravigator generate revenue?
Extravigtator has only had banner advertising since its inception. We are a member of the Halogen Publisher network.

Can you share a “sneak peek” at what you might do in 2009?
We're always looking for new ways to engage our members and get them talking about the best of travel...that's what we'll be focusing on in 2009. Right now we are focused on maintaining our traffic growth through the recession.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Travellerspoint Interview

What does it take to launch a successful travel community with more than 30,000 visitors a day from more than 220 countries? Sam Daams, co-founder of Travellerspoint, shares some of his experiences. Thank you, Sam!

What is Travellerspoint?
Our corporate objective is to "enrich the travelling experience by offering services, content and products that have significant perceived and added value for travellers worldwide.” In plain English, I'd say we try and create features that are not only useful for travellers on the road, but also help bring them together to share their thoughts, ideas and values.

When did you launch Travellerspoint?
We first discussed the idea for Travellerspoint in a MSN Messenger session in the middle of 2002, while I was living in the Netherlands and my brother, Peter, was living in Australia. Just three months later we launched Travellerspoint. (Check out a screenshot from the early days.)

How many visitors does your community have?
30,000 unique visitors per day, 3 million page views per month, members in over 220 countries.

What are your community’s most popular features?
The forum is a favourite. Because we code all our features ourselves, we can put in place great anti-spam solutions to keep it one of the cleanest and most spam-free travel forums out there. The photography and blogs features are two other favourites, and we're working especially hard to have our wiki travel guide added to that list!

How did you, and how do you today, grow your community?
Early on it was primarily by reaching out to other travel sites to get the word out. I think it was much easier to get a personal connection back then with other website owners than it is today, but today getting your new site on TechCrunch will get you the kind of early publicity we could only dream of back in 2002. Then again, early articles on Lonely Planet and a feature on the BBC World program 'Click Online' were big boosts for us too. Today, it's through a mix of member referrals, pay-per-click, Facebook and search engine traffic.

At what point did Travellerspoint become a successful business?
From early 2004, both Peter and I have been working full time on the site and paying ourselves a modest salary from site revenues for that work. If that's the definition of “successful business” then early 2004 is probably the point, so about 1.5 years after starting up. Obviously, we worked a year and a half with no salary, so an investor wouldn't view that the same way.

How do you measure your community’s success?
Personally, I think member count, forum/photo/blog and wiki contributions are the most important. Traffic will generally increase based on those metrics. Press mentions are especially fun to monitor, but I don't find them particularly representative of the health of a community. There are plenty of sites out there that get a lot of press mention due to their founders/investors and have disappeared 6-12 months later.

How does Travellerspoint make money?
It's currently a combination of advertising and sales of products/services (accommodations, insurance, RTW tickets, etc.).

Can you share a “sneak peek” at what you might do in 2009?
One thing we're really excited about is our new Social Bookings concept. This has just been released out of beta in our budget accommodation area. Early feedback is extremely promising and it combines the best of online and offline worlds together.

Bobsleds and Spa Trips

It has been a year since I’ve blogged? Wow. How have you been? What have you been doing?

This year has been a rollercoaster for many entrepreneurs, including me. Swimming keeps me sane. Water is so relaxing…another reason why I love spas! Travel refreshes my spirit, too.

Talking about travel, when I wrote an article for Entrepreneur about company retreats called Go Out and Play I got to travel to places like Miraval Resort (the Spirit Flight spa treatment is an amazing experience) and Utah Olympic Park (bobsledding rocks). And as an 18-year spa enthusiast, I was so excited to share spa tips in an article for Girlfriend Getaways magazine. One of my goals for 2009 is to do more travel writing. Need a freelance travel writer or a secret spa shopper? Call me—my bag is packed. :-)

I’m also a team member of Spa Alchemy, a spa consulting group founded by my brilliant sister Dr. Jen Seda (she co-authored "Choosing Brilliant Health" which was published in May 2008—go Jen Jen). Luckily for me, we both love spas and travel.

As an ode to travel, I’ll be sharing several success stories of online travel communities. I hope you enjoy these interviews and I thank the participants for sharing their insight with us. Happy travels and happy marketing this holiday season!