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This week, we look at how get to the heart of merchant services, and getting the best out of Google

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Chris Lee

I set up a travel business two years ago, specialising in city-break hotels stays in Europe and North America. Since we are selling accommodation only, we are not bonded. We sell direct, essentially via the Internet. However, the one thing I have not been able to get in England is a merchant facility allowing us to sell in pounds and debit credit cards in sterling (we currently sell using our French authorisations and bank accounts in euros, which limits us in the British market).

chris transparentIn our two years of existence we have doubled our year-on-year turnover. Could you explain why card providers sometimes request a cash deposit, or the proceeds of each transaction being credited into our account on a deferred basis?
CC, London

troubleshooters - big ACard transactions over the Internet are considered to be a higher risk due to there being more chargebacks taking place in the “cardholder not present” environment versus face-to-face. For web transactions, there are now effective ways to reduce chargebacks and fraud for online transactions, visit for further details.

The key reason why security is sometimes sought by banks is the cardholder can claim their money back via a credit card if the travel company becomes insolvent between the deposit/final balance paid and checking in, or if the company fails to pay the hotel and there is no room booked for the customer. Under current regulations, there is no requirement to have a bond to protect funds where it is an accommodation-only booking. If there were, this would reduce the possible risk.

The potential risk is calculated by the bank, using the information provided by the customer, and then a judgement is made against the company’s financial standing. If security is required, this could be an insurance policy or bond, cash deposit, deferred settlement (funds held back for a set period of time before crediting the bank account), charge over specific assets, or a director s guarantee.

Alasdair Cross

Help. I’ve just typed my company name into Google and I can’t find it! How do I move up the list?
RS, Preston

troubleshooters - big AThis is a common problem with travel websites that have not been optimised for search engines. Firstly, submit your site to Google here.

It is important your web pages are found easily by search engine spiders and then ranked favourably. Unfortunately, this is a complex area – usually you’ll need help from a professional in a search engine optimisation agency or knowledgeable web designer. Sites need to have their content easily available and not locked up in databases. Therefore, individual ‘landing’ pages for resorts, properties and countries are a good idea, along with descriptive URLs for each page. The content must adhere to Google guidelines on appropriate number of keywords and descriptive tags. Search engines also favour sites that contain links in and out to other relevant or similar websites. Google has a technical resource page with answers to common problems.

Alternatively, you can pay to advertise using Google Adwords, Overture (Yahoo) or Miva, placing bids on search words related to the products you are selling. You are charged when a consumer clicks on your ad – hence ‘cost-per-click’.