A past Google algorithm update spelled potential trouble for companies within the travel industry. They are now seeing the effects of Google’s changes to its mobile search interface for trip planning.
If a user searches on Google for ‘where to go in Spain’ for example, they’ll be met with Google-controlled content. In this case, Barcelona and Madrid are the two most popular destinations.
The most important feature – controversially – is the ‘plan a trip on Google’ section. It allows users to book flights and hotels, as well as find restaurants.
Another change to the algorithm removes the importance of ‘organic’ placements in Google, meaning companies won’t be able to see their websites in the SERPs for key searches.
Presumably, this is Google’s way of encouraging travel firms to pay for Google ads. It is also attempting to simplify the user’s experience.
Users can filter their destination by selecting their interests. If for example, you’re particularly interested in ‘golf’, then the likes of Marbella, Mijas and Tenerife are the highest recommendations.
With large amounts of information pulled from the web, information on climate, maps and videos allow you to get a feel of exactly what your trip will be like.
In a report, Google said: “Today’s travellers are turning to the web to be inspired and take action—and the brands that help them at those moments will win hearts, minds, and dollars.”
How should travel brands react?
The biggest losers from this update are those which have authoritative, well-optimised sites which have been at the top of the first page of a Google search for their name. The likes of TripAdvisor, Yelp, Lonely Planet, major news and travel sites will almost certainly lose traffic.
However, the main thing in those companies’ favour is that people may still be looking for those sites intentionally. They may skim past Google’s new feature to reach these familiar sites – for the time being at least.
Google is pushing sponsored ads, so the most common and fool-proof way to ensure you can compete with other travel companies is to pay for ads on your key search terms. That’s what Google want you to do, and it’s not a totally outrageous idea.
You’ll ensure that you continually rank towards the top of page one, and you’ll be first in line with any future Google updates which may affect your brand.
Alternatively, longtail keywords are still coming up with organic searches which you should look to target. For example, if you’d typically expect people to search ‘places to visit in France’, you should now aim closer to your target market such as ‘Places to visit in France with young children’ or ‘cultural cities in France to visit’.
You can check what people are searching for by signing into your Google account and visiting Google Adwords. You can take this opportunity to produce some content around this and rank for it.
It’s also worth creating some helpful, shareable assets (such as an e-guide) which answers these questions for users. Link them back to your booking pages to funnel users to your main site.
By providing an effective social media strategy which engages users and encourages people to interact, you can drive traffic and gain a loyal fan base for your company.
Google’s update is yet another way of making them the primary search engine, enforcing creativity and out-of-the-box thinking for companies.
Those companies which come up with innovative ideas and work around the update will be best-positioned moving forward.