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Recent Google Updates Offer Opportunities and Obstacles for Travel Industry

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New Look for Results Pages

Something happened online early this year that you might not have even noticed. Search Google for “Ireland Adventure”. See anything different?

For some users, the design changes to Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) sparked outrage, while for many others it might seem like playing one of those picture games where you try to see what’s different.

So, what changed?

  • Font: It’s bigger and it’s no longer underlined
  • Results: There’s more space between them and fewer on the page
  • Ads: These used to have a pinkish-tinted background and now they look like any other result but with a yellow badge that says “Ad”

Why did it change?

One explanation for some of the biggest design changes to SERP in the fifteen year history of Google Search is the rise of mobile. Going for a consistent look across platforms means that when the mobile version needs more space so users can click around with their fingers, then the desktop version needs to change too. But critics say that the change makes the ads more camouflaged. Is a yellow icon sneakier — or less obvious — than the pinkish box we were used to seeing?

What does it mean for you?

Google yourself (your company or your organization). How does your result display look? Are you happy with it? Now Google your partners and your competitors. Optimizing your site for search results has a lot of moving parts, and we’re sorry to say that this might mean getting into the paid search game, but it could also mean a few small adjustments by your website administrator or a little research into other kinds of listings. Think of the design change as a reminder to check in on your SEO and see where you stand.

Google Authorship

There’s more to search engine marketing than simply being on top (either organically or with ads). Google Authorship can help if you’re writing quality articles about the industry or destinations by linking articles you publish all over the web with your Google+ profile. This way the search engine takes you into the equation as a content creator and your articles will pop up in relevant searches with your headshot. In addition, once you are established as an authority on a topic, your related articles will turn up as “more by this author” links under the relevant result.

Setting up Google Authorship is slightly technical (Google will walk you through it here or read Jason DeMers’ guide in the Huffington Post), but definitely worth figuring out if you are contributing good industry content to a variety of sources on the web.

Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph is a feature that Google released several years ago, but it’s been undergoing some changes and we’re seeing it more and more as we search the web on our phones, tablets and desktops. The Knowledge Graph is the boxed information that sometimes appears at the top right of a SERP.

So, a search for “Killarney, Ireland” serves up a quick snapshot of information you might need, like a map, a short definition and some places you might want to visit.

Google says it provides Knowledge Graphs because “When you search, you’re not just looking for a webpage. You’re looking to get answers, understand or explore.” Which is true for a lot of the browsing we do online. Think about the last Google search you performed. Were you trying to find a specific website or were you trying to find information?

Of course, as marketers of tours, we want a search for a destination to lead directly to our website where a potential customer can make a booking in just a few clicks. But as humans we understand the role of research in any good purchase (notice that the two top results on the SERP above are for travel related to Killarney).

“This is all built to help give people their basic search engine answers,” Jason DeMers writes in a Forbes article, “The good news is that it will work well for Google and its users. The bad news is that websites displayed in Google’s search results for these types of queries will see decreased traffic as users no longer need to click through to those websites to get their answers.”

What do you think? Can you see how Knowledge Graphs can help or hurt your online business?

Google Maps Gallery

Google Maps Gallery is a project that allows you (as an individual or an organization) to overlay information on top of a Google map.

These gallery projects become publicly searchable through Google Maps and general search engine queries. Most of the gallery projects are more akin to atlases with historic information, demographic trends and other data sets presented on regional maps. But the potential for destinations and tour operators is obvious.

For example, the Australian website Wildwalks has created a map of it’s popular walking routes around Sydney Harbor for a Gallery project.

The possibility of interactive activity/sightseeing maps or even PR opportunities to highlight historic events in an area should get travel marketers’ wheels turning. You do need to submit an application to Google to participate. For more information about Google Maps Gallery, read the FAQs.

Have you created a Google Map for the Gallery? Do you have an idea for how your organization could use this platform? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

1 Comment to Recent Google Updates Offer Opportunities and Obstacles for Travel Industry

  1. I think that the change in the appearance of the paid ads is to get more people to click on the paid ads in order to increase Google’s pay per click revenue. Their change to only show Google Analytics results for people who pay for ads was probably another way to try to increase revenue.

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