How Google’s Rank Brain is Changing Travel

In this article on how Google’s Rank Brain is Changing Travel we dig into the the whole idea of artificial intelligence, machine learning, behavior analysis and personalization are effecting travel marketing and tourism in general. We are on a wave of technology innovation and developments that are going to make many current platforms and ways of doing business obsolete.  It is daunting many established players who are beginning to see that their system may have to be rebuilt to meet the demands of the new age technology. At the same time automation and robotics have the power to disrupt tourism, business and lifestyles. Some worry that jobs will be lost and we consider how that might effect tourism.

Travel Brands Be Aware
googls rank brain and searchmetrics
As Google expands machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies in search results, the independent hotel and small travel brands have to understand this is going to have a major impact on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). It is changing what they display and the old rules old SEO just do not apply anymore. The larger travel companies have had an advantage as Google has and continues to rank their content higher that the similar content for less established brands. That advantage is growing as search continues to favor deep content.

Search Intent Now Overrides Traditional Metrics

More that ever, today’s search results are governed by the search intent.  Google’s Rank Brain is Changing Travel SEO by focusing on intent more than ever before. “Google is looking to understand the “real intention” behind words used by consumers, in a bid to make results more relevant”, says Marcus Tober, Searchmetrics CTO and Founder. He explains it this way:

“A searcher who types ‘things to remember for my beach holiday’ into the search box is most likely looking for a short list for example; someone who types ‘height Mont Blanc’ wants a single piece of information, while a query like ‘nice beach mallorca’ is most likely wanting a series of images and a ‘how to pack a suitcase’ query might be best served with video content.”

Article Size Keywords and Backlinks Falling Off The Radar

Size: Content size measured by the total words is also becoming a more important factor in determining which articles are listed on top of search.

That is an oxymoron: It’s in contradiction to what we know is happening in mobile. Considering that most search is moving to a mobile-first strategy, it stands to reason that content needs to be more concise. I wonder how Google will balance that. For our part we are recommending clients use hidden text that is seen by Google but only revealed to the user when they click on a MORE button. This has the advantage of making the content easier to scan on mobile and still gives the user the option to dig deep down.

seo keywords backlinks replaced ny search brainKeywords and Backlinks:
The holy grail of SEO: Keywords and Backlinks is losing its almighty importance:

“Google is no longer just trying to reward pages that use more matching keywords with higher rankings; it is trying to interpret the search intention and boosting the content that is most relevant to the query.”

Backlinks, Tober says, are still “strong correlation but things have changed, not least because mobile searches are now so popular and, generally, pages are more often than not “shared” or “liked”, rather than linked to.”


Rapid Change Ahead

We are in the perfect storm again. This time it is the collision of Mobile, Machine Learning, AI and Behavior Responsive Technology. These in turn are shaping travelers’ search behavior and their expectations. For a while now, travelers’ satisfaction with the travel search and shopping process has been falling.

Users Frustrated With Today’s Systems

Research by PhoCusWright shows that this is particularly true of emerging markets where there is less tolerance for the techy feel of the entire shopping and booking cycle. It is lower that more advanced markets like North America and the UK, where users are familiar with technology but, even then, approximately 50% of these users are frustrated. The actual findings are: Between 72% and 78% of travelers in Brazil, Russia and India were frustrated by their online travel experience – compared to 42% and 48% in the UK and US respectively.

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Emotional Intelligence Needed

With new systems that are based on advanced understanding of users’ needs, changes are coming to travel. A case in point is PersonaHolidays, which uses machine learning to find the best fit for the personality of the user.

How you feel has become as important as what you like.

The entire idea of personality is now becoming a feature we need to build into every stage of the travel shopping process. “There are simple triggers that can guide the decision making process, but quantifying these can be a daunting task.” Alberto Ferreira, UX researcher at eDreams ODIGEO.

Personality Matters

Understanding travelers and delivering the right experience requires moving from focusing on amenities and features to becoming more nuanced with emotional appeals that understand psychology.

Here too, machine learning is guiding the advance into having personality-based search and holiday matching systems. According to the above PhoCusWright study, the biggest complaint by travelers “was being forced to sift through too much information”. Clearly we need to get to the point of delivery – not pages full of options but a few well-targeted recommendations that come from understanding the traveler’s psyche.

Systems Have to be Rebuilt

We now have the tools to do that but it seems that not to manynew systems needed have seen the need or have the motivation to change. On top of that, the new system’s needs are entirely different and old legacy systems can’t be easy upgraded. Most have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

But, just like the cars companies are finally building electric cars, so too the OTA and technology travel companies will be forced to upgrade systems and build for the personal world.

It’s not going to be that easy to rebuild everything – new framing, new instant display, new data services and new profiling. Fortunately, new startups are showing up with innovative solutions, like the Holiday Matching of PersonaHolidays.

This app can be layered right on top of any booking engine and simply works as a new user-friendly interface. It uses modern behavior analyses, visualization, machine learning and personal matching built on a mobile-first platform using modern approaches, languages and systems. See more here >>>

New World Order with Automation and AI

2017 may very well be the year of the robot, says Victor Luckerson, Staff Writer, The Ringer. One of these minds is Andrew Ng, Baidu’s chief AI scientist. Ng headed the Google Brain initiative, which has an understanding of deep learning. “Instead of being programmed to respond to specific actions, a deep learning system is fed massive amounts of data from which it is able to discern patterns over time, loosely mimicking how the human mind absorbs information.” The key idea is that the new systems discern and predict things on their own. It’s what drives the new personality matching systems now. And it’s effect on travel is far-reaching.

While some fear that AI robots will take away jobs and leave a lot of people unable to contribute to the new reality,  travel is perhaps one of the last frontiers for human interface. Tourism is a very personal business and I can’t imagine going to discover a new exotic place and culture and end up chatting with a machine. There is always personal and emotional factors in every person’s travel decision. Travel is a complex industry, full of the nuances of a personalized approach. This makes it a lot harder for robots to take over the business.

Ng is generally optimistic on the future of humanity in robotic world.

“Personally, I’m not worried about us not having jobs. Each wave of disruption has created a lot of new jobs. I am worried about the mismatch. I think we need new ways to educate people for these new jobs that are being created. I think MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] will be part of the solution, but I do think we need more.” See more here >>>

Food for Thought

marketing hotels and tourism-websiteI started this blog with the intent of summarizing a couple of thoughts and got carried away with online research. Google’s Brain worries me because it is going to become so damned intelligent that no one will be in control.It will replace SEO and even Marketing. It will change the way we find and use information in untold ways. Just when I begin to think I understand a bit about how pages rank, how search works and how to supply information for travel shopping, Google changes the game completely. Now it’s the Brain that will simply change it all, and who will know what it is doing? I don’t suppose I will. Maybe I’ll grow up and get a life :-} Take care and be aware!


Article By Ian R. Clayton, CEO of AXSES – Author of Marketing Hotels and Tourism Book Series

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