Social media is supplanting search as the go-to source for discovering content, according results of a survey of active online users conducted by Publicis’ Mediavest | Spark unit and BuzzFeed. The study, which was conducted by Forrester Consulting, surveyed 1,500 18- to 55-year-olds, and found social media is replacing search as the dominant means they use to find media content. A majority of the respondents identified social media as their “most preferred source” for reading, viewing or listening to content about topics they care about. Source: Social Supplants Search For Content Discovery, Millennials Twice As Likely To Get News That Way 05/11/2016
WHY Search is failing
f you every wondered why SEO is not bring the returns it did just a while ago, then you will understand that social media is apart of the answer. More users are going to social sites to find what they are looking for and search is falling as users discover other venues to search on. That is not the only reason why search engines are failing travel.
Travel marketing is changing as OTAs move to dominate hotel and tourism bookings and hoteliers learn to love and hate them. They can’t do without them and they cry foul at the paying higher and higher commission to gt results.
Direct Booking Options With Digital Media
Hotels cant get on search results as they did before their share of direct bookings is under attack. But new option are opening, not only in social, but in may other ways. Google has introduced several “more hotel friendly” initiatives on mobile and now with Hotel Ads it is in direct competition with OTAs. Hotel Ads allows hotel to pay google a commission and get booking direct from place listing on top real-estate on Google. See more about digital media and technology for hotel and tourism on the new book series – Marketing Hotels and Tourism Online. The first book #Website is published now – Be sure to get the book and bonuses at http://bonus.marketinghotelstourismonline.com
#1 Amazon Bestseller Website is first in the series on hotel and tourism marketing
Googles Destination Planner for Mobile Pushed Out Search
Not only is traditional search irrelevant – it almost impossible to find it as Google replaces mobile search with its own travel guides and sales funnels. They are making search obsolete on mobile and that it probably a forerunner of what will happen on the NET. Its part of Google strategy to diminish organic search which they struggle to keep out of the control of blackhat SEO experts. So Google Mobile Travel Web Replacing Search Results is a step in the right direction.
SEO marketers take note. this may be the beginning of the very end for search engine marketing and SEO. In its place will be Googles own travel portal, in many guises and variants, from hotel finderto maps to online guide and booking options, they will have your clients covered. As author of the article Barry Swartz says “Don’t get me wrong; this is an incredibly nice user experience for those looking to travel. But those optimizing for travel search might not like the new mobile experience.”
Is it an App
No its not an app, but as we said before the new web technologies are replace a lot of the functionality of apps. So in some sense you can say that Apps are now moving to the web. And that does make sense, not many travelers want to download an app for every hotel the consider for a vacation, and very few do.But all this just adds to the demise of search as we know it. It become more irrelevant as Google and technology replaces it.
What does it Mean for Hotels
The roll-out has not effected hotel listing directly at this point. If you search for where to stay in Barbados on an iphone you will see a conventional search result. But if you search for where to go in Barbados you will see the new destination guide. That is all encompassing – It starts out looking at regions and as you select one (say Bridgetown) you will see a description which looks like it may come from Wikipedia. Under that is “Top sights”. Again with wiki-like descriptions. Under that is “Plan a Trip” with option for flights, hotels and restaurants and “When to visit- showing main events by month”.
The hotel option links you to 3 star hotel – It eventually leads to search result-like page with bookings by Booking.com etc. Interestingly the listing of hotel does not appear to be an OTA listing although they link to ota to fulfill the book at this time. The key takeaway is that you need to optimize your pages now specifically for google so that you are listed in their mobile search.. We will go into this in more detail later.
Ultimately we expect Google will bring the full travel mobile world to hotel searches to. Like the destination mobile guide, search may still be an option but way down the page and likely to get ignored.
Optimize for Google
So get ready to be in googles new mobile Hotel Search. Step one optimize your site for mobile – and for Google. Be on their maps, have your google Page, a Google PLUS account, optimize your YouTUbe account, and use social accounts to point to your Google properties. Make the most of your reviews and make sure you share to Google – Use video reviews and engaging graphics to make the reviews stand out and get read.
This chart says it all; Travelers are searching for Brands over hotel keywords now. All top 9 travel related search terms are brands and the leading brand being searched is are the OTAs, with Expedia leading the pack!
Top Search Terms are OTA Brands & Airlines
At position 10 is the only non brand terms and its for air, not hotels or destinations. That all changed for what it was just a few years ago. Its disturbing for hotels who are striving to boost their direct bookings and avoid paying heavy commissions to the OTA. More importantly as the chart suggests tourism suppliers are loosing identity to OTAs, meaning that OTA who are increasingly taking ore and more bookings, are also winning the hearts and minds of travel shoppers. And of course once they book with that OTA, loyalties shift from hotel to their supplier partners.
‘Expedia’ the most searched travel term online, generated 32.7 million organic searches from January to November 2015.
Companies not getting searched not likely to get direct bookings
Pascal Cohen, SimilarWeb insights manager, said: “In any industry, organic searches are a major barometer of brand recognition and trust. That is one huge share of the more than 40% of travel companies generate traffic from search, companies not getting searched for are unlikely to generate bookings. He adds that “Understanding the right keywords driving traffic to sites can make a major impact on a company’s success in this competitive market.”
Hotels loosing Ground to OTAs
All this means that Hotels are more that ever being driven to OTAs because of their growing brand recognition over the hotels own brand id and website. Hotel are in jeopardy of loosing control of the market and becoming a commodity on the travel marketplace. Google itself has seen the writing on the wall and suggests that hotels do more to build their own brand. It’s also the reason why Travelers Search for OTA Brands not Hotel Keywords!
1. A few things have been dropped from the 2011 Hotel Finder beta.
a. The ability to define a may area (with a mouse or touch) is gone. With it users could draw a circle, square or any rectangular shape on the map as a catchment area. All hotels in that area will then be listed under the map and highlighted on the map. It was an impressive technology feature but probably not all that exciting for the average user.
b. Google hotel content is gone, so to has Google’s own reviews. This indicates, I think, that Google is moving away from being a full service provider at this time. This is good news for advertisers and especially the Online Travel Agents.
2. The new Hotel Finder now links direct to hotels that are listed in Finder. It also shows costs for the various OTA vendors of the property. Hotels website are also linked in the OTA price list, they are at the very bottom of the list. Previously Google linked to the OTAs and the hotel link was to Googles own version of the hotel site. The change is a significant advantage for hotels.
3. The Hotel Finder list is short – 7 to 10 properties are listed. Google is selecting hotels that it ranks as authority sites. That is they are mapped, have good SEO and page authority. They are listed in local destination sites like Barbados.org and cited in directories like yelp.
Google has made some significant changes to its hotel finder listings. The details are covered in the video below. in summary herre are the key points How to get listed on Hotel Finder
Several companies are springing up to help local hotels get listed. Unfortunately the space is very restricted and not everyone will succeed. Our guess is that Hotel Finder will become a new standard for all of Google Search result, but that may take years to roll out. It is vital that hotels start to understand what it takes to rank on google and plan for it now. When you look at who is on Hotel Finder you get an idea of what it takes. We have a video on that but in a nutshell: Hotels that make it to finder or the first page of search results have quality content, use rich media, have social proof, have relevant quality backlinks and a site that people like.
The Trouble with Search Ranking
Hotels will still have difficultly in getting on the first page of search results for several reasons, most importantly they don’t have the content of OTAS who Google favours. OTAs have very fined tunes SEO strategies, good social engagement and all of the factors that create authority on search engines, they are also huge advertising partners with search engines. For more see the YouTube Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxsMUoRcBI
Still small hotels can get be on the first page of results as we have shown. Hotels should move to get onto hotel Finder now. Space is limited and first in line do get a preference. What you do to get onto this spot will boost your search engine marketing, SEO success and organic listing well into the future.
Hotel Advertising Made Easier
At the same time as rolling out the new Finder, Google has made changes to its hotel adverting package, making it easier for browsers to click to hotel advertisers. Advertising is one way to get on top of the page. With the new pack Google has put Hotel Ads further up the page giving them far greater exposure and streamlined process.
Nicholas Ward, president of Koddi, sums it up as:
The old way:
Click the ad
View the hotel list on Google Hotel Finder
Click on a hotel selection
Click a Hotel Ad to navigate to the partner booking site
The streamlined process is:
Select the hotel
Click a Hotel ad
Romain Roulleau, senior vice president, ecommerce, at Accor Hotels notes: “I would say for everyone, the two leaders [in Europe] are Trivago and TripAdvisor,” says hotels. “That’s obvious. One of the fastest growing is Google Hotel Price Ads and Google Hotel Finder, especially with the way they are now putting more of the display in the Google search engine.”
The Biggest media player is Google:
Major online travel agencies have invested billions of dollars in TV advertising over the past few years. Now Google is offering a alternative that could erode their position, and it is doing it without TV advertising. “Google, after all, has something the meta-search players and online travel agencies don’t have — it has prime placement on Google.”… Romain Roulleau. The infograph is not included in the Skiff article that propted this review, but it will help you when reading the discussion on the Google Hotel Ads Pack.
How Paid Ads Supersede Hotel Finder
The InfoGraphics (below) is helpful in understanding the importance of Hotel Finder in search. Hotel Ads, however, don’t rely on the Finder as they used to. Paid Ads now link direct to the advertiser.
Google is relentless in its effort to rid search of spam and those who try to game the system are being targeted. The problem is that even legitimate sites are getting hurt in the shuffle.
Marketers today must understand what Panda, Penguin and Humming bird are looking for and what they consider unnatural. It is of course a moving target. Search systems are amongst the most automated intelligent system in the world. They learn what is natural by constantly measuring what people are doing. As the averages change so does the nature of natural, at least from their point of view. Because of this search Marketing is rather like playing in quicksand!
What this means is that hotel managers and tourism marketers need to keep informed or employ marketers who are well informed and stay in touch with the latest patents on search.
Position 2, is one of many companies that on top of trends as this article will demonstrated. In this blog they share who got hit and who flourished in the latest Panda 4.1 upgrade. HotelGuide did well gaining 285%. As the article says: “One thing is for sure – Panda 4.1 is in line with the previous updates and is intended at sites which have poor or plagiarized content. Typically, websites which do not produce their own content & re-publish content tops the list of losers.” …Position 2on Panda.
In the same analysis Yellow.com lost 76%. The implication is that Yellow is reusing content much the way that OTAs once did. This has particularly sinister effect on content owners as Google will often not penalize the authority site with duplicate content. It simple may not know who is the originator of the content and will often side with the authority site. That means hotels that allow OTAs to use their content verbatim may suffer. It has happened, it’s just another nail in coffin for hotels failing in search, as noted in previous blogs on Google Travel, so don’t let it happen to you.
As a person deeply involved in helping hotels, tourism operators and destinations build lasting brands and sustainable direct business since 1995, and before that as a hotel manager way back in the sixties, I have been around to see all that has happened. It started well with search engines long before Google. All search engines were listing local hotels, destination authority sites and tourism operators in their search results. That’s what was happening when we started the Barbados Tourism Encyclopedia as the official site of the Barbados Tourism Authority.
Our clients of hoteliers and TO’s got direct requests daily in emails from people who first found them on search, where our destination portal was usually on the first page. They contacted the hotels, restaurants and activities etc. that were listed on our directory. Later we added a direct booking engine and direct-bookings were flowing in to our partners. Our site, Barbados.org, had 4 million unique visitors a year, not a lot by OTA standards, but a lot for a small island of just a couple of hundred hotels and a few thousand rooms. It’s a top destination in the Caribbean and it does have some of the best hotels in the world, for example Sandy Lane and The Crane to name just two.
First Page Listings on Search Results were Key to Direct Bookings
Getting into the first page of search results was great for sustainable business that added to the bottom line and built brand awareness even for the smallest of companies. Well it has all changed. Aaron Harris in the video below on the current state of SEO, shows how Google organic (non advertising) results are seen on only 7% of the results screens. A far cry from the early days of Search Engine Marketing.
Search Shifts will Cause Many Small TOs to Fail
The shift caused many companies to fold as their source of business, based almost entirely on SEO, failed. Aaron’s company Tutorspree bit the dust and as he says it was all to do with the shifting sands of search. “In examining our SEO dependence, I was surprised at how deeply it influenced so many different pieces of the company and aspects of our strategy. It powered a huge piece of our success, and ultimately triggered our failure. There’s a symmetry there that I can’t help but appreciate, even though I wish to hell it had been otherwise.”
Survive by Adapting
But companies have survived by adapting and expanding their role. It’s not enough to be on search and today there are many, many more ways to influence and engage clients. As Mike Keonigs of Traffic Geyser likes to say, it’s now about “You Everywhere”. But that is another story and I will share all with you in upcoming blogs. For now, let’s understand the principle of how Google has changed and what Google Travel means to all of us in the hospitality and tourism marketing business.
What You Can do in the Face of Losing Search Position
Start to build your authority today; it’s what all hospitality and travel professionals now need to do to get their websites ranked and seen by searchers. Most importantly, start to build alternative traffic strategies with no search engines as we teach in SocialIndexEngine.com>>>See MHAT blog on Search, and take advantage of our free case studies and tutorials at TourismMarketingMachines.com (link on top menu). And as video is very hot on mobile right now, be sure your website is mobile ready – see our MobileChecklistwebinars.com – all free tips, resources and strategies to build a better multi-screen, multi-channel presence. Last but not least, be aware that the future of travel is visual and check out our links on visual travel marketing and the new Visual Booking Engines.
Tourism marketing is changing faster than you can think. Keep tuned to this site for the latest tips, news and strategies for success.
The video below tells the story of search evolving into a new media of a totally unprecedented and different flavor from anything we have known. For those who want to know the history of search before this stage, see the blog on search evolution at TravelWatchNews.