There has been a lot of controversy around the many Google updates over the past two years that have significantly impacted the travel industry. Hotels are crying out against the latest Google Hotel Finder while Travel Agents seem to be enjoying the spotlight that their businesses are receiving.
Comparison Sites Thrive
When we look back a few years one can remember a very similar scenario whereby Shopping Search Engines and comparison sites used to thrive on Google through its prime “real estate” spots, otherwise known as top rankings on Google’s Natural SERP (Search Engine Results Pages).
For many years these shopping sites were receiving preferential rankings for featuring their client’s products -online retailers who would provide their online catalogues to shopping comparison sites who would then in return charge the online retailer a cost-per-click for the referral traffic that they sent their way. Shopping sites were frustrated that their products that were listed on the Shopping sites were out-ranking them on Google for the very same products featured on their own websites. As frustrated as online retailers were they had no choice but to continue to share their products with these shopping comparison sites and pay the cost for the traffic, otherwise they stood the chance of losing the visitor to one of their competitors.
Comparison Sites Dive
That was of course until Google made major adjustments to its algorithm resulting in more severe Duplicate Content Penalties being applied to websites sharing content. Many Shopping Comparison sites woke up one morning to find that their website traffic had dropped significantly (in some instances more than 80% of their traffic was simply ‘lost’) and their very livelihood was at stake as their businesses were no longer featuring prominently on Google.
For many of these websites their entire business was affected as their sole income was derived from capturing visitors first on Google’s SERP’s and then charging the online retailer for the referral traffic.
Google’s algorithm updates meant that it was becoming smarter at detecting who the original owner of the content was and passed a penalty to those who were syndicating the content (i.e. Shopping Comparison Sites) – giving the original e-Commerce site preferential rankings over the referral sites. This meant more direct traffic for the e-Commerce site (for free) and less traffic to the Search Engines. Many shopping comparison sites had to adjust their business models fast to find new ways to survive the Google updates and stay in business.
Will Hotel’s Thrive or Dive on Google?
But what does this have to do with the hospitality industry? While the specific algorithm updates penalising poor and duplicate content (i.e. Google Panda amongst others) still holds potential consequences to the travel industry, I am specifically referring to the introduction of Google’s new Hotel Finder – www.Google.co.za/hotels.
Google Hotel Finder is a search tool designed to make it easier for people to compare hotels for their trips with features such as Location Filters (and drawing shapes on maps), dates, price and both user and hotel ratings.
Read more: Who does Google love more – Hotels or Online Travel Booking Agents?