What Does Google’s Travel Update Mean For The Industry?

Google Introduces A New Travel Update, But Will It Affect SEO?

Changes to Google’s destination search has got the travel industry in a spin, but does it really affect the way we do SEO?

It seems as though a week cannot pass by without another report about a major change at Google that has the potential to shake up the establishment. At first glance, the latest in a long line of such announcements looks set to hit a bunch of travel related sites right where it hurts most, in the pocket. But is that really going to be the case? Let’s take a closer look.

What Are The Changes?

Late in January 2016, Google announced changes to the way its mobile search interface would look with regard to travel information. Dubbed as Trip Planning, searchers looking for info on terms such as ‘where to go in Mexico’ or ‘Mexican destination’ will now be served with Google-controlled content rather than the standard organic results of old.

This is triggered by a knowledge-graph result that summarises relevant information into neat little boxes listed above the normal search results. The fear is that this new addition to the now four-year old knowledge-graph that everyone has grown used to will further demote organic placements whilst promoting sites that Google want to receive clicks – namely AdSense paid search material.

Will This Harm User Experience?

The jury is still out on this one, but the majority seem to be swaying towards an enhanced UX rather than an unwanted nuisance for those looking to make a straightforward search. For digital publishers, however, the response is likely to be a little different, but it’s not as much of an attack on the little man as it may first appear.

Who’ll Be Affected?

As we touched upon above, it’s likely to hurt the big players in the travel industry rather than the smaller travel blogs out there. Sites such as Lonely Planet, Yelp, Trip Advisor, huge news corporations and the larger travel sites are likely to be worst hit by these changes. These brands have totally dominated the destination search market for a long, long time, and this shake up is going to come as somewhat of a shock.

For those with smaller sites, however, the impact is likely to be minimal at worst. Think about it, if you’re not already ranking for top-tier keyword terms such as ‘where to go in Thailand’, what have you got to lose?

Travel companies and airlines may see a change in number of referrals coming from Google and this could hit profits. Some airlines and package holiday companies work very hard behind the scenes on complex digital marketing campaigns that help improve their search positions. This change has the potential to turn the industry on its head. In January 2014 we reported how one Google update saw Expedia dramatically lose traffic from Google. However, a drop of traffic from Google of around 25% was not enough to cause a major drop in revenue, and Expedia share prices continued to rise.

What Does This Mean For Google?

Naturally, Google is on to a winner with this move as more clicks on paid advertising means more money for the company. The change will also make Google’s other products more prominent too, pushing the likes of Google Maps and YouTube to the fore every time someone searches for these short-tail terms.

Until the changes have full rolled out we cannot really predict the long-term effects, but once again, Google is controlling how we obtain information from the Internet, and to some extent, who will win and who will lose.

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