A recent study reveals that travel companies should be worried about how Google is displaying search results but there are ways around it

During the opening panel at the recent EyeforTravel Europe show, attendees were asked: what is the biggest threat to the industry right now? Needless to say, one of the possible boxes to tick was the role of Google, along with the rise of the disloyal customer, an ever-merging market, and the march of the machines. Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly for some, the threat of Google was the least of delegates’ worries.

This certainly baffled keynoter Rod Cuthbert, chairman of Rome2Rio and the former founder of Viator, who said: “With Google’s hotel product, they are now allowing hotels to advertise directly, and if a consumer chooses a particular property they can pay using Google Pay. So now they are [also] getting payment data, and they are at the top of funnel”.

Rod Cuthbert, chairman of Rome2Rio,(centre) at EyeforTravel Europe

Cuthbert’s hope is that the European Commission, which has been preoccupied with Google’s anticompetitive behaviour in retail, will soon turn its attention to the travel industry.

A different view, however, came from Eurail CEO Brenda van Leeuwen who argued for the “need to play smart”. And that may well mean partnering with Google, and others like Skyscanner and Expedia, to put the rail industry on the map.

It might not be fair, but travel firms do need to keep on top of Google’s moves in search. So, if Google announces, as it did earlier this year, that sites which “follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing” will see significantly better results, then brands need to be on the ball.

They also need to know how search results are being displayed, and according to the results of recent travel sector specific research from Searchmetrics this has changed and will continue to do so. For example, Google used to show 10 organic blue links on the first page, but that is now down to 8.8 on both mobile and desktop. Increasingly too, the first page is dominated by eye-catching Knowledge Graphs (a Google tool which neatly boxes up information drawn from a range of services), images, mobile apps and maps, which lead to higher click-throughs from travel searchers.

There five key findings from the Searchmetrics research and from these EyeforTravel has elicited some top tips.

1. Maps

Searchmetrics finds that 23% of travel search results include at least one map box-out on mobile phones (nearly 17% on desktops), and this information in maps usually comes from companies’ Google My Business pages.

Top tips:

  • Ensure all fields are completed with comprehensive up to date information, including images and videos
  • Create posts to the page to highlight special events or sales periods − which can sometimes show up in Google maps
  • Find ways to encourage reviews and comments as there will be more chance of Google listing your Google My Business page in maps as a result

2. Images

The key finding here is that 18% of desktop travel searches include at least one images box (15% on mobile).

Top tips:

  • Use high quality images and ensure that image file names, image titles and alt attributes include words that are relevant to the topics that are being displayed (so that Google’s web crawlers can better understand what they depict)
  • Keep file sizes manageable. If they are too big, this can slow down page speeds and put Google off including them
  • Integrate images into the website’s sitemap, making it easier for Google’s creepy crawlers

3. AdWords

And the final word, 32% of travel searches on mobiles include at least one AdWords’ ad at the top of the page (15% on desktops).

Top tips:

  • Be smart about finding search terms to bid on that are not highly competitive but are just right for the audiences you are targeting
  • Continuously test and adjust your landing pages to ensure the content generates high conversion rates from AdWords traffic
  • Work on success in organic search  

Take a look at what Holiday Pirates, whose CEO David Armstrong shared insights at EyeforTravel Europe, has achieved on this score!

4. Knowledge Graphs

Knowledge graphs appear in 65% of travel searches on desktops, and 22% on mobile, so they represent a significant opportunity for travel brands to get onto page one. Google pulls the information and images used within knowledge graphs from Wikipedia, an organisation’s own website or Google+ page and its Google MyBusiness listing as well as including links to its social channels and contact details.

Top tips:

  • Ensure to have an up to date, active presence on these sites with good quality, relevant information.
  • Information should be well structured; headings and bullets are way more likely to be used
  • Encourage reviews and ratings as they are often included in a company’s knowledge graph listings

5. News results

Google displays news results for 20% of travel searches on desktop, and 16% on mobile).

Top tips:

  • Recognise that your competitors in search are not just your direct business competitors but also sites such as travel publications which provide travel related advice, information and news 
  • Build relationships with key media in your part of the travel industry and send them news and information. That way you’ll have a chance of featuring in news results
EyeforTravel North America 2018

October 2018, Las Vegas

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