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The Year Ahead For Optimizing Travel And Tourism


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#1 glyn

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Posted 06 January 2017 - 08:35 AM

I am looking ahead at the 2017 calander thinking about the best ways to deliver revenue in an un-seoable organic traffic marketplace. SEO in this context is for me about finding the right combinations of keywords for the pages of the website. It used to be that you could pretty much rank any page based on links, Now due to the way Google informs itelf on the destination page relevancy to the keyword it this type of optmization will pretty much de-index itself over the longer term unless you keep up the assualt on links.

 

What's more it's no like if you optmize a website with relevant keywords that you go from 10 visits to 100. What I see, and it's not really empirical but more of a sensation is that websites have a traffic value of 100, irresepective of the SEO that is performed on it (sure there will be some architectural changes an SEO can make which will give a lift, but this has more to do with increasing user satisfaction by serving mobile versions or pages quickly, which in the google ranking landscape will increase the search position where the keyword is properly relevant to the page), and that when you changes keyword focus your traffic stays the same but you get a different set of visitors, which should hopefully convert more.

 

Initially though the changes that you make to a website will result in a drop which, over the course of what I've seen between a couple of weeks and a month, will then stabilize in it's new position. I've been using SEM rush which I've found a nice too to bring information together in a clearly interesting way.

 

In my own area of the web, what I will be battling with is Attribution war - the thing where everyone wants to own the traffic. Whether this is by writing over cookies as view-through conversions or simply botched tracking by providers that then provide no customer support to help with any checking.  Facebook launched a new product catalogue option for travel which basically works like a google merchant shopping experience which you can then assign to demographics in detail. This is interesting. This technology was not available as a self-serve option in 2015, but there's a company stateside that has been providing some similar type of tech to the Online Travel Agents.

 

Meanwhile I expect that Amazon will also begin offering something for the travel sectors considering the size of their market audience.

 

There has been quite a lot of talk of chat bots and some great fails. Lots of hotels have a lot of low-hanging fruit that they do not properly optimise, and sometimes people just need a little nudget with the right type of reminder to take action. With conversion optmization I've seen some hotels increase their loyalty programmes by over 200% and that isn't from 1 to 3 members. Equally you can transform 2ndary businesess areas like weddings in to revenue by automating follow ups. This is quite fun to do. I've always enjoyed using technology in this way.

 

I'm also looking forward to helping launch a new 5* hotel online with five and a half thousand miles between offices. This is something that frankly would have been much more difficult to do pre-internet.

 

 

Enjoy it!

 

Glyn.

 



#2 earlpearl

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Posted 06 January 2017 - 11:05 AM

Glyn:

 

When I look at the serps for hotel type phrases I'm stumped.  On an old fashioned SEO perspective one is dead in the water.  You really have to stay ahead of the game to tackle this niche.   Good luck.  Keep us informed.

 

Need to add one thing that has only a tangential relationship:   Optimizing for local and in trying to get into the 3 pac of visibility has changed from something that was free if not labor intensive to something that requires payment.  Even with that goog has changed the game so that the 3 pac visibility is significantly minimized for those that get in. 

 

The SEO/search engine/google platform is on an endless path of requiring more monetization.  Less and less a search engine more and more a paid platform.


Edited by earlpearl, 06 January 2017 - 11:34 AM.


#3 iamlost

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Posted 07 January 2017 - 08:38 PM

Yes, the travel/accommodation business is a mess on web search. And not just for the individual businesses who struggle (1) to be found and (2) to differentiate themselves, potential customers have to wade through that same swamp (and he galloped off in every direction...) to find something palatable.

Way back, shortly after joining Cre8, I mentioned a B&B I helped (minimally):

I have a friend who needed to differentiate one luxourious B&B on acreage on the seashore from all the others in the neighbourhood. All quite comparable, all with competent websites. She decided to tell stories. She made both static page and multimedia versions: baking breads/pastries in the outdoor oven as the sun comes up; creating a picnic basket and following a couple to a secluded beach where they partake of it and each other - definitely NSFW; a couple wandering through local markets and studios interacting with merchants and artists; a couple gliding in kayaks past various islets and sealife...you get the picture. So did potential customers - I believe they have a vacancy in 2012.

They went basic responsive layout back in 2013 but have decided to (1) totally revamp the site and (2) totally review their marketing. What I find fascinating, and extremely telling, is that they have decided that general web search, i.e. Google, isn't worth bothering about.

By that I mean is they (without my input) have looked at all their marketing and search has by far the worst ROI. Of course they are very niche rather high end but still... On their own they have come to the conclusion that actively chasing search isn't worth the effort. They will take what comes but not worry about either ppc or organic. I wonder if/how many other boutique operations will decide to simply ignore the SEs, not block them but not worry about them either in the coming years. So many other venues in which to fish for better converting traffic than in years past.

Note: and I stand by what I said 2-years ago in Travel & Tourism, 2014 A Year In Review

There are two major ways to market every niche:
1. price.
2. experience.
Note: location is a subset of both.
I prefer '2' as it foregoes the competitive dive to the bottom, gets compliments and returns, plus a much healthier bottom line.

 



#4 earlpearl

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 12:45 PM

A certain question got me to look at some hotel serps for searches such as "hotels london", "hotels DC" etc.   In this one instance I turned on the moz tool for a quick down and dirty analysis.

 

OKAY OKAY I KNOW moz DA and PA are NOT GOOGLE.  But for quick down and dirty looks they add to perspective.  I then compared searches in that vertical to some others.

 

So, yeah....google, but also bing has dramatically changed the serps so that individual hotel units are knocked out of the serps with the OTA's and news sites scrounging all the top serps.  Call me suspicious  :D    but google doesn't earn a dime if a searcher books directly with a hotel off of a visit to the organic result!!!!   Interestingly I then looked at just a couple of Marriott pages for sites.  Criminy Christmas.  Marriott has some tremendously high DA and PA's...for pages for hotel and city.... and they cannot crack google's higher serps. (I don't know if that is for a majority of cities, but on a DA/PA analysis Marriott is pounding out the links, etc.   I'd simply say that Google DOES NOT WANT Marriott and other hotels to get traffic for "discovery searches". 

 

Then I checked two other verticals.  Its not that drastic, but its not a LOT Worse.  Very VERY disturbing.  

 

Clearly as Glyn and IamLost have described elsewhere and directly above its critical to diversify outside of organic serps if google is determined to NOT allow you to be seen.  Lastly, with regard to IamLost's reference above:  

 

Two ways to market every niche (actually all types of products/services including mainstream products)

1. price

2. experience

 

That is a very old and wise truism.  I originally had it described as   1. price;  2. features     experience is a richer word!!!!



#5 glyn

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 02:10 PM

Google doesnt show hotels because they prefer to earn cpc off meta-search instead. Also with query/intent mapping the only end game scenario I see for every vertical is more of the same mass inventory shi* that has made t&t what it is today. The length of time this becomes fruition in any niche is simply a ticking clock.
G

#6 earlpearl

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 02:41 PM

Google doesnt show hotels because they prefer to earn cpc off meta-search instead. Also with query/intent mapping the only end game scenario I see for every vertical is more of the same mass inventory shi* that has made t&t what it is today. The length of time this becomes fruition in any niche is simply a ticking clock.
G

I agree.  Google is all about paid clicks.   BTW:   the OTA's have very high DA's and high PA's.  Then I looked at some other verticals and the non businesses that push down the actual business pages don't have nearly the DA and PA that the OTA's have.  AND...there isn't the money in it for them and for google.   YET.   but I agree its a changing environment and a ticking clock.

 

(caveat repeated---Moz is NOT google)



#7 earlpearl

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 09:02 AM

I was re reading about your b&b friends/clients IamLost. They are unusual; per the description I gather they have a creme de la creme B&B, they seem to be meticulous, and they pay attention to detail and they are analytical. I find that to be an unusual mix. Nice to know they are doing well.

The hotel and restaurant worlds do have plenty of visibility options outside of search. Penetrating them all well is not easy. And we can see via their revenues and values that the OTA's do recognize how valuable and humongous search is

#8 earlpearl

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 05:15 PM

Glyn et al:  You might be a little or a lot interested in this.  The latest Moz survey on Local Search Rankings just came out.  (I've been a participant for almost all of its 8 years). 

 

I'm not going to argue about its correctness or accuracy.    But I always like it.  What I really value are the comments.  I know a lot of the participants what they look at what they study.  I really value their insights:  They look at or do studies of different groups and volumes of local businesses than I do.  Their insights can be different.  Their study results can be different.  They could be seeing things I miss...or vice versa.

 

The first page is an intro and the 2nd page has data on what the "aggregated vote" is as to the most important considerations for high rankings.  In my mind the comments on the 2nd page are always most valuable.

 

A respondent named Lisa Kolb, who manages many B&B websites and has tremendous insights into the specifics of the B&B's but also how Google deals with hotels.   Her comment in response to the very first question startled me.   The implication is that the overall  so called Local Algo for Maps is very influenced by $$$$$!!!!    Surprised huh????

 

Here is her comment:  It applies to the maps section of a google search/ the extended maps section that opens up from 3 hotels to many...and then if people use google maps for search:

 

 

In the lodging industry, after April 1, we saw that Google began using the actual filter dates from the OTAs (online travel agencies). Without OTA participation, in an area with any competition, lodging providers found themselves slipping lower and lower in the local 3-pack and maps listings, based on the filtered travel dates. Local guidelines still have to be in place, but this seems to be a big influencer, as it is now showing actual room rates per filtered dates. As you can imagine, lodging properties that don’t employ OTAs as part of their room sales strategy are seeing a serious impact to their bookings.

 

 

After seeing that I did a google search on Hotels Ocean City, MD  Its a resort town on the ocean.  Gets solidly booked in the summer.  Rooms of course are very expensive in the summer and deep discounted off season.

 

I'd been looking at Ocean City G Maps results for a while.  It was interesting.  Possibly 1/3 or more of the hotels were NOT aligned with the OTA's.  That included branded hotels wherein they always carry OTA pricing around the nation.  I guess the local hotel operators got together to address.  It also appears that the brands thought they would experiment with Ocean City by not tying the hotels into the OTA's.

 

After reading Lisa's piece, I did that search and 19 of the first 20 results were tied to the OTA's.  Of the next 20 16 of the 21st to 40th were tied to the OTA's.  Didn't go further than 40 hotels.

 

Now in the various times I've searched on Ocean City Hotels over the last year or two, hotels that were independent of the OTA's had better chances to rank highly in this type of google/maps search.   And about 1/3 weren't tied to the OTA's.

 

Looks to me like google is tightening the noose!!!!   and the so called "Local Algo" is primarily a money algo.

 

I'm still perusing the comments in the article looking for more gems. 



#9 glyn

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Posted 14 April 2017 - 03:35 PM

The local pack is a meta search mix which on big brand with show ota.

#10 glyn

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Posted 14 April 2017 - 11:16 PM

The local pack is a meta search mix which on big brand with show ota.

#11 glyn

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 07:56 AM

The eyes I need to have!!

 

We have just completed some indexing of our clients in Bing Places. That time consuming process involves things like photos selection, copy writing, and linking up the relevant social profiles. Not to mention entering a code into a page and coordinating all of that while clients have other more important things to do during the day.

 

It was therefore with some disgust that I have found the Bing Place listing for the hotel offering two big blue buttons along side the listings information. The first goes to the map, the second goes to Booking.com with an affiliate ID. This is on a Brand search term.

 

So the hotel now pays circa 18% commission for adding their information to Bing!

 

Not nice.

 

G



#12 earlpearl

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:27 AM

Glyn:  The most recent "Local Search Ranking Factors" survey came out.  This page summarizes results:  It includes comments by participants.  Local "experts" are not experts in hotels in a general sense.  One is though.  Lisa Kolb, who runs a full service web/marketing service for b&b's.  She has a healthy number of clients.  Her response to changes in the "PAC" and the larger G Maps listings of hotels can be found below:

 

Within the local commentator world it is widely cited that one of the most critical citation sources for higher ranking in G Maps, the PAC, is to fill out one's Bing local record.

 

(I'm a participant in the latest survey.  Also I ALWAYS fill out a bing local record.  I can't verify that filling out a bing local record is critical for higher G Maps rankings but I always do it.  Our smb's mostly have great google maps rankings. and good bing organic, and Bing Maps rankings.  We get traffic, leads and sales via bing search.  It works for us. 

 

But these smb's are NOT hotels. 

 

As I looked at the info and choices for hotels in bing and google maps it appeared to me that google maps might make booking via an OTA more compelling than booking an OTA through Bing. 

 

I guess that bing has an OTA "deal" not unlike Google's OTA deal.    Ultimately not good for the hotels.  One more set of hands into the hoteliers pockets.   Tough

 

In that google maps seems to treat rankings for hotels differently than it does other type businesses, maybe if you want to disconnect the bing maps record.  OTOH if the booking company's (OTA's) already have an arrangement w/ your hotels...well they are going to show up in bing maps.  

 

18%!!!!!!    That sucks!!!!!

 

 

 

 

In the lodging industry, after April 1, we saw that Google began using the actual filter dates from the OTAs (online travel agencies). Without OTA participation, in an area with any competition, lodging providers found themselves slipping lower and lower in the local 3-pack and maps listings, based on the filtered travel dates. Local guidelines still have to be in place, but this seems to be a big influencer, as it is now showing actual room rates per filtered dates. As you can imagine, lodging properties that don’t employ OTAs as part of their room sales strategy are seeing a serious impact to their bookings.



#13 glyn

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:55 AM

Google has been running meta-search via it's google hotel finder product. They have also been slowly morphing what was the old map map into meta-search. Consider that the map pack is basically, long term for hotels, going to be a meta-search. OTAs plug in to Google Hotel finder, which is a meta-search channel. Google charges CPC on that meta-search which should in most cases connect the clicker through to the booking engine (booking.com) or on some websites their own internal hybrid booking engine. For hotels, it should connect them with their own booking engine. Everyone is getting in on the affiliate spam via booking.com now from leading newspapers through to big powerful directories (192.com etc). Everyone is an affiliate. That I saw a Bing places listing which had been approved by the client and which had then shown the booking.com affiliate link is frankly not acceptable. I will need to review the terms under which the agreement with Bing has been made.

 

G



#14 earlpearl

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:57 AM

Google has been running meta-search via it's google hotel finder product. They have also been slowly morphing what was the old map map into meta-search. Consider that the map pack is basically, long term for hotels, going to be a meta-search. OTAs plug in to Google Hotel finder, which is a meta-search channel. Google charges CPC on that meta-search which should in most cases connect the clicker through to the booking engine (booking.com) or on some websites their own internal hybrid booking engine. For hotels, it should connect them with their own booking engine. Everyone is getting in on the affiliate spam via booking.com now from leading newspapers through to big powerful directories (192.com etc). Everyone is an affiliate. That I saw a Bing places listing which had been approved by the client and which had then shown the booking.com affiliate link is frankly not acceptable. I will need to review the terms under which the agreement with Bing has been made.

 

G

Glyn:  The current manifestation of Google Local/Google Maps/currently called Google My Business is less dependent on "meta-search" or taking data from other sources, and more reliant on direct claiming one's record in google local/Google My Business and confirmations through enormous crowd sourcing.  But data from other sources still is a consideration.

 

Regardless the hotel industry is so overwhelmingly monetized inside google and so unlike most other verticals they may have additional and other ranking and placement considerations.  $$$$ is a significant consideration.

 

The one other vertical undergoing a similar change is the "home repair" vertical with tests in California.  Try a google search on home repair Palo Alto.  No map results, no PAC.  Instead a group of google presented vendors.  Each is a google "partner"   Partner being googlese for if these guys get business--google gets paid.  Similar to the hotel industry?  eh???

 

There is a separate google maps listing of home repair vendors in Northern California.  I wonder how many people use that method or app instead of going direct to googlel dot com?   I bet its a slim slim percentage.

 

The home repair vertical in the US is enormous if tremendously fractured with thousands of vendors, mostly all local.   I've seen two different estimates of its total size--somewhere in the $300 billion+ size.   That is enormous.  Google wants some of that $$$$.  Actually Amazon is doing something similar.  Its a enormous vertical that the web entities want to get their hands on!!!!!!

 

Most verticals are far smaller.  Google doesn't yet have its direct eyes on them.  But it will.





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