February 26, 2018 · Stuart Butler

Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 79 – These Google Changes Will Rock Your Hotel’s World in 2018

Google is not known for keeping the status quo and if all indications are correct 2018 is going to really shake up the hotel space. For years we have seen Google continues to make efforts to keep users on their platform for longer and longer. In 2016/17 Google even became a full-funnel system with the rollout of Google Hotel Ads. Well, they’re not stopping there. Here’s just a glimpse of what Google has in store for hotel searchers in 2018.

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Think Mobile First Or Get To The Back Of The Line

The 1st mobile tipping point, back in 2014, saw more web traffic on mobile devices than desktops. The 2nd and 3rd tipping points, related to bookings and revenue, are likely to hit in 2018.  Google is well aware of the clear shift away from desktop use and, for the first time, beginning to penalize sites that are not thinking mobile first.  What does this mean?

  • Death to the pop up!  Google has been penalizing mobile sites since January 10, 2017 for intrusive pop ups on mobile devices (https://searchengineland.com/google-confirms-rolling-mobile-intrusive-interstitials-penalty-yesterday-267408). However up until now those ranking penalties have been minimal and the SEO world has not seen a significant hit to rankings.  Why?  The answer is twofold:
    • Web marketers have avoided getting rid of them en masse, meaning the biggest sites with the best rankings still have them in use and any penalty has not been enough to dramatically impact the SERP.
    • Google hasn’t broken out the big guns yet. Yes they have outlined  intrusive interstitial rules but they haven’t started the big crack down.  Will this happen in 2018?  Time will tell though for an independent hotelier, our advice is to listen to what Google is saying, avoid mobile pop ups, and find new ways to promote your specials and collect emails
  • Your mobile experience will drive your rankings. But don’t take our word for it.  Google representatives are quoted as saying, “Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users.” This means if you have an amazing desktop experience, but drop the ball on mobile… expect to see bad things happen to your rankings.  We have several clients who are seeing 70+% of traffic from mobile, which means anything less than a true “Mobile First” mentality is going to leave you falling short to both your customers and search engines.
  • Slow traffic keep right. Site speed has long been a ranking factor in search.  Now that Google is paying closer attention to mobile, it is becoming even more important.  If you haven’t tested your site speed, check out a service such as tools.pingdom.com to test.  Then look into speed optimizations such as moving to a CDN, proper site caching, proper image and file compression, and optimizing for general coding best practices.


Voice Search, Structured Snippets and Schema Markup Will Grow

  • One in 20 mobile searches originates from a voice search… based on 2016 data! (https://searchengineland.com/google-reveals-20-percent-queries-voice-queries-249917)
  • With the growth of voice search and increase of voice results from devices such as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and others, hoteliers will need to be ready to provide the right data to search engines.  Primarily in the form of featured snippets.
  • A study last year of over 1.4 million search results found that over 30% of results included a featured snippet in the way of a quote, direct answer, table, etc.
  • What this means is any hotel site moving forward needs to have the appropriate markup including structured data and schema.org markup

AI and Linkless Mentions

Artificial Intelligence is going to be a big buzz word in 2018, Google’s RankBrain is getting smarter every day and search results will change.  How will this impact hoteliers?

  • Linkless mentions, when your site or hotel is included in a listing or article on the web, has always been frustrating to a search marketer.  In the past it was one of the big missed opportunities for an inbound link.
  • Times are changing, Bing is already tracking unlinked brand mentions and using them as one of the many ranking signals in their results. Google appears to be doing this as well, which means what was once a lost opportunity will begin to play a larger and larger role in overall rankings.  In fact, it may eventually serve as the most ‘conversational’ form of creedance a search engine can use to determine site/property worth.  If someone is sharing a great experience about your property, link or no link, it will help your rankings grow.

Security, Security, Security. HTTPS will influence rankings in July

Google has laid down the gauntlet on sites and stated very clearly that starting in July 2018. If your site is not fully secure (https) it will hurt you in the rankings.  Not necessarily with a penalty, but the search engine will prioritize other fully secure sites over yours. IE: a penalty that’s not really a penalty.
The good news, going HTTPS is easier than ever and something you should be doing anyway.  In years past purchasing an SSL, setting up a secure site, and maintaining all your assets was a daunting process.  Lucky site hosts have been rolling out more an more options for free and low cost SSLs and making going secure a piece of cake.  You’ve got until July, and we highly suggest you get your web team making your site ready to take advantage of the priority Google is going to place on your site over your non-podcast-listening competitors.

Google Hotel Ads (GHA) Gets a New Admin Interface

We don’t know exactly when google is going to roll out their new GHA interface, but we are continuing to hear it will be very soon.
Now, like the rest of the world, we don’t know exactly when we’ll get the first glimpse of the new interface.  Though we do know through our AdWords rep it will be a separate system with a very AdWords like feel, not integrated into Adwords like initially suggested.
What does this mean for you?  Well we’re typically seeing ROAS for our GHA clients north of 500% with their current (archaic) system. We fully expect once we can fully optimize GHA campaigns on a more granular basis we will see a typical ROAS soar.  AKA: if you’re not on the GHA train now, buy your ticket and get ready to ride!

People Also Search For…

Finally, and not directly related to hotels, Google rolled out a new element of the “people also searched for…” box on the search results page.  Now anytime you complete a search, visit a result and click back (known as pogo sticking in the SEO world) Google will serve a box under the result you clicked for other searches.
We’ve known for a long time that Google wants to keep you on the results page, as well as sever the best results.  Now when you click a suggested search you not only get a new set of results you also get four more paid results to browse through as well, and Google gathers more relevant information for their AI.  How convenient.
Hotelier Wishes
Mark Simpson

  • Sensible answer – I don’t know what it is like over there in America, but here in the UK, the independent hospitality owners are leaving so much money on the table by not investing time in email marketing. My wish would be for everyone to get on board with it in 2018
  • Or,  Speaking as someone who has run their own hospitality business over here, I just wish there was a tracking tool which would ping you when guests are thirty minutes to an hour away, so you know when they are going to arrive, so you don’t have to wait up/in for them every single day.
  • The snarky answer, ban all yappy dogs! They don’t do anyone any good =) I have loved every show I have managed to catch this year, here’s to another set of quality ones next year
Check out Jeremy’s Tumblr page: http://jeremyrazook.tumblr.com/

This episode brought to you by Myers of Keswick

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