February 5, 2016 · Meisha Bochicchio

Google Update: Get Ready For A Drop In Organic Traffic, Travel Marketers

Well kids, it looks like our friends at Google are at it again. SEO maverick, Barry Schwartz, released an article on Thursday, February 4th (2016) discussing major changes to Google search results, specifically on mobile devices. Sure, Google rolls out updates all the time, but this update in particular should be of important interest to fellow travel marketers.

This update was not only mobile specific but also specific to the travel vertical.

The update seems to be specific to only broad, destination related searches (for now) and essentially hides organic results altogether.

For example, if a user searches for “vacation destinations south carolina” – they would see this result:

As you can see, organic search results are pushed almost below the fold  immediately and a new “destinations tab” is visible with two options that present flight and hotel rates. The tab also includes a highly visible arrow with an option to view more destinations.

Upon clicking the “more destinations” option, users are taken to a completely new search result page devoid of any organic search results:

The page itself presents a highly visual layout with large image boxes, a short description, and the same flight and hotel rates. Users also have the option of using a filter at the top to sort by dates, interests, and price.

Once a user selects a specific destination, the search result page once again changes and is once again lacking any organic results:

Information highlighted here includes top sights, a trip planning guide, a map, recommendations on the most popular times to visit, videos, and finally a carousel of “other places to explore”.

The Pros?

The update presents a slick new layout that is not only inarguably both clean and aesthetically appealing but also incredibly easy and intuitive to use – an ode to Google’s continual shift towards providing better results by displaying a user-friendly interface, particularly via a mobile device. Hooray for users!
Additionally, this could potentially give highlighted attractions and hotels more exposure and perhaps even a slight traffic boost. The quality of this traffic might not be the best, given its origination from such broad, research based search terms, but exposure is exposure.
The rollout of the hotel pricing could also mean more potential revenue via Google Hotel Ads. Hotel Ads were previously showing up for brand specific search terms and hotel / resort destination variations.
See Also: Why Your Hotel Should Run Hotel Ads

The Cons?

This should be pretty obvious for anyone currently optimizing in the travel space. Though the queries that are triggering this new layout are rather broad, this could be a traffic killer for anyone in the destination marketing space or for travel portal websites. OTAs might also see some organic search shifts by being pushed down for broad, destination related searches.

Only time will tell if this new layout is simply a test or if the layout will continue to roll out for more and more search variations related to travel. We will update this article as more information is available.

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