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April 20, 2015

Google offers insights into improving search performance

We had the pleasure of sponsoring the Travel Weekly Business Breakfast at Google campus last Thursday, for which the theme was ‘Talk to Google’.

In preparation for hosting the event I asked a few clients what question would they ask Google about Travel if they had the chance. The usual questions came back to me: ‘how do we compete against Google’s biggest advertising clients’…’what is the extent of the next Google Travel product roll out’….’are Google going to set up a travel business’…

For me these questions highlighted a consistent concern that has dominated the industry’s attitude to Google for the last decade: Google as this harbinger of innovations that disrupt and diminish the status quo. The giant you have to be friends with.

While these concerns may be perfectly reasonable over recent years; the context in which last week’s session was held, I think, heralds an opportunity for the industry to wrestle back some control over their digital business. All the talk during the pre-event coffees was of the EU’s decision to charge Google over anti-trust violations; the EU’s view is that Google is exploiting its dominance in online search to skew results in favor of its own shopping service and advertising clients, restricting competition and narrowing choices for consumers.

Whether or not we agree with this view, the tide seems to be turning against Google for the first time. Core advertising business growth is slowing and the company is under siege on every front.

The credence that this EU action gives to the accusation of skewing natural search results to favour of the big advertising clients should not be underestimated and one of the most illuminating topics of Thursday’s discussion was of the role of natural search against paid search.

The event panel, which consisted of Sales Director Bernd Fauser, Head of Performance Biren Kalaria, Commercial Director Nishma Robb and Doubleclick Director Phil Miles, all explained how in order for Google to give ‘the most accurate results for users’ there should be no distinction between paid and natural search.

Against the backdrop of anti-trust violation charges it was fascinating to see four senior Google execs explain candidly that travel businesses need a holistic search strategy that didn’t just rely on paid search results to drive ranking performance. Nishma Robb articulated it perfectly when she said ‘the main influence over your search performance is the skill of your SEO team’.

The new algorithm update was used as an example of this. Google will now give preference to responsive sites that work properly on mobile devices and this shouldn’t be news to anyone. A good SEO team will be on top of Google updates and briefing the appropriate teams about any necessary tweaks to maintain search performance.

A genuine SEO expert will create a holistic search strategy that enables Google to deliver your results to users and put user data at the heart of your digital strategy; if you do this then Google isn’t the disruptive presence that the travel industry worries about. Google isn’t the internet, it’s a tool. And right now, more than ever, is the right time to start using it properly.

For any advice on SEO strategies, responsive websites or SEO training get in touch with us here.

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