22 Jul 2011

How Google+ will reshape Search, Social Media and Travel

How will Google+ reshape search, social media and the travel industry? Here are some solutions for quick wins and strategic planning

The impact on search
Google doesn’t tell you about their algorithm, but they’ve dropped enough hints to suggest that they’re now using human factors to determine the quality of content with their recent Panda updates. The introduction of the +1 button, and its presence in search results suggests that a combination of “+1”, “like” and other sharing tools will play an increasing role.

So the big shift in search is that humans will now have a say in what makes good content, rather than just the machine. According to Google, this means that low quality content and search engine fodder will have no place to hide or, more accurately, Google will hide it much further down the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

What should travel companies do?
Google+ in conjunction with the Panda updates could be the biggest shift in search since it took off 13 years ago. Traffic from Google is for many travel companies the largest traffic source to their digital platforms and with Google revolutionising their algorithms, we have to embrace the change!

Here are some simple steps that travel companies can take to make sure these radical developments in search can benefit their businesses, in addition to some strategic questions to answer to help protect your business in the longer term:

Quick wins
• Step 1: Integrate the +1 button so your customers can share WebPages they rate with their friends and peers.
• Step 2: Ask the whole of your organisation to set up Google profile pages so that they get into the mindset of analysing the content they read. This will allow them to better understand what grabs users’ attention, so they can build this insight into their own work.
• Step 3: Use Google Analytics or Google Web Master Tools to monitor how +1s are affecting your organic & paid search and which pages of your website are liked the most.
• Step 4: Build this knowledge into your content strategy.

Strategic planning
• Review all of your website content to gauge quality.
• Prioritise key pages, but don’t forget longer tail search pages - these are the foundations upon which many websites’ traffic is built.
• Consider the integration and design of different page types, this is extremely important as it will be the users’ experience of the whole page and its features which will determine if they +1 it.

Evolution of the social network
Since the end of June, 10 million of us have signed up, and we are just the lucky few who have been invited, so do we have any choice but to fully embrace Google+ as a social network? A vast number of us are already using Gmail or Android devices and will end up Google+ users by default, as many of the ‘+’ features will simply ‘arrive’ as part of ongoing updates.

Much of the initial thrust will come from within our business lives due to the power of search in dictating the winners and losers in the digital space, so LinkedIn and Twitter may feel the most threatened right now. By the same token, initially at least, the Panda updates may well boost traffic originating on networks like Twitter.

However, will we vote for the commercial might of Google and its catch all approach? or smaller more tailored networks that speak to our specific needs? Can Google+ social “Circles” allow us the freedom to create these smaller niche groups with people we really connect with, whilst still being part of the global community that is approaching one billion users?

We will have to wait for the answers to many of these questions, but one thing is clear; Google is focusing on the quality of the experience that websites deliver. We therefore need to provide good quality content that answers the questions Google is posing, and delivers what real people enjoy reading and viewing. Not only will these pages rank well but, with Google+ and the +1 button, we’ll learn more about our customers, what they like and what inspires them.

This article was written by Giles Longhurst, Director of Frommer’s Unlimited®, EMEA the B2B business of Frommer’s, a branded imprint of Wiley. Frommer’s Unlimited specialises in creating unique on-brand destination and lifestyle content, building and managing custom hotel property descriptions and licensing a range of travel guide and events content to the online travel industry. For more information visit www.Frommers.biz.