Google’s Devastating Game Changer for Travel Websites?

Historically search engine results pages have acted a bit like a person on the information desk of a large department store, helpfully directing you off to where you can find whatever it is you require. However, increasingly Google is becoming an information destination in its own right, something we’ve highlighted previously.

Earlier this month Google released a new service which potentially could have a devastating impact on the amount of visitors travel destination websites receive.

Destinations on Google” allows users of mobile devices to do in depth travel research and itinerary planning directly within Google Search results, thus removing the need to click on search results and visit external travel information websites.

All a searcher needs do is type into Google the name of a destination plus vacation/destination/travel. eg “new zealand vacation” and they get presented with the following:

nz-vacation1 nz-vacation2

Clicking on the Travel Guide button then opens up NZ destination information, such as the following small series of snapshots (there’s plenty more).

nz1 nz2 nz3 nz5

Furthermore, Google has incorporated its Google Flights and Hotel search functionality, so that a traveler can go straight from deciding on a destination to booking the best real time fares and hotel rates.

As such, this latest offering from Google may not only detrimentally impact travel destination information websites, such as Tourism New Zealand and regional tourism sites like Tourism Queenstown, but also commercial travel sites like AA Travel, Jasons, Lonely Planet, Fodors and Expedia could experience pain too.

Making things worse for travel information websites is that “Destinations on Google” travel guide information totally dominates Google mobile search results, occupying all screen real estate above the fold and more, after which PPC and organic listings appear.

The driver behind this initiative is that apparently Google experienced a 50% increase in travel-related queries on mobile phones last year. Here’s a video showing how it works.

Why should you care?

From a user’s perspective”Destinations on Google” is fantastic and well worth checking out. Try “new zealand vacation” or “sydney travel” (note, at this stage it’s only showing on mobile devices).

But if you’re involved with a travel information website this latest initiative from Google will likely be far less welcome and could hurt. We suggest monitoring your mobile traffic carefully, being alert for possible drops in visitors.

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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