The following is a post from Brian Fitzgerald, VP of Web Strategy at TIG Global.
Last week Google made an announcement about some changes to their ranking algorithm. You can read the full details about the changes here. In this post I’d like to give a brief overview of the changes but talk in more detail about the real impact to the travel industry and some strategies and tactics that I think will matter moving forward.
According to Google this algorithm change affects 35% of searches, which sounds like a lot, but is a bit deceiving. This figure is referring to searches, not keywords, and is impacting some of the most searched topics like current news, current events, celebrities, sports and other “hot” topics that have very high search volumes, so the 35% percentage of searches is impacting a much smaller percentage of keywords. This algorithm enhancement is built off of the Caffeine enhancements that Google made a couple of years ago and addresses the fact that many searches need results that are “fresh” and display very recent, almost real-time results from across the web. Overall, I do not believe this update impacts the travel industry very much because the search phrases that this enhancement impacts are not the searchers that the travel industry is targeting. With that said, I do think there are things that all marketers should be doing that cater to the subject of “freshness”.
- Produce New Content Often: One of the things happening with this change from Google is that content relevant to certain searches has a very short shelf life. If your content is “fresh” and shows up well, within a short period of time it will be replaced by someone else’s content that is fresher. If you can frequently produce new content like blog posts, videos and press releases you’ll be better positioned for this change.
- Blogging: One of the ways you can produce content more frequently is through a blog. Hopefully you have a blog. If you don’t, you should. We’ve been preaching that for a while now. Blogging is going to give you that platform to create content frequently but it’s also going to give you an RSS feed. It is believed that Google is using RSS feeds to help identify “fresh” content as soon as possible. So if you are blogging you might have a better chance of showing up for some searches that deserve “fresher” content because Google will see your RSS feed updating.
- XML Sitemaps: XML Sitemaps are a method to inform search engines of the content that you have on your site. It is a file that can be created and submitted to the various engines through their webmaster portals. Once of the attributes of an XML Sitemap is a “last modified” attribute. This is another signal that Google can use to know when content has been last updated and determine its “freshness”. You should have an XML Sitemap(s) and you should have one that dynamically updates as you create content. If you have a good CMS you should be able to do this with ease.
- Social Signals: Google is most definitely using social signals to help identify “hot” topics and identify subjects that are increasing in popularity. They are looking at Twitter, Facebook and other social sharing sites like Digg and Reddit. If they see particular topics or particular pieces of content getting increased amounts of chatter or sharing then this helps know to show “fresher” results. This means that your activity and participation in social media channels and engagement with your online communities matters more and more. You should continue to monitor and respond to posts on Twitter, Facebook and reviews sites as often and quickly as possible.
Overall, I don’t believe that this update by Google is that big of a deal, it is not nearly as impactful or concerning as their Panda update from earlier this year. Also, as mentioned before I don’t view this update by Google to have a huge impact on the travel industry, at least right now. These types of announcements and enhancements from Google typically have more strategic significance. Therefore, if Google is putting more weight on “freshness” for these types of searches, we should all be thinking about how Google may evolve this to have a larger impact on a larger percentage of searches and our industry.
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