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Don’t Get Frozen Out

Carl Weldon on Google’s pandas, penguins and passion for hotels

Think Google…think Google algorithm updates. Panda and Penguin are the code names for two significant updates to the way the Google Search ranks and looks at websites. See below for more details but essentially one is checking for quality…the other for quantity …or rather unwanted self-generated quantity of queries. Any reasonable business should not be affected by the latter (keyword stuffing, link farms etc.) whereas the former is now looking for quality especially Social Media-led content. If you have not reviewed your website for a while now is a good time to start…and while you are at it have you checked out Google Hotel Finder recently?

Google has added a new Exact Match Domain filter, which tries to ensure that low-quality sites don’t rise high in their search results simply because they have search terms in their domain names. The company has been busy in recent weeks, with two updates, named Panda and Penguin.

Taking Panda first, Google’s blog commented: “This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites - sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites - sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

So Panda is looking for sites which aren’t spam, but aren’t quality either. For the search engine to maintain its dominance of the search sector, it needs to curate its searches, more than the average user would suspect. If enough pages on your site are deemed ‘thin’, then your site could suffer. Panda is also intended to stop sites which republish the content of others from outranking the originals.

Penguin is also a quality play on the part of Google, in the traditional arenas of spam. The filter takes a dim view of keyword stuffing and irrelevant outgoing links, both of which could get your site into bother. Google said: “Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognisable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.”

If you have received a warning from Google about spam activity, you should act on it. Other than past comments about links and keyword stuffing, Google has not been specific on what Penguin is looking for, so use the warning as a hint to get Spring cleaning.

Google is also continuing to build its interest in the hotel and travel sector. Google Flight Search, previously available only in the US, is now being rolled out in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

It joins Google Hotel Finder, which has progressed hugely in the past year. As it has done with its flight product, Hotel Finder has now been integrated into the main Google search homepage. By typing, for example “London hotel”, the user can bring up results which can be refined according to date, price and star rating without leaving the main search results page.

Once refined, the results can be viewed on a map, with Google having now added a number of filtering options to narrow down the results, including the options to search by price, star rating and user rating, as well as for the presence of amenities, including beach access, internet and whether or not pets are allowed.

Google takes its hotels from its own data, OTAs, GDS representation companies, Yelp and others, so there’s every chance your hotel is already on it. If not, get yourself to Google +. It is unlikely that Google is planning an assault on the OTAs - it gets too much ad revenue from them to put its business model in jeopardy - but it is likely to be the meta-search of choice once word gets out.

The interesting question in a hotel is…who takes responsibility for all this, as it is a combination of Revenue Management, Marketing, IT and a little Finance to confirm the maths and the ROI!

Join the debate - I’ll be looking at Google Hotel Finder in more depth but I need your thoughts. Have you used it? Are you planning to use it? Please comment below!


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