Search Engine Optimization

Travel industry urged to diversify organic traffic flow amid Google SEO leaks

Travel industry urged to diversify organic traffic flow amid Google SEO leaks

Following the introduction by Google in March of a new update, Stay22 – the travel tech company that offers affiliate revenue generation opportunities for travel bloggers and media – reported that some travel bloggers immediately saw reductions of as much as 75% in their organic traffic. The company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to connect online travel content creators such as bloggers and media publications with the affiliate marketing programs of travel sellers.

Meanwhile, the impact has been felt across the whole of the travel space, with many of those dependent upon organic search, including hotel and smaller OTAs, seeing major falls in traffic.

Publicly, Google has never revealed details of how its search algorithm works, and always stated that each new update was in the best interests of search users, not intended to hinder or hurt websites themselves – and rather ironically called one update the ‘Helpful Content Update (HCU)’. As the company only ever issues some high-level guidance on how websites should respond, this has led to criticism labelling Google as ‘untransparent’ in this respect.  Perhaps understandable, given that research from Digitaloft shows that since the first HCU rollout in August 2022, 78% of 671 travel websites they analysed have lost traffic.

In addition, a recent leak of internal Google documents – published by SEO expert Erfan Azimi and available on the Google API Content Warehouse – revealed not only details of how the algorithm worked (unfairly, according to some who’ve seen this) but also that on some occasions, Google may have been misleading websites by giving them information that was perhaps untrue. 

Rami Nuseir, Head of Marketing at Stay22 comments: “The recent leaks show that Google has not only been untransparent with website owners, but it also seems to have often been misleading us. This is the last straw for us at Stay22 and should be for the wider travel media and blogger community. Some of their changes also seem a bit unfair, not rewarding quality websites. If they don’t help us and we can’t be sure they’re not misleading us, then why should we trust them? How do we know that they are not really just trying to push us to buy their Google Ads? I for one feel that’s their goal. 

“In the past, many people dependent on web traffic from Google have just shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘what can you do, we need Google’. But we don’t agree with that approach and now strongly recommend that travel bloggers – or anyone in the travel industry who depends on organic traffic – start to diversify away from Google, to look for other sources of traffic for their website. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but little by little they can make themselves more independent from Google.

To achieve this, Stay22 – who works with over 2500 travel bloggers and travel media websites – has suggested five suggested actions travel content creators (or anyone in travel dependent on website traffic) should consider taking right away to diversify:

  1. Leverage Pinterest. Although many people think of it as a social media platform, it functions much more as a search engine, and is a high-traffic source for many bloggers.
  2. Develop a Bing strategy: debate about what share of the global search market Bing has varies from between 3% and 4%, but don’t forget that in some markets it is much higher (certainly the US). That’s a huge amount of people! Unlike Google, Bing is very transparent about its ranking factors and has a URL analyzer that will recommend ways to improve your content for Bing SEO.
  3. Don’t overlook the importance of email marketing campaigns: you own this channel, whatever happens.
  4. Add content to Flipboard, which can be automated through an RSS feed. The article curation website lets users flip through articles from different publications, like magazines.
  5. Develop short-form videos for social media to get your website discovered.
  6. Start publishing guest posts on other websites to attract new readers.

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