As the world’s largest search engine, Google has long been an essential part in any hotel or restaurant’s online marketing strategy. Listing your business on Google My Business, filling it with quality photos and information and gathering good reviews and ratings is a clear first step in creating an online presence.
But with an exciting new development announced earlier this month, the importance of a good Google presence for your hotel, resort or restaurant is greater than ever. The 20th century information giant is now threatening to overthrow TripAdvisor and Expedia as the world’s biggest and most comprehensive travel agent. So what exactly is Google doing, and why should you want to know?
Google has developed a shiny new search function for mobile browsers called Google Destinations, designed to make the process of researching and planning a trip easier and more intuitive. The search function compiles information from across Google’s existing platforms - Google+, Maps, Google My Business, etc. as well as basic web content to create an app-like encyclopedia of information before any other search results are listed. All users have to do is type a destination name plus “destination” into the search bar, e.g. “Vietnam destination”. The software is anticipated on desktop later this year but is currently exclusively for mobile searches. As Google notes, the smartphone is changing the face of internet use with more and more people relying on it, especially travellers.
The function includes a Lonely Planet-esque array of destination-specific details, as well as flight costs, hotel and restaurant suggestions, a general overall budget calculator and a number of other useful features all in one place. With this much information in one, easy to use interface, Google Destinations represents a big new step for online travel agents.
Google’s new move makes it the most comprehensive online travel agent on the internet, and with its already great reputation it’s potential to reach vast numbers of potential customers world-wide is well worth investing in. Let’s break it down:
Source: www.flickr.com – Photo: Mister G.C.
1. Google knows
We all know the online stalking-power of Google, but few of us really understand the real amount and range of information that the super-search engine knows about its users and their interests. With data on past searches, past advert interactions, past web views, past keywords and much more, Google is able to connect customers with specific information tailored to their specific profile. The destinations selected, the budget, the type of hotel - it all comes down to what Google already knows about the person searching - Google selects the information to show based on what the person is interested in, and what your business offers.
Source: www.flickr.com – Photo: Prayitno
For example, if a middle-aged lady who routinely stays in 5-star hotels, travels mainly to big, economic hubs, takes interest in shopping and likes to fine-dine, typed “Vietnam destination” into Google, she would be given a list of the bigger cities in the country, classy restaurants, the country’s best hotels and resorts, where to shop, what to buy, etc. But if the same search was made by a young, budget backpacker, they would return very different results.
2. Google is the middle-man
Given the level of insight mentioned above, it is now even more important that you focus on listing your business correctly with the right target market in mind, and getting as many people as possible to review you on Google. Google is not just a big-brother, it is your middle-man. It’s the virtual agent that connects you with your potential customers. Build your Google reputation as a business with a specific market, aim and values, and watch as Google targets your customers for you.
3. Google is your reputation
Another element to being found on Google Destinations is rating - the more reviews you have, the better they are and the higher your rating is, the higher up on the list you will be. Since this super search engine is so well known and trusted, a quality listing and collection of reviews on the platform guarantees you a similar reputation - arguably a more valuable asset than any TripAdvisor profile.
So How Do You Get on Board?
The only way to be involved in Google Destinations is to advertise on Google. The company has made it clear that this feature is primarily a B2C based resource designed to make travel easier and more profound for its search engine users. It is not a partner-fueled or advertising service. As such, the development hinges on Google’s existing relationships with hotels, airlines and OTAs that are listed with it. So the key to maximising your impact with Google is to get on Google my Business now (it’s free), and get reviewed!
Another super important thing that all businesses should start considering is their choice of keywords. Google Destinations revolves around a number of keywords relating to location and activity, so it’s definitely a good plan to start prioritising these particular keywords in your SEO optimisation. This will give you a higher chance of being listed on the first page of web results underneath the Google Destinations section, if you scroll down, and will also affect your rank on the Destinations section itself. The keywords include “destination”, “travel”, “hiking”, “skiing”, “surfing”, “beaches” and “tourist attractions”. Google then filters results according to their interest and location. If your business is related to any specific interest, chances are there is a keyword. Test it on your phone, and invest in some specialised SEO.