Online travel companies need to focus on mobile and invest in apps and videos to stand out in search results, according to new analysis that has tracked how Google has developed.
The search engine giant, which has a huge influence in where holidaymakers make their bookings, has changed the way it displays results in the last decade.
Now, fewer ‘organic’ search results – where the website has not paid to be there – appear on the home page. The average number of organic links to appear on the first page of Google results has gone down from 10 to 8.5.
The research, carried out by content optimisation firm Searchmetrics, looked at half a million page one results using frequently Googled search terms.
Google, which is looking into the package holiday market, now has its own integrated flight search and hotel finder which tends to appear directly beneath the first four paid ads at the top of the site.
Searches also tend to include more extensions, with maps, images, videos and Wikipedia data among the pages suggested.
“Gone are the days when optimising for search was all about trying to appear in the classic ten blue organic links on Google’s first page,” said Lars Hartkopf, Europe marketing director at Searchmetrics.
“Now marketers must also plan their strategies to include opportunities around a variety of Universal and Extended Search boxes, understanding how to create and optimise content which Google will consider useful for each.”
Searchmetrics also found that nearly one in ten smartphone searches include app suggestions on the home page.
Around a quarter of search results (23.99% on desktops and 25.25% on smartphones) now include at least one integrated video, the research found.
And Google-owned YouTube is featured in 9 out of 10 searches on desktop and 72% of videos integrated in smartphone search results.
So, how do travel firms reliant on search results adapt to Google’s changes?
Searchmetrics came up with five key suggestions:
Desktop and smartphone searches feature different integration boxes
Desktop search results include at least one image 34% of the time compared to in 14.4% of searches on smartphones. Smartmetrics says this is likely to be because Google is trying to discourage image-laden pages with long download times on smartphones.
Phone results also include more Google Maps and Twitter Card integrations and fewer Product Listing Ads integrations related to search queries.
The implication is that marketers must understand what integration types Google is more likely to feature on the different devices and use this to inform their content strategies.
Nearly one in ten smartphone searches includes app suggestions
In nearly one out of 10 (9.76%) smartphone searches, Google integrates at least one App Pack box suggesting one or more apps that are related to the search term. If you click on a suggestion, you are taken to the App Store to download it.
Appearing in App Pack boxes represents a significant opportunity to attract downloads and to transport searchers into the closed environment of your app. Marketers can try to increase their chances of inclusion by following App Store Optimisation (ASO) techniques, researching and selecting the keywords and descriptions in their App Store titles.
The number and frequency of app downloads and positive user evaluations all play a role in whether Google chooses to include an app.
Videos boxes feature in around a quarter of results – and YouTube wins
Around a quarter of search results (23.99% on desktops and 25.25% on smartphones) now include at least one video integration. On desktops, 9 out of 10 videos are hosted on YouTube making it the top platform to target if you want videos to appear in search results.
On smartphones around 72% of videos integrated in results are from YouTube, with the others from the likes of Dailymotion, Vimeo and Vevo. To boost the chances of appearing in Videos boxes you should create clickable thumbnails of your video content that Google can easily include and use relevant keywords in titles and descriptions.
Adding subtitles also helps (because Google understand text better than audio visual content), as does encouraging more user interaction in the form of likes and comments.
Knowledge Graph boxes are an opportunity for known brands
Around one in five search results feature at least one Knowledge Graph box, usually when search queries relate to a person, a place, or other known entities. Knowledge Graphs appear prominently on the right hand side of the search page (and on top of the page in mobile results) and include a collection of facts, images and answers related to the search topic, which might be a well-known public figure, business person or company for example.
Google pulls this information together from online sources and known brands can have some influence on what appears when people search for them by optimising content such as logos/images, social network profiles and contact information. Having a company Wikipedia page is thought to be very helpful.
Direct Answer boxes are a high traffic opportunity
Google shows Direct Answer boxes for 11% of desktop results and 4% of smartphone results. These appear when the search engine senses that searchers are asking a question. These boxes are above the organic results and usually include content from a relevant search listing which searchers arrive at if they click on the box. This can potentially generate a lot of organic traffic.