Google keyword switch to cost big travel brands ‘millions’

Some of the UK’s biggest travel companies could be facing a digital marketing hit of “millions” following Google’s decision to allow trademarked keyword bidding.

Google last week announced changes to its pay-per-click rules which for the first time will allow any company to buy keywords associated with a rival’s brand name.

The move has angered a number of the leading online travel brands in the UK and prompted a wave of speculation as to why Google had reversed a popular policy.

Big travel companies could be forced to hike their digital marketing spend by up to seven figures within a month, according to managing director Lyndsay Menzies of the BigMouthMedia search agency.

A digital marketing executive from one of the UK’s biggest travel companies told Travolution that 25% of the company’s overall PPC budget may now have to be thrown at Google to protect it against others bidding against its brand name.

Menzies told Travolution: “It’s the end of a very useful marketing mechanism for the big pure play travel brands, who for some time now have found that brand bidding works for them.

“They’ve been getting high volumes of low cost, targeted traffic from Google, and the new rules are likely to cost them big money.”

But while big brands are likely to see a significant increase in their digital marketing spend, smaller companies and aggregators – such as online travel agencies and meta search engines – will find a new distribution stream opening up.

Menzies said: “Until now they’ve been forced to bid on the generic terms desired by every operator in the sector and as a result these can be very expensive, but the new regime means that the meta search players can now bid on other travel brands, creating a potential opportunity to tap into cheaper but still relevant traffic.”

Announcing the decision last week, Matt Brittin, director for Google UK, said: “Google’s goal is to provide our users with the most relevant information, from both search results and advertising. We are making this change because we want to give users greater choices to help them make informed decisions.”

However, iCrossing’s chief technology officer and head of paid search, Paul Doleman, said: “Google seems to be abdicating responsibility as a media owner to ensure an adword is authentic. This practise is already prevalent offline, where competitor comparisons are commonplace on brand.

“Prior to making this announcement I would have liked to see Google in deeper consultancy with agencies to understand potential brand reactions, and I fear that many people will see a clash between Google’s stated desire to be as relevant as possible, while allowing advertisers to bid on an irrelevant term.”

Google in the US switched its keyword trademark policy in 2004. The UK change will take place on May

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