Search engines back future of natural search

Online search giants Yahoo! and Google have defended their ground over concerns in the industry as to the fate of so-called natural listings.

The pair faced repeated questions from travel industry executives at a seminar this week, including senior vice president for e-commerce and distribution at InterContinental Hotels Group, Eric Pearson

Pearson highlighted speculation as to whether “organic” or natural search would eventually go by the wayside.

However Yahoo! Travel Europe general manager Tim Frankcom said: “Without natural search you don’t have search. If you ignore it people won’t want to use your product.”

According to Pearson the increased popularity of key-word search campaigns is pushing natural search so far down the list of results that no one sees it.

Google head of travel Europe Esteban Walther added: “We’re putting more and more effort into improving organic search, personalising it more and making it more universally accessible.”

Pearson also revealed to delegates at the Eye for Travel event in London that his company spends more than US$40 million on keyword search related activity.

At a similar event earlier this year a straw poll among a roomful of delegates showed about 95% ignored sponsored listings, which further demonstrates the growing impatience with the way search is developing.

Rumours circulating in industry circles as to whether the world’s two leading search engines would become travel providers were also raised but senior industry figures suggested the pair would be mad to destroy their current, successful business model by going into competition with their customers. chief executive David Soskin also defended the existing natural search mode, adding: “Search has to be neutral.”

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