Ebookers admits Google listing difficulties

Online travel agent Ebookers has admitted to “big problems” with its search engine optimisation on the Google platform.

The acknowledgment came this week after it emerged the Travelport-owned site could not be found in Google’s natural search listings until at least the second page of results – a major issue in an already highly competitive market for OTAs.

The issue was compounded earlier this week when the keyword “ebookers” returned results for consumer watchdog sites, such as Grumble Text, which is heavily critical of the company, far higher than the company’s first listing on Google.

The company has continued to run a pay-per-click campaign on the keyword “ebookers” and its car hire portal – Carbookers – has secured top billing on results for the same query.

However Ebookers admitted this week that the issue had been known for some time and is the latest in a string of problems it has encountered with the Google search engine.

Head of e-marketing Saurabh Kumar told Travolution the issue had been created by using the same IP address for all Ebookers sites – such as dot-com, dot-it and dot-fr.

Google’s algorithm for determining search results dislikes multiple or duplicate domains and has been known to de-list some or reduce the ranking of sites as a consequence.

It has also emerged this week that the dot-com site for Ebookers was removed by Google earlier this year, but it returned to the search engine’s listings in June after an evaluation period of three months.

“This issue is because of the way the website is structured,” Kumar said, although results are not affected in the same way on the Yahoo!, MSN and Ask search engines.

“We still use a system of cookies to determine which version a user sees; having everything on the same IP address is a big problem.”

Ebookers is currently in the process of separating all its country sites away from a single IP address in the hope that the Google algorithm will automatically rectify the duplication issues affecting its listing process.

The project is expected to be finished by early-October, ahead of Travelport’s wider overhaul of the Ebookers site, which is due to be unveiled in October – the first stage of a major redevelopment plan of Travelport websites outside of the US.

Ebookers currently handles its search engine optimisation in-house and uses Guava for pay-per-click advertising.

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