Travel firms which have taken a Google hit, or fear they are in danger of taking one, have been advised not to panic but react in an orderly way.
SEO specialist Searchmetrics, which revealed the extent of Expedia’s plummeting visibility on Google in January, says firms with bad links should expect to be hit.
But Tom Schuster, chief executive of the Berlin-based analytics software developer, said an orderly removal of suspect links would help not arouse suspicion.
And he said work to clean up websites should be taken as an opportunity by travel firms to review their whole SEO strategy and to make it a key board-level issue.
“SEO tactics have been seen as being quite technical. But certainly in travel, because it’s highly dependent on generating leads and conversions through websites, it’s critical.
“What Expedia showed us is you can lose a vast amount of market capitalisation and a vast amount of profit if you get hit.
“In the past you would ask your SEO expert to give you some technical gobbledeygook and you were no better off.
“Today it’s imperative that the board asks some business critical questions: are we at risk? Is our site optimised?
“The senior management should set business goals for what is expected from the website in terms of performance improvement.
“We show relative market share, how your competitors are ranking and what their movement has been and express this in business terms.”
Searchmetrics says Google is ramping up its ‘war on spam’ and its latest Hummingbird Algorithm update targeting spammy links is what Expedia is thought to have fallen foul of.
The search engine is considered to be getting better at identifying irrelevant or unhelpful content as it gets more sophisticated in its use of semantics and determining intent.
So Searchmetrics says it’s vital that travel firms create website pages that are designed to answer browsers’ questions in terms of what stage of the buying cycle they are at.
Serving up deals to a potential customer who is clearly just at the start of their research process is, therefore, not going to work.
And websites should focus on the quality and content of their links to provide answers to those questions while keeping content fresh.
Schuster said this evolving approach by Google potentially favours the small specialist; however, the search engine continues to favour the better known brands.
Although the impact of being penalised by Google is potential devastating, Schuster advised firms not to overreact.
“The wrong thing to do if you get hit by a penalty is to get rid of everything as soon as possible. You need to get an expert in to help you.
“If you discover you have a problem but you have not been found out yet you should go about it in an orderly way removing the bad links.
“You should not get rid of them all straight away because that is going to awaken Google to the fact you have a problem.
“It’s not about getting rid of links, it’s getting links you earn rather than build. We know what direction Google is moving in.
“What they have done is penalise quantity – it’s still important but quality is essential.”
Searchmetrics says it has vast quantities of its own historic data which its customers use to devise SEO strategies and measure them against the performance of competitors.
Its multilingual Software as a Service (Saas) suite of products analyses every search engine in the world and offers insights into keyword, domain and links performance.