The search landscape is changing every day, with Google and other search engines making tweaks to their algorithms on an almost daily basis. However, the last few months of 2010 saw some more significant changes than usual which resulted in many dramatic changes in search rankings.
One of these changes was Google’s increased desire to rank internal, more relevant pages rather than homepages. Google has always said that it ranks pages, not domains, though this would seem to be changing with this recent development. We also saw a strike down on ‘anchor text’ links, as Google becomes more capable of phasing out sites that are trying to game the system. These sort of changes mean that your approach to SEO in 2011 needs to be more ‘white hat’ than ever as you wil see diminishing long term results from the spammy tactics that would have gained results not so long ago.
With these changes in mind, i’ve put together a few tips and predictions for the 2011 search landscape, with an eye on how it will effect the travel marketing industry in particular:
- Google has put more emphasis on brands in recent months and building your own brand online will be crucial to a successful SEO campaign in 2011. If you are a relatively new travel brand then you need to be getting branded links and brand mentions across the various areas of the web, whether that is directories, PR submissions, blogs or social media. As you establish a powerful brand and a wide digital footprint search engines will trust you more and deliver you for more longtail queries, as well as your headline phrases.
- Social media will play a more important role than ever in 2011. Not only is it about building a community around your brand and harnessing these channels to establish brand advocates, now it is about illustrating your brand presence to Google who will use that as a factor in its rankings. If you don’t already have a presence on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook then 2011 is the time to start.
- Ignore local search at your peril. Google has started to incorporate local search results into the organic search listings for many queries and it has opened up a huge opportunity for smaller travel business to grab a piece of the search pie. If you have a business address then you should have a verified Google maps listing, especially if you provide a location orientated service (e.g. hotel in Leeds). Even for big online travel retailers, having a location optimised website will provide more search success than ever before in 2011.
- Heavily optimised sites are likely to come unstuck. As Google cracks down on things like anchor text links, many travel websites which hopped on the SEO bandwagon a long time ago (and used slightly gray hat tactics) may see their success diminishing as Google begins to punish over optimised link profiles. If you’re link profile is full of anchor text links and not many branded ones then it’s time to get building them, and fast!
- Interacting with travel bloggers is something that should be done by every travel company. The community of travel bloggers is huge (and ever growing) and they are more than happy to endorse travel companies if approached in the right way. Establish a presence on Twitter and build relationships with them. Once you have built a level of trust you can broach different ways you can work together and they are more than likely to oblige if you produce ideas which will be mutually beneficial. These are the people who can spread your brand through the travel community and this sort of exposure will bring with it both PR and SEO benefits. Don’t overlook them…
These are just a few of the issues that have appeared to me as the more important considerations for 2011. No doubt we will see more big changes from Google in the coming months that we will need to react to. One things for sure, white hat SEO is now more important than ever as Google, Bing and other search engines develop their ability to filter out those trying to game the system. Play fair and you’re likely to see good, long lasting results!