google instant
7 years ago
 

Google Instant is just the beginning in the search revolution in travel

Search is 16 years old and it is changing – in fact, we are entering a period where search companies are going to push and be pulled.

They are going to push for more money and regaining traffic lost to social media and be pulled into the new ways in which consumers what search and search results.

This push and pull is going to change the dimensions of search and the ultimate destinations to which consumers are sent.

Google Instant is part of this change.  It will generate more money for Google, generate faster answers for customers and prepare consumers for the next revolution in search.

That revolution will be search going from single answers based on single measures of authority to multi-destinational answers based on multi-dimensional sources of information. Let me explain.

Search is as old as the modern internet – say 16 years. From the days people first discovered Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, Yahoo, Looksmart, Excite, Altavista and eventually the king of search – Google.

But search is getting old.  Internet search says that there is one site, one location that can answer your query.

Type in “what time is it in New York” and internet search will give you the number one site with the exact answer.

Same for “how many inches in a meter”, “where is the Eiffel tower”, “how many people live in Seoul” and every other closed question that has a limited number of answers.

But type in an open ended question and current search struggles. Search for “what is the best movie of all time”, “who is the greatest of them all”, “where should I go next” or “who do you love” and it becomes clear there is not one site with the answer.

The future of search is one that answers open ended questions.

Where we can draw together information from more than one content location (multi-destinational search) and prioritize it based on different trust or ranking metrics (multi-dimensional search).

Where search brings together the answers from different existing pages (destinations) as well as different perspectives and sources (dimensions) such as the instant responses of experts, the instant responses of our sociograph and the instant responses of a searcher’s tastegraph.

google instant

With Google Instant, however, results appear as you type. The search results update as you search rather than waiting for you to complete your query and hit “Google Search” or “I Feel Lucky”. I believe Google has done this for two reasons.

Firstly to make more money and secondly to prepare users for the multi-dimensional and multi-destinational future of search.

In relation to revenue, Google Instant has the chance to make Google a lot more money in the short term than the traditional search process.

The most expensive words in search (at least travel search) are in the head terms.  Phrases like “hotels in [major city]” and ‘flights to [major city]”.

Type in something like “Hotels in London” or “Flights to New York” and you will see what I mean. You will see the battle ground of the biggest and most cashed up travel companies in the world.

It is arguable that as head term bidding costs have risen, head term paid search marketing has moved from a direct marketing activity to one more akin brand building and long term customer acquisition.

As a result the paid search battle has expanded rapidly from high cost head terms to the lower cost but harder to target body and tail terms.

The paid search battle has expanded form “hotels in [major city] to sub divisions of minor destinations such as “hotels in [suburb of secondary city]” and to refinement of head terms such as “[type] hotels in [major city] with [special requirement]” such a as “luxury hotels in new york that take pets”.

With Google Instant, as soon as customers type in “hotel” or “flight” or “cruise” the result will appear and paid search clicking will start before the consumer has a chance to qualify their request.

Instead of customers typing in a full long tail search term and then clicking on the cheap(er) paid advert, they are likely to click sooner on a more expensive head search term.

Under Google non-instant a customer would type in “hotels in Bondi with a swimming pool and view”, wait for the results then click on the link. Under Google Instant, the second they type in the word “hotels” results will start to appear.

Any percentage of long tail searchers that abandon a long tail search to click on a head term paid advert is more money for Google. Great move.

But Google Instant is not just a revenue generating move, it is also part of a search training exercise to get help prepare consumers for the transition to search 3.0.

For the transition from the type, search, wait, review and proceed method that is the current search model to a constantly developing and refining approach that will be the hall marks of the mutli-destinational/dimensional search model.

To answer open ended questions we need to collect information from more than one place/destination. We need to be able to see how different content locations (sites, updates, blogs, news feeds, discussions etc) are dealing with the same piece of information.

To see this is a way that makes it clear which is the most recent piece of information and how each piece of information relates to the other.  This is the multi-destinational element.

As well we need a new process for attributing ranking. The current page rank algorithm derives authority and ranking from links.  Inbound links and outbound links are like votes of authority.

Each vote (link) is not equal.  The higher the authority of a page – the greater the value of a link from that page. In future search authority (page rank) will need to come from more than links.

There are new methods on the Interwebs for marking a piece of content or information as important and valuable. The “like” button, a re-tweet, a URL shorten, a Digg, a reddit vote, a stumble upon, a youtube view, a status update and many more.

In the social media world there are scores of ways to give authority to a piece of content without giving it a link.

In my own case I am writing more and more content than ever before but because I am writing it on Tnooz, Twitter, Linkedin and other places – not just the BOOT – my BOOT page rank has dropped from six to four in the last year.

[NB: Our apologies. Ed 🙁 ]

The future of search will change the measures of authority to take into account that you can “vote” with more than a link.

Google knows this and along side the changes with Google Instant has been putting stars and voting buttons on links in search results.

They have added bounce rate to the measure of relevance. And offered more and more ways to see the search results in different formats and different sources.

All aimed and training the consumer to prepare for the next revolution in search.

Search is changing – so expect more. Keep an eye on the new dimensions for authority and incorporation of more than one destination in the answer.

If you want more background on Google Instant I suggest reading the following links

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Tim Hughes

About the Writer :: Tim Hughes

Tim Hughes is an online travel industry executive who has been blogging since June 2006 at the Business of Online Travel (the BOOT).

The BOOT covers analysis of online travel industry trends, consumer and company behaviour and broader online/web activity of interest to online travel companies (with a bias towards Tim’s home markets of Asia and Australasia and with the odd post on consuming and loving travel thrown in).

In late-2010 the BOOT clocked its 1,000th post, 200,000th visitor and 300,000th page view.In his work life he is the CEO of Getaway Lounge - a premium travel deal site based in Australia.

Tim has worked for both Orbtitz and Expedia. Prior to the travel industry Tim was a commercial lawyer and venture capitalist. Tim’s views are his alone and not necessarily the views of Getaway Lounge or any of its investors.

 

Comments

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  1. Question and Answer sites - another piece of the online travel search revolution | Tnooz

    […] Google Instant is just the beginning in the search revolution in travel […]

     
  2. Thisbe

    You were right – the next step just occurred – “Google Places Search”

     
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  5. vignesh

    fantastic

     
  6. ram

    Very helpful article for me to understand the dynamics of instant search and the future. With fragmentation of the web and content along with change in the media format ( explosion in video) coupled with device fragmentation..the golden age of the web is over. So how will Google deal with that will be interesting to see though they are betting big on tablets, android and mobile.

    Great post Tim

     
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  9. Thisbe

    Absolutely spot-on and one of the best articles I have read in a long time. Thanks for posting.

     
  10. Anonymous

    I fail to understand the point that Instant is a way for Google to earn more money. If they wanted more clicks on head terms rather than long tail terms, they could simply tweak the algorithm to achieve that. Remember the head vs. long tail is something that they have created themselves to achieve relevance to a search. It is not some higher natural principle of arrangement.

    I am more inclined to think that Google is frantically looking for ways to innovate search, but doesn’t really know where to look for it. As a user, I don’t like Instant at all.

     
  11. Aaron

    Wolfram Alpha answers alot of these questions. Wolframalpha.com

     
  12. Sara Borghi

    Brilliant analysis Tim!

     
  13. JAMES - travelling with kids

    Great post and well constructed argument. It’s interesting as being a family blogger wondering what will instant mean to my site as we can not compete with the big guys and their almighty budgets, we really do rely on the long tail for traffic.

    I like your points on that they are preparing us for the next phase in search. I wonder if instant search will only make the searcher pick the first cab on the rank and not wait to see if a silver cab is just around the corner!

    Interesting times for search and travel and how we all conduct our travel research.

     
    • Tim

      James – I am convinced we are going to see more people grabbing that first cab

       
  14. Ben Colclough

    Great thoughtful post. I certainly agree that Instant is primarily to make Google more money, you only have to see the greater proportion of SERP real estate that goes to paid results.

    You touch on the point about the shift in competition from head terms to long tail terms. I think it is true now that arbitrage has meant that often you can get better ROI now on head terms than long tail terms. It seems everybody has got hold of the “bid on long tail results” mantra and all piled in and drove up the cost of bidding there. I think the jury is out whether Instant will mean more head term searches or long tail searches. Whilst your rationale is correct for why head term searches will increase, the increased prominence of long tail suggestions may mean more long tail searches as a counterbalance. I guess time will tell.

    I don’t think a search engine will ever be able to answer the open-ended questions. It can tell you what other people think and categorise them and even determine overall sentiment, but ultimately I find it hard to believe it will ever become intelligent enough so that a user would trust the answer?

     
    • Tim

      Ben – thanks. It is gong to be very interesting to see how long the long tail is. Google continue to claim that some significant proportion (I think as high as 20%) of new searches are first time searches. This is extraordinary (if true) and would indicate that we have barely started to see the end of the tail

       
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  16. Glenn Gruber

    Tim, good post. 2 comments.

    With regards to answering open ended questions, I think that the ability to do that lies in the social graph. The answers to things like “what’s the best movie of all time” can only come from people who share a similar perspective. My 6 year old daughter will say Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakel. I might say Star Wars. But the social graph…frankly anything social…is where Google seems to struggle and why Facebook is probably the competitor they’re most worried about.

    As to the impact of Instant on paid search, I wonder when the masses will realize that paid search links are not the ones to click on. Some say (and I agree) that paid search is for the great unwashed — the less you know about the web the more likely you are to click on a paid search ad. Organic search is earned search and where consumers — and travel companies — should be focusing their time.

     
    • Tim

      Glen – good points thanks. I am also leaning towards the “people with similar perspectives” or tastegraph approach rather than pure sociograph. I also agree that Facebook is leading this. But I think this is an “and” discussion rather than an “or” discussion. Meaning that the answer will come from a combination of the social and preference (taste) networks, not one or the other. I see a search result for a question “which TV Show” that gives the social and the taste side by side but critically gives me the information I need to understand the recommendation process. For example it says – your father and Fred and Jane recommend “How I met your Mother”, people who liked the Wire recommend “Deadwood”, the people in your social circle that liked the Wire and West Wing recommend “True Blood”. I can then way up the authority of each recommendation

       
  17. Sam Daams

    “But type in an open ended question and current search struggles. Search for “what is the best movie of all time”, “who is the greatest of them all”, “where should I go next” or “who do you love” and it becomes clear there is not one site with the answer.”

    I don’t think it’s strange that there isn’t a site with the answers to these questions or that search struggles with them. I can barely come up with the answers myself. No matter how smart the folks at G are, I have a hard time believing they are going to be able to come up with answers to questions like “who is the greatest of them all”.

    Also, for small travel startups just starting to wrap their head around SEO, it’s important to point out that your drop in Pagerank has nothing to do with where you are adding your content. You have most likely lost one or two big links, or your site has been devalued in some other way for some other reason by Google. But how *much* content you write has NOTHING to do with Pagerank. Assuming all links pointing to your site 1 year ago are still there, and you hadn’t written a letter on the site, you would still have the same Pagerank today as you did then, unless G did an industry/worldwide shift in pagerank (I can remember 1 or 2 of these throughout the years). That said, of course it’s important to create content there where you wish to drive traffic 🙂

     
    • Tim

      Sam – thanks for comments. Appreciate it.

      Re “one site”, I agree with you that there is not and should not be one site to answer open ended questions. But the current search methodology of presenting a list of single destination not going to get us close to open ended question answering. I am thinking of a whole new results methodology. I see a search result that has a list of answers from different locations and then some guide as to where those answers are coming from. So for “who is the greatest of them all” instead of seeing the current single site list we see multiple columns or qualification buttons. One for sport, one for art, one for cooking, one for acting etc. As we indicate the column we are interested in we then see information collated from different destinations and then displayed with reference to the authority. In my example say you search “who is the greatest of them all” then select the sport “column”, the result will not be one site but a feed like stream with information like this “ESPN.com says Mohammed Ali”, “Sports Ilustrated says Joe Fraiser”, “three of your friends on Facebook say Sonny Liston”, “right now on Twitter they are saying Mike Tyson”. Then there are further options to move out of boxing and into other sports (say Golf). Different sources and different trust/authority measures brought together to give the surfer the option to further refine.

      Re “page rank” – you are certainly right that my page rank is being affected by things other than content but pre Twitter I used to put up lots of posts telling people of articles I was reading. These posts would generate links and hits. Now those “posts” have become tweets and the The BOOT does not get any page rank value. Pre- Tnooz (happy birthday guys) posts like this one would be on the BOOT. They would get (a lot less) traffic than on Tnooz but any links in would be BOOT beneficial

       
      • Sam Daams

        “Re “page rank” – you are certainly right that my page rank is being affected by things other than content but pre Twitter I used to put up lots of posts telling people of articles I was reading. These posts would generate links and hits. Now those “posts” have become tweets and the The BOOT does not get any page rank value. Pre- Tnooz (happy birthday guys) posts like this one would be on the BOOT. They would get (a lot less) traffic than on Tnooz but any links in would be BOOT beneficial”

        But if the links you had before starting to use all those other channels are all still there, your pagerank wouldn’t have changed, aside from minor calibrations. It *certainly* wouldn’t drop from a 6 to a 4. Mind you, a 6 is very very good for a blog. Most likely there was a good PR7 or 8 link pointing to your site that was removed or nofollow’d. That, and the loss of fresh links might result in the ‘demotion’. The only other reason is a PR penalty, but not sure why G’d do that to you 🙂

         
        • Tim

          another commentator mentioned to me that part of the cause of my drop could be that there are three syndication sites – uptake100, tips from the t list and Phocuswright Connect – that might be confusing Google as to which of us is the original and thereore penalising my ranking.

           
 
 

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