Organic search results for travel almost dead on Google

UPDATE: This is an edited version of the original article.

Google announced this week an upgrade to its search functionality, a programme of improvements being rolled out around the world to ramp up place places3

Here is Google’s blog post on the changes.

In short: Users see search results in a different kind of way, with maps streamed down the right hand side and more content featured on the result listings.

All very good.

But what confuses some folk is the way in which results are now presented, with various incarnations of displays being found in random locations and showing different things.

So there were these two examples grabbed by LocalTrips, where traditional-looking organic search follows the Universal Search results.

google places1

From the same user, located on the West Coast of the US, traditional organic moves up ahead of Universal Search.

google places2

Despite the markings on the grabs, Google stresses that the Universal Search is all organic, no links are a result of paid-for inclusion or CPC.

Meanwhile, a reader in the Netherlands also sees this type of layout:

google places5

Another format.

One unnamed search analyst for a high-profile European digital marketing agency says other similar, “radical” tests have been seen recently on Google.

“This forces brands to consider Google as a content destination as well as a search provider. Google Places may well be significant in this. It’s not surprising Google is doing this, its long been predicted Google would expand Universal Search into a polymorphic vertical search.

“What is surprising is that they’re testing this now while the ITA spotlight is shining on them.”

The point here is that while many of the results are still natural, or organic, there is a worry that much of the linkage around Universal Search (which seemingly dominates many of the pages) may – repeat, may – eventually go the way of paid-for advertising elsewhere on the Google real estate.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone
Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Top Tnooz this week - FairSearch, Back to the Future, Organic Growth | Tnooz

    […] Organic search results for travel almost dead on Google […]

  2. Cheap Air Tickets Delhi

    This type of layouts generally appears, when you searches small keywords… delhi hotels. Thanks to author for sharing such a niece article.

  3. Kendal Cottages

    As Sam points out, this is probably great news if you’re a hotelier or owner of an individual establishment (so long as you’re appearing in the search) but won’t be good news for owners of portals looking to target a myriad of different search terms.

    Personally, as owner of a self-catering business and as an owner of multiple portals, I can’t stay I’m too happy with the change. I’m just glad we turned a significant portion of our focus to other channels such as Facebook and Twitter. As it happens, this was slightly forced upon us a couple of years back when we suffered a lengthy Google penalty on a few of our sites.

    As with any business, it’s good not to have all your eggs in one basket.

  4. Bob

    Google’s strategy has been crystal clear for a while now. It’s called abuse of market power. Now that they have a monopolistic position in the market place, companies have no other option but to bid on paid search in order to secure their brand traffic. How do Google make more money now? Simple, reduce the amount of natural search, and force companies to bid on each other’s brands. The only reason they can get away with this nonsense is a function of their market share. Unfortunately most decision makes in government and senior management postions in corporations don’t understand digital marketing sufficiently to be aware of what Google are doing…
    I’m sure they’re banking on this status quo continuing.

  5. John Rockefeller

    As long as the quality of search results on Google is not reduced, users will not care that the links they are clicking on are paid links. To the user, it doesn’t cost a cent. They got where they wanted to go, and Google gets its money. Done.

  6. Nadav

    Agree with Joe – if the User Experience is good enough, i.e. if user designs this in a way that is easy to understand and navigate for any average Joe, this will certainly be the “booking path of choice” for many consumers. So more $ in Google’s pocket, less in the OTA’s .

  7. Joe Buhler

    People no longer using Google due to this? Hardly. Will Mr. & Mrs. Traveler care, or be able to tell the difference anyway? Disintermediation hasn’t gone away, it’s just now part of search. Also, if this increases revenue for Google, don’t think their competitors will not go that way too in a hurry. They’re all in it to make a ton of money not to provide a free service to people searching the web.

  8. Sam Daams

    Wasn’t this part of a discussion last year at Travel Blog Camp? Like I said there, all the signs are pointing to Google wanting to cut out the aggregator sites more and more. If you own a hotel or hostel in London, this is great news. If you are, less so 🙂 In the long term, that’s the trend everyone will have to get used to I guess.

    Personally I don’t mind that shift so much, but what’s the deal with organic listings being nearly impossible to find on a page?! Drives me bonkers, especially as they are getting harder and harder to tell apart.

  9. Stokely Carmichael

    Incredible! Scrolling down the map covers the adwords ads making the unclickable! That should have a certain impact on adwords campaign performances.

  10. Andrew

    Kevin, on your second screenshot where you highlighted “future paid placement”, I think it’s currently occupied by Google’s paid “Tags – Advertising in Listings” already…

    (you’ll perhaps see an example if you search with their demo term [austin bar-b-que) on

  11. Tweets that mention Organic search results for travel almost dead on Google | Tnooz --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dennis Schaal, Stuart McDonald, David Janes, Organic News, colinlewis and others. colinlewis said: Organic results for travel almost dead on Google…. forces brands to consider Google as a content destination " […]

  12. David Janes

    It’s 1998 Altavista all over again.

  13. Gavin

    Sadly I think people would still use them. Google is embedded in our culture, “I’ll google that” is mainstream and I’m not sure businesses are brave enough to walk away from the google traffic…

    Do no evil… pah!

    • David Whitley

      It is. But you’d be surprised how quickly can unbed itself if people start finding it irritating and unhelpful. My hunch is that the further Google moves away from doing what it does best – ie. simple, uncluttered search – the fewer people will use it. Someone else will come in and do what Google used to do…

  14. David Whitley

    Go on Google, try filling all of your search pages with adverts and see how many people want to use you. *Sound of mighty empire crashing down*


Newsletter Subscription

Please subscribe now to Tnooz’s FREE daily newsletter.

This lively package of news and information from Tnooz’s web site provides a convenient digest of what’s happening in technology that drives the global travel, tourism and hospitality market.

  • Cancel