Google’s Helpful Content Update: A Time of Reckoning for Hospitality & Travel Tech Marketers | By Daniel E. Craig

Google’s Helpful Content Update: A Time of Reckoning for Hospitality & Travel Tech Marketers | By Daniel E. Craig

Recently, Google announced an update to its search algorithm designed to boost original, helpful content and devalue low-quality content. It’s part of a broader, long-term initiative to improve the quality of search results and give greater visibility to content written “by people, for people.”

While we don’t yet know how big the impact will be on search rankings, it presents an ideal opportunity for marketers in the hotel, hospitality, and travel tech space to re-evaluate content strategy. In the relentless hustle for clicks, some of us have acquired habits intended to boost search visibility which could now have the opposite effect.

Google provides a series of questions to help assess the quality of your content. Here are four questions I think are particularly applicable to the travel and tech sectors.

As marketers, we produce content for two primary audiences: customers and algorithms. According to Google, some of us have ventured too far in the direction of algorithms.

This is certainly true in the hotel and travel tech space, where so much content marketing is heavy on keywords and light on helpful, original information. In fact, Google calls out the tech space as one of the sectors most likely to be affected by the update.

It’s a bit ironic given that Google has had a major hand in creating the problem. Search results today are dominated by paid ads, by huge companies with massive reach and by Google’s own products. For small companies, often the only way to show up on the first page is to buy advertising. But the Google Ads product has become so complex and expensive that marketers struggle to manage effective campaigns. And so often the platform seems to prioritize consuming ad budgets over generating qualified clicks.

It’s no wonder many companies turn to content marketing, which can be a cheaper and more effective way to attract website traffic and generate qualified leads. The good news is quality content marketing involves creating precisely the type of original, helpful content Google favors. It’s about helping people answer a question, solve a problem or accomplish a task through websites, blogs, news sites, guides, white papers, webinars and videos. Because content is distributed on multiple channels, including email, social media and paid media, it can reduce reliance on search marketing.

Companies can shift the balance back to people-first content while still maintaining SEO best practices. Google looks at numerous signals to determine content quality, including user activity like pageviews, engagement rate and backlinks.

For example, marketers often aspire to appear in the “featured snippets” section at the top of search results for common queries such as “What is the traveler decision journey?” To attain these coveted positions, marketers should focus on publishing helpful, concise, promotion-free answers optimized to appeal to people and web crawlers.

Cue the blushing emoji. So much content created by travel and tech companies leans toward the trite and superficial because it’s relegated to junior employees, ad agencies or SEO experts who have little or no hospitality experience. But as long as it’s stuffed with keywords and optimized for search, nobody cares, right?

Well, Google cares, and it could affect your entire site. “Any content—not just unhelpful content—on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search,” the company warns.

And, in fact, readers care too. When content is little more than clickbait, with catchy headlines that fail to deliver on promises, it puts off readers, signalling to Google it offers little of value. It won’t drive the clicks, engagement and leads marketers seek.

Creating content that demonstrates first-hand experience and depth of knowledge requires talent and a lot of work. If creators don’t have all the skills required, including senior-level travel industry experience, writing skills, product knowledge and basic SEO skills—and few do—it must be a collaborative effort.

As content creators, we’re all guilty of this at one time or another. In our never-ending quest for ideas to feed the content machine, we can stray too far off topic.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t write about trends. Covering the latest trends in articles, blog posts, guides and webinars can be a great way to build and engage an audience. But topics should always have a strong tie-in with your company’s products or services. If you stick to topics important to your customers, you shouldn’t have to try to trick search engines into thinking your content has value.

To stay on message, ask the following questions when vetting topic ideas:

When content is produced by people with no industry experience or who are so poorly compensated they have little time to spend on it, they will resort to borrowing information and ideas from other websites, adding little of value of their own. The same stale content is constantly recycled, including inaccuracies and bad advice.

This isn’t to say every thought must be original. It means giving topics a fresh spin and a unique perspective, infusing them with real-life examples and data from trusted sources, and including best practices and expert insights. But this requires extensive research and deep thought.

According to Google, the process of identifying low-value, unhelpful content will be entirely automated using a machine-learning model. While the rollout is expected to be completed in September, beginning with English searches and expanding to other languages in the future, it’s part of a continuing effort that will be refined over time.

For hotels, hospitality and travel tech companies, the best insurance is to ensure the content you produce is as helpful and original as possible, created for your target markets first and search engines second. Removing previous unhelpful content could also help the rankings of your other content, according to Google.

But if you’re complying with best practices in product and content marketing, there’s no need to panic. As Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search, noted in a recent tweet, “If you have good content, you’re generally fine.”

The question is, are you satisfied with fine?

Images Powered by Shutterstock

Thank you for your referral

Please list your name and e-mail and we’ll contact you shortly

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.