The Med

Travel boss hits out at Google's new search system


Google has lost the confidence of travel marketers after recent changes to its search algorithm, according to the founder of responsibletravel.com.

Justin Francis claims many businesses are finding Google's new search system to be inaccurate and believe Google has lost its edge in search.

Francis said the search giant's apparent intention was to reward what it describes as 'high quality' sites that provide a real service to consumers, over 'farm' sites which traditionally scrape content from other sites and use it to attract visitors from Google, then run advertisements in order to capitalise on this traffic.

But he believes the changes have proved "very inaccurate and unpredictable".

"It's clear that many travel companies have lost confidence in Google and the results it provides for its search users," he said.

"There seems to be a great deal of imprecision - Google seems unable to recognise and correctly attribute ownership for original content.

"It also seems unable to distinguish between farm like sites adding no real value to the consumer and legitimate sites that add value as part of their business model."

Francis claims the changes have also caused outrage within the SEO community and pointed to comments made on Google's own forum, which is the only means for providing feedback and comments for businesses.

He said questions are also being asked on SEO websites about the ethics and potential self-serving nature of Google's actions where its own advertising programme -AdSense is concerned: http://www.seobook.com/google-panda-algorithm-exploit.

"It is clear that if Google really were serious about stopping farm sites and other low quality sites then it should consider more carefully who it serves ads to. There is a clear conflict of interest, and it is Google themselves who are sustaining many rip-off sites through AdSense," he said.

"The world allows Google access to its content for free - from this Google has built a business, yet it offers no customer service or means through which businesses can enter into dialogue."

Francis believes more marketers will switch from Google towards social media platforms. According to Hitwise, 10% of visitors to UK sites now arrive via Facebook.

"Certainly at responsibletravel.com we will be pushing our social strategy and our own online community site www.iknowagreatplace.com at the expense of our Google efforts."

Responding to the criticism, a spokesman for Google said: "Google's success is built on an ecosystem of high-quality publishers, so we've been very pleased that these changes help high-quality publishers get more traffic in search.

"Like many of the changes we make, we tested this update extensively and have found that the algorithm is extremely accurate at detecting site quality.

"That said, search is a constant evolution and we will continue to listen to feedback from publishers and the community as we further refine our algorithms."


By Bev Fearis

Wednesday, May 18, 2011



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  • Panda far from perfect

    I would like to echo Justin Francis' views on the recent Algorithm update in so far as the results have become inconsistent and that they seem to be favouring large brands, like Tripadvisor in particular. I would however disagree that Adsense has anything to do with Google's intentions. Our site at Eurodestination has been affected but for technical reasons I was fully aware of. I have always carried adsense ads on the site. It is clear the greatest opportunity these days is for users to share your content, but before that happens the content needs to be interesting, which in turn provides us with the best possible market research tool. The downside is that these changes take us to different users, which will have implications on which direction we all take from here.

    By , Friday, December 9, 2011

  • George Oberle, Travel Blog Project

    Google's Panda update places a higher weight on quality content not found on any other website. Code still counts, but content trumps code. Bottom line; write your own quality content. Try to cheat the system by copying content or offer sparse content with little or no value to a consumer and you won't place.

    By , Monday, December 5, 2011

  • Panda Update

    Obviously some poeople were upset with the changes that Google put in place. It certainly isnt the 1st change that we've seen and certainly wont be the last. The reason why Google spent millions developing their advertising platform (search engine), is so they can turn over billions.So what's new, algorithm changes keep people on their toes and often these changes ensure that brands have to spend more money than they did as they begin to depend on that visibility to bring in the relevant traffic. Dont worry it wont be long before you'll be paying for your visibility on Facebook soon as well. So the key to permanently gaining organic search visibility is to know what Google is going to be squeezing next and be one step of the game. We've been playing this game for a decade at Ambergreen and if it's any consolation our average search engine results for our travel clients increased about 4 places and absolutely no positions fell for any of our clients after the Panda update. Is it a coincedence or are some search marketers simply more on the ball than others. The key is, NEVER rest on your laurels, what works now will ot be as effective in 2 years time.

    By Grant Whiteside, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

  • Finally a person who understands the internet!

    Matt, I applaud you sir! Finally a person who understands the principles behind the search engine's algorithm for page 1 placement. I have yet to see any real benefit of twitface (a collective term) all I see are spammy SEO"s offering an increase of traffic, not an increase of income. Plus a load of lonely peeps talking to their alter egos...or if you like themselves. Visitors easily lead by a spammy posts rarely transpose into paying clients, just freebie hunters taking up bandwidth. However, not in the mood to educate as I am very happy with the competition out there and their thirst for unqualified traffic and time wasters. But want a tip to get rid of those? Offer a freebie from a competitors site with a link......You get rid of the dross and cost the competition a few bucks. I am always offering cheap holidays I find on offer on T. Cooks and TUI"s site, (do you think they will pay me a commission?) best so far was an email flight offer to Turkey for eleven pounds GBP. Sent that on to an enquiry who wanted me (quote) to employ my sharpest pencil for highest discount to come to our Greek island. (unquote) These types of offer is splashed all over peoples websites, and they wonder why traffic vanishes along with page one status. Then of course you have all the "Special Offers" To those who blame Google. Don"t. The three things you need for a successful website are as follows Quality content Err.....Quality content Last but not least....quality content that is of interest to read. (lightly sprinkled with keywords) In my experience every time you point the finger at something/one, you have three more pointing back at yourself.....Simples!

    By Paul Davis, Thursday, May 19, 2011

  • Barking up the wrong tree

    Whether or not travel companies have "lost confidence" in Google is irrelevant. Travel companies are not Google's user base - internet users and searchers are, and they are the people that Google is concerned about. Google is a tool for marketers, not a service. A lot of people were hit by Google's updates but in the vast majority of cases that was because they were peddling spam and low quality content online.

    By matt barker, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • Lies, damn lies and SEO statistics

    @Gary I think we're all buried under competing stats, we read this a few days later: http://www.nma.co.uk/news/google-regains-search-market-share-from-rivals/3026151.article Regardless of the headline figures we've never seen anything more than piddling traffic (compared to G) from Bing/Yahoo in 10 years, on a wide range of web properties. Google are undoubtedly having relevancy problems but Bing/MS engineers are still nowhere close to competing. We'll probably be waiting a long time for an alternative to Google.

    By Richard Speigal, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • Bing v Google

    @Richard Speigal I based my comment on this report. (I also mentioned Facebook). http://www.rmgseo.com/google-vs-bingyahoo-market-share-who-do-you-believe/

    By Gary Hewitt, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • Bing: if only!

    @Gary your info's a bit out of date. Bing DID bounce but latest figures show Google pulled the traffic back. People tried Bing, didn't like them and reverted to Google. Shame - competition would be better for all of us. In the meantime Google is still the only game in town. Anybody who's traffic is that badly affected by Panda either has a shallow content base or an SEM strategy that isn't diverse enough. I rather suspect responsibletravel.com is too structured towards an avalanche of content-for-content's sake and not enough on usability, engagement, visitor loyalty, social penetration and *dare I say* interesting enough stories to win both on- and offline PR. Bottom line: they're churning out a lot of web pages but are lacklustre in audience engagement. This whinge doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.

    By Richard Speigal, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • Bing

    There's always Bing or Facebook. Bing seems to be starting to take traffic off Google in the states, so naturally it will happen here.

    By Gary Hewitt, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • We haven't lost confidence

    To say we've lost confidence in the site that provides 80% of our traffic is total nonsense. Not sure who these guys think they're speaking for but it isn't us. Nonsense - try harder at your online marketing before biting the hand that feeds.

    By Richard Speigal, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • Farm Problems

    I wouldn't suggest that the Farmer/Panda update is without teething issues. However, to say that the travel community has lost confidence in Google is stretching things a bit far.

    By David Burdon, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • Does this give the small guys a chance?

    Remember when Adwords first came out. You could get real exposure via Google Adwords for very little expenditure - and it helped to launch a number of excellent online travel businesses which would otherwise have struggled for recognition. A decent bit of content would also get you a reasonably high page position on Google search results for relevant phrases. Then Google and Adwords became the preserve of big businesses with big budgets for SEO and CPC and the search results and Adwords are now dominated by these players. So what if Google tries to remodel its algorithms to bring a wider range of content to the public desktop and upsets the big boys - that's the great thing about our modern internet age isnt it. Small can be beautiful!!

    By Ian Wiseman, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

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