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