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SEO is basically near death or already a fatality as Google AdWords and Google’s own hotel, flight, local, shopping, and Google+ products shove organic results down the page or screen into Web and mobile oblivion.
Consider below what’s visible on a desktop screen when a user queries Google for “hotels in nyc.”
Google advertisements above and to the right of the only organic results, which happen to be Google’s Hotel Ads product.
In the last couple of years Google has become much more aggressive at taking up a lot of the organic inventory for its own hotel metasearch product.
Google is no longer a search engine but an advertising engine.
While Google globally indeed has search engine competitors such as Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia, in the U.S. and Europe Google is the dominant search tool, and on desktops and in the mobile Web, too, Google AdWords dominate the shelf space.
Katz of Gogobot says that “SEO is a dying field” as Google uses its “monopoly” power to turn the field of search into Google’s own walled garden like AOL did in the age of dial-up modems.
Johannes Reck, the co-founder and CEO of Berlin-based tours and activities provider GetYourGuide, argues that the search engine optimization versus paid search debate is not especially relevant anymore because “we’re already nearing the end of the purely search engine-dominated online travel world.”
SEO is a dying field. There is a clear trend where, in verticals that Google wants to control (travel, local search, shopping), they have been changing the interface to ensure that consumers only see content from Google or ads.
This is especially pronounced on mobile, where if you search for something like ‘las vegas hotels,’ the entire first screen is ads, the entirety of the second screen is Google results, and only on the 3rd screen can a user find organic search content. But the problem is not limited to mobile. On desktop, we are seeing a similar trend. If you search ‘las vegas hotels’ on desktop, there is again, no organic search content at all above the fold.
Seventy percent of the screen is dedicated to ads, with the remaining 30 percent dedicated to Google’s own results.
In many ways, what we are seeing from Google is a leveraging their monopoly in search to turn the web into their own AOL, a walled gardenwhere the only content you see is the content that Google controls, whether or not that is the best content on the Internet.
It’s clear that the importance of organic search for travel companies will continue to decline over time. The question of SEM versus SEO is not highly relevant any longer. We’re already nearing the end of the purely search engine-dominated online travel world. The future will be much more centered around truly unique brands, differentiated inventory and strong mobile customer propositions.