"Quality is important, but mostly in terms of Lonely Planet listings, not Hemingway memoirs"
A very honest article about travel SEO:
“SEO is dead” is a well-known catchphrase, most commonly heard from newly unemployed spam merchants in bitter reaction to Google’s latest algorithm update.
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It’s always a wild exaggeration of course – the only thing that can “kill” SEO is for consumers to stop using search engines.
Unfortunately, nuance and restraint does not a clickbait headline make and the true victims of this hyperbole are business owners caught in the middle, trying to make sense of confusing and often conflicting advice on search marketing best practice.
But while SEO may not be dead, there’s no doubt that in just a few years it has changed almost beyond recognition.
Until fairly recently by pulling the right levers virtually anyone could build a business on “free Google traffic” from their target keywords.
A few optimised meta tags, keyword-stuffed content and some guest posts or paid links (never mind where from) and hey presto, a top spot for all your main lead generating (“money”) keywords:
- Vacations to…
- Hotels in…
- Flights to…
- Cheap deals for…
But allowing anyone to buy their way into the top rankings regardless of their actual worth was a problem for Google and along came a succession of updates aimed at eliminating the shortcuts, a more punitive regime for sites caught breaking the new rules, and a concerted psy-ops campaign to terrify the link spam industry out of business.
The result was the colonisation of the money keywords by major brands, the ones with the perceived authority to justify a prime spot of Google real estate.
Run a search for any major travel queries and where there was once a diverse ecosystem you’ll now find (with a few exceptions) a monoculture of TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz and other long-established brands.
(For reasons of brevity/sanity we won’t get into a value judgement over whether this is “a bad thing” or not. Many small sites didn’t deserve their demotion, many did. And yes those big brands are still pulling the same levers that got the small fry de-indexed. Let’s just agree that life isn’t fair.)
Although breaking into top rankings for major queries is still technically possible, it’s certainly not feasible for most smaller companies or new entrants without very deep pockets.