What does the new Google Pigeon update mean for your hotel?
By Melissa Lyons, Natural Search Manager
Google Carousel Listings
Let's start at the very top of the search engines results page. From searching for "Chicago Hotels," I mostly see brand sites ranking first, like Marriott and Hilton properties, pushing independent hotels a little further back. This is most likely due to the high authority that comes from the corporate brand sites. The best way to counter this is to ensure your Google+ Business Listing is claimed, verified, fully optimized and filled out to 100%. Responding to reviews, posting events and promos, and uploading new photos is the type of activity Google wants and what helps your placement within the carousel.
The carousel has been dominated by the most prestigious brands since Pigeon was implemented. (See above image.)
Organic Results Pages
Again, the independent hotel websites are getting pushed back to page two or beyond, perhaps further than before. When searching for "NYC Hotels," first page results are showing mostly local directories and OTAs. We also see a CVB result (NYC.com) and a brand site (Marriott.com). This makes having a presence in the major local directories like Yelp, and having a business listing on sites like Trip Advisor, that much more important. If you aren't currently submitting your site to the major local data feeds, such as Acxiom, Localeze and InfoUSA, now would be a good time to start. In fact, at Vizergy, we always recommend a TripAdvisor Business Listing, and submitting to the major local data feeds is standard operating procedure. These channels can help you get more consistent exposure, traffic and bookings via the search engine.
Local directories and OTAs seem to have even more prominent rankings on several search queries we tested, including "NYC Hotels." (See above image.)
Local Keyword Based Organic Rankings
We constantly monitor our clients' site rankings in Google's natural search results. So far, we haven't seen any noteworthy fluctuation, especially for properties in small to mid-size markets. It is something we will continue to monitor as this update alters the landscape. If we notice any sharp change in rankings, we'll be sure to report it.
As recently as July 10, Yelp complained that Google displays its own content and media above competing sites, sometimes even if a consumer includes the word "Yelp" in their search (looking specifically for Yelp reviews). Apparently, the Pigeon Update corrected this, giving more prominent placement to other local directories and review sites (remember to always monitor and respond to your reviews!). Search Engine Land does an excellent job of explaining this here.
How should you react?
At the property level, make sure to do the following, whether you have an internal marketing team or partner with a digital marketing agency like Vizergy:
- Ensure everyone involved with the online marketing at your hotel, resort or management company is well versed on the Pigeon Update.
- Ensure you are submitting your hotel website to all of the main local directories and practicing quality link building to get placed on CVBs, city info sites & other high quality local business sites.
- Have a consistently active and well maintained presence in business listings with both Trip Advisor and Google+.
- Continue to monitor organic rankings for any significant fluctuation. You may see changes with the sources of your traffic, referring traffic may rise, natural traffic may fluctuate a bit, etc. If you don't notice any alarming shift, you're probably well positioned; if you do notice an alarming shift, revisit your search and local marketing from the top down.
Kristen M. Poillon
Director of Corporate Marketing
Phone: (904) 389-1130 x 171