Digital Travel Marketing

What Does the New Google Pigeon Update Mean for Your Hotel? - By Melissa Lyons, Natural Search Manager at Vizergy

The Pigeon update is obviously focused on local results, but what does this mean for your hotel? It seems the answer may depend on two factors: if you are an independent or branded property, and how well you are represented in the major local directories, OTAs and Google+ Business Listings (now also known as Google My Business).

Vizergy On Thursday, July 24 Google announced the “Pigeon” update (as named by the professionals at Search Engine Land). In this article written by Barry Schwartz, he states “Google has released a new algorithm to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals.” He goes onto say, “… it does impact local search results rankings and some local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web site referrals, leads and business from the change.”

Picture of a pigeonSo the Pigeon update is obviously focused on local results, but what does this mean for your hotel? It seems the answer may depend on two factors: if you are an independent or branded property, and how well you are represented in the major local directories, OTAs and Google+ Business Listings (now also known as Google My Business). Here are some observations that lead us to believe that.

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.

Screenshot of Google Carousel Listings
The carousel has been dominated by the most prestigious brands since Pigeon was implemented.

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.

Screenshot of Google New York hotel search
Local directories and OTAs seem to have even more prominent rankings on several search queries we tested, including “NYC Hotels.”

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.

Advantage Yelp!
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:

1. Ensure everyone involved with the online marketing at your hotel, resort or management company is well versed on the Pigeon Update.

2. 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.

3. Have a consistently active and well maintained presence in business listings with both Trip Advisor and Google+.

4. 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.

About the Author

Melissa LyonsMelissa Lyons graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations, as well as a Minor in Business. She has been working in the world of online marketing since 2007. Currently, Melissa leads the natural search department at Vizergy, and oversees the natural search strategies of hundreds of Vizergy clients through a team of hands-on professional search analysts



To read more educational hotel Internet marketing content and keep up with the latest best practices in digital marketing, visit the Vizergy blog. To contact us about your property’s digital marketing needs, email results@vizergy.com, call 1.800.201.1949 or use our contact form.



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