TWO leading Australian online travel experts have rejected emotional claims that the launch of Google Hotel Finder spells the death of search engine optimisation – or ‘free' Google listings – for the hotel, OTA and accommodation industries.
The basis of these claims is that by squeezing in the Google Hotel Finder paid search box into the initial results page, Google has pushed all organic hotel or OTA listings ‘below the fold': ie everything the consumer immediately sees, has to be paid for by advertisers.
But Georg Ruebensal, Managing Director of Expedia Australia, said: "We have not seen an impact on SEO at this stage, either for domestic or international searches. Travel SEO has been pronounced dead a couple of times before but it hasn't happened. There's still a lot of opportunity to invest in SEO."
Mr Ruebensal says the most likely impact will be to increase paid search rates because Google has reduced the number of paid ads at the top of the page from three or four to just two to make room for Hotel Finder.
"The top spots are the place to be from an SEM perspective and (reducing inventory) simply increases competition and drives up the cost per click," he says.