Channels - Industry Analysis, Online Travel, Marketing.
Tuesday, 10th February 2009
Source : Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2009
"When Google started out they didn't spam other search engines" -
Car rental comparison site Oodles.com firmly believes that setting a strategy that weans a business off Google is vital if a company is going to build a brand and drastically increase its conversion rates. 
Citing the example of a search giant like Google, Oodles.com's MD Steve Sherlock said Google became Google through innovation, energy and consumers seeing that they were likely to be around for years to come. "That's what has built value."
"If you are reliant on SEO and SEM and think that is going to build value, then you might be right, but as soon as a company innovates in your category and people start going directly to that site rather than through search engines, then you are going to be left in their dust. I guess it really depends on what the ambition is for a brand - to be found in Google or to be found in the minds of people who believe in the brand and what it stands for and will tell others about it," said Sherlock, who is scheduled to speak during EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2009 to be held in Singapore (1-2 April).
It is imperative to develop the best brand/product and then, as they say, marketing will be much easier. 
"If a company has a clear direction, as well as product that supports the direction and is relevant to lots of users, then a brand is born and marketing does indeed become easier," said Sherlock. "But as far as I'm concerned a lot of companies are yet to reach that point, which means they are merely names with ambitions to become a brand,"  Sherlock told EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta.
"In this context I'd say Oodles.com isn't really a brand yet because we are still in the process of determining exactly which users we want as clients, finding the best ways to identify them, defining the message we want to communicate, and pin-pointing the most cost-effective channels to deliver the message. However, I'm very confident we will be a brand soon."
Why a company that is too reliant on search can be a sitting duck? 
According to Sherlock, the spirit of Google is to innovate and 'wow' their users, which results in enormous word of mouth. Yet so many companies that use Google and rely heavily on SEO and SEM seem to adopt a completely opposite approach.  
Sherlock had this to say when he explained the same further:
Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn't sit at their computer each month to see where they were on search engines. They developed a phenomenal search algorithm that got people good results and got them talking. Then they delivered Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View, Google Email etc. They had (and still have) energy, which got the imagination going on what their future value could be worth, as pointed out in The Brand Bubble. Some businesses spend every waking hour trying to work out how they can get more back links and hire teams of spammers instead of trying to 'wow' their customers. When Google started out they didn't spam other search engines so they could get found – they dazzled people with their speed and accuracy, and that is what got people talking.
The question we asked ourselves was this: 'How can we use Google without compromising our creativity and losing site of our long-term ambitions?' So, for a start, I'd say be the sort of company that reflects the spirit of Google rather than just anther company that appears in the Google index.
Another mistake some people make is that they forget SEO/SEM is simply part of the sales strategy and not the company vision. 
Lets say site X sells accommodation online and the vast majority of its traffic comes from SEO and SEM traffic. Then along comes Wotif.com. with a new business model offering last minute hotel rooms with a 14-day booking window.

After a while those people who were searching Google for "cheap hotel Sydney" will bypass the search engine and go direct to wotif.com. Site x is helpless to counter this unless they come up with some innovation or improved marketing that attracts people directly to their site. 
Or lets say you have a PDA brand and you use search engines to find new clients, then along come Apple with the iphone.You are a sitting duck unless you can successfully counter the iphone and its hype.
Companies like Wotif.com and Apple are inspiring, yet so many people are sitting in front of their computer waiting for the new Google index, hoping their business moves up a couple spots "onto the front page".

If they were to instead focus on creating a uniqueness for their brand - a uniqueness that consumers would talk about to others - or on creating innovations that would make their users go 'wow!', suddenly being on the front page of Google would not be so important, rather it would be merely one of many mediums that presents their brand.
Podcast with Steve Sherlock: http://events.eyefortravel.com/tdsasia/podcasts/Steve_Oodles.mp3

EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2009
For more information click here:
http://events.eyefortravel.com/tdsasia/conference/agenda.asp or Contact: Reece Gladstone at reece@eyefortravel.com

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