How will artificial intelligence like RankBrain affect travel search?
In 2015 Google began its roll out of RankBrain, the machine learning portion of the company’s larger algorithm. Two years later, significant effects are now being felt. The big question is, “How is RankBrain impacting travel search results on Google?” Up until recently, SEO was fairly straightforward work. To understate it just a bit, if you built and maintained a well-operating website, used the right keywords and you nurtured the addition of high-quality links to your site from other high-quality sites, you could expect good results. Times have changed.
For the past year, Incite Response has been observing rank yo-yoing for hotels and resorts across hundreds of keywords. These changes indicate an emerging transformation in the way pages are ranked. It is becoming clear that Google is using its AI to ascertain which websites are user-preferred in search results and monitoring how much time is spent on a page as an indicator of success. In other words, engagement has become a big factor in SERP (search engine results page).
Google tests their algorithm on a regular basis. The SERP produces order variations and uses human response and time on page to gauge success. This means if your page fails to get clicked or has low time on page, it falls further down the list. If your content gains a lot of clicks and achieves more time on page, you could move up in the rank.
Before this change, many hotel websites had pages that ranked well but might not have deserved this honor. RankBrain has the potential to sniff out the low time on page factor and demoted them accordingly. This appears to be happening slowly over time as Google pits different search results against one another to produce the perfect SERP. It also happens in batches. RankBrain operates offline, tests its theories and then takes them live.
How do we adapt?
Since engagement is becoming a stronger indicator of importance, marketers are responding by scrutinizing the meta descriptions, user experience and content more closely and more often. This requires monitoring the targeted keyword and its relative position over time, then modifying aspects of the page to dial it in. It also requires being more selective about the targeted keywords and creating a more sophisticated strategy.
If you would like have a clear view of where your site appears for your targeted keywords, contact me. Incite Response provides a comprehensive look at your keywords, your competitors and tracks your keyword movement on a frequent basis.