Playing Possum and Penguin: A Hotelier's Guide to Navigating Google's Recent Algorithm Updates
October 20, 2016 4:07pm
By Megan Harr
The realm of organic search saw a very busy September marked by not just one, but two Google algorithm updates.
First, on September 1st the local search community and hoteliers alike played possum with their Google My Business listings. Immediately after the update, many local businesses reported that their Google My Business listings were gone. This is not necessarily the case as the update may have just filtered the listing out of search results. The “Possum” update appears to have only impacted the ranking in the Local 3-Pack and Local Finder and according to Search Engine Land was created to diversify local results while preventing spam from ranking well. One of the core components that saw a change during this update was Google’s filter (the tool that determines all the listings that appear in the Local 3-Pack and in Local Finder).
This update – the most significant to local search since Pigeon in 2014 – has had a significant impact so far.
Then, just as hoteliers began to adjust to the new update Google announced the long-awaited update to Penguin. Penguin 4.0 was supposed to be released in March 2016 and digital marketing experts and hoteliers alike have been awaiting anxiously since.
On September 23rd, Google suggested that the new Penguin has been integrated into their core algorithm, meaning the update is now real-time. Penguin, initially introduced in 2014, is meant to filter out – and sometimes penalize – websites that spam search results with inorganic links or those that have been obtained via shady practices.
What Do These Google Algorithm Updates Mean to Hoteliers?
Here’s what we’ve seen and recommend:
Businesses that fall just outside of city limits saw a huge spike in rankings for city related queries.
Google’s filtering of duplicate content now extends further into local results.
Search results vary even more based on physical location of the searcher and slight variations of the keyword searched.
Since the algorithm updates were announced, there was quite a bit of fluctuation across local search results and it is possible that Google is still A/B testing a variety of signals to determine what components to the update should stay and which ones should revert back to earlier versions of their algorithm. Regardless, having a robust digital marketing strategy with a core focus on SEO and content will help ensure that your local business remains present even after the Possum update.
The good news here is that by following SEO best practices hoteliers can minimize the negative impact of the recent Google algorithm updates. This includes avoiding duplicate content, taking advantage of long-tail keyword terms that rank your property for nearby city or attractions searches, following best practices on white-hat link building and categorically rejecting link farms and other link-spamming initiatives.
Partnering with a professional SEO firm specializing in hospitality and utilizing SEO management and optimization technology like BrightEdge can help your property take full advantage of the recent algorithm updates, improve your website organic rankings on the search engines, outsmart the competition and increase direct bookings.
Megan Harr is Manager, Copy & SEO Dept. at HeBS Digital. Founded in 2001, HeBS Digital helps hoteliers drastically increase direct bookings and lower overall distribution costs by deploying industry best-of-breed digital technology, consulting and marketing (www.hebsdigital.com).
The firm has won more than 400 prestigious industry awards for its digital technology, website design, SEO and marketing services, including numerous Adrian Awards, Stevie Award in the American Business Awards, W3 Awards, WebAwards, Magellan Awards, Summit International Awards, Interactive Media Awards, and IAC Awards.
A diverse client portfolio of top-tier major luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts and casinos, franchised properties and hotel management companies, convention centers, spas, restaurants and bars, DMO and CVBs are all benefiting from HeBS Digital’s direct online channel strategy and digital marketing expertise. Contact HeBS Digital’s consultants at 1 (800) 649-5076 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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