A Google Algorithm Change Guide for the Travel Industry

April 6, 2015

Since Google’s announcement on February 26 of 2015 of changes to its search algorithm, there has been a lot of talk in the marketing industry about these changes. The fact of the matter is that this Google algorithm change is more a response to changes in the economy. Mobile use is trending up. According to some statistics, more people now surf the web on their mobile phones than on desktop computers. Even in our own experience at Q4Launch, many of our email marketing campaigns are approaching a 50/50 split in mobile views versus desktop views. Many of our customers have between a third and a half of all their website visitors viewing their sites from mobile phones. What does this Google algorithm change mean for your website and business? Read on to find out.

The Criteria of the Google Algorithm Change

Increase in mobile access of a customer in advance of the Google algorithm change
Here is one of our customers showing the change this year alone compared to 2014: orange is tablet use of visitors to their website, green is mobile use, and blue is desktop computer use.

According to Google’s announcement, on April 21, 2015, mobile search engine pages, or SERPs, will be affected by how mobile-friendly a website is. This grade will be a simple pass/fail and websites which fail the test will suffer downgrades in search rankings. Some of the criteria posted by Google include:

  • using text that can be read without zooming
  • fast mobile download speeds
  • placing links far enough apart so that each can be individually tapped with ease
  • sizing content to the screen, so users don’t have to zoom or scroll horizontally
  • avoiding software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash


Why the Google Algorithm Change Matters


Check your website for mobile-friendliness to prepare for the Google algorithm change
Here’s our website in a search listing from an iPhone. Notice the badges for Mobile-Friendly sites both for our Q4Launch website, and for Twitter.

While this appears to be a way for Google to punish sites that are not mobile-friendly, it will also help websites that have gotten their act together before the Google algorithm change. If a site has satisfied back-end and front-end requirements, their passing grade in this test could earn them higher rankings on search engine pages. They will also receive a “Mobile-Friendly Badge” to highlight its ease of use for mobile users.

Being mobile-friendly is good for business beyond staying inline with the desires of the monolithic Google. In 2014, mobile bookings increased by over 36% in the hotel industry while mobile revenue increased by 114%. Almost 21% of bookings, 17% of room nights, and 15% of revenue came from tablets and mobile devices. When voice reservations originating from hotel mobile websites are included (where a visitor finds the website and calls the number listed), more than 25% of bookings and revenue originate from a non-desktop channel. All these statistics are a sign of future mobile trends. Travel consumers are becoming more and more comfortable spending money on their smartphones and tablets. This will continue with the rise of paying via Apple Pay and other competitors likely to flood the market.

Actions to Take to Prepare for the Google Algorithm Change

So, what to do? First, be sure to check that your website is mobile-friendly. The simplest way to do so is to visit Google’s webmaster tool to test for mobile friendliness. You can also get on your mobile phone and do a Google search for your business’s website. If it’s mobile-friendly, there’ll be a little badge announcing the fact.

If you receive a poor score, follow the guide offered by Google to make the changes necessary. In some cases, the tweaks to your site could be as simple as shrinking the file size of images or turning off a plugin on your homepage that affects mobile views in a negative way.

If you have a website from Q4Launch, you’re all set! Trust but verify: we’ve already taken care of this for you. Rest assured that your site will be ready to go come April 21st!

If you’d like to be sure that your website is ready for the Google Algorithm change, click here to sign-up for a free test of your website! We’ll grade your website based on mobile-friendliness and page speed, and give you some points and tips on improving your site in preparation for April 21st!


Photo credit: TimHesterPhotography/ThinkStock