What Destinations on Google Means for DMO Websites

DMO marketing websites are facing a drop in organic traffic.

Google updates change the world of search all the time, and online marketers need to constantly adapt their strategies to stay on the forefront of change. Usually, these changes affect all online marketers, but sometimes only a specific vertical is hit. For instance, at the beginning of February, Google changed the layout of its search engine results pages (SERPs) for travel-related searches. And two days ago, Google announced this layout as a permanent change, a new feature called Destinations on Google. This has a huge impact for DMO marketers.

How does Destinations on Google change travel searches?

Google has been moving more and more towards pulling information into search results from other websites and displaying that information right in search. For instance, you’ve probably seen information from Wikipedia appear at the top of your search, or you’ve seen your business information displayed in a box on the right side. It’s a way to quickly get information to Google users.

Now Google has taken that a step farther with Destinations, which implements an entirely new layout for mobile travel-related searches for continent, country, or state “destination” or “vacation” searches.

If you search for “California vacation,” for example,  instead of tourism websites, you’re presented with popular locations, flight and hotel information, and suggested itineraries, with the ability to sort results by interest. Watch the Destinations video for more information. Below are a few examples, but the biggest takeaway is that organic results for websites are much harder to find.

How Is Your Website Impacted?

The biggest impact this new layout has is a decreased number of clicks to your website from mobile devices.

Since this layout hasn’t been applied with the same formatting to desktop or tablet searches, organic results are still visible. However, because the majority of Google searches come from mobile devices, this could seriously affect your organic traffic. In fact, if you run a DMO website, Google Analytics is probably showing you a severe drop in organic traffic since the beginning of February. If you already noticed that and were looking for an explanation, this is probably it.

Destinations on Google is a catch-22, because the intent of a DMO marketing website is to get people to travel to your destination. Google’s layout puts the information that many people are looking for (flight and hotel prices and interest-based results) right at their fingertips, without their needing to leave search. So while it may help with your end goal – more travelers – it’s not going to help you increase visitor guide downloads or get people to your landing pages.

Tactics to Recover Traffic

To make up for the dropping levels of traffic you might be seeing, there are three strategies you can implement to protect your website’s traffic and build organic traffic again.

#1. Invest in Online Media Campaigns

Paid media such as pay-per-click is the most immediate and effective way to start making up for lost traffic. Your campaigns shouldn’t only focus on general search terms, since even ads for those terms are not initially displaying in mobile SERPs. Your campaigns should also strategically target long-tail keyword searches – three or four-word searches that are specific to what a user is wanting to see – and drive traffic to high-converting, relevant pages on your website. This will help you increase your website traffic and also increase your conversions.

Every DMO marketing site has periods of lower traffic throughout the year, and paid media campaigns are an effective solution for lower traffic. For instance, Arkansas.com sees a dip in traffic during August, an extremely hot month. Last year, we developed and ran the Barkansas pet-friendly campaign, which resulted in 53,000 websites sessions; that’s 10% of monthly traffic brought back to the site. With a strategic campaign like this, you can start to build up your traffic again.

#2. Code Your Site for the Knowledge Graph

Google’s Knowledge Graph can be used for your benefit. If there is good information on your site, such as answers to common questions about your destination or listings for popular events, you can add code that signals Google to pull that information into the Knowledge Graph search results.

The Knowledge Graph isn’t the same as Destinations on Google, but when people start looking for your destination, any advantage you have will help you stand out. This may also increase your rankings since your information will be pulled into the SERPs, along with a link to your page. If you don’t do it, someone else might provide the answers anyway, so it’s definitely worth the effort.

#3. Create More Content with Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail travel-related keywords are exempt from Google’s new layout because these types of keyword searches signify that users are looking for specific results. For example,  “Louisville bourbon trail” searches will focus on that specific set of keywords and provide more organic results. This means having content that focuses on specific niche audiences will help you get more organic traffic.

The age of your content also factors into your search rankings, so creating new seasonal content focusing on these niche audiences will give you the best result. This obviously isn’t a short-term solution, but this will ensure you have more organic traffic in the long run.

Take Action to Protect Your Traffic

Google is always experimenting with its SERPs and how it delivers results. While we thought this layout might be just an experiment (like the red “slow” tag from last year), it looks like Destinations on Google is here to stay. It may mean more travelers start coming to your destination, which is what all DMOs want, but you’ll need to take a new approach to maintaining web traffic. The best thing you can do is invest in strategic online media and continue creating quality content to attract more visitors to your destination and to your website.

Ready to recover your traffic? Contact us about an online media campaign, Knowledge Graph coding, or content creation.