Google Testing New Sitelink Design

Google seems to be testing a new sitelink design in their search results.
If you need a reminder what sitelinks currently look like, here an example, highlighted in pink:

I’ve seen the new sitelink design on google.de yesterday while searching for hotels in Berlin. However, it has now disappeared which means Google must be testing. Shame, that I haven’t taken a screen shot of the Grand Hotel Esplanade Berlin search results in time!
To give you an idea, here is another screen shot of a U.S. Theme Park from Moz:

The new design structures the sitelinks much more clearly and the frame around it makes them more obvious. In fact, this natural search result looks pretty much like the Google knowledge graph on the right or the Google+ profile which is displayed in the same place if a verified Google+ profile of the company exists. The tested sitelink design also takes up a lot more space and will so push alternative search results further down the page.
I’ll be watching out for more testing and keep you up-to-date.
Let me know if you come across similar occurrences, please!

 

The Hotel and Travel Week

Everything seems to be about social media marketing these days and it’s no surprise that a new award for hotels has been created in this area:

  • The HOTELS Magazine launches the Social Hotel Awards to honour both brands and individual hotels in 10 categories from Best Facebook page, Twitter account, best use of Foursquare to best use of digital video etc. Winners will be named in each category and will receive a custom trophy as well as a digital badge to put on their website. Moreover, HOTELS will publish features about the winners in an exclusive online series and a print story. Free entry forms can be downloaded here and must be submitted by 7th June at: www.yousendit.com
  • Pinterest is the new hype in social media and Aqua Hotels & Resorts, based in Honolulu is offering a free 5-night stay as part of its Pinterest competition. In the “Pin Hawaii: Hawaii Bucket List Contest,” also called the “Pin It to Win It” contest, people are asked to post images on a “Hawaii Bucket List” showing what they would do on their dream trip to Hawaii. They will then submit their boards to pinhawaii.com and one winner will be chosen.
  • Google+ has seen millions of users sign up since its launch in July 2011, however it seems to have failed to engage people and participation is lagging behind other social networks. For example, comScore reports that the average time users in the US spent on the site was down to 3.3 minutes in January 2012, from 5.1 minutes in November 2011. Are you using Google+ as an individual or brand? We would love to hear about your experiences!

And here some interesting hospitality statistics at the end:

According to STR Global, the hotel inventory compound annual growth (CAGR) increased by 1.6% over the last 12 months. The total global hotel inventory increased by more than 2,315,000 guestrooms since 2000 to reach 13,443,014 rooms in February 2012. This was led by Asia Pacific and the Middle East/Africa region, which grew respectively by 2.7% and 2.5% CAGR. North America remains the leading market for branded hotel rooms at 66% of the region’s inventory in February 2012. It also represents 41.4% of the global room stock with 5,565,866 daily available rooms, closely followed by Europe at 29.7% with 3,998,603 daily rooms and Asia at 21.6% with 2,897,823 daily rooms.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Tripadvisor banned from claiming reviews are real – profits up
early February 2012

Following complaints that hoteliers had posted fake comments on Tripadvisor to boost their own properties or sabotage others, the UK Advertising Standards Authority found that it was possible for “non-genuine content” to appear on the travel review website.
According to the advertising watchdog, reviews can be posted on the website without any form of verification. Therefore, Tripadvisor was told “not to claim or imply that all the reviews that appeared on the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted”.
The ruling came because Tripadvisor had advertised its services on the website, claiming that it contained “reviews you can trust” and are “honest” opinions from “real travelers” which was found to be misleading.
Tripadvisor’s official statement reads: “We have confidence that the 50 million users who come to our site every month trust the reviews they read on Tripadvisor, which is why they keep coming back to us in increasingly larger numbers to plan and have the perfect trip… We know that our users approach Tripadvisor with common sense, and make an educated decision based on the opinions of many. If people did not feel the insight they gained from our site was an accurate reflection of their experience they wouldn’t keep coming back…”
Indeed, Tripadvisor’s revenue has gone up by 30% during its first quarter as a public company and after spinning off from Expedia. Revenues are generated from click and display-based advertising as well as from subscriptions.

Personalized search results become concern
early February 2012

In January 2012, Google announced that from 1st March, search results on Google.com will incorporate content from a user’s Google+ network, highlighting links, photos and comments within search results. This has led to some concern, particularly about privacy.
As search and social media are becoming more interconnected, AYTM Market Research asked US internet users if they liked the idea of personalized search results. While 15.5% of the respondents said yes, 39.1% said yes, but that they were concerned with privacy at the same time. Almost half, i.e. 45.4% replied that they would prefer everyone to see the same search results.
According to AYTM, only 19.3% of respondents actively use Google+. An additional 20.3% have an account but do not use it and nearly 20% of respondents (19.5%) reported that they don’t know what Google+ is. This leads to concerns that Google+ may not fully represent a user’s social media life.
Twitter, especially disagrees with Google’s plan to integrate Google+ content, while not including that of Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and Google previously had a relationship where Twitter content showed up in Google’s real-time search results. However, the partnership was discontinued in July 2011.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 24th October 2011

Starwood adds hotel reviews to their corporate website and is the first global hotel company to do so. The new function will let Sheraton, Westin, W and other Starwood hotel guests write an assessment of their recent hotel stay directly on Starwood websites. Like TripAdvisor, Starwood will first check reviews for bad language before publishing. Then, Starwood will take the added step of confirming the reviewer’s stay. The process could take 2 or 3 days. Once a review has been vetted and confirmed, Starwood will publish it – no matter whether good or bad, they say.

Tuesday, 25th October 2011

Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts is adopting a new brand positioning, targeting ‘strivers’ who are ‘traveling for success’, a group they say represents 9% of all annual hotel stays and is currently unsatisfied with available options in the marketplace. Strivers are defined as individuals who are climbing the ladder to success but have not yet arrived. Crowne Plaza will adopt its new positioning during 3 phases to be completed in 2015.

Wednesday, 26th October 2011

OTAs are now part of the deal at Google Flight Search. Intermediaries are no longer completely shut out of the service. Although airlines are still more prominent, all 4 major online travel agencies now advertise on Google Flight Search, for example Priceline, Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity as well as Cheapoair and Kayak.

Thursday, 27th October 2011

Google is taking its Street View feature indoors. Last May the company announced it would be taking interior shots of stores, but now it is moving out of this pilot phase with more 360 degree interiors showing up online. In order to have your hotel’s interior photographed, you must fill out an application with Google. If chosen, you will be contacted by Google’s photographers to set up a time for the shoot. Google owns all rights to the photos, though including the right to keep an image up, even if you object to it. In order to have an image removed, you must submit a request for it to be taken down. According to a Google spokesperson, the company has already worked with thousands of businesses to shoot these 360 degree interior views. Photos will be available on your Google business page as well as the Google Maps Street View.

Friday, 28th October 2011
The European Travel Commission (ETC) publishes its third quarterly report on European Tourism in 2011 for the third quarter of the year. According to the report, travel recovery is continuing. However, the rate of expansion is slowing with few exceptions because of the economic landscape which presents a challenging environment for travel. Through August, room demand has grown nearly 4% and been particularly strong in Eastern and Southern Europe, with occupancy rates up 7.3% and 5.2%, respectively. Although occupancy growth has been relatively weak in Western Europe (2.4% YTD), room rates have performed well above average, growing 4.8%. European inbound travel is expected to slow markedly, to 2.3% in 2012 from 5.6% in 2011. The core Eurozone countries are most exposed to the downturn.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 17th October 2011

TravelCube, the Kuoni-owned online bed bank launches weekly flash sales exclusively for travel agents. TravelCube’s sister company GTA will negotiate discounts similar to the Groupon model which will then be available on the website for 7 days. The first flash sale launches on Monday in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, offering discounts on hotels in London, Monaco and Bangkok of 40% to 50% lower than the hotels’ rack rates.
Tuesday, 18th October 2011
The Arab Spring has taken a toll on tourism in nations from Jordan and Egypt to Morocco and Tunisia, costing the region more than US$7 billion, according to the Arab Tourism Organization in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The number of visitors to North Africa and the Middle East dropped by 13% and 11% in the first half of 2011, said Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization in Madrid.
Wednesday, 19th October 2011
The owner of the Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Force, Tennessee sues online hotel review company TripAdvisor for US$10 million. He alleges that TripAdvisor ‘maliciously and wrongfully’ hurt his hotel’s business by placing Grand Resort atop its ‘2011 Dirtiest Hotels’ list for U.S. hotels in January. According to TripAdvisor ‘The top 10 list of dirtiest hotels is compiled based on traveler ratings for cleanliness on TripAdvisor.’
Thursday, 20th October 2011
Google announces the expansion of its Hotel Finder experiment to include hotels around the world on their Web Search Community forum. The Hotel Finder service is still in English only and with hotel prices in US dollars. There was no further information when the experiment could evolve into a beta or even final product.
Friday, 21st October 2011
Hilton HHonors, Hilton Worldwide’s loyalty programme, launches ‘the world’s largest social media treasure hunt’, giving away 500 free hotel nights over the course of 5 consecutive days this week. In each city, the first 100 people who correctly complete the task and find the Hilton HHonors team will be awarded with a free night certificate, redeemable at any participating property in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands. Clues for the treasure hunt are being given on the Hilton HHonors Twitter account and Facebook page.

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 19th September 2011

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts launches the InterContinental Kitchen Cookbook app for iPad. The free app features recipes from 24 IHG properties around the world. New recipes will be added every quarter. Currently available recipies include the InterContinental New York Times Square Cheesecake and the InterContinental Berchtesgaden Resort’s Salmon Trout.
Tuesday, 20th September 2011
Again, IHG is in the news launching a new online sales initiative called ‘Best Price Guarantee’ for all of its brands. Any guest finding a lower price than on the hotel’s website elsewhere online gets one night free and the rest of the stay will be at the lower rate.
At the same time, IHG is giving away 250 hotel rooms in a Twitter contest. Guests who tweet the best response to the question “What would you do with a free night?” using the hashtag #BestPriceGuarantee will receive free rooms. The contest runs from Tuesday until 24th September.
Wednesday, 21st September 2011
Google announces that Google+, their brand new social network, is now open for everyone. It has been in trial for the past 90 days, only allowing limited sign-ups and invites for users. Together with this announcement, come a few big updates, including transitioning Hangouts into a live broadcast and presentation platform and adding item search, which lets people find public or private posts.
Thursday, 22nd September 2011
Ritz-Carlton launches a $10 million marketing campaign “Let Us Stay with You” of which more than half the budget will be allocated to digital and social media. This is the first time that digital accounts for the majority of the marketing budget at Ritz-Carlton, a brand that is rather associated with old-fashioned and one-on-one interaction. The campaign will be integrated into Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare, as well as a mobile application. Apart from print and digital ads, a film will run on in-room TVs and the hotel’s redesigned website. The message: Ritz-Carlton is not about making a bed or pour a drink but to connect with guests.
Friday, 23rd September 2011
lastminute.com customers can now search and book holidays directly from Facebook after the company has improved its Facebook page. The new search function is to target lastminute’s nearly 87,000 Facebook fans, offering them direct access to flights, hotels and holidays.
Get a direct booking interface on Facebook for your hotel with Hotel Facebooker!
 
 

The Hotel and Travel Week

Monday, 25th July 2011

Google removes snippets of customer reviews from sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor from Google Places and Maps. The move, announced in Google’s official blog at the end of last week, follows the disclosure of an U.S. anti-trust investigation last month. The federal investigation is looking into whether Google abuses its market power by favouring its own services over those of competitors. Now, a user looking at a hotel listing will get all the existing content (photos, address, website link, prices) but the number of reviews has been stripped down dramatically. This comes at a time when the Sunday Times announces an investigation of TripAdvisor reviews after both hoteliers and freelance writers advertised for fake hotel reviews on freelance writing websites such as i-freelancer.org.
Tuesday, 26th July 2011
Hilton Hotels & Resorts launches “Stay Hilton, Go Everywhere” – the group’s first iAd campaign. iAd is Apple’s mobile advertising network which reaches millions of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users through applications. With this campaign, Hilton aims to showcase virtual vacations at nine Hilton properties around the world. It features Twitter and email integration, photography and downloadable wallpapers.
Wednesday, 27th July 2011
Facebook debuts a step-by-step online guide aimed at helping small businesses to use the social networking website. The ‘online education center’ gives directions on how to set up a profile page, create targeted ads and deals and interact with customer feedback online. Interestingly, this comes just a week after Google began shutting off all company profiles on its Google+ social network. Access the guide at: facebook.com/business
Thursday, 28th July 2011
Researchers at Cornell University in the U.S. have developed software which can identify fake hotel reviews by analysing its linguistic structure, they claim. The technology tested 800 reviews of hotels in Chicago and was able to pick out ‘deceptive reviews’ with almost 90% accuracy. Apparently, the software analyses sentiment, word structure and grammar. While true reviews use more concrete words like ‘bathroom’, ‘check-in’ etc. fake reviews are more about setting the scene, they say. Moreover, it would appear that deceivers use more verbs while truth-tellers use more nouns. Cornell students see the technology being applied in the travel industry perhaps as a ‘first round filter’, allowing sites to score potentially false reviews which require further investigation.
Friday, 29th July 2011
Google launches Hotel Finder for hotels in the U.S. which is a search tool designed specifically to make it easier to find and compare hotels. Click on the screenshot to enlarge:
The main features include: drawing simple shapes to define the destination areas of interest, seeing popular locations on maps, adding a hotel to a shortlist with just one click, where they can be reviewed easily later on. In addition, users can see if they will get a good deal by comparing a hotel’s current price with the typical one.
The filter on the left-hand side offers various options such as: location filters, arrival and departure dates, price point filters as well as hotel ratings & user rating filters.