A string of well known travel brands - including Uptake and Travelpod - have fallen foul of a crackdown by Google on what it calls "low-quality sites" or "sites that are just not very useful".
The search giant announced - in a widely expected blog post - last week that it was making "big algorithmic improvements" to its ranking system, effectively punishing sites known unfavourably by many as content farms - in other words: those lacking a whole lot of original material.
Google says it wants to provide better rankings for "high quality sites - sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on".
Sensibly, Google has steered clear of naming and shaming sites it expected to be hit by such a change in its search algorithm (only in the US so far) - leaving it to the system to calculate and others to work it out.
Search company Sistrixworked on one million keywords before and after the update, ranking them by a search visibility index covering the number of keyword positions lost.
Search Engine Land asked Sistrix to provide details of a further 100 domains that suffered losses. The data is arranged by total number of keyword positions lost and the percentage lost.
With AssociatedContent.com topping the list (162,917 positions lost, around 75%), the travel brands featured include:
- Trails - 29,835 positions lost, around 78%
- Travelpod - 28,513, 68%
- Uptake - 19,655, 58%
- MyTravelGuide - 13,340, 69%
- Destination360 - 11,167, 76%
- Travelpost - 9,412, 75%
Clearly any site with such dramatic reductions in page rank will be searching around for some quick answers - and a change in strategy given that Google is seemingly cracking down in quite a dramatic way.
Some, however, may well see themselves as simply victims of their own service - such as those that aggregate reviews from around the web into a single platform, such as Uptake.
Either way, Google's crackdown will no doubt be welcomed by those that have worked to build a presence in search based on original content or exclusive user generated content.
However, general manager and founder at TripAdvisor-owned Travelpod, Luc Lévesque, says he is surprised to have been on the receiving end of such a "drastic update". He adds:
"TravelPod has millions of great travel stories, photos and videos collected since 1997 from our travel bloggers. Over the past few years, thanks to site improvements and an overall redesign our membership and content has been growing faster than ever before, and we are still getting millions of visitors per month.
"I can't see how this benefits Google's users to send less traffic to sites with as much rich & unique content as we have. I can only assume it is a mistake, and that future tweaks to their algorithm will correct for it."
Travelpost declined to discuss the matter.
Uptake CEO Yen Lee says the company has no plans to change its strategy, but admits Google's move has hit the site. He says:
"Not sure what their methodology was, but no changes expected in our strategy. Farmer has had an impact but we more than doubling in size y/y as we have diversified our consumer channels and improved our product quality."