Tag Archives: SEO

Google Places – Like it or Not?

Google Places in Search Results – Why No Choice?

Last October Google instigated a major change in the way it presented its search results, with Google Places listings given greater prominence for “local” searches, for instance looking for a plumber, dentist, hotel, restaurant etc in a given location.  Here is what results have tended to look like since that date, taking “B&B near Rouen” as an example:

b&b NEAR rouen

This was hailed by Google as a great step forward, improving relevance of search results.  The focus for SEO gurus/experts since then has been to encourage business owners to optimise their “Google Places” listing.

However, in the case above I was looking for a place to stay NEAR Rouen – not in the MIDDLE of Rouen – yet these results are useless as all the places are in the CENTRE of Rouen, which if you know it is a nightmare to get in and out of!

That may be a minor quibble, but there are two bigger snags with the current Google Places set up that do not seem to get much of an airing.

  1. From the point of view of a business, what about the PC repair man whose physical address is in Bromley, but who also services Orpington, Greenwich and Sevenoaks? His website previously got him listed for those local searches organically, but now he doesn’t have a shot at getting found near the top of Google results for any locations outside the town where he’s physically registered. Frequently, relevant organic results are now pushed out of sight, either at the foot of or right off the page.
  2. From the point of view of a Google user, what if I want to be able to turn off the Places results? Sometimes – many times – I don’t want them. Before the user had an option to search Google Maps to get local Places results, but now there is no corresponding option to exclude Places when they are not relevant – the choice has actually been restricted.  Does this really improve the search experience?

Come on Google, at least give us a choice!

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TripAdvisor Business Listing Links

The main benefit of a Business Listing on TripAdvisor is the addition of contact details – telephone, website and email.

TripAdvisor Business Listing

TripAdvisor Business Listing

I’ve mentioned before, in passing, how the Business Listing links have no SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) value as they are written in javascript, effectively a “nofollow” as far as search engines are concerned.  Consequently, the TA Business Listing link won’t help the owner in question on search engine results.

TripAdvisor Business Link Has No SEO Value

TripAdvisor Business Link Has No SEO Value

Recently Tnooz interviewed Steve Kaufer (top dog at TripAdvisor) and posed him the obvious question regarding the Business Listing links on TripAdvisor – why the “nofollow”?

S Kaufer

S Kaufer

“We really don’t want to ever be accused by Google or anyone else of offering a service that could be construed as buying a link,” says Kaufer, sitting in a conference room at TripAdvisor headquarters in Newton, Mass.

“It’s not going to hurt anyone else’s SEO ranking,” he points out. “It just doesn’t help it. And we never ever imply if you buy a link you’ll do better in search results. It’s irrelevant.”

Steve Kaufer, TripAdvisor CEO

This is a poor defence. Owners and travellers alike have been saying for ages that ALL properties listed on TA should have proper contact details, like phone, email and a link to a website.  After all, if TripAdvisor is going to make money out of publishing reviews that feed their other business ventures, the least they can do is give the same properties a decent chance of being found by the poor sap (sorry, TripAdvisor user) who likes the look of a place and wants to contact them.

As the first Tnooz comment by Stuart said:

The whole “We’re wary of being called on paid links” defence is hogwash. Sure that is a valid concern if the link to the property is a part of their paid for business listing thing, but that is why the link should have been there from the get go as a part of a standard free listing.

The original, and still the main, purpose of “nofollow” was to prevent spammers filling blogs with links to their sites via the comments sections. Most blogs now have “nofollow” automatically to protect against this. Here’s Matt Cutts of Google on “nofollow” http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/quick-comment-on-nofollow/

More recently, Google has said it disapproves of purchased links.  But many reputable paid listings sites include regular website links and aren’t penalised.

For example, the long established site http://www.skiaustria.com has hard links to the hotels who advertise there. See here: http://www.skiaustria.com/kitzbuel/hotels/tennerhof/index.htm

The link to the hotel Tennerhof is hard AND the page carrying link has PR2 on Google, so no penalties there.  But lots of benefit for the owner of the hotel and his website – a decent link far from “irrelevant” as Kaufer claims.

On the other hand, TripAdvisor cunningly encourages accommodation owners to use its “widgets”  – without coming clean and admitting they are stuffed with valuable, keyword rich inbound links to TA.  In fact, TripAdvisor disable its so-called “free” widgets (using a javascript check) if they are altered by the addition of a “nofollow”.

Clearly, TA want other sites to link in to them so they hide keyword rich links in their widgets without telling anybody. But they aren’t happy to link out.  All this one way link traffic is good for them but bad news for the hotel/b&b owner websites they feed off.

TripAdvisor Widgets

Should Hotels Use TripAdvisor Widgets?

Lets imagine you’re a hotel owner and your hotel is pretty damn hot on TripAdvisor.  “Hell,” you say to yourself “We’re flying here – how can we use this to our advantage?”

Whoopee! A neat widget for my website! What's the catch?

Those nice people at TripAdvisor have a suggestion – use one of their widgets.  These little cuties are bits of code that you integrate into your hotel website to show just how wonderful folks think you are on TripAdvisor.

Great!  But hang on a minute – you rarely get something for nothing in this world, and the guys at TripAdvisor aren’t mugs when it comes to marketing themselves.  So what is the catch here?

First snag is, TripAdvisor widgets include a whole bunch of text links to TripAdvisor. How does this help TripAdvisor or harm you? Because it provides them with inbound keyword links using your hotel name, increasing the chances that TripAdvisor will rank highly for search results for your hotel.  So by using a TripAdvisor widget on your site you’re boosting TripAdvisor in the search engines, and possibly harming your own site’s rankings.

This lunch definitely ISN'T free!

Second snag is, once someone leaves your site through that link, they will be hit with a bunch of TripAdvisor ads pushing your competitors.  By sending them to your TripAdvisor page, you might easily lose a booking.

Worst TA Widget

The third snag applies to the widget that shows snippets of actual reviews.

Not only does this one give TripAdvisor link juice, but it also displays content over which you have no control.

If you have a great listing on TripAdvisor and want to use it to your advantage, think hard before using a widget.  You might decide to go ahead anyway, but it’s best to be aware of what the widget is REALLY for – to promote TripAdvisor.

Be creative – there are ways of capitalising on a high TA ranking without shooting yourself in the foot.

EDIT 3 Sept 2010

Sorry I didn’t spell out how to use TA reviews without a widget – it doesn’t have to be that clever,  in fact you could just copy them. Here’s an example: http://www.normandie-chambres.fr/ – the side column contains some TA reviews but no link to TA and the site owner has total control over the content. A number of other sites do the same or similar and the average site visitor does not know or care whether the reviews on display come via a TA widget.

Related Articles:

Why Hotels Should Stop Using TripAdvisor’s Rating Widget

The TripAdvisor Review Widget on the Hotel Website: a Good or Bad Move?