Expedia Gets taken down by Hummingbird!

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I am shocked that the Wallstreet Journal has published a report that Expedia.com could have been the target of Negative SEO. This is pure rubbish. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why Expedia’s SEO ranking fell off a cliff on Google searches. Just tick off what you don’t see on the home page and you’ll know how poorly designed the site is.

Epic Page Optimization Failure

The landing page itself is not SEO friendly. No Site Map, just pure sales links. No quality inbound or outbound links. The Page SEO is fucked. Just look at the damn page and tell me that there is useful content in there somewhere which will be of use to users? Nothing!

To make matters worst, Google Hummingbird zeroes in on content optimization and penalizes pure sales sites. I have said in an earlier post that Hummingbird is designed to take down pure sales sites and Expedia is one that was designed in the 90s with no SEO sense.

Sales, sales and more sales. That’s all the home page is screaming. No wonder they got taken down a few notches.

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Massive Content Failure

There is no content. Ok, I found a some content buried in the “Things to Do” topic but trust me, that’s not content. It is pure sales talk. The tone that it is written in is a third person, describing what you can do. It could have been written by a man with a gun held to his head. Who knows?

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Useful Content is not about giving the facts, it’s about experiences, especially in this case where travel is concerned. They could have at least featured something written by a customer or blogger. But they didn’t. Content to Expedia is a waste of time so here’s another few notches taken down for that.

Total Social Media Failure

sharingHere is something else I noticed. The lack of Social Media engagement. Sure, you have a Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and G+ button that LEADS to your sales pitches. There is no content there except that it screams Promotions! Sales and Marketing pitches. Again no content to share with fellow users. 

Social Media accounts are used to generate more sales. So here you give  Google credit for taking it down a few more notches.

Failure to Engage Users

Just look at the “Things to do” topic and you’ll also see that there is no user comments or inputs. That is pretty fucked up. The site has no qualms about asking you to put down your money but makes no attempt in getting any feedback on the promotions they have. Here Google pummels Expedia down with a right hook and sinker. The result? You get to be on the THIRD page of the search baby!

Negative SEO is over hyped

Before Hummingbird, Google will send out warning emails to site users who have very poor inbound links. That’s to stop people from exploiting a loophole in the algorithm where they suspect a site has been paying other sites just to put a link to them to boost their rankings.

In a Negative SEO scenario, a competing or rival business can put up poor links to your site to take your SEO ranking down. To me, this is totally irrational and far-fetched as the competition is better off using Black Hat techniques to BOOST their own ranking over yours in keyword SEO during the Penguin and Panda era. Unless your rival in business has got an axe to grind with you, they are better off using their money to increase their rankings than to take you down.

Negative SEO in Expedia’s could have been attributed to poor sales sites designed by incompetent Expedia staff to boost their own web traffic. No content type sites are purely to blame and for that, Expedia’s got plenty of them.

Was Negative SEO to blame for Expedia’s Failure?

Several blogs mentioned that there were some old sites set up by Expedia’s many divisions to boost their rankings and this could have resulted in a Negative SEO hit. This is plausible but these pundits fail to realize that Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm is designed to take down content unfriendly sites.

This is by far the most telling result of Expedia’s failure in its SEO optimization. So what should be done to improve rankings?

Get more travel related content by tying up with travel bloggers and content providers

Each should be written in a first person narrative that provides useful travel information instead of the usual brochureware associated with it. For the money you make off booking, having a travel blog to help your travelers isn’t all that difficult. It cost Expedia loose change just to get original content. Why it hasn’t been done? Well maybe their team doesn’t know how important content is in the Hummingbird age.

Optimize the Home Page to provide Travel Content

Everywhere in the world, national tourist offices will offer you quality content on selected destinations. By integrating the content with travel information, you get to boost your SEO rankings. Bear in mind that national and government-funded tour offices do not offer sales pitches. They offer you seasonal or festive content and all you need to do is work with them to promote a destination.

Revisit Home Page Optimization 

Create quality inbound links. Tie up with travel content entities such as travel magazines and websites to create quality inbound links. Branding is important to Expedia and it should tie up with content providers and pay for these content to be featured on their site. Nothing is free in this world. Once you have content, you will have  comments, and social sharing. These engagements will definitely boost your SEO ranking.

The Cheapest Alternative for Not giving a Fuck

Expedia as a multi billion dollar business entity that can afford to pay for a top level listing on ANY Google search result. This is what Google wants Expedia to realize. You don’t become a multi-billion dollar company and hope that the poor excuse for a website gets top level listing for free.

Expedia can set aside a multi million dollar budget just to advertise alone, and still see positive results without even bothering with content optimization. If Expedia doesn’t give a fuck about content, then advertising for click-thru search results is the best way to go.

Battle of the Titans

Lastly, it is unfortunate that Expedia has become Google’s target. I see this purely as a battle for business by two industry titans. Google owns the search engine space, Expedia owns the travel booking space. Google is discreetly telling Expedia that it wants its fair share of the pie by making it known that Google searches can and will affect Expedia’s stock price. If Expedia can afford to take this hit, well, good for them. If doesn’t, then its time to recognize which turf you are on.

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