Preparing travel for the future of AI search

Predicting the speed and shape of how search marketing will be changed by artificial intelligence is an impossible task. But marketers should take one thing for granted: Search marketing in Google should stay on top of the priority list for the foreseeable future.

Google will not give up on its $175 billion ad revenue in search for 2023 without a fight. And even if its search domination starts slowly crumbling, the unbeatable crawling, indexing and keyword matching capabilities across the world wide web will remain a critical underlying data source for many potential AI search disruptors.

In the second of two articles, let’s dig deeper into the three areas where travel can start focusing today to stay ahead of the curve.

From SEO to GEO (Generative Experience Optimization)

Scrolling a list of blue links will become a thing of the past. The new challenge will be capturing a place among the referral links highlighted in the AI-powered answer.

The SEO cards might get reshuffled in this process. As recent Google SGE research uncovers, an average of 4.3 unique domains were featured in the SGE answers, but only 62% of the links originated from domains among the top 10 organic results for the same query. 

Another study of Perplexity’s results reported an average of 5.28 website link citations in its answers. The overlap of domain links between Perplexity and Google SGE proved to be 60% in travel vs. only 20% in the general e-commerce vertical.

The report comparing top referral links in travel between Google SGE and Perplexity revealed the current AI search winners: five out of the 10 top displayed domains are the leading metasearch and OTAs.

Key Takeaway:  Embracing generative search will require going back to the drawing board for SEO marketers. What are the right signals for each query to be seen by AI engines as the most relevant source of information? How can smaller competitors outmaneuver the domain authority of big brands for the top spots?

A recent research paper claims that adding quotations, statistics and citing sources are effective content strategies to increase the odds to be referenced in AI answers. But such tactics might be shortsighted in a constantly evolving landscape and different per vertical.

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A long-term winning strategy is focusing on providing search engines with optimized, structured data to better crawl and understand your content. This will help to boost visibility in AI answers in each relevant query.

Marketers can start testing this strategy today by leveraging Schema.org and Google structured data makeups and measure impact in Google search rich results like the carousel or “people also asked” snippets.

Similar to SEO back in the early 2000s, expect the leading AI engines to keep tweaking and optimizing the search answers over years to come. Keeping a pulse check in this fast-paced environment and constantly adapting and testing the content accordingly will be paramount to maximize organic traffic in the future.

From blue links to multimodal ads

As more AI-powered answers take over the top space on result pages, current ad links will attract fewer user clicks over time. Google is well aware of this risk. To ensure its golden goose keeps laying eggs, sponsored links will be gradually injected into AI answers, similar to what Bing already does in Search Copilot.

Vidhya Srinivasan, Google’s vice president of ads, shared in a recent blog post a travel-related example for a trip planning search to Hawaii with kids: “Imagine seamlessly integrating ads into the AI-powered overview. In my example, I could see helpful ads for activities in the island descriptions, hotel options and more. We could serve existing ads categories better and significantly expand the categories where ads would be helpful.”

Other than starting to monetize AI answers, Google is doubling down on leveraging search data for its ad inventory higher in the funnel to keep the performance marketing spending flowing via its much hyped Performance Max campaigns.

Key Takeaway: It is fair to assume that advertisers will have little control over their ads exposure in AI-powered search answers, similar to other placements like Gmail ads.

Google’s machine learning algorithms will increasingly decide the type and placement of ads in their ecosystem, based on the endless wealth of user data it is capable of collecting and modeling.

Performance Max campaigns show the path where the digital marketing world is heading: leveraging the high user intent driven by search traffic to inject ads across different touchpoints.

Travel marketers need to put marketing money into these types of campaigns today. Learning how to optimize the campaign configurations and feed Google’s algorithm with enough data to optimize performance will give advertisers a head start in paid AI search marketing.

From ads to product reviews

Search engines delivering AI answers will not only collect and summarize facts, but also crawl opinions and reviews available across the web when the query relates to a brand, product or service. Google’s existing Pros & Cons structured data, available today as product snippets in result pages, lays the foundation for informed opinions in future AI results. 

A hotel chain’s pay-per-click strategy to capture search traffic in relevant hotel queries might turn into a wasted effort if the search results highlight overpriced resort fees or consistent long check-in queues in the AI answer.

Key Takeaway: In a world where AI search results not only point users to websites but provide informed answers about brands reputation and products, cross-functional coordination between search, social media and customer experience teams will become crucial.

Optimizing organic and paid search will move beyond traditional SEM/SEO metrics like keywords relevance, core web vitals and quality score. Measuring and steering positive online sentiment through product reviews, customer ratings and user-generated content easily crawlable by AI engines will be equally important.

Ensuring a brand’s unique value propositions and positive customer experiences stands out in the search results will impact click-through rates, conversion and ultimately shape the success of travel companies in search marketing.

Conclusion

Jeff Bezos famously said that in business it is more important to ask about the things that are not going to change in the next 10 years than what will change.

Search in its current form factor is ripe for profound change over the coming years. But the underlying need of travelers to browse the world wide web for information when researching, planning and booking their travel plans will last over decades.

Travel players would be wise to start future-proofing their search marketing roadmap today to ensure they stay relevant for travelers in this brave new world of AI search. 

About the author …

Mario Gavira is vice president of growth and brand at Kiwi.com and an angel investor.

Originally Appeared Here

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