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Are the search engines becoming navigation tools instead of research vehicles?

In a recent Hitwise Blog post, Heather Hopkins talks about how Search engines might now be becoming more of a navigation tool to direct searchers to brand sites and popular intermediaries (within the travel industry), more than the research vehicles to find new websites that they once were.

It does seem that there has been a change in how searchers use the search engines.  I remember when being on page 2 or 3 of Google or Yahoo was still a good thing.  Now, it is critical to be found above the fold in order to attract the right customer or you might as well call it a day.  Could it be that consumers are going back to brand loyalty over price point? (it’s about time!)

That tells me that Destination Marketing Organizations really need to step up their game to ensure that they are being seen on behalf of their members and partners, with a focus on building the destination brand.  It seems that the big brand sites are doing their part in driving their costomers back through the more direct channel.

The DMO’s (destination organizations such as associations, chambers and visitor bureau’s) are a big part of the filtering process for those using the search engines to navigate through search engines to find the brands sites, portal websites, and mapping websites.  Destinations should offer mapping functionality by incorporating features such as Google Maps, as well they should consider other Web 2.0 techniques such as forums and blogs to ensure that they can expand the online reach and visibility on behalf of their partners.
 
As for the tourism marketer now, It really is about finding the low hanging fruit, and people are still picking fruit!  (I think I have strawberry’s on the mind – it is that time of year!)  As I have previously posted, although there may be a decrease in the amount of people planning travel this summer, there is still a huge advantage for those tourism marketers who are focussing on attracting the eyes of the consumer using the Internet to research and book.  The right offer at the right time at the right price will certainly still convert. 

Be the low hanging fruit by being visible in the search engines, on your local destination portals, your brand sites, and through strategic and targeted paid search, and Google local campaigns and you will be sure to attract the attention of the consumers that will be buying their summer travel experiences.

I have a really big craving for some fresh strawberries now…I think I might just do a search for the closest strawberry patch!

[tags]destination marketing, tourism marketing, travel planning, web 2.0 techniques, Google Maps, search engine marketing, online marketing[/tags]

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