Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Google, the travel verticial and Claire Hatton

As well as joining the $10.5billion online marketing splurge, Google has been investing in people.

Google have been launching a series of teams targeting the big SEM verticals - Technology, Finance, Retail, etc and of course Travel. This has been the case in Australia as well as elsewhere in the world. TravelWeekly is carrying an interview with fellow ex-Cendantite Claire Hatton who is the new Google Head of Travel for Australia and New Zealand.

Claire is a great catch for Google. She and I met up recently for lunch to talk about the old days and almost closed down the restaurant as our discussion around online travel, online marketing, meta-search, social networking, UGC, etc continued without end. She has already put together a strong team with more to follow I'm sure.

The great thing about the travel vertical in search is that almost every word is in play. In something like mortgages or credit cards there are a very limited number of words worth bidding for - "credit card", "loan", "interest rates", "money", "finance" and maybe a few more but certainly less than 20. However in travel every single word can have a correlation. Every destination word, every activity word, every place word, business words, leisure words, governmental words...all can have a travel angle, all are worth something to an online marketer. This is why you hear of finance companies with a hundred or so phrases under bid management and travel companies with millions.

As well as being a huge opportunity it is also an often misunderstood challenge for travel companies. With so many words to bid on a company cannot afford to take a lazy approach to SEM. Lazy approaches are where you either bid blindly on the main words (say Hotels in Sydney, Flights to London) and wait to see what happens, or outsource the whole thing to an agency and let them bid a little less blindly on main words and wait to see what happens. Internal systems are needed that track words through to conversion and customer acquisition, that can enable different measurable events (click, purchase, email registration) to be tracked and allow bidding in different keyword and IP address combinations. Just as important, smart people are needed.

Congrats to Claire on the new role.


Anonymous said...

u go to eateries that close at 1.30pm ?

Anonymous said...

Claire has her work cut out for her. But one thing you pointed out is the one bane in my search for travel blogs on the net. For example, doing a search for news/opinions on my fav vertical travel search, Sidestep, yields tons of blogs that have just SEO/SEM words exactly like you mentioned, “Credit card”, “Interest rates”, “money”, “finance”, etc… In other words just a bunch of spam that really irritates me. Although, contrary to what you say i don’t see how most of those words have anything to do with booking travel online, or travel in general. I mean when it comes to actually finding a landing page for a good travel site, those keywords you had listed really don’t seem to correlate (IMO). I do however like your view. Very interesting

Tim Hughes said...

Spam is the great mystery of online marketing. None of us understand why anyone would click on a spam generated message (email, blog, site, paid search) but somehow and somewhere people are making millions off it. The battle against spam will always been the greatest challenges for search (be it general like Google or targeted like Technorati) but that battle is just a subset of the main aim/target of any search engine - relevance. Finding the most relevant answer naturally involves weeding out spam (is that a mixed metaphor or is spam so beyond the meat that it works?) but also much more