SEO Is Changing Completely In 2017. Here’s What You Need To Know

SEO Is Changing Completely In 2017. Here’s What You Need To Know

Technology is changing the travel industry so quickly and relentlessly that it feels impossible to keep up. How can one company possibly keep up with everything from bluetooth beacons to virtual payment systems, self-driving cars, virtual reality tours, instant translation, live streaming, interactive smartphone apps, and drone technology?

Tech is also changing the way people learn about travel and talk about about travel just as fast. As an online marketer a big part of my job is to help people figure out which trends are going to provide the most value to their companies so that they can set their priorities and focus on a few key goals.

In this article I’m going to talk about the technological change that will probably have the single biggest effect on travel marketing in 2017: machine learning in SEO.

This is one of the topics that I will be diving into in my presentation: Using Technology And Storytelling To Create Immersive Marketing Experiences on Tuesday April 25th, 14:10 – 15:10 in the Travel Tech Theatre, so if you want to learn more about it be sure to stop by.

Risk And Opportunity: Machine Learning In Search

In their annual ranking factors white paper this year Search Metrics made an unprecedented announcement: universal ranking factors no longer exist.


Google is moving toward more personalized search results based on content relevance and user intent. To put it briefly: Google is using machine learning to constantly refine its algorithm so that they can better guess exactly what each individual user wants and serve them the best matching content.

Because of that, different searches will use different indicators to determine what content should appear at the top of results.

Search results will be personalized to specific users depending on what they’re looking for. For example, a user in the USA with a history of credit card searches who searches “USA visa application” is probably going to be directed to a credit card application while a user in Japan with a history of job searches in the United States will probably be sent to a page explaining how to apply for a United States work visa.

Rather than looking at external indicators (such as links) like it did in the past, Google will be looking more and more at user experience on the pages linked to in their search results. If people are coming to your website from a search but leaving after 5 seconds (whether because of a bad user experience or because they don’t see what they are looking for) Google will take that into account and probably won’t show you in results for much longer. However, if people arriving on your website from a search and staying for 8 minutes and browsing several pages, then Google is probably going to send you more and more visitors.

This is both a risk and an opportunity.

Those who have enjoyed top spots in search results despite providing a mediocre experience to users are going to be in jeopardy of losing their privileged ranking. Websites that have focussed on providing great content but haven’t yet been able to crack the top spots in search may now be given a chance.

How You Can Take Advantage Of The New SEO Landscape

As a professionally-trained writer who started writing online back in the days when SEO involved tricking Google rather than pleasing readers, I think this change is fantastic. It rewards those who provide users with the best experience and pushes all website owners to collectively build a better Internet.

As an Internet marketer, this has also made it much easier to explain SEO to my clients.

Technical details aside (and there are a lot of technical details involved in this) the big picture is clear: Google wants to reward quality.

More specifically, if you want to rank #1 for a search term, then the single best thing you can do is provide users searching for that term with a better experience than anyone else.

It’s that simple.

Here is how you can make sure you’re providing the best possible user experience:

  • Revise your landing pages to ensure they are providing users with exactly the information they are looking for.
  • Use custom photos and videos where appropriate to deliver information as efficiently and enjoyably as possible.
  • Optimize your website to load quickly (Google watches this very carefully).
  • Make sure your website is mobile friendly. If your website isn’t mobile friendly you probably won’t show up in the rapidly-growing mobile search results.

If you want to really take your SEO to the next level, the best thing you can do is build a blogging strategy following these steps:

  1. First, look at the keywords and phrases your website ranks for as well as the keywords and keyphrases you want to rank for (for example, a Dubai 4X4 tour company may want to rank for “Dubai 4X4”, “Dubai adventures”, and “desert 4X4”).
  2. Next, do some research and build a list of all the longtail searches that users may use when they are looking for a business like yours (for example, “desert 4X4 near Dubai”, “best Dubai adventures”, “where to drive in the desert near Dubai”).
  3. Create a blogging plan with the goal of providing all the information that the people making the above searches are looking for.

By creating blog posts aimed at answering the questions of people interested in 4X4 expeditions near Dubai we are doing two important things to improve our website’s SEO.

First, we’re are creating blog posts that are likely to attract potential customers interested in 4X4 tours near Dubai and, second, we’re showing Google that we are experts on the topic of Dubai 4X4 tours. This establishes what we call topic authority. When we use our blog to show Google our website is a great source of information about 4X4ing near Dubai, this gives Google confidence in our content and makes them more likely to rank our sales pages high for competitive terms such as “Dubai driving tours” or “Dubai adventures”.

This is a recommended strategy for two reasons. First, in the long term this will help you to increase relevant traffic to your website and increase sales. Second, Google is considering factors like topic authority to be more and more important when ranking websites. So, in both cases, this strategy will create a snowball effect that drives more and more business to your website over the long term.

For more tips on how you can take advantage of new technology in 2017 don’t miss my presentation Using Technology And Storytelling To Create Immersive Marketing Experiences on Tuesday April 25th, 14:10 – 15:10 in the Travel Tech Theatre.

Tagged .

Matt Gibson is the President of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, a nonprofit organization that works to help travel industry and brands meet and work together. He’s also an adventure travel writer and photographer, award winning blogger, and CEO of Xpat.Media, an agency that helps travel companies develop their blogging and social media marketing strategies and work with travel bloggers.


  1. Jonathan Jacob says:

    Hi Matt,

    That was an insightful article.

    You wrote:
    “Create a blogging plan with the goal of providing all the information that the people making the above searches are looking for.”

    This is key, Google just wants to send users to pages that answers their question. The goal is to help Google help you by creating the best resources(pages, images, videos ect.) for to answer these questions.

    I am looking forward to your presentation on the 25th of April.

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