09 October 2008

So you didnt get the invite to Google's Travelfest in NYC?

Well actually neither did I, but yesterday on October 8th about a 100 of your closest friendly Travel Marketeers did at the TravelThink 2008 event in New York. Google put on a full court press including Tim Armstrong, president of the Americas for Google.

The Professor knew the event was happening but was looking for someone to give me the inside scoop - so far only little bits and pieces. A little dickie birdy did give me some insight so here goes:

Google of course wants the travel industry to do well. It has a significant revenue stream that is sourced from the Travel Industry. Like many other consumer facing businesses Google has captured the cold hard marketing dollars like has never been seen. One wag I spoke to thinks that Google makes more money from the Travel Industry than Microsoft does. Now there's a thought. I of course have no way to validate it.They presented some statistics from Jupiter (hmmm they don't seem to be too pally with PCW and Forrester).

According to the Google sponsored study by Jupiter 94% of travel executives said online advertising would provide the strongest return on investment compared to other media in the next 12 months. Some 20% of travel advertisers will spend more than $10 million on online marketing. Folks that's probably several billions of dollars all headed Google's way. Latest stats from the IAB - the Interactive Advertising Bureau - in their report released Tuesday showed that tracked leisure travel-related ad dollars during the first six months were essentially slightly down, dropping from $687 million to $667 million, or from 7% to 6% of total spending. However in our analysis we think this under- represents the category as a whole and that the number is much higher and doesnt cover specialist sites as well as the generalists. It is also not covering the business sectors.

So banish that idea called Troogle from your minds - this is about ensuring that Google continues to capture the lion's share of your ad and marketing dollars. Travel is a VERY BIG category for Google's revenue. When travel falls - then Google's revenues dive at the same time. However don't feel sorry for them just yet - there is still a fundamental shift of revenue from traditional media to Google's pockets so the sector is still growing. And what it cant get directly it will try and get in cooperation with Yahoo in their new ad deal.

So chaps you are essentially shifting cash to one of the world's most profitable companies.

That said there were some interesting things that came out of the meetings...

Google and DoubleClick (its recent purchase) which has dumped even more revenue streams to Sergey's and Larry's fuel fund for their 767, are looking to bring together more interesting elements of search. One of their latest revelations is the focus on behavioral targeting or BT as they call it. "(DoubleClick) understands conversions through display and we know about conversions through search," said Tim Clark. Add in Yahoo once the DOJ rubber stamps it and you have a lot of information on the way people behave. Google is positively Orwellian in what it knows about us.

Among the software (read ways to get you to part with more money) that Google is rolling out to help travel advertisers is a tool that suggests appropriate keywords based on spikes in certain search terms. By spotting a rising search term early such as "staycation," a travel company can develop marketing programs suited to emerging industry trends. Just don't tell Aer Lingus that or they might understand what the word means...

Another new tool that those nice people at Google think could benefit travel marketers especially OTAs and cross product sellers is something that seeks to cross-match surges around certain search terms with terms used on a company's site to come up with new keywords. The technology could yield 50 to 100 new keywords may not have recognized before to generate conversions, said Penry Price (sorry for the previous typo but apparently I am not the only one to make the mistake in print - again apologies) - N. American head of ad sales at the Search Giant. Given the learned behavior of the consumer to input more words into the search string this will likely drive up the cost of under utilized key words. It is also a threat to the add on SEO players.

We see Google trying to capture the link from the broadcast media - particularly TV - to search. We foresee a time when Google will actually predict search traffic based on its knowledge of broadcast programming and ad scheduling and jack up keyword pricing just prior to that time. (If they don't already do it).

Call me paranoid but while its a great tool - Google does seem to have a lock on the whole revenue stream side and its becoming bigger and stronger all the time.

And we used to think Microsoft was the evil empire....


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