Ranking for city-specific experiences search terms is fiercely competitive and an expensive part of performance marketing that tends to favors online travel agencies with big budgets. A new carousel in Google's Things To Do adds an interesting shift in search display.
Google has made the search and discovery of their tours and activities easier for tour operators by introducing a new carousel in its search results.
The new Activities and Tours carousel, released last month, is available only on mobile search and is primarily focused on English-language queries, with plans to expand to other languages and platforms like Google Maps in the near future, the company confirmed to Skift.
Tour operators stand to benefit from more direct traffic and booking inquiries as the new carousel displays free listings of products relevant to a particular search – like a Bike Tour in Paris, or a Food Tour in Rome, for example. This expands Google’s Things To Do listings to include a broader search beyond Points of Interest and ticketing for major attractions offered when it initially launched two years ago.
Most notably, the new carousel appears below just one or two sponsored or paid listings on major search terms and city-specific searches, giving smaller tour operators a chance at free, organic, and direct exposure.
Google is now focused on improving query coverage, according to a company spokesperson, meaning it needs to build its database of travel products to ensure relevant listings are displayed.
Working with specific data feeds for its tours and activities offering was relatively new for the company, the spokesperson explained. While the search platform is able to crawl the web to understand official ticket prices, for example, its feed-based travel connections require more proactive steps, either through a connectivity partner or for these experiences businesses to directly connect their feeds with Google Things To Do.
The carousel for activities and tours in search results currently includes only non-ad or free links. It is built on Google’s new ad format launched in 2021, which allows listings to either be organic (free) or switched to a campaign (paid) as needed.
Google said its aim is to provide both free and paid links, making it easier for partners to be represented on Google, with the flexibility to choose their participation level based on their marketing budget.
Capitalizing on the New Carousel Feature
The Activities and Tours carousel is said to be the most significant update by Google’s Things To Do program in the past two years, according to Christian Watts CEO of Magpie, a connectivity company specializing in product information management for the tours and activities sector.
Watts outlined how the new carousel section allows tour operators to stand out in Google search results in an explainer video.
Product optimization was essential to making the most of this new feature, said Watts, meaning tour operators must ensure they have comprehensive and accurate information about their offerings. It also requires engaging descriptions, enticing visuals, and a clear depiction of what sets their tour apart, noting that search results can also vary based on location, language, and user preferences.
Watts said the update required a greater focus on a product than the tour operators’ direct business profile.
“The display in the carousel is centered around individual products rather than business profiles, allowing tour operators to have multiple products ranking if they meet the search intent and optimization criteria set by Google.”
Watts compared it to a shopping experience, where users can directly see the available tours and products rather than land on a homepage.
Watts advised using Google’s categories and subcategories – like Budget Friendly, History and Culture or For Small Groups. Using Google’s enhancements tools helps the Things To Do program identify tour products to connect them with relevant search results and an intended target audience.
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Photo credit: A person performs a Google search on their mobile phone. Source: Unsplash firmbee.com / Unsplash