Google is again eyed by antitrust regulators, as it announced its plans to buy the Frommer’s brand of travel guides to augment its own travel products. Google’s interest in the travel sector is no news, the matter of concern is the how.
With Frommer’s travel guides, Google gains access to one of the richest databases of travel content on the Internet. Since content marketing is the fuel that drives business in the modern social media driven web-based economy, Google’s next (and logical) move is to push its content first in Google.com search results, bumping down other publishers.
If you used to think about Google as a search engine, or internet services provider, it’s now time to redefine it as a media company.
Once upon a time, on Google’s 10-point corporate philosophy, the company stated “You can make money without doing evil.” If you don’t see a Google+Frommer’s marriage as evil, you simply don’t get it.
There’s nothing more important than rich content. “Rich” is not about quantity, but about accurate information, and, in Frommer’s case, expert-certified information. If Google integrates Frommer’s guides with Zagat, to offer “a better experience for Google users” you’d be a fool not to raise questions. And if you are a travel content publisher, you’d be a fool not to worry: Google will enter in direct competition with you. And because Google owns Google.com, guess whose content will appear first in search engine results? Not yours.
Don’t think, even for a second, that Google will use algorithms to show the most relevant results to users. What is more relevant to Google users than Google products, anyway? But if you depended on Google traffic to grow your business, it’s time to move away, find traffic alternatives, or look for a new job. Google’s unofficial Don’t be evil philosophy is officially rendered obsolete.
Google stated many times that it does not favor its own services in producing search results, but take a look now in search, and you’ll see Google+ results pushed “in your face.” Be sure that Google will push “in your face” its own travel guides too, for any travel-related search. And why not? Travel advertisers are expected to spend $3.16 billion online this year according to eMarketer. Do you imagine Google missing its piece of the pie? The company already refined its local search and travel search engines to capitalize on this ad spending trend.
Google paid around $25 million for Frommer’s, and plans to incorporate this travel content into its Google+ Local reviews. But who can guarantee that it will not appear over in Google travel search? Since Google+ Local pages rank higher in search than other pages, there are no guarantees.