I did some work on the area of Hotels and Accommodation recently. As the JNIR report pointed out so clearly, the accommodation business is really driven by internet search with 51% of Irish respondents saying that they used the internet to look up travel information in the past 6 months. Furthermore some 324,000 Irish people had booked hotels or accommodation in the past six months online. So, for a hotel or any business offering accommodation, internet search is simply too important to take lightly. But I question whether businesses are responding to changing search queries? A great piece of research from Hitwise UK in February showed that that Internet searches for Valentine breaks to UK destinations only had increased 50% in comparison to the previous year.

Similarly searches for “Valentines Weekend Paris” and related expressions were down 30% on the previous year. These changes are most likely linked to the economy and the prevailing uncertainty. For the Valentines break searches were still being conducted for some form of romantic recreational respite (the alliteration is free there!) but the 2009 searches more locally and cautiously focussed. I set up a ‘money related’ Ad on an Adwords account for a business in Early November– it’s triggered on a cost related search.

I think that the results really do speak volumes! The really has begun to grow in the early part of the year. So, you get the feeling that the search phrases we were using 12 months ago to root out a particular product or service may well differ now searching for the same products or services. As we become more circumspect, this mindset will alter how we search as well. If companies do not reflect these changes in their SEO efforts they won’t appear in the results for these new or amended search queries.

If you search “Hotels Dublin” (on Google.com) the top ten websites have made an effort to optimise for “Cheap Dublin Hotels” – five of those websites returning in the top then for the “cheap” expression as well. Most of the top sites for “Dublin Hotels” are the large booking sites like travelsupermarket.com and placestostay.com and they certainly appreciate the value of optimising for both expressions and are most likely aware of the changing directions of these search phrases. Our own domestic hotel web sites find it difficult to get up the rankings for these expressions with the earliest entrant popping up at 23rd for “Dublin Hotels” – the theclarence.ie.**

But none of these domestic hotels websites show at all for “Cheap Dublin Hotels”. Another good example below is for car insurance. Personally I find car insurance rather generic- fully comp is the same to me from company “A” as opposed to company “B”. The only real factor for me, when looking for car insurance is my bank balance. In the first column below is who ranks under the term “Car Insurance” and the second column compares where the same websites rank for the “economically correct” term ‘cheap car insurance’. Five of the ten websites for the first term, don’t rank in the top fifty results for the second term and I think that’s a real missed opportunity for them. We stigmatised the word “cheap” and other such economic terms as were been licked by the Celtic Tiger and perhaps now it the time to refocus web sites towards some “strident times” expressions.  I am not saying that the word ‘cheap’ is the path to the Holy Grail,

I am simply saying that a lot of sites were developed and optimised in the good times and were, therefore, optimised with that mindset. Maybe we should have a look at them again with the “R” word in mind. Have a look through the server logs and look out a few discounts orientated expressions cropping up and utilise them. ** The theclarence.ie land at result number 23 for the expression “Dublin Hotel Deals” which prompts me to ask where cheap hotels stop and deals begin.