Our favorite search engine is at it again. Last month, we reported the rollout of massive changes to travel related search engine results pages (SERPs) specific to mobile devices. It seems that these changes were only part of a bigger, more complex project from Google to help consumers plan their entire trip from inception to booking.
Earlier this week (March 8th, 2016), Google officially announced the rollout of “Destinations on Google”, which is designed to help users discover and plan their next vacation.
How Destinations On Google Works
To use the new feature, a searcher simply needs to search for a destination (continent, country, or state) and add the word “vacation” or “destination” to the end of the search query. Users are then presented a highly visual layout of specific destination information that is also seamlessly integrated with hotel and flight pricing and information.
As a user drills down into specific destinations, additional information becomes available, like area events, weather, suggested itineraries, etc.
Google has focused a great deal of time and effort over the past few months on deciphering and nurturing the customer journey, particularly from a travel perspective, and this new feature seems to really hit the nail on the head when it comes to user experience.
Tour Through Destinations On Google
Using the example provided by Google, we searched for “Europe Destinations”.
As you can see, the main SERP presents a new tab that prominently displays two of the top destinations in the searched area with a blue arrow prompt to view more destinations.
Once we clicked to view more we were taken to a new, highly visual page that displays a full list of destinations with a basic description as well as hotel and flight information, if available.
Rome sounds great this time of year, so we decided to go even further and get more information specifically on this destination. As you can see, we were taken to yet another page. This time, the layout gives us a choice to just “explore” or to “plan a trip”.
The “explore” tab provides a more detailed tour of the destination with suggested itineraries, top sights, best time to visit, pictures, videos, similar destinations, and more. Each category is presented in an easy to navigate carousel format.
The “plan a trip” tab, on the right hand side, provides a detailed breakdown of pricing information for flights and hotels. Users also have the option to personalize travel information like travel dates, number of travelers, and hotel class.
Destinations On Google Impact
From a user perspective, this new layout seems like a no-brainer. The experience is seamless and, more importantly, incredibly informative. Hooray for searchers!
Remember, Google’s job, at the end of the day, is to provide the best search experience possible.
From a travel marketing perspective, however, the outlook is still somewhat unclear and the impact of the changes remains to be seen.
On a broad scale, the new, clean format could do a great job of generating awareness for lesser-known destinations that might not get the attention elsewhere and that are perhaps overshadowed by larger, more popular destinations in the area.
Additionally, the integration of hotel and flight information could make it easier for users to book their travel plans.
The biggest loser, per usual, is organic search. Natural search results are, once again, pushed almost below the fold for the initial search query pages and are virtually non-existent on lower level pages.
It is important to note that Google’s other goal, aside from a stellar search experience, is to make money, and the continued integration of paid search features like Google Hotel Ads and Google Flights will only increase the exposure and usage of the product, thus forcing advertisers to spend more money to be seen.
Have you seen the new destinations layout yet? Try it out and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!