Google and Frommer’s Travel Guides: Will vacation ownership get the message?

The following article appears in the October issue of The Resort Trades. Looking at the changes, growth, and new directions of Google, you have to wonder if vacation ownership and timeshare companies are getting the message.

Google and Frommer’s Travel Guides: Will vacation ownership get the message?

by Jason Tremblay

It’s been almost a year since Google purchased Zagat Restaurant guides and six years since it bought YouTube. Now Google is buying Frommer’s travel guidebooks from publisher John Wiley & Sons, in a transaction that may already be completed by the time this article goes to press. And although Frommer’s travel guidebooks brush too lightly over timeshare as a vacation accommodations option, that’s only part of the discussion about Google and the vacation ownership industry.

Will vacation ownership get the message?
Will vacation ownership get the message?

Google, from search to content 

Google is positioned as the highest deity in Internet search, masterminding the algorithms that determine what you, me and every other Web user sees when searching the Internet via the Google platform. Whether Google defines updates to its search algorithm as a panda, a penguin or any other anthropomorphic identity, the truth is, we are talking about one powerful mega-beast that calls the shots here in the jungle.

If you could ask Google what business it is in, you would likely get an answer that makes the company sound like a giant compass always pointing to true magnetic north. Theoretically, this is accurate. Google is a search engine that points to what are intended to be results that are the most relevant to the word or words you are searching.

Since the scope of the Internet is massive, the results returned are typically massive too, requiring that Google maintain a system for ranking by quality and relevancy to your search terms, the order of the results it returns to you.

This daunting task leads Google to continual adjustments and overhauls of the processes behind its complex algorithms for search-and-organize. But with such a system in place, even Google itself has to live by its own rules when it comes to the structuring of how search results are returned. And although a litany of factors feed into this structuring, right now, Google, the King of the Jungle, says the most important factor is content. He or she who produces the best, richest, freshest and most relevant content on a regular basis can rule his or her little niche of the wilderness.

More than 15 years ago, Bill Gates pointed to content as the key collateral on the Internet, saying, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet.” While we have all heard it repeatedly said that content is king (and perhaps said it ourselves), that message is taking on greater importance than ever.

Although sales calls, print advertising, timeshare resort tours, and other ways to market and message vacation ownership are important for the sale of new timeshares, developers know that Internet visibility also matters – and matters more and more each day.

For timeshare resales, Internet visibility is very nearly the whole ball of wax. So when Google, a search engine, purchases Frommer’s travel guides, one of the largest providers of travel and tourism content in the world, every company in the business of timeshare and timeshare resales should take it very seriously.

For more than half a century, Frommer’s has published definitive travel guides that in recent years have included both print and online products helping travelers make their vacation decisions, while offering a rich resource of tips, insights, family travel suggestions, and accommodations reviews. Exactly how Google plans to use this wealth of information has not been, nor is it likely to be, fully disclosed. But here is some of what we do know. In July of 2010, Google acquired ITA Software, a Cambridge, Mass., flight information software company, enabling Google to use flight search technology for Google local search.

As Google builds local search and travel search engines, the content from Frommer’s could easily be imported into the search process, showing up in search, local search and mobile apps. And Google has publicly said, “The Frommer’s team and the quality and scope of their content will be a great addition to the Zagat team. We can’t wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world.”

Google’s statement begs one really important question: “Is your timeshare resort a ‘relevant place’ in the world as defined by Google?” Don’t worry, if you don’t have enough rich, quality content to communicate to the World Wide Web that you are a relevant place; Google will gladly sell you an ad to help you fight poor placement in search results. eMarketer, a leading digital data analysis company, projects that travel advertisers will spend $3.16 billion for online advertising this year, an increase of 23 percent over spending in 2011.

Don’t blame Google

Before you decide that Google has crossed a line it shouldn’t, you might consider whether the company has actually been nudged over the line. Google is a search company that competes against Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, and Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer. Google’s launch of Chrome, its own browser, helps keep it competitive in a world where Microsoft products and defaults are standard in most PCs sold today.

When Google created Google , in the name of improved search, most savvy Internet users recognized that although it likely improves Internet search, Google , with its friend circles and content sharing, is as much about being a social platform as it is about search. But, if the content on Facebook – the world’s largest social platform – was more searchable by Google, would Google have ever ventured into social media?

Whether it’s Google Play, Google , Chrome, YouTube or any of dozens of other ways Google is expanding its services, Google has been more than just a search engine for a long time. Google is a company, expanding its roles and redefining its brand and its services in an ever-evolving marketplace, and nobody calls that sinister. We call that good business.

Unquestionably there is a lot of gray area about directions Google is taking and we all have to hope that regulators get it right. But the fact remains that these directions are already in play and are already influencing your business on a daily basis takes us back to the two most important questions raised here: Did we get the message and do we know what to do to make timeshares “relevant places in the world” by making vacation ownership germane to broader vacation and accommodations searches in the eyes of Google?

The answer comes down to a single thought: Content really is king.

(This article is reprinted with permission of The Resort Trades. You can read it there online, along with all the news and updates of timeshare and vacation ownership.