The fact that consumers now view search engines as a trustworthy place to find news and information could have important implications for travel industry insiders needing to promote their products and services online.
According to an Eldman.com study, portals like Google and Bing have surpassed traditional media as the first port of call for details about a variety of topics. Indeed, 64 per cent of the internet users polled said they feel search engines are the most trustworthy source of general news and information, two per cent higher than said the same about traditional media such as TV and newspapers. The corresponding figure was eight per cent higher for Millennials, showing they really are digital natives. Some 48 per cent of respondents said they trust social media the most, while owned media (including hotel websites, blogs etc) were the most trustworthy for 47 per cent.
The news follows a Forrester Research study back in 2008 showing that 50 per cent of people trusted search engines, putting them behind only an email from someone they knew (77 per cent) and consumer product ratings and reviews (60 per cent). In that poll, only 46 per cent trusted newspapers, 39 per cent trusted print magazines and radio, and 38 per cent trusted TV programmes as a source of news and information. It’s interesting to note that while the figures for traditional media have remained broadly the same, trust in search engines has increased quite dramatically over the past seven years, proving just how ubiquitous they have become in our lives.
The latest research also demonstrates the importance of internet marketing efforts for anyone in the travel industry, as it’s vital to keep showing up in search engine rankings. However, it also means teams and individuals including hotel marketers must put time and effort into their website and other online offerings’ design, as consumers need to feel as though they have arrived at a trustworthy portal once they click on a URL link. If the quality doesn’t match the overall marketing strategy – i.e. people can find your brand via Google thanks to search engine optimisation but the website looks shoddy when they arrive to inspect it – would-be customers are likely to hit the ‘back’ button of their browser and go straight to a competitor.
Website quality and trustworthiness can be built up by employing professionals to come up with great graphics and through other techniques such as writing useful how-to articles, providing regular, authoritative blogs and producing infographics.