It has not been a good past couple of weeks for Expedia. Unfortunately for the travel company, it depends on a steady flow of web traffic. Last week, though, Expedia’s rankings on Google dropped 25 percent, which, as a direct result, lowered their web traffic by about 20 percent—the drop in traffic even lowered their stock value by four percent. So how did this happen to Expedia? Most likely, it was because they were relying on an outdated form of SEO technique: building keyword rich backlinks to their website.
What happened with Expedia
This blog outlines some of the mistakes Expedia made in an attempt to increase their search engine rankings. The biggest crime? (Supposedly) creating a large-scale guest posting campaign with the sole intention of getting anchor text backlinks pointing to various Expedia pages (like in the example above). For example, the company sneakily put in keyword-rich links on random travel blogs with the hopes it would improve their search engine performance. Over time, Google didn’t really take kindly to that, and as a result, devalued their content in the search rankings—so much so that Expedia was pushed all the way to the second listing on page two for searching “hotel.” That’s not exactly how they planned for their web marketing plan to work.
Moral of the story? When you try to play Google, you will get burned.
If you think Google is just being a big bully picking on Expedia, though, you should know that they have targeted other large websites engaging in sketchy backlinking, too. Example? Rap Genius.
Rap Genius recently received a similar penalty from Google, but because Rap Genius cleaned up its bad SEO link building act quickly, they only had a 10-day penalty, while Expedia will have to completely fix and rework its SEO strategy. This means they’ll have to remove as many of those shady links as they can (although some say they were just utilizing Expedia’s free theme on WordPress).
How you can avoid their SEO mistakes
After reading about Expedia’s misfortune, you may be in panic mode, thinking your company will be penalized for the same SEO link building strategy that got the travel and hotel giant in a bit of a web marketing snafu.
First off, relax. Most likely, your company hasn’t participated in such a blatant search engine trickery tactic. And if you did? Either you’ve already seen a dip in your web traffic, or it’s time to start changing your plans before you do.
So what should you do? Stop the spammy backlinks, of course. To get started, you should check your backlink profile, as well as your anchor text links—a quick Google search will give you different options for tools to use, like Majestic SEO or AHREFS. Both tools have a cost for full functionality, but if you were using shady backlinking strategies in the past, it would be worth the cost.
If you really want to improve your website in Google’s eyes, though, your best bet would be to churn out high quality and shareable content. That means no more awkward keyword insertions in your articles and no more anchor text backlinks from random domains—instead, Google is now (more than ever) encouraging you to write naturally for people—not for search engines—and it will see if your site meets its criteria to rank high in the results. You should also focus on generating user-friendly content in general, with relevant images and engaging multimedia content.