Google Flights is coming forward with new updates that prioritize user experience above all. With the biggest change since it's started in 2011, Google Flights is changing how it will make money with a step closer to all-organic search results. The new updates will be rolled out by mid-February, causing some implications for travelers, travel agencies, and airlines.
Why should you care and what does that mean for anyone on the website looking to book a flight? The way Google Flights works is by placing its own flight modules above all organic search results. With the new changes, consumers who search for flights from a certain airline, for example, might get to see a free link from the airline’s website placed higher up on the page, which never happens today since priority goes to websites and airlines that pay more for search engine optimization. So if you’re not one of those people who prefer to consider every option you get, then you don’t have to worry about that since you’ll be getting the true fitting options up on the top.
Although we can’t really see the change yet, the new algorithms seem to be promising for the whole travel industry. Getting free, unpaid results higher up on the results page instead of links that are paid advertising will increase users’ trust in the website, although airlines willing to pay may not be as happy about the news. You’ll no longer see “sponsored” beside search results from Kayak or Skyscanner, for example, and no booking links will be designated as 'ads' on the website. According to Google, the days of charging airlines extra for placement is over. The price-comparison based website was getting payments by some airlines who wanted their booking links to be on the top of the search results. Besides that, Google Flights will also be removing all online travel agency ads that appear on the desktop version of the website since they found out that they’re not really serving the users.
This will not be affecting the ad links you get when you use the general Google search for flights, only on Google Flights. It might get a bit confusing, but for example, searching “flights to Cairo” on Google search will trigger a Google Flights module that appears as the first search above all organic results, but right below it, you’ll see the Google AdWords sponsored ads.
But how exactly will the website make money now? Google Flights is currently exploring adding in new features for partners to promote their fares, instead of booking referral links disappearing. According to Google spokesperson, “The results within Google Flights will continue to be ranked by relevance to the user, based on factors like price and convenience.”