TripAdvisor has had an absolute stormer since becoming an independently traded company in late 2011. In little more than a year, TripAdvisor has more than doubled its value to $7.5 billion and much of this success must be attributed to its unrivalled performance in Google, ranking number 1 for hundreds of short tail key phrases.
However, overreliance on the search engines is always a precarious business model. Given their dominance, Google are in a uniquely powerful position where they can become a serious competitor in almost any market overnight, so naturally Tripadvisor became nervous when the search giant started scraping their content for use on its own travel review site. TripAdvisor founder, Steve Kaufer, explained “Our relationship with Google in general is very good but because they use our content without our permission I don’t have the comfort that they’ll naturally do the right thing and so that’s what makes me nervous going forward.”
Consequently TripAdvisor joined forces with their parent, Expedia, and Microsoft, in challenging Google over anti-competitive behaviour in the travel market. The investigation didn’t reach result in the formal action by the Federal Trade Commission that Kaufer had hoped for, but Google have, for now, stopped scraping their content.
Conversely TripAdvisors’ relationship with Facebook couldn’t be healthier and while Google may be vital for search traffic, it’s the Facebook factor that gives the review site its competitive edge. Users that are logged into Facebook will be shown reviews from their friends and networks, and TripAdvisor are optimistic that this personalisation will encourage loyal users to bypass the search engines and travel directly to the review site.
This should serve as a reminder to all businesses with a strong or exclusive dependence on the online world that optimising for Google should only be one of a range of strategies. You never know when friend may become foe, something Steve Kaufer now knows this only too well.