Travel website Expedia has lost 25% of its search engine visibility, according to data from Search Metrics. Having analysed the data, search engine marketing blog Search Engine Land said in a post, "Expedia appears to have been hit by a Google penalty related to unnatural links."
Expedia claims to be the largest online travel provider for the UK, but the company was accused recently of paying for links on article website, a practice that Google and other search engines take a dim view.
A blogpost at Nenad SEO explains that Google began penalising 'overly optimised anchor keywords' some years ago and cites Matt Cutts, head of Google's web-spam team, as explaining, "Usually there is a clear distinction between occasional guest blogging and large-scale, paid-for links."
The article suggests that rather than focusing on producing high quality content that will be valuable to the reader, Expedia has been focusing on is a, "huge amount of paid articles filled with fluff content," and, "overly optimized anchor keywords."
A comparison with Expedia's competitors seems to rule out any seasonal factors causing the drop in its search visibility, while large drops in visibility for high value search terms including 'hotels', 'airline tickets' and 'car rental' also raise suspicion. If it the case that any unnatural linking practices have taken place, both Expedia itself and any third-party agencies could be at fault.
A decline in search visibility due to a penalty from Google for any length of time could damage Expedia's bottom line, although past examples suggest that such penalties can last for only a matter of days before being mostly lifted. Should it be the case that Expedia has been penalised in this way, the company may be forced to review its online marketing practices.
Both Google and Expedia have so far declined to comment.