28 January 2008

Google hates us and I hate Google


Google - the biggest but least relevent search engine on the internet - has been conducting an anti-directory campaign for a while.

It's understandable in a way because most directories are rubbish and simply clones of themselves or the Dmoz directory (so too is Google's own directory), and a great many of them were created to simply make money by selling links and advertising.

That's why Google now insists that sites that sell links should put 'nofollow' attributes on the links so that the googlebot spider doesn't follow them and therefore raise the ranking of the page being linked to.

It's not very fair for us.

Firstly in our subject area we provide much more useful & relevent listings than Google. It has irritated me for years that if you search for our prime keywords 'tour operators to (eg) Estonia' .... the first page of Google.co.uk's serps lists only 2 relevent tour operators. The remaining 8 listings are the FCO advice page, 3 x non-Estonia-specific travel agencies/portals, 1 x specialist operator of stag weekends to Prague (!) and four near-useless directories. In pole position (No 1) as usual, is the BugBog directory which, for every country, lists one or two of its sponsors, Guerba/Intrepid, Kumaka or Explore. Contrast & compare with www.travel-lists.co.uk/lk1est.html

Secondly, despite the fact that we DON'T sell links (it's 'pay for review' and we write the copy) and we most definitely DO vouch for the companies we link to, I have been forced to add Google 'nofollow' attribute to our links because Google's algorithm is almost certainly too stupid to recognise the difference. (We're a directory with a submit form and an e-commerce page....ergo, we must be a vile & evil paid-link directory).

Thirdly, because I only list relevent & useful companies I have ALWAYS rejected out of hand any link-exchange approach (we get them most days). This clearly stated policy has never changed: "It is impossible to get into the Travel-Lists directory by offering an exchange link"....period. Sadly it has always handicapped our ranking in Google because we can't really do any link building....and Google judges the worth of a site by the number of links to it.

Oh well ...C'est la vie. That's Google for you.

(Irritating though, because in the UK we are particularly anal about Google. 75% of us use it for searching. The Americans are more discerning, 55% of them use it. The world average is 65%)

But the final insult came this week when I noticed that Google has awarded us a pagerank of zero. (Traditionally it's been 5 or 3.)

I suspect it may be a temporary glitch while Google does one of its updates.

But I still hate Google....and Google obviously hates us.

15 January 2008

A sauna for every occasion

Mobile sauna
We all know the Finns take their saunas seriously. Indeed the sauna is an intregal part of Finnish culture. But I don't think I realised just how obsessed with them the Finns are, until I saw a small press release from the Finnish tourist board today.

Saunas are commonplace in Finnish homes, and of course, hotels and spas. In fact there are an estimated 2 million saunas in Finland - a country with only 5 million people. But the Finns will take a sauna anywhere, and this release listed a few other locations...

The sauna truck. A sauna on an articulated lorry (see photo above) which people can hire for parties or special occasions. Apparently often seen at events like outdoor concerts.

The sauna ship. Hired by the hour and takes up to 8 passengers.

The forest sauna experience. This is a 3-in-1 sauna experience in the Seita Forest Spa; a herbal one, a smoke sauna and a traditional sauna. They also have a sauna in a bus!

The sauna island. Well, lots of islands actually. Finland has 180,000 of them and many of them have private saunas for rent.


the cable car sauna! A sauna, currrently under construction, inside a gondola at the resort of Yllas in Finnish Lapland. Seriously!

Daft bag rules

LOL! Even the ferries are getting in on the act now.

I've just been sent a puffer press release from a PR agency on behalf of Irish Ferries, using the risible airline baggage rules as an example of why you should go by sea instead...

One bag or two? No problem for ferry travellers

It looks like the airlines forgot to make a New Year’s Resolution to improve their customer service in 2008.

Hot on the heels of the confusion over hand-baggage – with the lunatic situation, for example, of being able to take two items into the cabin from Heathrow to Jersey but only bring one back – comes the Holiday Which? report on the ‘extras’ still being charged to customers by airlines.

Says Declan Mescall, Head of Passenger Sales for award-winning Irish Ferries: “Certain airlines are charging up to £20 just to check luggage into the hold – some even charging to use the check-in desk – as well as additional costs for fast-boarding services.

“Compare this with the transparency – and ease – of travelling by ferry. With Irish Ferries there are no hidden extras; once the ticket is purchased there’s no charge for baggage handling and holidaymakers can bring as much luggage as the car can hold!

“With air fuel surcharges, long check-in times (our ferry check-in time is just 30 minutes), plus the cost of airport parking and car hire, surely travelling by air just doesn’t stack up where there are viable options for travelling on modern, comfortable ferries.”

I'm not sure how firmly their arguments stack up, but they are absolutely right to deride the ridiculous bag situation at airports.

Next week, I and a bunch of colleagues are flying to Malta for a meeting, from a number of different airports in the UK. Depending which airport, some of us will be able to take two carry-on items, some only one.

I'm flying from Heathrow so I can take two, but as in the example above, only one bag on the return flight from Valetta.

The terrorists must be 'roflmao' - rolling on the floor laughing their arses off!

11 January 2008

The Good, The Bad, and the Plain Ugly Brand Names


British Airways have definitely won the prize for 'Good Brand name' with their new subsidiary transatlantic airline, OpenSkies. I see one American journalist describing it as "a nod to the treaty that will give airlines more flexibility in planning trans-Atlantic routes beginning March 28".

Hah! I think (on this side of the Atlantic at least) we all see it as a humorous 'nod' to the US authorities who have fought tooth and nail to protect their own airlines and keep the skies above their nation firmly closed (or at least highly restricted) to outsiders for the last 60 years!


For the 'Bad Brand Name'... I return to a post I made in May about the new travel brand Boo.com re-using the domain of world's most famous dot com crash. What can they have been thinking of???


This one stopped me in my tracks this morning as I was writing up some bargain news. It's certainly not unique. I see this kind of thing quite often, and particularly in the hotel industry with its endless takeovers and re-branding.

Intercontinental The Barclay Hotel New York Yea, that rolls off the tongue real easy! "Cabbie! Take me to the Intercontinental The Barclay Hotel!"

04 January 2008

Travel company database updated -phew!

Phew! Gasp!

That's the sound of me finally coming up for air at the end of the annual TID update. Now, at last I can concentrate a bit more on Travel Lists!

The Travel Industry Database (TID) is the British Guild of Travel Writers' online database of travel companies & organisations, travel PR companies, travel media, and tourist offices & organisations - in total 2765 of them. It is used by travel journalists and travel industry professionals and each year in the autumn every single record is checked & updated before the database is used to compile the listings section of the guild's yearbook.

I'm the one who drew the 'short straw' and has to oversee that operation, which means other jobs, like Travel Lists, take a back seat :(

...but the 'up side' is that it does keep me up to date with who is doing what in the industry, and there have been quite a few 'discoveries' which, as a result, made it onto the TID.....and Travel Lists.