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When Holidays (vs Vacation) Become A Problem

     
2:38 am on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm having a problem with Google's American interpretation of the word "holidays". In American-speak, the word seems to be associated with prescribed, commemorative days such as Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, Independence Day etc. Use a search involving "country name holidays" and the SERP's will favour sites that have a listing/compilation of these single day events… ie. an American-speak interpretation.

However, in my part of the world, and much of the English speaking world, a "holiday" is that annual break from the workplace that is typically 2 or 3 weeks long when you load up the family and head of on "holidays". Websites that service that market are typically destination guides and/or travel sites.

The problem arises when you try to reach a local audience using the word they connect with.. ie.. holidays. The searcher is expecting to find a travel resource but Google insists on applying the American-speak interpretation and pushes sites that list those commemorative days.

So from a web masters perspective, how would you try to reach the intended audience, using terms they connect with, but which Google interprets differently?

I've considered using "vacation" to try and steer Google in the right direction, but as the intended audience is hardly ever going to use that word, I see no point in optimising for it.
3:58 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Which google is not understanding you? On google.co.uk "holiday" is treated just fine.
4:45 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If it were anyone but google I'd suggest setting "lang='en-uk'" -- but they keep saying they don't look at lang tags. You can tell them you've got a regional focus; there's an area in wmt for that.

Assume that people are googling in their home country. So if they live in Canada but are planning a trip to the US, they'll be using google.ca.

Or did you mean that you live in a country that uses "holidays" in the British sense, but your local google thinks-- wrongly-- that people mean it in the US sense?
6:02 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@aakk9999

The results I described are on Google Australia, America and Canada. Google UK was the one I did not check (duh!) and I agree with you that those results seem to understand "holidays" in the local sense.

Or did you mean that you live in a country that uses "holidays" in the British sense, but your local google thinks-- wrongly-- that people mean it in the US sense?


That is correct.

Back to the OP... any ideas on how to adapt a site so that it can handle this issue?
7:33 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm really guessing here but I think this may be a 'feature' from Google.

I've just searched for 'holiday in new zealand' on google.co.nz and google.com.au. The NZ SERPS show sites about holidays in the American sense, the AUS SERPS show travel sites. I'm wondering if Google is looking at the user location and interpreting a different meaning if the user searches on their local google as opposed to a foreign one?

If that's how it works (I'm not saying it is) I'm not sure how you'd adapt a site for that.
11:56 am on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I did a search for "Australia Holiday" (using google.com.pr) and got mixed results, 3 results were on public holidays and the rest were travel except one about a NZ MP abusing privileges. Interesting list shown in the dropdown suggestions:
"Australia Holiday packages"
"Australia Holiday tour"
"Australia Holiday planning"
and more similar.

I tried a few other searches and my thoughts are that looks like the terms to optimize for shouldn't concentrate on the single word "Holiday" and even less on the plural form: "holidays".
2:19 pm on July 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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There's enough overlap in the American usage of the word 'holiday' that Google probably makes the semantic connection with the word 'vacation', but even if we make that assumption, you'd still be at a ranking disadvantage. If you want to attract American users, I can think of two potential solutions.

The first is to use the <link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-us"> tag to set up a dedicated page for Americans. See [support.google.com...]

The second would be to set up a geo-targeted site/directory/page for US users and make the appropriate changes to the language.