Google has officially announced a flight schedule feature that means marketers in the travel industry need to up their SEO game.

Google announced its flight schedule feature today, following buzz in the internet marketing community after a test of updated travel results was spotted in the U.K. The new search tool offers searchers flight info directly at the top of search engine results pages, and this means travel sites that want to be featured on SERPs need to up the ante in their SEO efforts.

Now, when consumers search for information such as “flights from San Francisco” or “flights to Boston,” the search giant includes a list of related flights, including departure and arrival times and airlines. For some travel sites, this in and of itself might be a nightmare because it provides users with links directly to the airlines, cutting out middle men.

But all travel sites that strive to be seen by searchers looking for flight info should take note that the new results push organic listings further down on SERPs. When consumers choose to see a “schedule of non-stop flights,” the list is expanded, making organic results slots even more limited.

This suggests travel marketers should increase their search engine optimization efforts to ensure their brands are still on searchers' radars.

Google explains this is not the fruit of its ITA acquisition – in fact, it says more travel related search features using ITA technology are just around the corner. And marketers across industries should monitor the search engine for similar answer-style results pages related to their services.

Offering direct answer to consumers' queries seems something of a pet project for the other leading search engine, Bing, too. As Brafton reported, Microsoft paired with Wolfram Alpha to give consumers instant answers alongside traditional web results.

If “answers” above linked results becomes a search trend, marketers will want to invest heavily in search engine optimization. High-quality content that effectively answers consumers' queries could become even more necessary for search visibility and to compete with the on-page info provided by portals.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.