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Google Hotel Ads – Are you feeling the FOMO?

February 7, 2022 7 min read
Google Hotel Ads - Are you feeling the FOMO? Blog cover image with two women talking to each other.

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Google Hotel Ads – Are you feeling the FOMO?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Owning 70% of the world’s total search traffic, Google is often the first place people go to when planning their next holidays or a weekend escape. The search engine giant gives millions of online users worldwide a wealth of travel information to make the right purchasing decisions when booking a trip. Hotels should be prepared to respond to this demand and generate more direct bookings.

In today’s fiercely competitive online travel market, I’m sure that one of your primary goals is to increase your direct bookings. Google is leveraging the demand for direct bookings by giving hotels the opportunity to stand out by themselves and reduce OTA reliance. In this article, we explore how Google Hotel Ads can help hotels increase their direct bookings, and share best practices to ensure your hotel generates the best results from this tool.

Google Hotel Ads are paid listings that appear alongside any other ‘Google Hotel Ads’ being run. These ads appear in a property’s Google My Business profile and in Google hotel finder results. When a user clicks on a Google Hotel Ad, they are redirected directly to the property’s booking engine to complete the booking.

Google Hotel Free Booking Links, on the other hand, is a free listing in Google Hotel Search that displays a link to your website’s booking engine with an ‘Official Site’ badge. It shows hotels’ bookable rates and appears underneath any ‘Google Hotel Ads’ being run and is listed under ‘All options.’

How does Google Hotel Ads work?

If you are part of the Google Hotel Ads Commission program, your hotel’s booking engine rates will appear next to those of the OTAs. This allows guests to do a direct rates comparison between your hotel and third-party listings. Your hotel rooms will show up on multiple devices, with their meta market search where Google aggregates prices from different sources.

What your potential customers want should be at the top of the list so they can quickly discover which hotel has the best rate available. This means Google is using the same model as OTAs like Expedia or Booking. However, you will only pay a commission for each reservation you get and not per each click on your property link.

How will your hotel look online?

When an online visitor is searching for ‘best hotels near me’ on Google’s search engine, maps, or the assistant, they will see a page with some paid and organic listings displaying hotel photos, names, prices, and a map.

On the organic search results area, the potential guest can filter the number of persons, budget range, and stay dates, then pick the hotel stars they want. After a user chooses a specific hotel, Google provides access to the link to book for the period that was previously selected. The online visitor will then see the prices automatically, prior to entering the hotel booking engine.

Your potential guests will also see:

  • Your Hotel Overview: Your hotel name, class, address, phone number, link to the hotel website, directions button, photos and hotel reviews in star format and evaluation, a brief description of the hotel/services, updated discounts: on specific stay dates and direct availability checker.
  • Your Hotel’s Rates: Shown based on the pre-selected stay specifications Button where you can choose your own currency and filter the cancellation policy
  • Your Hotel reviews: So that potential guests can see what previous guests have to say about your hotel – both good and bad.
  • Hotel Pin: With exact map location and rating, this tab also includes highlights about the city or village where your hotel is located.
  • Your Hotel Description: All the details about your property, benefits, services, and an extensive description of why it is the best place for the potential guest.
  • Hotel photos: From the inside, outside, and street view.

The Benefits of Google Hotel Ads

Your potential hotel guests can learn a lot about your hotel at a glance on Google. If you have a good strategy in place, your hotel can benefit from the following:

1. Lower Commission Fees

One of the most obvious ways that hotels benefit from Google Hotel Ads is that the commission rates paid to Google are lower than those paid to OTAs. Therefore, hotels spend less on these payments when increasing the number of reservations through Google Hotel Ads. This gives higher emphasis to the hotel’s direct channel, which can ultimately increase direct revenue.

2. Increased Direct Traffic

Google Hotel Ads also provides an opportunity to increase direct traffic because when a visitor clicks on your link, they land on your hotel booking engine. The increased visibility on the world’s biggest search engine also enables hotels to acquire new customers who are simply browsing around on Google, in addition to those who search for the hotel specifically

3. Personalized Communication and Service

If your hotel gets a reservation from an OTA, you will never get the real customer contact to add to your database. Therefore, it’s more difficult to try to get returning guests or encourage them to join your hotel loyalty program (if you have one). When someone books directly with your hotel, you will get crucial information about them that you can use to personalize your communication and service with them.

A good customer database is like gold nowadays, because it’s the best way to get personal contact with a guest prior to their stay and after the check-out. You can also use this information to send special offers and discounts or a thank you email to create and maintain a relationship with the guest.

4. Ability to Create Demand

Price is the primary driver within the customer’s decision-making process, so having the availability to deliver the proper variety of content at the correct moment is crucial to extend the conversion rate.

It is incredibly important and significant that your hotel shows up for users who are trying to find you at the booking time. Also, don’t forget that google has filters for “when to visit” and “what you will pay”. If you have attractive rates, this presents a good opportunity to fill your hotel during lower occupancy periods.

How to stand out on Google hotel ads – The Checklist:

As I mentioned above, Google Hotel Ads follows the OTA model, but at a lower cost. Instead of the regular metasearch engine model of pay-per-click, your hotel can now work with a commission based on the rate booked, just like with Booking or Expedia.

While Google Hotel Ads presents many opportunities for hotels to increase their visibility and direct business, it’s important to remember that the marketplace is extremely competitive. Therefore, Hoteliers must implement some important measures to ensure their business stands out from the crowd.

To help you get started, we have created this checklist:

  1. Offer the best rates on your website booking engine
  2. Offer a more flexible cancellation policy on your direct channel (people booking directly with the hotel tend to cancel fewer reservations compared with OTA’s), since the guest will also be able to filter this when searching for hotels on google
  3. Offer exclusive discounts at your restaurant, so you give incentives for the direct reservation
  4. Give exclusive benefits to clients booking direct, like free breakfast, offer parking, free upgrade if available, late check-out
  5. Deliver exclusive promotions only available on your booking engine
  6. Keep all the room types and promotions that you have available for your direct bookings and also the last rooms available
  7. The booking engine should be prepared to give the visitor a great experience, with a good room description, straightforward clarification of the offers and good pictures for every room type so the guest can understand the differences
  8. Be responsive on the mobile version or any other type of screen for optimization and better results
  9. Keep always your Google My Business updated with a 100% score Pay attention to the photos you have and content updated. The business listing should be unique and rich with reviews, amenities, photos and all the relevant information. Also make sure your hotel’s SEO is in place.
  10. Configure a small logo of the hotel on the link that takes you to the hotel website, good to draw attention

Although Google Hotel Ads certainly gives hotels a good opportunity to increase visibility and get more direct bookings, it’s important to remember that OTAs are also still competing on the search engine. If you give them the same offers or if they have better deals, it will be more difficult to compete with them. Don’t make this mistake and keep always the best prices for the direct channel

Conclusion

Google is growing every year because it is the best company with advertising bids. This means they will inevitably take power away from the OTAs, which could present major opportunities to grow your hotel’s direct performance. If you haven’t joined this program yet, aren’t you feeling FOMO?

According to a recent Guestcentric Lab study which analyzed thousands of hotels within the portfolio between May and September 2021, Google Hotel Ads campaigns significantly contributed to direct revenue. This performance was most evident in the US market.

Google Hotel Ads Impact on Total Nights Graph - featuring how total nights have grown in 2021
Google Hotel Ads performance graph by country

Below is another example of a hotel in Lisbon that began using Google Hotel Ads in May 2021. By implementing all the steps in the checklist mentioned above, as you can see, this hotel was able to significantly increase their number of direct nights:

Google Hotel Ads Graph - showing the impact on a hotel in Southern Europe.

Google´s rising power over OTAs has also been heralded as good news by many independent hotels. The ability to compete with OTAs on a level playing field like meta-search gives hotels ultimately the power to get more direct bookings.

However, increasing customer acquisition costs from Google are bound to have a ripple effect across independent hotels globally. What will happen when OTAs are locked in a bidding war for the top spot on the Google search engine? Read this article to find out.

Learn more about GuestCentric

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