Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 181 – Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Metasearch Changes

by Stuart Butler

This past week, Google quietly rolled out what may end up being a Trojan horse. By opening up Google Hotel Search organic listings, Google aims to gain access to rates and inventory for every accommodation provider on the planet. In this episode, we discuss the facts, the implications, and give advice on how to navigate the changing landscape.

Google’s point of view: They want to offer the best possible experience for searchers. This means offering a more complete set of room booking options. To do this they are no longer limiting themselves to showing rates from providers paying for ads.
Industry point of view: Google is inching closer to taking over the travel industry. They want all hotels to be on their platforms. They have already taken the dominant position in the review space away from TripAdvisor. They now want to have a full breadth of inventory for hotels, flights and destination information.

What Changed?

  • Previously, hotels would have had to pay to participate on Google.com/travel
  • Now Google is offering a free “organic” version of this offering.
  • While users will still see the paid advertising slots on the traditional SERP, clicking “View More Rates” will take the searcher into Google.com/travel where the organic listings will show below paid ad slots under “All Options”
  • Currently, Google is showing 10 organic listings under ads, but there is a “View More Options” link which will expand the list to an unlimited number of providers.
  • Rate providers will now have a chance to show in both the Ads section as well as the Organic section.
  • Tracking has changed
    • Participating hotels should update their tracking within the Hotel Center using either campaign-id or if-ad-click parameters.


How Does It Work?

  • The Ads section will continue to operate in the same way it has been.
  • The organic section will follow along the same lines in terms of rankings
    • Price Accuracy of the rate feed is the most important ranking factor for both paid and organic
    • Price accuracy is seen as Excellent, Good, Poor, At Risk, and Failed. Providers with “Excellent” Price Accuracy will outrank those with “Good” and “Good” will outrank “Poor”.
      • A “Failed” Price Accuracy will likely not show
  • Given that the Price Accuracy of two providers is the same, Google will take other factors into account to determine rankings.
    • These factors include
      • Rate – Is your rate the same or lower than other rate providers
      • Price Coverage – Your cached prices for various check-in dates and lengths of stay. Currently supports up to 330 days of advanced booking window and up to 30 days LOS.
      • Landing Page Experience – USERS WILL BE LANDING ON YOUR BOOKING ENGINE. Landing pages need to prominently display the room and rate selected. The landing page needs to show the same rate they selected. Last but not least, the page also needs to load in a reasonable time.
      • Click Through Rate – How often are users clicking on your listing rather than competitor’s listings?
    • Much like Google’s traditional search algorithm, we don’t have clear insight into how these factors are weighted


What Do I Need To Do Right Now?

  • If you are already an existing booking partner with a Hotel Center account (i.e. you’re already participating in GHA) your listings are already eligible to show in the organic section.
    • If you are already participating, ensure your tracking is updated within the Hotel Center to ensure you see the difference between ad clicks and free clicks
  • If you’re not already participating in GHA:
    • Ensure you Business Profile on Google is verified and your information is up to date
      • Google needs to match your property with the rate feed provided
    • Get a rate feed
      • There are many providers out there with integrations to the Google Hotel Center and your PMS.
    • Ensure rates are competitive
      • Understand that the person viewing your organic listing on Google.com/travel is already looking to stay at your hotel and they are comparing prices. You need to ensure your rates are the same or lower than the OTAs who are also competing for that guest.


How Might This Change In The Future?

  • #1: It’s possible that the inclusion of more ads on this platform will increase the competition within the “Ads” section. Now that non-participating hotels will see what they were missing they may be more likely to pay to claim one of the top positions.
  • #B: Google has plans to create a web interface to enable hotels to directly provide rates and availability. There is no known timeline for this yet.
  • #Yellow: Google will likely provide the option to combine flights and accommodations.


Helpful Resources


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