April 11, 2022 · Pete DiMaio
Why Meta Matters For Direct Hotel Bookings
When it comes to driving direct bookings, many hotels only have a limited number of tactics to employ. Hotel marketing tools like organic content, social postings, email marketing, and others all help drive interest in a property, but these tools aren’t effective when it comes to identifying the exact moment a potential guest is ready to book. Paid search (Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, etc) delivers phenomenal results but still lacks the ability to dynamically display an actual nightly rate.
This is where meta search becomes so important, particularly for independent hoteliers. According to a 2018 study by EyeForTravel, 73% of travelers use meta sites regularly when planning a vacation. Keep in mind that this study is from 2018 and consider how much Google has changed the SERP (search engine results page) since then, pushing Google Hotel Ads to the top of the page. In 2022, the number of users consciously, or unconsciously, using a meta search system is significantly higher. To use a “technical measurement,” literally everyone is doing it now!
The adjacent search results page for “myrtle beach hotels” shows a typical destination result where you have at least one paid position at the top, a significant meta presence in the center, and the organic results below the fold (followed by more paid ads).
What many hoteliers may not know is that regardless of if you (as the property manager) are participating in a meta campaign, you are already showing up with a rate. The OTAs are aggressively bidding and displaying a nightly rate for your property. This is why we recommend every property have an aggressive meta strategy to ensure their best book-direct rate is showing in Google Hotel Ads.
It’s the same as bidding on brand terms in your hotel PPC campaigns. If you’re not participating, someone else will take your spot on the SERP and steal a potential booking. (see screenshot below.) One thing in these two images is abundantly clear, an organic strategy alone is not enough in today’s SERP landscape.
The above only accounts for one fraction of the space that meta search systems encompass. Beyond Google Hotel Ads (GHA) you have several major players:
- Microsoft Hotel Ads
- Hundreds of niche engines…
A savvy hotelier will understand that they must have a presence on all meta engines in order to maximize direct bookings. If not, they would be seceding ground to the OTAs and giving up easy direct bookings.
Guide to Meta Search Management For Hotels
Now that we know how critical it is to participate in the meta search space, hoteliers need to ensure they “can” participate. This will largely depend on your booking engine and PMS provider and the level of management access available to you.
Does Your Hotel’s PMS or Booking Engine Have The Ability to Integrate Meta Search?
Most likely, nearly universally, your hotel’s PMS or booking engine will have the “ability” to feed data to meta search engines. If you already have some form of channel manager or GDS, the ability to share rate is possible. At TravelBoom, we’ve found that proactive management is rarely shared with independent hoteliers, at least in an easy way.
If a system does offer a meta search integration, there is likely a fee for the service. This is justified since there is a cost for managing, testing, and ensuring the rates are working properly. Once a property has determined the ability to feed rates, they are ready to proceed to the next step.
GHA Best Practices
Both Google and Microsoft offer paid and organic rate displays in their meta platforms, however in both cases the organic results are going to appear farther down the page, or behind an additional click. The example here shows a property bidding on their profile through Google Hotel Ads as well as the organic rate.
As a hotelier there are a few tips to keep in mind when managing your campaign(s).
- Ensure you have claimed your business listings and set up your accounts. For Google, you’ll use your Business Profile Manager. Here are a few simple tips for claiming and optimizing your hotel’s GMB listing.
- Make sure you have a stable rate feed and your price accuracy is high.
- Confirm the rate you’re sharing is the best possible rate. (No matter how great of a campaign you run, guests won’t book direct if it’s cheaper to book on an OTA.)
- Review your bid management rules and settings (this is the meat of the campaign). Set your bids and limitations to target the right potential guests at the right time.
- Managing a GHA campaign is complex — this article is just a summary. Contact us at TravelBoom for a more comprehensive discussion on managing meta search for your hotel.
TripAdvisor Meta Campaign Management
TripAdvisor is the second most critical meta search engine for any hotelier. While many claim its value has been in a decline, the image to the right is a perfect example of why managing your hotel’s meta campaign on TripAdvisor is mandatory. Say a potential guest has chosen your property and is at the booking stage. They visit TripAdvisor one last time to read any recent reviews of your hotel. When they head to book the room, however, your property’s direct booking link is not shown. As a best practice, it is imperative to bid for the top three positions on TripAdvisor displaying your lowest rate possible. If not, all the work to brand your property and inspire a direct conversion is lost, and one of these three OTAs will earn the booking.
TripAdvisor’s bidding goes beyond just the rate displayed on a hotel’s individual profile, it extends into the broader destination searches as well. The example here shows the Grande Cayman Resort promoting their direct booking rate in the TripAdvisor search. This means when a guest is ready to book, they’re going to be booking direct.
Ready to manage your TripAdvisor meta search campaign? Consider these tips first:
- Just like with Google, make sure your profiles are claimed and your accounts are set up properly.
- Don’t get fooled into always bidding for the #1 position. We have found that the conversion rates for positions 1 to 3 are not all that different, but the cost difference can be extraordinary. As long as your property has the best rate in the top 3, you’ll get the conversion.
- TripAdvisor’s reporting can be a bit clunky, but they do offer great insights into rate display and performance — take advantage of these tools.
- Again, this list of tips is just a summary. Contact TravelBoom for a FREE digital marketing evaluation or enjoy some of our other articles about hotel marketing.
More Hotel Meta Search Engines
Kayak, Trivago, and dozens of other niche meta search engines account for a sizable portion of the meta space and shouldn’t be forgotten in your marketing strategies. Just like with any meta engine, if you’re not there with your best book-direct rate, you’re giving a freebee to the OTAs.
Hoteliers can start by reviewing guest history data and determine which meta engines are driving the most bookings and start tackling them one by one.
Managing each of these meta search engines individually can be time-consuming and tedious, but TravelBoom’s meta search program makes life easier by offering full campaign management of any and every meta search platform desired. Regardless of how you decide to tackle your meta exposure, be sure to make it a priority moving forward.
Why does meta matter for independent hoteliers? Simple – if you’re not owning your space in meta, you’re giving guaranteed bookings right to the OTAs, costing you money, guest relationships, and future revenue opportunities.
TravelBoom’s Comprehensive Meta Search Management For Hotels
TravelBoom takes the guesswork out of meta search management. Our ROAS-focused program will not only suppresses the OTAs’ exposure but also drive significant direct bookings. What makes TravelBoom’s program different is we use a blended budget and advanced systems to optimize exposure creating the highest possible return on investment.