Google Hotel Ads – Clever Direct Sales on Your Own Channel

Online booking is far outpacing any other booking method in the travel industry. Google alone generates about 10 million targeted searches per month for the travel sector, and approximately 3 million of those searches are generating traffic to the top 10 OTAs.

With enormous marketing budgets ($5.3 billion at Expedia and $4 billion at Priceline), OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia and meta-search sites like TripAdvisor and Trivago, using user-friendly booking platforms and intensive email and retargeting campaigns, generated more than 67% of the total online bookings in 2017.

Only 33% of online bookings were made directly through hotel websites, and even then, the majority belonged to the top 3 hotel chains: Marriott, Hilton, and IHG.

That left the rest of the hotels in the world only 13% of the online bookings in 2017. This is an alarmingly low rate, but it can be improved through the use of Google Hotel Ads.

 

OTAs vs Hotels: The Age-Old Battle Over Online Booking
OTAs vs Hotels: The Age-Old Battle Over Online Booking

Source: OTAs vs Hotels: The Age-Old Battle Over Online Booking

What are Google Hotel Ads?

Google Hotel Ads showcase your hotels on Google Search and Google Maps, across desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.

When travellers are looking for a hotel in your city, the hotels participating directly in the Google Hotel Ads program as well as those published by third-parties, such as the OTAs, are shown in the results list. If users are attracted to your hotel and the rates your site is offering, they have the option to go directly to your website booking engine from the Google results page. This is very powerful.

Img. #1: Desktop Google Search for “Frankfurt hotels”: the left panel with the list of results, the map with starting prices and Sofitel Frankfurt Opera hotel cart opened

 

Img. 2: Mobile Google Search for “Frankfurt hotels”
Img. #2: Mobile Google Search result for “Frankfurt hotels”

Most travellers are starting their search for accommodation on Google. Google offers travellers a very easy and intuitive way of making a decision by showing almost all real-time prices and availabilities in the searched area, conveniently shown most of the time on a map, with easy accessible images, descriptions and guest reviews. Traveller’s ability to quickly make a decision right from Google’s search results comes as no surprise!

It also gives hotels the chance to be listed next to—and to directly compete with—the OTAs. The hotel information, photos, and reviews that appear in search results come from “Google My Business” listings. Hotel owners should already be making use of this free Google tool to confirm business address, description, opening hours, contact and even to directly link your website without paying. However, in order to add rates and deep-link to specific packages on your web booking engine, and to show your direct rate next to the OTA’s, have to use the Google Hotel Ads platform.

Picture This

Someone is searching for your hotel’s name in Google Maps, but you aren’t using Google Hotel Ads. The results list will show your hotel, its picture, and rates for all competing OTAs, but it won’t show the hotel’s rate and it won’t link to the hotel’s booking engine.

This is a wasted opportunity!

 

Img. #3: Google search result for a hotel name

What type of Hotel can benefit directly?

By participating in the Google Hotel Ads program, you can win a reservation at a better price and a possible returning guest.

If you can generate the reservation directly on your website, then you have every chance to create a better, more personalized stay for the guest. You can offer room upgrade opportunities as well as having the ability to market ancillary services or goods well before the guest has even set foot on your property.

Are you a city hotel?
You can elevate your guests’ experience by offering tickets to a local concert or a popular local attraction, car rentals, or free dry cleaning.

Are you a leisure hotel?
You can offer specialized wellbeing packages with spa treatments featuring local ingredients, treatments including yoga and meditation classes, or a sports package with tennis or golf lessons.

While the OTAs are focused on selling only the room, by using a specialized web booking engine (such as protel WBE5) your guest can be offered a complete and unforgettable experience with full packages and additional services while establishing a genuine line of communication with your guest to fine-tune their preferences, based on your up-to-the-minute availabilities.

If the OTA wins the reservation, they will resell your hotel and market new offerings to your guests through their platform so they can continue to get the commission for any further sales. Comparatively speaking, your hotel will be left in the dark.

Advantages of Google Hotel Ads

What if it could be different? What if you could get all your customers’ data at the point of booking, no questions asked? With this Google Hotel Ads feature, the playing field is evened.

Guests get the convenience of a Google-based OTA experience and a personalized stay, and hotels benefit by making direct sales and all the other branding and revenue advantages that being in control of the booking brings with it.

For Hoteliers

When guests book through an OTA, the OTA owns the customers’ data and masks it to keep it from the hotels. Hotels are only provided with a reservation number, main guest name, and an interface to reach out to the guest through the OTA’s platform. There is no way to present your guests with the special experience that makes your hotel what it is.

By using Google Hotel Ads, you get the chance to book your guests through your own website. You’ll own the information and can communicate with them freely and on your own terms. Plus, at lower costs!

Moreover, you will:

  • Directly compete with OTAs. Users will be able to side-by-side compare your rates alongside the OTA’s.
  • Capture ALL your guests’ information. Make direct sales with potential customers and capture all of their information instead of relying on the bare minimum, masked information OTAs provide hotels.
  • Cultivate a relationship with your guests. With access to all of your guest’s information, you can contact them leading up to their visit with helpful information, guest packages, and other relationship building touch points.
  • Remarket to your guests. When guests book with OTAs, it is the OTAs who remarket to your guests to get the extra commission if they book again. With direct bookings through Google Hotel Ads, you can remarket to your guests.
  • Save money. Directly booking customers through Google Hotel Ads will save money on repeat OTA commission fees. If they booked directly with you the first time, they’re more likely to book directly with you again.
  • Lower commissions. Google Hotel Ads offers various bidding strategies. Using CPA (Pay-Per-Acquisition) adjusts your bid to help you maximize conversions by paying a set percentage of booking value, which can be considerably lower than the one for the OTAs.
  • More control over your rates. By using Google Hotel Ads, you have the opportunity to set special individualised rates based for example on whether a booking guest is using a mobile device, or from which country they are accessing the site.

Google For Travellers

Sergey Brin, Google’s founder, imagined years ago “My vision when we started Google… was that eventually, you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all. You’d just have information come to you as you needed it”

For the traveller, Google Hotel Ads is aiming in the direction that Sergey Brin, Google’s founder, imagined years ago “My vision when we started Google… was that eventually, you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all. You’d just have information come to you as you needed it”.

A traveller still has to start with a search query, naming a destination, but the information provided is more and more close to Brin’s dream: at the right time, easily accessible and conveniently reachable.

A vast majority of guests have little idea about the channel they are using for making a reservation. To them, Google search results can seem little more than a battlefield where the lowest prices win.

The prospective guests – the bookers – don’t realize the restrictions hotels are under when booking rooms through OTAs. How many times have guests called your hotel to make a change to their reservation, but you’ve had to send them back to the OTA? Direct booking would make your guests’ life much easier and happier, they could make changes directly with the hotel (no third-party required), and will have the opportunity to hear about and book your attractive extra packages too.

How Google Hotel Ads Work

Google Hotel Ads showcase your hotels in more than 100 countries on Google Search, Google Maps and Google+, across desktop computers, tablets and mobile devices.

Img. #4: Desktop Google Map showcasing Ibis Hotel Frankfurt Centrum

Google uses the “Official site” label next to the hotel’s name to show that the link will take the user to the hotel’s web page directly. What is happening is that the user is linked directly to the booking engine, the selection filters including the arrival and the departure date, the number of occupancies and the selected rate are preserved. The user has only to click the “Book now” button. That easy!

How do I start with the ads?

To launch your Google Hotel Ads campaign, you’ll need to work with an authorized Integration Partner that will provide your hotel’s rates and availability to Google, and can also manage your campaign on your behalf.

How does payment work?

During the last years, the bidding model diversified from Google’s generic Cost-Per-Click (CPC) towards more optimized models for the travel industry, like Cost-Per-Aquisition (CPA) and Commission – percent per consumed stay.

The CPC model is Google’s classic advertisement model: you pay when someone clicks through to your site, regardless of whether they convert or not. This is a good technique to build brand awareness but does not guarantee a reservation.

Under the CPA model, you only pay Google if someone completes a booking with your hotel (cancellations and no-shows excluded) in within of 30 days of clicking a Google Hotel Ads link. There’s no initial investment, so there’s no up-front risk. You only pay for results. With CPA, at the end of every month, Google will send your Integration Partner the confirmed booking report for that month. The hotel then checks the report, negotiates any changes regarding cancellations, no-shows, or modifications, then returns it.

Even more appealing, the percent per consumed stay method means that you only pay Google after the client has paid you and you’re able to maintain profitability no matter what size property you’re managing.
Isn’t this just wonderful?

What happens with no-shows, cancellations, or modifications?

If a user cancels their booking, you won’t have to pay Google’s commission. If the cancellation is made through your website, then your authorized Integration Partner will report it to Google, but if they cancel through another channel, or they’re a no-show, then you have to make a note of the cancellation during the monthly booking review. Your authorized Integration Partner will then report it to Google, and you won’t pay the commission.

If a booking is modified, then you should note that modification in the monthly review and your commission total will change based on the new booking total.

How is Google able to track bookings?

Google adds a tracking cookie to a user’s browser when they click a link on a Google Hotel Ad. If the user books your hotel through your website while the cookie is active, the booking gets assigned a Google Hotel Ads conversion code through your booking engine. All bookings with that conversion code will be listed in the end-of-the-month report for Google payment.

Imagine

All interactions with the customer are completed on your website, through your own booking engine. All guest’s preferences and data are yours, as well as analytics data, where these are tracked.

The real guest journey can start way before the actual stay, and a great guest-host relationship can be cultivated. This relationship has time to grow – and be positively influenced –  during the stay itself, resulting in positive feedback and a happy and loyal customer.

And all at a better price.

Don’t forget to sign up for the protel Hospitality Platform newsletter, and to stay tuned for more Google Hotel Ads tips in our upcoming posts.

Manager Research and Development

With a Master of Science in Online Marketing and an Honours Bachelor in IT applied in Economics, Ecaterina has a long experience in user experience design, SEO and SEM, as well as a strong technical background. Starting her career as a web developer helped her understanding SEO and UX from the bottom up. As a consultant at Venere (an Expedia company) she gained experience in the hotel industry which she has been able to actively utilize and expand on at protel. She truly believes that protel can make a difference in the Travel Industry.

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