Google has been very busy in the travel and tourism industry, launching and updating many travel-planning tools this year.
Around the end of August 2018, Google officially rolled out a guide for Price Insights for Hotels, allowing prospective guests to see how the price of your hotel changes during certain travel periods.
Price Insights for Hotels also juxtaposes your prices against averages of the area, along with direct comparisons with competitors. The new hotel search experience includes better price filtering, easier-to-find amenity information, and the ability to book directly from Google.
This new feature will potentially affect your holiday sales, as your prices are now more transparent than ever.
What is Google Hotels?
Google also launched Google Hotels, a competitor to traditional hotel booking sites like Trivago, Hotels.com, and more. Instead of going through an external service, prospective guests can now simply search and see images from inside the hotel. If they like it, they could book it without ever leaving Google’s services.
Google travel initiatives have been tracking hotel pricing for a while now, months before this year’s announcements. This Fall, the search engine rolled out price tracking features on hotels to increase Google Bookings. (This was used to compete with apps like Hopper, which offers similar functionality but lacks the abundant resources and data of Google).
The Google Hotels effort was launched to complement their improved flight booking tools, including side by side price comparisons and even offering enticements for completely different trips with “More Destinations” tab.
Booking by Mobile
In addition, because of the rapid growth of booking by mobile device, Google placed emphasis on upgrading the mobile booking experience. Working on mobile attracted more sales without forcing consumers to sit down at a desktop and do heavy research. Now hotels could close more casual users by providing more information up front.
Basically, Google has the added might of massive data collection behind its efforts to corner the hotel search industry. This has great benefits for the user, but hotels cannot compete without a sound web strategy.
How should you adjust your hotel’s sales strategy so you don’t lose out to new competition thanks to Google?
Google is disrupting Hotel Search, and you need to understand how. In an article by Skift, Red Lion Hotels, CEO Greg Mount talks about the massive competitive edge Google has over all hotels, including the massive chains.
“Google, over the last 10 years, has given everyone a free Gmail account,” [Mount] explained. “When you sign up for that Gmail account, you’re basically signing away that they can aggregate all of the data on you based on your activity on that Gmail account.
Which means now, when you go over to the Google Assistant and say, ‘Hey Google, I want a room at XYZ city around this rate in this location,’…[it’s] going to give you two or three based on the preferences that it knows about you. If your hotel is not one of those two or three recommendations, you’re in real trouble.”
Basically, Google has the added might of massive data collection behind its efforts to corner the hotel search industry. This has great benefits for the user, but no other hotels can compete without a sound web strategy.
OTAs and Google Hotel Search
Google’s entry into hotel search is not without its benefits for the industry. Thanks to their entry, along with major efforts from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the monopolized OTA industry is starting to see sales disrupted.
According to a pre-rollout study between OTAs and Google, OTAs still dominated search, but their KPIs had diminished significantly. With the AHLA fighting against OTAs and their fraudulent hotel sales tactics, hotels may be wise to invest less time with OTAs and focus on their own online bookings pipeline and strategy.
Couple this with Google’s more effective ad spend, where Hilton was able to yield a 115% increase in ad impressions thanks to YouTube versus an 18% decrease on TripAdvisor over the same period of time, and you have a combination that can give you an advantage over competitors.
How to Boost Holiday Season Traffic Using Google
As we roll into the holiday season, it’s clear that Google needs to be a major factor for your strategy. And, with a well-optimized site, your sales can increase year over year. Here are a few tips on how to quickly prepare for the Google onslaught:
Check all of your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) Profiles
Your hotel profiles exist for your business across the internet. Check for, then unify, your NAP profiles on:
- Google Business Listing
- Yahoo Search
- Bing Search
By unifying these profiles with consistent information, along with any other profiles you might have, you are broadcasting more concrete details to Google, improving your visibility within their search engine.
See What Your Competitors Are Doing for Their Website and Improve on It
How are your competitor’s websites asking people to book? How is their homepage written? What other pages on their website do they have to acquire customers?
Search “hotels near me” from your hotel’s location, you’ll see the other hotels people will be viewing as they view yours.
If your competitors are listed in front of you this is an opportunity to analyze their website offerings and adopt similar tactics to compete.
Use your business knowledge to appeal to your customer base even better than your competitors and potentially send positive signals to Google to help put your hotel over the top.
Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
2018 saw Google place mobile-friendly websites ahead of competitors in similar verticals. Mobile friendly means exactly what it says – if you can interact with your website easily on your phone, it’s mobile friendly. However, if the images or text are too small, images are loading weird, it’s taking a long time to load, or it’s difficult to make contact, then your website is not mobile friendly.
There are many other ways to optimize your hotel’s website and search listings, but these are the most critical that you should implement before the holidays roll around.
Google getting into the Hotel Search business is a massive event. But, with a little preparation and budgeting, your holiday season will result in the best sales yet.