Its a known fact that Google has goals of becoming the complete funnel for many of the searches and transactions we make online. Theyve already made great strides with their airline system and they have their sights squarely aligned with the hotel/travel space. In this last double-digit episode of the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast we are going to dive into what Google has done this year alone in setting the stage to become the Hotel Demogorgon (cue the spooky Stranger Things music).
This transition is not new, Google has been working for years to reach farther down the funnel. However, as they announced in a February 2018 blog post theyre making a focused effort on the travel space and now these upgrades are reaching critical mass. TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking Holdings They all need to pay attention to these big hotel updates we have seen in 2018. In this article, we are going to look at the 7 Battlefronts that Google is establishing that may very well crush TripAdvisor and several OTAs
Battlefront #1: Google Continues to Improve the Hotel Listing Experience
On October 31, 2018, Google made a significant announcement that they are rolling out a suite of design and functionality improvements to the hotel shopping experience. You can learn more about this at blog.google/products/flights-hotels/new-way-to-browse-hotels-on-google/, however, the gist of the announcement is the information you can find within Googles own environment rivals that of TripAdvisor. Personally, the information is better organized and easier to digest on Google.
In doing so, Google is putting the finishing pieces on what may very likely be the most complete hotel shopping and booking system available. As an OTA, you should be shaking in your boots. As a hotel, you should be gearing up to put your best foot forward. Just in case you have not listened to Episode 91 of the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast, Google My Business is going to be the place to start for any hotelier. By ensuring you have an optimized hotel listing, compelling photos, and are responding to guest reviews you will put yourself in a position to reap the early rewards.
Battlefront #2: Improved Hotel Searching and Filtering
Search Engine Roundtable grabbed some amazing screenshots of an improved hotel search and filter system in a June article. Data has already proven that a vast majority of hotel decisions begin with a search and, based on the new hotel SERP tools, customers will very likely stay on Googles system for much longer as they slice and dice to find their perfect hotel.
Googles push to gather more and more reviews makes searches even more valuable. To put this in perspective, the Breakers Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC has 5,024 reviews on TripAdvisor. Google is quickly catching up though with that same resort showing 2,300 reviews. Yes, TripAdvisor is still leading in reviews, but both systems have dozens of reviews from the previous seven days and offer more than enough guest evidence to make a booking decision.
Battlefront #3: Hotel Price Insights
Google Flights is the most convenient and most accurate way to search and find the best airline deals. Over the years Google has been trying to bring this same level of convenience to the hotel space. Recently Google has upped their game with several new tools:
- Hotel price alerts
- Price comparisons to other nearby or related properties
- Ability to save and track rates for a location
- Ability to see hotel price trends over time (still in testing), examples can be seen at this Search Engine Land article.
More information can also be found on Search Engine Lands December 2017 article here.
Battlefront #4: Booking Direct On Google
Yes, technically booking direct was quietly rolled out in 2015, but has always been a hard-to-find feature in the Google hotel landscape. In 2018, we have seen Google bring this more toward the forefront as an option within Google Hotel Ads. Meaning, if your hotel is integrated with the Google Room Booking Module a customer can go through the entire booking process, including payment, without ever visiting your hotel site. If you are familiar with TripAdvisor InstantBook yeah, its the same thing.
Google already has a huge advantage in this space with their integrated Google Pay platform which is included in Android devices as well as billions of users who are already registered. We know the biggest roadblock on the conversion funnel is the payment and when Googles book direction option becomes more widespread it may very well be a crippling blow to the OTAs that rely on pulling users out of Google to get their traffic.
Battlefront #5: Google Steadily Improving Hotel-Centric Advertising Opportunities
Making it easy to spend money within GHA has been an ongoing struggle for Google. Many of our clients want to increase their GHA budgets, but thus far have not been able to spend as much as they like. Were starting to see this change and the GHA integration into the new consolidated Google Ads platform means more granularity and a greater opportunity to spend and optimize.
This is a big deal for Google, seeing the other major player in the hotel CPC game is TripAdvisor. And if youre familiar with the TripAdvisor bidding and management system you know that it well, it sucks. If Google can get this right it will land a devastating left-right combo by allowing hotels to spend more effectively and pull advertiser revenue away from one of TripAdvisors most lucrative platforms.
Google has also completely overhauled there GHA display making it easier to use and more transactional, which you can read more about in detail on https://www.koddi.com/googles-new-look-for-mobile-hotel-ads/.
Googles full suite of hotel-centric ads include:
- Google Hotel Ads
- GHA Callouts
- Search PPC
- Display PPC
- Gmail Ads
- YouTube Video Ads
- Call Ads
- App Promotion Ads
Battlefront #6: Google Trips App Continues To Improve
We havent heard much from Google regarding their Trips app, though that is not to say they have not been working hard on making updates and improving the platform. Several updates have been pushed to the app to improve performance, the most recent being July 30, 2018.
Customer reviews are not all glowing for the app and it is clear that improvements need to be made. However with over 500,000 Android downloads (unknown iOS downloads), once the app becomes more functional it will position Google to have a completely captive audience throughout the entire travel cycle.
Battlefront #7: TripAdvisor Is Really Screwing Up
TripAdvisor is notoriously hard to deal with from an advertiser perspective and we continually are battling issues with system performance, errors, and reporting problems. Heres where Google will really be able to grow their market share, particularly on the advertiser side. Google is clearly following the quote by Napoleon Bonaparte, Never Interfere With an Enemy While Hes in the Process of Destroying Himself.
If Google is able to get their system producing the volume of bookings TripAdvisor currently does, hoteliers will happily shift budgets to the service that offers fewer headaches and better reporting. Unfortunately, were not there yet but once Google is able to market their hotel platform capabilities to customers and booking volumes increase, TripAdvisor had better watch out.
Conclusion and Key Takeaways
The Hotel Marketing Demogorgon is starting to take shape and a hotelier will be well-served to keep an eye on this beast and be ready to take advantage of the market shakeups that are coming in its wake. Expect TripAdvisor and the OTAs to create programs to retain their market share. Hoteliers should also be prepared to capitalize on the upcoming changes with these recommendations:
- Make sure your Google My Business listing is optimized and you are taking full advantage of this platform.
- Work with your agency to make sure you are pushing your traditional PPC to its limits.
- Review your GHA campaign and make sure you are fully utilizing the platform.
- Google is lagging behind TripAdvisor in reviews, but not by much. Have a plan to grow your Google reviews.
- Review your budget for 2019 and make sure you are positioning your efforts to take advantage of Googles push into the hotel space.
At Fuel, we think a little differently. We believe that were making the world just a little bit better by connecting people with the right products and services. Travel Marketing Simplified. Thats our motto and our commitment. Headquartered in the heart of the travel and tourism industry in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Fuel provides all digital services in-house through a team of experts who understand the potential of well-executed, effective online marketing. To learn more about Fuel and to take your travel marketing to the next level, call (843) 839-1456, visit our website or check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.
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