Google Hotel Finder – Pros and Cons
Lorna McNamara, Marketing Director
Back in November 2012 Google went live with their Google Hotel Finder product, with the impact on the whole search market immediately visible, initially on more generic terms and soon after on individual hotel names. The jury is out on just how dramatic the impact will be on the search market as a whole, but it cannot be denied that it is a game changer. In this article we will evaluate both the pros and cons of this new development for individual and group hotels for both paid advertising and organic listings.
In an already highly competitive paid advertising marketplace and with an objective for many hotels to grow their direct bookings and more effectively manage their yield and the actual cost of delivering each booking to the hotel, this is another element that weighs in the favour of the main OTA’s who already dominate.
In evaluating the overall impact of Google Hotel Finder on hotels, the balance would seem to be tipped against the hotels and in favour of the main OTA’s and of course Google themselves. In addition, it raises the question of anti-competition and fairness (or lack thereof) in taking payment from PPC campaigns from individual hotels on the one hand and then also making it easier for competitors of a hotel to dominate the paid advertising marketplace. Another impact is that is pushes organic search results further down the page – with more results below the fold, taking Google further away from a supposed impartial display of results for a search based on fair and equal criteria, to a search engine that works more as an advertising platform – which for the search engine user leads to biased results and for the company that provides a service that matches the search term organically – another layer and higher costs for that business.
Currently there is no option for individual hotels to integrate with the Google API for Hotel Price Ads, so that once a user has started to interact with the Google Hotel Finder, they only see OTA’s with prices listed for each hotel featured. Hotels can have their rates included either through their feed to one of the OTA’s or some of the GDS’s. In the future there will be opportunities to integrate into this feed for individual hotels, but at a cost. Also there is the question of how listings are ranked and this seems to be driven by yet more Google products such as Google Reviews. So hotels will need to ensure that they effectively manage their Google Local listing and encourage and manage their Google reviews. Currently OTA’s can bid for prominence on the listing with Google similar to on the paid search engines and when hotels’ are able to feed their prices and bid it will only encourage ever increasing costs for hotels to manage their own brand name and hotel content.
So in essence Google Hotel Finder provides a comprehensive listing of hotels for a given area with rates for multiple OTA’s included and a free link to the hotel’s own website. By effectively managing information on your Google Local page and encouraging and managing Google reviews, you can enhance your ranking in the Hotel Finder. Down the line hotels should be able to engage in bids and display rates.
In the short term this new addition is probably already impacting on a hotel’s performance for both paid and organic search traffic and will continue to impact all aspects of search marketing going forward.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012