In the light of recent events, Google has announced free Google Ads for hotels. If you still don’t know what it does, it is a very efficient tool that can open up a world of possibilities in terms of hotel visibility, which can give you a competitive edge in direct bookings.
But what is this free publicity that Google is offering? How beneficial is it for your hotel? And why would Google be investing in this?
To understand these questions, here is everything you need to know about Google Ads and the possibilities it can bring to your hotel. Take advantage of the opportunity to stand out and sell more. I assure you that the reading will be worthwhile.
How Does Google Hotel Ads Work?
First, I would like to explain what Google Ads is and how it works. Google Ads (known as the old Google AdWords) is Google’s advertising platform. Its first version was launched in the early 2000s, and since then, it is the leading market in online media. Through Google Ads, it is possible to create ads for research and display them on YouTube, Gmail, and Play Store.
Google Ads works based on an auction system that determines the position in which the hotel ad will be displayed. This classification takes into account two factors:
- Bid amount the announcer will be willing to pay for the searched term (keyword).
- Relevance of the announcement should be directly related to the searched term by the guest.
This is how Google Ads usually works. You have probably done a Google search and found some links highlighted as a result, or entered a blog and found an ad banner somewhere along with the page. Or possibly, when watching YouTube videos, you saw some ads located here and there between videos.
Prepare Your Hotel (Website) Before Advertising
But before continuing, I need to reiterate something. To succeed in Google Hotel Ads campaigns, it is essential that you first invest in your main asset: your website.
That said, your website must have a clear structure with all information needed, such as pricing and details about the accommodations, availability, and cancellation policies.
Another critical point is to have a responsive website. That means having different versions for different devices.
This is important since future guests make searches and bookings on their smartphones. If you do not have a responsive website, you will suffer the scattering of the majority of potential customers.
Keep in mind: Your website is competing against top-class companies!
When we talk about hotel distribution and publicity in Google Hotel Ads, two players stand out in the market for their expressive investments.
I am talking about groups such as Booking and Expedia, which expended 6 billion dollars in 2020. This massive quantity of money is impressive and is greater than the previous years, which underwent a decrease of almost 60% in 2019, and received only 11 billion dollars.
I know that these large sums of money invested by OTAs can be scary and even give some concern to you, hotelier. You must be wondering: how can I compete with these two giants for direct booking in my hotel?
It may seem impossible, but it is not. I want to make explicit that these investments made by them can even help you a lot if you do your homework. That can be possible mainly due to the Outdoor Effect.
Learn how WhatsApp Bussiness can help in the direct booking of your hotel. Here is a complete guide to help you [Complete WhatsApp Business Guide to Generate Direct Bookings]
Google Hotel Ads for Free
Returning to the first questions: What is the free publicity Google offers, and how good it’s for your hotel?
Before that, hotels’ ads were displayed in a 100% paid window in which only the distribution channels that made bids on it had the right to appear in it.
With free booking links – or organic results – hotels can make ads and announcements without necessarily bidding on it. That means that you can be in hotel ads for free and appear on Google Travel.
The free booking links will appear right after the paid ads. Google differentiates them between ‘Ads – Highlighted options’ and ‘All options’.
It is essential to keep in mind that from now on, your hotel does not need to be active with a paid Google campaign to appear in the results of free booking links.
How To Appear in the “Free Booking Links” of the Hotel’s Ads?
First Step: Create a Profile in Google My Business
The first step is to have a verified and up-to-date profile in Google My Business (Google has published a step-by-step last August). You need to have an integration partner that can connect you to your hotel’s ads (it is a simple process).
Your hotel will be included on the integration partner feed, and it can appear on the free booking links. Recently, Google has published an extensive list of active integration partners.
Step Two: Use All Available Resources
These partners give full integration with resources that includes, among others:
- Room photos
- Compatibility with all available filters (different rooms, flexible cancelation)
- Room categories
- Booking at Google
With this good-to-go sign, your hotel will have the same information as your website in Google Hotel Ads. Photos from rooms, cancellation policies, highlighted phrases, logo, occupation, and all rates and different rooms will be there.
It also contains your official website tag and information only disclaimed by paid ads.
On the other hand, organic search is much more modest and has less information, showing only the logo, your official website tag, occupation, cancellation policies, and pricing.
When talking about the order of results in the free booking links section, at first, Google praises the integration quality (technical requirements), price competitiveness while compared with other channels, and conversion rates of the channel. But it is still early to make conclusions and know which variables are affecting the orders.
Another point to be made is that the results from “free booking links” and from “paid” ones are affected when filters are applied. Such as “occupation filters” or “free cancellation filters”. Having a strong integration with hotel ads is, again, crucial for enjoying all the new resources that Google is putting out there.
Google also allows you to differentiate trafficking from “paid” sections to “free booking links” within Google Analytics. However, your integration partner has to facilitate this task.
How? Well, by adapting a deep link (a link that will lead to content). The majority of links out there are not deep links) to your website. It will allow you to know when a new section of your “free booking links’ ‘ is accessed (with the If-ad-click technique or if-hotel-campaign one).
If your integration partner does not do this job for you, all your traffic from these “organic” links will be checked into analytics as “paid links”.
Naturally, you can wait for an increase in volume and booking derived from the “free booking links”, but it is still too early to tell for sure that that will happen. But a thing is certain: your hotel will obtain more traffic by adopting a new stand for its direct channel.
On the other hand, this new source can somewhat eat away the traffic coming from the paid section. To simplify, we can say that your hotel website should obtain more traffic and booking in general and will be able to fight face to face with the OTAs.
Why Should You Use Google Hotel Ads?
There are many reasons, but I will highlight only one. Google cares for user experience. You use Google research because it is the best search engine out there. Now Google also wants you to book with their metasearch because it is the best place to find the best rates and availability.
It is undeniable that Google has the best technology. Soon, it will also have the greater part of rates and availability, a cluster of great guest reviews and other content, becoming the ideal place to book a hotel and other travel-related services.
Maybe it is time for review sites and OTAs to start to worry about maintaining their revenue!
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A New Opportunity for Hotels
With these changes, the conclusion we reach is that Google is putting a great deal of effort into improving searches for hotels on their website. Not only to improve the user experience but also to offer advertisers more optimization for their campaigns.
For hotels, any changes made in the direct channel represent a new opportunity to compete with OTAs for more direct traffic.
With that, new scenery is composed for the future, and your hotel can obtain a competitive edge and convert more clients. And just like the winner of the Nobel Literature prize, Gabriel Garcia Marquez said:
Life is a continuous succession of opportunities.
About the author: Vagner Sardinha graduated in Administration with a specialization in marketing, people management, and revenue management. With more than 28 years of expertise in sales (19 of them in hotel business and tourism) and being part of big operations such as Broker, Ota, and Vacation and Hotel Club, Vagner Sardinha has a macro and strategic vision of all the chain of distribution. Besides solid experience in management and multidisciplinary team formation, he is also a professor of Strategic Sales at Hotel College.
If you are interested in advertisement for hotels, you will enjoy our article on how to write converting Facebook Ad campaigns for hotels. Check it out here: [Facebook Ad Campaigns For Hotels]