Part Seven: How to Enable Direct Booking Through Your Hotel’s Business Listing

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes | 1970 words

This article is part SEVEN of an 8-part course titled “How to get your hospitality business found locally online”

The purpose of this section of the ‘How to get your hospitality business found locally online’ course is to inform you of the options available to you when it comes to enabling people to book rooms via your Google My Business listing. We will cover the positives and the negatives of being able to do so, in the hopes that at the end of this article you can make an informed decision of what is best for your own hotel. No marketing strategy is the exact same for each hotel, so each requires a different approach.

Google Hotels

Google has long since had its eye on the online travel industry. By 2011 they had launched Google Flights having purchased ITA, a travel booking software company and by 2016 they launched Google Trips enabling users to plan their trips via their app. It was only a matter of time until they turned their gaze to hotels and in 2019 Google announced the launch of Google Hotels.

Google then combined Google Trips, Google Flights and Google Hotels all under the one umbrella of Google Travel in May 2019. Since then Google has been working tirelessly to provide a seamless research and booking journey for their users, which is precisely why our in-depth understanding of this platform is essential. It looks as though it’s here to stay and is only growing stronger.

Google Hotels enabled users to be able to instantly and conveniently access key information about a particular hotel without needing to scour the hotel’s website. Information such as hotel amenities, prices, location, reviews, photos and videos, Q&As along with other important hotel details are all served up, thus removing the need for anyone to ever leave Google.

“Within Google you can now research your next holiday destination, find flights, hotels, and book them all without ever leaving Google itself. Even the travel guide information is created by scraping content that other websites have kindly created; Google’s just facilitating the whole travel process, from research through to purchase.” – Matt Tutt Digital Marketing

Google’s goal here is to create a frictionless travel booking experience for their users while providing hotels with the opportunity to secure more bookings using Google Hotel Ads.

Google Hotel Ads

Google Hotel Ads is an advertising service that displays your property’s nightly rates compared to rates offered by OTAs (Online Travel Agency, ie. Booking.com, Kayak). These real-time rates and availability are displayed within your hotel’s Google Business Listing and within Google Hotel Finder search results. 

By signing up to the Google Hotel Ads service you will be providing Google with all the data it needs to present your hotel to users who are actively searching for properties like yours within Google Search or Google Maps. 

Here’s an example of what a user might find when searching for “hotels in Seattle”, they will be presented with a variety of paid and organic results.

Above the hotel listings the user will find the option to filter their search results to better suit their needs, including their date and price range, number of guests and hotel star rating. After those filters have been applied the user will then be shown a page that features the available hotels that meet their criteria in a list and within a map.

When the user clicks on a hotel they will be taken to the Hotel Details Card which presents them with all of the essential information about that specific hotel that Google has pulled from their Google My Business profile. These details include things like hotel description, images and reviews.

Below is an example of the Hilton Garden Inn’s Hotel Details Card.

In the close-up below, you can see that the Hilton Garden Inn has utilised Google Hotel Ads to present their “Official Site” booking option to encourage people to book directly with them. This ad is competing directly with their OTA partners that are also displaying rates and availability for their property. 

How to Set Up Google Hotel Ads

To enable direct booking through your Google My Business profile you will need to participate in Google Hotel Ads. To do this you will need to work with a Google Hotel Ads integration partner to connect your booking engine with Google Hotel Ads. You can learn more here.

Google Hotel Ads provide you with a Booking on Google service on a cost-per-click model. So, although Google doesn’t charge a fee for hotels utilising their booking engine, they do charge a fee on a cost-per-click basis when someone opts to book your hotel via Google.

Benefits

Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of Google Hotel Ads for hoteliers:

DIRECT TRAFFIC: First of all, you will see an increase in the direct traffic that your hotel website receives as your Hotel Ad will link directly to your website’s booking page. And because 60% of leisure travellers and 55% of business travellers are, according to Google, using its search engine to plan their trips, this is a significant potential increase of direct traffic to your site. And if your property isn’t using OTAs, Hotel Ads offers an opportunity to boost your hotel’s visibility within Google hotel search results.

STREAMLINED BOOKING PROCESS: As so many Google users are utilising their service in the research phase of booking their trip and the actual booking itself, Google Hotel Ads is an efficient way to streamline that process and remove the barriers that might stop a user from proceeding to the booking stage. Google does this by saving their Google users’ account and payment information and passing it on to your hotel’s booking system thus speeding up the entire process.

Click here to see how Google explains the hotel booking process to its users.

GUEST OWNERSHIP & CONTROL: Because Google Hotel Ads directs users to your website to complete the booking, you aren’t sacrificing your valuable guest data and future relationship with that guest over to the OTAs. Google simply facilitates the transaction, but you still “own” the booking and the client’s data. This provides you with the ability to continue building and nurturing a relationship with your past-guests over time through newsletters and offers, building brand loyalty and encouraging repeat guests. Essentially, using Google Hotel Ads cuts out the middleman between you and your guests and enables you to have full control over future marketing, loyalty programs and the guest experience you wish to provide. 

HIGHLY QUALIFIED LEADS: When a Google user utilises the Google Hotels booking system to filter results to their specific needs, such as price, date range, location, ratings, amenities, etc, and are then transferred to your website to complete the booking, they are already a highly qualified lead, meaning that they are very likely to book.

INCREASED REVENUE: By creating a unique landing page for users being directed to your site to book via Google, you are presented with the perfect opportunity to up-sell to any guests via your website as well as within the checkout process and any transactional emails.

The industry average OTA commission per booking is 18%, with Hotel Ads you are reducing this commission per booking to a cost-per-click advertising model which enables you to keep a larger portion of your profits. Plus you now own the guest data which is invaluable for up-selling and encouraging repeat guests.

CONVENIENCE FOR GUESTS: Price-comparison sites are very popular due to the convenience they provide for busy travellers and with the level of global traffic that Google receives and their ongoing investment into the platform and its user experience, we can be certain that Hotel Ads will continue to gain momentum.

Below you’ll find an example of the Google user journey from initial search through to booking via an OTA or by using a hotel’s Google Hotel Ads link.

Downsides

Although the Google Hotel Ads service has many benefits, there are is a downside that is certainly worth highlighting. By providing a better experience for their users (which is Google’s main goal) they are invariably impacting the hotels themselves. Google Hotel Ads are impacting the ability for hotels to rank organically within Google Search and therefore driving the need for hotels to pay for their ranking in search results.

With an average of 61.8% of total hotel revenue coming from room reservations, competing with OTAs for bookings is nothing new to hoteliers. With the additional pay-per-click fee to use the Google Hotel Ads service there is no surprise that this is having a direct detrimental effect on hotel income.

Should you start using Hotel Ads for your hotel?

Hoteliers understand the importance of enabling their guests to book their hotel at every stage of the user journey and so for some hoteliers investing in Google Hotel Ads might be the best way to go.

But it’s worth noting that securing direct bookings via your website (ie. not through Google Hotel Ads or any other OTA) is still an important strategy when it comes to receiving booking revenue. Although Google Hotel Ads will direct traffic to your website to complete the booking, they will also take a fee each time they do so which eats into your profit.

By encouraging guests to book directly via your website you are able to fully control the user experience and pay zero commission on all bookings thus keeping all profit made from your reservations. This is why we always encourage our clients to secure and promote their own independent booking channel on their own website and, if they choose, view Google Hotel Ads as an additional booking channel for guests. We would not advise ignoring the Google Hotel Ads service entirely as by all accounts it is only gaining in strength and making it harder for hotels to compete organically.

Summary

Having your guests book directly via your website will always be the best way to do business but if you don’t yet have a booking system in place or even a website, then we would highly recommend investing in a website developer to get this set up for you. With this set up complete, we would suggest investing in Hotel Ads because with approximately two thirds of travel searches originating from Google, and with Google continuing to shift more and more traffic towards Hotel Ads and away from organic search, this is not a trend that hotel marketers can afford to ignore.

We already know that holiday rentals such as HomeAway, Expedia and RedAwning are included within the platform, but it’s worth mentioning that as yet there are no signs that AirBnb will be joining in the near future. If you want to go ahead and sign up to Google Hotel Ads, you can learn more and get started here.

To do list:

  • Ensure your Hotel Business listing is as complete as possible as this is where Google Hotels draws its information. A properly optimised Hotel listing is likely to rank higher and outperform listings with inaccurate and incomplete data.
  • Consider creating a unique landing page for would-be guests arriving to your site via your Google Hotel Ads link to up-sell or offer a unique deal or package and increase revenue per guest.
  • Encourage all guests to leave as many reviews as possible, the higher the rating and the more reviews you have the better your listing will perform. Don’t forget to personally respond (ie. not a bot or generic response) to each and every review left, whether good, bad or neutral.
  • Update your Hotel listing’s pictures regularly and ensure they are of the highest quality. Treat your listing as you would your social media, don’t neglect it. Upload new images seasonally, especially if snow has fallen as people will be more likely to relate to a snowy scene featuring your cosy hotel if it is winter. 
  • Ensure your Q&A section is regularly updated if your business offering has changed or if you have a new feature you would like to share. Make sure that all questions are answered promptly and with a personal touch to show your brand’s humanity.
  • Keep abreast of any Google My Business updates or the additions of new features. This way you can keep your listing up to date and minimise any risk of falling behind due to any gaps in the data you provide.
  • Incentivise Google users to book directly through your website by offering the lowest prices and posting “Best rate guaranteed when you book direct”. 
  • Make sure you have a competitive rate strategy in place and your lowest rates are only found on your website.
  • Consider participating in Google Hotel Ads to boost online visibility and ensure your property is competing with the OTAs on bookings and direct website traffic.

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In part eight...

… we will cover how to drive more traffic to your business through regular posting on Google and elevate above your competition.

About Magpie Creative Co.

Magpie Creative Co. is a digital marketing and design consultancy with a worldwide client base. We provide branding, web design and online marketing for businesses that offer luxury guest experiences and require an efficient online booking system.

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