Once, there was Google Hotel Finder. Remember it? We do.
Alas, if you head to google.com/hotels now, you’re presented with the following message:
Thanks for visiting Hotel Finder.
You can now search for hotels right on Google and in Google Maps and get a list of hotels with prices, photos, reviews and Street View panoramas.
So, it's gone. Boo!
Hold your horses.
Last August, we published this post on Hotel Finder's replacement - Google Hotel Ads, and we've been keeping a close eye on it ever since.
The search giant has made some huge improvements in that time. So many, in fact, that we thought we'd resurrect this post and update it with the latest information on Google Hotel Ads for hoteliers.
Because, we're nice like that.
Ok - what is Google Hotel Ads?
There are billions of searches carried out every day by people planning holidays and looking for hotels. Understandably, Google wants to keep such people in its world for as long as possible.
This is desirable from the searcher's perspective, too; imagine if everything you needed to book a hotel was contained within Google search results; a single page delivering everything from availability and rates to the booking process itself.
That's exactly what Google Hotel Ads delivers.
How does Google Hotel Ads work?
Let's say we're looking for a hotel in Northampton. If we type in a search query of that nature, Google now delivers results in this format:
Sure, we still see the paid ads right at the top, but immediately below there now sits an attractive map and listing of hotels, complete with review ratings, a brief synopsis and those all important prices.
…and, as you’d guess, they’ve done a rather good job of it on smartphones, too:
Click on any of the hotels listed, and you're taken to a much larger map and more detailed listing of the property itself:
Scroll further down the hotel listing, and you'll find reviews from multiple sources, the ability to send the listing to your smartphone, a list of other hotels people searched for similar to the one you're viewing and web search results linked to the area.
Does Google Hotel Ads charge a commission?
If you take a look at the listing example above, you'll note there's the option to book via a well-known OTA, but hotels can take direct bookings, too.
That doesn't make Google a travel agency, though. Despite the fact they take a commission (of around 12-15%), Google doesn't handle the booking; they simply pass it onto the accommodation provider.
It's worth noting that hotels can also choose how to pay for their listings on Google Hotel Ads:
- Pay-per-click. If you use Adwords, you’ll know all about this - you simply set a price you’re willing to pay for every click of your ad and set a budget. The positioning of your hotel in search results will be determined by how much you’re willing to spend on clicks, but paying for a click doesn’t guarantee the business.
- Commission. Just like the fee you pay Booking.com, this method is only charged when bookings are made via the listing on Google.
There's also a theory (although, in truth, we'll never really know what goes on behind the scenes) that Google pays attention to room rates as a ranking factor; if it thinks you’re charging more than the other booking platforms, it may place you lower in search results.
Wait, my hotel is already on Google Hotel Ads…
If you search for your hotel on Google, you’ll almost certainly find that it appears in a similar fashion to the example above. However, you’ll also note that OTAs are probably the only booking option.
The real power behind Google Hotel Ads lies in its ability to help increase direct bookings, but that can only happen when a hotel actively takes part and invests in their listing. Premier Inn reportedly increased bookings via their own channels by 40% after implementing Google Hotel Ads.
Google has put together a fantastic website that details the benefits Google Hotel Ads offers hoteliers and how to get signed up.
The following video also provides a great overview:
Benefits of Google Hotel Ads for independent hotels
Let’s consider the main benefits Google Hotel Ads offers independent hoteliers:
- sits directly within the world’s most popular search engine;
- offers rich hotel descriptions, photos (including Street View) and aggregated reviews;
- encourages direct booking;
- provides hoteliers with guest email addresses and details;
- allows hoteliers to compete more closely with the OTAs by opting for a commission-based bidding system rather than costly pay-per-click;
- features an attractive, intuitive, mobile-friendly user interface for guests.
Google Hotel Ads is a major step forward in the realm of hotel search and appears to offer signifiant benefits for independent hoteliers.
We were originally concerned that the platform might suffer the same fate as Google Hotel Finder, but in the twelve months since we originally published this post, Google has clearly been taking Hotel Ads very seriously indeed.
We recommend all independent hoteliers invest some time in Hotel Ads. We’ll certainly be continuing to keep a very close eye on the platform and investigating integration options for the Welcome Anywhere hotel booking system.