Ah Google... It's hard to imagine going without the search engine and tech giant these days. What's even harder is keeping up with all the changes they keep making.
For instance, this year Google said goodbye to Google Hotel Finder in favor of a simplified hotel search process. Instead of going to the separate platform to book hotels through Google, holiday-makers can now find hotels within the main search results and Google Maps.
How hotels now show up in the search results
As a hotelier, you can use Google's hotel features to compete with online travel agencies (OTAs) for direct bookings. In Google Hotel Ads (previously Google Hotel Price Ads) you can add bids to feature your hotel rooms and allow guests to book directly through Google.
We think Google Hotel Ads can really help hoteliers increase their bookings. So for independent hoteliers new to Google Hotel Ads, we've composed a quick guide to get started.
Why use Google hotel ads?
What's the first place people go to when researching their next holiday? For the majority of leisure travelers, search engines are the number one go-to platform for travel planning. Using Google Hotel Ads will help you get right in front of this large group of searchers.
Using Google Hotel Ads is also an effective way to compete with OTAs. You can get some direct bookings through Google that might otherwise go to competing booking sites. Even though you do pay for your ads, getting your booking through Google is preferable to OTAs, because on Google you determine how much you pay. We'll talk more about this later in this article.
Getting started: Setting up your feed
Google Hotel Ads rely on two pieces of information: a feed that informs Google of your room prices, and the bidding you set to get those rooms to show up.
First off, to get your feed to show up, you will need to integrate with what Google calls a third-party integration partner. There's a good chance your booking engine provider qualifies as one. Some authorized integration partners on Google's list include Bookassist, Sirvoy and Sabre Hospitality Solutions.
You do have the option to integrate your feed manually, but it includes some coding and technical steps. If you do want to go that route, this video explains what's involved.
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: The above video has been removed by the poster, but you can find a bunch more videos about Google Hotel Ads here.]
Once you've set up your feed through either method, Google will verify your prices and you're good to get started with the bidding process.
Placing bids on your ads
There are a few different ways to go through your bidding process. You can set up a dynamic feed that will handle the bidding for you, either through a third party or a bidding API (a kind of automated system) you set up. These options are useful if you have a lot of rooms and properties to manage.
If you only want to advertise a single property, you'll most likely just set your bids manually through Google Hotel Ads Center. In here, you will be able to set up and adjust targeting and bids. As this is the way you're probably going to be managing your ads, we'll focus on that one for now.
There are two ways you can bid on your ads. You can either pay-per-click on a hotel room, or you can set a percentage of the room rate for each booking, essentially making it a pay-per-conversion model.
The latter may seem suspiciously similar to how OTAs make their money. It is, but there are a couple of advantages to this method. First, you only pay when someone actually books a room. Also, the percentage you set can be a lot lower than the commission fees at OTAs. If you want, you can set a 1% commission, which can work out to be quite a cost-effective marketing strategy.
Google Hotel Ads offers targeting options in the form of bid multipliers. This is a really useful tool if you know which audiences and room types convert well or not well at all.
The categories you can use bid multipliers for are:
- Device type
- End-user’s country
- Length of stay
- Google site
- Check-in days of week
- Advance booking window
You have to set a base bid for all your hotel ads. To target your ads more specifically, you can increase or decrease your base bid using the multipliers.
So let's say for example, you've noticed that you have a higher conversion rate through the Google Maps platform, especially from mobile users. You can decide to go into device type and Google site and use the multiplier to increase your bids for that audience.
Or if you get a lot of direct bookings for weekends without the help of Google ads, you can also decrease your bids for those days by diving into the check-in days of the week multiplier.
Be conscious of Google's other ranking factor
Your ranking isn't just determined by your bids – a more important factor is actually your room rates. If Google determines you're charging more than competing booking platforms, it will rank your listing lower in the search results.
A peek into how hotels are ranked in Google into three groups: lowest, competitive and other – taking into consideration rate and bid.
If you're on top of your OTA pricing, this should be easy to prevent. An important rule to set for your hotel is to always offer the most competitive price through your own website. If you want people to book directly to avoid paying commission rates, you have to offer them an incentive to do so. (This rule also applies to the direct booking rates on your hotel website).
To sum up, to get your ads working effectively, all you need to do is follow these steps:
- Get your feed working to make sure your room rates shows up
- Set your base rate, choosing the pay-per-click or pay-per-conversion model
- Specify your targeting using the bid modifiers
- And finally, monitor your ads and adjust and optimize your bids
We hope this will get you started with your hotel ads. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments.