Bookassist Search Marketer Martin Murray discusses Google’s latest experiment, the Google Hotel Finder.
The Google hotel finder is a very interesting development that has the potential to shake up the online market for hotels. As a service, it aims to allow you to search, compare and book hotels from all over the world. It can be accessed at: www.google.com/hotelfinder
Here are some of the key features in the service to date: 1. Search
The main feature of the Google hotel finder is its comprehensive search function. Users can search for hotels by location, price, hotel class and user rating. They can also limit the results shown by using the “shape” tool and specifying a specific region on the map.
2. Date Selection
The hotel finder has a standard date selection feature allowing users to select their check in and check out dates using a calendar.
When searching for hotels a user can add hotels to a shortlist and they will then be displayed at the top of the search results page until they leave the hotel finder site.
4. Compared to typical
The compared to typical feature allows a user to compare a hotels current price with its typical price. Google use historical price data from various providers to determine a hotel’s typical price.
By default Google list the hotels in descending order of their user rating, although they term this “Magic”. The user rating is based solely on reviews and ratings left on various Google properties such as Google places. 6. Hotel Data
Your hotel’s description text, contact details and website address are all taken from the hotels Google Places page. Your hotel’s photos are provided through a partnership with VFM Leonardo and the reviews are taken from Google itself.
Google is partnering with several providers that can provide pricing information for the listed hotels. Google will not deal directly with individual hotels, but Bookassist is currently working with Google on integration so that Bookassist clients can also directly show their prices with expected completion early in 2012.
When a user clicks the “Book” button they are presented with a list of prices for the specified hotel. These prices are provided by the various providers which have partnered with Google. Underneath the list of prices there is a direct link to your hotel’s website. This link is included for all hotels and is free.
9. Cost Per Click (CPC)
The current CPC cost is 0.2% of the total quoted booking value. The total quoted booking value is the number of days (taken from the date range selected by the user) multiplied by the price quoted (taken from the selected provider). If the user clicks on the link to your hotel’s website without any pricing information there is no charge for this click.
Appearing on the Google Hotel Finder
The majority of hotels are already included in the hotel finder but some hotels are currently missing and some hotels that are included are only shown if you use the shape tool on the map to include the area where the hotel is physically located. If your hotel is not currently listed please be aware that Google are constantly adding hotels to their database.
Analysis & Opinion
In our opinion, the main positives and challenges of the hotel finder for the online customer and the hotel are listed below.
- Clean, uncluttered design.
- Shape tool is useful but only beneficial if you know the area you are visiting.
- Filtering options are useful and easy to use.
- Prices are listed clearly.
- The hotel website link is included automatically and is free.
- Hotels can now compete directly with OTAs.
- A user cannot search by hotel name, specific address or landmark.
- Prices are currently displayed in US dollars only.
- English is the only available language.
- Only reviews from Google are listed.
- Some hotels are missing from the finder.
- Not all hotels can show their own prices yet.
- As of mid December, Google is placing its hotel finder as the first sponsored link in search results for hotels in the USA, causing considerable controversy in the PPC market.
Hotel Specific Challenges
Besides the challenges of the hotel finder product there are also some hotel-specific challenges which only you the hotel owner can overcome.
Rate parity – Up until now customers have had to go to multiple websites to check who has the best price. With services such as Google hotel finder they now only have to go to one website. As a result it is now fundamental that hotels have the same rate or better on their own website compared with the OTAs that are selling the hotel’s stock.
Availability – Allocating sufficient availability on your own website is essential if your hotel is to benefit from the hotel finder. Simply put, if Google “hotel finder” is to generate traffic to your website and you do not have sufficient availability on your own website then that traffic will be wasted as the visitor will go elsewhere.
Integration – In order to fully benefit from the hotel finder, full integration with the your hotel’s own booking engine is essential. This means partnering with providers like Bookassist that can provide such integration.
Reviews - At the moment the hotel finder only displays reviews from Google. You should make sure you are reading and reacting to all reviews on Google about your hotel. You should also try and encourage guests to leave reviews on Google to build content for the future.
Once you get your prices to display on Google Hotel Finder you are then signing up to a Cost per Click (CPC) advertising service so in certain respects the Google hotel finder is evidence of the shift to paid advertising that is currently taking place. As a result it is important that you are aware of this and ensure that you allocate sufficient marketing spend to paid advertising for 2012 and onwards. The key move in this area was in mid December when Google placed the hotel finder as the first advert result on search pages for hotels in the USA. Expect more moves in this area in the coming months from Google.
It is early days for the Google hotel finder but this combined with Hotel Price ads could be a game changer if this tool becomes popular with users. The main advantage for you as a hotel owner is that it allows you to compete directly with the OTAs without having enormous advertising budgets. In providing such a platform, Google is clearly encouraging more hotels to spend directly on online advertising, rather than letting those few OTAs that dominate the space right now be the only spenders.
Looking ahead it is up to Google to make this product as feature rich, relevant and as functional as possible and to create sufficient awareness of the product with the general public.
For your hotel to benefit as much as possible from the hotel finder it is important that you consider and prepare for the challenges outlined earlier.
Bookassist is the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.