Blog Kategorie: metasearch

Search is Dead

By Des O'Mahony | On 11 04 2014

We are in very turbulent times for search. Specifically, natural search has been strongly eroded and is losing relevance in certain business sectors, travel being a key one. While this represents a threat for those with reliance on organic search result methods, it is by no means the death of search opportunity.

The search landscape has changed quite dramatically recently and will continue to do so through 2014. Should hotels be worried about this? Definitely. Can they make strategic changes to actually capitalise on the rapid change in search? Most definitely. But they need to understand that benefit comes at a price.

Search Engine Optimisation Relevance

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a strategy and technique to improve traffic to websites by deliberately targeting a high position on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO could be viewed as an effort to ensure your content and relevance is properly recognised in SERPs for relevant searches (which is a good and fair marketing effort, though difficult). Or, SEO can also be an attempt to rig the game by getting exposure you don’t justly deserve (which is a disingenuous marketing attempt, and bad for everyone in the long run).

Search engines of course want to always be relevant with their natural results, and not look like they’ve been rigged. Relevance is critical, and search companies work hard on complex algorithms to ensure, essentially, that SEO becomes redundant. In other words, to improve their indexing technology so that it makes its own decisions about relevance for the searcher regardless of what the website owner has tried to do.

To quote moz.com (http://moz.com/google-algorithm-change), “Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times”. Search engines make these algorithm changes to make deliberate SEO more irrelevant. Websites therefore more than ever need to ensure they have good content, relevant content and accurate content relating to their services. To justify a good position in SERP, you need to deserve it. You need to invest properly in website design and content on an ongoing basis to have a chance here, before you even consider the issue of your website’s impact on conversion, which is another story.

So while SEO may not be dead, the simplistic approach to SEO that yielded results years ago is certainly of little use today. SEO needs to focus far more on relevance and freshness and not just keyword stuffing.

Competing Space

However well you achieve optimisation, the bottom line is that your site is effectively listed once in a sea of results and products on a SERP. And that sea is getting extremely complex. If one looks at Google search results alone, you can see that it is increasingly dominated by Google products. To get more visibility, you need to play their game and use their services effectively.

The company is pushing hard on Google+, its social “network”, to the extent that optimising your Google+ page is arguably far more relevant for SERP positioning in Google than anything else. Google does stress that it sees Google+ more as a layer to bring all its various products and services together for you the user in a personalised way, and that it’s not a stand-alone social network in the way we view Facebook and others. Of relevance for hotels, Google is gathering reviews rapidly, and via Google+ is using them to influence search relevance. More and more, your hotel’s Google+ page content, the freshness of your interaction there, and your review rating, are influencing your hotel’s SERP position.

With the advent of Google Hotel Finder (GHF), the company began to gather availability and pricing from hotels (via the Online Travel Agents and also from direct representatives of hotels such as Bookassist), effectively becoming a meta search player within its own search results. The result of that effort so far is that for accommodation searches, Google now presents its pay per click (PPC) advertising (indicated by the little yellow “Ads” sign), its Google+ local results, and now its GHF integrated results that hotels (and OTAs) bid for. Google search results have it all - why go elsewhere? At least this appears to be the plan.

If you look at Figure 1, the block headed “Hotels in Berlin on Google” has appeared after the PPC adverts in a search I’ve done for “hotels in berlin”. Here, you can see directly not just the pricing for hotels being fed by GHF, but also the Google+ reviews and ratings taking prominence. Interestingly, even if you click on a specific hotel in this listing, you will be brought to a full listing of hotels in GHF, as Figure 2 shows, not to that specific hotel you clicked.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Google search results for “hotels in berlin” showing Ads, Google map results, and the Google Hotel Finder and Google+ influence on results, injecting ratings and prices.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Google Hotel Finder as accessed from the search results in Figure 1.

GHF functionality is also integrated into maps and other areas of Google and taking more and more precedence and real estate on the screen, along with Google+. The result is that your natural listing is moving further off the page, and the money you are required to spend on PPC and on bidding within GHF is becoming more and more relevant to your prominence.

The industry expects this trend to continue, with the move of technologies like the Google carousel (Figure 3) inevitably into accommodation. Typing a search like “things to do in London” shows the carousel of points of interest, and will display prominently on the right of the page the associated Google+ page when available. When a carousel is used for hotels in a city, you can see just how relevant the GHF bidding and the Google+ page content will be for a hotel.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Example of Google’s carousel and the dominance of Google+

for elements of the carousel on the lower right of the page.

The Continuing Rise of Meta Search

For hotels, the opportunity presented by meta search sites like Trivago, Hotelscombined and many others is a second wind on the internet. The dominance of OTAs over direct booking on hotel websites can now be mitigated by hotels using meta search sites, which can show the hotels’ own website and pricing via representative companies such as Bookassist, along with the OTA pricing. This levels the playing field somewhat for hotels and is a positive development.

Likewise, high-traffic sites like TripAdvisor have seized on the opportunity presented by their qualified users and have moved to offer meta search services that combine OTA and hotel direct pricing, via the TripConnect service. Hotels’ own websites and pricing can again be listed along with the OTAs via representative companies for hotels, such as Bookassist, presenting TripAdvisor users with little reason to leave TripAdvisor when doing their research.

However, when you now look at Google Hotel Finder, TripConnect and Trivago, you see quite different approaches to optimising the opportunities for your hotel.

For example, on Google Hotel Finder, it is often best to focus on your hotel’s website having the lowest price, and not focus on just bidding highest. You may be outbid by an OTA that grabs the first position, but the prominence of your lower price will win out in many cases. On Trivago, the layout of their results favours the highest bidder, and the process is extremely dynamic. When you are searching on Trivago, you can see results and prices literally changing before your eyes. Meanwhile over in TripConnect, the push for the best TripAdvisor ranking is no longer as relevant as it was, since your availability and pricing will drive how TripConnect returns your hotel within its metasearch. And even these observations about best approaches have changed in recent months.

Managing all of this is critical, and is not an easy task, especially since it must be done virtually in real time.

The Mobile Challenge

Mobile search remains the key entry point for mobile hotel customers, despite the prominence of specific branded apps for last minute booking. With smaller screen sizes, the limited real estate on a mobile SERP means that natural is even less relevant here and the battle for the first page is extremely significant.

Google is injecting GHF panels directly into mobile search also, following relevant PPC ads, pushing down natural search. The inclusion of mapping results further relegates natural results. All of this is good for the user, but makes it difficult for the hotel.

Figure 4. Google SERP on iOS showing PPC advert and GHF panel
Figure 4. Google SERP on iOS showing PPC advert and GHF panel

Interestingly, as internet usage on tablets and mobile phones becomes more the norm, usage patterns have quickly changed. Not that long ago, bookings on mobile and access to accommodation websites was dominated by last minute users. The average lead-in time however has now lengthened. We see it in Bookassist data, and recently at the EyeforTravel Mobile Web Congress, Carlson Wagonlit Mobile also indicated in their data that hotel booking lead-in time is indeed getting longer on mobile.

Where To Next?

Just understanding the fast-changing nature of the search space and meta search in particular is a very difficult task. The pace of change is quite breathtaking as the competition hots up between OTAs and meta search. Google is innovating fast, but must be mindful of treading on its paying advertisers’ toes too - it cannot afford to annoy OTAs too much with the hundreds of millions of dollars they literally spend per year on PPC. Likewise, OTAs and meta search are pushing their own brands so they can reduce reliance on Google, and we see Trivago and Booking.com investing hugely in offline advertising like TV to get customers to bypass search and go directly to them.

Everyone wants to be the one stop shop gathering as much diverse info in one place as possible, which is a direct result of the increasing trend of online users to want to shop around.

As a supplier, monitoring the dynamic nature of all of this is complex in the extreme and poses a significant challenge for the individual hotel, let alone those hotel groups with more resources. But this is the reality of where we are in search today. Increasingly, your direct traffic must be bought. And this makes margin all the more relevant as the key issue to track in your business.

Hotels must invest even more strongly in PPC, and in meta search bidding, while making sure they are watching and measuring the real ROI. Since both these approaches deliver qualified traffic, but not actual bookings, hotels must invest ever more in website technology and have world class booking capability to ensure that this hard-earned paid-for traffic actually converts. This may be daunting, but those hotels who move fast in this area can benefit significantly

Expect the search space to be radically different by this time next year. Search today is nothing like the game we played just two years ago, and to compare then and now displays bewildering differences, with threats and opportunities.

To say search is dead may be an exaggeration. More appropriately, to borrow from Star Trek, “It’s search Jim, but not as we knew it.”

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and founder at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the award-winning technology and online strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

Značky: trivago, tripadvisor, strategy, seo, metasearch, google+, google hotel finder

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Metasearch is not about connectivity, its about strategic management

By Des O'Mahony | On 22 06 2014

​It’s Just Wires

With so much noise about metasearch being the big thing for hotels in online distribution for 2014, many providers are jumping on board touting their connectivity to metasearch platforms. Booking engine suppliers are connected, and even channel manager companies are now pushing their connectivity to metasearch as another distribution path as if it was a genuine solution to the issue. Seems everyone is shying away from the main point and hotels are being misled if they are being told that connectivity is all that is needed.

Connectivity is just wiring - it’s what you do with it that matters.

Bid Management And Strategy Are Key

Bookassist has connectivity with all the main metasearch players and continues to develop the integration technology with our metasearch partners as they evolve. For hotels, the key issue that Bookassist’s Digital Marketing team can address professionally is the management of strategy on each metasearch platform. This is how a real return-on-invesment (ROI) is assured.

If you consider Trivago, TripConnect and Google Hotel Finder, the approach to maximising your return is completely different on each platform. Bidding for positions takes quite a different strategy on each, and there are additional factors associated with each that critically influence success.

On Google Hotel Finder, for example, an optimised Google+ presence for your hotel is extremely important and no amount of channel manager “connectivity” is going to make up for a poor Google+ page. On the other metasearch platforms, there are considerable differences in bid strategy that you can adopt in order to minimise your spend while maximising return, and aiming for the top spot is not always the smartest thing to do. Additionally, approaches change again on mobile and there is simply no single approach that can be used across all platforms. This is not distribution in the “just send rates and availability to OTAs” sense.

Make The Right Decision

Metasearch is a fast evolving space, and expertise is needed to stay abreast of changes and to manage strategy accordingly. If your supplier has connectivity, that’s great. But be aware that connectivity is not a solution without strategic backup, bid management, and ongoing support. This is the expertise that Bookassist’s Digital Marketing team will bring.

After all, there’s been a free interface to pay-per-click advertising on Google for years, but everyone accepts that it takes considerable expertise to maximise its use. Why should hotels think metasearch is any easier to optimise?

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and founder at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the award-winning technology and online strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

Značky: trivago, tripconnect, metasearch, google hotel finder, distribution

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Co potřebují hoteliéři vědět o funkci „Book on Google“

By Jacopo Rita | On 23 01 2019

Google rozhodl zavést funkci Book on Google i v Evropě po několika měsících testování a předběžném spuštění přímo na webových stránkách ve Spojených státech (kromě online cestovních agentur).

Stejně jako u všech novinek, které tento gigant v online světě uvádí na trh, je i kolem této velký humbuk, který může vést k nedorozuměním a panice. Proto je nezbytné tuto novou funkci a její případný vliv na hotely vysvětlit.

Co je Book on Google?

Book on Google je nová funkce, která rozšiřuje uživatelské prostředí při vyhledávání hotelů na Google. Návštěvníci sice mohou vyhledávat a porovnávat ceny hotelů již delší dobu, každopádně tato nová funkce Book on Google jim nyní umožňuje dokončit rezervaci přímo na webu Google.

The Book on Google booking flow


Už nebudete přesměrováni z webových stránek Google na rezervační webové stránky třetích stran (např. OTA), ale rezervaci můžete dokončit přímo na Google.

Proč Book on Google?

Google odvedl v několika uplynulých letech obdivuhodnou práci, aby nabídl uživatelům efektivní a jednoduché vyhledávání hotelů. Neustále a průběžně provádí vylepšení zobrazení výsledků vyhledávání hotelů. Není pochyb, že toto prostředí pro vyhledávání hotelů je v současnosti velmi jednoduché.

Google však neustále spatřuje překážky a zádrhely ve své snaze poskytovat nejlepší prostředí pro vyhledávání hotelů, a to právě když se zákazník v rezervačním procesu dostane do fáze rezervace. Jak může mít s tolika neoptimalizovanými webovými stránkami a technologicky zaostalými rezervačními platformami Google jistotu, že zobrazuje ten správný hotel, když je možnost provést rezervaci ohrožena?

A proto vstupuje do hry Book on Google: k usnadnění rezervací a zajištění, že celé prostředí pro vyhledávání hotelů bude fungovat hladce a bez problémů, a to nejen ve fázi vyhledávání, ale také při vlastní rezervaci.

Protože rezervace je nyní dokončena na Google, nehrozí, že zkušenost zákazníka negativně ovlivní špatné webové stránky, které nejsou optimalizovány na mobilní zařízení: Google se o to nyní postará!

Je teď Google online cestovní agenturou?

Tato otázka je na místě, protože Google se stále více zajímá o sektor cestovního ruchu a nedávno zavedl funkci Book on Google. Tento gigant v oboru internetových vyhledávačů na ni jasně odpovídá: Google nemá v dohledné době v úmyslu stát se online cestovní agenturou (OTA).

Veškeré úsilí a inovace Google v této oblasti mají jeden společný cíl - nabízet uživatelům relevantní výsledky vyhledávání, ať už jde o destinace či cesty, zcela inovované vyhledávání hotelů a letenek nebo nejnovější funkci Book on Google.

Google chce jistě být relevantnější v oblasti cestovního ruchu, ale ne do té míry, že se bude chovat jako online cestovní agentura. Google například nemá žádný extranet, do kterého byste se mohli přihlásit a nahrát kapacitu a ceny svého hotelu. A přestože rezervace pomocí Book on Google probíhá přímo na Googlu, zrdojem rezervačních údajů nadále zůstává daný hotel. A v neposlední řadě je skutečnost, že funkce je pro hotely zdarma: Google si navíc k rezervaci neúčtuje žádné poplatky (což je velký rozdíl oproti online cestovním agenturám OTA).

Měl by váš hotel využívat Book on Google s oficiálními webovými stránkami?

Přestože je Book on Google skvělou funkcí pro uživatele, která nabízí nejlepší prostředí pro vyhledávání, zcela jistě se nejedná o revoluční prvek pro ty hotely, které jsou již optimalizované. S problémem, který chce Google vyřešit (neefektivní proces rezervace), se nemusí nutně potýkat hotely s dobře optimalizovanými webovými stránkami, nejmodernějším rezervačním systémem a prostředím nabízejícím stejně kvalitní fungování i na mobilních zařízeních.

Pokud mezi ně patří i váš hotel, pak nemusíte funkci Book on Google využívat.

Hoteloví klienti Bookassist mohou využívat všech těchto výhod: oceňované technologie v kombinaci s nejmodernějším designem webových stránek, která nabízí rezervační systém s vysokou konverzí. A díky spuštění zcela nového rezervačního systému pro mobilní zařízení dovedeme řešit všechny případné potíže a překážky ve velmi důležitém mobilním rezervačním procesu.

Díky tomu všemu není důvod, aby váš rezervační systém nebyl schopen přijímat rezervace přes Google. Funkce Book on Google je tedy vítána, ale vlastně není potřeba. A výsledky systému Bookassist mluví samy za sebe:

  • Skvělý konverzní poměr z kampaní Google , with an average of 7% Conversion Rate from Google Metasearch campaigns for Bookassist optimised hotels (with many achieving >10% CVR%)
  • Vynikající návratnost investice ROI, která průměrně dosahuje 15ti násobku, což má za následek náklady na akvizice rezervací nižší než 7 %.

Proč je stále lepší provádět rezervace na oficiálních webových stránkách, než kdekoliv jinde?

Nejde pouze o to, aby hotel měl jistotu, že zkušenost s rezervací není ovlivněna díky špatné zkušenosti uživatele s rezervačním procesem. Jde o mnohem více.

Každý krok, který provedete, má konkrétní cíl: dosáhnout vyššího počtu přímých rezervací. Pokud je to tak, musí být konečnou fází, že k tomu bude docházet prostřednictvím nejdůležitějšího kanálu, který máte: vašich oficiálních webových stránek.

Je také několik dalších věcí, které můžete udělat na rezervační stránce a které nemůžete nechat na někom jiném:
Tyto další cíle neslouží ve skutečnosti jen k usnadnění provádění rezervací, nýbrž také pomáhají zvyšovat vaše přímé rezervace v průběhu času.

  • Posilování identity značky vašeho hotelu;
  • Vlastnit vztahy s vašimi potenciálními klienty, o které pečujete pomocí přizpůsobení obsahu, popups, nástrojů pro porovnání cen, doplňkových služeb, rychlých zpráv a chatbotů;
  • Získávání potenciálních klientů prostřednictvím odběru newsletteru, kontaktních formulářů, akčních nabídek atd;
  • Získávání cenných údajů o potenciálních klientech, které jsou důležité pro další strategie remarketingu, upsellingu a optimalizace konverzního poměru.

Tyto další cíle neslouží ve skutečnosti jen k usnadnění provádění rezervací, nýbrž také pomáhají zvyšovat vaše přímé rezervace v průběhu času. Hoteliér se musí dívat na dlouhodobé cíle, ne jen na krátkodobý zisk.

—-

Jacopo Rita je Product Manager Metasearch ve společnosti Bookassist, která poskytuje oceněné technologie a digitální strategické poradenství pro hotely na celém světě.

Značky: metasearch

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