It has finally happened. Google have moved their ‘Hotel Finder’, previously only found at www.google.ie/hotels into the search engine results page (SERP) in what will prove to be yet another headache for hotels.
It had been long anticipated that Google would start to move more proactively into this space, and since their announcement of a Hotel Finder in July 2011, it has simply been a matter of when, and not if, the product would be moved into the SERPs. This move will increase Google’s user base and it’s potential as a hotel booking originator significantly.
Below is a screenshot of a search for ‘Dublin Hotels’ – Click image to view larger format:
So what this basically means is that any organic search engine traffic now appears well below the fold, meaning you have to pay a premium to appear in the top place results…a premium that is absolutely unsustainable for any hotel aiming to pursue premium keywords.
In a nutshell, Google has figured out a way to generate incremental revenues from the search engine results real estate it provided for free in the past, such as Google Places, Google Maps, etc.
Who Are The Winners From The New Google Hotel Finder?
- The OTAs are winners: Now the OTAs are dominating the pricing menus in each hotel’s Google Places page ‐ in the past the only way an OTA could seep onto a Google Places page was via an AdWords paid search ad.
- Currently the majority of the default booking links available through the Hotel Finder search results point to OTAs most notably booking.com.
- The major hotel brands are the winners: Once they implement the Google API and start pushing real time availability and pricing information to Google, it becomes another direct online channel to pursue.
Who Are The Losers From The new Google Hotel Finder?
- Hotel’s own sites will once again bear the brunt of the pain felt by the introduction of this product. Having spent a lot of time, money and effort building up solid SEO strategies and tactics to rank for competitive keywords in the industry, this will feel like another kick in the teeth for hotel brand sites.
What This Means For Hotels
Apart from being another commission channel to compete with, there are other things to take into account when thinking about Google Hotel Finder.
Potential hotel guests can now easily view photos, reviews and location details about your hotel property. All this information is pulled in from your Google Places account and it is important to remeber that this is now one more place where your Google Places reviews can be read. We highly recommend building up your Google Places reviews just as you would encourage guests to post reviews on TripAdvisor.
As mentioned, the Hotel Price Ads program was introduced as a pilot program with OTA participation. All major OTAs today participate in the program. All major hotel brands are working hard to implement the Google API (interface) between the brand CRS (Central Reservation Systems) and the Google back‐end. Very soon we will start seeing real‐time availability and pricing provided by the major brands in the pricing drop‐down menus in Google Places, Google Maps and Google Hotel Finder.
As for the independent hotels, they have to push their GDS connectivity providers (such as Utell, SynXis, iHotelier, Genares, etc.) to implement the Google API and start serving real‐time availability and pricing to the Google Hotel Finder and the drop‐down pricing menus in Google Places and Google Maps.
What Do You Think?
Have Google finally crossed the line between providing relevant organic results and monetizing the results page?
Let us know what you think and how or if this affects you by leaving a comment below…