Think about the last time you booked a hotel. Did you go directly to the hotel website? Did you visit a local travel agency? No, you didn’t. You went to Google and conducted a search to do some comparison shopping. I’m sure this isn’t always the case, but more often than not Google is the place were travelers start their hotel booking process.
57% of leisure and business travelers claim they always start their travel booking process with search, according to a Google study by Ipsos MediaCT. Everyone I know discovers hotel options by hopping on a search engine, whether that be Google or Bing.
Hotel marketers were excited last June, when Google announced their new feature, Google My Business, allowing hotels to easily improve their hotel’s presence on Google.
Google recently announced that they’re continuing to make the hotel booking process even more seamless for consumers and advertisers. “We’ve been evolving the way hotels appear in search results on Google to include more structured, relevant and dynamic information – like rates, availability, locations, user reviews, editorial descriptions, Google Street View, and high resolution photos,” says Google. They’re clearly not messing around!
Introducing New & Improved Hotel Ads
Google just announced improvements to Hotel Ads, an advertising format exclusively for hotel marketers. Basically these ads show detailed information to compare hotels in a region right on the search results page. Check out the example below that I received when conducting a Google search for “hotels in Boston.” As you can see, each hotel displays information like prices, reviews and ratings, special offers, and photos.
When clicking “More hotels” I can see where each hotel is located on the map.
Hotel Ads aren't completely new. Hilton’s been using this feature for their 4,200 hotels since 2011, and has seen ground-breaking results, with a 45% increase in conversion rate.
So, What’s New?
Hotel Ads might be old news, but Google continues to build upon the features offered to marketers, with a huge focus on engaging followers in a more visual manner. In February, Google improved their photo tools to allow hotels to easily change the image that appears when travelers are searching. They’ve also made it possible to add photos specifically for food and drinks, guest rooms, and common areas. This can all be done through one’s Google My Business account.
Another new feature Google has recently released is the ability to add top notch, interactive tours to give the searcher an inside look into the hotel's interior. If I do say so myself, these tours are awesome! Who doesn’t want a sneak-360-degree-peak at a hotel they’ll be potentially escaping to? This is all done through Google Maps Business View. “These virtual tours show up on Search and Maps and let travelers experience the hotel – all before they book their stay.”
So What Does This Mean for Hotel Marketers?
Hotel marketers need to connect with an authorized partner to take advantage of all of the features Google offers in order to gain the most exposure possible to their hotel. This is especially important for hotel marketers that operate smaller, less well-known hotels. The big guys are likely already running hotel ads, but the smaller guys might be missing out on some unique advertising opportunities.
So to get ahead of the game, make sure to do the following things:
- Claim & create your Google My Business Page (if you haven’t done so already) and work on your Google Maps optimization.
- Connected with an authorized partner to get started with Hotel Ads. If you need help Google encourages you to reach out directly through this form.
- Sign up for Business View for your hotel. Google claims that they’ll be in touch within 5 business days after you reach out.
- Shoot quality photos and videos. You need to make sure the photos and video content you’re pushing out there is true quality. Not a photographer? It might be worth investing in a photo-shoot to capture the beauty of your hotel in the best light possible. If you’re on a budget, try to find an employee or friend that also happens to be a skilled photographer. For marketing purposes at WordStream, we often utilize our founder, Larry Kim, who also happens to be a talented photographer.
- Highlight special offers, discounts, and unique features. What makes your hotel unique? Why should a traveler book with you over the 5-star hotel down the street? Highlight these benefits in all of your marketing efforts.
- Keep track of your competition: Spy on your competitors and see how you stack up through Google’s Ad Preview tool. See how they’re presenting themselves on Google, and then figure out how you can do it better.
- Subscribe to Google’s travel blog: Google has a blog just for travel marketers. Keep on top of this so that you can jump on new features before your competition even knows what’s going on.
What are you waiting for? Start drastically increasing hotel booking by using Google’s new features today. Before you know it, you’ll need to start building more rooms!