Independent European Hotels are sleepwalking into an era of increased OTA dependency

Independent European Hotels are sleepwalking into an era of increased OTA dependency

For over 15 years that I have been within this industry, Independent hotels here in Europe have been always dependent on agencies, initially offline which then became online.  From the days of GTA (Gulliver Travel Associates) who were all dominant in the early days to now where booking.com has to some extent replaced GTA as the agent where hotels have allowed them to take over their inventory.

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We are though entering a new phase, where it has been clear for some time that Booking.com & Expedia have been implementing two very different strategies to maintain growth and market share.  Expedia has been expanding by acquisition with its latest buys of Orbitz, Travelocity, and Home & Away while Booking.com has been diversifying with its purchases of Buuteeq, due in part to the competition on the horizon from Google & Airbnb.  The recently announced deal that saw booking.com providing global inventory to Tripadvisor Instant Booking effectively makes them now an OTA.

Over the last few years, Tripadvisor has been worked extremely hard in cultivating a positive relationship with hoteliers while reviews, thanks to them, have become an ever more important part for hotel directors to focus on to ensure excellent guest comments get published.  Some hotels have even gone as far as directing their hard-won traffic from their website to their page on Tripadvisor (which also sells your competitors).  Behind Reception, there are now certificates and plaques of excellence from booking.com and Tripadvisor occupying pride of place.  However great these actions are, hoteliers are feeding and promoting the very agencies online that send them business with a 15-20% commission bill.

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We have also seen that OTAs including Tripadvisor investing heavily in user experience, making it easier for you to book a hotel whether from a desktop or mobile device.  From confirmations sent straight to your phone to personalized marketing which provides you with useful suggestions based on your searches.  Due to their size and power, they have the resources and investment to take advantage of the amount of data available to ensure a great user experience.  Most hoteliers would be the first to use booking.com for their business travel as all their personal information is stored there.  Booking engines for the independent hotelier are also sometimes too focused on revenue management techniques rather than user experience.  Book your hotel on booking.com, then on your site, how does it match up?  There are some great products out there.  One of my personal favourites and internationally recognised as being one of the best is GuestCentric (www.guestcentric.com).  Its multi-award winning booking engine is focused on providing a unique user experience with data capture at its heart.

So why are hotels sleepwalking into increased OTA dependency?

The answer is simple – laziness.  With the changes within our industry I have mentioned, it is most likely that there will be an increase in competition within the OTA distribution space.  Tripadvisor becoming an OTA is a big game changer, especially as they are in the top 3 of most visited travel sites.  Google, being still the number one search tool and its total dominance on smartphones could become a valuable player.  These changes if left unsupervised, will allow them to eat into even more of your inventory, especially if you are openly promoting them from your own website.  Hotels can though be smart at collecting guest data via inexpensive methods such as Social Wifi.  Booking engines and websites can be improved to provide a better user experience and to interact with your guests using Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger can provide that special attention to detail.  All the above can be done cost effectively and implemented seamlessly, so you can focus on providing your guests a unique experience while starting the process of slowly decreasing your OTA dependency.

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Currently, in Europe, almost three quarters (74%) of independent hotel reservations comes from an OTA (Source: Phocuswright).  Now just imagine if we got that figure down just 10% by being smarter with how you connect to your guests and users on your website.  Marketing online is not just about PPC campaigns; it requires a more holistic approach which takes advantage of the very latest technology to improve your hotel in 3 ways 1)Data Collection 2)Online user experience and 3)Guest communication.

OTA´ s are a fundamental part of your online distribution, but they should not be your only focus.  Make 2016 the year your hotel started reversing the trend of increasing dependency on OTA´s and start building a solid platform to increase your direct online reservations.

Need help in planning the right online marketing strategy for 2016?  Talk to us, email info@hotelient.net

 

 

How should the independent hotelier react to the latest changes in the online travel market?

How should the independent hotelier react to the latest changes in the online travel market?

It is a fascinating time to be part of an industry that is changing day by day.  Over the last few years,  it was about the explosion onto the scene of Airbnb, Hoteltonight and meta search ads by Tripadvisor and Google, to today where Expedia buys HomeAway and  booking.com integrates with TripAdvisor’s new platform – Instant booking.  To add further confusion, over the last 12 months, some countries in Europe started to state illegal, the rate parity clause that has helped the likes of booking.com and Expedia to enjoy the strength they have today.

Exciting times ahead but when all the dust has settled, where does it leave the independent hotelier?  What is the right strategy to take over the next 12-18 months with the major brands?

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Tripadvisor

According to this recent article by tnooz.com, they are the number one visited travel site by far in the US & UK.  Their recent evolution from just being a review site to OTA has been taking place over the last few years. Tripadvisor clearly has power in our industry and the take-up of their instant booking in the US has been brisk by hotels.  Connecting to booking.com made sense, as they will getting the inventory of hotels from the rest of the world overnight,  which so far have not had access to the instant booking product.  We will also see over the next few months the other major hotel chains joining, following in the footsteps of Marriott.  At a recent conference in Asia, Tripadvisor was already signalling that they will be pushing forward quickly to implement this agreement with English speaking countries the first to be connected.  So what should you be doing to take advantage of this?  We will have to see how booking.com processes reservations from Tripadvisor.  One would expect that there will be an increase in commission to compensate for the % they are paying Tripadvisor.  If that is the case and you start to see bookings come from this particular channel, then it would make sense to connect directly with Tripadvisor, as most likely, the cost of sale will be less. Also, remove the Tripadvisor widgets from your website, do not give them free traffic, which could lead to a potential loss of direct reservations.  There are other ways to promote your reviews whilst keeping your users on your brand website.

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Google

They have been recently working on their new offering that will likely be called “Book on Google.”  At the moment, this is only available in the US and again, hotels have been signing on steadily as well as the recent deal to connect with Sabre which provides them access to 20,000 properties.  Hotels in Europe can still connect manually or through solutions such as Siteminder for their Meta Ads “Google HPA” however, this has not proved very popular with hotels, like Tripconnect wasn´t for Tripadvisor, hence the change.  We should not underestimate Google.  Should they wish to turn on the taps, they can.  They are totally dominant on Mobile, 70% of Europeans use Android, most smartphone users use Google Maps and Google search is still frequently used in hotel searches.  You should be attentive to the industry news, Will Expedia integrate with Google, now that Priceline is with Tripadvisor?  Which chain will be the first to connect?  Once book on Google gains traction, as with instant booking by Tripadvisor, your hotel should get connected.

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Trivago

They have been testing their express booking product currently testing in the German market.  Trivago´s owners – Expedia, have been very insistent on not going down the same path as Tripadvisor & Google and will maintain the cost per click meta ad model.  The cost of sale usually using this method is less for a hotel, although as their main rivals found out, not exactly the most popular with independent hotels who have to compete with OTA´s and who have limited marketing budgets.  The upside for Hotels though is that the transaction is done on your brand website and with the European market entering the post rate parity era,  should present some interesting pricing opportunities for hotels who have the budget to invest in Meta ads.

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Expedia/Priceline

With the majority of hotels according to numerous surveys enjoying over 70% dependency for all your online reservations from these two giants, this is not going to change overnight.  With Expedia´s recent acquisitions, they now own 75% share of the online travel market in the US.  What we are most likely to see over the next couple of years is the new players in the OTA space gaining traction which could force Expedia & Priceline to review the % of commission they offer your property.  Hotel revenue managers will also start to take the cost of sale into consideration when setting prices, especially in Europe where rate parity is no longer obligatory in some countries.

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HotelTonight/Booking Now

The last minute booking market is becoming enormous and the competition is getting fiercer with Priceline recently launching the Booking Now app.  Proving to be very popular is Geolocation offers with some city hotels seeing big increases in last minute bookings and the commission rates are roughly in line with other OTA´s  These are great apps for travellers who need to organise at the last minute, so if you are based in a city centre, you should make sure that your hotel is visible.   These guests are also great targets in converting to direct bookers so if they have a great experience, the next time they travel to your city they’ll more likely book directly with you.

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Airbnb

Still not quite on the hotel scene but a big hit with Millennials.  Airbnb is also starting to actively target business users. Some hotels in the US are already offering their rooms on this portal and with a 3% commission level, offers an interesting cost effective option for hoteliers.  The three big questions still to be answered though will be 1)Will Airbnb start to actively recruit hotels? 2)Will any major hotel chain sign on? 2)Will any OTA follow their strategy of charging both the client and the hotel commission? Early days but watch this space……

We are in an evolving market and it is important as an hotelier to understand these changes going on within our industry, but never lose site of the following:-  All the above companies provide your property with added visibility to drive guests to your hotel.  Your job is then to convert these guests that come through your door to book next time with you directly.  Incentivize them, take advantage of technology to capture data, make sure your web is intuitive and shows off your property with great photos and videos, and finally do not over complicate the booking process with an engine that is great for your revenue manager but your clients find long winded and slow. Read this recent article on how to improve your guest experience online.

For further information relating to this article,  email us at info@hotelient.net or visit www.hotelient.net

Simple handy guide to help you prepare your hotel´s online marketing strategy for 2016

Simple handy guide to help you prepare your hotel´s online marketing strategy for 2016

About this time of year, most Director of Sales & General Managers are sitting down to finalize their Sales & Marketing budgets and plan for 2016………..Best time of the year,  right before the RFP season begins!

So to help you all, here is a handy guide for you to plan your online marketing strategy.

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Website – The most important part of any online strategy is your own website.  Key things to take in consideration or at least be asking your providers or technical team.

  • Is my website mobile optimized? –  Google now penalizes non-responsive websites on searches from a mobile phone
  • Do I promote Guest reviews? – Showing off your great guest reviews increases your online conversions.
  • Are my photos up to date – Photos are key for hotels.  If they are more than 3 years old, update them.
  • Have I got any videos to show?- Videos are key in the selling process, a great video about your hotel on your homepage is a great selling point……..and google loves it too!
  • Can my content be updated quickly –  If you are relying on 3rd parties to update your content, this is not the best idea when we are living in an era where content is king.  Updating your website should be a question of minutes.
  • Is my website in my guests language? – Numerous studies have shown that when a hotel´s website is in your guests local language, they are more likely to buy directly from you.
  • Can my website add Landing pages and pop-up windows? – These are great for data capture and client retention.

Booking engine

  • Is my booking engine easy to use from a client´s perspective?  Many booking engines are great for revenue managers but a minefield for clients.  Compare yours with booking.com and see how it stacks up
  • Add-ons or extras to be shown after initial reservation? – This is proven to increase your revenue against showing them during the initial process.  Does booking.com show extras or Add-Ons?  So why do you let your guest choose one, when they are more likely to be  looking to compare your prices with an OTA?
  • Create separate booking engines for unique offers – Putting your booking engine in more on more pages with only some of your great promotions is key to driving revenue.  Ask your provider whether they can create this for you

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Connectivity

  • Can my channel manager connect to Google/Tripadvisor /Trivago and other meta search agencies? –  If they cannot, look for alternative solutions.
  • Should my Channel Manager & Booking engine be separate? –  The success of your booking engine will depend on how much your provider is investing to keep up with the industry trends, so by separating them, will allow you to move between providers more freely without the hassle.

Advertising/SEO

  • If your hotel already investing in Adwords but not connected to Google HPA? If the answer is no then you need to get this sorted.  Also, Google RLSA has a better rate of conversion and could be a smarter investment.  Talk to your provider about RLSA or read this recent article.
  • Retargeting Ads are a worthwhile investment, as studies have shown clients visit about 20 web pages before deciding on where they are going to book.
  • Ensure your website has up to date Keywords, SEO Description and Titles on every page.
  • SEO is now not just about backlinks, Google users over 200 algorithms now so just doing one thing is not enough

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Reputation

  • Your reputation is key, not only from a point of monitoring but also to incentivise direct reservations.
  • Generate online feedback for your guests to complete and promote it across your social media, website and Videos.

Social Media

  • Is your Community manager or Social media manager just promoting offers and showing pictures and videos of your hotel?  If they are, tell them to stop or look to replace them.
  • Social media is all about telling stories, interaction, and conversation.  One golden rule, only 20% of your content should be your promotions, the rest should be about your destination, events, interesting stories, interviews etc.  Read this article on how to get the best out of your social media.
  • Building your youtube channel with videos of your hotel, interviews, guest reviews is also a great tool.  40% of all global searches are for videos which are set to rise to nearly 70% by 2018.

Other Technologies

  • Social WIFI – By getting you guests to connect to your FREE WIFI through their social media accounts should be a no brainer for hotels.  No only do they get more followers, you also get their email address, that can be added to your marketing database.
  • APPs- Concierge Apps should be a must by providing your guests information about your hotel including offers, events and much more.  According to recent surveys, 85% of smartphone users prefer apps to mobile websites.  They also reduce your printing cost on flyers and new guest directories!.

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I am sure there are many more ways you can all think of, however by doing the above is a great start.

According to a recent survey we conducted, over 70% of hotels receive less than 35% of their total online reservations directly.  Every point that I have written above, I have implemented and was able to achieve 60% of my online reservations directly in my previous roles within hotels.  It can be done and it also does not need to break your marketing budget in doing so.

Talk to your providers or your team today and see how you can implement these during 2016, or alternatively, allow Hotelient to provide you with a free review on your general online positioning to ensure you are checking all the boxes.  Email us for further information info@hotelient.net

I am passionate about direct sales for hotels and I have put into practice what I believe. We cannot live without OTA´s, but we can take advantage of the many great technologies to ensure the hotel that we work for is getting a fair share of direct reservations.

Google quietly decides to compete with Tripadvisors Instant Booking

Google quietly decides to compete with Tripadvisors Instant Booking

A major change is happening that hotels will soon start becoming aware of.  For the first time, Google users can now book a hotel room without leaving the search giant’s familiar desktop interface copying the recent introduction by Tripadvisor’s of their Instant Booking.

Although yet to be announced officially,  Google-managed bookings appear to be slowly rolling out across a handful of listings in U.S. desktop search. Google has long offered hotel metasearch through its Search and Maps products. But it has always allowed users to go off to hotel websites and online travel agencies to complete the transactions.

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The new strategy of keeping users on it´s recognizable and minimalist Google user experience — with barely any hotel branding should lead to increased conversions. However, it also runs against its advertising business of helping online travel agencies get bookings. Expedia Inc and Priceline Group according to estimates, contribute about 5% to Google advertising revenue.

This change in booking strategy is similar to the one followed by TripAdvisor. For about a year, the user-reviews giant has been rolling out Instant Booking, in which it allows metasearch transactions to keep users within its interface. Google faces a similar challenge to the one facing TripAdvisor in getting hotels and hotel chains to participate in its instant booking tool.  At present none of the major US hotel chains appears to be participating in Google’s scheme so far. TripAdvisor has also struggled, only landing Marriott, Choice and Accor so far.

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Clicking on the option to book directly with the hotel used to take the client off to their website to finish the transaction. But now users are sent to a Google booking page. Once a user selects a room, they share their contact information for receiving a confirmation email from the hotel directly. The user then enters credit card information, if they haven’t already provided that to Google Wallet. Google’s hotel tool completes the purchase within its interface:

It is unclear who was helping Google interact with the hotel booking systems.   Sabre Hospitality Solutions has been rumoured, which has more than 20,000 independent hotel customers for its central reservation systems software.   Sabre also revealed its was in beta-testing with Google on a new commission-based (not pay-per-click) model for letting hotels receive bookings via visitors using organic search in Google search and Maps. If Sabre decides to also market Google’s instant booking feature, it may be able to convince many of the 20,000 or so independent hotels that use its central reservation system to sign up.

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Irrespective of this change by Google which is still yet to be announced officially, independent hotels still have to first connect to Google HPA. Their sheer influence for mobile users and the fact that recent surveys have shown that 70% of travellers use their smartphone as part of their booking process should make it clear that by not being connected to google, will just hand possible direct bookings to the OTA´s that are connected.  If you change your rates less than once a week, then Hotelient can help you get connected very easily and provide training on how to keep your rates updated.  Do not loose out on this great opportunity to increase your direct bookings.  Email us info@hotelient.net for further information.

5 simple steps to keep your hotel ahead of the rest in online marketing and distribution

5 simple steps to keep your hotel ahead of the rest in online marketing and distribution

It´s tough being a Director of a Hotel or Resort, not only over the last 10 years hotels have had to deal with their relationship with OTA´s, they are now being told to connect with meta search agencies such as Google and Tripadvisor.   Whilst on the horizon, companies such as Amazon are lurking in the background ready to enter the market and Airbnb that is due to become a big competitor in the business travel market

So how can we help you make sense of all these changes in order for you to take right decisions for your hotel or resort?

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Here are 5 simple steps to keep you ahead of your competition:-

1st Step – Your current technology.

The majority of independent hotels have a channel manager and most (especially in southern Europe) have them with the same provider as their booking engine, which may or may not be providing you with a good conversion rate.  We recently conducted a survey where we ask European hotels what percentage of bookings came via their own website, Over 75% received less than 40% of their reservations, which is low.  I have demonstrated in many hotels that with a good converting booking engine and visibility, you can gain over 50% of your online business via your web so it pays to choose one carefully, look at the booking engine from a client perspective, not a revenue manager one.  Our advice is to always separate your booking engine from your channel manager as you do not have the hassle of constantly changing your connections from one provider to another and it provides you with flexibility should your booking engine provider stop investing and improving their technology.  Connectivity is one thing, selling is another.

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2 Step – Meta-search & OTA´s

Do you need to contract with everyone? The answer is no, with the introduction of sites like Trivago, clients will always find your best price through searches.  Giving your guests not as many options is not a bad thing and it is a better way to control your rates. You can also stop connecting to agencies that have the highest commission. I closed off Expedia in a hotel where I was paying 25% and I kept booking.com at 17%, the business moved from one to the other, demonstrating that hoteliers to a certain degree can control where their clients buy from.

Meta searches are where it allows your guests to shop for rates in one place and by placing ads, your hotel can compete with the likes of Booking, Expedia etc.   We view Google Hotel Price Ads as fundamental and will become a revenue stream for hotels especially from mobile devices.  If your hotel is investing in Adwords, you should be connected already.  Most marketing companies are Google Partners and can help you get up and running.  It is also key that you focus on your google reviews as this will also effect your positioning on search results.  Tripadvisor has introduced Instant Booking which will charge a commission on every reservation.  This is also worth considering but bear in mind to stop sending your clients that visit your website to go off to visit your review page on their site.  Your conversions will go down.  We can show how you can publish your reviews from Tripadvisor, Google, and Facebook without them leaving.

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Step 3 – Pricing

Ok, so you have a booking engine that is giving you good conversions, you have a channel manager such as Siteminder that connects you with your best performing and cheapest commission OTA´s.  You are using Google Hotel Price Ads and you are receiving bookings from TripAdvisor Instant Booking.  Great, you offer price parity to everyone, however, Booking and Expedia recently announced they were getting rid of the price parity clause in their contract, meaning that a hotel can sell cheaper with an OTA of their choice. So what do you do now?  Well depending on the rate of commission you pay, you can analyse from which agency you can gain the best Rate from and adjust the rates accordingly.  This will allow you another way to condition from which agency your guests book you.  Bear in mind though that OTA´s like booking make it very easy for their clients to book with saved credit card details etc, so this has to be analysed also.

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Step 4 – Improve your booking engines conversion rate

So with your rates  and connectivity all set, it is time to sell!  Now your cheapest channel is always going to be your website.  So here are some great tips to help you improve your conversion rates:-

1) Pop Ups – Hotels have been using this successfully where a client who has checked a rate on your site, click off to booking.com to compare.  Up pops a window offering them a chance to book 10% cheaper if they reserve in the next 20 mins which are a great for you on improving your rate and the guest is getting a better deal. You also get their email address too!

2) Add-ons – Does booking.com offer add-ons or extras? so why do hotels offer this before checkout?  Guests are also more open to spending more on add-ons or extras once they have already made the decision to buy from you.

3) Retargeting for search ads – A massively underused marketing resource from google that promotes your hotel to you guests searching specific keys words after they have visited your site. This method is getting very good conversion levels and is more cost effective that AdWords.

4)Reputation Marketing – I explained this earlier, but good to mention this again.  promote your reviews without your visitors needing to click off your site.

5)Most hotels now have a mobile responsive website -If you don´t, you better get one quick, 70% of travellers in the UK use their mobile to either research or reserve hotels.

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5 – Watch the Market

The final point is to make sure you are aware of what is going on.  Amazon could be an important entry into the market especially considering the client database as well as they way their clients pay for products on their site.  They are currently doing trials in New York. Airbnb could also be a danger for hotels especially as they are actively targetting business travel.  Hotels will need to be on their toes to react to this challenge

Need more help?  Hotelient can provide your hotel with a free, no obligation review of your current online setup in order to maximize your online marketing and distribution.  Email us for further information:- info@hotelient.net

AccorHotels goes toe to toe with Priceline to target independent hotels online distribution

AccorHotels goes toe to toe with Priceline to target independent hotels online distribution

The next few months are going to prove very challenging for Independent hotels as they make sense of the changing landscape, on one side you have the announcement this week of AccorHotels opening it´s distribution channel to independent hotels which comes off the back of their recent purchases of Fastbooking (a distribution, digital marketing & Revenue management company) and Wipolo (Mobile Developer), whilst on the other side, you have lasts years acquisition of Buuteeq, which was rebranded to Booking Suite (CRM & Digital Marketing) and PriceMatch (Revenue Management) by Priceline.

So, what we have here is a hotel chain that wants to act like an OTA…………and an OTA that wants to act, as a hotel distribution provider.

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AccorHotels

The French hotel giant is continuing its fight in the online wars on several new fronts by changing its name to AccorHotels, adding staff to its digital platform team and opening its distribution channels to independent hotels. Accor say that by pulling in global independent properties does not constitute a soft brand, and they are not looking to transform itself into a model that resembles an online travel agency but they will clearly be up against Booking.com, Tripadvisor and quite soon Airbnb

In terms of commission charges, it is anticipated that It will be lower than on other channels, competitive with OTAs and adapted to each market due to dynamics.

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Priceline

With over 6000 hotels enjoying the digital marketing solution provided by Buuteeq when it was brought out by Priceline last year, they strategy was clear, whether the client books through Priceline, Booking.com or Directly with the Hotels – Priceline wins. The Hotelier receives a great looking website with Revenue Optimization. Booking.com will also provide search engine optimization for their hotels online presence and we could arguably see in the future that Booking.com uses its reach and distribution to promote their hotel direct sites, with the recent announcement of their new business service for example

Commission payments for direct hotel bookings being set at 10%

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So what’s going on?

By having a Hotel chain, that actively targets independent hotels to support them and act as an OTA is just another indication on how all the focus is on a very fragmented market where currently there are hundreds of solutions to choose from. Everyone expects that will be consolidation in the hotel world … but speed and size are going to make the difference. We can expect new players who simply did not exist 10 years ago, will have the same value in the next 10 years, that took a chain like Accor 50 years to build.

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Hoteliers are eager for alternative distribution platforms, as their love-hate relationship with booking.com continues, however, independent hoteliers have a fantastic opportunity to go it alone, for example:-

A) Google HPA will allow hotels to gain a level playing field as OTA´s as well as Google´s clear strength on mobiles via Google Maps
B) Recent European court judgments have set in motion a series of events that will eventually lead to hotels offering the best price directly on their website
C) Hotels can use technology which is available now to become smarter in increasing their marketing as over the next few years reacting quickly to changes in the marketplace is going to set you apart.
Search around, there are a lot of great CRM providers that offer better functionality and better value, Booking engines that increase your conversion and new revenue optimization tools that do not cost the earth.
With the anticipated growth in bookings coming directly to hotels and Google becoming a big player within the travel market, hoteliers have to be aware that these solutions that may save money in the short term, might not be such a great idea in the future as the market evolves.

Hotelient can help your hotel make sense of this constantly changing landscape, we’ll let you concentrate on ensuring your guests have a great stay with you while we build your a digital marketing strategy to compete with the big boys. Email us for further information.

How Hotels can gain higher conversion rates with lower ad costs using Google´s Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)

How Hotels can gain higher conversion rates with lower ad costs using Google´s Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a great way for hotels & Resorts gain higher conversion online rates with lower ad costs,  It allows hoteliers to reach people in the search results page with a text ad based on since, in theory, someone who has been to your site and familiar with your hotel is more likely to convert, proving that this type of remarketing can be very effective as part of your overall online marketing strategy

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Remarketing can take advantage of what you already know has taken place on your website, therefore the ads you place are more relevant and can deliver higher conversion rates with a lower cost per conversion.  RLSA is available only once campaigns are updated to enhanced campaigns.  Keyword search is the primary source of relevancy with RLSA campaigns with targeted audiences helping to further refine who is reached with keyword targeting. Basically, the remarketing list helps to refines a set of keywords. Any remarketing list can be added to an ad group in a search campaign, bringing an audience dimension to campaigns because we can see how searchers respond based on how they are segmented into the remarketing lists. For example, we can determine where they are in the reservation cycle based on pages they have visited in past.

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To get started with RLSA, you must enable: Remarketing, either through the Google Analytics or Remarking code snippet. Enhanced campaigns. Google has noted, that this isn’t “not search retargeting or search remarketing” because it doesn’t provide access to or use information about users’ Google search histories, and can’t be used in connection with sensitive categories. It utilizes list already available for display to adjust what you see on search, not previous keyword searches.

From a campaign, click the “audiences” tab, then select “add a remarketing list”. You will be prompted to select an ad group to apply the list to. Once the ad group is selected, the available remarketing lists will appear. Finally, choose “target and bid” if you only want to use the remarketing list, or “bids only” if you want to use both keyword search and/or remarketing list to reach your prospective customers.

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Customization is key: To make the most of the RLSA campaigns, use bid adjustments for remarketing lists in adgroups.  For example, visitors who reached your booking engine may be a hotter lead for a conversion than one who only reached the homepage, thus supporting a higher CPC bid. Customize ads with relevant offers informed by users past decisions on the website. Best Practices For Strategy and Structure RLSA only works for the search network, so it’s preferable to separate remarketing for search and display. Also, set campaigns to search only network as a best practice. Understand when creating campaigns the primary relevance of the ad serving is due to keywords and searcher intent. We know there are different intents in search and display, so keep this in mind. If a search campaign is performing well, an advertiser may want to pump this up by adding a remarketing list. Create a copy or a new campaign before targeting remarketing lists for search. This allows different ads to be shown to people on the remarketing list, and bids can be adjusted for those keywords.

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There is no reach and frequency capping for RLSA. If ad fatigue is a possible issue, creating multiple ad creatives will be the way to go. Strategy around match types will change a bit for advertisers using RLSA. Because you can target people who have already been to your site, broad match keywords may have a higher conversion rate because the targeting is already narrowed down with the remarketing list. In addition, advertisers who can’t bid profitably on highly competitive keywords, would be able to do so on keywords + remarketing since they are likely to more relevant to the searcher. This may make it more affordable to bid profitably.

RLSA offers a great potential to get creative and target potential guests like never before. Consider a few ways this can be used: Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) campaign ideas: Use more general keywords in campaigns now that searchers will be more qualified, having been a previous visitor. Use product specific targeting, for example, increase bids for visitors who reached a product page while on then site when they later search for the same product on Google.  Target repeat visitors with a discount promo for the category or section they are viewing. Target a previous visitor who abandoned your booking engine and searches on a competitor’s term.  Use information besides searchers query, like location, day/time scheduling, and device to be super relevant to searchers and compel conversions. Increase visibility for more recent visits, for example, increase your bid by 20 percent for those who previously viewed the website in the last 7 days.

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A remarketing list for Google search ads must have at least 1,000 users on it before it can be used to start serving ads. This not only protects the privacy of those who make up your list, but also helps ensure that your ad will have a big enough audience to make some impact. In comparison, the display remarketing the list size must be minimum 100. At first, the number of list sizes between the two can be very different targeting by website behavior coupled with search behavior is a wake up call for AdWords advertisers to think more about multiple touch points with your guests and the varied ways they can be reached.

Want to find out more? Get in with touch with us info@hotelient.net and we will show your Hotel or Resort how to make the most our RLSA.

OTA’s need to rethink revenue streams thanks to Google eyeing up the distribution cake.

OTA’s need to rethink revenue streams thanks to Google eyeing up the distribution cake.

Google´s active entry into the travel market is a game changer for the hospitality industry.  Today, the majority of independent Hotels & Resorts still heavily rely on OTA´s like booking.com especially here in Europe. However, as we are beginning to see, even Booking.com now concentrating on other ways to source income with their recent launch of Booking Suite. sell-more-on-online-channels

So lets take a look at why we believe hotels and resorts should be concentrating on how to promote and sell themselves via Google.

1.Google is your guests first port of call Whether we like it or not, Google is the first stop to find anything they need online. If users are able to find the hotel information that they need in a quick, easy and familiar format through one site “Google”, they are less likely to need to go through a middle man.

2.Hotels Love/Hate relationship with OTA’s OTA’s have almost become like the modern equivalent of steroids for many hotels. They hate paying the huge percentage fees but can’t bring themselves away from relying on the bookings provided by such channels. Google advertising through maps could help hotels to lower their dependancy on OTA and other expensive XML channels.

3.Google Maps information is consistently improving Google have been rapidly improving the quality of  information available to the user from the Maps interface. Two of the most important features are available now, both location and of course best prices for selected dates. The hotel can now actively manage their maps profile and optimize this for conversion. In addition I can easily view user generated content, reviews pulled in from TripAdvisor, Local Metro stops, web articles / news about the hotel, videos, photos and even a 3D model of the hotel. In fact I can find pretty much anything I want from one easy and central place. We can only see the quality of this information improving with time and more so as the hotels take serious ownership of their maps listings as well as connectivity through Google HPA, which still at this present time very few channel manager providers offer this connection to Google.

4.Google Maps the standard choice for Mobile Phones With mobile web usage (and even mobile hotel transactions) forecast to increase immensely over the next few years, it’s hard not to notice that Google Maps tends to be the default location based search across multiple mobile platforms. It’s almost become the standard. Searching and booking a hotel would be easy using location based services and a simple and effective maps interface with pricing. Google can really capitalize on there share of the mobile market with Google maps. Why download multiple additional apps when all the info that you need is in one place? Google_Hotel_Finder_-_availability_search_on_Google_main_results_page

Of course, I’m not saying that the OTA’s like booking.com will disappear overnight, they likely won’t disappear at all, but they are already paying attention to Google’s advances in the marketplace.  Booking.com has reacted with its recent purchase of Buuteeq, that has been rebranded to Booking Suite (suite.booking.com), which demonstrates that even they believe that direct hotel bookings will become an even greater revenue stream for them over the next few years.  Hotels marketing departments should also be aware of the opportunities available to them, they can maximise benefits from the changes and also become more proactive about managing their Google Maps profiles.

Hotelient can help your hotel or resort connect to google. Email us at info@hotelient.net for more information.

Smart Hotels are becoming their own “OTA”s with more traffic than booking.com, without paying commissions

Smart Hotels are becoming their own “OTA”s with more traffic than booking.com, without paying commissions

Google Hotel Finder has been around for a number of years mainly as an experiment, but over the last few months Google has started displaying Google Hotel results aggressively in SERPs (search engine result pages) in mainland Europe, making it important that your hotel is listed.

Google Hotel Finder is designed to be a one-stop-shop for accommodation planning. It is designed to display relevant information from many hotels that fit your search criteria, and then give you reservation options. I’ll get into further details after I explain how to get your hotel listed.

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How to List Your Hotel with Hotel Finder

Similar to how Google scans other websites to find information to display, Google Hotel Finder gathers hotel information from a variety of places. Here is what you need to do to get listed.

Step One – Create a Google Local Page
I am sure most of you have one already, but just in case you do not, Google gets a hotel’s marketing content, including descriptions, photos, videos and more, from your property’s Google Local listing. Thus, before you get listed, you need to create a Google Local profile. It is very easy to do, and you can get a basic one set up in just a few minutes.

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Step Two – Connect Your Booking Engine or channel manager to Google HPA
Google populates Google Hotel Finder with up-to-date information about your hotel’s inventory availability by tapping into OTA´s, your booking engine or channel manager. If your current supplier cannot provide you with connectivity to Google, then their are others that can. Contact us to help you achieve this.  We advise that you engage with an expert agency to help manage your setup and google campaigns as it is important that you a maximizing your ROI in the right areas with the best campaigns.  You can though get members of your team trained with some of the many courses currently available to enable you to manage this in-house.  Bear in mind, that if you are not connected and a future guest is looking to reserve a room in the area where your hotel or resort is located, Google HPA will show pricing for your hotel via a OTA that sells you, so it will be a missed opportunity to sell directly and save on commission payments!

Step Three – Update Your Content and incentivize customer reviews
Now that you have your Google Local listing set up and you’re connected to Google, you need to keep your hotel’s information updated.  Google Hotel Finder will keep your listing’s availability and rates up-to-date automatically.  To edit your listing’s marketing content, such as hotel descriptions, photos, addresses and so on, log-in to your Google Local page and make any changes you wish. These changes will be reflected on Google Hotel Finder eventually. It is also important to increase the reviews you receive from guests on google as this will help with provide your Hotel or Resort with increased visibility that will help you stand out from the crowd!

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Why Should You Bother?
Over the last few months, Google incorporated Hotel Finder listings into standard search queries. Google ‘madrid hotels’ and you find a Hotel Finder search box at the top of the list. This is valuable real estate in the SERP Google could be using to place more AdWords ads. It is clear that guests are starting to adopt Hotel Finder, so by having a prominent listing with many guest reviews will be important to stand out among the crowd for local queries.

If you need help in getting your hotel or Resort connected to Google, get in touch with us info@hotelient.net and we will get you up and running.