|The Importance of Google Hotel Finder.|
By Max Starkov
Tuesday, 11th October 2011
The Google Hotel Finder: A game changing event, a 'Greed is Good' defining moment, or a natural move to serve better search results?
First of all, let’s make one thing clear: with the introduction of the Google Hotel Finder, Google is not entering the OTA space and is not becoming an online travel agency. All bookings originating from the Google Hotel Finder take place on the hotel website or OTA website.
The Google Hotel Finder is a logical extension to the Google’s Hotel Price Ads cost-per-click (CPC) advertising program, introduced in Q3 2010. This CPC lead-generation program initially started as a pilot with a number of big OTAs with the introduction of a pricing menu in the property Google Places page as well as in the Google Maps results pages.
Therefore, in my view, the introduction of Google Hotel Finder is not a “revolutionary” and “game-changing” event as some industry commentators claim. So what kind of an event is the Google Hotel Finder?
It is a “Greed is Good” moment: Google has figured out a smart 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.
It is also a natural progression of Google’s quest to provide the a) most relevant information, and b) the best user experience. When users are searching for hotels, they care about three important pieces of information in the result pages: hotel location (proximity to where the user is going to – Google has addressed this via the insertion of a Google Map in the results pages), price, and availability. The real-time availability widget and the pricing menus in Google Places,
Google Maps and Google Hotel Finder address the latter.
At the same time, the hotel pricing and availability content in Google Places and Google Maps is a natural progression in Google’s strategic objective to accumulate the deepest and most relevant depository of local content ever created on this planet. Google has already achieved that.
The Yellow Pages were supposed to do that and failed; CitySearch tried to do it and failed miserably. Why does Google need local content? First, over 30% of all searches are local in character. Second, local content equals mobile content.
Google is preparing for the dramatic entrance of the next digital medium that is already changing the way people access information and interact online – the mobile web.
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.
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?
The OTAs are also losers: Over the years the OTAs have become a type of meta search engines themselves. Expedia claims that 40% of their traffic researches hotels on Expedia but then visits and books on hotel branded websites. The OTAs will lose at least a portion of these “meta search” and “shopping around” users to Google Hotel Finder.
All meta search sites, including Kayak.com, are definite losers. Now Internet users have a similar meta search environment to find the hotel, its location, pricing and availability and transact with the hotel or an OTA.
What is the cost to participate in the Google Hotel Finder?
This is “pure” advertising; Google is not into charging OTA commissions. The Google Hotel Finder is a straightforward CPC (cost-per-click) lead generation program.
Every time a user clicks on a listing in the drop-down pricing menu in the property’s Google Place page, Google Maps or Google Hotel Finder, the advertiser whose listing in the pricing menu has been clicked on pays a cost-per-click fee of .2%
This article is Max Starkov’s latest contribution to the “Successful eMarketing” blog on HOTELS magazine’s website.
About the Author:
Max Starkov is President & CEO of HeBS Digital (Hospitality eBusiness Strategies), the hospitality industry’s leading direct online channel strategy, full-service digital marketing and website design firm www.HeBSdigital.com