Here is everything independent properties, innkeepers & hoteliers need to know about Google Hotel Ads, including how Google Hotel Ads work, what the benefits are, and how to get started.
What Are Google Hotel Ads?
Google Hotel Ads is an advertising service that displays your nightly rates compared to OTA rates on Google’s Hotel Finder results and in your property’s Google Business Listing. When a guest searches something like ‘Port Angeles B&B’ they are met with Google’s hotel finder results where they can search for accommodations. A user can input their vacation dates and price range, and select amenities, and the results will show properties that meet all the criteria.
The user can click on whichever property they like and will be directed to their business page listing with reviews, photos, contact information, and Google Hotel Ads. With Google Hotel Ads, your property has an “official site” direct booking option right in Google with rates & availability directly from your booking engine. These ads compete directly with any OTA partners who are also displaying rates & availability for your property.
The Google Hotel Ads also display when a potential guest completes a Google search query for a specific property. A condensed version of the Google Business Profile appears on the right-hand side of the screen with a check availability function that the user can input their dates. The Google Hotel Ads pull real-time rates and availability and if your property has rooms that night, the ad will display.
What is the Difference Between Google Hotel Ads and Google Keyword Ads?
Each of these programs offers different benefits and features and accomplishes different goals.
Google Ads are ‘keyword ads’. This program used to be called Google AdWords is where you bid on a keyword, create an advertisement with ad copy and people click on it to go to your website. The ads appear for whatever keyword you may be bidding on and you pay when someone clicks to view your website. These PPC ads display at the top of the search results and are distinguished by a green marker labeled ‘Ad’. These ads require writing ad copy that matches the keyword search etc. They are not tied to your property’s availability at all.
Google Hotel Ads display in a property’s Google My Business profile and appear in Google hotel finder results. . When a user clicks on a Google Hotel Ad, they are transported directly into the property’s booking engine to complete the booking. These ads are tied directly to the property’s availability and display rates in the results. If a property does not have availability on a user’s desired dates, the hotel ads do not display.
What are the Benefits of Google Hotel Ads
There’s obviously a direct booking benefit to Google Hotel Ads, but that isn’t the complete picture.
- Increased direct traffic & revenue. The most obvious benefit of Google Hotel Ads is that you can compete directly with OTAs in Google search results to win more direct bookings. Instead of paying the industry average of 18% per booking to the OTA, you can put that added revenue straight into your pocket. If a property isn’t using OTAs, Google Hotel Ads offers an opportunity to get property rates & availability into Google, which may help with the visibility of your property in Google hotel search results.
- Own the guest experience from booking through the stay. When a guest completes a reservation through your booking engine instead of an OTA provider, you’re in control of the guest experience. Starting with the confirmation email, you are in charge of the guest experience and customer service. Any special requests, partner names, or important details are owned by you which helps you make their experience that much more memorable.
- Opportunity for upsells via your booking engine and transactional emails. One of the best advantages of having guests book directly is providing the option to add packages or specials into the cart. When booking through an OTA, your guest won’t necessarily know about your romance package or the great tour you offer exclusively to your guests. These upsells improve the guest experience and add additional revenue to your pocket. If you want to learn more about upselling packages read our blog post Make Extra Money By Selling Experience Packages.
- Own your guest data and relationship. When guests book through OTAs you don’t get access to their email and ultimately lose touch with your guests. When guests book with you, you have their email addresses and can opt them in to receive your email newsletter. You can then use these newsletters to market your property and destination and ultimately encourage repeat guests. To optimize your email newsletter marketing strategy, read our blog post Why Email Marketing is a Gold Mine.
How Does Google Hotel Ads Work? How Does Google Know My Property’s Rates & Availability?
One of the best features of Google Hotel Ads is that it displays real-time rates and availability for your property right in Google hotel search results. This means on dates when you are fully booked, your ad will not show and you won’t be charged for clicks.
How to Get Started With Google Hotel Ads
Alright, you’re sold. All you need is the sign-up sheet… but where can you get this service, and how do you know it is going to work for your property? Some larger booking engines offer it, but the commission/pricing model may not be the best fit for you. For most small or independent properties, you’ll need to work with a Google Hotel Ads integration partner that sets up a feed between your booking engine and Google Hotel Ads.
Working directly with an integration partner is prohibitively expensive for small independent properties, usually requiring thousands of dollars in setup fees, etc. Another drawback for most small independent properties is that you’ll have to set up a Google Hotel Ads account and then manage the bidding and budget on your ads.
Another option is to work with an agency that can offer an affordable, hassle-free way to connect any booking engine to google and manage the integration partner relationship and take care of the bidding and budget management and provides reporting, etc.
Each of these options will have a different fee structure and service level. For most small properties, working with an agency is your only option if your booking engine doesn’t provide an integration. Even then, you will want to consider the fee structure, management, service and reporting capabilities.
Google Hotel Ads Management, Bidding, Fees and Reporting
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as signing up and letting the software do the heavy lifting. In order to optimize your Google Hotel Ads, you need to manage your bidding strategies. If your ads are left alone, they may rank at the bottom of the list and would ultimately be missed by your guests and decrease their effectiveness.
Google Hotel Ads can be managed using a variety of bidding strategies, from a commission-based strategy where you pay based on the booked stay (sound familiar? like an OTA?) to a managed “cost per click” strategy where the spending is more under your control and can be based on a fixed amount per room night, or a percent of your room price. The right strategy for your property is dependent on a few factors and the capability of your partners.
At Odysys, we’ve found that we get the best, most cost-effective results for our customers using a CPC strategy where we have more control over the results. As a hotelier, the bidding strategy should be the furthest thing from your mind as it is secondary to the results. If you are working with a partner or agency to manage your Google Hotel Ads campaign, they should provide reporting and be able to determine the ROI/ROAS of your campaigns and offer a plan for improvement where needed.
How to Ensure Success and Improve Performance of Google Hotel Ads
- Optimize Your Google Business Listing: Google Hotel Ads performance is tied directly to your property’s Google Business Listing, and having a complete listing will help users interact with your profile and entice Google to rank you higher in the results. As to how to do this?
- Get more 5-Star reviews and reply to your guests’ reviews by thanking them for their stay. Watch our comprehensive webinar Everything Innkeepers Need to Know About Reviews to learn our insider tips and secrets to getting the most out of your reviews.
- Keep your info up to date and post your best photos. Why not update them up seasonally? If a large blanket of snow covers your inn, then snap a photo and share your cozy getaway photo to your profile. Download our free guide Photography for Innkeepers to take better shots and frame your property right.
- Set up a Q&A section and optimize it for success. Last year Google rolled out the newest Q&A feature on Google Business profiles where users can directly ask questions to the business about amenities, accessibility, check-in time, parking, and every other topic imaginable! You can ask yourself questions and answer them too. To get the scoop on Google’s Q&A section, read our blog post What B&Bs and Hotels Need to Know About Google’s Q&A Feature.
- Incorporate new features and updates as they come out. Google My Business frequently releases updates and new features. Keeping up with these updates will help optimize your listing and direct guests to your property. We follow these updates very closely and post the key highlights for innkeepers on our blog. You can read the latest update on Reviews, Short Names, and Social Posts to optimize your listing.
- It’s also worth pointing out that your booking engine has a tremendous impact on the performance of your Google Hotel Ads. In the Odysys Google Hotel Ad Study, we found that the primary factor in conversion rates and ROI after the click was the booking engine experience. Some providers convert much better than others. Of course, other variables may include how many upsells and packages and other odds & ends stand between your guest and completing their booking. While changing booking engines may not be in the cards, you can always make sure your booking engine experience is as good as it can be by featuring great photography, ensuring your room descriptions are up to date and easy to skim (hint: bullets/lists), that you include action-driven language in your room descriptions like “best rate guaranteed when you book direct”, etc.