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How hotels can market to foodies through their websites and social media

Travel Tripper Blog·19 September 2018
Marketing to foodies is a big business for hotels. According to The World Food Travel Association, 93% of travelers say that food and drink are a primary motivator for their trips. Hotel guests are also spending more on food and beverage (F&B) each year. Recent figures reveal that F&B spending has seen 5.5 percent annual growth since 2011.

Insider Perspectives: Nate Lane, Senior Director of Digital Platforms at Travel Tripper

Travel Tripper Blog·17 September 2018
One of the best things about the travel industry is that it’s full of smart and creative people from diverse backgrounds. These are folks that followed their passion into the industry, but also cultivate interesting hobbies or side projects outside of their jobs.

Beat the OTAs: use your hotel website to tell a unique brand story

Travel Tripper Blog·14 September 2018
Competing with OTAs for direct bookings continues to represent an uphill challenge for hotels. The likes of Expedia and Booking.com have become masters at conversion, investing millions to whisk shoppers from browsing to booking in the minimum amount of steps.

Directly Speaking with Travel Tripper, Ep 5 -- Why "Hotel Websites" is an Outdated Concept

Travel Tripper Blog· 4 September 2018
Hoteliers often spend thousands of dollars building beautiful and stunning websites in the hope to attract more visitors and drive more bookings. However, these hotel websites often turn out to be digital brochures that are so disconnected from the hotel’s booking engine that they cause inconveniences for hotel revenue managers and marketers and fail to deliver satisfying results.

Are Travelers Falling out of Love With Airbnb?

Travel Tripper/Pegasus ·27 August 2018
The promise came to fruition. Today, an innovative breed of startups are giving consumers more choice, control, and convenience than ever before -- nowhere more so, than in the travel industry.Yet there are signs that sharing economy accommodations are losing appeal. Since launching a decade ago, Airbnb has become the undisputed poster child of an alternative form of travel. Its rise to fortune has been nothing short of breathtaking, with a valuation of $31 billion in May 2017.However, the world's second largest startup (after Uber) is not having things all its own way. There are signs that the sharing economy bubble might have burst, and that Airbnb's growth is stuttering amid a shift in travel preferences.While far from a crisis, Airbnb's unrelenting success appears to be slowing, giving hotels a chance to win back some valuable ground.A series of unfortunate eventsAirbnb has suffered a series of setbacks in recent times, leading commentators to speculate on whether the company needs to go back to basics. Most recently, its New York bookings risk getting slashed by half as the New York City Council voted for the company to hand over the names and addresses of its hosts in the city in order to crack down on illegal short-term rentals.Things are more turbulent in Europe where the EU has issued Airbnb an ultimatum over a lack of price transparency. Separately, city officials across Europe are clamping down to keep Airbnb's rental prices in check and restrict short-term stays. In Japan, almost 80% of Airbnb's listings have been removed as a result of the country's new home share (or minpaku) law.In addition to the regulatory issues, Airbnb frequently seems to be in the headlines with stories of misbehaving guests and lawsuits. Just recently, Paris forced the home-sharing giant to take down tens of thousands of listings that didn't comply with local laws. Frustrated local residents in various cities have also been vocal about rising rental costs and mobs of tourists due to Airbnb's presence.With citywide crackdowns, regulation battles, and lots of PR plate spinning, this industry heavyweight has been left slightly bloodied and bruised. Arguably, it might be just a case of riding the waves. Yet beyond the headlines and disputes, there are signs of something a little more troubling.Growth seems to be slowingRelatively speaking, Airbnb continues to see impressive growth. But a new report by Morgan Stanley (as covered by Skift), reveals how overall adoption is slowing.In a survey of over 4,000 adults, the amount of travelers using the platform during the 12 months up to October 2017 rose by 25%, which is an increase of 330 basis points. By contrast, last year's survey saw an increase of 800 basis points.Morgan Stanley found that brand awareness of Airbnb has never been so high. Yet that hasn't translated into more beds being filled. So what might be going on?Morgan Stanley's analysts feel that the company might simply be too big, or that it's just become so mainstream that the same level of growth is too hard. Some cite the fact that more travelers are concerned over privacy and security. But is there something else at play?Reevaluating the hotel propositionThe story of decline might be less about Airbnb, per se, and more about a reevaluation of the benefits hotels offer. Historically, the hospitality industry has sold itself on a form of uniformity that guarantees reliability in both service and experience.Airbnb arrived on the scene as a fresh and exciting alternative to this format-- a rebuff to chain hotels and stuffy corporate values. The company's focus on localness and experience-based travel led it to great success, especially among younger generations seeking a deeper connection to the destinations they visited.Yet according to two recent surveys, overall interest seems to be waning. In MMGY Global's recent Portrait of American Travelers (POAT) survey, 33% of respondents said that they are interested in using shared economy accommodations this year, compared with 41% last year.There's also an indication that travelers are warming once more to the hotel proposition -- even Millennials, Airbnb's largest audience. In a report by Allianz Global Assistance, 33% of this demographic said they believed traditional services provide the best overall experience, which is up from 22% in 2017. A significant 38% of Millennials also said traditional services provide better customer support when things go wrong.In a written statement, Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance noted, "This is the first time we've seen intent to use sharing economy services decline, particularly among Millennials, which is surprising as they led its early adoption."So why the change in attitudes? It may well all be the consequence of a maturing demographic whose life circumstances are dictating new priorities. As many become parents or seek greater comforts, the traditional services and amenities that a hotel provides has undoubted benefits.Is the love affair really over?Slowdown in brand adoption is, of course, inevitable. Growth cannot be exponential, and the world's biggest companies all face tough times. Competitors up their games. Consumer preferences change. The love of a brand begins to wane. This is the nature of the marketplace.So what we might be seeing with Airbnb is an inevitable consequence of consumer behavior, magnified by its own impossibly fast success. Yet it's important to remember that the company is hardly floundering. The love affair might be on the rocks, but it certainly isn't over.Airbnb is enjoying substantial growth in competitive markets. According to its own data, a 90-day cap on its London listings hasn't stopped the company reaching close to 20,000 rentals a week in the UK capital; that's up from 1,000 listings as of just 2013.In addition, it's worth pointing out that Airbnb might be worth more than any other hotel company, rivaling that of the world's largest OTAs.As we discussed in a recent post, a raft of improvements including major product changes may also help it win new audiences and reignite interest among its loyal base of customers.Good news for hotels?On the whole, it might be argued that a decrease in growth and stay intent is good for hotels. But there are some who don't see Airbnb as a direct competitor. More than that, they feel it could be an ally.Recently, Airbnb began welcoming boutique hotels onto its platform -- (something that HomeAway has also started doing), charging commission fees between just 3-5%. This could prove a profitable alternative for hotels compared with distributing through OTAS, where commission fees range between 15-30%. If enough hotels make the move, this could force OTAs to bring down their commission fees to remain competitive.In the end, Airbnb may actually become a bigger rival to OTAs as it expands its platform towards becoming an end-to-end travel company.Where are things heading next?Airbnb has enjoyed incredible success since launching a decade ago. It has become synonymous with a more authentic, local style of travel, while promoting the idea of new experiences over reliable comforts. Loyal customers have bought into its ethos and the rest is history.But a new chapter may be about to be written -- one where the untouchable industry giant sees expansion slow as travelers revert back to traditional hospitality offerings.Airbnb most certainly has the resources to pivot, but hotels will always be able to offer their own unique mix of appealing qualities, including luxury on-site amenities, and around-the-clock service. Given the changing sentiments among travelers, now's the time for hotels to capitalize on their value proposition.

Consumers want Amazon to be a travel booking site - what can hotels learn?

Travel Tripper/Pegasus ·27 August 2018
Amazon dominates the world of e-commerce. Could it do the same in online travel bookings? Consumers would happily use the platform to book their travel plans if given the chance, according to a recent survey by flight travel intelligence company OAG.OAG surveyed 2,164 U.S. travelers to find out which platforms and methods they would be comfortable booking travel through. Amazon was the clear winner, with 44% of respondents saying they would consider using the e-commerce giant to book travel if it offered the service.This result is particularly impressive considering that the second most favored option was Facebook, which only received 14% of the vote. Pinterest (2%), Twitter (3%), and Instagram (4%) all lagged way behind, gaining minimal interest.Why was Amazon considered so much more appealing as a travel booking platform? In the following post, we'll address that point while analyzing some of the specific lessons hotels can learn from Amazon's way of doing business.The mass appeal of AmazonWhile social platforms are heavily used for trip planning and inspiration, the OAG survey indicates that travelers are far less keen to use them as booking platforms. Arguably, concerns over data security are an issue. In light of Facebook's data-harvesting scandal, it's fair to assume that consumers would have concerns about handing over their credit card details.In contrast, millions of consumers see Amazon as a place to buy with confidence. In fact, a new survey by NPR/Marist found a huge 67% of US online shoppers had "quite a lot" or "a great deal" of trust in Amazon to protect their privacy and personal information. This figure was significantly higher compared with the level of trust towards online retailers in general.Alongside its rock-steady credibility, Amazon makes shopping easy and gives customers unrivaled levels of choice and convenience. These qualities readily translate to the travel booking sphere, so perhaps it's no coincidence that Amazon was seen as an appealing alternate provider in this space.All of this leads to an important question: what specific strategies underpin Amazon's success, and what can hotels learn from its customer service and core e-commerce principles?1. Personalized shoppingAmazon has mastered the ability to anticipate customer needs and personalize the shopping experience. The company's recommendation system now runs on a totally new machine-learning infrastructure that allows it to learn the unique preferences of each customer with even greater precision.Based on customer data such as previous browsing history and spending habits, Amazon integrates tailored content into virtually every aspect of its purchase process. Recommendations are neatly bundled into lists, including "Inspired by your browsing history", "Related to items you viewed", and "Frequently bought together".These bundled suggestions encourage additional purchases, serving as an easy-to-digest shopping list among Amazon's vast product range. This helps to simplify and speed up the shopping process, ultimately leading to more conversions.Takeaway for hotels:Most hotels feature the same content on their website to all of their visitors. This means that every potential guest gets an identical experience, regardless of their unique needs and preferences. Yet without the need for huge investment, hotels can personalize their own websites to offer a tailored user experience.Website personalization technology allows hotels to intelligently customize their website messaging based on criteria such as a user's previous online interactions, buying intent, and stage in the booking journey. With context-aware integrations, visitors are more likely to convert because the online experience is no longer rigid but designed around them.Just like Amazon, hotels can also smooth the path to purchase by minimizing choice to make the decision-making process easier. For instance, rather than showing all available rooms, rates and added extras in one page, these options can be staggered across separate pages on the hotel website to prevent customers feeling overwhelmed.2. Buying made simpleAmazon make shopping fast and frictionless. Consumers can easily find the products they love, and buy them with minimal fuss. This is underpinned by the company's friction-killing tactics that are designed to reduce cognitive overload and increase conversion rates.These tactics include removing avoidable steps between browsing and buying, pre-selecting options to help consumers with choices, and allowing customers to carry on where they left off during a previous session.Amazon's 1-click purchase system also helps to reduce the odds of shopping cart abandonment by allowing customers to buy with just one click. This instant purchasing removes the hassle of entering billing details, thus eliminating another potential barrier in the buying process.Takeaway for hotels:Hotels need to make the checkout process fast and simple. Think about things from the perspective of your guest: if they're used to 1-click purchasing from companies such as Amazon, they'll likely balk at having to fill out long-winded booking forms. Keep the amount of information you ask for to a minimum.In addition, try to reduce the amount of pages and clicks needed to go from browsing to booking. Unnecessary extra steps represent an invitation to abandon a purchase. It's also worth setting the most popular room/rate options as the default to simplify the booking process.3. Exceptional customer serviceAmazon prides itself on offering exceptional customer service. In fact, it's embedded in the company culture--not just as a method to solve problems, but to anticipate customer needs and evolve its range of services.In a 2016 letter to Amazon shareholders, the company's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos talked about having a "customer-obsessed culture" and that happy customers are "always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied".This desire to constantly improve the customer experience is integral to the way Amazon innovates, leading to new services such as Amazon Prime, their unlimited One-Day Delivery option, Amazon Fresh, and the Dash ordering button--all of which ensure that customers get the products they want with convenience and speed.Amazon's customer service team also has a track record of going beyond the call of duty to surprise and delight. In an interview last year, Amazon's former long-time executive Jeff Holden explained how one Christmas, a customer traveling to Russia contacted Amazon's customer service team "worried sick" her presents weren't going to arrive there on time.As Holden recalls, "We spent probably $500 or $600 to overnight her $1,000 worth of gifts, and she was so completely blown away that she couldn't stop saying,'Oh my god, you saved my Christmas!'"Takeaway for hotels:Great customer service doesn't require endless financial resources. One of the most important things hotels can focus on is having better communication with guests. Contact guests with pre-arrival emails or questionnaires to find out the reason for their stay, and discover if they have any specific requirements.Simple things such as remembering a guest by name, periodically checking they're happy during their stay, and responding to complaints with an effective service recovery policy can all help your hotel maintain brand credibility, build rapport and earn their repeat business.4. Social proof is crucialSocial proof is baked into the Amazon shopping experience. Every product is accompanied by prominent customer reviews and star ratings so consumers are given the confidence to buy without needing to validate their decision elsewhere online.Amazon also uses the highly effective "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" call to action to incentivize additional purchases. This messaging is based on something called market basket analysis (MBA), which analyzes relationships between the combinations of products people buy in a transaction.This serves to prompt additional purchases based on the actions of like-minded others--yet another great conversion-driving tactic.Takeaway for hotels:Amazon's relentless focus on social proof is one that all hotels can adopt. And there are no end of ways to use social proof on your hotel website.Feature guest reviews throughout your website to add booking confidence. Include testimonials, review site widgets, and star ratings to add additional validation from past guests. If your hotel is working with influencers, you could also feature their content on your hotel website to raise your profile as visitors move closer to a booking decision.5. Endless testingTest, test, and test again. Amazon carries out thousands of usability experiments on its website each year through its "Weblab" experimentation system. Even though it has an incredibly refined user experience, the company understands that standing still is not an option.This dedication has led Amazon to make some invaluable changes. For instance, it increased its annual profits by tens of millions of dollars after moving credit card offers from its home page to its shopping cart page. The Amazon mindset is that there is always room to refine and improve, and it's this granular approach that helps it stay ahead in a hyper-competitive online shopping space.Takeaway for hotels:While you might not have the resources to test every element of your hotel's website, you can make major improvements by focusing on the elements likely to drive the most conversions.Start by checking out your Google Analytics reports (particularly the User Flow analysis) to see which pages have the highest bounce rates. Next, run A/B tests on different variations of a given page to see which changes lead to improvements. This might involve simplifying the design by adding a progress bar, testing different images, or adding a more prominent call-to-action button.The point is to keep making incremental changes until you've found the conversion sweet spot.Amazon as a travel player?Amazon has been here before. Back in 2015, it launched, and then swiftly shut down, its travel booking site, Amazon Destinations! It also decided to stop selling hotel rooms through the now defunct Amazon Local. While there are no obvious signs it wants to reignite its interest in travel bookings, it would be foolish to imagine it might not try again.Amazon's popularity in the OAG survey is perhaps most useful as a guide to other travel brands -- a hint at the kind of experience consumers want when they book trips and accommodation. By working with the right technology partner, your hotel can use the latest techniques and tools to create a website based on some of Amazon's key principles, helping you to inspire your guests, anticipate their needs, and provide a great online experience that makes it easy for them to browse and buy.

Consumers want Amazon to be a travel booking site - what can hotels learn?

Travel Tripper Blog·21 August 2018
Amazon dominates the world of e-commerce. Could it do the same in online travel bookings? Consumers would happily use the platform to book their travel plans if given the chance, according to a recent survey by flight travel intelligence company OAG.

How Google's latest experiments with metasearch could impact hotels

Travel Tripper Blog·15 August 2018
Just a few weeks ago, Google began testing a new hotel pricing and availability graph. This new feature shows average pricing for hotels when users carry out a branded hotel search on Google via desktop.

Latest trends in the fast changing world of revenue management

Travel Tripper Blog·14 August 2018
In June, Travel Tripper, IDeaS, and OTA Insight joined forces to host roundtable discussions on current trends in the fast changing world of revenue management.

5 creative multimedia marketing campaigns to inspire your hotel (2018 edition)

Travel Tripper Blog·14 August 2018
Hotel marketers have to work hard for attention these days. Travelers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages from independent properties to global chains, and the industry is overflowed with competition and noise.
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Travel Tripper launches Real-Time Ads for hotels, an industry-first marketing solution

Travel Tripper/Pegasus · 7 August 2018
NEW YORK -- Travel Tripper, the industry's most innovative provider of hotel reservation and e-commerce solutions, today announced the official launch of Real-Time Ads for the hospitality industry. This award-winning digital marketing solution helps hotels to boost conversion rates and increase return on ad spend (ROAS) by dynamically updating hotel's Google search ads with real-time booking engine data, such as rates, availability, and number of recent bookings.Travel Tripper's Real-Time Ads solves a problem that plagues many hotels: spending a significant amount of the digital marketing budget to drive traffic to the hotel website, but not seeing strong conversions to bookings. In many cases, travelers from hotel search ads will click over to the website to check rates or availability, but then abandon the booking if the price is too high or a specific room or deal is no longer available. In essence, hotels pay for ad clicks for a large percentage of people who were never going to book in the first place.With Real-Time Ads, hotels can now populate their Google search ads with dynamic variables from the CRS and booking engine, such as the nightly room rate, number of rooms available, and occupancy rate. As a result, hotels can dynamically populate search ads in real time with info that helps to pre-qualify website visitors and identify those most likely to book, ultimately increasing conversion rates and driving down customer acquisition costs."Real-Time Ads represent a major departure from traditional search ads and a huge step forward in hotel digital marketing," says Ben Hanley, Director of Digital Marketing at Travel Tripper. "The majority of hotel websites can only display rates and availability in the booking engine, or at best, somewhere on the hotel website. In contrast, Real-Time Ads allows hotels to advertise their up-to-date rates within the search engine, which helps them to better connect with potential guests earlier in the booking funnel."Since its initial beta launch, Travel Tripper's Real-Time Ads have delivered outstanding results for notable properties such as ROW NYC and The Quin in New York City. In a recently published case study by Google, ROW NYC reported a 68% increase in conversion rate and 28:1 return on ad spend when comparing real-time ads to static ads.Travel Tripper's real-time ads campaign with ROW NYC has also earned multiple digital marketing awards and nominations, including the Adrian Awards, W3 Awards, and Search Engine Land Awards.All hotels working with Travel Tripper will now be able to integrate Real-Time Ads into their search marketing campaigns. Complete with RezTrip CRS and TT Web hotel websites, Real-Time Ads will transform the way hotels drive direct bookings. For more information or to request a demo, visit traveltripper.com.
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How to do a health check on your hotel website using the server log file

Travel Tripper Blog· 6 August 2018
Ensuring that your hotel website has a good technical SEO setup is crucial for the success of your SEO strategy. Otherwise you may jeopardize your site's search ranking if the backend isn't set up properly. Conducting a server log file analysis can help ensure that your site is indexable-meaning that search engines can correctly detect the content on your site-and it also allows you to detect other potential issues.
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Are travelers falling out of love with Airbnb?

Travel Tripper Blog· 1 August 2018
The sharing economy came with the promise of revolutionizing the way we purchase goods and services, creating a frictionless world where buyers are connected to sellers, thereby cutting out the middleman and bringing down costs to consumers.
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How hotels can attract Chinese travelers

Travel Tripper Blog·30 July 2018
The boom in overseas Chinese travel continues. According to the latest figures, Chinese travelers made 145 million overseas trips in 2017. This is expected to rise to 400 million by 2030. If that level of growth isn't striking enough, a mere 7% of Chinese citizens own a passport. Clearly, there are enormous opportunities for travel brands to tap into this ever-expanding market.
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The State of Travel Personalization in 2018

Travel Tripper Blog·20 July 2018
Personalization has frequently been described in travel as the new loyalty. When a hotel tailors its service to individual needs and preferences, guests receive an enhanced experience and are more likely to rebook. But there remains a gap between the level of personalization consumers want, and what they're actually receiving.
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[INFOGRAPHIC] How the Digital Travel Industry Took Off

Travel Tripper Blog·18 July 2018
The travel industry has come a long way since the invention of the first automated booking system in 1946. Do you know which major events and milestones changed the game and propelled the industry to move forward?
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Are hotel reward and benefit platforms worth investing in?

Travel Tripper Blog·12 July 2018
The sheer scale of the hotel industry means that hotels are in a constant battle for attention. In this increasingly competitive online booking space, they’re often forced to drive down room rates to incentivize bookings.
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Directly Speaking with Travel Tripper, Ep 4 - Google Metasearch

Travel Tripper Blog· 6 July 2018
As hotel marketers, you may know metasearch from sites like Kayak and Trivago, but one of the biggest metasearch engines in the world is actually Google. In our latest vlog, we take you on a quick primer about Google metasearch (not to be confused with 'meat search'!), how hotels can advertise on it, and why it's an important part of your digital marketing strategy.
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The Top 10 Hotels on Instagram, 2018 Edition

Travel Tripper Blog·29 June 2018
Instagram’s huge influence on consumer decision-making continues to grow. With 800 million monthly active users, it’s become an undeniably powerful platform for marketers, especially with the recent addition of its all new booking feature. As well as building awareness and inspiring travelers, independent hotels and global chains can now use the platform to drive direct bookings. We have updated our list of top 10 hotels on Instagram to highlight some of the most popular and creative accounts on the platform today. The following hotels are all going the extra mile to get the most marketing power out of this hugely influential social platform.
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Key takeaways for hotels from the Paid Search Benchmark 2018 report

Travel Tripper Blog·27 June 2018
The world of paid search marketing remains hugely competitive for hotels, but understanding the latest industry trends and consumer behavior can make a big difference to how search campaigns perform.
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Innovative ways travel brands are using virtual reality

Travel Tripper Blog·22 June 2018
Over the past couple of years, virtual reality has received a serious amount of hype in the travel sector. Yet initial early excitement has faded somewhat and there’s a sense that nobody is entirely sure whether VR really does have long-term staying power.
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Communication techniques to enhance the guest experience

Travel Tripper Blog·19 June 2018
Hotels are frequently told how the latest tech tool will improve the guest experience. A lot of these gadgets have real value, but arguably, the easiest and cheapest way to enhance the experience is to have better communication with your guests.
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Directly Speaking with Travel Tripper, Ep 3 - Real Time Ads

Travel Tripper Blog·12 June 2018
Learn about the newest digital marketing innovation created by yours truly: Real Time Ads. What is it and how has it helped hotels achieve a 68% boost in conversion rates on their search marketing ads? Why does Google think we’re awesome (and wrote a case study on RTA)? Are the best ideas born over warm beer? All this and more on the latest episode of “Directly Speaking with Travel Tripper.”
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How can hotels capitalize on Instagram's new booking feature?

Travel Tripper Blog·12 June 2018
Last month, Instagram announced new action buttons that will allow users to book a hotel room directly within the app. Users can now ‘Book’, ‘Reserve’, ‘Get Tickets’, or ‘Start Order’.

How does TripAdvisor rank hotels?

Travel Tripper Blog· 6 June 2018
Online guest reviews have become worth their weight in gold to hotels. Today, a huge 95% of people read a travel review before they book a trip, which means building a strong online reputation plays a fundamental part in attracting guests and driving bookings.
Article by Matt Tutt

The State of SEO in 2018: What Hotels Need to Know

Travel Tripper/Pegasus ·21 May 2018
This post highlights the state of organic search for 2018, looking at some of the impacts of the biggest recent changes by Google, both algorithmic and feature specific. We'll also try to estimate what's in store for hotel SEO throughout the rest of the year and beyond.The current organic search environment for hotelsIt's probably easiest to summarize the state of organic search for hotels in one short GIF. See this screen recording below of a typical hotel search made from a mobile device, and note the amount of scrolling required to reach the first organic result (and this is with just one PPC search ad visible!).Note how many swipes are needed to bypass the Google sponsored ads from a mobile device. On top of this, adverts have become far less obvious within search results, both for desktop and mobile users.Contrast this to a typical search results page from just a few years ago:Ads were previously highlighted yellow and demarcated from the organic results. The design meant that users could easily ignore the ads, but nowadays we're not so sure if people can distinguish the ads from organic results.This brings us on to Google's Hotel Ads--how many people would realize these are also a paid-for feature? These work in a similar fashion to the Google AdWords product whereby hotels and OTAs are bidding against each other for visibility to show their date-specific rates.Out of all industries, hotels in particular (and some travel companies) do have a bit of a rough ride. Search advertising competition is extremely fierce, and organic search results from hotels for non-branded searches are minimal. For generic hotel searches (e.g. "London hotels"), the organic search results on the first page are nearly all owned by the likes of Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Trivago, and Hotels.com.It seems that Google is forcing hotels to invest in sponsored ads of some kind if they want to have any kind of visibility in their search results, especially on mobile devices.The importance of Google Business listingsNowadays we're seeing many cases of the hotel's Google Business listing providing over 50% of the organic traffic to their website. This has been a huge shift in recent years.We've been tracking visits from our hotel's Google listings for a while now, and the trend to us is clear: more and more mobile users click the website button before proceeding to book their hotel stay.It's vital that you've taken ownership of your business listing on Google, Bing and all other search engines and that you're segmenting this channel as part of your organic search strategy.Google Business Listing management is therefore a vital part of your hotel's search marketing activities. We've seen several cases where third parties try to hijack these listings, switching out the hotel URL for their own (via an affiliate link for Booking.com, or linking to some other OTA), or even switching the phone number. Be very mindful of competitors (or unhappy guests) looking to sabotage your efforts by tactically "suggesting" updates to Google. If you're not careful you may accidentally approve these incorrect edit requests.Major Google Search updates during the past few yearsThere have been big Google search changes during the past few years, affecting both the paid search and organic search results for hotels. Here we're going to go through these and list a few of those particularly major updates. We've included those that relate to paid search (PPC) because PPC and SEO are so closely intertwined.Personalized and localized search resultsPersonalised search results within Google began over 10 years ago around March 2004, rolling out in November 2005 to users with Google accounts. This "personalisation of search" was based on your previous search history, your own interests, your location, social network info, and many more factors.When it comes to hotels and travel, one obvious way you might notice it is by searching for and clicking on a particular search result. Say you search for "hotels in downtown Miami" and you clicked on the eighth result, a listing for YVE Hotel Miami. If you repeat this search/visit a few times, you may find that the ranking for the YVE hotel increases. This is simply because Google believes it's a more relevant result for your query, because you've visited that site several times before.It's of course a bit more complex than that, but the overall impact is clear: Google was trying to provide a more personalized search experience to the user. The more impactful change here was the localization of results, which is now extremely pertinent considering the rise of mobile search.Google now serves results based on your own location. Search for "restaurants" in Google and you'll likely see a list of nearby restaurants based precisely on where you're searching from (unless you've disabled your location access in your browser or on your phone). Again, this is Google trying to understand the exact search intent and to provide a more useful search result.The above changes on Google have made it much more difficult to track the organic keyword rankings for your own website. While it's still possible (and we do still do this as part of our own Travel Tripper SEO services), we now need to do so from a specific location, normally a city where a hotel's largest market exists (such as from New York for hotels in America).Organic search rankings for specific keywords are now be a very difficult metric to measure, and so we'd instead recommend that hotels start focusing on ranking for topics instead. Don't focus all your SEO efforts for "hotel in New York" searches, but instead look at tailoring your strategy around your hotel's own unique selling points.Perhaps your hotel is located a few minutes from a popular attraction, or maybe it's one of a few pet-friendly hotels in your town. Optimizing for topics (distance from attractions, specific amenities, groups catered for) will likely bring an improved search ranking while also allowing you to more easily convert the visitor from browser into booker--note how difficult it'll be to convert a "hotels in New York" type search, vs a "pet friendly hotel near Big Ben" search.Knowledge GraphThe Knowledge Graph was introduced by Google in 2012, initially just in the English-speaking markets, before being rolled out in various other languages. This is the "sidebar column" you notice on the right side when searching within Google on a desktop device, or at the top of mobile searches.The aim of the Knowledge Graph was clear: provide users with information quickly, without having to enter other websites within Google's search results. This information is obtained from the crawling and scraping millions of websites across the internet.When you search for a hotel by its brand name and location, you'll often see the Knowledge Graph picking up the hotel's official name, logo, photos, address, reviews, amenities, and lots more. Some of this is taken from the Google business listing, while some of it is obtained from other sources across the web. It's always a good idea for hoteliers to read this info and check it for accuracy.Featured SnippetsFeatured Snippets in Search is the highlighted section at the top of all search results, where Google will again try to return info that helps to answer a user's search query. This information is again found during the crawling of a website, with those that seem to meet a particular search intent to a particular extent deemed worthy of being returned as a Featured Snippet.These snippets within the SEO industry are often coined as position 0, because technically they're not actually in competition with the other normal search results. Often you may see a site returned as a Featured Snippet, and then see it listed again as the first or second result on the search page. As you can imagine, these snippets will help to increase organic traffic to a website, but some critics argue that by Google returning this content directly within the search results they're effectively "stealing" their content and the website may lose out on the visit.Introduced in early 2014, Featured Snippets have since grown to become a big part of Google's offering. They typically answer very clear-cut questions, where there isn't often room for debate, such as "What time is It in London?" or "What currency is used in Australia?"For hotels there's not often been a clear opportunity or benefit to trying to obtain Featured Snippets, unless of course you've got some kind of information-based content that has a high search volume and is also from a relevant audience of people (who may be looking to travel).Google Hotel Ads (Metasearch)Google introduced Hotel Ads initially as Hotel Price Ads back in 2010 after the acquisition of travel data company ITA Software. Hotel Ads are a form of metasearch, whereby hotels and online travel agents and other third parties can all bid against each other in an auction to show their room rates within Google's products (Search and Maps, mainly).Placement of these Hotel Ads have varied during the years, but they've finally settled in a very prominent position within the Knowledge Graph. These ads are especially visible on mobile, and as a result they pushed the organic search results far further down the page.Nowadays if you want your hotel to remain visible throughout the booking journey, you must find a further marketing budget to participate with Hotel Ads, else you risk having the likes of Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Priceline and more all pinching your bookings, right towards the end of the booking funnel!The AMP ProjectThe AMP project was announced in 2015 and was an open-source initiative setup by Google in a bid to speed up the web on mobile. In a nutshell, AMP is a website publishing technology that is very fast to load (it uses AMP HTML, AMP Javascript, and Google's AMP cache) to provide ultra-fast website usage--extremely important for users on mobile devices where a fast and reliable internet connection isn't always possible.AMP was initially seen as a platform solely for news publishers and sites that generate a lot of content, but it has since been adopted by various other types of sites, including various large ecommerce sites. Although it's not been adopted yet by many independent hotels, Airbnb did invest heavily in launching on the platform.Using AMP has been a controversial topic amongst web developers, as it's seen as a way for Google to dictate and control web standards. Perhaps even more controversially, AMP sites aren't necessarily faster than other platforms; it's just that Google is saving these sites to their cache, thus enabling them to serve them at near-instant speeds to mobile users. As a response to the criticism, Google announced that in the future they'll allow the same search visibility benefits to other non-AMP sites, if they're also able to load very quickly.Mobile first indexProbably the biggest change to Google's organic search results will be the rolling out of its mobile-first index, having first been publicly announced by Google back in November 2016. Google's search results index will now be based on the performance of your hotel's mobile website version only, whereas previously the results were based on how your hotel's desktop website performed. If you have a slow mobile site, or your site is not fully responsive, then you may have big SEO issues when you do get switched over to this index.We wouldn't worry too much about this for now though. Google stated recently that they'll only switch you over if they can detect that your mobile site is indeed ready (for now, at least), and will send out notifications within Google Search Console when the switchover does take place.Again, Google is almost forcing websites to comply with their relentless urge to push everyone onto mobile devices, first with AMP, now with the mobile-first index. The likely overall reason is that it's far easier (and cheaper, fewer resources needed) for them to provide a search service with just one index based on mobile devices as opposed to constantly having to provide a separate desktop index too.Extended metasearch descriptionsAt the end of the previous year a few SEO specialists started noticing extended meta description texts showing in Google search results which appeared to be auto-generated by Google. This extended meta description was confirmed by Search Engine Land via Google, apparently in a bid to provide more descriptive and useful snippets within search. The previous meta tag description length was around 160 characters, but it now can be as long as 320 characters (although this is shorter on mobile devices, at about 280 characters).At Travel Tripper we've seen a slight CTR boost by introducing our own extended meta search description. The clear benefit of this is that you can prevent Google from automatically populating this text and fine tune your meta description to exactly what you desire.Google Travel Guides / Destinations on GoogleDestinations on Google started appearing on mobile searches in Google during 2016, and according to Google the product may never actually make it over onto desktop, simply because they feel mobile is where most travel research is happening.As is the trend so far with Google, these travel guides have been created by making use of information from other websites, as well as information from other Google Local Guides, where any Google users can contribute to Google Maps and other products in exchange for virtual points.Again, as a hotel (or an OTA), this feature would be another cause for concern. Google is clearly making big strides towards offering a more interactive, all-in-one search solution that cuts out the need to visit several sites as part of a traveller's booking journey.Google Q&AFirst appearing on the Google Maps app for Android users in August 2017, the Google Q&A feature added the ability to ask and answer questions about businesses within the Google search results. This area appeared at the bottom of the Knowledge Graph section and has since also rolled out to desktop users too.The feature went relatively under the radar within the search industry, and we're not sure whether it'll remain in its current form permanently, but it appears to be another attempt to collate FAQs (and answers) across all businesses on the web.TripAdvisor has had a similar feature in place for a while now, where users can ask and answer specific questions about a hotel. The obvious advantage of Google's feature is that it'll get a lot more visibility, and it is likely that questions will be answered much quicker too.Being proactive vs reactive when it comes to hotel SEOAlthough it's important to stay abreast of the latest search algorithm updates across the industry, it's also a good idea to refrain from being too reactive with your hotel's search strategy. It may ultimately prove to be resource intensive without providing long-term SEO benefits.When Google rolls out a new feature, it's always good to take note, then sit back and reflect. The company is well known for making seemingly game-changing announcements, only to have the feature disappear a few days later.When it comes to SEO strategy, it's important to look at the big picture--what do Google's latest changes say about where they think search is going? (The trend for the last few years has been a dramatic shift to mobile optimization.) By doing so, you can predict where the industry is moving, and what you will need to prepare for in the future.So where is search going to go from here? Advances in technology (such as voice search) suggest we're on course for an even more technical and highly personalized search landscape. Big data and AI is the order of the day, and with Google's RankBrain and machine learning algorithms being scaled up (see the news that Google is splitting off its AI division into its own business unit), it'll be interesting to find out how exactly this will impact upon hotels.

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