2016 was a year full of fun new surprises for our favorite search engine. Travel, in particular, seems to be a special area of interest for Google as the search engine continued to revamp existing products and roll out brand new travel experiences.
From a travel perspective, hoteliers and travel marketers should already be fairly familiar with the Google Hotel Ads product. First debuting under the radar in 2011 as “Google Hotel Price Ads”, the search engine didn’t start fully pushing or promoting this travel product until well into 2014. The program has undergone massive changes over the past several years from both a search engine perspective with how and where the rates are shown and presented and from a hotel perspective as far as account structure and bidding options – to name a few.
The concept of Google Hotel Ads is simple. Currently, these ads are shown for multiple brand specific and non-brand specific travel related queries across Google.com and Google Maps. The placements are optimized for performance based on how users engage on both desktop and mobile devices. Additionally, Google Hotel Ads are customized to how a particular user is searching. For example, a user who searches for “Orlando hotels” will see a list of hotels versus a user who searches a particular hotel brand name. Both individual hotels and hotel suppliers, like online travel agents and meta search sites, can provide rates to Google for inclusion on the hotel rate portion of a hotel card. After selecting a rate, a searcher is then redirected to the associated website or booking engine.
(Google also provides plenty of beginner information on Hotel Ads to help get you started).
Most recently, Google has expanded upon the Google Hotel Ads product with a new “Book on Google” feature that allows a searcher to book a hotel room without having to leave the search engine. The program rolled out about a year ago in 2015 and provided hotels and suppliers two options for how they want to participate: pay a commission for transactions directly on the Google platform or a cost per click or commission model run through the Hotel Ads center.
Ideally, the new Book on Google feature would increase booking conversion rate by capturing the guests that drop off between the transition from Google to the third party website. However, this also means that hotels and suppliers must share a piece of the pie with Google and that the websites aren’t even getting the website traffic that it normally would through the traditional Hotel Price Ads program.
Continuing to focus on travel, Google launched the new Google Trips app in September of 2016. The app allows users to create “trips” and save information on destinations and things to do in those destinations. Additionally, the app can pull in saved travel information like flights and hotel reservations. Though the app serves as a fountain of information on local things to do, it currently lacks the ability to search for and book hotels and flights, which is somewhat surprising given the search engine’s current capabilities with Google Hotel Ads and Book On Google. Perhaps these additional features will be added to the app in due time, which would be a major game changer and put Google in direct competition with other travel booking apps.
And, we would be remiss if we didn’t come full circle and discuss the Destinations of Google rollout.
Google’s foray into the world of online travel bookings begs the question – will Google eventually become an online travel agent? Google has thus far claimed that they have no intention of entering the OTA space. And, when you look at the numbers, this makes sense. Google’s travel business is already twice the size of Expedia’s alone. Just think about the massive amounts of revenue Google generates from OTAs using products like Google AdWords and Google Hotel Ads. To put things into perspective, it is estimated that Google will generate roughly $12.2 billion in revenue from travel in 2016, with approximately $6.2 billion of that coming from just four major travel spenders (Priceline, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb). If Google were to move into the OTA space, they would risk alienating themselves from their largest travel advertisers. Google also claims to want to help consumers begin planning their trip in the earliest stage through their current product set and that they do not want to become a trip-planning site, which would somewhat explain why Google Trips does not (yet) include booking functionality.
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This is just a small portion of our look into the top travel trends for 2017. Download the full report to see our top 5 predictions and how your hotel can compete!