Why Meta is Important for Direct Hotel Bookings

Why Meta is Important for Direct Hotel Bookings

Why is meta important for independent hoteliers? Simple – if you don’t own your space in the meta, you’re giving guaranteed bookings directly to OTAs, costing you money, customer relationships, and future revenue opportunities.

TravelBoom marketing;

When it comes to generating direct bookings, many hotels have only a limited number of tactics to employ. Hotel marketing tools such as organic content, social media posts, email marketing and more all help generate interest in a property, but these tools are not effective when it comes to to identify the exact moment when a potential customer is ready to book. Paid search (Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, etc.) provides phenomenal results, but still lacks the ability to dynamically display an actual nightly rate.

This is where meta-search becomes so important, especially for independent hoteliers. According to a 2018 study by EyeForTravel, 73% of travelers regularly use meta sites when planning a vacation. Keep in mind that this study is from 2018 and consider how much Google has changed the SERP (search engine results page) since then, pushing Google Hotel Ads to the top of the page. In 2022, the number of users consciously or unconsciously using a meta-search system is significantly higher. To use a “technical measure”, literally everyone does it now!

The adjacent search results page for “myrtle beach hotels” shows a typical destination result where you have at least one paid position at the top, a significant meta presence in the middle, and organic results below the fold (followed by more paid ads).

What many hoteliers may not know is that it doesn’t matter if you (as a property manager) participate in a meta-campaign, you’re already showing up with a rate. OTAs bid aggressively and display a rate per night for your property. That’s why we recommend every property has an aggressive meta-strategy to ensure their best direct booking rate shows up in Google Hotel Ads.

This is the same as bidding on brand terms in your hotel PPC campaigns. If you don’t participate, someone else will take your place on the SERP and steal a potential booking. (See screenshot below.) One thing in these two images is very clear, an organic strategy alone is not enough in today’s SERP landscape.

The above is only a fraction of the space that meta-search systems encompass. Beyond Google Hotel Ads (GHA), you have several major players:

  • TripAdvisor
  • Microsoft Hotel Ads
  • Kayak
  • Trivago
  • Hundreds of niche engines…

A wise hotelier will understand that he must be present on all metasearch engines in order to maximize direct bookings. Otherwise, they would secede from OTAs and forgo easy direct bookings.

Metasearch Management Guide for Hotels

Now that we know how essential it is to participate in the meta-search space, hoteliers need to make sure they “can” participate. This will largely depend on your booking engine and PMS provider, as well as the level of management access you have.

Does your hotel’s PMS or booking engine have the ability to integrate Meta Search?

Most likely, almost universally, your hotel’s PMS or booking engine will have the “capability” to feed data to meta search engines. If you already have some form of channel manager or GDS, the ability to share the rate is possible. At TravelBoom, we’ve found that proactive management is rarely shared with independent hoteliers, at least in a straightforward way.

If a system offers meta-search integration, there’s likely a fee for the service. This is justified because there is a cost to manage, test and ensure that the tariffs work correctly. Once a property has determined supply capacity, it is ready to move on to the next step.

GHA Best Practices

Google and Microsoft both offer paid and organic price displays in their meta platforms, but in both cases organic results are going to appear further down the page, or behind an extra click. The example here shows a property bidding on its profile via Google Hotel Ads along with the organic rate.

As a hotelier, there are a few tips to keep in mind when managing your campaign(s).

  • Make sure you’ve claimed your business listings and set up your accounts. For Google, you’ll use your Business Profile Manager. Here are some simple tips for claiming and optimizing your hotel’s GMB listing.
  • Make sure you have a stable rate feed and your price accuracy is high.
  • Confirm that the rate you are sharing is the best possible rate. (No matter how good the campaign you run, customers won’t book directly if it’s cheaper to book on an OTA.)
  • Review your auction management rules and settings (this is the heart of the campaign). Set your bids and limits to target the right prospects at the right time.
  • Managing a GHA campaign is complex — this article is only a summary. Contact us at TravelBoom for a fuller discussion on managing meta-search for your hotel.

Management of TripAdvisor meta-campaigns

TripAdvisor is the second most important meta search engine for any hotelier. While many claim its value has diminished, the image on the right is a perfect example of why managing your hotel meta campaign on TripAdvisor is mandatory. Suppose a potential client has chosen your property and is in the booking stage. They visit TripAdvisor one last time to read recent reviews of your hotel. When they go to book the room, however, your property’s direct booking link is not displayed. As a best practice, it is imperative to bid for the top three positions on TripAdvisor displaying your lowest possible rate. Otherwise, all the hard work to brand your property and inspire a direct conversion is wasted, and one of those three OTAs will win the booking.

TripAdvisor bidding goes beyond just the rate displayed on a hotel’s individual profile, it also extends to broader destination searches. The example here shows that the Grande Cayman Resort is promoting its direct booking rate in TripAdvisor search. This means that when a customer is ready to book, they will book direct.

Ready to manage your TripAdvisor meta-search campaign? Consider these tips first:

  • Just like with Google, make sure your profiles are claimed and your accounts are set up correctly.
  • Don’t be fooled into always bidding for position #1. We have found that the conversion rates for positions 1-3 are not that different, but the difference in cost can be extraordinary. As long as your property has the best rate in the top 3, you will get the conversion.
  • TripAdvisor reports can be a bit clunky, but they offer great insights into rate display and performance – take advantage of these tools.
  • Again, this list of tips is just a summary. Contact TravelBoom for a FREE digital marketing assessment or take advantage of some of our other hotel marketing articles.

More Meta Search Engines for Hotels

Kayak, Trivago and dozens of other niche meta search engines are a huge part of the meta space and shouldn’t be overlooked in your marketing strategies. As with any meta engine, if you’re not there with your best direct booking rate, you’re giving the OTAs a freebie.

Hoteliers can start by looking at historical guest data and determining which meta engines are generating the most bookings and start processing them one by one.

Managing each of these meta search engines individually can be time-consuming and tedious, but TravelBoom’s meta-search program makes life easier by offering comprehensive campaign management of all the meta-search platforms you want. However you decide to approach your meta exposure, be sure to make it a priority moving forward.

Why is meta important for independent hoteliers? Simple – if you don’t own your space in the meta, you’re giving guaranteed bookings directly to OTAs, costing you money, customer relationships, and future revenue opportunities.

TravelBoom’s Complete Metasearch Management for Hotels

In the past, meta-search could be very complex, time-consuming and expensive. Thanks to TravelBoom’s partnerships, we were able to create a simple solution for almost any hotel. We’ll help you take full advantage of meta-search with a simple pricing structure and ROAS that rivals many other digital marketing channels.

TravelBoom takes the guesswork out of managing meta searches. Our ROAS-focused program will not only remove exposure from OTAs, but also drive significant direct bookings. What makes the TravelBoom program different is that we use a blended budget and advanced systems to optimize exposure creating the highest return on investment possible.

Pete DiMaio is Vice President, Director of Customer Services and Marketing at TravelBoom. Relate with Pete on LinkedIn.

About TravelBoom Marketing

TravelBoom specializes in developing and executing personalized, data-driven marketing solutions that drive direct bookings and customer growth. With over 25 years of experience in digital marketing for travel and hotels, TravelBoom leverages advanced data science and analytics to uncover insights and develop strategies that dramatically improve outcomes for our customers and reduce dependence on third-party channels. TravelBoom is also the host of the world’s #1 ranked hotel marketing podcast and its quarterly Traveler Opinion Survey, both available at www.travelboommarketing.com.

Comments are closed.