COVID-19 Recovery Toolkit: Drive Direct Bookings With Metasearch (Part 4)

June 29, 2020

As the Tourism industry begins to recover from the effects of COVID-19, hotels have a unique opportunity to review their marketing strategy and reset how they position their property to hotel shoppers. One of the strategies that has quickly become a dominant force in promoting a direct relationship with hotel shoppers is metasearch. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the channel and how you can use it to drive more direct bookings.

Metasearch engines consolidate rates from multiple booking channels allowing shoppers to search for hotels with live rates provided by OTAs, wholesalers, and hotel websites within specified dates of travel. The most important player in metasearch is Google Hotel Ads which in the last few years has increased its focus on displaying hotel information with pricing embedded in their business profile. However, other Metasearch engines (TripAdvisor, KAYAK, Trivago, and Bing) offer additional global coverage with others (Wego and SkyScanner) providing a stronger regional presence.

Unlike other forms of advertising, metasearch ads only appear on metasearch sites when shoppers have narrowed down their hotel choices and are actively looking at rates and availability. All of them require access to a rate and availability feed, and each platform has its own ranking and bidding logic, which can add to the complexity of setting up and managing these campaigns.

Why is metasearch important?

As outlined in COVID-19 Recovery Toolkit – Outreach and Marketing Strategy (Part 2) metasearch plays a pivotal role in supporting your upper-funnel marketing efforts by ensuring that any spike in search demand driven by those campaigns translates into a hotel booking. When travel ramps up and demand strengthens, metasearch will be one of the most effective ways to convert users who are already considering dates, places, and named hotels.

Almost 72% of travelers regularly use metasearch engines when they are searching for a hotel2, and an effective metasearch campaign can increase direct booking share up to 13%.3

In the short term, some of the larger OTA platforms that traditionally spend a significant portion of their performance budget on metasearch have dramatically reduced spending in response to COVID-19. As demand returns, hotels have a window of opportunity to change user behavior and send more shoppers to book directly with them.

Tips on how to get the most out of metasearch

Since metasearch requires a hotel to have an ARI (Availability, Rates, and Inventory) feed through your booking engine, it may take longer to get started than other marketing channels. It’s also important to update your hotel description on metasearch platforms to accurately reflect the situation your guests will encounter when they book or stay at your hotel.

  • Take some time to review how you can use metasearch to cut your distribution costs and drive the need to put “heads in beds” as you reopen and see demand signals.
  • Review your distribution strategy and ensure you identify and fix parity issues you haven’t been able to address in the past. Rate parity is the most important factor in a successful metasearch campaign, where even the smallest price difference can have a dramatic effect on conversion to booking. 
  • Work with your revenue team to deliver the best available rates in your ARI feed.
  • Since set up may take a while, work with your booking engine and Metasearch provider to understand what’s required to activate your metasearch campaign before you are ready to start advertising again.
  • Ensure your business profile is up to date on all metasearch engines and provide COVID-19 information that guests will want to know before booking. Some metasearch engines provide specific attributes you can add to your profile including special rates for COVID-19 responders.
    • Edit your hotel description and update amenities and attributes on your Google Hotel Profile. Is your restaurant open? Does it have special hours or an option to order online? Are some outlets or amenities closed?
    • While most metasearch engines only allow you to display rates, you can bring attention to your cancellation, refund, and rebooking policies in callouts that appear in the pricing modules on Google Hotel Ads. 
  • When shoppers come to your site to complete their booking, think of ways you can incentivize them to book or turn them into customers. 
    • Streamline your booking flow to maximize the value of each click coming to the site.
    • Display your best available rate at the top of your rate sorting order on room selection pages.
    • Reiterate your cancellation policy throughout the booking flow.
    • Highlight special offers or promotions that shoppers can take advantage of if they book directly.
    • Offer added value to customers if they submit an email address, such as: 
      • Ability to save a room search by creating an account.
      • Subscribing to an email newsletter.
      • Access to discounted rates, promotions, or benefits.

Google’s new metasearch features creates opportunity

Google, which runs the largest metasearch channel called Google Hotel Ads (“GHA”), has responded to the unprecedented challenges hotels face because of COVID-19 by accelerating the release of new features to drive GHA adoption and performance. Hotels can take advantage of these features only if they are participating in metasearch. 

GHA has expanded their bidding strategy to include commission pricing (vs. its traditional cost-per-click model) based on bookings and completed guest stays. Commissions ‘per booking’ allows advertisers to set spending based on a percentage of booking value and ‘per stay’ allows participants to only pay when a guest stay has completed. Both of these bidding strategies are closely aligned with Sojern’s commission based pricing program

Property Promotion Ads (PPA) is a new ad format for GHA advertisers that focuses on driving incremental clicks while maintaining conversion performance and booking value. While traditional GHA booking options are displayed on search results pages when a user searches a specific hotel (e.g. The Landmark Hotel in Seattle), PPA ads are designed to influence the booking decision for prospective shoppers when they are looking for a hotel with a destination in mind (e.g. hotels in Venice). Currently PPA ads are integrated in Google Maps and Google Travel where a featured offer is displayed within the hotel search result.

Metasearch example

When a shopper selects the hotel, the featured rate is displayed first with rates from other advertisers hidden until a user clicks to view more. 

Metasearch example

Sojern offers metasearch in a multichannel driven approach within a Commission or Subscription pricing model. We make full use of the features available on Google Hotel Ads and other major metasearch platforms. Our machine learning algorithm and team of analysts are constantly reviewing, optimizing and improving a campaign’s performance by looking at travel intent data and activity from your hotel’s website.

Reach out to your Sojern representative to find out more about how we can help you with your metasearch needs.

 

1 65% of all hotel bookings generated through metasearch engines come from Google Hotel Ads. Oct, 2018 Travel Daily News

2 The State of Hospitality Distribution, Metasearch. EyeforTravel 2018

3 Independent Lodging Properties and the Online Marketplace: 

An Update on Marketing, Distribution and Technology Strategies for Non-Branded Lodging Properties. Phocuswright, January 2019


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About Sacha Lien

As a digital media product leader with years of experience bringing performance advertising solutions to market, Sacha is responsible for managing Metasearch and new SEM initiatives at Sojern. Born in Hawaii and raised in Singapore in a family of hoteliers. He now lives just outside of San Francisco with his family and has a list of places he wants to visit that never seems to grow smaller.

Sacha Lien About the author

As a digital media product leader with years of experience bringing performance advertising solutions to market, Sacha is responsible for managing Metasearch and new SEM initiatives at Sojern. Born in Hawaii and raised in Singapore in a family of hoteliers. He now lives just outside of San Francisco with his family and has a list of places he wants to visit that never seems to grow smaller.