Google's most recent updates are in full swing, and if you are a hotelier, they will affect you - so pay attention.
Universal Analytics will stop tracking data from the end of this month (June 2023).
The upgrade to GA4 from Universal Analytics brings with it some exciting features:
- Increased data protection and privacy controls under GDPR legislation
- Built-in machine learning algorithms to identify trends, generate insights and fill in gaps if cookies have not been placed
- Better cross-device tracking capabilities to gain a better understanding of your customers' journeys
Universal Analytics and GA4's tracking methodology are not compatible with each-other, so no historical data will be available within GA4. However, you will continue to have access to your historical data within Universal Analytics for at least 6 months (Google has yet to confirm a definitive closing date).
It was not long ago that Google announced the sunsetting of Universal Analytics in June 2023. It's not always easy to make a change - but with all of the new and exciting features (as mentioned - report functions, enhanced features, and predictive insights) this update will be beneficial for all.
What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4)?
Google Analytics 4 is the newest version of Google Analytics. It is the latest version of web analytics that will allow marketers, like us, to effectively analyse important customer usage metrics - not just track basic traffic.
Google Analytics 4 tracks your customer's entire path across multiple platforms and leverages AI and machine learning to provide more detailed insights into how users interact with your website and app.
GA4 is also focused on customer privacy, which logically comes after the likes of GDPR.
As the internet moves into a cookie-less future, data privacy takes center stage. By including options for cookie-less measurement and behavioral models, GA4 is designed to comply with the data privacy norms of the future while delivering an in-depth analysis of website traffic. GA4 is built for the future, to operate without cookies and applies machine learning to fill the data gaps.
Within Universal Analytics, page views were the most important metric. Within Google Analytics 4, all measurements are events. Instead of being presented with just general data, you can now gain a fuller understanding of how users interact with your app and website.
What else is new?
With a bold attempt to regain its top spot in the field of artificial intelligence, Google have announced PaLM 2, a “next-generation language model” that the company says outperforms other leading systems on certain tasks.
Revealing the cutting-edge AI at its annual I/O conference in May, Google said it would be built in to 25 new products and features, as the company races to catch up with competitors after years of producing AI research but few products.
Like other “large language models” such as OpenAI’s GPT, PaLM 2 is a general-purpose AI model, which can be used to power ChatGPT-style chatbots but also translate between languages, write computer code, or even analyse and respond to images.
Combining those capabilities, a user could ask a question in English about a restaurant (or hotel) in Bulgaria, and the system would be able to search the web for Bulgarian responses, find an answer, translate the answer into English, add a picture of the location – and then follow up with a code snippet to create a database entry for the place.
The main way to interact with PaLM 2 will be through Google’s own chatbot, Bard, which is opening up to the general public for the first time and rolling out globally.
Google have long been making updates to their products that hopefully make them easier to use. Back in June last year, Google announced three new features to actively open the onboarding process for hotels wanting to list their rates or provide booking links through Google. A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land: “We’re streamlining this process to help more advertisers utilize hotel ads, and activate them more quickly. This is part of our overall efforts to help more hotel businesses get online.”
New search feature
“Tap the filter, and you’ll exclusively see long- and short-form videos, images and written posts that people have shared on discussion boards, Q&A sites and social media platforms,” Google blog post.
Google are launching their new Perspectives search feed that’s designed to show results from humans. The new search feature shows different perspectives (ideally, human ones) in search results. The perspectives will show up in a tab called “Perspectives.”
Google are in the process of rolling out a new 'immersive view' feature to Google Maps in Dublin, Amsterdam, Florence and Venice this month. The feature is already available in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, London, and Tokyo.
"Immersive View uses computer vision and AI to fuse together billions of Street View and aerial images to create a realistic, multi-dimensional view of a place so you can feel like you're really there," Google said.
A reminder of Google Hotel Ads...
Google Hotel Ads is a meta-search platform originally called Google Hotel Finder that was launched in 2011. The platform displays your hotel rates in direct comparison to the OTAs, enabling you to showcase your hotels on Google, across desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.
By providing Google with up-to-date information on pricing, availability and room types, it can show relevant hotel ads to future guests who are actively searching for accommodation either on Google Search or Google Maps.
How can your hotel benefit from Hotel Ads?
1. Increase in direct traffic
According to Google, 60% of leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers use its search engine to plan their trips. Once a user clicks on your Hotel Ad, they’re taken directly to your hotel’s booking page. Considering that Hotel Ads are cross-device compatible, and that they appear for both generic and specific searches, this significantly increases the stream of direct qualified traffic to your website.
2. Own guest data & future relationships
Due to the increased chance of direct traffic and bookings, there is no middleman between you and your guests. This means that you own your guest data and have the opportunity to nurture the relationship long after your guests have checked out. Once you have their contact details from a direct booking you can engage them with future marketing activity and loyalty programs. All the while having full control over their brand experience.
3. Increase in revenue
By the time a user clicks on your Hotel Ad and is redirected to your site, they have most likely already filtered according to specific details like price range, availability, location, services, rating, etc. This means that they are a highly qualified lead before they even get to your booking page. The net revenue made through this booker vs an OTA booker is also going to be higher.
What can you do to increase conversions?
Google Business Profile
All the information in your Hotel Details Card pulls from your Google Business Profile page. This is a free listing that optimises all your hotel’s information into the right fields and makes it easier for travellers to get the details they want. This includes your hotel’s address and phone number, Google maps geo-marker, hotel photos, guest reviews, and other relevant information such as amenities.
Providing you complete your listing properly, with the features listed above, Google Business Profile makes your hotel website more likely to be found first on Google so keeping this up to date has never been more important.
Make sure you’re using your best imagery here and that all your contact information is correct. If you aren’t using the correct filters for your property for example you are missing out on numerous qualified leads.
Google allows you to directly input rates into your profiles. This should make it easier for you to keep up with demand and change rates quickly.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Why would they click on you over a competitor hotel when searching in Google? One thing that might help you stand out is your reviews. Google Reviews provide star-ratings and reviews for your business which increase your opportunity to attract visitors to your website.
These reviews are curated from various sources across the internet and are surfaced within your Google My Business listing. With the importance people place on peer recommendations nowadays, we’d encourage all hotels to work on a strategy to increase the number of reviews they’re getting online and of course increasing the quality of these reviews through great service.
Rate parity issues can unfortunately be a common problem and can hinder your campaign success. Properties with high impressions can see very low conversion rates when the rates are not in line with competition. Unsurprisingly, users tend to choose the lowest price.
In order to ensure that a campaign is not negatively impacted by rate issues, it is important to regularly monitor rate parity and make sure wholesalers are not unbundling rates designed to be sold as part of tours or packages on OTAs.
Up until 2019, large OTAs dominated the market, representing almost 90% of all online bookings. But in 2020 and 2021, on average 20.5% of all reservations were made directly - an increase of no less than 73% compared to 2019
Price-comparison sites are extremely popular today with travellers. Coupling this with the level of global traffic Google has, and their continuous investment in the platform and its user experience, it's clear Hotel Ads will go from strength to strength. The cost is minimal, but the rewards can be huge.
Keep an eye out for further information and advice on how to optimise your Google presence - as they continue taking over the world, one slice of internet at a time!