How Metasearch Empowers the Independent Hotelier
Over the last 10 years, the hotel industry has seen huge growth and change to the metasearch landscape; there’s been an evident combination of both consumer & product growth.
It’s evident that this rapid growth has disturbed the natural booking patterns we were once used to, and has opened up another level of complexity for the OTAs. The years to come are set to be exciting, as metasearch companies continue to develop and expand their product and offering.
Here, we want to look at the main metasearch platforms that the independent hotelier can use and the benefits, obstacles and challenges they generally face.
We’ll start with an overview of the major players, then go into the details on what you can get from each of them, how to get the most from them, and how to keep track of your success.
Giants of the Industry
Trivago, TripAdvsior and Google Hotel Ads are currently the most powerful players on the metasearch landscape. Here’s a quick overview of how they work, key numbers and requirements to be on them.
With 1.4 billion visits per year, users can access Trivago through 55 localized websites and apps (applications) and across 33 countries. That breaks down to about 3.8 million visits per day, which is a hefty number of eyes to have your hotel in front of.
Trivago gathers hotel content from various sources on its platform. These hotels are then displayed to users based on their search criteria. Trivago also claims to help users get the best rates by providing a “comparison for a million hotels on more than 250 booking sites.”
Trivago’s main revenue earner is its direct connect product, where hotels and OTAs pay a Cost per Click-based fee for traffic from Trivago to their own site, where the customer can complete their booking.
Google Hotel Ads are precisely what they sound like. They showcase your hotel on Google.com and Google Maps, across desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.
Travelers see your ads when they’re actively looking to book a hotel, and you pay for traffic when your ad generates a click or a booking.
Google’s Hotel Ads is a monetised model where hotels and OTA’s pay on either a CPC basis, or a % of the rate for traffic from Google to their own site where the customer completes their booking.
TripInstant is the tool that allows instant booking on the TripAdvisor platform. Instant booking gives travellers all the information they need to book with you immediately on the TripAdvisor platform with 2 distinct models:
- 15% Commission: Allows your hotel rate to show to half of all “Book on TripAdvisor” traveller views
- 12% Commission: Allows your hotel rate to show to a quarter of all “Book on TripAdvisor” traveller views
Two key Metasearch Obstacles for Hotels
1. Must be able to feed real time rates and availability.
Metasearch platforms work by providing the customer with the most recent prices and availability for a given room. Ensuring that this data is real time is crucial for metasearch engines to drive accurate results for their customers.
2. Issues with your Rate Parity
Issues with rate parity are sometimes known in metasearch land as ‘uncompetitive rates’. Hotels with rate parity issues often see lots of impressions but low performance. In addition, hotels who fluctuate their rate significantly up and down see a degradation of their performance over time. The consumer is most likely going to click on the lowest rate shown to them.
What Influences and Impacts Your Performance?
Those, then, are the essential facts behind each major metasearch platform, and a look at common obstacles hotels face on getting results and bookings from their metasearch listings.
What can hotels do to improve their performance on each platform? What influences the impressions, clicks, and bookings you get? Here’s a look at the major factors impacting your performance.
Google Hotel Ads
The Google Hotel Ads connection and bidding is controlled via your connectivity partner, who push live rates and availability from your booking engine into the Google platform.
Factors that affect your success:
Price Accuracy and Competitiveness
Google take price accuracy very seriously, and it’s a core aspect of their hotel ads offering. Some questions to ask about your prices on GHA:
- Does the price shown in the search results match the price displayed on the booking engine?
- Are your prices competitive? How do your prices compare to competitors’ prices and other prices on OTA’s on the same dates?
Significant amount of traffic from hotel ads is driven from map results. Given that
Google map results have an intelligent proximity algorithm, this means that unless your hotel is located where the user is intending to stay, you have a low likelihood of gaining impression share.
Google My Business
In order to use the Google Hotel Ads product, you must have a verified Google My Business profile. It’s imperative that this profile is optimised as much as possible, ensuring the content and imagery used best represent your hotel.
The Trivago connection and bidding is controlled via your connectivity partner, who push live rates and availability from your booking engine into the Trivago platform.
Factors that affect your success:
Trivago Hotel Manager
Hotels must ensure their hotel listing on Trivago is kept up to date and best represents their hotel. Trivago advise that you:
- Start with the details. The more specific the hotel information you provide, the easier it is for Trivago’s search to promote you to your ideal guests.
- Highlight your strengths. Depicted by your numerical score on Trivago, reputation is a deciding factor for travellers when choosing a hotel.
The Trivago Rating Index®
Your TRI index rating has a strong impact on your property’s performance. The TRI is a comprehensive and reliable index of hotel ratings. The TRI takes available rating sources from across the web and uses an algorithm to aggregate them, providing a dependable and impartial score.
Even though Trivago don’t share their algorithm, we know what’s important, and rate is one of the main factors they watch when deciding who to give impression share to. As with all pay per click models, bidding price also pays a significant role in a provider’s position.
As long as your direct website is feeding competitive rates along with a competitive bid, you stand a good chance at gaining a top position.
The TripAdvisor connection is controlled via your connectivity partner, who push live rates and availability from your booking engine into the TripAdvisor platform.
However, the hotel can control the setup from their existing TripAdvisor account, and from here select their commission method of either 12% or 15%.
Your review score is the most crucial factor on your profile listing, and strongly affects the position you gain within the search results.
Price positioning – who’s shown 1st, 2nd etc. – is impacted mainly by price parity, given that the model of 12% and 15% dictates the cost you pay.
How Do You Know How Well You’re Doing? Metasearch KPI’s
Whilst it’s a great idea to include direct meta connections as part of your book direct strategy, it’s also important to know what key performance indicators we need to monitor to know if these platforms are truly delivering for you.
The key performance indicator for Metasearch activity is Cost Per Acquisition. After all, the purpose of Metasearch activity is to drive direct bookings away from OTA’S. Given that the lowest OTA commission is generally 15%, we assume that a CPA lower than 15% is a cost saving for the hotel.
In order to calculate the true CPA, we must take into account the commission cost and any cost of advertising. Take a look at this example:
*figures chosen for example purposes only
It is important to remember, though, where this activity sits in a user’s path to purchase when compared with other marketing channels. Activity further down the funnel will more likely achieve a greater ROI, since it’s closer to the actual booking for many users. However, this shouldn’t impact your decision to keep metasearch activity running. This is another strong reason why we recommend using CPA as the main performance indicator. *Figures chosen for example purposes only.
An additional KPI is ROI, or return on investment. Often hotels have a limited budget and want to spend their dollars where the best return is, so it’s also worthwhile knowing how your metasearch activity weighs up against other channels.
There are additional benefits of driving direct traffic through Metasearch channels, including:
- Promoting other products and services – Such as weddings, conference, spa, F&B
- You own your brand on those channels – not the OTA
- Allows you to build loyalty with the customer as they are booking direct
- If they visit and don’t book immediately, you can use marketing techniques to get these customers back into your booking funnel. These might include:
- Google Remarketing across the display network
- Social Remarketing on the likes of Facebook & Instagram
- Booking Re-targeting via email for anyone who doesn’t complete their booking
- Newsletter subscriptions / File downloads
Metasearch is a strong and growing channel. Treating it as a marketing platform allows you to gain exposure and bookings in key areas. If a user turns to a metasearch channel for research, you have the chance to show your direct listing right alongside links to OTA’s, and have the opportunity to capture a direct booking you might otherwise have paid high commissions on.
Keep on top of your spend, know how to improve your listings on the different platforms, and make sure to track your success.
Net Affinity are a certified connectivity partner to all the above-mentioned metasearch platforms. If you’re interested in metasearch but not sure how to get started, get in touch!