Metasearch has rapidly emerged to become one of the leading ways users can find cheap deals for travel, in arenas from air fare to hotel accommodation. This has significantly changed the distribution landscape for hotels. Does Metasearch help or hinder the indepedent hotelier looking to drive direct bookings?
Metasearch sites can be a great asset to your direct bookings, but it’s all down to how you manage your Metasearch channels.
The best way to drive direct bookings through Metasearch is to treat them like a marketing channel for your hotel – because that’s what they are!
Today we’ll show you:
- How Metasearch sites work
- The cost benefits of looking at Metasearch as a marketing channel
- Getting your hotel set up properly on Metasearch sites
How do Metasearch Sites Work?
Metasearch sites allow consumers to search for accommodation across several sites by consolidating the results in a comparative format.
For example, users can sort search results by price, simplifying their buying decision. If one hotel has the lowest price on Expedia for the dates and price range but another hotel has a lower price on Booking.com for the same search criteria, the user can easily see and pick their favorite.
Where do Metasearch sites get their data? Metasearch sites have agreements with OTAs granting them access to their APIs, and are able to download and aggregate hotel data.
You can (and should!) claim your hotel profile on a Metasearch site, which allows you to customize your images, descriptions, features, etc. If you’re working with a booking engine provider who offers direct connections to Metasearch channels, work with them to create a direct link to your own website. If you don’t have this direct connection, Metasearch channels can still give you bookings – but they’ll come through OTAs, and you’ll be paying OTA commission rates on them.
Metasearch makes it easier to look for and compare travel products. According to a recent travel study from Google, travelers today look at an average of 21.6 touchpoints before they book. Metasearch sites would like to become a one-stop shop.
Metasearch sounds great for consumers – how can you make it great for independent hotels?
Metasearch gives independent hotels the opportunity to position themselves on a level playing field with the OTAs, even without the marketing might of a large chain. They have a chance to shift a share of their business from the OTA’s to book directly on their own site.
If set up correctly and optimised on an ongoing basis, Metasearch channels with direct connections to your hotel’s own website can lead to bookings at a lower cost per acquisition than through OTAs. This allows the hotel to distribute to a wider audience, while controlling the customer’s booking from an earlier stage.
Not convinced? Take a closer look at the benefits:
Cost of OTA v Metasearch
Some OTAs send reservations to hotels with net rates, so the cost of commission isn’t obvious. Your hotel’s Financial Controller is usually the person writing the cheque to the other OTAs, so it can be difficult for the Reservations or Revenue Manager to appreciate the true cost of reservations from third party sites.
OTAs have a huge impact on your bottom line, though – and we’re not talking about the good stuff. While they do drive more bookings than you can through your website alone (and that’s worth holding on to), their profit margins are usually a significant chunk of the booking price.
As you’ll know if you’re tracking your hotel’s OTA spend, commission percentages on OTA channels can vary from 15% – 25%. That’s a hefty surcharge, making it important to make sure your relationship with OTAs is carefully planned.
Your relationship with OTAs needs to be brought back to the strategy planning stage and analysed from the outset. Try taking the same reservation from the different sources and take a look at the cost to your hotel per reservation.
Make it a Marketing Channel
To achieve more direct bookings at a lower cost, Metasearch needs to be viewed as a marketing channel.
Your hotel profile needs to be up to date, with regular rate parity checks carried out. Your reviews should be managed and improved upon as well as the strategic management of bids, markets and rate plans on the Metasearch engine itself.
It’s extremely rare for a guest to book a rate that appears any lower than the first three positions, so you need to be able to to be able to react to the competition. Don’t let OTAs push your hotel bid down the rankings.
In order for a hotel’s ‘own website rates’ to appear on a Metasearch engine, hotels must partner with a verified Booking Engine provider who can offers these connections. Net Affinity have built direct connections with the key travel Metasearch engines, including Trivago, Trip Connect and Google Hotel Ads.
Costs on all Metasearch platforms differ slightly, with some working on a cost per click model and others working on a percentage of the booking value. However, from an advertiser’s perspective the goal remains the same: Drive more direct bookings at a CPA percentage cost that is lower than an OTA’s.
In order to appear on any of these Metasearch engines, you’ll need to make sure you have the basics right:
1. Access: Make sure you have access to your hotel profile on the relevant Metasearch Engine. You need to be able to optimise and edit your profile on a regular basis.
2. Up to date Information: It’s important that all your content, images & amenities are up to date and not missing any vital pieces of information. Your hotel should make sure that your core data – hotel name, telephone number, address & postcode, amenities – are up to date and accurate across all channels. This allows guests to make an efficient and reliable comparison of hotels and offerings. For example, if your hotel’s Trivago listing doesn’t mention that you have a swimming pool, your hotel may be filtered out of a search and not considered by the guest. This is also true for things like WiFi, spa facilities, a beach, or breakfast.
3. Rate Parity / Cheapest Rate on the Hotel Website. Research has shown that consumers have a slight preference for booking direct with hotels over OTAs when given the option. However, the biggest consideration, both from testing and from self-reporting by consumers, is price. The cheapest price always wins out. (Ref Koddi) Your price will also impact your hotel’s positioning on the MetaSearch results. Make sure you’ve got your best available rates, and ensure those rates are competitive within your competitor set.
4. Reviews: In a long-term strategy, your hotel should be actively improving online reviews. Reviews are also important in Metasearch Engines, which often pull reviews from a variety of third parties to give guests an overall impression of the hotel without having to trawl through a myriad of sites.
Metasearch is a tool that hotels can use as part of their marketing strategy to drive direct bookings, It will help you counter the strength of the OTAs, leading to a reduction in commission costs.
With the changes in consumer behaviour and the massive marketing budgets being spent by Metasearch sites as they become a more integral part of the booking process for consumers, hotels can no longer ignore the impact that they make on your reservations.
With a book direct connection to the Metasearch sites, your hotel will be on a level playing field with the OTAs. You’ll be able to bring in traffic that might otherwise never have found your site, giving you more control over the guest experience right from the start.
Finally, with Metasearch in your online arsenal, you’ll have the opportunity to better manage your distribution channels. Even without increasing occupancies, the same volume of reservations obtained from the different channel mix will allow you to achieve the same volume at a lower Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) and have an impact where it matters: on your profit margin!