The Changing Landscape of Search and What That Means for Hotels in the Long Run
Most travellers on the hunt for a hotel start with a simple Google search.
And, for a long time, hotels reaped the benefits of appearing on the first page of Google.
In fact, generating organic website visits has been an important piece of the hotel marketing puzzle since the dawn of time (or the dawn of the internet, at least)! If a hotel could make it to one of the much-coveted top spots for their destination, they’d pretty much made it.
However… things have started to change.
Google’s new antitrust investigations and their increasingly monetized search results is making it trickier than ever for hotels to stand out in search. Even OTAs are struggling. Many are having to pay out billions of dollars a year just to maintain their position in search results. So this is an indicator of how hard it is for independent hotels to do the same!
Let’s dig into what’s been happening.
How the Hotel Search Landscape is Changing
Back in the day, Google search results consisted of just search results. Now, when you Google anything, an array of features fight for the top spot. For example, when you search for a hotel, the first thing you see are Google’s hotel ads, quickly followed by paid-for ads that hotels and OTAs have splashed out for. This has made it less common for searchers to click through to an independent hotel website that isn’t listed as a Google hotel ad or as a paid promotion.
Google is now serving searchers fast information from the get-go in an attempt to provide everything up front. As a result, we’re seeing more click-less searches than ever before (in fact, in June of this year, the majority of Google searches ended in zero clicks).
We can’t really blame Google, though.
We’ve entered into the era of customer-centricity! It’s vital for brands to put the needs of their customers and users first – and big brands like Google aren’t immune. With these new developments, Google are providing searchers with as much information as possible right from the start. It’s not necessarily a ploy to push out smaller businesses, but rather a giant leap towards a customer-led search landscape.
As a result, it’s important for hotels to change the way they attract and reach new guests. You can no longer rely on organic SEO to hopefully get somewhere near the top. Instead, you have to put the customer first and provide alternative routes to get them them to land on your site.
How You Can Stay On Top of Search
If you want to maintain some semblance of organic traffic, it’s time to switch things up. Google providing everything up front means there’s less opportunity for hotel searchers to click through to your site. Because of this, you have to get creative in other areas of your marketing strategy.
Let’s take a look.
1. Diversify Your Traffic Sources
If there’s one thing we can’t press enough, it’s that you shouldn’t solely rely on Google for organic traffic.
While it might be tempting to shake up your SEO strategy or supercharge your links to boost your rankings, it’s not what will give you results.
Instead, think about other ways you can generate traffic. You can:
- Tap into paid ads – specifically on Google, Facebook & Instagram
- Utilise social media to attract new guests
- Create valuable blogs that drive people to your site from other places
- Put together compelling email sequences that continue to keep your hotel fresh in the minds of subscribers
- Encourage guests to refer their friends and family
2. Invest in Growing Your Community and Brand
If people know your brand and, more importantly, like your brand, they will search for you. This is why it’s more important than ever to work on your brand image and build a community of guests that keep coming back. Think about some of the most popular hotels in your area. Chances are they have a strong brand image and regularly work to build on that.
There are a number of ways you can solidify your brand and create a community.
- Creating a crystal clear brand image and message
- Getting guests involved by sharing user generated content on your social channels and engaging with social shares
- Writing a mission statement that resonates with your ideal guests and sparks an instant connection with them
- Putting your guests first and creating memorable experiences for them that they can’t help but share
The goal is to be front-of-mind whenever someone needs a hotel in your destination!
3. Invest In Your Marketing Budget
To stay at the top, Google hotel ads are a necessity! Today, you have to pay to play – there’s just no other way. This means you’ll really need to invest a chunk of your marketing budget into this. More on the importance of Google hotel ads here.
4. Update your Google Business Profile
Google pulls information from hotel Google Business profiles to provide users with fast facts. This is how they populate their Google hotel ads tool, so firstly, make sure you claim your listing. Secondly, always ensure your Google Business profile is up-to-date and fully filled out – it’s good to keep on top of this because they are always updating and adding new sections!
Here’s how to get started:
- Step 1: Go to Google My Business and click “Get on Google”
- Step 2: Fill out the name and address of your hotel
- Step 3: Verify your hotel
- Step 4: Fill in the sections with as much information as possible – the more information you provide Google with, the higher the chance you have of getting featured in their Google hotel ads
Don’t Fear the Changing Search Landscape
Google search (like anything else in the vast realm of technology) is fluid and constantly changing – in fact, in typical feather-ruffling fashion, Google only just confirmed reports of a local search update in November. We can’t expect to live off the fruits of a search engine forever, and we’re seeing now that Google has started to switch up its search results.
It’s up to hotels to stay on top of current marketing trends and continue to diversify the way they attract new guests. Only then will they start to recoup the organic traffic that is beginning to dwindle.