Metasearch Pricing Models Explained

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As metasearch continues to expand into one of your most important channels for direct revenue, it’s important to understand your choices in terms of pricing models. 

At Metadesk, we talk to hoteliers every day and have encountered a wide variety of various pricing models for metasearch advertising. Here’s a handy breakdown of pricing models you might consider, or in some cases, be stuck with. 

A Media Placement Fee

We mostly see this pricing model offered by booking engine providers, and if you’re like most hoteliers, your metasearch presence is facilitated by your booking engine. 

Most booking engines charge you a percentage of what you allocate as your metasearch media budget, usually between 10% - 15% applied to a media budget ranging from $1,000 - $3,000 per month.

Booking engine providers love this because it’s a low labor source of revenue - they simply need to maintain a tech connection that publishes a live feed of your rates and availability to metasearch channels and collect a tidy fee.

If the percentage you pay in media fees + your metasearch advertising budget is lower than your OTA commissions, this model can be a win. But a problem we see more and more is that OTA’s are spending huge amounts of advertising dollars to dominate metasearch. And if your booking engine doesn’t allow for any media strategy whatsoever, you’re at a huge disadvantage.

Best for:

This pricing model works well for advantaged hotels that tend to fill up based on their location or surplus demand in their market.

One main drawback is if you want to use metasearch for more, like targeting need dates or a certain type of traveler, forget it. Your booking engine isn’t capable of incorporating any type of strategic targeting on your behalf. 


Flat Fee + Media Budget


The second-most common pricing model we see at Metadesk in the industry is a flat fee + media budget. We commonly see a range of advertising budgets of around $1,000 - $1,500 with the management fee ranging from $400 - $75 on the low end ($75!!).

At first glance, this seems like a great deal for hoteliers, especially with macro-economic factors like rising marketing costs and operational overhead.

But what we find is that for a management fee so low, the metasearch provider must work hard to limit their labor cost; the aim is to avoid providing support, and typically nobody is actively managing your advertising campaigns.

Instead, these providers try to manage your strategy with algorithmic and programmatic functions alone, which can be problematic without oversight provided by humans. One common problem we see is your rate strategy being compromised by automated price-matching to meet or beat the unscrupulous practice of big OTA undercutting your rates in auction.

In regards to budget, the issue here is two-fold: Many properties would prefer not to pony up even that small amount of cash each month if it can be avoided, and on top of that, the budget can oftentimes be too small to really compete with big OTA.

Best for:A flat fee + media budget is best for small to mid-sized hotels, with mid-range annualized ADR, in low to non-competitive markets.


Pay-Per-Stay Commission Model


A performance-based model that charges a commission for only stays that take place, this model works well for hoteliers that need more from metasearch and who have decided to prioritize ways to increase direct bookings.

Hoteliers like this model because it aligns their interests with that of their metasearch partner. They’re only billed for stays that take place; typically cancellations, and even reservations created by your loyalty members, are excluded from billing.

Another big advantage of this model is the fact that the 3rd party provider assumes all of the financial risk and funds your advertising budget.

It also means that, in theory, your budget is uncapped and only limited by the travel demand in your market. Your metasearch partner will keep spending as long as they’re generating reservations. This means that instead of your cash flow that determines your advertising budget, which can be arbitrary and restrictive, it’s market demand.

Best for:

This pricing model works well for properties in a competitive market that need to utilize metasearch as a strategic advertising channel to help address need periods (like mid-week vs weekend, on vs off-season, etc.) and target individual travel segments.

One huge plus is that properties using this model don’t have to come out of pocket for their metasearch advertising budget.  

Organic Only Flat Fee

If you’ve never heard of this pricing model, it’s because we just invented it 😎 And as we write this piece, this model isn’t available anywhere else.

Despite a flat fee + media budget model being very low cost in nature, some hotels simply don’t have enough inventory to make the math make sense. They may struggle to see a return on even a low budget amount of $1,000 per month, and giving away a percentage of the channel is not a great idea when your total monthly profit is low figures.

That’s why we’ve developed a low-cost way for hoteliers to display an organic listing only. And with a strategic rate strategy (sSuch as a loyalty or member rate channeled to meta) your official site will still be there at the moment of booking, alongside OTA channels with a higher rate.

Best for:

Small hotels, or those with a low ADR, where traditional metasearch pricing models just don’t work.



We hope you found this breakdown useful and informative. At Metadesk, we offer a range of metasearch products to best serve your unique needs.

Please reach out if you’d like to discuss your metasearch advertising strategy and which model might work best for your property’s unique needs.

The Importance Of Hotel Metasearch

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Hotel metasearch engines work as aggregators, pulling data from various sources to create a list of available room rates for a potential guest to choose from. They improve the booking experience for your guests, making it easier to reserve rooms and compare rates.

On the surface, hotel metasearch may seem like yet another distribution channel, but it's vital to any successful hotel marketing strategy. Metasearch can improve the guest experience, help you beat online travel agencies (OTAs) to recapture direct bookings, and effectively target "bottom of the funnel" guests. You should consider using hotel metasearch to take advantage of a significant marketing opportunity.

Improved Guest Experience

Gone are the days of browsing multiple websites for rates before booking a hotel room. Hotel metasearch engines will do the work of research and organization for your guests, removing the hard part of making a reservation. The guest experience starts long before they set foot on your property, and the ease of booking through a metasearch engine will create a positive association between you and your guests. 

This easy booking process can also increase the chances of a guest visiting at all. Because so many hotels already use metasearch, manual rate shopping needs to be updated. If guests can not easily find your official rates on a metasearch engine, they may be discouraged from booking. And if your competition is the one skipping metasearch, that same discouragement could lead a potential guest to your hotel instead.

Beating Online Travel Agencies

OTAs have been using hotel metasearch for years and will continue to do so for many more to come. If you want to maintain a competitive edge, it’s vital that you throw your hat into the ring as well.  

OTAs have large marketing budgets that can easily outshine your own marketing efforts, so you need to do everything you can to beat them out and capture direct bookings. If you're absent on hotel metasearch, this is an automatic win for the OTAs. Guests can't book direct if there's no direct listing available!

If you are present on hotel metasearch, your official rates can easily win out. Since hotel metasearch engines display booking options side-by-side, it's effortless for guests to compare. If your official rates are equal to or lower than those of OTAs, guests are more likely to book direct. And more direct bookings means more money in your own pocket.

Hotel metasearch engines can even update automatically with discounted rates, and this is a great way to stand out above OTAs. “Book Direct” offers and other exclusive packages will be reflected in the hotel metasearch feed, lowering your rates and making a direct booking even more appealing. 

Targeting “Bottom Of The Funnel” Guests

Hotel metasearch is about as “bottom of the funnel” as you can get. This is the final step between your guest and their reservation, and it shouldn’t be overlooked. 

If you’re not nailing the bottom of the funnel, you’re sacrificing the effectiveness of all your other marketing efforts. Even if you convince a guest to stay with you over your competition, that stay loses some of its value if the final booking goes to an OTA. You work hard with your marketing, so you should maintain a strong presence to the final moments. OTAs will use metasearch with or without you, so don’t skip out on your opportunity to compete. 

Getting Started With Hotel Metasearch

To get the most out of hotel metasearch, you need to connect with a metasearch partner. They can ensure your official rates are displayed in the lists created by hotel metasearch engines, allowing you to stay competitive on these channels. 


If you’re ready to get started with hotel metasearch, check out our post on metasearch basics or contact Metadesk.

[E-Book]Email Marketing Strategy Recommendations

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Is your team looking for new and effective ways to maximize your email marketing efforts? We are happy to say we have a new E-Book with our top recommendations that you'll definitely find useful.

The tips and strategies in our E-Book are tried and tested, and have been proven to yield great results. View the full E-Book here.

Hotel Metasearch Bid Modifications You Should Be Making

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As the online travel industry grows, so does the need for metasearch optimization tools. Search engines have become increasingly complex, and there are now more players in the market than ever before. As such, you may find yourself faced with a new challenge: how to optimize your metasearch campaigns in an increasingly competitive landscape. Although we cannot bid on specific dates, there are many ways to update and customize your bids for prime optimization.

In-Market Audiences

In-Market Audiences are a useful bid modifier that can be used to target people who are looking to travel soon. This bid modifier could be combined with other modifiers, like device targeting, to get even more granular with your audience targeting.

In-Market Audiences also allows you to target people who have already shown interest in travel plans so that you’re not paying for impressions that are less likely to result in conversions.

OTA Bid Modifiers

OTA bid modifiers are a way to increase or decrease your bid on a particular site like TripAdvisor, Google Hotel Ads, Trivago, etc.. This can be useful for ensuring the highest visibility on the channels that are most likely to convert for your brand. Alternatively, you can decrease the amount you’re willing to bid (or not bid at all) on channels that have a track record of lower performance. Travel metasearch optimization is all about getting the most bang for your buck while still maintaining your presence throughout the customer journey. 

Check-in Day Modifiers

Since hotels are not able to bid on specific check-in dates, the next best way to fill need periods is by adjusting your bids for particular check-in days of the week. Have strong weekend occupancy but are somewhat soft in mid-week? Increase your bids for check-ins Monday through Thursday and decrease bids for Friday through Sunday. This will allow you to be present for more searches where you need the bookings and avoid spending unnecessarily when you’re already full.

Hotel Metasearch Management Best Practices

There are some basic best practices that should be followed when managing a metasearch campaign:

  • Optimize your campaigns. There's a lot of room for improvement in terms of how many impressions each campaign is getting compared to others in the network, as well as where those impressions are being served (geographically).
  • Use in-market audiences. These are audience segments based on consumers who have recently searched for products similar to yours, so they're more likely than non-qualified searchers who didn't find what they were looking for before coming across yours on the next page down (or wherever else!). This can help get better results at lower CPCs because people have already shown an interest in what you offer by searching for travel or hotels. This means there's less risk involved since they've already expressed their intention towards booking travel previously in their research.
  • Adjust your bids for Check-in day, Length of stay, and/or Days to arrival. If you’re looking to encourage bookings for specific periods, the easiest way to have an impact is by increasing your bids for these variables. 
There are many ways to update and customize your metasearch bid for prime optimization. 
Although we cannot bid on specific dates, we can utilize in-market audiences and other bid adjustments to ensure the highest visibility with guests that are the most likely to book. It’s important to own the space for searches with the highest value to your business.

We hope this article has helped you understand how to better optimize your metasearch bid. There are a few more tips we didn’t mention here, but if you would like to learn more about optimizing your metasearch bids, then please contact us at https://metadesk.pro/sign-up/

Hotel Metasearch Channels Overview

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Overwhelmed with all the different metasearch options? Check out this quick-start guide to determine the best option for your hotel. 

Hotel Metasearch Providers: 

Google Hotel Ads

The king of metasearch for a reason. They dominate in terms of impressions, ease of access, and, therefore, reservation volume. That also means lots of competition, with often the highest CPCs of any channel. However, this should still be your top priority channel since you would be missing out on visibility on the most used search engine in the world.

TripAdvisor

#2 to Google for impression volume and conversions. TripAdvisor can be a great branding tool for destinations or activity-centric markets, especially if your property is geographically advantaged. While this channel may not have the visibility of Google Hotel Ads, impressions tend to be highly qualified since many people using TripAdvisor are in the active planning stages of their booking.

Bing

Great performance in terms of return on ad spend, but we often see low impression volume. They only capture a small fraction of the impression share Google receives. Bing can still be a great booster to your bottom line and should be included as one of your top 3 channels.

Kayak

Kayak offers the ability to book not just hotels but also flights, rental cars, full vacation packages, and even trains and buses. With so many options, many travelers use Kayak as a one-stop shop for their travel booking, making it our recommendation for your next metasearch channel.

Trivago

Trivago aggregates multiple OTAs into 1 channel, including booking.com, Expedia, Priceline and more. Volume tends to be lower, but CPC also tend to follow. Another great option is to help drive the direct booking and cut out the OTAs if you’re present during a search.

SkyScanner

Another great direct booking tool, SkyScanner is designed as a travel search engine with the intent of cutting out the OTA. Conversions rates are fairly low in our experience, but increasing brand awareness can never be discounted.

This metasearch channel is mostly popular in the UK/European travel market. 

WeGo

Headquartered in Singapore, WeGo is particularly important if you are focused on driving visibility and bookings from Asia and the Middle East. Another aggregator, WeGo, can drive bookings to the OTAs if you don’t have a presence to encourage direct bookings.

Takeaway

Google Hotel Ads is the number one channel you should be participating in for hotel metasearch as their reach and visibility are unmatched. TripAdvisor should be your second top priority as they tend to have the highest conversion rates outside of Google and good volume. If you have the budget or are dedicated to having the greatest visibility, It’s best to participate in a variety of channels and continually monitor performance to see which channel works best for your market and/or property. After all, why limit your hotel’s visibility when you can build brand awareness and drive direct bookings all at the same time?

If you need assistance in deciding what metasearch channels are best for you, let the experts at Metadesk help you.

Why “Set It & Forget It” Doesn’t Work for Hotel Metasearch

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If you're not using hotel metasearch yet, you should be. A mind-blowing 94% of travelers reported using hotel metasearch sites to find the best hotel rates when planning travel. You should be valuing hotel metasearch on par with Google Search Ads and other channels in terms of brand exposure. And just like Google Search Ads, you're missing out on your best possible performance with a "set it & forget it" campaign management approach. 

It's easy to think that once you've established your connection with your metasearch partner and your rates are being displayed that there's nothing left to do but wait for the bookings to roll in. However, the truth is that there are several bid adjustments that can be made to fine-tune your hotel's performance to ensure you're getting the best bang for your buck.

We all know seasonality can affect hotels to a greater extent than many other industries. What you may not know is that there are many bid adjustments that can be made in hotel metasearch to help account for those expected highs and lows.

Hotel Metasearch Seasonal Optimization Tip #1: Adjust Your Bids Based On Days To Arrival

Let's look at an example of a beachfront hotel in the Northeast United States. From 5/1/2022 to 8/31/2022, this particular hotel saw only 27% of their bookings as 30 days or more to arrival. 52% of all bookings fell in the 7-29 days to arrival range. When we compare that to 11/1/2022 to 2/28/2023, where guests were over 2x more likely to book 30+ days out (61% of all bookings), it's clear that seasonality can indeed have an impact on our hotel metasearch channels.

So, what can we do about it? 

By taking the time to review the data and using the bid adjustment tools within Google Hotel Ads and other platforms, you can ensure your hotel is more likely to be visible to the guests that are most likely to book. In our previous example, bid adjustments were implemented to increase bids for potential impressions for the 1 to 3-week booking window during the peak summer season and reduced during the offseason. Similarly, higher bid adjustments have been put in place on the 30+ day window as guests begin to plan their summer travel during the colder months. 

Hotel Metasearch Seasonal Optimization Tip #2: Adjust Your Bids Based On Check-In Day

Check-in day is another influenceable seasonally-based variable we can optimize for within hotel metasearch campaigns. Using the same example hotel, during the peak summer months, guests were more willing to arrive on nearly any day of the week, with roughly even distribution (except for Tuesday) at 21% (M), 0% (Tu), 12% (W), 15% (Th), 15% (F), 15% (Sa), 21% (Sun). But once we shift into our colder months, 55% of guests booked stays checking in on either Friday or Saturday. Again, we used this trend for data-driven optimization, this time by reducing bids for weekdays during the colder months and increasing bids for weekends. 

Several other factors can be adjusted and dialed in, including the device type being used, length of stay, specific arrival date, and more. Reviewing all of this data, making bid adjustments, and staying up to date with the seasonality are all essential to ensure you are best positioned to drive bookings with guests who are most likely to book. It goes to show that even if you're connected and "running" hotel metasearch ads unless someone with expertise is taking the time to ensure all the campaigns are well-optimized, you're leaving potential revenue on the table. 

Fortunately for you, GCommerce Solutions has that expertise. Contact us to learn more.

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