5 Reasons to Reevaluate Your Metasearch Marketing

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OTAs are gaining share, which means less profitable business, missed opportunities to connect with your guests, and losing out on valuable 1st party data. What can you do?  Start by looking at your marketing channels that drive the most direct bookings. 📈 Metasearch is #1 and is the primary battleground to win back share from the OTAs. 🏨

Start taking back your direct bookings with our playbook - 5 Reasons to Reevaluate Your Metasearch Marketing Strategies. 💥

A Marketer’s Case for Hotel Metasearch

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Hotel metasearch channels, like Google Hotel Ads, are great for distribution.  Like other third-party channels, they expand a hotel’s reach to new audiences.  That’s the predominant argument for metasearch in the industry.

And it’s wrong.  

Or, at a minimum, incomplete. Yes, metasearch channels can improve a hotel’s reach to new audiences.  However, they bear little resemblance to OTA’s or other third-party distribution channels.  In fact, when properly understood and managed, they become a marketer’s dream.

Direct reservations through metasearch

Always remember that hotel metasearch marketing drives direct reservations through the property website.  Equally important, the absence of that marketing all but guarantees that travelers looking to stay in your destination will book through OTAs or, worse yet, at one of your competitors.  

Marketers exist to win the battle for share in a competitive market, and Google Hotel Ads and other metasearch channels are ground zero for that combat.  The channels capture customers once they have passed the inspiration portion of their trip planning and are getting down to the selection of their preferred property and actual booking.  To be absent at that critical moment is to forfeit direct revenue.  We often hear from hoteliers who are resigned to letting OTA’s take a booking because it’s easier and still results in net bookings.  Metasearch marketing can be equally streamlined, more profitable, and result in an owned customer.  

Audience targeting techniques

Metasearch management provides marketers with audience tools that will be more familiar to them than to revenue managers. Geographic, demographic, and behavioral targeting are all available through the platforms.  They allow properties to be selective with their media deployment and maximize their return on investment.  

These characteristics are far more aligned with a marketing perspective than distribution.   

First-Party vs Third-Party data

GCommerce was the first lonely voice in the hospitality industry proclaiming the coming extinction of third-party data.  Most properties didn’t fully grasp the implications of the shift at the time.  Today, marketers across the industry are reckoning with the impact.  As cookies go the way of MySpace and AOL, the tools we all have come to rely on to find and attract new customers are vanishing.  You can read here about the impact, but suffice it to say that the results have been catastrophic to unprepared properties.  

In the absence of third-party data, first-party data becomes the lifeblood of marketing.  Every competent marketer is developing strategies around building first-party audiences and how to use those audiences to drive revenue.  

Hospitality metasearch belongs at the heart of those strategies

Customers who select a property through metasearch go on to book at incrementally higher rates - that’s first-party booking data.  Moreso, many enter the booking funnel before abandoning their reservation, also first-party data.  As you may expect, remarketing to that reservation abandonment audience is amongst the most productive campaigns a marketer can run.  

Some savvy marketers are using metasearch as a brilliant tool to increase participation in loyalty programs, one of the ultimate forms of first-party data.  Instead of promoting a property’s best available rate, these properties are leading with Member Rates through hotel metasearch channels.  Travelers see the lower price and often choose to join the program so as to qualify for the promotional rate.  Win/win.  The property receives the reservation and enrollment in the loyalty program, all because of effective marketing through hotel metasearch.

Lifecycle marketing

Marketers know that the depreciation of third-party audiences compels us to harvest the most value out of every interaction available to us.  In the past, our models were focused only on attracting new customers because, frankly, that acquisition was so inexpensive.  Now, we must focus on a full lifecycle approach as we shift our measurement from a single reservation to the lifetime value of a customer.  We know that when a customer is earned for the first time, we must develop strategies to keep them coming back, to upsell them to new room types and experiences, and to turn them into brand advocates.    

Still, we have to feed new audiences into our lifecycle marketing funnel.  As discussed in our article titled “Hacking your marketing budget”, hotel metasearch is the most effective way to target and acquire new audiences.  With Metadesk’s innovative pricing model, a property can run robust acquisition campaigns through metasearch without spending a nickel from the marketing budget.  


Hospitality marketers are starting to understand that metasearch is not a distribution channel but instead a powerful tool in their marketing arsenal.  With the tools and techniques available exclusively through Metadesk, metasearch can become the secret weapon to market dominance. 

Hacking Your Marketing Budget: How to Generate Direct Revenue Without Spending Marketing Dollars

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The dust has settled, and most hoteliers are staring at newly minted 2024 budgets. Those budgets likely feature big revenue goals with marginal increases in marketing dollars (if you're lucky). Property owners tend to require herculean feats of performance - meaningful growth in RevPar while starving any marketing channel that could help achieve the goal.  

What's a smart hotelier to do?  

Hack the budget - find ways to drive direct revenue without touching the "marketing expense" line. Win/Win

Budget Allocation

In your 2024 media budget, you've likely allocated money to channels like Paid Search, Display, and Paid Social, which you hope will generate returns of 8-1 or better. With outstanding management, you may be able to improve performance and efficiency, but not enough to make a dent in your new revenue goals.   

But what have you allocated to Metasearch marketing?  

If you're like most hotels, it's a fraction of the amount you are spending on the other channels. That is despite the fact that OTA's and others are spending almost twice as much on Metasearch as they are on Google Paid Search. TWICE

We can assume that these multi-billion dollar companies with bottomless advertising budgets know what they're doing. They know that dollars spent on Metasearch generate consistently high returns. Individual hotels with limited budgets should learn from them and put more weight on marketing on metasearch channels.

Let's break it down.

To extrapolate in simplistic terms - if you were to take all of the money you have allocated this year to Paid Search, Display Advertising, and Social Advertising and multiply the amount by 1.8, that would give you a baseline for the amount you should spend on Metasearch.  

Yes, it's too late to ask for more budget, and such a proposal would be dead on arrival for most owners. Time to break out the hack.

Increased Direct Revenue Without Increased Marketing Cost

With Metadesk, hotels can work on a performance-based model whereby Metadesk pays for all media expenses in exchange for a commission on revenue. Put another way, you can generate precious direct revenue without spending a nickel from your marketing budget. And unlike OTA's, you aren't paying a commission to find customers through a third party - these become your customers, in your database, that you can market to forever more. The commission paid to Metadesk is small and coded to the same line as travel agents.  

When was the last time your owner said you were spending too much money on travel agent commissions?  

Outcome

Simply put, the result is a big boost in direct revenue without an increase in marketing expenses.  

How much of a revenue boost?  

For some back-of-the-napkin math, let's go back to your total digital media budget. For the sake of argument, multiply your annual media budget by 1.5. That is the approximate amount Metadesk will spend marketing your property on your behalf. Now assume the platform can generate a 10 - 1 return on ad spend, so multiply the total projected marketing spend by 10..  

Chances are, that's a LOT of incremental direct revenue. Possible enough to exceed your 2024 revenue budget and cement you as a hero in the eyes of your peers and owners. Enough to impress even a Greek god of strength.

Why Metadesk

Metadesk was built by GCommerce, the prestige marketing agency in the hospitality industry. The platform offers improved metasearch performance through strategic targeting and professional campaign optimization. The advantages of Metadesk are numerous:

  • Managed by media experts
  • Continual campaign optimization
  • Easy collaboration
  • Custom 1st party audiences
  • Real-time parity monitoring
  • On-demand access to reports
  • Fair pricing model

Most importantly, this program was built by hoteliers with a long legacy of performance. As the above "hack" demonstrates, Metadesk was built to take advantage of hospitality industry nuances and supercharge the performance of a property. 

How To Maximize Your Google Hotel Ad Metasearch Production

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Whether you’re a seasoned hotelier or just getting started in hotel marketing, chances are you understand metasearch, OTAs, and the importance of direct bookings when it comes to maximizing your hotel’s revenue. If this sounds foreign to you, then I recommend you read our blog on what is a hotel metasearch engine.

Optimizing Your Google Hotel Ad Strategy

The metasearch auction allows your hotel to compete directly with OTAs with a price-by-price comparison when a user completes a branded hotel search. Your Google hotel ad strategy should involve optimizing your Google Business Profile, analyzing and reacting to key performance indicators like impression data, and an understanding of the variables that can impact your click-through and conversion rates. I’ll touch more on these strategies below.

Impression Share Data & Metasearch Production

Impression share metrics are a few of the KPIs to analyze when considering if you have room to grow monthly production from your hotel ad campaign. An important thing to remember is that hotel ads are very much at the bottom of the conversion funnel. Users who enter your booking flow via metasearch are users who have discovered your brand, conducted their research, and have decided to go through with booking your hotel. Analyzing these metrics from this perspective will make the most out of your optimizations.

Within the scope of metasearch, the following metrics can be viewed as the beginning of the customer journey.

Eligible Impression - The total number of opportunities that your Hotel ad was eligible to show (i.e., entered the auction) based on the targeting criteria over the specified time period.

Impression - How often is your ad shown? An impression is counted each time your ad is shown on a search result page or other site on the Google Network.

Impression Share - Impression share (IS) is the percentage of impressions that your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions that your ads could get.

If your Google hotel ad campaign is experiencing a low number of impressions, several factors may be at play, including aspects related to your Google Business Profile, pricing model, or inventory-related issues. For example, if you’re dealing with low impressions, improving your photographic assets on your Google Business Profile could help. Be sure to showcase your property's best amenities and demand drivers.

And if your pricing is substantially higher than your competitors, that can also discourage clicks and impressions.

Lastly, if your hotel is consistently out of parity with the OTAs, and the ad price doesn’t match the booking price, otherwise known as a price accuracy discrepancy, your hotel listing can be penalized by Google and suppressed within market searches relevant to your property.

If your hotel is struggling with a low impression share, that means potential guests are clicking through to your metasearch listing but the ad for your “Official Website” isn’t present. The issue here is that several OTA listings for your property will be served to the potential guest. Most likely this is caused by one of two issues; 1) You’re sold out, in which case you may want to ensure you black out those dates with your OTA listings, or 2) You ran out of budget. Increasing budget can be an easy way to increase your impression share percentage and direct bookings.

Optimizing Your Click-Through Rates

Both click-through and conversion rates are very telling KPIs when it comes to analyzing the state of your hotel's booking flow.

Click-Through Rate - The percentage of users who have clicked on your ad divided by the impressions your ad has received

Conversion Rate - The percentage of conversions divided by the number of interactions

A low click-through rate can indicate a number of things to be looked at further, but generally, an incomplete or inaccurate Google Business Profile, price competitiveness issues, insufficient ad callouts, or a low position in the auction will have the largest impact on your CTR.

A well-optimized Google Business Profile should list all possible amenities and features relevant to your property, as well as high-quality imagery displayed at the profile level. If your property has a member rate available, then we highly recommend that you channel your member rates to your metasearch channel and work with your connectivity partner to set up slash-through pricing. This allows you to be in compliance while offering a better price than OTAs and showcasing it with a single slash. This subtle change has been known to improve CTRs.

Another technique to increase CTR is by creating ad callouts that resonate with the users viewing your hotel ad. Rate or promo-driven ad callouts have historically performed best.

Analyzing your Google hotel ad’s meet/beat/lose data is also a powerful tool to understand the causes for a low CTR. These competitive metrics will tell you the percentage that your hotel ad had served a rate that was in or out of parity, or more simply put, how often OTAs served a rate more competitive than yours. If your hotel is consistently serving a rate that is higher than the OTAs, your CTR will certainly suffer. On the other end, if your property is experiencing price accuracy discrepancies, you’ll have a poor conversion rate because users are bouncing when they don’t find the price that originally caught their attention in the auction.

If your CTR is abnormally low, and your beat percentage is healthy, then you should look at your Google Business Profile, pricing model, parity discrepancies, or connectivity issues between your metasearch partner and your Google Business Profile.

Optimizing Your Conversion Rates With A Positive User Experience

Within the scope of metasearch, a low conversion rate usually indicates an issue in the booking flow experience. Ask yourself, does the user land within a checkout flow? Are there unnecessary pop-ups or scrolling needed to find the hotel room the user was interested in? Does the price in the metasearch auction match what is found in the booking engine, does your booking flow provide the user with a positive experience? A poor user experience will lead to users bouncing to the next available booking option, thus, a low conversion rate.

Google grades each property based on its ability to provide its users with a positive user experience, and one way of doing so is by measuring the advertiser's ability to remain compliant with their pricing policies. If your property is constantly fighting to stay compliant with Google’s Price Accuracy Policy, then over time you’ll receive a poor score that negatively impacts your auction positioning, advertising cost, and free booking link placement. Ensuring your property remains compliant with Google's policies is key to competing with OTAs in the metasearch auction and generating direct bookings.

Users are expecting to complete a purchase when they click through from your hotel ad. Things such as strange or conflicting rates or promotions, confusing acronyms, a plethora of rate options, and so forth all lead to a poor user experience. Users will bounce from the slightest confusion or inconvenience.

Is your property struggling to compete with OTAs in the metasearch auction? Reach out to us today, and we’ll get you on track.

Price Accuracy, Rate Parity, and Hotel Metasearch Conversions

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Price Accuracy Vs. Rate Parity

Price accuracy and rate parity are two of the most important factors to control when it comes to hotel metasearch. The two are not directly related but are often confused with one another, and both play a vital role in driving the most direct booking conversions. Price accuracy refers to ensuring that the rates displayed in the metasearch channel reflect the real rates in your booking engine. Rate parity refers to how often you are being undercut on rates by OTAs selling your rooms through their sites.

Price Accuracy

Did you know that price accuracy improves your metasearch conversion? Did you know it can actually lead to increased costs, higher CPCs, and less visibility if your prices aren’t accurately reflected in your booking engine? In fact, Google says your price accuracy score affects the auction positioning and advertising cost of your Google Hotel Ads metasearch listings. Ensure price accuracy while improving your conversion rate with these simple booking engine best practices:

  • Publish your BAR rate - Don’t get undercut by the OTAs in the listings. Make sure you always offer potential guests the best available rates.
  • Ensure your lowest rate is listed first - Google’s policies indicate your rate should be prominently displayed on your booking engine landing page and that the lowest rate (the rate shown in Google Hotel Ads) be the first listed rate available. It also helps ensure a smooth customer journey when the first price listed is the price they see in your booking engine.
  • Add any and all public promotions to your channeled metasearch rate/inventory feed - If you offer deals and discounts that the OTAs can’t match, listing those rates on your metasearch channels will give a greater incentive for guests to book direct.
  • Be thoughtful about how many rate types you display on your booking engine page - Guests may be overwhelmed if there are too many rates available on your landing page. The goal should be to decrease friction at all points in the booking process.
  • Use understandable language -  Communication is always key. Make sure any callouts or text in ads are compelling and concise. Language on the landing page should match your Brand voice and be easy to read.

Rate Parity

Rate parity can have a massive impact on your conversion rates for hotel metasearch, but what is it exactly? In short, rate parity means ensuring you aren’t being undercut on the best available rate. Below is an example of a hotel experiencing rate parity issue; notice how Priceline and TripAdvisor both offer rates lower than the official site.

  • Always be the best - OTAs are always looking for ways to beat your official site rates, trying to steal your direct bookings. Because metasearch interaction and conversion rates are driven so heavily by price, it’s vital that you offer the lowest rate.
  • Monitor your listings - It’s important to be aware of how often your rates are not the lowest rates being displayed. Hotels with higher instances of being out of rate parity consistently have lower performance than those whose rates are in line.
  • Have a strategy - A rate parity strategy is a set of policies that work together to ensure that your prices stay in parity. It may seem trivial to focus on rate parity, but it has an outsized impact on your conversion rate.

Rate parity is one of the most essential ways to increase your CTRs and conversions, while lowering your CPCs and increasing spend efficiency. After all, if your customers can get a better rate somewhere else, why wouldn’t they?
We specialize in improving your metasearch conversions. Reach out to our hotel metasearch experts today at https://metadesk.pro/sign-up/

What Is Hotel Metasearch?

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Metasearch is an important piece of any successful hotel marketing strategy, but what is it? How does it work? Most people don’t know what a metasearch engine really does behind the scenes, but understanding metasearch can help you get the most out of your hotel’s marketing.

What Is A Metasearch Engine?

Before we get into hotel metasearch, let’s establish what a metasearch engine is and how it works. 

At its core, a metasearch engine is an aggregator of data. Standard search engines browse for relevant results based on a search query, and give you a list of resources to find the information you need. Metasearch engines, though, scan through resources for you and instead give you a potential list of answers. Metasearch engines take care of research and organization, leaving you with an easily digestible and comparable list of information. 

Think about search engines in terms of something a bit more familiar, like a library. A standard search engine is a lot like a library catalog. If you’re looking for the answer to a specific question, the catalog can help you find books relating to the general topic. However, metasearch engines are more like a good reference librarian, and they take things a step further. A librarian will use the same catalog to find relevant books, but they’ll also help you read through and interpret those books to give you a list of potential answers. 

Both the catalog and librarian will help you find an answer to your question, but the librarian will save you time and effort by prioritizing and listing out the most relevant pieces of information, just like a metasearch engine. Both types of search engine have their time and place to shine, but metasearch engines can make information much more digestible and easier to compare, since they handle the research and organization for you.

What Is Hotel Metasearch?

Hotel metasearch engines are just like other metasearch engines, but with a narrow focus on rates, inventory, and availability of hotel rooms. Hotel metasearch engines generate a list of rate options for a potential guest to choose from, pulling real-time data from various sources including your CRS/booking engine and online travel agencies (OTAs).

Hotel metasearch engines make booking a room quick and simple for guests, reducing the frustration and tedium that can come from manual rate shopping. Guests can also book with the confidence of getting the best deal, since rates are easily comparable in the side-by-side format of hotel metasearch engines. These engines can even automatically include discounted rates from exclusive packages and other offers, making it even more appealing for a guest to book through metasearch channels. 

There are a number of hotel metasearch engines out there, including Google Hotel Ads, Kayak, and Trivago. Each engine works a bit differently, but they all share the same purpose of aggregating room rates from various websites into one list. Here’s an example from Google Hotel Ads, though most hotel metasearch engines have a similar look.

To ensure that your official rates are included by these hotel metasearch engines, it’s vital that you connect with a metasearch partner. If you want to learn more, check out our post on metasearch basics

Takeaways

If you’re not on hotel metasearch, you’re missing out. Metasearch engines are more detailed than standard search engines, scanning through appropriate resources and pulling out a list of the most important and relevant information. For hotels, metasearch engines are able to provide a list of real-time rates to potential guests, simplifying the booking process and increasing the likelihood of a stay at your hotel. 

If you’re interested in learning more about hotel metasearch or ready to partner, contact Metadesk.

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