How Does Hotel Metasearch Help With First-Party Data?

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Hotel metasearch can help prepare your hotel for a world without 3rd party cookies. GCommerce’s MetaDesk explains how.

How Does Hotel Metasearch Help With 1st Party Data Collection

Chances are, you’ve come across articles and information about hotel metaearch before. It’s emerged over the years as a hybrid marketing and distribution channel, with Google Hotel Ads as the frontrunner. But did you know that hotel metasearch can help your hotel collect more 1st party data and prepare for the end of 3rd party cookies? 

Why do I need to worry about 1st party data collection for my hotel?

2023 is the year (for lack of a better, less cliche phrase) the cookie crumbles. Gartner predicts that by 2023, 65% of the world’s population will have personal data covered by privacy laws, up from just 10% in 2020. It’s also the year that Google has officially set the end date for supporting 3rd party cookies in its Chrome browser. What does this mean? It means that as advertisers and marketers we are going to be forced into a new era of how we can market to target consumers in a personalized way. Instead of relying on 3rd party cookies, we will need to lean on first-party data to deliver these focused, targeted and personalized messages to consumers that want to receive them from our brand. 

Consider it a trade. Their personal data in exchange for something of value from your brand. 

But how do we get more 1st party data for our hotels?

One very important approach to obtain more 1st party data is through direct bookings for your hotel. When a guest books directly through your hotel’s booking engine, instead of through an OTA, you are given this wealth of first party data to use for remarketing purposes. It can be used through email (continually one of the highest ROAS channels), as well as uploaded to platforms including Google Ads and Facebook/Instagram for remarketing and for creation of similar to/look-alike audiences.

While there are many other strategies and tactics to consider while preparing for a cookieless future (you can read our full e-book here), one channel has emerged as a game changer to help your hotel capture these direct bookings and reduce OTA contribution.

Hotel Metasearch.

Hotel metasearch includes the market leader, Google Hotel Ads as well as Tripadvisor, Bing Hotel Ads, Trivago, Kayak and more. 

How can metasearch help with 1st party data collection for my hotel?

Hotel metasearch ads exist (mostly) towards the bottom of the consumer purchase journey. OTA’s have been bidding, and owning, in this ad space since the beginning and they continue to dominate the space. Why? Because it is a tactic that has worked extremely well for them to own the guest booking and therefore own the guest data. 

To help drive more 1st party data collection, make sure you are active with metasearch. These ads drive direct, bottom of funnel traffic, directly to your booking engine with results averaging 5-8% of total website production. This shifts bookings away from OTAs and directly through your hotel’s booking engine, allowing you to capture 1st party data with each booking.

We want to help hoteliers prepare for a world without 3rd party cookies, but beyond that it’s about less reliance on the OTAs now and in the future by owning the guest data, lowering OTA contributions and that is best done by driving more direct bookings.

Want to learn more about MetaDesk? Reach out to one of our hotel metasearch experts for more information.

Click here to schedule a Metadesk demo

The Opportunity Cost of Metasearch

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As you read this, you're likely content with your hotel marketing and distribution strategy. But just under the surface, a battle rages for your customer, and many hoteliers are unaware.

They look at their media mix, replete with reasonable allocations to paid search, social media, display, SEO, and metasearch, and feel like they have covered their proverbial bases. Missing in that analysis is the amount of potential business they are ceding to OTA's or, worse yet, their competitors.  

For too long, the hospitality industry has managed marketing with an emphasis on the expense side of the ledger. Marketing's purpose is to capture business that drives new and incremental bookings.

The absence of marketing at key points in a traveler's booking journey due to budget restrictions should be recognized for what it is—opportunity cost.  

Opportunity wasted, revenue squandered. The revenue side of the ledger suffers quietly and without sufficient attention.  

Defining the opportunity for hotel metasearch

Hotel metasearch channels like Google Hotel Ads and Tripadvisor capture customers as they move down the travel booking funnel.

Hotel metasearch becomes particularly relevant when travelers have determined their destination market, have developed a consideration set, and are beginning to develop price expectations. Your marketing and distribution alarms should be firing - this is the most critical time for your property to be present in the booking journey.  

Simply put, hotel metasearch sites offer the most immediate access to customers as they are about to choose between your direct website and your competitor: an OTA.  

It's no wonder that hoteliers report that hotel metasearch advertising produces some of the most impressive returns of any channel. So much so that OTAs have devoted huge chunks of their budgets to these channels.  

Yet, our collective response as an industry is to tragically underfund hotel metasearch. The most common approach is to sign up with a hospitality metasearch provider that offers an inexpensive technology connection fee and then allocate a small amount of dollars (3-figure amounts) to the campaigns. We manage the expense side of the ledger and check the metasearch box.

Calculating the opportunity cost of hotel metasearch

The most common internal justification for an underfunded hotel metasearch marketing campaign goes something like this: 

We spent $500 on our technology connection and $700 on media, which resulted in $13,000 in room revenue. An 11 to 1 return on investment. Success!

Missing from that analysis is the cost of missed opportunity.

By capping media investment at $700, a hotel artificially limits its demand capture. They cap their revenue originating through metasearch at approximately $13,000. 

Imagine a scenario in which there is $100,000 worth of demand available to the hotel in a particular month. With arbitrarily defined budgets, the property is allowing $87,000 worth of business to arbitrage to OTA's or competitors. Under this light and taking into account the revenue side of the ledger, the property is not managing its strategy in a shrewd or calculated way. They are letting 87% of the revenue walk out the door.  

Missing at the point of conversion because of a limited budget is the real opportunity cost in hotel metasearch.

Maximizing revenue by minimizing opportunity costs

Metadesk offers a flexible and innovative hotel metasearch model. The platform places and pays for media on a property's behalf in exchange for a commission that is meaningfully smaller than an OTA. Better yet, as hotel metasearch production improves, the commission rate plummets.  

Metadesk covers the cost of media - and is not constrained by artificial budget limits. Opportunity maximized.

Because Metadesk is incentivized by direct bookings with hotel metasearch management, it is always willing to keep spending. The innovative audience targeting embedded in the platform, coupled with real-time analytics, allows our trained hospitality media pros to identify the full spectrum of demand for a property and ensure that the hotel website is ever-present in the battle to capture customers.  

Take the above example to demonstrate the difference:

Traditional Flat Fee + Media ModelMetadesk Model
Platform Fee: $500Platform Fee: $0
Media Cost: $700Media Cost: $0
Gross Monthly Revenue: $13,000Gross Monthly Revenue: $100,000
Net Monthly Revenue: $11,800Net Monthly Revenue: $92,000

The opportunity cost for the traditional model in this example is a whopping $80,200 per month!  

In many cases, that is the difference between winning and losing, between premium market share and living at the bottom of the STR report rankings. Under this light, we see the power of maximizing the metasearch channel with an ever-present approach.

Hoteliers have always faced limitations when managing the expense side of the ledger. It's a function of our industry and inertia. The promise of metasearch is that it offers us a chance to flip tradition on its head and run a truly revenue-focused approach. 

At this moment in time, few have gravitated towards uncapped metasearch marketing. Metadesk offers the opportunity to stand apart from the competition and generate real gains in market share.

Effective Strategies to Increase Your Hotel’s Direct Bookings 

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In the highly competitive hospitality industry, increasing direct bookings is crucial for hotels and other accommodation providers. Direct bookings not only help you reduce reliance on third-party online travel agencies (OTAs) but also allow you to establish a direct relationship with your guests, resulting in better customer satisfaction and increased profits. To help you maximize your direct bookings, we've compiled a list of effective strategies that can give your business a boost.

Optimize your Hotel’s Website

Your hotel’s website serves as the face of your property, and it's often the first point of contact for potential guests. Make sure your website is visually appealing, user-friendly, and optimized for mobile devices. Ensure that the booking process is simple and straightforward, with clear calls to action. Highlight the unique features, amenities, and benefits of booking directly on your site, such as exclusive offers or loyalty programs.

Offer Competitive Rates and Value-Added Perks

To entice guests to book directly, provide competitive rates that are at least on par with OTA prices. Consider offering exclusive discounts, packages, or value-added perks such as complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, or room upgrades for direct bookings. Emphasize these benefits on your website to encourage guests to choose your property over others.

Leverage Social Media Platforms

Engage with your hotel’s audience on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Regularly share compelling content, including enticing images, videos, and stories that showcase your property's unique offerings. Run targeted ad campaigns to reach potential guests and promote direct bookings by highlighting the advantages of booking through your hotel’s website.

Implement a Robust Hotel Email Marketing Strategy

Build and maintain a database of past and potential guests, and leverage email marketing to stay connected with them. Send personalized emails with exclusive offers, seasonal promotions, and upcoming events. Use automation tools to send booking reminders, post-stay follow-ups, and personalized recommendations. Make sure your hotel’s emails provide value and maintain a consistent brand voice to nurture guest loyalty.

Invest in Hotel Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Optimize your hotel’s website for search engines to improve its visibility and drive organic traffic. Identify relevant keywords and incorporate them naturally into your website's content, titles, and meta descriptions. Develop informative and engaging blog posts related to your destination or local attractions. Encourage guest reviews and testimonials, as they not only contribute to your SEO efforts but also build trust and credibility with potential guests.

Provide Exceptional Guest Experiences

Deliver exceptional experiences that exceed guest expectations. Train your staff to provide warm, personalized service and ensure that guest feedback and concerns are addressed promptly. Encourage satisfied guests to share their experiences through online reviews and testimonials, which can have a significant impact on future bookings. Positive word-of-mouth is a powerful driver for direct bookings.

Implement a Direct Booking Incentive Program

Create a hotel loyalty program that rewards guests for booking directly with you. Offer exclusive benefits such as room upgrades, late check-out, or discounts on future stays. These incentives not only encourage direct bookings but also foster guest loyalty, as guests feel valued and appreciated for their continued support.

Collaborate with Local Businesses and Influencers

Forge partnerships with local businesses, attractions, or influencers who can help promote your property to their audiences. Offer special discounts or packages for joint promotions, collaborate on social media content, or host events together. By leveraging the reach and influence of these partners, you can expand your brand's visibility and attract new guests.

Increasing your hotel’s direct bookings requires a multifaceted approach that focuses on optimizing your website, leveraging digital marketing channels, providing exceptional guest experiences, and offering value-added incentives. By implementing these effective strategies, you can reduce your reliance on OTAs, build a loyal customer base, and drive higher profitability for your accommodation business. Remember, a well-rounded approach coupled with continuous adaptation and improvement will yield the best results in the long run.

Need additional help increasing your direct bookings? Check out Metadesk.

How to Optimize Your Hotel’s Metasearch Campaigns for Mobile Devices

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Google Search started prioritizing mobile first back in 2016 as visitation and growth from users on mobile devices started growing. As of 2023, almost 60% of traffic on the web is from mobile devices. Visibility on mobile devices is crucial if your hotel wants to be present during important parts of the consumer journey to purchase. GCommerce’s portfolio of hotel websites sees over 66% of all traffic coming from mobile devices.

Hotel metasearch campaigns have become an increasingly important part of this journey, especially on Google search. It’s powering new SERP features visible down the continuous scroll page, such as this newer hotel listing feature (with rates from hotel ads) under organic listings shown below.

Learn how your hotel can best approach optimizing your hotel ads and metasearch for this device type and ensure you have the right visibility to reach your goals.

How do I optimize my hotel’s metasearch ad campaigns for mobile devices?

Campaign Adjustments

Metadesk recommends optimizing your hotel metasearch campaigns based on performance by segment based on your hotel’s objectives. Some platforms, such as Google Hotel Ads offer the ability to use a bid modification by device type. You can also opt out of certain device types on channels such as Google and TripAdvisor altogether. You can view reporting on how each device type performs in terms of clicks, bookings, impression share, and more within metasearch management platforms to better understand how each device type segment performs before making any specific adjustments. 

Optimize Your Landing Page for Mobile Devices

An important part of your hotel’s metasearch performance is the booking engine landing page where the traffic lands. Although most hotels work with 3rd party providers, making it hard to have control over things like page speed - optimizing this experience can improve performance from mobile traffic in your metasearch campaigns. Make sure your mobile booking page is easy to navigate on a mobile device. You could also test mobile-only offers or last-minute deals to appeal to mobile device users, many of whom tend to be more likely to be last-minute bookers than desktop users.

Optimize For Local Search + Your Google Business Profile Listing

A critical part of your Google Hotel Ads’ visibility in Google search results is how well you’re focused on local SEO ranking signals. This includes how built out and up-to-date your Google Business Profile listing is, how many reviews your hotel has vs the competition, making sure you're responding to reviews, and more.

What device type drives the most bookings for hotel metasearch?

Although mobile devices account for over 60% of site traffic on average, this traffic tends to be higher in the funnel during the consumer path to purchase. On average, mobile devices only account for 30% of a hotel’s total website revenue production. The trend is the same as we look specifically at hotel metasearch campaign production. GCommerce’s portfolio sees 58% of all hotel metasearch clicks come from mobile devices but only 35% of total revenue.

This data can help you optimize your budget allocation.

If you are limited on budget for these typically bottom-of-funnel campaigns and focused on driving higher impression share to the segments that produce more revenue, you might opt to increase bid adjustments for desktop or decrease them for mobile traffic.

Remember, though, even though most bookings come via desktop - it’s important to be visible on mobile since that’s where consumers are spending most of their time (and clicks) interacting with your campaigns while they are shopping and considering which hotel to stay at in a destination - they just tend to book on desktop. If you remove visibility and impressions from mobile, you might end up hurting your overall performance due to lowered visibility.

Google Consent Mode Updates

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In the coming weeks, Google will launch consent mode v2. This is an update to their consent mode tag setting that allows your website visitors' cookie preferences to be passed via their selections on your domain’s cookie banner/consent management platform to Google’s suite of ad products, such as Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform. You can learn more about the details of consent mode here

The update supports “Google’s ongoing commitment to a privacy-centric digital advertising ecosystem” and means that “advertisers must adhere to the EU consent policy to use ad personalization” to target visitors based in the EU and UK. If your website does not comply with the consent mode requirements, you can only continue to serve ads on Google platforms that are not personalized, such as remarketing ads, to people located in EU and UK countries. 

If targeting users in these countries is critical to your business, a thorough policy structure around GDPR and how to comply with advertising policies in these countries should be something you work through with your legal teams and roll out to any marketing providers assisting with your advertising.

How can I enable consent mode?

The first step to enabling Google’s consent mode is to set up a consent management platform on your site. A consent management platform, also sometimes called a “cookie banner,” allows website visitors to choose their preferences around what is collected via cookies and sent to Google platforms such as Ads and Analytics. 

Using one of Google’s certified consent management platforms means the platform's settings will be updated so you can enable consent mode across Google products.

If you already have a content management platform, make sure you go into settings and enable consent mode.

If you don’t already have a consent management platform, Google has a list of official providers that can support your domain’s consent management needs. You can find the full list of Google-certified CMPs here. GCommerce recommends OneTrust as a CMP and can assist with setting up/integrating it onto your site, but there are many choices available for you to select from to help with your company’s consent mode compliance needs. 

Once you’ve set up your CMP, work with the provider to enable consent mode settings and alert GCommerce so we can assist with any necessary Google Tag Manager steps.


 You can learn more about Google’s updates to consent mode here.

What Google’s Sunset of Commission Bid Strategies Means for Your Hotel Ads Campaigns

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Google recently announced that support for commission-based bid strategies in Google Hotel Ads would be deprecated, and the bid strategy types would be going away in October 2024

Historically, Google Hotel Ads campaign types have had access to a few different bid strategies. Commission-based bid strategies are unique to hotel ads campaigns, and they allow hotels to set their bid optimization to be billed based on either pay-per-stay or pay-per-conversion. 

What does this mean for your Google Hotel Ads campaigns?

For hotels that want to run hotel ads campaigns, the ecosystem requires they use a 3rd party connection to access their rates and inventory feed via Google’s Hotel Center. This hotel center feed is then connected via third-party platforms or directly from a hotel’s CRS provider. 

As long as your hotel ads and metasearch provider isn’t relying upon one of these bid strategies, then no change is needed. 

At Metadesk, we rely on advanced bid algorithms and machine learning technologies coupled with ongoing optimization and targeting methods. Although our most popular billing model happens to be a pay-per-stay model, we don’t utilize Google’s pay-per-stay or pay-per-conversion bid strategy type. So, no change is needed to keep the current visibility and success you’re currently experiencing with our metasearch management services.

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