Google has been gradually taking away website traffic for many industries over the years by moving more information and functionality directly within the search engine, allowing searchers to find what they need without ever leaving Google.com. This shift for the travel industry has previously been felt with the introduction of Google My Business, Google Flight and Google Hotel Search as well as featured snippets and answer boxes within the search results. Last week Google introduced even more changes to its travel related search for hotels and flights that follows this trend and further monetizes travel bookings for Google.
New Features for Google’s Hotel Search with Travel Insights Tool
1. Allow Google to Help Pick Your Next Travel Destination
Google will now curate the best flight deals based on your airport of origin by offering a filter by price and highlighting great value options.
2. New Hotel Deals Filter
Google now offers expanded filters to let you narrow down your hotel search based on a new “deals” specific filter that “uses machine learning to highlight hotels where one or more of our partners offer rates that are significantly lower than the usual price for that hotel or similar hotels nearby.” - Google’s Blog Post.
Click through on one of these deals and you’re taken to the previously updated Google hotels overview page that features hotel overview information, photos, reviews, rates and availability from hotel ads partners and things to do within the destination and near the hotel.
3. View Hotel Highlights
Consumers can also filter and view by hotel highlights and amenities such as if it has a pool, is family friendly or is a luxury hotel - all curated with machine learning and aggregated from multiple sources that Google does not specifically state.
This information can also be found on the hotel’s overview page:
4. Searches for Hotels Near Landmarks in Google Maps
Google is instructing consumers to use Google Maps for helpful information about what hotels are around specific landmarks or attractions by providing hotels near the landmark along with rates, walking and driving distances.
How Can Your Hotel Optimize For Exposure & Conversions With Google’s Updated Hotel Search?
Make Sure Your Hotel’s Google My Business and local listings are accurate and optimized
Participate in Google Hotel Ads to ensure your hotel website is competing with OTAs in this highly visible space
Encourage guests to write reviews and make sure you are responding to them - on all important channels and especially on Google. If your hotel isn’t getting positive reviews - make sure to address the issues whether it’s customer service or product related.
Make sure you have a competitive rate strategy in place and your lowest rates are only found on your website.
Optimize your website with location focused keywords and optimize for demand driving location attractions and/or events
Partner with local events, organizations, conventions and more to gain exposure and potentially links from local businesses
Need help getting started or auditing how you measure up with all of these items? Reach out to our hotel marketing team and we'll set you up for success.
How GCommerce's Programmatic Bidding Strategies Benefit Our Hotel Clients
If there is one thing that is absolute in the hospitality internet marketing world, it’s that we must constantly be testing, analyzing, implementing changes (or not) based on test data, and testing some more.
GCommerce utilizes programmatic bid optimization for paid search marketing, which is now a must in a world of constant changes and bid management. Programmatic bidding allows bid adjustments throughout the day and uses data based on previous days data. For an individual to be able to delve into the performance and history of a specific keyword would take hours to be able to optimize an account of 100+ keywords, multiply this by 10 or more clients a day and there is now no time for other important client optimizations.
Programmatic bidding is not just a set-and-forget machine learning tool. If you use programmatic bid optimization you must make sure that you are making the most of it and getting the best results possible for clients. How do you do this? Test. Analyze. Implement (or not). Test Again.
Earlier this year, I ran a test on a sample of clients using a different bid strategy model to see if client performance could benefit from it. It wasn’t that the current automated bid strategy wasn’t working, it was based on the idea that we always want to improve our results, therefore we test different theories and strategies.
This particular test yielded some pretty significant results:
Due to the seasonality of our clients, the best data to gather is to compare year over year with a significant amount of time. Using a date range of 6 months of data, here is what we found:
Average CPC’s increased 1%
Reservations increased 89%
Revenue increased 100%
When comparing to GCommerce’s entire hospitality paid search marketing portfolio, here is what we found:
Average CPC’s increased at a much lower rate
Reservations increased at a much higher rate
Revenue also increased at a much higher rate
Rising CPC’s are a constant battle in the paid search marketing world. At GCommerce Solutions, our hospitality internet marketing teams are constantly optimizing paid search campaigns to help decrease this metric as best as we can. After reviewing performance across GCommerce’s entire portfolio, I found that, on average, GCommerce clients experienced an increase of 4% in average CPC’s during the same time period. This leads to a conclusion that our clients and the hotel industry continue to see ever-increasing rise in CPC’s across the board in order to compete in the SERP. But the fact that we have been able to slow it down while ramping up reservations and revenue is a huge win.
After pulling all of the data and seeing such clear results, it was obvious that it was in our clients’ best interest to switch gears on our overall strategy to best reach our KPI (key performance indicator) goals and maximize their spend. So we did.
"refers to information with a high degree of organization, such that inclusion in a relational database is seamless and readily searchable by simple, straightforward search engine algorithms or other search operations."
But what exactly does that mean and how does it apply to hotels? In order to best describe Structured Data, it is probably easiest to start with examples.
Structured Data Examples
If we do a Google Search for "spinach and artichoke dip", the first thing on the result page is a list of ingredients and instructions on how to make it:
That formatted list of ingredients and instructions is a pretty straightforward example, but what about more complex, personal details to your gmail account? If you do a Google Search for "my previous flights" - so long as you have flight info in an @gmail.com account and you are logged in, you should see every flight and details that are in your gmail account displayed in the search result page for Google:
We can also click into those details and see specific information about the flight that is listed:
We can see the same information on hotels if we do a "my previous hotels" search in Google:
The question then becomes, how does Google take recipe information from a website or flight and hotel data from your gmail account and display those details in a clean table in the search results? The answer is that the data is organized in a way that inclusion in a relational database is seamless. In other words, it is Structured Data.
We can markup data on a hotel's website in a similar fashion so that necessary elements for a hotel are present so that inclusion in relational database is seamless. An example of how this is done can be seen on this page here.
On the right side of that page, we can see that there are different types of data marked up. Website, Hotel, Hotel Room, and Organization. We can click into each of those sections and Google will display all of the data that is marked up for us to view:
However, this is how it looks within the code of your website:
What is important to note here is that the Structured Data markup is not actually meant for the audience of your website, it is meant for bots and spiders that crawl the internet to aggregate information for users in other platforms (Google, Bing, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)
How Does Structured Data Impact Organic Performance
While Google has said that Structured Data is not a ranking factor, they have stated that it helps the engine better understand the content on your pages and there is evidence that it helps provide additional information to the end user, which can increase CTR. CTR is correlated with higher rankings in search engines and a higher CTR can help move rankings up in Organic Results, which would lead to a higher CTR, higher rankings, and so on.
Our goal here is to create a positive feedback loop that starts by providing more information to the end user and contributes to higher rankings with higher CTRs.
Get Ahead of Competition
From the limited tests that we have run, we see that the vast majority of hotels are not currently utilizing Structured Data. As Google has confirmed benefits of having it on a website, this is a great opportunity to get in front of competitors.
Impact Positive Performance On Your Site
So far, clients that have implemented structured data have seen some positive improvements to organic search traffic and we encourage our clients to implement Structured Data for improved website performance.
Contact GCommerce today for more information on implementing structured data to your hotel’s website.
Google Page Speed Update: Will Your Hotel's Website Be Impacted?
GOOGLE’S PAGE SPEED UPDATE IS NOW ROLLING OUT TO ALL USERS
Search Engine Land and our agency Google representative have confirmed that Google’s Page Speed Update is now being released to all users. As of July 9th, 2018, Google “has begun incorporating the new Speed Update algorithm in the mobile search results as a search ranking factor”.
Google has confirmed that right now, the update “only impacts the slowest of sites on the internet”. But….what does Google consider slow or the slowest in terms of mobile site speed? Our Google agency representative stated that RANK COULD BE AFFECTED FOR PAGES THAT LOAD SLOWER THAN 3-4 SECONDS. In addition to page rank and organic performance, it’s also important to understand that pages with slow load times also impact your paid advertising performance. How much of the traffic from your hard earned paid advertising dollars are bouncing from your site because the page takes too long to download? This can add up to a lot of wasted advertising dollars.
How do you know if Google’s Page Speed Update could impact your website? In Google’s most recent blog post on the Page Speed Update, they state that, “Although there is no tool that directly indicates whether a page is affected by this new ranking factor, here are some resources that can be used to evaluate a page’s performance.” These include Google’s Test My Site Tool.
Our Google representative encourages immediate action to improve page speed if your site is loading slower than 5 seconds. Back in May we dove into the importance of mobile page speed for organic search rankings. Now is the time to act, don’t wait until your site is negatively impacted. Chances are, it is already seeing the negative impact of advertising dollars wasted on site visitors that bounce.
Reach out to GCommerce today to inquire about how we can help improve your site’s page speed.
How to Win on Mobile: The Increasing Importance of Mobile Speed for Organic Search Rankings
MOBILE SPEED EFFECTS ON ORGANIC SEARCH RANKINGS OVER TIME
Google recently came out with a new tool to help companies compare their mobile performance against their competitors and measure the impact that decreasing mobile page load times can have on revenue. It’s not surprising to anyone in the marketing world that the results are significant. Users are increasingly demanding of websites to load as fast as possible, with slower websites experiencing noticeable increases in bounce rate as well as drops in other engagement metrics like time on site, pages per session and event/goal completions.
This move by Google is the latest in a series of initiatives by the tech giant to emphasize the increasing importance of mobile experience in the modern internet landscape. Looking back to April 2015, Google updated their algorithm in a release dubbed by webmasters as “Mobilegeddon”, giving priority in their SERP rankings to mobile- and tablet-friendly websites when the query was made on a mobile device. In May of that same year, they released a statement saying that mobile searches exceeded those of desktop in 10 countries, including the US & Japan. In November 2016, they started experimenting with mobile-first indexing, wherein a site’s mobile version, if it had one, would be used as its primary version, with the desktop version being displayed only if a mobile version was not available. Those sites without a mobile version would most likely see a decline in their SERP rankings while sites with a mobile-friendly experience could receive a boost in rankings regardless of the device on which the search is being made. Fast-forward to January 2018, Google released a statement explicitly calling out the fact that page speed will now be a ranking factor on mobile searches like it has been on desktop starting in July of this year.
One question you may be having is why Google is taking such a strong stance on mobile. The answer is multi-faceted, but it all comes down to providing users with the best possible experience, which ultimately benefits both users and Google. By optimizing your site for a mobile user, using techniques such as responsive design, fast page load times, utilizing caching and providing high quality content, your site is more likely to be engaging to users and therefore rank higher on Google’s SERP. Google benefits by providing users with the highest-quality content in the top positions which builds trust and makes users more likely to use them in the future, while you benefit with increased website traffic, higher conversion rates, and more engagement with your site. It’s in Google’s best interest to keep this feedback loop continuing and to get webmasters to perpetually try to optimize their sites for an optimal user experience, which is why we’ve seen this progression from merely stating that mobile experience is important to announcing to the world that it is definitively a factor in their rankings and providing businesses withtools like the Impact Calculator that should encourage them to make strides in the short term to that effect.
TOOLS TO MEASURE THE IMPACT OF PAGE SPEED ON YOUR WEBSITE PERFORMANCE
Back to Google’s new mobile tools for a second. The top section of the page allows you to compare your site with those of your competitors to see how your mobile speed stacks up. This is a great tool for benchmarking and assessing if you’re currently ahead of, in line with, or way behind your competition. In the below example, we would recommend to our client that they make immediate changes to their website to get on level terms with their competition as they are lagging behind all but one of their competitors.
Revenue Directors and business owners will most likely be more intrigued by the Impact Calculator, though. It will ask you for data regarding average monthly website visitors, average order value, and website conversion rate. Based on this information, it will give an estimate of how much incremental revenue can be generated by lowering your site’s mobile page load time on a scale in increments of 0.1 seconds from your site’s current load time down to their minimum threshold of 0.6 seconds.
If you play around with the slider function, you’ll notice that the faster a web page loads, the more incremental revenue it is expected to produce. We noticed that the relationship did not appear to be linear, so we tested a couple of our clients on the tool and found the following:
Client 1 (Original Page Load Time of 5.0 Seconds)
Client 2 (Original Page Load Time of 2.8 Seconds)
As you can see from the graphs, incremental revenue starts to increase exponentially as page load times approach the minimum of 0.6 seconds. While that minimum isn’t currently attainable for many websites, it’s certainly something everyone should be striving for given the potential payoff.
The nice thing about decreasing page load times is that it positively affects other metrics that you may not have thought about. It’s obvious that bounce rate would decrease while time on site and pages per session would increase, but could this affect organic search results, too? While no one knows exactly what’s in Google’s search algorithm, we already know that they have come out and said that site speed is a ranking factor and that mobile page load speed will be a ranking factor starting in July. It’s also been shown through independent testing that the top positions in organic search results typically have lower than average bounce rates and higher than average time spent on that page. By increasing your mobile site speed, you’re helping your site’s pages rank better for organic results, thereby supplementing your other SEO efforts. As mentioned previously, higher organic rankings should produce higher website conversion rates and therefore more revenue, something every business owner can get behind.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT FOR HOTEL WEBSITES?
You may be thinking that this all sounds great but it’s not currently a priority, and you’d rather focus budget and time on channels with predictable ROIs. The thing about that is, you’re wrong. Mobile traffic is increasing every year and has accounted for the majority of worldwide searches since 2015. Most of your users are most likely on mobile devices or will be in the near future. Also, in preparing for Google’s eventual worldwide switch to a mobile-first index, it’s even more important to have a mobile-friendly website and for mobile page load times to be lower, since a domain’s mobile site will be used as the primary site in Google’s search results. They are making it clear with their actions that this is the direction they want websites to move towards, with those who don’t comply being penalized and pushed further down the SERP, never to be seen again. It’s in your best interest to take the necessary steps to optimize your site for mobile now, and make a concerted effort to keep it that way moving forward. Mobile traffic and faster speeds are the future.
HOW TO USE PAGE SPEED TO IMPROVE YOUR SEARCH ENGINE PERFORMANCE
Get in touch with us today if you’d like more information on how GCommerce can help you gain incremental revenue from increased mobile site speed and optimize your site for a mobile experience.
Tropicana Inn & Suites' New Website Increases Conversion Rate and Revenue
Have you ever wondered just how important a website is to a business?
GCommerce launched a beautiful new website for Tropicana Inn & Suites in Anaheim, CA in October 2017. A deep focus on branding, user experience and design with a focus on conversion rate optimization had a dramatic impact on the hotel’s digital presence and bottom line.
Functionality plays a huge part in the overall user experience and performance for any website. The creative and design team at GCommerce Solutions understands this and makes sure to implement hospitality specific best practices to all of our website builds and designs.
In the case of Tropicana Inn & Suites, it was a Design Ready Architecture (DRA) build that was put together with their new branding and content initiatives. The Tropicana specific DRA that was used took into consideration keeping a user on the website and giving them all the information needed right at their fingertips.
The most important factors considered for Tropicana’s layout & design was:
Having a testimonial section right on the website.
This keeps a user on the page and provides transparency; keeping them from having to search for another website’s reviews helping to ultimately keep the user on the property’s website.
This shows success in the 6% increase in average session duration since the launch of the new website.
Highlighting the most visited pages right on the homepage to help keep the user engaged and easy navigation to find the information they require.
High quality and professional photography. Per Hospitality Net, after price, photography is the most important factor for travelers and prospects.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE ACTUAL NUMBERS AND HOW THE NEW WEBSITE HAS IMPACTED DIFFERENT MARKETING CHANNELS
The following results were found after comparing data from the old website vs. the new website post launch.
OVERALL WEBSITE PERFORMANCE
Lets delve deeper and review how the new website helped the individual digital marketing efforts.
PAID SEARCH ADVERTISING
Well designed with user experience and conversion rate best practices in mind, a new website can make a dramatic difference in your hotel’s performance and bottom line. Your website is your online storefront, You want it to be welcoming and portray a true representation of the property’s experience. The user experience should be easy to navigate and help lead your user through the booking funnel. Such as the snap navigation and booking widget used for Tropicana Inn & Suites that affixes to the top of the browser and follows the user down the page. You want the user to be able to navigate your site from anywhere and allow them to book their room from any point of their journey.
GCommerce Solutions would be happy to help with your new website. You can submit a request for more information here or give us a call at 435-214-5301.