If there’s one thing that can complicate and disrupt the booking journey for hotels, it’s the ever-changing search landscape.
With Google constantly updating its algorithms and strategy, traffic coming in from multiple devices, and inconsistent SEO practices from travel websites, it’s hard for hotels to get a clear picture of what is working and what needs to be done to increase traffic and conversions in the future.
Analysis by Net Affinity has shown organic traffic is being rerouted to paid search results, social media, and even offline channels.
With the prominent rise of mobile devices, social media, and other forms of travel inspiration, guests are changing the way they search for and book their trips. Hotels need to understand the extent of these changes so they can maintain a profitable conversion rate.
While the times are changing, it doesn’t mean hotels will suffer from a lack of organic search.
Engagement and conversion rates seem to be rising so there are opportunities for hotels to take advantage of, if they’re willing to acknowledge the greater need for spend in their marketing budget.
Here are the 8 most important search changes hotels should be aware of…
- Ad positioning
Google has removed its previously right-aligned ads on desktop and now display four text ads at the top of search results, pushing organic pages further down the search rankings. This has seen a 10% increase in traffic from paid listings. Google is also endeavouring to make paid ads look less obtrusive, gaining more clicks from the average viewer.
- The knowledge panel
In a positive for some hotels the knowledge panel, which house paid and organic material in the form of maps, reviews, images, and Google hotel ads, is more prominent in some cases. This means the hotel ads in which a direct booking link can be displayed will occupy territory previously held by online travel agents.
- Expanded text ads
As of 2017 text ads can only be created using the expanded text ad format. The key differences here include:
- Expanded text ads have two headline fields instead of one for more text
- Two description lines have been merged into one
- Your display url is now based on your final domain url
- The display url has two optional ‘path’ fields meaning you can display text after your domain url to give people a better idea of where they’ll be taken after they click the link
- All text ads are now mobile optimised
- Organic search is suffering on mobile
Because more text ads are appearing at the top of search results, organic results are even further down the page on mobile devices. Viewers may have to scroll as many as three times before they reach an organic result.
- Social channels are becoming more popular
With many potential research touchpoints, the tendency for travellers to find travel information and inspiration on social channels is increasing. Even those aged 65+ have increased their social media usage to over 40%. Given this is probably on the back of peer recommendations, it’s likely a lot of this traffic is shifting from organic search with less time spent on search engines.
- Calls to hotels are increasing
Phone call extensions within ads can increase click-through rates by up to 5% and suit travellers who like to ‘book-on-the-go’. Some users also still prefer to book on the phone rather than try to navigate a booking process on their mobile or computer.
- Google Destinations makes it even easier to book on mobile
Destinations on Google is specifically created for mobile searches and allows users to find and book trips with as little search effort as possible meaning they won’t be scrolling through organic results as often as they were, especially those who are beginning their search journey.
- Price extensions favour top-listings
A price extension is only available to ads in the first listing position but are a great way to get more engagement. One feature for example would be the ability to list price tiers for different room types, allowing viewers more visibility and comparison right there on the results page. These ads take up a lot of real estate on the page, meaning it takes longer to scroll down to organic results.
While hotels should still be working hard to optimise their SEO for organic rankings, it seems inevitable they’ll have to balance this with some marketing spend if they want to significantly increase traffic and conversions.