From Mobile to Expansion: Google’s Evolving Role in Hotel Marketing
As the utterly dominant search engine supplier (and perhaps the biggest Internet power player there is), Google has the potential to cause shockwaves rather than ripples when it dips its feet into a specific branch of online marketing. So it was last year when it increased its footprint in the hotel marketing arena. Let’s take a look at its activity over the past 12 months – and, moving forward, what it may mean for independent hoteliers and their properties…
Undoubtedly, if it’s not already, your hotel’s website must be mobile optimised. Why? Because – thanks to it becoming public news last autumn that web browsing on mobile devices had finally overtaken that carried out on desktop – critically Google decided it’s going to split its desktop and mobile indices, the result being that, of the two, the mobile index will be the primary one. The consequence of this is that those websites not mobile optimised in time will be caught on the hop – their rankings in Google search and, therefore, their organic traffic (all-important for generating direct online bookings) will be seriously compromised.
Don’t doubt it; Google’s also looking to profit from travel-concerned browsers more directly than merely through its search pages. One signifier of this is, thanks to carrying ads for online travel giants Expedia and Priceline, it earned more than $6 billion last year alone. But even more markedly, realising just how lucrative hotel marketing solutions have become, Google has specifically focused on aiming to keep travel browsers in its ecosystem by enhancing its own accommodation booking platform and launching a travel planner app.
The ‘Book on Google’ platform enables the Internet giant to ensure travel shoppers don’t leave its interface when they select and book hotel rooms; meaning there’s no redirection to non-Google sites in order to complete the process. Within months it’s likely the platform will be launched throughout the world as opposed to being available in the US and UK alone, as it presently is.
Google’s USP for the platform is interconnectivity across its multiple channels and, thus, ease of use – indeed, should a user already have the peer-to-peer payment service that’s Google Wallet they won’t even need to enter their pay-card details, thus speeding up the purchase process.
For independent hotels, Book on Google might be seen as an attractive option when it comes to bookings; after all, it’s free to hotels and OTAs that already pay out for Google Hotel Ads. Yet it’s a decision not to be taken lightly because while, technically speaking, the platform isn’t an OTA itself, it’s not an all-out direct channel either. Therefore, if and when it does effectively change over to become an OTA, the pseudo-direct online bookings it delivers your hotel will go up in smoke, even though bookers won’t notice any difference whatsoever.
Travel planner app
Finally, as noted, to capitalise on its near total ownership of people’s travel-related online searches, the web monolith also launched ‘Google Trips’ last autumn. A personalised travel planner in app form, it was clearly designed to take advantage of the aforementioned ever skyrocketing amount of browsing conducted on handheld devices. As an app, it enables users to browse potential travel options, manage reservations they’ve made and check up on details while away from home – all without the need for Internet access. In addition to drawing data and inspiration from Google Maps (of course) and a user’s own email account, it is – like Book on Google – a smart, interconnected piece of software. Moreover, what with Book on Google’s ongoing evolution, a merger between the two may well be likely in the near future. Overall then, it’s clear that hoteliers must pay attention to Google’s ongoing moves in hotel marketing – the signs are that, as time goes on, they’re only likely to increase and evolve.