Unravelling Google Ads to Maximize Your Bookings

20 December 2021, 12:43 am AEDT

Before you spend time, energy, and money on online advertising, let’s take a look at Google Ads and their associated marketing services from the hotelier’s perspective.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between:

• Google Ads

• Google Hotel Ads

• Google’s “Free Booking Links”

To participate as a business with Google, you must first open a Business Profile account. Think of it as the starting point to manage your online business with Google, including Search and Maps. This helps customers find your business and tells them your story. You can also verify and edit your business information and manage customer reviews.

Being a rather broad overview, please feel free to click on the links to get a more in-depth look into each product.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is an online advertising platform, where you bid to display brief advertisements to your potential customers. It can place ads both in the results of search engines like Google Search and on mobile apps, and on other Google services. Services are offered using a pay-per-click (PPC) pricing model.

This is what it looks like in the search results:

image

What Does it Cost?

Google Ads auction revolves around keywords that you think your customers are most likely to use when searching for a product. For example, if you’re a small family and pet-friendly hotel, near an amusement park, your chosen keywords might be; hotel, family hotel, pet-friendly hotel, hotel amusement park etc…

Then it is up to you to ‘bid’ how much you are willing to pay for a Google user to click on your ad.

This bid, combined with a Quality Score assigned by Google based on the quality of your proposed ad, determines which Google Ads appear on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). When a user clicks on your ad, you then pay a certain cost (the cost-per-click, or CPC), which is calculated according to your quality score and other factors.

Pros:

• Easy to use – it’s possible to create a campaign within minutes.

• It has a broad audience and millions of users.

• Can run text ads.

• Can run commercial campaigns via YouTube and reference them.

Cons:

• It can take some time to optimize itself – depending on the volume of traffic and campaign settings.

• Since the CTR (click-through rate) and the landing page quality (loading time, mobile-friendly, etc.) impact the quality score, you need to make sure you have a quality landing page.

• Cost depends on the keywords chosen and overall performance of the campaign, but is generally higher than for Facebook Ads.

As Google themselves state, “running a Google Ads campaign does not help your SEO rankings, despite some myths and claims.” Therefore, you need to have a good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy to stay ahead of the game.

Is it for Me?

Yes, if you want direct bookings and don’t want to pay commission, this is a good option. The main purpose of Google Ads is for your hotel to rank above all the other OTAs (online travel agencies like Booking.com, Expedia, etc.), so a potential customer clicks on you first. It also encourages you to ensure you have a good SEO strategy and high-quality landing page, which is the foundation of your online marketing initiative regardless.

What is Google Hotel Ads?

Google Hotel Ads allows you to have guests book directly through your website instead of OTAs. Google will display your prices and link to your website from Google Search, Google Maps, etc. This service is available to all hotels, but Google strongly recommends working with an authorized integration provider like Sirvoy. By automating some of the setup, Sirvoy takes away a lot of the complexity of getting started with Google Hotel Ads.

To participate in Hotel Ads, you must send prices via your Hotel Center account, or the Hotel Center account of your integration partner. This service helps you optimize and manage your hotel prices for Hotel Ads (similar to “Expedia Partner Central”).

For example, when a customer is in your neighbourhood and does a search on ‘Hotels near me’ in Google Maps, he will see a screen like this:

image

This potential customer will see your hotel only if you have a Business Profile account with Google.

An important part of your marketing strategy on Google is to make sure that your property has a well updated profile on Google Business Profile, with pictures, descriptions, etc.

What Does it Cost?

It depends… With hotel campaigns, you can either bid when someone completes a booking or when they click on your ad:

• Commissions (pay-per-conversion): You pay only when a traveller books your hotel, depending on the payment model you choose. Note: This means you pay for every transaction, whether your customer stays or not.

• Commissions (pay-per-stay): You pay only when a traveller completes a stay they booked through hotel ads. Available only to select partners. Note: If your customer cancels, you can get a refund via a Google reconciliation report.

• Max CPC bid (fixed or percentage): You pay when a traveller clicks on your ad. For the CPC bid strategies, you can adjust your bid by factors such as device type, traveller location, length of stay, and other factors.

• Enhanced CPC: Automates bid adjustments for a Max CPC bidding strategy.

Note: Pay-per-stay is not initially available for new clients, and is only granted upon request, depending on performance metrics. It requires conversion tracking amongst other things. CPA (pay-per-conversion), Max CPC and eCPC are available to all clients.

Pros:

• Commission fee may be less than an OTA’s.

• Directs traffic straight to your website booking engine.

• You can monitor the success of your campaigns and adjust accordingly.

Cons:

• You need to regularly audit Google reconciliation reports to ensure you are billed accurately.

Is it for Me?

If you would like to try it, pay-per-stay may be your best option initially. However, if your Google fee percentage is similar to your OTA’s (say around 15%), then it may not provide any real benefits. At which point pay-per-conversion is your best bet.

What is Google Free Booking Links?

In March 2021 Google introduced a new service called “Google Free Booking Links“. This service displays your site name or hotel name along with the room rate for the itinerary selected, allowing you to show the best rate to travellers. When users click on your link, they’ll be taken directly to the landing page you provide.

Much like Google Hotel Ads, it is highly recommended to participate via a 3rd party PMS provider such as Sirvoy. If you’re a hotel owner who uses a reservation system, you may already be connected to Google through your provider. Please check with them, and they can set up your booking links for you.

The free booking links display similar information to paid booking links, but the main difference is simple: hotel ads are paid links, ranked according to Google’s ad auction, whereas free booking links are unpaid links, ranked according to their value for the user. Google may show free booking links alongside hotel ads within the existing booking module. Hotel partners pay no fee for free booking links, and Google doesn’t collect any payment for placement or user engagement with these links.

Pros:

• Free

• Your hotel can now compete with other OTAs without spending anything.

• You can monitor the success and manage everything in Hotel Center (not Google Ads).

Cons:

• You may still need Google Ads or Google Hotel Ads to stand out.

• You may need to lower your prices to stand out.

Is it for Me?

This is a new model for Google as they seek to offer OTA-like services. Since there are not many downsides to this offering, it may be well worth investigating.

Which one Should I Use?

This is the recommended path to get more exposure with Google:

  1. Create a Google Business Profile if you do not have a Google account yet. (Free)
  2. Send prices via the Hotel Center Platform through your direct account or your integration partner account. (Free)
  3. Activate Google Free Bookings Links. (Free)
  4. If you wish to participate, you can also use Google Ads.

While it may seem bewildering at first, we’re here to help. You can easily activate Free Booking Links and Google Hotel Ads in your Sirvoy account. Why not start with Free Booking Links, and once you’ve become familiar with the concept and had some success with it, go ahead and try the paid Google Hotel Ads?

Sirvoy has been an authorized Google Partner for several years. And now, after Google’s recent launch of Free Bookings Links, we’re in an even better position to help you get more exposure. As a trusted Google partner, please feel free to reach out to us with questions on how to set up Google Hotel Ads and Free Bookings Links.