The Direct Booking Movement is moving to metasearch
Download your free Hotelier's Guide to Metasearch here.
The travel industry loves a buzzword. Chatbots, artificial intelligence - and, yes, direct bookings - have each had their turn as the topic du jour of hospitality newsletters and conferences over the last few years. But over the last few months, we’ve seen the steady ascendancy of a new industry darling: metasearch.
So what’s the big deal?
A combination of high-profile acquisitions, hefty anti-competition fines, and technological advances have ensured metasearch’s position at the top of many an industry journalist’s hitlist of late. Though metas have been part of the online travel industry since its inception, their increasing accessibility to smaller hotels, combined with meteoric growth in consumer traffic, has made sure that Kayak, trivago et al are more relevant than ever. But it’s always worth asking whether that perceived relevance is reflected in the behaviour of actual hotels.
Any trend has early adopters. The big groups - and a few savvy independents - are already well establish on metasearch. A lot of the hoteliers we speak to, though, tend to fall into one big camp - those who say:
“Metasearch is on my radar, but I’m not sure it’s worth my time.”
Those hoteliers might want to take a look at Google.
It’s not a real party until Google’s on board
The search behemoth that everyone loves to hate (or hates to love?) has been not-so-quietly going after the biggest piece of the metasearch pie for some time now. Google Hotel Ads has a click volume that supposedly surpasses Tripadvisor’s and its advanced bidding capabilities are arguably the best of the bunch. Bearing in mind that Hotel Ads only launched in 2011 (when the service was known as Google Hotel Finder), its growth - and success - has been astronomical.
In general, if Google sets its mind to something, it ends up coming out on top. And it looks like that is absolutely the case for its metasearch offering. Google has such an untouchable advantage when it comes to traffic: an estimated 4.5 billion searches are made per day on Google, accounting for 77% of the world’s total search traffic. While only a comparatively small percentage of those will be for travel and accommodation, having the world’s internet traffic at your disposal is a pretty solid foundation for a metasearch offering. The reach of the trivago guy suddenly seems pale in comparison.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility - and the European Commission doesn’t think that Google is showing enough of it. Google’s been accused of abusing its monopoly by prioritising its own (paid) metasearch results above organic search listings - an accusation which comes with a 2.4 billion dollar fine. We’re yet to see how (or even if) Google are going to react to the ruling: any climbdown would require a pretty significant shift in how Hotel Ads are currently presented. As we said at the time, Hotel Ads grabbing the top spot on searches is almost always preferable (from a hotelier’s point of view) to B.com and Expedia filling the spot. At least with Hotel Ads, hoteliers have a chance of being the first vendor a customer sees.
For good or ill, Hotel Ads’ prominence and popularity make them a fairly reliable and uncomplicated first step for hoteliers just entering the world of metasearch. The concern (and sometimes annoyance) shown by other metas over Google’s growth would suggest that they, too, can see Google fast becoming the metasearch of choice for both advertisers and consumers. The consumer experience particularly is getting richer day by day: travellers can now search for hotels, read reviews, compare prices, and book rooms all without leaving Google’s domain. That full-funnel offering is only going to be compounded as advancements are made in Natural Language Processing (NLP) for Google’s voice search: it’s going to be sooner rather than later that guests can go from ‘research’ to ‘book’ within one conversation.
To be clear: Google are nowhere near the stage of being the only meta in town. Kayak, trivago, TripAdvisor, and Skyscanner have (for the most part) been in the game far longer, and are used by millions of travellers every month to book their trips. But, despite the ever-growing number of systems and services in the online travel space, consumers are looking for an ever-shorter ‘booking journey’ - and that means performing as many stages as possible in one place. By all but controlling the ‘search’ phase, Google are already (unfairly?) ahead of the competition.
I’m a hotel. Why does this matter to me?
The Direct Booking Movement is moving to meta. Metasearch engines are a way to display your rates in direct comparison to OTAs at a price that can work out much cheaper than your OTA commission fees. They’re getting much more popular with consumers - traffic has tripled since 2014 - and it’s easier than ever to list as a hotel. For some of them, you don’t even need to have your own website to list.
The capabilities of search are improving in an exponential curve. The ability to serve a consumer with exactly what they’re looking forward is increasingly going to be held in the hands of a select few - and those few are going to be metas. The hotel industry was hurt badly by the initial advent of online travel: it didn’t adapt quickly enough, and OTAs rushed in to fill the gap. Performing well on metasearch is a way for hotels to reclaim some of that ground, but it requires jumping on the bandwagon sooner rather than later.
I’m sold - tell me how
Listing on meta isn’t a quick fix. Achieving long term gains means getting the basics right, so we’ve put together a Hotelier’s Guide to Metasearch that tells you all you need to know. Featuring expert input from 80 DAYS and Koddi, the Guide walks you through:
- The 5 steps to a successful campaign
- Why the Direct Booking Movement is moving to meta
- Where next?
- A buyer’s guide
Interested in more Hotelier Guides? Check out June’s Hotelier’s Guide to Google Analytics, or let us know what you’d like to see featured next in the series!