We have mentioned a few times in the past the key role and increasing growth of Metasearch results when it comes to visitors search for their next hotel stay. Top hotel brands already allocate a significant portion of their digital marketing travel to metasearch. However, independent properties are still lagging behind with little or no presence at all in metasearch results.
In an EyeforTravel survey of over 3,000 travel consumers conducted in June and July 2018 across Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and United States, 94.4% of consumers reported that they used price comparison sites at least occasionally when booking their accommodation. Within this, 72.5% of consumers across the countries surveyed said that they regularly used metasearch sites and 43.6% said that they always used the tools.
“Metasearch offers price comparisons that show consumers where they can get the best deals available and there is demand for this among leisure travelers,” said Ujjwal Suri, vice president, distribution solutions at Fornova. “It’s not just Millennials anymore.”
Unsurprisingly, Google continues to take more of the pie when it comes to hotel metasearch, and continues to grow its hotel fan base.
Needless to say, at MGR we believe metasearch is a MUST of all hotels that want to be in the digital marketing game these days. With Google now bidding heavily on metasearch and becoming the metasearch of metasearch engines, your traditional Google Ads (formerly AdWords) campaigns will become secondary and more expensive each day. This is because you can’t outbid OTAs at the traditional Google Ads auction and Google is moving their own metasearch results on desktop and mobile to the top of the search results. It’s also the best option to increase the chances of direct bookings.
We also believe that traditional Google Ads/Bing campaigns will still produce positive results, but I would limit those for Branded campaigns (branded keyword searches) since those are usually the ones with lowest CPC, higher conversion rate and ROI.
Either way, we just wanted to share the information with all of our readers in the hotel industry since the topic is becoming increasingly popular these days. Of course, with limited budgets or budgets already set, this would be a case of taking budget OFF Google Ads or other marketing channels and adding it to Metasearch instead. I have no particular affiliation with either option, but if it were my property, I would bet on metasearch these days. Probably start with Google only, and then see if adding TripAdvisor makes financial sense too.
TWO CAVEATS TO KEEP IN MIND
Booking Engine Performance
In the confines of such a high performance digital environment, there is no silver bullet for success – and less so for hotels that do not have their own digital house in order. As a means of growing direct bookings, metasearch is only as good as the booking engine on the hotel’s brand.com site on both mobile and desktop. “If your conversion numbers on Google Analytics are low, don’t waste a penny on meta because you’re up against the OTAs and their conversion rates are unparalleled in the industry,” Fornova CEO Dori Stein advised.
It is therefore premature to jump straight to managing a complex metasearch operation for a hotel if the basics aren’t taken care of first, particularly the hotel’s direct channel and its ability to manage inventory and rates on meta. Without this fundamental housekeeping, budgets can be sapped almost immediately for no return if those click-throughs aren’t converting, and even worse, those customers are likely to choose another booking route, further upping the cost through commissions.
Keeping tabs on rate parity across all distribution partners poses an arduous task for any hotel and the reality is contracts with third party vendors often leaves them with wriggle room to out-compete a hotel on the initial price offered on meta.
For hotels affiliated with a soft brand or another marketing collective like Preferred Hotels & Resorts, inconsistencies in rate can have another financial consequence: Undercutting the organization to which the hotel is paying some form of membership dues. Hotels make an investment into the brand in order to benefit from broader distribution, but if hotel rates appear higher on the brand’s website than they do elsewhere, the investment quickly becomes an expenditure. Hirko elaborated on the point by explaining that Preferred works with a third party to track down parity issues and continuously educates its hotel members “because in the end, the consumer wants to book where the consumer wants to book and the more there’s a lack of rate parity, the less the consumer trusts what the hotel wants to sell.”
As we see below in Figure 2, pricing differences and the search for value are precisely what drives consumers to metasearch engines. If the lowest rate is available on an OTA, chances are that’s where the consumer will make their hotel purchase. So, if a hotel is undercut by an OTA, especially one that’s a known brand—the consumer has incentive to book there. “Consumers aren’t getting less by booking with an OTA,” Stein added.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)
*All stats and graphics courtesy of EyeforTravel.