On March 9, 2021, Google announced launching free booking links for hotels. Each link includes the name of the hotel and the best available room rate for a certain route. After clicking on it, the user will be redirected to the hotel’s website.
Previously, Hotel Booking Links have only been presented to the large public through the Hotel Ads. From now on, any hotel or travel company can appear on the list in google.com/travel free of charge. This feature gives an opportunity to increase the visibility of independent hotels and drive their website traffic with no extra costs.
Google has already implemented this practice for Google Shopping and Google Flights. Apparently, it has an intention to build a platform, where “all partners will have even more opportunities to highlight their information and help people book a flight, find a place to stay, or explore a new destination”.
How can hoteliers benefit from the new listings?
Now your property may appear twice on the same page: in the Hotel Ads slot and in a free listing. The organic links will be displayed right after the sponsored ones. Those who are interested in your offer will be redirected to your website to make a booking.
This is also an additional cost-effective source of traffic. Hence, Google provides a free tool that can help you to get more revenue and engage more prospects.
What should I do to participate?
If you are a Google Ad bidder, then you are already in the game. There is no need to put in any extra effort, as your hotel will appear in the listing automatically. The already set bid price will stay the same.
Any other hotel that wants to take advantage of free links may apply via Hotel Center or by filling a form. In its announcement, Google said that the team will continue to enhance the onboarding process for the new partners. It will also eliminate some of the “complex technical requirements”.
How much does it cost to get a higher ranking in booking links?
It is impossible to pay for a higher ranking. In fact, any hotel may appear in this section regardless of whether it has invested in Google Ads or not. The company clearly emphasizes that no one is eligible to pay for a better ranking and that commercial partnership with Google has no influence on it.
The only possible way to improve your position in search results is to follow the official recommendations. Monitoring your price accuracy score, resolving any data issues, and providing a pleasant landing page experience are among the best approaches for that matter.
What exactly should I do to rank higher in this section?
Google’s user-centered approach is based on providing practical and accurate information to travelers. This new feature will “use a variety of signals to determine which links are best to show users”.
These signals include such factors as:
● Consumer preference;
● Value given to the user;
● Quality of the landing page;
● Price accuracy.
There is also a Price Accuracy Policy, specifically designed to evaluate whether the room rates provided by the partner are relevant or not. Each organic link has a score that shows how well the hotel complies with the rules.
This score will be updated regularly, and Google will validate the price by checking the landing or booking pages of your website. If evaluation results drop below “Account Suspension Threshold”, your account will be suspended.
Here is a gradation that shows the key values and thresholds:
Source: Google Price Accuracy Policy
Reporting inaccurate pricing data, excluding taxes from the room rate, as well as using rates that require sign-in has a negative influence on your accuracy score. Thus, complying with the rules will help you to rank higher.
The organic listing introduced by Google can become a new driving force for your booking strategy. Due to the opportunity to be shown both in paid and free sections, your hotel will be able to drive more traffic and engage more clients. It is time to seize this opportunity and benefit from the feature that offers visibility to every hotel.