On average, Google directly contributes, in the form of organic referrals (SEO, AMPs, Schema, content marketing, etc.) and paid/performance marketing referrals (SEM, GDN, GHA, etc.) to over 50% of direct online room nights for most hoteliers.
This does not include OTA room nights, the bulk of which come as a result of the OTA performance marketing on Google to the tune of $11 billion a year.
During the pandemic, Google has not only maintained but increased its search market share and in August 2020 Google controlled 87.3% market share in the U.S., 93.24% in Europe and 91.5% in Asia.
In the second part of this analysis (read part one here), we look at how hotels can implement a post-crisis Google strategy.
In these difficult times with low occupancies, catastrophic ADRs and RevPARs and staff operating on a skeleton-crew fashion, launching elaborate and expensive performance marketing campaigns to acquire new guests on Google Ads (GA), Google Hotel Ads (GHA) and Google Display Network (GDN) are out of the question.
Therefore, with your post-crisis marketing strategy, the goal is to achieve maximum returns with minimum budget. Here are some of these initiatives that will help you achieve that:
Content marketing is neither new nor free and has ways been an integral part of the hotel digital marketer’s toolbox.
All segments of content marketing cost marketing dollars since someone has to create the content and creative, set up and manage the campaigns, monitor analytics and prepare reports: SEO, enticing website content, social media posts, B2B marketing initiatives via LinkedIn to reach corporate travel directors and meeting planners, PR, blog articles and posts, white papers, B2C podcasts, webinars and streaming casts on hot issues (for example, spa and wellness de-stressing tips, etc.), case studies, influencer marketing, new/renovated amenity announcements, etc.
Content marketing, when done well, is much cheaper than performance marketing. It engages and entices the travel consumer in the Dreaming and Planning Phases and creates ready-to-book customers for the Booking Phase of the digital customer journey.
Review and update your Google My Business (GMB) listing (your local business listing on Google)
Make sure your Google My Business Listing is fully optimized and your property listing on all local search engines, directories and main data providers is also optimized.
When was the last time you updated your property hotel information, amenity and services descriptions, business hours, your COVID preparedness and cleanliness programs, hotel images and videos? When was the last time you responded to Google Reviews?
Google has more hotel customer reviews than all of the review and OTA websites combined! GMB directly influences travelers in the Planning Phase and creates powerful word-of-mouth effect in the Sharing Phase.
Launch small-budget, hotel-branded keyword terms campaign via Google Ads (GA) to target past guests in the short-haul and drive-in feeder markets
These past guests already know your hotel brand name, they know your hotel product, all you need to do now is to convince them that your property is safe to stay at and that you have packages and promotions that address their current needs.
Google Ads is perfect as a “deal closer” ad format to convert past guests as well as new customers already exposed to GDN ads and for customers who know exactly where they want to stay.
Launch a small-budget Google Display Network (GDN) Retargeting campaign
This will help communicate your property’s value proposition to users who have visited your website and are already familiar with your product, offerings and location.
GDN Retargeting serves as a great “reservation abandonment recovery” and “brand reminder” tool.
Based on your budget, launch a GDN Targeting campaign, focusing on your most important short-haul and drive-in feeder markets
GDN offers direct response-type of targeting capabilities: Location, Keywords, Audiences, Similar Users, etc.
GDN Targeting is the perfect solution to expand your hotel marketing reach and attract new customers at the top of the funnel.
Use marketing creative with “It Pays to Book Direct” messaging
Hotels can also offer perks or value ads to close the deal, such as “Book Direct and Get Free Wi-Fi” (or free breakfast, free parking, and et cetera).
Offer some form of exclusivity to direct bookers to help increase perceived value.
Make Google Hotel Ads (GHA) (metasearch) part of your must-have Google marketing initiatives
Avoid the expensive cost-per-click (CPC) GHA program and join the pay-per-stay GHA program instead.
Google launched this program understanding well that a) hoteliers do not have much advertising dollars and b) travel consumers often cancel their hotel reservations due to the volatile COVID-19 situation.
The pay-per-stay program uses the CPA (cost-per-acquisition) model and charges a referral fee only if the guest books via GHA and ultimately stays at the property.
Work with your CRS, channel manager or digital marketing partner to enable your property on GHA.
You should no longer be fixated on the results
This include elements such as ROI, bookings, room nights, revenues, CPC, CTR, conversion rates, etc. from stand-alone advertising initiatives on Google (example GHA – metasearch or Google Ads – paid search, etc.).
Instead, focus on the blended results from the entire Google Ecosystem, including Google Ads, GDN, Google Hotel Ads, RLSA and Gmail Ads, among others. In other words, you should ask yourself: “If I invest $5,000 in the Google Ecosystem, what would the return be? 5 times? 10 times? 12 times? 15 times?”
Do not split various advertising initiatives on Google among different agencies and vendors
This is the sure way to waste precious advertising dollars and achieve mediocre results. Utilizing a single partner to manage your Google Ecosystem allows for higher conversions, better analytics, and attribution tracking.
Make sure you utilize the services of a Google Partner Agency
In particular, make sure the agency’s employees are certified by Google to manage all of the ever-evolving and increasingly complex advertising formats in the Google Ecosystem, as well as handle ongoing, Google-specific SEO services and technical SEO.
Ask questions like: “How many of your employees are Google AdWords certified? Can your agency manage GA, GDN targeting and retargeting, GHA, YouTube ads, Gmail Ads, etc.?”
Employ the Google Ecosystem as an integral and indispensable component of any multichannel marketing campaign
This is important where a consistent marketing message or promotion is pushed across all marketing channels and devices to achieve maximum engagement and bookings.
An important point in the minds of hoteliers is whether Google is transforming itself into an online travel agency?
In my view: categorically no!
Getting involved in transactions (hotel bookings) is a very labor-intensive, hands-on and asset-heavy business, all of which is contrary to Google’s MO.
It requires a very expensive investment strategy:
- Building from scratch a massive OTA type of a CRS capable of handling at least 2.5 million hotels and over 6.5 million alternative accommodations just to match Booking.com.
- Building and maintaining thousands of APIs, designing AI-powered RMS and CRM platforms from scratch.
- Hiring thousands of hotel-savvy revenue managers, area directors and sales executives (Booking.com has 15,000+ of those).
- Opening expensive support and sales offices in 200 plus countries and territories around the world.
- Spend $5+ billion in advertising a year to convince the traveling public that Google is a booking channel for hotels.
The answer to the question, whether hoteliers can pause or abandon their marketing presence on Google, is a resounding no!
Today, despite our industry’s worst-ever state-of-affairs, hotel marketers simply cannot ignore Google – in the same manner as they could not have done this in any of the last 20 years.
Not only does Google control 87.3% search market share in the U.S., 93.24% in Europe and 91.5% in Asia and is the single most-productive source for direct bookings, but it has turned itself into the Shepherd of the Digital Customer Journey and its five phases: Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing Phases, and to a great extent controls the online travel consumer’s behavior.
In the same time, Google has become an integrated advertising ecosystem, which requires hotel marketers to use sophisticated technologies, know-how and expertise to manage all of the ever-evolving and increasingly complex advertising formats in the Google Ecosystem to achieve any meaningful results.
The most important novelty in this fully-integrated Google ecosystem is that all advertising formats are intertwined and work in concert, user engagement in the upper funnel (SEO, content marketing, YouTube TrueView, Gmail Ads, etc.) influences conversions in the lower funnel (Google Ads, Google Hotel Ads, Google Display Network, RLSA, Customer Match, etc.), and a campaign in one advertising format influences the results from all other formats.
In these difficult times with low occupancies, catastrophic ADRs and RevPARs and staff cuts, launching elaborate and expensive performance marketing (paid) campaigns on Google is out of the question.
Therefore, with your post-crisis Google marketing strategy, the goal is to achieve maximum returns with minimum budget.