Google New Metasearch and how did the OTA Market change?
By Hugo Gil Esteves, Head of Strategy & Revenue Management of RM HUB
Over the years, we have experienced the evolution of one of the biggest search engines, Google, which has been constantly updating itself, providing tools for the convenience of the general public in the last two decades, in
an attempt to get the user to access to a variety of services without ever leaving this search engine. They have introduced features that make our lives a lot easier and continue to do so with their efforts in the travel and hospitality
niche. It all started in 2013, when Google gave the first signs of entry into the travel market, integrating flight information as a transportation solution with “Google Maps”, having introduced “Instant Booking” in 2015. In fact, Google is
currently competing in the OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies) market, a highly competitive market, but in an innovative way through its new system.
Possibly, you will be thinking about how a company the size of Google changed the travel sector, a sector of billions of dollars. This article aims to answer precisely that question. So I intend that, by the end of this article, you understand exactly how the world is dealing with this change and how it is also changing the OTA sector as we speak. It is already common knowledge that literally all cybernauts use Google to carry out research on planning their trips, thus comparing different options for their holidays. Therefore, Google decided to innovate and thought why not give the user all the necessary options in their search engine. The idea is so simple, yet so brilliant that it makes anyone wonder why no one has thought about it before.
Change in the Metasearch Algorithm
If you don’t know the concept of Metasearch, let us explain. A Metasearch is as simple as the search that a search engine does on third party websites to display information. “Metasearch” has been around for a long time, and for example, they are the reason why we see the results of a football game if we only search for the game between the two teams. Google searches the website of the UEFA Football League, UEFA, or another reliable provider, thus extracting information from those websites and starting to display the data directly in the search results on the search engine. Although “Metasearch” is already used in all sectors of activity across the planet, the travel sector still lacks optimization of efficiency in the use of these. However, a new “Player” appears on the market as “Game Changer”.
In the last year, Google has changed the whole landscape of the travel sector, with hotels and other aspects related to travel appearing in the search results of its search engine (SERP - “Search Engine Results Page”) through extensive and optimized “Metasearch”. But how does this affect the hotel world? Why do we say that Google can compete with OTA’s? Can Google put OTA’s out of the “game”? Let me explain everything that’s new about Hotel SERP’s, due to Google’s Metasearch algorithm.
If you don’t know where and how Google’s New Metasearch works, just go to www.google.com and search for “Hotels in Lisbon” or “Hotels in Porto”. Right after the sponsored results and a “widget” will appear on the first page where you can find information about OTA’s where you can perform the same search (Booking.com; Expedia; Trivago; Momondo; etc.). Right after that, 4 hotel suggestions appear side by side with a map and prices of the various options that the user has.
“Google’s New SERP” - New Google Results Page
Before we start with the news in the way that Google presents the results of a search, we will start from the previous format. Any research in the travel and hospitality industry easily resembled any other type of store or service in another industry. I could easily collect information such as name, contact, opening hours, location, some comments and photos. This information, which becomes insufficient to proceed and finalize the process of buying a trip or booking a hotel.
It was here that Google came to transform the universe of travel and hotels, this is where Google becomes a “Game-Changer”. With this change, Google now provides, in addition to the information mentioned above, several extra and crucial information in the final customer’s decision process.
When the cyber user searches for a hotel, he obviously gets all the old information, that is, he will see a phone number, closing / opening hours, customer reviews, images, etc. But it also manages to view several extra features. We then proceed to explain each of them.
Prices: Do you want to compare hotel prices without having to go to the website of each one to find out the price per room? This Google tool is ideal for that. The price tracking tool (which must be activated through the settings) provides the cheapest and most expensive rooms that the hotel offers. The reason that this tool is so convenient and useful, is that it is no longer necessary to go to each website and note the prices. You can simply view prices for each hotel in a given region as it suits you.
Discounts: Looking for promotions and other interesting offers to decrease your account? Google is also able to help you. Just below the price information, you will have a line indicating whether or not the hotel is offering a special discount to its customers at the moment, as well as the discount amount.
Comments: We have all heard about the importance of feedback from our guests, but here the important thing to note is that, with the new Google algorithm, there are far fewer “fake” reviews on Maps. Basically, Google tracks every place you visit, so you’ll likely receive a notification on the phone asking you to rate the hotel. This is an incredible initiative by Google to really validate the information on your website. Yes, there are still fake reviews out there, but the proportion of fake and real reviews is much better now than it was a few years ago. In addition, another big factor is that Google now gives priority to reviews from websites like Booking.com, Trip Advisor and Hotels.com. If there is a criticism of a credible OTA, Google will place it at the top of the list of criticisms.
Personalized Results: If on one hand, Google tracking all your movements may make you think that it is an invasion of privacy, but on the other hand and in many ways, it makes your life easier. If traveling, make sure your Google account is connected while making online reservations. The reason we suggest this is that Google controls which hotels your search and booking is based on, and even stores data about some of the facilities they provide. So when you do a similar search again, Google will remember your preferences and recommend hotels according to your preference. This algorithm greatly reduces the number of minutes you need to spend to find a good hotel room. If you still think that the results of the Google filter are not adequate, just log out of your account, starting to see the generic list that everyone else sees.
Highlights: Is your hotel known for its location, service or infrastructure? Google will ensure that you emphasize that. Below the name of the hotel and in its “Highlights”, a description and graphic icons will appear, respectively, which best represent the Hotel. These icons are not generated randomly, but based on keywords read in customer comments. So, if there is something mentioned in the highlights, it is a real feature of the hotel.
Availability: Google is not limited to “imitating” OTA’s, trying to innovate and create more value for both the Hotel and the Client. With regard to rooms, the way travel agencies display rooms, classifying them based on a price range, may not benefit from their communication and thus lose value. To mitigate this situation, Google displays all available rooms (filtered based on dates) and displays the basic details along with the price, making communication between the customer and the hotel simpler and clearer.
Filters: Do you want a very specific product in terms of requirements for your stay? Google can help you to conveniently filter all unnecessary results through its filter bar. As soon as you search for hotels near the desired location, you will then be redirected to a list of hotels available in that region. However, just above the list there are several different filters. This includes items such as the best options (based on your previous bookings), high ratings, budget options, etc..
Conclusions: It is vitally important to be present at Google's Metasearch. I believe that this is a distribution channel with enormous potential, both to reduce dependence on OTA’s, both in the optimization of distribution costs when combined with an appropriate pricing strategy.
Today, more than 72.5% of tourists use a Metasearch in their hotel selection process because as Ujjwal Suri, Vice President of Distribution Services at Fornova says, “Metasearch offers price comparisons that show consumers where they can get the best offers available and there is a demand for that among tourists. ”(Source: Eye For Travel) These options are so surprising that they maximize customer convenience and allow you to book rooms in minutes, regardless of where you are. Now, whether or not the new Google system will replace OTA’s is still too early to comment, however, it has the potential to do so, but it will be in the relatively distant future. RM Academy, a company specializing in Revenue Management, can guarantee that your hotel now has the exposure it deserves! Get in touch today to learn about other techniques for increasing direct sales on your website and maximizing your profit.