All websites want to understand their users motivation for being there. Why is this user searching for that? Why is this user looking at this page/product? In advertising, we try to make broad assumptions of motivation. We sometimes get so caught up with the hypothetical explanations, that we overlook the obvious and simplest means of determining motivation: asking.

We have seen a new user experience for some Google users searching for hotels. While looking at hotels in the knowledge panel, the user is prompted with a survey asking various questions about their motivation. As far as we can tell, the users that are presented the survey are randomly selected, and there is no connection between what the query was and whether the survey is presented.

The first question that is prompted is: “What information are you looking for in regards to this hotel?”

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The survey participant is free to type whatever response they desire.

What can Google gain from asking this question? Users search for hotels to get additional information: price, location, availability, amenities, reviews, details, nearby businesses, etc. By determining what those surveyed are looking for, Google can fine tune and tailor their user experience to show the most pertinent information to the users. If the majority of users surveyed say that they are looking for reviews, Google may be more inclined to show reviews higher in the page where they are more visible. Alternatively, if few users say details about the hotel is important, google may be motivated to rearrange the layout of the information presented to users to most effectively use the real estate of the web page.

After typing their answer the previous question and clicking next, the user is prompted with the question: “Which of the following best describes your trip?” There are preset answers that the user can respond with, as well as a text box that the user can enter their own response.

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By asking what describes their trip, Google is able to gain additional information as to how users approach planning a trip. With the recent advent of Google Trips, it comes as no surprise that google would want to learn as much as they could about users habits surrounding a vacation. By determining what description fits their trip, Google is able to gain insights into why users are using their platform, and additionally how different traveler’s plan out their trips. This additional context Google will gain may be able to better target specific types of users. Someone who is going on a weekend getaway would not necessarily be the best candidate to target for flights, but someone who is going on the “trip of [their] lifetime” would be good to target for flights and activities in the area.

The final question that is asked to the user is: “Which of the following best describes where you are in your travel planning?” this question follows a similar layout to the previous, where the user can select pre-made answers or type out their own response.

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This question will reveal quite a bit to Google about where in the funnel the user is. Determining where in the funnel their typical customer is in is very important for a publisher providing a metasearch experience. The site can leverage this information to better serve the user with a targeted or more relevant experience, adding more value to the transaction. Google can also draw conclusions based on other information they have on the user, to determine broad trends amongst users search habits and how it relates to their closeness to booking a hotel.

After finishing the survey, the user is given a small thanks from Google and is free to continue searching on the page. At any point during the survey, they are able to close out of it, as well as navigate around the page while participating.

We have not been able to get prompted with the survey enough to say with certainty whether it is a linear survey or a branched survey that changes the questions based on your responses. In this scenario, the answers given were “not traveling,” “just looking,” and “unsure destination, looking at hotel options”. Based on the questions that we were given, we are inclined to believe it to be a linear survey.

Google is constantly experimenting with new user experiences, so it makes sense that they would be interested in getting some concrete feedback on some of their products. It will be interesting to see if – in the wake of these surveys – Google rolls out experiments to the layouts of the knowledge panel information. This type of information may also go into a future Think With Google insight.

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