As we begin to plan for the new year, I thought it might be a good time to remind ourselves of some often overlooked fundamentals to a successful metasearch program. We get completely engulfed by the budget and planning process all the while overlooking the importance of auditing, refreshing and updating the basics.
It is no secret that most major publishers deploy a quality score component which can weigh heavily in determining property level CPCs. The higher the quality score, the lower your CPC. It is that simple. Therefore, it is important to optimize for your quality score before placing your first bid. What comprises a quality score and how heavily it might be weighted is a closely guarded secret among the publishers.
Secret sauce notwithstanding, it is easy to justify the importance of an excellent quality score. On the off chance that I’m completely off base about quality score’s impact on CPC, all of the elements below are important in their own right.
Rates and Availability: Are your rates on par with your competition? Do you offer multiple room types? Are you distributing closed user group (CUG) or fenced in rates (Loyalty)?
Accuracy: This one needs no explanation. Poor accuracy not only wreaks havoc on your quality score, it will wreak havoc on your brand.
Special Offers and Deal Handling: Do you have the ability to distribute value ads and deal tags? Promoting free stuff = good. Think wifi, breakfast, parking and bonus loyalty points for starters. Promoting deep discounts = better. Showing users a percent off tag or strike-through pricing is an easy win. The Epic Hotel in Miami Beach does a great job on this below. Publishers love this stuff!
The Basics: Please see accuracy comment above. Only that’s not really accurate (see what I did there) because it does need explaining. You’d be surprised how many hotels get this wrong. It is important to audit your basic hotel static content. Address, telephone, website URL and even hotel name should be checked and rechecked on a routine basis.
Rich Content: High quality, relevant and abundant images are key to a sound distribution strategy. They also lead to higher click through and conversions which mean, you guessed it, higher quality scores. Oh and for the record, a plate of eggs and bacon probably won’t get your hotel noticed for the right reasons so please check on your default image settings.
Reviews: The importance of reviews is well established. Encourage them. Display them. Nurture them.
Landing Page: How many decks, team meetings, strategy sessions, worksheets and dollars did it take to get a user to your page? YAY! It worked. A/B testing user experiences in your conversion path is a must to ensure that all of those efforts were put to good use. The above points should be found in abundance here. One area where we have fallen flat is mobile. The time to offer users an easy, flexible and agile mobile experience is now. It was actually a few years ago but this has truly reached critical levels of importance as mobile bookings are now surpassing desktop (for real this time).
Tracking: This is where all of the above converges into a tangible data set and is the ultimate distribution strategy report card. With the right deep linking structure and any number of analytics tools on the market today, you will be able to ensure return goals, take advantage of trends, build a robust historical database and increase efficiencies in forecasting and overall planning.
There is plenty of help out there should any of above need further explanation or additional detail. There are many third parties who can lend expertise to any one single component mentioned above or an entire end to end strategy makeover (shameless plug: like Koddi, for example). The publishers are a great resource to help determine where there is room for improvement and what it will take to get you there.