Another week, and another set of new tests rolled out for the Google Hotel Ads user interface. Our analysts have spotted a new “Neighborhood” section, an update to the deal callout, and a callout that encourages users to look into vacation rentals.
The most interesting of these new experiments is the inclusion of a callout specifically for vacation rentals. Vacation rentals have consistently shaken up the travel space over the past few years as sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway have come onto the scene. These sites have transitioned from a focus on leisure travel to targeting the business demographic. Does the inclusion of vacation rentals in metasearch point to a shift in the way that metasearch publishers perceive these accommodations? Below we will discuss these UI changes and their potential impact on your metasearch business.
Certain users are being shown an option to search for vacation rentals above all the conventional hotel lodgings. While this test seems to be small (only one of our analysts was able to get this experience), it nevertheless indicates a potential change in how vacation rentals may play in the travel industry, and more specifically metasearch.
This callout is only accessible if a user selects the “view more hotels” button on the main Google search results page. When a user clicks on the vacation rentals callout, a filter is applied to the search results so that only vacation rental listings appear on the page. Since the callout is prioritized above the normal hotel listings, if this test becomes more widespread, we may see users that had intended to stay in a conventional hotel test the waters with a vacation rental. We’ve found that typical user behavior on metasearch sites leads to the highest percentage of clicks being placed on the first link available, so monitoring the click-through rates on top performing hotels in major markets will lead to interesting takeaways. As far we have been able to tell at Koddi, this test has had no impact so far on top hotels’ performances, but again, this test is still in its early phases and directed at a small percentage of users.
Time will tell when (and if) this test will be rolled out nationwide and what its results will be, but more competition typically leads to an overall better user experience, which tends to be top of mind for metasearch publishers.
Google has rolled out a neighborhood section (sometimes labeled “In This Area”) on each individual hotel’s meta listing. This appears to be curated per hotel, and it gives an overview of nearby points of interest and their distance from the hotel. Interestingly, this feature has been rolled out for hotels outside of major markets. Below are the sites for my Grandma’s small town:
This feature reveals that Google is trying to not just show travelers where to get the best deal on hotels, but also the different experiences and locations they can check out while on their trip. With the rise of “bleisure” travelers, this new addition will likely encourage individuals to think thoroughly through their trip before selecting a hotel. This update should push users deeper into the funnel, which will possibly result in a minor uptick in mobile conversion rates.
Metasearch users tend to be incredibly price sensitive, so any callout that announces a hotel’s cost to be lower than average will encourage these users to click. In other words, because this new callout meets metasearch users’ demand for discounted rates, its rollout should produce an uptick in clicks and bookings.
As with any Google test, it is unclear if this experiment will be rolled out long-term to all users or if they are just testing the waters. Assuming that these tests are launched, the key things to monitor will be mobile user conversion rates and the click-through rates for top placing hotels. The addition of a prominent vacation rentals filter may steer some undecided users away from traditional lodging and toward a vacation rental. And the additional context given to a hotel’s surrounding area and price competitiveness could lead to users being forced deeper into the funnel. Smart advertisers will monitor their mobile conversion rates and respond accordingly.
As the metasearch landscape continues to evolve, it’s more important now than ever to have an agile means of monitoring your hotel’s performance. Utilizing third-party software like Koddi will allow you to track changes in your metasearch performance and react quickly and appropriately to the changing landscape.