As travel starts to get moving again, Google recently announced that it is making it free for hotels and travel companies around the world to appear in hotel booking links on Google.com/travel. The Google announcement notes that, previously, hotel booking links have been offered via Hotel Ads, but the new free listings will be made available in searches also. The Google hotel booking links always display real-time pricing and availability for specific dates of travel, allowing consumers to compare pricing for their vacations. According to Google, the new free hotel and travel listings provide users an even “more comprehensive set of options as they research their trip and ultimately decide where to book.”
Why Is Google Offering Free Listings For Hotels & Travel Companies?
The new free hotel and travel listings on Google are just the most recent example of a “free” offering from Google to advertisers. In fact, last summer, Google even made it free for ecommerce retailers to sell on Google’s Shopping tab. As with all things Google, the goal of the free offerings appear multi-purposed. The free ads on Google are enhancing user experience, keeping users within the Google ecosystem, cutting off competition from rivals like Amazon and attracting the attention of more advertisers.
“Shortly after the launch of free ecommerce listings, Google said it saw increases in clicks to its Shopping tab (70% lift as of last June) and an increase of impressions on the Shopping tab (130% lift),” reports Sarah Perez of TechCrunch. The TechCrunch article also notes that Google providing free listings to hotel and travel brands could appeal to destination-bound searchers at a time when travel-focused apps are expected to see a boom.
How Do The Free Hotel Listings On Google Benefit Advertisers?
The new free hotel listings on Google are a win for existing advertisers and hotel and travel brands looking to broaden their reach. Google explains, “For all hotels and travel companies, this change brings a new, free way to reach potential customers. For advertisers, free booking links can extend the reach of existing Hotel Ads campaigns. Our testing of this new feature shows that all partner types — from individual hotels to online travel agents — benefit from free booking links through increased booking traffic and user engagement.” Advertisers who are already participating in Hotel Ads and Hotel Prices API don’t need to do anything new to appear in free booking links, and any “hotel or travel company is eligible to participate via their [the advertiser’s] Hotel Center account.”
It’s important to note that paid ads still appear at the top of Google search results, and that paid hotel and travel company ads offer a more streamlined (as in less clicks) route to advertiser sites (i.e Hilton or Priceline), while the free listings offer a comparison of different booking options that shoppers can peruse and select from, including the option to book directly with the advertiser. These distinctions create a differentiating factor for brands looking to increase the volume of and streamline direct booking traffic. The new free hotel listings are going to make for a crowded field, and likely make it necessary for travel brands to think about how they can stand out.
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