For the benefit of those who haven’t been able to keep up to date with the latest Search Marketing news, and whom perhaps also haven’t noticed the changes themselves when using Google search, a huge change was finally rolled out by Google on the 19th of February involving their paid search ads. Gone are the right-hand rail ads that accompany the paid and organic search results, and instead there is a more centralised view to the Google search results.
The changes seem to be live all across the globe now, whereas previously Google had been testing different layouts in different geographic areas and scrutinising the results over a period of a few years. By cutting out the right-side sponsored ads, Google has effectively cut a massive chunk of advertising space on the page, thus severely limiting advertisers opportunities to get displayed in the search results. In order for your ad to appear on Google you will now have to vastly increase your CPC, and even then your position is still not guaranteed.
How will Google’s Search Ad changes affect the Hotel & Travel Industry?
So how does this affect Hotels? Well with a limited advertising space available, marketers and hotels will now be deciding whether it’s worth upping their CPC bids to try and retain the same level of ad-traffic, or whether perhaps it’s time to change strategy. Before you go out all-guns blazing, it’s also valuable to know that as part of these changes Google will be allowing a 4th sponsored advert to appear at the top of the page for “highly commercial” search phrases, and luckily for us they stated that “hotel in city name” type searches will qualify for the 4 ads – basically due to the amount of competition all bidding on those specific terms. It also appears that more organic search results are being displayed on the page, thus giving more opportunity for hotel websites to appear organically.
Google’s changes in a nutshell:
– They’ve removed the right-hand side ads completely.
– For highly commercial searches you will see 4 text ads at the top of the page, and sometimes 3 at the bottom of the page (so 7 ads in total at times).
– This doesn’t seem to affect other search platforms belonging to Google such as Google Hotel Ads.
– Currently looks like there are 2-3 more organic search results being displayed per page of results.
What are the next steps for Hotels to take?
As with anything, don’t go out making any big adjustments or marketing budget changes just yet. We’re advising that hotels wait a few weeks for the dust to settle and to assess how exactly things have changed, and it seems very likely they will. Paid search visits (and spend) are likely to reduce a lot, bringing your total number of paid visits down – just for non-brand terms that is (anything apart from your hotel name). For brand name search it’s unlikely that anything will change, as your hotel should already be ranking first and owning it’s own brand.
Non-brand terms for hotels are usually quite an expensive way of acquiring new customers, and takes a more patient approach too. You may decide that now is the time to pull some of your spend away from non-brand and to experiment with other initiatives. For one, meta search could be a good investment, with Google Hotel Ads one possibility. This is done in a similar way to PPC search ads, where you compete with other similar hotels for space within Google search / map results. There’s also TripAdvisor’s TripConnect to look into, as well as Trivago. Away from these platforms, you may decide to take a look at Facebook marketing (especially retargeting, if not already being used) or even YouTube video advertising, to try and build brand awareness.
Finally from our own perspective we see this as a good opportunity to remind hotels that they shouldn’t be putting their eggs all in one basket. If you rely too heavily on one channel, and things change, then it’s inevitable that you’re going to struggle to adapt. With this change we’d expect hotels and other industries to look towards investing into content marketing strategies and into other online marketing activities with the target of improving upon their SEO. With the chance of appearing on the 1st page of Google for your keywords just being slashed thanks to Google’s recent changes, your next best (and perhaps more profitable) aim could be within the organic search results. It’s time to open your eyes to other online marketing channels, and to embrace Google’s right-side ads removal instead of dreading the consequences!