This week Google quietly launched a new product feature in its search engine results pages. The service is called “Book By Google” and it allows searchers in North America to book hotels within the search results pages (SERPs), without having to visit hotel websites.
This change could be devastating for the many hotel booking websites that have been built over the years. Payments on Book by Google go via Google Wallet.
Any search in Google for a hotel will probably bring up results for booking websites before the actual hotel website. This often provides people with an opportunity to shop around, but as a result hotels lose organic traffic to optimised booking websites, which take commission from the hotels. This is arguably not ideal for customers or hotel owners, because prices are adjusted upwards to pay commission to the booking sites.
If Google starts to rank hotel websites higher while also providing a simple, one-click booking service direct from the SERPs, this could effectively do away with the need for booking websites.
Major comparison websites, such as TripAdvisor, will probably continue to perform well in search because they provide an additional service to booking alone (TripAdvisor often links customers to booking sites). However, websites that only provide a booking service may become surplus to requirements.
Google has partnered with Sabre, who already have 20,000 hotels signed up, to provide the new service. Sabre takes commissions by credit card from its hotel partners whenever a booking is made.
Currently, the only way for a hotel to boost its SERPs positions is to pay to advertise with Google Adwords or use the Google Hotel Ads service through Google Maps.
This change may allow hotels that are in very competitive locations to beat the Adwords competition, although at the moment, it is not clear how a small hotel with a limited budget will be able to compete against large chains through “Book on Google”. Generally speaking, the larger hotel chains have bigger margins and can afford to pay larger commissions to booking agents.
The advantage for hotels is that they will probably experience improved conversions from the service. People trust Google to suggest high quality goods and services and therefore searchers are more likely to book a hotel that is partnered with Google.
Bypass mobile restrictions
Another potential advantage for hotels is that this booking service will bypass the restrictions, both technological and psychological, that are associated with booking via mobile.
Many hotel websites put design before mobile-friendliness, and this can quickly deter people from booking from a mobile device. Assuming that Google’s new service works smoothly on mobile, many hotels will benefit from this increased exposure on mobile.
Hotel and Flights
Google already allows some searchers to book flights through search so the additional of hotel booking is a logical step to provide searchers with a full, holiday booking platform.
This news will undoubtedly concern the travel booking industry. Whenever Google launch a new service within its search engine results pages, other businesses lose out. This new service provides a great opportunity for smaller hotels to take advantage of digital marketing, while at the same time sending out a clear message to the hotel booking industry – Google wants your business!
Danny Hall is a Co-Director for the well-established Search Engine Optimisation agency, FSE Online. Danny has worked within the SEO sector for many years and is always keeping up-to-date with Googles latest news.
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