The rise of metasearch; how hotels can’t afford to ignore it

Kirsty Beasley, market development manager for Profitroom, outlines the increasing importance of metasearch and how hoteliers can best take advantage of it.

Many hoteliers may be unfamiliar with the term metasearch, or at the very least, unfamiliar with the benefits it can offer their hotel in getting found by potential guests.

The concept of metasearch has been around for some time, but it’s now one of the fastest growing online sales channels for hotels – so if you’re not looking at it as an option, you really do need to.

First thing’s first though, what is it?

Well, a metasearch engine aggregates search results into a list of real-time updates that compares hotel prices and availability. Essentially, they send user requests (that’s whatever the person has searched for via a search engine) to several other search engines, before pulling them into an easily comparable list. This allows the person browsing to compare hotel room rates from various booking channels to find the best price. Usually, you’ll see this dominated by third party booking sites – with online travel agents (OTAs) having a clear advantage over hotels themselves, thanks to the simple fact that hotels aren’t taking steps to ensure they’re represented in the results.

If you search on Google for a hotel stay, metasearch results appear prominently, with key examples of these being TripAdvisor, Kayak and Trivago. It’s something that presents a huge opportunity for hotels thanks to the fact it’s one of the first things potential guests see via Google.

A metasearch strategy effectively combines your digital marketing efforts (advertising/promoting your hotel’s offering) with your distribution efforts – presenting both a booking channel and an online environment in which to showcase your hotel.

Many prospective guests use metasearch to check reviews and the standard of accommodation, as well as comparing prices before booking. Being prominent here then, pays dividends, making advertising on metasearch engines an endeavour that’s well worth undertaking.

Metasearch is growing in dominance

Not only does it pay immediate dividends, it’s one of the fastest growing digital marketing channels for the hotel industry – meaning its benefits are only set to grow.

Representing your direct channel on the metasearch network ensures you’re not automatically giving your bookings to third parties and invoking high commission fees. It also provides a seamless booking experience for your guests.

Put simply, it’s all about ensuring your guests see your direct prices at the first opportunity, thereby taking back control from OTAs within this space.

At Profitroom, we make this a straightforward, non-reactive process thanks to our booking engine boasting direct integration with metasearch. This offers the ability to simplify the management of both rates and availability across these meta direct sales channels – meaning you don’t have to.

How does it work?

When a hotel advertises on metasearch channels, such as Google or Trivago, the results will also display the hotel’s direct rate, which appears right alongside the rates from the OTAs – with an official website tag (for the hotel) providing an advantage. When a potential guest clicks on the link, they are taken directly to the hotel’s website and, more specifically, to the booking page where they can check, not just the offer that’s connected, but also other packages and experiences – offering the opportunity for the hotel to upsell appealing extras.

In just one search then, the potential guest sees the rates from ALL channels in one place and has an option to make a direct booking. Without this as an option, it’s all too easy for the hotel to lose this guest to an OTA, which means they’re subsequently charged commission.

Metasearch advertising shortens the path to converting a direct booking and this is what makes it an essential tactic in a hotelier’s marketing mix.

Gain competitive advantage and win back market share

Most hoteliers face the challenge of managing the high cost bookings posed by OTAs.

Conducting a metasearch campaign is a way for hoteliers to help reduce the impact of this, ensuring your hotel is present at all the right touchpoints. It works to:

• Minimise distribution costs

• Increase brand awareness

• Decrease reliance on OTAs

• Increase direct-booking rates

• Attract new guests

Advertising on metasearch engines provides the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. If you’re there, driving direct bookings, while competitors are simply leaving OTAs to dominate the space, you’ll gain a competitive edge thanks to the reduction in commission fees. This edge can help you to take back market share from your rivals.

Why hoteliers should consider adding metasearch into the marketing mix

Metasearch is now a crucial part of most guest search journeys. 94 per cent of travellers report that they’ve used metasearch when booking a hotel stay, with 73 per cent doing so regularly (according to EyeforTravel and Fornova’s study in 2019). Given such a high percentage, you really shouldn’t be ignoring it. Adding it to the marketing mix offers new ways to tap into the online guest booking experience, maximising the exposure of your hotel’s brand.

Improved visibility of your hotel

Your potential guest and OTAs are already using metasearch channels. Opting to do so yourself enhances your hotel’s online visibility. You can use Google’s tools to help you by:

• Utilising Google My Business to gain additional brand exposure

• Being visible and bookable in Google Hotel Ads

• Having prices displayed upon every hotel search – even on Google Maps

Optimising the online guest experience

When someone is looking to book a hotel, there are numerous digital touchpoints that they engage with on the way. If you want to drive direct bookings efficiently, then you need to make sure you appear in all of the areas where your guest is searching.

Metasearch is fast becoming the most cost effective way of driving quality traffic to your hotel website. Channels such as Google Hotel Ads are fully optimised for mobile, allowing guests to book directly with your hotel whilst staying within the app, and avoiding any OTA commissions.

Despite this, a good booking engine is still a central part of a metasearch campaign. Make sure your booking engine experience (on both desktop and mobile) exceeds the expectation of potential guests, and offers a user friendly and optimised booking experience.

Not only does this improve the chances of a finalised booking – a positive experience increases the likelihood of repeat bookings.

Rate parity

This is crucial. Metasearch, by its very function, is a comparison website. If you offer a publicised rate that exceeds the OTAs, then potential bookers will ignore your direct channel and go for the cheapest option.

Opting to assess rates manually would obviously be very time consuming, however our booking engine (as an example) takes any worry of this away – automatically ensuring that your direct channel offers rate parity with the OTAs. Make sure then that your booking engine, whichever you opt to use, provides this.

A metasearch campaign can be managed via a cost per click approach or a cost per action, helping you decide which method you’d prefer and which one is right for you.

To illustrate this cost effectiveness – if you weren’t already sold on introducing metasearch! – and by taking Google Hotel Ads as an example, in the last six months, using the integrated connectivity of our booking engine, we’ve been able to utilise it for our clients at an average cost of acquisition (COA) of 7.79 per cent – which is a far lower cost than any OTA commission.

Furthermore, using Trivago for our resort properties, we achieved a COA of 9.76 per cent – again, far lower than the costs of OTAs, and something that serves to highlight the revenue benefits of engaging with metasearch.

Metasearch is a cost-effective way of both taking back control of your OTA bookings and giving you more exposure online. Hoteliers simply can’t afford to overlook it.

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