If you’ve been watching closely in the last year, you’ve likely seen that metasearch marketing has become a favorite and top-performing tactic for hospitality marketers.
The rise of metasearch came as the channel helped hotels achieve notable results, even amidst the challenges of the global pandemic. Several of our clients saw returns on ad spend (ROAS) of 10x or higher and metasearch out-performed pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for a range of hotels throughout the second half of 2020, from independents to branded hotels.
Metasearch engines including Google, TripAdvisor and Kayak showcase your hotel property and pull in rate and inventory information in one place. These features allow travelers to see information pulled together so they don’t have to go searching on different travel sites for the best hotel or rate. For your hotel, metasearch can lead to an increase in direct bookings.
But what if metasearch isn’t achieving the results you expected? Despite being a key part of the hotel digital marketing strategy, metasearch marketing can be both complex and challenging. There are a number of factors that could lead to success or failure in metasearch. If your hotel is stuck, try focusing on these four factors to improve your metasearch campaign.
1. Your metasearch budget may be too low
There is no exact science to running a successful metasearch marketing campaign, so identifying the right mix of metasearch channels and the best budget for your hotel can take some trial and error. What budget your hotel should invest in metasearch depends on your property type, location, and the nearby competitive landscape.
If your metasearch campaign isn’t seeing the results you were expecting, the first place to look is your budget and bidding strategy. When it comes to ROAS and Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), you need to set realistic expectations based on other channels. If your metasearch CPA is lower, or even the same, as the commission you pay to acquire a booking from an Online Travel Agency (OTA), then you should be investing the same budget. Acquiring a booking through metasearch can have a higher lifetime value given it’s a direct booking and relationship. The bottom line is, budgets will vary for hotels but monitoring your hotel’s CPA across platforms will provide the best insight into whether you’re spending the right amount, in the right spots.
If your budget is constrained, it’s important to look closely at which metasearch channels your hotel is investing in. Determine which channels are providing the best ROAS and CPA and focus your efforts there. Sometimes, less is more. If you’re not sure where to begin, Google Hotel Ads is the best bet. Google dominates the metasearch market and can combine with Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising and organic search to help you take over search rankings.
2. Your hotel may not have rate parity with OTAs
For many travelers, price is king when it comes to booking hotel rooms. While monitoring prices across channels used to be a fairly simple task, the emergence of both OTAs and metasearch has created more opportunities for price disparity across channels and price shopping for travelers. As a result, hoteliers now have the challenge of not only keeping tabs on room rates across various channels but also ensuring their rates are price competitive.
With price comparison options like Google, Trivago, Kayak, and TripAdvisor, travelers are certain to shop for the best rate at your hotel. According to a study, 29% of respondents said they booked with an OTA because it offered the best deal (another 13% said they booked with an OTA because of a promotion). It’s essential for your hotel website to have rate parity with OTAs and third-party channels. When your direct rates are undercut, it not only creates confusion for travelers, but it pushes them to book with OTAs and third-parties. Not only does your hotel lose a direct booking, it also means you’ll pay a 15-20% commission on it.
When your metasearch campaign isn’t hitting your marketing goals, it’s possible your rates are being undercut by an OTA or wholesaler, driving bookings elsewhere. In fact, a study found that one in five OTA rates in North America were undercutting Brand.com rates.
Start by identifying where your hotel’s rates are being undercut and which wholesalers may be causing rate leakage. If there are particular channels that are most significant and impactful, focus your attention there and ensure your OTA and third-party partners are in line. In the short term, make sure your listed rates are competitive with the market, whether that means getting on par with other channels or showcasing member rates usually hidden deeper on your website.
3. Your hotel website may need Conversion Rate Optimization
Sometimes, suboptimal metasearch performance isn’t necessarily the fault of a low budget or a competitive booking landscape. By combining data from your metasearch campaign with your hotel’s website data, you can get insight into what actions users are taking after they click through to book on your website from a metasearch channel.
If your hotel website is seeing a spike in traffic from your metasearch campaign but the conversion numbers aren’t following suit, you may need to look at Conversation Rate Optimization (CRO). The conversion rate on your website is the number of travelers who complete a booking compared to how many visit your website overall. CRO is the process of optimizing points of the customer journey that may be negatively impacting completed bookings.
The two most critical parts of converting a metasearch visitor to a booking are a positive website user experience and a top-notch booking engine. If you’re seeing drop-off at either point, it’s important to find out why and address the issues. Make sure your website loads fast, works across desktop and mobile devices and presents clear information. Additionally, you need to make sure your booking engine is not only user-friendly and fast, but also accurate. Having a low error rate between your promoted metasearch prices and actual prices as well as a streamlined process is a proven way to help travelers complete the booking process.
4. Your metasearch listing may not be optimized
Once you’ve addressed the points above, it isn’t a bad idea to make sure your hotel’s listings across all metasearch channels are fully optimized. Each metasearch channel has different options, but they all offer the ability to customize your listing and message.
Start with these enhancements and see if they improve your campaign’s performance:
- Upload vivid photos and write a detailed description — When was the last time you replaced the photos of your hotel? Make sure the photos on your metasearch listings provide a full view of all aspects of your hotel, from the lobby to the bed your guests will sleep in. Photos are proven to improve booking inquiries.
- Manage your online reviews — Do you respond to reviews — both good and bad? TripAdvisor found that 96% of its users consider reading reviews important when planning and booking hotels. Responding to reviews across channels is critical.
- List your amenities and health information — Tell guests all that your hotel has to offer, including relevant health information. Now more than ever, guests are wondering what sanitation and health practices are in place at your property.
The bottom line when it comes to metasearch is one size doesn’t fit all. The best strategy for one hotel might not be the right one for yours. Working with a metasearch specialist can ensure you’re utilizing the right channels and the proper bidding strategies within each. Once your campaign is up and running, follow what the data is telling you and make changes as needed.
To find out why metasearch is so popular, see how it worked for Edge Hotel through the pandemic. Then, check out our blog for more hospitality marketing tips.