Google secretly tests feed of hotel room prices in natural search results
The addition of room prices against search results for hotels on Google Maps triggered the inevitable rounds of soul-searching and claims of we-did-it-first, while the most telling remarks concerned when the search giant might do the same in organic search results.
Now it appears such a move is being tested quietly on a few users.
On Google Canada this week a search for “hotels” threw up and wholly unexpected set of results.
A search for the same keyword delivered a different – yet still intriguing – set of results.
These two searches were conducted on a Google Chrome browser from a Canadian IP. When the user attempted to recreate the same results by opening a new tab the results returned were of the standard organic variety.
This looks like typical A/B testing.
Despite the top left-hand navigation looking different and the inclusion of a location widget underneath the search bar, it is the inclusion of room prices included in the results that is arguably the most interesting.
There is no date setting widget included on the page, such as that incorporated into the Google Maps hotel test, so prices are probably taken from average room rates for a particular hotel – once again, presumably, from advertisers in AdSense.
Initially, Google remarked that the screen grabs were from Google Shopping – a service which includes prices but is obtained by filtering results AFTER an initial search is been carried out.
These results may well be from Google Shopping but were returned after a single search query from the Google homepage. The user had no predetermined search preferences, but perhaps in this case Google decided that for a term which has plenty of price points available it should throw up something different, including options for more shopping.
An official at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, says:
“At Google, we run anywhere from 50 to 200 experiments at any given time on Google sites all over the world.”
Google also pointed to a blog post about how it tests various projects around the Google ecosystem.
So, just a test, nothing to see, please move along…
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in early-2017.