Google tests new hotel search, pushes Hotel Price Ads to second click

Google has been testing an evolved hotel search layout, leaning more on its mobile layout for hotel search on the original desktop search page.

Instead of a carousel, there are a few ads, and then a small box that separates the top three hotels for that search. The full Hotel Price Ads unit is pushed to a second click, so when a user clicks on a hotel, that hotel’s knowledge box and Hotel Price Ads booking window loads.

The new search unit being tested looks like this, effectively pushing all organic listings beneath the fold:

New Hotel search unit

This unit keeps only 3 hotels at the front, creating an even more competitive ad product on Google search.

When users want to see more than the top three results in the hotel search, they must click “More hotels” to load a two-column screen that combines a map and all of the hotels available for the previously selected dates.

Second page hotel search on Google

What’s missing here is the carousel – a quick reminder below of what the previous unit looked like, with the top band of scrollable hotels framing the entire experience.

Google Carousel for hotels

The user could then scroll across hotel selections, and click on a specific hotel. This hotel would then populate beneath the carousel, including the Hotel Price Ads unit for booking.

Nicholas Ward, from meta-search bid managers Koddi, noticed the change about a week ago, and wrote about it on his blog here. This was also after identifying a precipitous drop in mobile traffic for hotel finder in favor of this new layout, as it was originally tested on mobile to aid users in finding the right hotel in search.

The search experiment cleans up the experience – many thought the carousel was more ugly than useful – while also reducing the upfront amount of information delivered to the user.

It also offers up a few more spots of advertising, as the carousel layout limited the above-the-fold real estate. With this new box in the main search column, Google has also returned the entire right column for advertisers to target the moment of search.

The user is only pushed into the Hotel Finder experience upon clicking through to a hotel via the experimental unit. This is a simplified evolution of the Hotel Finder product, as the company balances delivering the right information at the right time with creating lucrative advertising placements for hotels.

For some previous tips on how to take advantage of Google’s Hotel Price Ads, click here.

NB: Five star hotels image courtesy Shutterstock.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.

 

Comments

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  1. RobertKCole

    It appears Google is doing a lot of testing – including messing with the semantic algos that drive the carousel.

    When I searched for “Best Luxury New Orleans Hotel” Google returned:

    Carousel (left to right):
    Hotel Chateau Dupre (2.1, 3-star, 13 reviews)
    Hotel St Pierre (3.5, 3-star, 35 reviews)
    The Ritz-Carlton (4.3, 5-star, 27 reviews)
    Place d’Armes (4.0, 3-star, 29 reviews)
    1896 O’Malley House (4.6, not rated, 11 reviews)
    W New Orleans (4.1, 4-star, 30 reviews)
    [Oddly, only a partial carousel – these were only properties listed.]

    Hotel Finder (Sponsored Card)
    Super 8 (3.7, 2-star, 27 reviews)
    Hotel Mazarin (4.3, 3-star,16 reviews)
    Hyatt Regency (4.1, 4-star, 46 reviews)
    Windsor Court (4.0, 5-star, 24 reviews)

    Organic results:
    TripAdvisor – tripadvisor.com
    Five Star Alliance – fivestaralliance.com
    Travel and Leisure – travelandleisure.com
    Conde Nast Traveler – cntraveler.com
    Best New Orleans Hotels – bestneworleanshotels.com
    Frommers – frommers.com
    New Orleans Luxury Hotels – neworleansluxuryhotels.com
    Hotels.com – hotels.com
    About.com – goneworleans.about.com
    Experience New Orleans – http://www.experienceneworleans.com

    No individual hotel or traditional hotel brand sites, however, three of the top 10 properties are listing sites, all powered by Compucast Web. Checking out the Moz page and domain authority looks a lot like a random number generator. Apparently, the death of SEO was premature as it appears to be alive & well in these hotel listings…!?

    Changing the search query slightly to “best new orleans luxury hotels” produced no Carousel, no sponsored Hotel Finder card and triple listings for TripAdvisor (slots 2-4), and double hotels.com listings (slots 9-10.)

    To shut down the conspiracy theorists, The Windsor Court in New Orleans had top Adwords positioning and was strangely absent from any of the other listing methods, so this was not spend/bid driven.

    I also checked Seattle, Boston & San Francisco (since the Google folks tend to pay a lot of attention to those cities.) Boston had no carousel, the Seattle carousel only had six properties (including a 2-star property.) The other carousels were full, but still included irrelevant 2 & 3-star properties. FiveStarAlliance.com had top rankings in all three. In New York, they ranked 3rd – following Oyster.com – another site Google tends to favor. Whoever is doing the SEO (or whatever they are doing) for FiveStarAlliance and Oyster, Google apparently loves it.

    In short, these search results are a mess – hard to say if it is a result of Matt Cutts’s leave of absence, too many conflicting tests, a lack of focus on hotel results, or chaos theory that is driving the search strategy for Google hotel/destination SERPS, but it seriously needs to get cleaned up.

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Thanks for that extensive test – very interesting to watch how this all unfolds.

       
    • Loren Gray

      Robert,

      As always great insights. I like that you used New Orleans and more specifically called out some of the properties we work with :). The real concern I feel is that regardless our strategies for SEO and Paid Services blending, that the ever evolving HPA model and Google’s ability to ‘short-circuit’ the travelers journey to simply provide a single platform of engagement, them, is really the underlying issue. Simply put, its on their phone, on their OS, on their search engine. With the growing adoption of schema and its evolving use in semantic search, our role however optimized and potentially paid for, will be usurped by Google’s ability to provide the complete purchase experience with little need from us except fulfillment. Google Data + SERP + Google Now + Google Wallet = Complete Purchase

       
  2. Dean Schmit

    This is a smart move on Google’s part from a business standpoint. The new format allows them to capture revenue from both HPA and PPC, whereas the previous version limited the PPC options.
    Perhaps the most significant statement is “….effectively pushing all organic listings beneath the fold.” In other words, the premium real estate above the fold is now completely owned and managed by Google.

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      It also occurred to me that the original launch of the carousel interface eliminated the right column of PPC – so that move must not have been as profitable as Google hoped, as that whole column has since returned in this experiment. There was a lot of talk about Google disrupting itself with the carousel – and maybe that disruption just didn’t turn out as lucrative as expected.

      Or maybe the company simply realized that the carousel wasn’t that attractive and posed a challenge when it comes to cross-device UX consistency. Interesting development regardless!

      N

       
 
 

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