Google tests single hotel deal placements in search

For a month now, Google has been experimenting with displaying centered content for a single hotel result, a new advertising placement popping up for points of sale worldwide.

NB: This is a guest viewpoint from Nicholas Ward, CEO of Koddi.

We’re seeing this new Deals placement for certain hotel queries on Google, now placed above the top ad slot. Clicking it brings you into the map results with the “Nearby Deal” preselected.

From our observations, it appears that the Deals are nearby properties with similar ratings and amenities. The Nearby Deal refreshes after changing the Check in and Check out date.

In the example shown here, the Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia NE – Langhorne is currently the top result for variations of the query “langhorne, pa hotels”, indicating that Google is using the same or similar signals to rank properties and to select which hotels to include in this experience.

google single hotel ad placement koddi

Again, to be clear: This is a test. So only some Google users will see it on some searches.

The “Nearby Deal” doesn’t appear to need to be a Deal in the normal Google sense of being lower priced than normal. In the example below, the Koloa Landing Resort doesn’t appear to be at a rate any better than normal, but it is priced better than the Sheraton Kauai, is relevant as a high ranking hotel, and well rated. It is being suggested as an alternate to the Sheraton Kauai.

google single ad placement

google new advertising placement single hotel

So far we have been unable to replicate this experience on mobile devices.

Implications for properties and advertisers

Since this experience is showing on hotel-focused queries, there is an important cross sell implication to consider. Google has long shown a “People also searched for…” section at the bottom of the Knowledge Panel with links to different properties, but this Nearby Deal experience encourages a direct comparison for users when they may be fairly deep in the booking process.

The experience does provide a value to users, which should help advertisers in the long run. A well informed user may convert higher since they are prequalifying further before clicking to the site.

It may become more important in the future for advertisers to understand which properties are subject to these types of experiences, and which properties are recommended as Nearby Deals to maximize traffic volume.

Google continues to do a variety of experiments, such as how we’re seeing the Hotel Ads unit outside of the Knowledge Panel globally tested. Across domains for hotel specific searches, Google is also testing a new format that shifts the Hotel Ads unit from its usual home in the knowledge panel to the middle of the screen, sometimes even giving it preference over Text Ads:

google hotel ads deals

See details on that, here.

Overall though the above example are only experiments — but they are reminders that the state of play for hotel metasearch is in flux.

NB: This is a guest viewpoint from Nicholas Ward, CEO of Koddi, a digital marketing agency specializing in meta search advertising for travel brands. A version of this post first appeared on the Koddi blog a month ago and has been shared here because the Google experiment continues and isn’t a one-off.

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Viewpoints

About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.

 

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  1. Dorian Harris

    @chak

    “Google should not be held responsible for ensuring a “deal”.”

    If Google is determining what it labels as deals, then of course it must be responsible for ensuring it really is a deal.

     
  2. Dorian Harris

    @nicholas (sorry, there was no direct ‘reply’ option to your comment)

    You and Sean seem to be suggesting that Google is free to decide what is or isn’t a deal. I’m not convinced that’s the case and I maintain that any attempt by Google to lure customers to a particular property on the basis of its marketing language will be frowned upon, or even curtailed, by advertising authorities.

    In any case, how would Google decide what’s a deal when Google isn’t even the merchant? For all Google knows, its source of hotel prices is expensive and, whilst the Hilton has gone down from $300 to $150 on Google, and is now lower than the price of the Sheraton on Google, it has gone down to $100 on most other distribution channels. Suddenly the $150 Hilton rate on Google is actually a particularly bad deal.

    Guidelines vary from country to country, of course, but ‘deals’ or any strong price-signalling language, is regulated everywhere I’ve seen, even in the US.

     
  3. Dorian Harris

    “Deals” is a bit misleading, isn’t it? I’m not sure that would get past the advertising authorities.

     
    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Hi Dorian,
      Thanks for the comment. Not sure about the authorities, but Google is usually quite circumspect about such matters. This continues to be a test.

      Since the summer, in real live search results in the US and rolling out worldwide, Google’s algorithms now apply a “Deal” label to spotlight hotel rates that are lower than usual compared to the past or when there are discounts to the normal rate for those dates. That is a kind of consistent, non-commercially influenced rule that would presumably pass muster with authorities.

      Google sees that hotels labeled as “deals” receive about twice as many bookings as other hotels through its platform, and that the deals are automatically identified by the search engine’s algorithms when it sees a sharp drop in a rate.

       
      • Dorian Harris

        Hi Sean,

        Thank you for your reply.

        I realise the entire hotel industry plays it fast-and-loose with the term ‘deal’, but I’m not convinced Google will get away with it in exactly the same way.

        Is it really a deal when everyone is selling the room at exactly the same price?

         
        • Nicholas Ward

          Hi Dorian,

          I think it’s important to note that there are a couple of layers that come into play with the deal messaging. The first is whether the rate appears to be a good deal in market, and the second is whether the offer appears to be a good deal in comparison to similar offers. From what we’ve seen there are pretty good controls around this, though we do rarely find an errant experience. To Google’s credit, they respond quickly to this kind of feedback.

          Agreed that isn’t crystal clear but I don’t find anything disingenuous with the experience… Do you see a better way to clarify this for users?

           
        • chak

          Expectation that the prices displayed will really be lesser compared to all available rates is unrealistic. In addition a deal is not necessarily on price alone . It can be on other parameters like location , amenities , stars . Google should not be held responsible for ensuring a “deal”. On a side note there are plenty of instances where “deal” is flaunted ex amazon for an item where as if you search there will be other places with a lesser price.

           
 
 

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