7 years ago

How Google Place Search will impact on hotels and others in travel

NB: This is a guest post by Jon Schepke, president of SIM Partners, a Chicago-based full service marketing agency specialising in mobile, search engine marketing and social media.

Local search marketing is gaining momentum among hoteliers – and for good reason.

Consumers in the US, for example, do more than three billion local searches every month as they increasingly choose online search over traditional methods of advertising.

Consumers search for lodging within the context of a particular destination or a destination experience.

They don’t just want a hotel – they are looking for “New York hotels”, “Times Square hotels”, “Chicago North Michigan Avenue hotels” or even “San Diego Family Vacations”.

More importantly, these generic destination-type searches far outpace the volume of hotel-brand specific queries, which is why it’s critical for hotels to rank prominently in local search results.

When Google announced its new “Place Search” on October 27, the implications were significant as the travel industry depends on search traffic to drive revenue.

With Place Search, Google has eliminated separate local listings (also known as the seven-pack) and combined them with organic results in a dramatic new display.

The map has moved to the right hand side. Hotel listings integrate user generated content such as reviews, website links, addresses, phone numbers as well as average review ratings.

Depending on the search query, Google may also suggest neighborhoods or a type of hotel to help narrow the search results.

Google even includes reviews and links to third-party sites such as tripadvisor.com and yelp.com.

For its part, Google says Place Search makes it easier to find a comprehensive view of each place by offering a new layout with many more relevant links on a single results page – often 30 or 40.

So instead of doing eight or ten searches looking for the websites you want, you’ll find them in just one search.

It’s also intended to cluster search results around specific locations so users can more easily make comparisons and find the information they are seeking.

Search experts will be analyzing this marriage of local and organic algorithms for months to come. But several things are already clear.

First, optimizing your hotel’s online profiles with up-to-date, detailed and accurate information is critical.

It’s also evident that guest reviews will help hotels get better placement in these new merged listings. And why not?

Eighty-four percent of Americans say online customer evaluations have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service. Now reviews will also help hotel rankings, click-through-rates (CTR’s) and conversion rates.

To illustrate how Place Search will change the game, here are search result examples, based on a search for Albuquerque hotels, before and after Place Search was implemented.

Before, the local listings 7-pack was above organic listings, with paid ads on the right.

SIM google1


SIM google2

After 2: In this example for “luxury hotel room Albuquerque”, Google shows a more dramatic display of results.

This version expands on the information displayed in Google Places listings. It is apparent that Google merged organic and local search results.

Google displays two to three- line descriptions for Places listings, quotes from review sites, the total number of reviews on third-party sites and links to review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.

SIM google3

So, to optimize their Google Places listing, hoteliers should:

  1. Be specific about your location and include landmarks, arenas, conventions, street names (i.e. Magnificent Mile in Chicago or Duval Street in Key West) and virtually anything makes your hotel location unique.
  2. Be specific about your brand. Do you offer luxury suites? Best rates? Beach resort? Emphasizing these terms in Google Places can help you be found for these types of search queries.
  3. Post an event deal on Google Places using “Google Places Post Event” option.
  4. Add coupons (i.e. AARP rate, Best Rate Guarantee) and experiment with Google Tags.
  5. Create customized fields and informative business descriptions that utilize relevant keywords.
  6. Integrate brand-approved photos and videos.
  7. Fill out all applicable fields, including Hours of Operation, Payment Methods, and Service Areas.
  8. Encourage online reviews from leisure guests, meeting guests and event/wedding planners etc.
  9. Respond to Google guest reviews through Google Places.
  10. Ensure that your Google Places flag is located in the proper spot.

These changes will continue to be modified by Google in the next 30-60 days.

With that said, those that see a decrease in their rankings will need to move quickly in updating their search strategies in order to regain ground and get back in the game.

NB: This is a guest post by Jon Schepke, president of SIM Partners, a Chicago-based full service marketing agency specialising in mobile, search engine marketing and social media.

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  1. Gem Webb

    I work for an Ontario DMO (Destination Marketing Organization – Bruce County Tourism) and my #1 goal for 2011 is to help local businesses see how important these trip/travel review sites are with 3 biggies= tripadvisor, google places, and yelp. I’m crafting up an education series which I’ll market to the area through our local blog, newsletters and videos, offering downloadable content. I found a recent PDF printout template download which will help accommodations promote people that stay with them to review their business on Google places and tripadvisor. These sites are so pivotal to people making decisions online and all businesses need to monitor there business image regularly.

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  5. Michael Dorausch

    Best breakdown of the changes made on local that I’ve seen yet. Love how you divided up the screen shots and made things easy to understand. Great template for other industries to follow.

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  7. SEO Seattle

    I do agree with your comments that it’s even more important to be a good citizen online, and to manage local online campaigns now more than ever in the past.

    However, as a loyal Google user I’ve got to say it’s going to be hard to get used to the new Places results. It’s not clean looking at all and it has some major flaws in my opinion. Time will tell.

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  10. Drew

    Great article. Local search marketing is becoming essential to local businesses. I agree with Andrew that it’s more important than ever to be a good online citizen. Spammy content and black hat tactics just are not tolerated anymore.

    • Phil

      There are a couple of discussion threads among users on Google Places forums. Reaction is mixed and it only works properly for certain searches in certain markets using certain browsers!

      If I search “Albequerque hotels”, for instance, I don’t get the proper new layout in Chrome, Safari, FF or IE, while other users only get it in Chrome. Maps are completely missing for some users’ browsers, some still get a handful of sponsored links and natural results above “places”.

      It may be okay for users in the USA searching businesses in the USA, but it’s retrograde to give Places results prominence in other markets where Places = Pants!

      It’s a shambles. They should have got it to work for all markets and all browsers before launching it.

      • me

        Albuquerque is misspelled in your comment, not sure if this impacted your responses.

        • Phil

          No, that’s a typo in the comment, but well spotted 🙂

          Also looks the same when searching “London Hotels” or “Paris Hotels”.

  11. Phil

    I think it is horrible – Google Places is not reliable enough to be given such priority in search results.

    Plus when I search for “Albequerque hotels” now, not only are Places top, leaving no room for regular results, but I don’t even get a map any more.

    This is a screenshot of what what I now see on Google.co.uk :


    What gives? Why no map? Why push Google Places to the fore when it is currently inaccurate and incomplete? It’s terrible!

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  13. Andrew Haddleton

    I completely agree with your assessment.

    I think another key is to be even more focused on creating good content, more back-links and just being a good citizen online.

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