New markup standards give hospitality rich cards a lot more structure
Imagine you’re traveling for work last-minute (difficult, I know). Time is of the essence, and you couldn’t book a hotel room before you left. Like most hotel bookings made from a mobile device, you need a room to check into today.
You conduct a search for hotels near you, and instead of a big block of local search results, Google serves up a couple of the nearest options to where you are as a large, card-style result.
Each card tells you not just where the hotel is, its review ratings, and the nightly rate, but the size of the bed, and square footage of the room. The card lets you book with two or three quick taps right from the search result.
Now imagine that that outcome cost the hotel chain nothing but the time needed to add some code to its webpages.
We got a little closer to that potential future this month, with an intriguing release from a Google-backed project.
Hospitality brands gained some new ways to share information with search engines in the latest Schema.org release, allowing hoteliers to specify everything from what kinds of rooms are on offer to whether they’re pet friendly.
These enhancements to the markup standards, which Google uses to enhance a site’s search results, set the stage for travel shoppers to more fully assess what chains, single-location B&B’s, OTAs and even peer-to-peer networks like Airbnb have to offer directly on search results pages – and maybe even someday book from there as well.
Schema.org is the main driver of enhanced search results in engines like Google, which pull in anything from prices and reviews to event dates and recipe instructions directly into your page’s results. More than 10 million sites use Schema.org to markup their web pages.
It’s a standard way of organizing and calling out information on a webpage – kind of like a data feed built right onto a webpage – either through special markup around key on-page content or meta data.
Search engines can then more easily identify those key points, and use those insights to better rank the page in its natural search results and pull some of those key points into your search results. There are at present more than 25 ways to appear in Google, many of which are driven by this markup.
It’s been a key addition for hospitality and travel sites to make their results stand out in natural search results, even as the real estate that used to be dedicated to them has gradually been taken up by local results and booking modules.
From time to time, the group who manages it allows changes, expansions and updates to its structure – which can be found at – you guessed it – Schema.org. And this week’s changes were heavily concentrated on accommodations.
There’s now a structure to describe nearly every aspect of your hotel, *room,* and offer that a customer would need to make a purchase decision.
Already able to differentiate yourself between a hotel, motel, or hostel, options for Resort, Bed and Breakfast or Camping Grounds were introduced.
There is now a structure not just for the hotel but for the types of accommodations that are available, from rooms and suites to houses and camp pitches. These each can include parameters for the square footage of the space, and both the size and number of beds.
Special features like whether a meeting room is attached or if pets are allowed can also be shared.
…all on top of the existing capabilities of sharing price, reviews, location, photos, and other important sales features. As Brad Brewer, CEO of Brewer Digital Marketing has put it,
“Hotel Rich Cards have the potential to completely change the face of booking in natural search.”
While it still takes development time, the JSON-LD implementation of Schema.org that Google has been embracing as of late actually make it a much faster job than it used to be.
Structured data will only become more important to ranking and how you appear in search results – often as important as where you appear in rankings – and those who embrace it and keep up with the latest options will reap the rewards of a bigger presence while everyone else is catching up.
Of course, the exact impact of these additions will depend entirely on what Google, other search engines, and even apps that can crawl this data choose to do with them.
On a basic level, sharing information through Schema.org code use is correlated with better rankings, though not yet a fully proven connection, so building these new structures in could be beneficial for traffic, even if they’re never used in another way.
As Google engineers have a chance to plot how to use these points, the information could be used for anything from a spin on the traditional enhanced search result, to a larger sidebar Knowledge Graph-style result – or something completely new.
Did I mention that Schema.org can also be used to initiate an action?
For example, using a certain variety of it on your homepage can add a search bar to your natural search sitelink results, and send visitors that use that search bar to search results directly on your website.
If Google can trigger a search based on the code, why not a booking?
We’re probably quite a way off from that, and we can hardly count on Google giving away anything as lucrative as kicking off a booking for free. But given the capabilities that Schema.org just brought to the hospitality industry, it’s a time to dream big – and to act now to stay ahead of the pack.
Special Nodes is the byline under which Tnooz publishes articles by guest authors from around the industry.