There has been a lot of developments over the past few years with Google in the travel industry and their actions are ones I have been closely watching. With Google Hotel Finder launching earlier this year it is interesting to see how Google is changing.
When searching for hotels online there are two main categories of searches
- Destination searches such as London Hotels
- Hotel name searches such as The Lowry Hotel
So if we have a look at each of these to see how Google is handling these now we may get an idea of what lies in store in the next year or so.
Looking at the search term Manchester Hotels we can see that there are several important parts to this.
Here we can see several parts to this section which are
- The link for “Places for hotels near Manchester” and “More results near Manchester”.
- The travel dates are listed
- A selection of individual hotel websites are listed
- Different recommended search terms related to “Manchester Hotels”
- Nearby locations
Lets take a look at each one of these and see how Google are handling this.
Places for hotels near Manchester
As we can see above, there are what you would expect to see on any hotel aggregator website such as
- Hotel name
- Brief snippet of information (albeit a very poor snippet)
- Link to show where the hotel is located on a map
- Average rating of the hotel
- Number of reviews of this hotel
- Price of the hotel for today
When comparing this to some of the hotel aggregators, it seems Google has got a lot of the areas covered already. Hotel aggregators really need to step up in terms of innovation to ensure they are staying ahead of Google which is going to be quite a challenge.
Travel Dates Listed in SERPs
This is a great option for customers since this will automatically update the prices from various different hotel aggregators when the date is chosen.
Individual Hotels Listed
Again great for the user since this allows them to go direct to the hotel who may be able to deal with their queries better.
Related Search Terms and Nearby Locations
These ultimately send the user through the same process as above but with a more refined search.
Hotel Name Searches
Now if we have a look through the same process for hotel name searches to see how Google is handling these.
These listings within the SERPs are a first step towards integrating all of the universal search items into one nice area, which nicely takes up a large part of the results and is positioned prominently above everything else. Now for a user, this again does make sense to have the hotels listing first with other good content pulled together from various sources. My main issue with this though is that Google is notoriously bad at grouping things together like this and there is often a lot of errors with either images or reviews that are listed.
This listing has got all of the items that have been discussed but is just formatted in a nicer way. The interesting point will come when this switch is made from a listing like above to a similar listing like found on Google Hotel Finder as seen below
I have no doubt that this is on the cards for Google, it is just a matter of when they will do this or begin directing users towards their own Hotel Finder product.
How Much Can Google Reviews Be Trusted?
One item that Google has yet to work on though is the quality of the reviews left for hotels. Since there is no way of Google knowing if the person has actually stayed in the hotel and this is there hotel aggregators can stand out as they have the full booking details of the customer and know if they have stayed there. In addition hotel aggregators also have manual checking process in place to keep hotel reviews high quality.
As for how Google may overcome this issue, I am not sure yet. Although I imagine there will be some kind of information linked in with Google Plus in a very similar way of how Page Rank works. I.e. If the person leaving a review has an active Google Plus profile, lots of friends & followers and is also active on other Google products. This would be one way to class a reviewer as trustworthy or not. The same is on Twitter when it is obvious someone who has just began following you is a bot due to their statistics.
Is Google Going To Become a Competitor?
In a recent article from Marketing Week, apparently not.
“We have no intention of entering the booking space” – Google
Although I am not convinced. There are a lot of options open to Google in this industry and it is an extremely lucrative area for them, so only time will tell exactly what they will do. One thing for certain is that the travel industry needs to step up their game to compete against Google.