On the back of recent changes by internet giant Google hotel operators could face a fall in online revenues – unless they respond with a fully integrated approach to their digital marketing.
As you probably know, Google recently announced that paid search results on desktop would no longer appear in the right sidebar, after testing variations of this theme for several years. The result of this is that as many as four paid ads will now appear at the top of the results pages, above the organic listings. It also means that three paid ads will also feature at the bottom and that the total number of paid listings will drop from 11 to a maximum of seven.
With fewer results above the fold, these changes will mean an impact on traffic volumes, and ultimately online conversions as competition increases for the top spots. My experience in the integrated world of SEO says that you can counter these changes and drive greater sales by implementing a joined-up search strategy.
Taking an integrated approach is imperative now that there are fewer overall results above the fold. I believe that PPC and SEO work can together to allow hotels dominance in search – the proof of this lies in the fact that our hotel clients actually see an increase in ‘assisted bookings’, where the user has interacted with the site through more than one online channel before ultimately, making a booking.
Far from impacting hotel paid search campaigns detrimentally, I foresee opportunities with Google’s changes. One major upside is the potential increase in traffic from hotel ads showing in the top three or four positions. Without the right hand side ads to distract the user, I would anticipate an increase in the click-through-rates for our top of the page ads.
As for recommendations moving forward, I would suggest that hotel groups review their search strategy by analysing the success of PPC keyword campaigns to date – and then use this data and key learnings to inform SEO content on their website.
Adopting SEO in isolation would simply leave hotels competing for organic ranking with online travel agents, with little chance of showing in the top search positions – while also losing out on significant booking volumes from PPC.
Similarly, SEO will be absolutely vital to on-page content, user experience and site quality, whereas a PPC-only approach would result in directing users to a below-par site, meaning that bookings will suffer. A combined approach is absolutely vital to success working in hotel verticals.
Stuart MacLean is a PPC executive and Stacy Nelson is SEO manager at Equator.