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03/11/2021

Google's Free Hotel Booking Links: What It Means for You

Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
Michal Christine  Escobar  profile picture

In a recent blog post from Google, Richard Holden, vice president, product management, travel, revealed that Google will be changing its hotel booking link policy. Previously, hotel booking links were offered via Hotel Ads, which display real-time pricing and availability for specific dates of travel.

“We've seen that users find these hotel booking links to be highly useful, and partners find them to be a valuable source of potential customers,” Holden said. “Now, we’re improving this experience by making it free for hotels and travel companies around the world to appear in hotel booking links, beginning this week on google.com/travel.”

According to Holden, this change should be beneficial to both hotels and travel companies.

“For all hotels and travel companies, this change brings a new, free way to reach potential customers,” Holden added. “For advertisers, free booking links can extend the reach of existing Hotel Ads campaigns. Our testing of this new feature shows that all partner types — from individual hotels to online travel agents — benefit from free booking links through increased booking traffic and user engagement.”

To learn what impact this could potentially have on hoteliers, HT spoke to Dan Fernandez, Vice President, Digital Marketing at Concord Hospitality.

What does this mean for hoteliers?

For hoteliers, it means this space cannot be ignored. These free organic listings are not exclusively offered to the hotelier, but also to the online travel agencies (OTAs) and resellers. Google Hotels Ads is no longer an optional paid tactic – it is now an essential part of a hotel’s direct booking strategy. 

How can hoteliers best take advantage of this offer? 

Hoteliers need to make sure their Business Profile on Google is verified and up to date. Google has added a number of new attributes and amenities over the last few months, many around cleanliness and safety – now is the time to optimize.   

If you’re a hotelier new to this arena, you need to become a Google Hotel Partner and start taking advantage of it. Hoteliers who are existing Google partners need to focus on the reporting and analytics of this space. Google will be providing reporting on the free booking links. At Concord Hospitality, we will be analyzing these reports to determine the right organic versus paid strategy within this section of Google, as well as reassess the proper bid and budget levels.   

How does Google benefit from making it free?

We see three clear benefits:

1. They have lowered the barrier of entry by making some of this inventory free. This should lead to more hotel’s using this tactic, and each one of those hotels is a new potential paid customer for Google. 

2. I would not be surprised if this increases the competition for the top four paid spots, which would lead to an increase in the cost of participating in paid Google Hotel Ads. 

3. Google is frequently under attack on the antitrust front. By offering free organic inventory here, it helps support a potential argument against anticompetitive practices in this space.