What is Hotel Metasearch?
Metasearch engines are online aggregation tools. They work by sending a user’s request to several different search engines. The metasearch engine then compiles the results and presents them to the user. This often includes re-packaging the information found in a consistent and user-friendly format.
By compiling all available information in one place – including prices and customer reviews – hotel metasearch engines can save travellers significant time and money. This has seen them grow in popularity and become a very important tool for your hotel revenue management and marketing efforts.
What’s The Difference Between Hotel Metasearch and OTAs?
Hotel metasearch engines are often confused with online travel agents (OTAs). For a potential customer, the features can be very similar. Both present users with the ability to check availability, pricing, property and room details for a wide range of properties in one place. And both emphasize the importance of customer reviews as social proof. Moreover, companies such as Kayak and Expedia function as both OTAs and metasearch engines, so no wonder people are confused.
However, there are very important distinctions between the two models. Firstly, an OTA sells rooms on your behalf. Travellers buy the room from the OTA, which keeps commission in return for their service. Hotel metasearch engines do not sell directly to travellers. At their simplest, they are just information aggregators, crawling the internet and compiling information in one place.
This leads us onto the second key difference. When a traveller is ready to book, they click through to the chosen OTA – or to your website – and complete the booking. The metasearch engine will typically charge your hotel for each click through to your site, or for a completed booking. The opportunity to secure direct bookings at lower costs is the key opportunity for your hotel.
What Are The Most Popular Hotel Metasearch Engines?
TripAdvisor is one of the best known hotel metasearch engines. It’s the world’s largest travel platform, with 490 millions users per month. Their website claims 74% of travellers who book directly with a hotel use TripAdvisor and that hotels earn $64 for every $1 spent advertising on the platform. There are free listings available, with various ranking factors. However, they also offered paid enhancements to make your hotel more prominent.
It wouldn’t be a list of search engines without featuring Google. With massive brand awareness and traffic, Google could soon become the go-to tool for all aspects for travel planning and booking. Their platform can be used directly from Google search results and already includes flights, activities and accommodation options. Google Hotels compiles its results from your Google My Business listing, so your property can appear for free. However, Google Hotel Ads offer more prominent positions. They work on a pay per click or pay per conversion basis. Google is even now offering a pay per stay, which eliminates risk from cancellations.
Trivago’s listings are available for independent and chain hotels, as well as OTAs. They offer a free account to get you started with your hotel profile. However, you can’t promote direct rates without choosing a paid account, which works on a pay per click model. Their Pro Package also offers rate insights to help your pricing strategy, visitor insights, and promoted special offers. With a reported 2 million visits per year, this is another platform you must consider.
The final member of our top four metasearch engines is Kayak. Listings can initially be created for free, then promoted through sponsored listings and ads. However, Kayak also offers a full suite of advertising packages through its own site – and its sister brands. This includes blog and social media placements, native ads and dedicated landing pages on the Kayak website. This approach is quite different to the other platforms, with advertising more normally seen on media and newspaper websites.
How to Use Hotel Metasearch Engines to Increase Direct Bookings
There is no question that OTAs are beneficial for all hotels. They offer brand awareness, credibility and instant reach to a huge captive audience. However, commission rates are typically between 15-30%. In comparison, direct bookings secured through Google’s pay per stay model cost 10-15%. Hotel metasearch therefore represents a huge opportunity to increase your profitability. But how do you make sure it’s successful for your hotel?
Choose Your Channels
Hotel metasearch engines come in various forms. TripAdvisor generates a huge amount of traffic each month, but that includes locals checking restaurant reviews and day trippers planning activities. Kayak is popular as a complete trip planning tool, but that means a large proportion of visitors will be looking for cars, flights and travel insurance. Traffic does not necessarily mean bookings, so you’ll need to test and learn to find the best options for your hotel.
Know Your Audience
Similarly, each metasearch engine has nuances when it comes to customer demographics. Established brands like Trivago invest in large scale TV advertising campaigns. This makes them seem more credible to older affluent audiences. On the other hand, young people looking for discounted prices may be happy to take advantage of lesser known platforms. Your chosen channel should match your target audiences.
Don’t Compete With OTAs.
It’s no secret that OTAs have huge marketing budgets. Advertising on metasearch engines works like an auction, meaning you aren’t likely to outbid OTAs for top spot. Rather than trying to compete directly, you can offer lower rates, added value and more flexible booking options. Over time, attracting more clicks on your direct listing will move you up the list. Some platforms, like Google, offer ‘official site’ badges, which also helps your hotel stand out.
Use the Right Technology Stack
Without the right software in place, you won’t be able to optimize your performance. In fact, with many hotel metasearch engines, you won’t even be able to get started. Their entire offer is based on accurate real-time data, so you’ll need a booking engine or PMS to provide your pricing and availability. Next, you should consider a channel manager. This will allow you to coordinate your inventory across all of your online distribution channels. Finally, to take your revenue management to the next level, we highly recommend using revenue management software. For a complete guide to the best revenue management tools for your hotel, please see our recent blog here.
Optimize Your Website
Unlike using OTAs, metasearch bookings are completed on your hotel website. That puts a lot of pressure on your team to ensure the site is performing as well as possible. It needs to be beautifully designed, easy to use and focused on conversions. With more than 40% of visits coming through mobile, you need to ensure it loads quickly and works flawless on all devices. You should also use specific landing pages for different platforms, room types and audiences.
Enhance Your Listings
With hotel metasearch you need to stand out among the other hotels before you bid against OTAs. Make sure you do everything possible to optimize your listing on each platform. Promote your key USPs, upload professional photos and videos, keep content fresh and up to date. Most importantly, focus on review management. Encourage guests to share positive experiences (within the rules of each platform) and address any common complaints.
Consider Your Pricing Strategy
From energy to insurance, a lot of us use metasearch (or comparison sites) to find the best deals. Room rates play a huge role in the success of your hotel metasearch campaigns. However, don’t be tempted to enter a race to the bottom and make sure to keep a consistent Pricing Strategy. A best rate guarantee is a great selling point, but you should also consider added value and improved booking terms. Metasearch engines also rely on providing accurate real time data. Maintaining rate integrity is essential to optimize your performance – and nothing will damage your credibility more than advertised rates not matching your website.
Ready to Get Started?
We are offering a free audit for all new customers. We can review your current approach and help you create a new metasearch strategy for your hotel. Book your free 30-minute slot today.