Google announced a new Hotel Booking Links program was formerly offered through the Hotels Ads system. Hotels and travel companies are encouraged to join. Current Google Hotel Ads advertisers don’t have to change anything as their listings will be shown automatically.
According to the announcement:
“Partners who already participate in the Hotel Prices API and Hotel Ads do not need to take any further action to appear in free booking links…”
Google Hotel Ads and Free Booking Links
Hotel Ads show room availability information and rates when a consumer is researching on Google Search, Google Maps and in Assistant.
When users are actively searching, Hotel Ads will display relevant information like rates which allows hotels to gain more travel business.
The free booking links appear to show beneath the ads as shown in the screenshot below.
Screenshot of Google Hotel Ads and Free Booking Links
The Hotel Ads program helped many companies earn more from searchers who were actively searching for rooms. The free booking links should presumably also become a quality source of converting customers.
In a 2015 Think with Google video Ted Schweitzer, SVP Marketing & E-Commerce for La Quinta Inns & Suites praised the Hotels Ads program as a winner.
“Hotel Ads are performing at a significantly stronger conversion rate, twice what we see on regular traffic on mobile. And that makes a big difference in terms of results.
Being able to deliver the right type of content at the right time enables us to improve that conversion rate and satisfy that guest request.”
If the ads do that well then the free hotel booking links should also perform well.
Free Hotel Booking Links
According to Google’s announcement, Google is making it free to appear in hotel booking links.
“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.
…For all hotels and travel companies, this change brings a new, free way to reach potential customers.
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.”
Google Under Anti-trust Investigation
Google’s stated goals for the free booking links is to provide more options to users. But… the move to provide free booking links might be related to anti-trust issues that Google is currently facing.
In an SEC filing in 2019, Expedia noted that Google was their most significant challenge.
“We believe our most significant challenge remains Google pushing its own hotel products in search results and siphoning off quality traffic that would otherwise find TripAdvisor via free links and generate high margin revenue in our hotel click-based auction.”
Nevertheless, the free booking links should be welcome to a travel industry that is no doubt in search of any good news.
Read the official announcement: