As of Tuesday this week (9 March 2021) Google has added two free,organic booking link slots to the 4 existing paid slots in Hotel Ads.
According to Google, the organic hotel listings will be ranked by an algorithm that considers price, clickthrough rate and landing page experience.
Previously, all booking links in Google Hotel Ads had been paid ads ranked by bid.
How this works:
When a user does a Google search for a hotel at a particular destination, Google offers a choice of 4 hotels. For example, a search for "portland me hotel" gets these results:
If I click on Portland Harbor Hotel I get this result:
The "Featured options" ads are included, and ranked, according to bidding. But inclusion in "All options" ads is free, even for hotels and OTAs that aren't bidding at all.
There are 2 requirements for a hotel to appear in the organic booking listings:
- A verified, complete and current Google My Business listing. (Go here for Google's GMB requirements for hotels).
- Inclusion in the Google feed of an integration partner - something with which Google will help you.
On the basis of preliminary tests done before going live with the organic links, Google claims increased traffic and engagement for both hotels and OTAs. See more from Google here.
Some analysts predict that the new organic links will benefit hotels but - considering that Google already dominates hotel metasearch - further disadvantage OTAs. (See the You Tube Video, below, from Mirai CEO Pablo Delgado. But note that Mirai is a Google integration partner, thus an interested party.)
Others are predicting that the free links may be a short-lived phenomenon that could be taken away post-pandemic. So if you're interested, don't delay!