Google has been experimenting with a new search results design for the hotel industry for several months, and the feature has finally been released.
GOOGLE’S NEW SEARCH DESIGN AFFECTS HOTELS, BED AND BREAKFASTS, AND VACATION RENTAL COMPANIES
Now, when you search for hotels, bed and breakfasts, or vacation rentals in a specific area, listings will show in a new grid and card interface.
We searched for “Charleston SC hotels” and saw this new hotel interface:
THE DESIGN EXPLORED IN DEPTH
The new feature affects all hotels, most bed and breakfasts, and some vacation rental companies. It shows up just beneath paid advertisements and above organic search results. The interface includes cards for each hotel listing as well as an interactive map on the right-hand side. It’s available on both desktop and mobile.
RESULTS CAN BE FILTERED IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS
The default filter organizes results by “Top Choices” which are based on individual search history, price, and quality. You can also filter results by ratings, amenities, price range, and availability.
RESULTS ARE PRICE DRIVEN
In our experience, Google places a heavy emphasis on price when determining the order in which results are displayed. Google prioritizes businesses with discounted rates through Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) by displaying them as top results and including “Great Deal” or a similar incentive on their listing.
Take a look at the screenshot below. We searched “bed and breakfast Savannah GA.” The top three results include some type of deal or special offer.
We aren’t surprised that Google is finding new ways to put price pressure on the market. After all, they make money when travelers book a stay.
THE DESIGN MAKES IT MORE DIFFICULT TO FIND YOUR BUSINESS
If we were to click “Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn” in the search results above, we’d expect to see information about the business or their Google My Business page. In reality, when we clicked “Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn,” we were taken to this page:
Rather than seeing information solely about the business, this page contains an entire list of hotels and B&Bs that match the query.
You must click “Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn” again to see information about the business. Although this adds an extra step for travelers to find the business, we’re not totally alarmed. In this case, at least the business was still the first result.
What does alarm us is a search for a different query – “Grand Lake vacation rentals.”
In this case, the search query generates these results:
But when we click on “Grand Lake Vacation Rental,” the business is nowhere to be found!
Grand Lake Vacation Rental is not listed anywhere on the two pages of results.
We hope this is just glitch in the feature and that Google will fix this soon. We’ve only seen it happen in one instance so far. It’s certainly something that we’re watching though. If this is here to stay, this will be a detriment to the vacation rental industry.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOUR HOTEL, B&B, OR VACATION RENTAL COMPANY
1. THE DESIGN PUSHES TRAVELERS HEAVILY TOWARD ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCIES
The price-heavy focus of the interface pushes businesses with discounted offers to the top of the list. The only way to show discounted offers is through OTAs, which take a cut of your earnings and can be misleading to travelers.
2. COMPETING JUST GOT HARDER FOR B&B’S
In most instances, the new feature groups bed and breakfasts with hotels, meaning you’re competing with the big guys even more so than before. The feature directs travelers’ attention more toward hotels.
3. ACQUIRING POSITIVE REVIEWS ON GOOGLE IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT
Within the new search interface, you can filter results based on “Guest Favorites.” By default, this filter includes only properties with more than a four-star rating on Google.
If you’re not regularly asking guests to leave you a review, you should be. Consider asking for reviews in your check-out email when the trip is still fresh on guests’ minds. Another way to acquire reviews is through social media. Post positive reviews that you’ve already received to encourage other guests to leave you a review.
4. IT’S CRUCIAL THAT YOU MAXIMIZE THE VALUE OF YOUR GOOGLE MY BUSINESS LISTING
When users land on your individual business page within the search feature, they can find a detailed description of your business including amenities, location, contact information, and directions.
In order to maximize this search engine real estate, you must completely fill in your Google My Business listing. Include amenities, details, photos, accessibility information, correct contact information, and any other details that potential guests would find useful.
5. IF YOU’RE A VACATION RENTAL COMPANY, THIS COULD AFFECT YOUR SEARCH VISIBILITY.
As we mentioned above with the Grand Lake Vacation Rental example, the current process could severely affect vacation rental companies. This bait-and-switch system is certainly not in the user’s best interest, so we hope that Google will be making some changes.
Be on the lookout for any changes. If you’re experiencing the same things, we’d love to hear from you!
HOW Q4LAUNCH IS HELPING TO SHAPE THE PRODUCT
We believe this feature will make a huge impact on the hotel industry in 2019. We’ve been invited to work with Google in a User Experience research study to help shape this product. It’s our goal to help provide the highest level of user experience while keeping in mind the best interests of our B&B, hotel, and vacation rental owners.
If you’re one of our customers, we’re on top of the situation. If you’re not one of our customers, we encourage you to reach out to your website developers to see how they’re handling your online marketing presence in this situation. You can also contact us and we can help assess the SEO health of your website.
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