Metasearch has changed the way people book travel. With the majority of holidaymakers first deciding their destination, the next step is often to gather the options for accommodation. By design, metasearch websites provide the freedom of choice and transparency that consumers are looking for in their decision-making process.
What is metasearch?
A metasearch engine is a type of search tool that allows you to search for accommodation across multiple sites, including multiple Online Travel Agency (OTA) websites as well as the hotel’s own website. A metasearch engine doesn’t compile its own database—instead, it is programmed to search through many different websites.
So who are the big players in metasearch web traffic?
The top metasearch sites within the hotel industry are Tripadvisor, Trivago, Google Hotel Ads and Kayak. Their results include the best-priced offers from both OTAs and a hotel’s own website offerings. 2014 research conducted by Statista showed that 39% of Millennials use metasearch sites when planning a vacation, and in the US alone 57.46% of people use metasearch engines to research their holiday plans. These days, 97% of travellers have used metasearch to find a hotel. Metasearch is the place to be.
Metasearch vs OTAs
Unlike OTAs, who pull all hotel information from their own inventory, metasearch sites are more like search engines and do not have their own databases. When a traveller visits an OTA website they are given rates that the hotel has provided and receive a commission from the hotel for every booking they receive. OTAs may also inflate this price further to pocket the difference between the hotel’s set rate and what the guest has paid.
Metasearch websites operate differently. When travellers search for a certain location they are given a number of hotels in the area. These sites collect all available rates for your hotel from multiple sources, including the hotel’s website and OTAs. These metasearch websites operate on a pay-per-click business model and do not sell any rooms directly on their platforms.
How can my hotel master metasearch?
Due to the OTAs gigantic marketing budgets, they dominate the metasearch playing field. By spending large amounts of money on advertisements, they appear more often in metasearch engines. On these metasearch websites like Google, the top three listings are the ones most frequently clicked – these are typically OTA spots. Being ahead of the game isn’t just about having huge amounts of money to spend though—it’s about spending wisely and following a strategy that creates awareness. To assist hoteliers in getting started, here are our 5 keys to mastering metasearch:
1. Understand how bidding works
PPC or CPC are common digital marketing terms. PPC stands for pay-per-click and CPC is short for cost-per-click. These are internet marketing models in which advertisers pay a fee each time their ads are clicked on. It’s a way companies can buy visits to their website instead of seeking to acquire those visitors organically.
Search engine and metasearch ads are the most popular types of PPC. It allows advertisers to bid for an ad placement when a consumer types a certain keyword that is related to their business offering. Most metasearch campaigns can be set up in as CPC campaign although be aware certain keywords might have a higher cost-per-click than others.
2. Make your direct rates the best
All metasearch sites are built differently and have systems that allow visitors to decide what they’d like to search for—from the most popular options to the most economical ones. In typical travel metasearch websites, such as Skyscanner, the algorithm is built to display the lowest rates for a flight on the top of the search results. One way to tip the odds in your favour and appear first is to make your hotel room rates on your direct channel lower than the ones you put on the OTAs website. The trick here is having balance.
If your (CPC) bid isn’t lower than the recommended average bid and your direct channel’s room rate is cheaper than the OTA’s, your hotel will move up the listing and ideally into the top positions. Of course, this ad ranking can change depending on competition and your rate changes. For this reason, it is best to invest in an automated campaign management channel. This is the ideal solution to assist you in organising all your keyword bids in real-time. When it comes to finding the best keywords to bid on, you should test words for a month and evaluate the results to see which ones perform best. Ultimately, success in CPC lies in frequently testing and fine-tuning your strategy.
3. Is ranking at the top the answer to your problems?
OTAs drive a large volume of visitors to their website and to achieve this objective they invest heavily in top ranks on metasearch sites. The OTAs entire approach is a numbers game. Even if the visitor decides not to book the original hotel they choose, they will probably stay on the OTA website to compare different hotels and prices. On hotel websites, if a consumer isn’t convinced about the hotel offering based on rates and availability, they will turn elsewhere. Due to more constrained budgets, hotels need to advertise their rate in order to convince guests who are ready to book.
Being the top-ranked hotel might not always be the best thing. The top rank may lead to more clicks, but most clicks will be from people who are still researching hotel options and so are not ready to book. Fewer clicks can be more valuable if the clicks you receive are qualified leads. This means that they are in the right stage of their customer journey and have a much higher intention to book. It’s crucial to guarantee that qualified leads come through these ads and convert into paying customers. Quantity is not always an indicator of quality.
4. Working with experts
If your hotel is struggling with metasearch, it’s not a bad idea to ask for help. Although before you go and hire a metasearch expert, it is crucial to plan how much your company is willing to spend and what your ultimate campaign goals are. You won’t need to execute on this, as that will be the expert’s job, but it’s important to have a clear idea of your objectives and input. We know that metasearch can be confusing, so we’ve made metasearch easy. Our team of experts will take care of everything for you. With Hotelchamp Metasearch, you’ll also have full control over your budget and campaign spendings.
5. Testing to perfection
Metasearch optimisation is an art. You cannot set up a campaign and assume it will have an immense impact on your business without you having to manage it. The bids must be constantly monitored and optimised. It is vital to regularly conduct tests to maximise the value of your spending—this includes monitoring rates, CPC and the conversion rate. If you cannot spare the time to devote to your marketing campaigns, it may be a worthwhile investment to hire our team of experts to help you out.
In the end, mastering metasearch is a craft. The success of your campaigns is dependent on hard work managing your channels with attentive care, wise investments and adjusting your bidding strategies. That’s why we recommend using Hotelchamp Metasearch and letting our team take care of it for you.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2018 and has been refreshed and updated for accuracy.