Local Search Marketing for Hotels with GMB
Local Search Marketing is hot and happening, and Google is constantly improving its local search platform Google My Business to accommodate the needs of the server. It goes without saying that Google dominates the search market and consequently so does Google Maps for map search. And it’s no doubt that Google is now on a mission to improve its platform to fight against rival booking.com to let people use Google Maps to search and book their hotel nights.
Recent examples include Google Flight, Google Travel integrations with travel data exploiters, Uber and many others make it seem like Google wants us to use them to plan our trip from A-Z.
But there is more. In this blogpost we will cover new ways Google has invented to improve its platform for local search marketing for Hotels including clear examples. At the end of the article I will suggest ways to jump on the bandwagon of success. Stay tuned!
Why is Local Search Marketing for my Hotel needed?
The answer to this question seems almost obvious: you will get more visitors! For readers that are following our blogposts on a weekly basis, it’s needless to say that local searches are increasing on a month-to-month basis. Google already told us last year that local search makes up half of the total search volume today on their search engine and that 88% of searches performed on mobile have a local component. As stated in the introduction, Google My Business is where most the local search happen. It’s vital therefore to have your hotel listings properly setup there. In a nutshell, your company can provide the following information on Google Maps:
NAP: Hotel’s name, address, and phone number
A pin on Google maps to highlight your location.
Display unique hotel photos and videos
Display guest reviews.
Provide any additional details relevant to travelers looking for information.
Include a URL to your website
Display an east “click-to-call” option for searches done on smartphones.
Display the Navigate-to button
Having a proper listing on Google Maps means that people can see all your business information in one overview without having to search for your hotel’s website. People generally search for the following facts on Google Maps (study by Google)
As you see, people use a variety of information to arrive at your hotel business. At Navads, we can’t stress enough how important these business facts are for your business. In business jargon, we call these location data and the higher the accuracy is, the higher the probability is that people will visit your business.
Local Search Behaviour
But how does your customer find you?
Your target audience is very likely to show similar search behavior as the research population Google has examined. For people without a specific location in mind, they will probably use their location to find the nearest hotel. So how do they search? Most likely they will start their search using their location and the following query: “Hotel Near Me”. A screen grab from Google Trends shows the following trend line for these searches (worldwide)
Clearly, during the summer these searches are expected to increase like the trend line shows but look what has happened over time:
They imploded! From a couple of searches per day till up to thousands of searches per day. Note: these numbers are relative.
All these searches can be led to your hotel, if everything in your account is setup properly. Still, very often we encounter location data from our clients with poor accuracies, such as wrong opening hours, misspelled addresses or outdated photos. These things can be really hurting when customers are trying to find you.
Better yet, imagine that they couldn’t find you at all because they used a category search and your business wasn’t properly categorized as Hotel. This can have serious implications for your traffic and bookings number.
Hotel Near me on Google Maps
Google is doing a nice job turning their search engine in a massive booking platform that easily shuts down other popular vendors in no time. Why would you need countless apps with countless passwords if you just could use Google to orchestrate your holiday trip?
When using Google Maps for the search term Hotel Near Me you should notice that Google includes specific travel filers that are triggered by the word ‘hotel’ just like any regular hotel booking app would do. These filters filter on travel dates, deals and prices, all of which are features that use data from only with the Google Hotel Ads platform. It’s therefore probably a good idea to contact one of their third party ads resellers and get your hotel properly listed in their ad program.
Something else that is clearly noticeable is the fact that the first two listings are put on top as they were paid for and then comes organic. If you want your brand to show up high up in the search results, or want to understand how you could manage to do that, check out this great study by David Mihm published on the Moz blog. These ranking factors were also explained by Navads’ Kelly Benish, here.
Be Ready for Google’s Hotel Advertising Platform
From our own data record taken from a hotel chain, we can acknowledge that map search is taking a gigantic leap. Since the recent Penguin and Possum updates, Map searches for Hotels exceed the total number of (normal) Google Searches. Below a graph that backs our statement:
What this means for you as a hotel owner is that probably you already expected a steady decline in search traffic, which probably will decline even further as Google’s intent is to let you stay on their platform.
GMB in the SERP page
Take a look at the current way Hotel pages are positioned on the SERP pages:
They take almost 1/3 of the screen to show all the features that make Google My Business so powerful:
Third Party Ads
It’s a huge roll and taken into consideration that Google Ads take up a large part of the screen as well, organic listings are basically kicked from the screen.
As you see they even included booking ads from other vendors in their GMB roll. I expect this is for two obvious reasons:
1. Google wants GMB to look ‘organic’, mixing up with these vendors takes the focus away from Google’s Ad Box
2. Google actually gets a fine commission from these third party vendors. Based on a simple Google Search, I have found this to be 5%.
Why is this information crucial?
It once more shows how important it is to have your GMB account setup correctly to show the searches exactly what he needs. Basically, you have to worry less about hotel aggregators since Google is doing a good job replacing all of them in one platform.
Use Correct Location Data and Enrichment
How does Google know what kind of listing they have to present to their customers? How does Google know that your hotel is really a hotel? They do this by categorization of their listings.
Google has done a great job by improving their categorization system – also referred to as amenities.
Amenities are tags basically that enable the searcher to let them find more specifically what they are searching for. When they search for your hotel, they might see amenities like Wifi, Pool or Laundry. These amenities are pure marketing triggers that show the searches visually what they can and can’t expect when deciding to stay a night at your hotel. Therefore, they are very important. Below a screen grab of how they look like:
Google collects these amenities from a variety of resources, as they say. But unfortunately, when they have it wrong, you are unable to fix it yourself. You have to use your local search marketing platform contact, such as Navads, or contact Google yourself and hope they fix it for you in a timely fashion.
Prices shown in SERP: Higher CTA
To catch every relevant search and to degrade organic search results even more, Google also includes their Hotel booking functionality prominent in the SERP of a normal search. Whey you type in a search for “hotel+destination”, you will see two things above the fold: advertising by Expedia, booking or other travel agencies and Google’s Ads. Check out this screenshot below and decide for yourself which has the most CTA when I searched for Hotel Paramaribo
Did you pick Expedia? Or did Google pulled you towards their 1/2 screen size location advertising box?
Google lately has severely increased the presence of maps in the SERP results and now also includes a gigantic map that shows pricing within the map. Something that is expected to roll out for other verticals as well. This is in line with the dogma that Google has been promoting lately: they want to answer the question of the searcher immediately. Marketers from hotel chains should embrace this and should devote more time spending on how to improve the CTR from these searches. For example, in the above showing image, 2/3 hotels have setup their description properly and have managed to receive many positive reviews. Markets should look beyond the 4’s of marketing place,price,promotion,product and mix them with more customer-oriented factors like reviews, ratings and proper business information that lures people to their pages.
Some suggestions for Hotel Owners
All these examples show how powerful local search marketing can be and what Google brings to the table for Hotel brands. Now you have insights into what customers are searching for and what types of promotion you can use for your Hotel, it’s time for you to start thinking about how to use that information to align all of these together. My suggestion would be to first think about the foundations: is my location data accurate and is my Google My Business properly setup? Does it have all accurate information about my business and will people know where to find me? Then, it’s time to start adding photo’s and videos, collect user reviews and make sure that all the amenities are correct and updated (either by an agency or through Google). Then, connect your Hotel with a third party advertiser and start capturing bookings directly from Google Maps. As a final step, research if Place Ads might be interesting for your brand to attract people to your hotel by showing up as #1 in the search results in Google Maps. As always, evaluate: use Google Analtyics to see if your ads or organic search is working for you and see if you can tweak campaigns and prices to increase your footfall. For multi-location hotel brands, it makes more sense to outsource GMB management as it eats up a lot of time and multiple validation errors might be hard to fix.