As the battle for direct bookings becomes ever more competitive for hotels, Google is increasing its dominance to reach customers for travel information and bookings.
Google Maps has recently undergone an upgrade in an attempt to enhance the experience for their users. These features include enhanced in-map information, voice navigation and incognito mode.
Hoteliers should take note of the challenges and opportunities these development bring and consider investing in testing out the performance of these new features.
Earlier in the year, Google Maps rolled out enhanced features that allow users to obtain more information about hotel properties without needing to perform a traditional search.
Dane Glasgow, vice president, product, for Google Maps, told Skift that Google is "seeing that our users are looking to Google Maps for more than just navigation. They’re using it to explore the world around them. To address that need, we recently revamped our Explore tab and introduced a number of new ways to help people more easily find things to do and places to eat, wherever they are in the world.”
Within the Google Maps app, it is now possible to visualize which featured hotel has certain amenities like gym, spa, free breakfast, and free Wi-Fi or what hotels accept pets and are kid-friendly. The listings look more like what you would expect from an OTA, including images and reviews, rather than the old text-only search results.
Coinciding with these enhanced features is the ability to book directly via Google Maps for hotels, excursions, and events along with making restaurant reservations. These kinds of bookings are typically rerouted to third-party integrators — adding yet another barrier to reach customers directly. Further, according to Skift, Google gives preferential treatment to properties that can be booked directly through Google, leaving out, for example, AirBNB properties.
How to Play the Game with Google Maps
In another recent article from Skift, Google expert Justin O’Brien stated that “As Google Maps gets closer and closer to capturing every building in the world, it’s likely that it will start highlighting or lighting up buildings related to queries and search results.”
This is exactly what we see happening. Google has pinpointed travel bookings as a way to keep users on their platform while opening up another revenue channel for the brand.
Considering that “near me” searches on Google Maps have grown 150 percent in 2019 over the prior year, this can become a significant revenue stream. Through the Google Maps app, users can now search and book hotels; find tours, attractions, and events; get walking and driving directions, train-delay notifications; book an Uber; make restaurant reservations through OpenTable, Resy, or dozens of other services; and get companies including DoorDash to deliver their next meal.
Although Google is taking monetization of the Map app slowly, we are now seeing companies have the option to pay advertising dollars to control the way in which their property or product is featured on Maps. Google is currently testing out new ad formats, such as Promoted Places and Place Page ads in Google Maps, as a way to explore “the commercial opportunities around Maps.” Similar to AdWords, this allows businesses to buy the opportunity to be featured by location, amenities, or hold a prominent position when users run searches in Google Maps.
As with any new technology, we suggest starting slow in allocating a budget to Google Maps advertising.
As a basic first step, if you own a restaurant, bar, spa, tourist attraction, event venue, or hotel, or offer services to any of these sectors, you’ll want to have a robust and updated Google business listing, which gets you into the Google Maps app to be found by prospective guests when searching.
You should then take time to develop a clear strategy for capturing your audience’s attention on Maps and bringing them through the Customer Value Journey aligning with the Google Maps experience and your overall marketing program.
To learn additional tips you can book a FREE 20-Minute Consultation with our Ads Team to help you understand how to use Google Maps advertising in your business.
Diaz & Cooper is a growth agency specializing in sale-driven digital strategies for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Our mission is to create a world where marketing and sales align to increase online bookings and generate more leads for the sales team.
Victoria Hajjar – Growth Strategist
Victoria is our resident and growth wizard. During her stint as Sales and Marketing Director at URBN Hotels Shanghai, CNNgo.com dubbed her a “social media player,” but she’s so much more. Her insight into hospitality marketing is matchless, and she lives and breathes sales strategy, guest experience metrics, and market research. Outside of Miami, she feels most at home in Barcelona, her husband’s hometown, and one of her travel hobbies is testing gyms in new destinations.