It was announced that Google’s free hotel booking links feature was going to be expanded in the first quarter of 2022, with it now featuring on both Google Search and Maps.
Last month Google announced the expansion of the free hotel booking links feature, which was released one year ago, to Google Search and Maps, as well as releasing more reporting capabilities and hotel controls.
Free Hotel Booking Links Feature
In March 2021, Google offered free listings within Google Hotel Search to give the travel industry more expansion opportunities, after the catastrophic impact that the Covid 19 pandemic had on hotel businesses around the world. These free listings - or free booking links - provided advertisers with free traffic that goes directly to their site, which would have otherwise had to be auctioned and bid for through a paid link and/or a hotel ad.
Paid Links vs. Free Booking Links
Free booking links are unpaid links which are ranked on Google by how useful they are to users. A hotel ad is a paid link, which is ranked according to Google’s ad auction and algorithm. Sometimes Google shows free booking links alongside paid hotel ads for ultimate exposure.
Since the free hotel booking links were introduced, there has been noticeable increases in user engagement of the travel industry, with independent, boutique hotels and large travel agencies feeling the benefits.
Free Hotel Booking Links Expansion
This year, it is very obvious that those within the travel industry are showing hopeful signs of recovery since the pandemic; with more and more consumers searching for terms like “spring hotel offers near me” and “best summer breaks” on Google.
Due to this, in March 2022 Google announced that it will be expanding its free booking links feature to both the Search results pages and Google Maps for added visibility and greater expansion opportunities for hotel businesses. This update allows users to explore hotel options on Google, from more channels than before, therefore increasing a hotel’s reach and impressions massively. The booking process has been made easier than ever; the user will simply click the free booking link, be directed to the hotel or third party website, and complete their booking.
Hotel rates and Local Posts in Google Business Profiles
From April 2022 independent hotels, which meet eligibility requirements, can manually add their rates to their Google Business Profile to partake in free hotel booking links. Additionally, hotel advertisers can use the Local Posts feature to update consumers on non promotional activities within their hotel, for example COVID-related changes, updates to amenities and renovations.
What are the eligibility requirements?
The hotel business needs to be verified on Google and their website must have online booking enabled and readily available.
If you want to start using this feature, you must also fill out an interest form from Google.
New Free Booking Links Reporting
With this expansion, Google has also announced a new reporting feature within each travel business’s Hotel Centre account, to see how many users clicked on their free booking links. In the near future, Google plans to expand reporting to include impressions and booking value.
Benefits to Hotel Digital Marketing Strategies
Free Booking Links can provide hotels with the opportunity to gain competitive bookings with no additional costs, and with Google Search and Maps being two hugely popular Google services, the added reach could be substantial.
As the user can book directly through your site, it eliminates any subsidiary barriers, which will simultaneously benefit conversion rates.
New reporting capabilities allows hotel advertisers to understand how many bookings Google’s free listing feature is bringing them, so they can strategize more strategically.
The Local Posts feature allows hotel advertisers to communicate freely and easily with their guests, with important news, appealing pictures and unique selling points of their hotel.
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