How to Adjust Your Metasearch Bids for Maximum Direct Bookings


Metasearch serves as a powerful tool for hotels, wielding considerable influence within the online travel sphere. Established giants like Expedia, TripAdvisor, and have long leveraged this platform to funnel bookings towards hotels. However, while these bookings once seemed advantageous, they often come at the expense of reduced profitability for hotels, which prompts a strategic pivot towards maximizing direct hotel bookings over OTA channels.

Beyond financial considerations, there are two additional compelling reasons for prioritizing direct bookings. Establishing a direct relationship with the guest proves invaluable for pre/post-stay communications, loyalty programs, and other personalized services. Secondly, the acquisition of first-party data through direct bookings enables hotels to enhance their email marketing efforts, refine guest profiling, craft tailored messaging, and optimize their advertising strategy.

Now, how can metasearch help you achieve this shift? Once you've taken the plunge into metasearch, it's time to equip yourself with the tools that can amplify your direct bookings. In the upcoming sections, we'll delve into the specifics of metasearch bids and their role in elevating your hotel's online presence.

What exactly are metasearch bids?

“Metasearch Bids” is short for “ Metasearch Bid Modifiers”. Hotel Metasearch Bid Modifiers allow us to adjust our default bid by a percentage at various levels. Based on your goals, they enable us to increase or decrease what we are willing to bid on each click or transaction. This allows us to target your hotel’s specific revenue production needs, acquire more valuable traffic, and reduce focus on segments that are not effective in driving bookings or revenue production.

What type of metasearch bid modifiers are there?

Most metasearch channels offer bid modifier capabilities, allowing advertisers to fine-tune their strategies based on performance data. Here, we'll explore some common bid modifiers, what they entail, and how to approach them effectively.

  • Bid strategies - A metasearch bid strategy involves carefully determining and adjusting bid amounts to optimize the visibility and performance of hotel listings on metasearch platforms, aiming to attract more direct hotel bookings while maximizing return on investment. Two of the most common bid strategies used are first position share & visible position share. Let’s dive into what these both are and how they can help your hotel:
    • Visible position share: This is the percentage of time a hotel’s listing is displayed within the visible area of search results. Most hotels typically use this strategy as a starting point when they’re new to metasearch. This strategy is more focused on the return of your metasearch marketing efforts.
    • First position share: This refers to the percentage of time a hotel’s listing appears at the top position (or the first result). When using metasearch, you might not typically start here, depending on your budget or performance to begin with. However, over time, you might realize that after using visible position share with a good return, you might want to test getting more visibility, knowing confidently you’ll get more bookings but at a higher scale and possibly a lower return.
  • Check-in date - A bid-modifying tool that allows you to increase or decrease bids for specific dates while looking ahead of time. You might have slower or higher peak times throughout the season of your hotel. This tool will let you adjust those dates to help you be more efficient and focus on direct bookings when they happen most often or when they need to happen.
  • Day of the week - This refers to the days of the week your guests are booking. Overtime, you can analyze this data and decide which days are worth investing more marketing dollars into and vice versa. Hotel need periods vary for different properties but it is common to see hotels needing to fill midweek or weekend periods. Increasing visibility for searches for these types of stays can help increase direct bookings.
  • Days to arrival - Making adjustments to this tool is unique because it gives you the flexibility of targeting guests that intend to book your hotel the same day or days in advance. You might discover that your guests are more prone to book a week or two from their actual check in date. This tool will allow you to make adjustments accordingly to invest more into those days of arrival and therefore yield more direct bookings during those days. This example below shows that guests look at booking mostly 15 or more days out in advance. In this scenario, you can push more of your metasearch bids towards these length of stays. 
  • Length of stay - This is the amount of time your guests stay at your hotel. Rather than focusing on all length of stays to get direct bookings, why not push more budget into the select amount of days your guests typically book? Or when occupancy is healthy but not 100% you can use this tool to help enforce minimum length of stays. In other words, you can focus on longer length of stays instead of one or two nights to help fill in those gaps.
  • Guests - What kind of audience does your hotel like to cater to? Are you a romantic getaway? If so, focus on getting more bookings for two guests. If your hotel is in a location that draws in families, invest more money into getting direct bookings for guests of 5 or more.
  • Device type - Your guests might prefer to book on one device over another. Typically for hotels, guests tend to book on Desktop devices. When using metasearch, you should follow the data to determine which devices your guests are booking the most. From there you would adjust accordingly to push your metasearch bids towards one device and vice versa.
  • Audience - Not just within metasearch but with any channel of your online presence, you should know your audience in and out. Doing this will make your metasearch efforts more efficient by getting direct bookings from an audience that is more likely to book. Examine the guests of your audience. Why would they book your hotel? What things does your audience like doing in their spare time? What’s their personality? The more you know about your typical guests, the more you can shift your metasearch towards those more likely to book directly with your hotel.

How does adjusting metasearch bids help me get more direct hotel bookings?

Earlier we talked about established giants in the metasearch game (i.e. Expedia, Trip Advisor, etc.) and that they’ve leveraged metasearch for years. Approaching metasearch with the expectation of stretching your budget across every aspect of your bid modifiers may not yield the desired results in terms of driving direct bookings. It’s like taking a mom-and-pop shop and trying to compete with Amazon – while admirable, it’s better to focus on areas where your competition might be overlooking. By strategically adjusting your metasearch bids, you can capitalize on these opportunities and maximize direct bookings.

The Battle for Direct Bookings


Battling OTA’s for direct business

For over 20 years, hotels have been competing with OTA’s for direct bookings.  

The OTA’s are winning, and frankly, it’s not a close fight.

As hospitality digital marketing has progressed, so have the strategies and tactics used by hotels and OTAs to win customers. The newest battlefield is hotel metasearch, and OTA’s have committed an outsized portion of their attention and budget to ensure they dominate the field. The response from hotels has been tragically tepid.  

The case for metasearch

Metasearch exists at the bottom of the demand funnel; travelers on metasearch channels like Google Hotel Ads are often one click from booking. That alone makes the channel more valuable than most.  However, it's the targeting and management capabilities on metasearch channels that make them priority #1 for hotels and resorts. Metasearch channels provide advanced tools like bid modifiers, behavioral targeting, custom audience targeting, and much more. Not only are properties able to target bottom-of-funnel demand, they can do it in a way that best meets the needs of their property. No other single distribution channel offers that combination.

The result - hotel metasearch channels are the most productive, most profitable distribution channels available to hoteliers.  

OTA’s on metasearch

There are world-class media managers out there, and many of them work for OTA’s. Why? OTA’s deploy massive budgets through omnichannel campaigns that result in billions of dollars of transactions. It's the Superbowl of media management, and, as such, it attracts the best people. Those uber-talented professionals know that they compete against hotel/resort websites for direct bookings. Like any great marketing professional, they study our strategies, they position against our tactics, and, when all else fails, they use the brute force of their budgets to win bookings.  

Over the last several years, OTA’s have shifted the budget away from more legacy channels like paid search and focused more on metasearch. That pace has accelerated in the last six months. Amongst our clients, we’ve seen a consistent drop in the price-per-click (PPC) for brand terms on paid search, while metasearch PPC has nearly doubled.  

Hotels and resorts are in an existential battle for customers against well-funded, data-driven adversaries. 

How has the industry responded? With a race to the bottom.

Common hotel metasearch pitfalls

Too often, operators fall into a strategy of inertia. Instead of recognizing that Google Hotel Ads is a dynamic and evolving battlefield, they consider metasearch a box to be checked. As hospitality metasearch has grown, technology providers and mega-agencies have emerged to become the recipients of that checked box. They compete over the price of their offering, not the capability.  Instead of empowering hoteliers to fight a winning battle against OTA’s, they strip down their offering to a basic connection absent any of the management techniques that could actually result in success. Common pitfalls to this approach include:

  • Limited budgets that are exhausted early in a month, leaving OTA’s to capture 100% of demand for the remainder of the month
  • Lack of bid modifiers, which results in  wasted budget and lackluster results
  • Lack of reporting to provide insights and transparency to hoteliers
  • Lack of responsiveness, robbing properties of the opportunity to respond to dynamic market demand  

Make no mistake, OTA’s are watching the hotel industry’s management of metasearch with glee. They’re recording record profits as they play chess against an absent and outmatched opponent. 

Level the playing field 

This all may seem overwhelming like individual properties are fighting a helpless battle against a goliath that can’t be defeated. However, the silver bullet that terrifies those superstar OTA media managers - all things being equal, travelers would much prefer to book directly with the property.  

According to Phocuswhright, 72% of travelers prefer to book their accommodations directly on a hotel’s website.  

If properties can simply compete for the direct customer, they are going to win more than their fair share. It makes sense - customers don’t want to deal with an intermediary when they can work directly with the property. When they book direct, they expect they’ll get better treatment, more personalized service, and a better overall experience.

Yet, according to the same survey, direct providers only capture 48% of bookings. The difference of 24% represents the opportunity and arbitrage available to hoteliers. If a hotel-direct channel is so advantageous in the consumer's mind, then it stands to reason that better management will lead to incremental revenue.

Winning metasearch strategies

Understanding that metasearch channels are the most pivotal point of conflict with OTA’s, hotels and resorts must arm themselves accordingly. First, that means ditching the strategy of inertia. Change your perspective on metasearch to recognize that it's a dynamic channel in need of near-constant optimization and management. If that level of management isn’t available, change providers. Once you have the right partners in place, align your property goals and needs with your metasearch strategies. Then you’ll be ready to deploy some winning metasearch techniques:

  • Utilize bid modifiers to steer production where you need it the most
  • Use targeting capabilities to maximize your budget
  • Deploy smart merchandising to advantage your listing over that of an OTA
  • Stop limiting your demand capture with arbitrary budget restraints 

Why Metadesk

Metadesk was created by GCommerce, the premier independent hospitality marketing agency with over 20 years of experience working with world-class clients. The media professionals at GCommerce are responsible for one thing - results. Like OTA media managers, they are channel-agnostic and revenue-focused. They watched in real-time as traveler behavior shifted to metasearch channels, and they were dismayed to find the tools available to independent hoteliers didn’t provide the capabilities to compete.  And so, Metadesk was born.

Metadesk offers hoteliers the same advanced tools and tactics used by the OTA’s. As important, Metadesk employs hospitality media professionals who provide constant management and optimization of campaigns - thereby leveling the playing field with OTA’s. Those management and optimization techniques include:

  • Property Alignment - all Metadesk engagements revolve around the goals and needs of the property
  • Media Management by real hospitality marketing professionals who know how to win
  • Utilization of bid modifiers that include the length of stay, day of week, booking window, device type, and more
  • Custom 1st party audience targeting to maximize performance
  • Real-time reporting for real-time insights
  • Variable pricing to fit any property’s financial constraints

Hoteliers are waging a war for direct bookings against a well-funded, hyper-focused opponent. Metadesk is the great equalizer, returning control of direct bookings to the property where the travelers and hoteliers want it to be. To tilt the playing field in your favor, inquire here.

How Does Hotel Metasearch Help With First-Party Data?


Hotel metasearch can help prepare your hotel for a world without 3rd party cookies. GCommerce’s MetaDesk explains how.

How Does Hotel Metasearch Help With 1st Party Data Collection

Chances are, you’ve come across articles and information about hotel metaearch before. It’s emerged over the years as a hybrid marketing and distribution channel, with Google Hotel Ads as the frontrunner. But did you know that hotel metasearch can help your hotel collect more 1st party data and prepare for the end of 3rd party cookies? 

Why do I need to worry about 1st party data collection for my hotel?

2023 is the year (for lack of a better, less cliche phrase) the cookie crumbles. Gartner predicts that by 2023, 65% of the world’s population will have personal data covered by privacy laws, up from just 10% in 2020. It’s also the year that Google has officially set the end date for supporting 3rd party cookies in its Chrome browser. What does this mean? It means that as advertisers and marketers we are going to be forced into a new era of how we can market to target consumers in a personalized way. Instead of relying on 3rd party cookies, we will need to lean on first-party data to deliver these focused, targeted and personalized messages to consumers that want to receive them from our brand. 

Consider it a trade. Their personal data in exchange for something of value from your brand. 

But how do we get more 1st party data for our hotels?

One very important approach to obtain more 1st party data is through direct bookings for your hotel. When a guest books directly through your hotel’s booking engine, instead of through an OTA, you are given this wealth of first party data to use for remarketing purposes. It can be used through email (continually one of the highest ROAS channels), as well as uploaded to platforms including Google Ads and Facebook/Instagram for remarketing and for creation of similar to/look-alike audiences.

While there are many other strategies and tactics to consider while preparing for a cookieless future (you can read our full e-book here), one channel has emerged as a game changer to help your hotel capture these direct bookings and reduce OTA contribution.

Hotel Metasearch.

Hotel metasearch includes the market leader, Google Hotel Ads as well as Tripadvisor, Bing Hotel Ads, Trivago, Kayak and more. 

How can metasearch help with 1st party data collection for my hotel?

Hotel metasearch ads exist (mostly) towards the bottom of the consumer purchase journey. OTA’s have been bidding, and owning, in this ad space since the beginning and they continue to dominate the space. Why? Because it is a tactic that has worked extremely well for them to own the guest booking and therefore own the guest data. 

To help drive more 1st party data collection, make sure you are active with metasearch. These ads drive direct, bottom of funnel traffic, directly to your booking engine with results averaging 5-8% of total website production. This shifts bookings away from OTAs and directly through your hotel’s booking engine, allowing you to capture 1st party data with each booking.

We want to help hoteliers prepare for a world without 3rd party cookies, but beyond that it’s about less reliance on the OTAs now and in the future by owning the guest data, lowering OTA contributions and that is best done by driving more direct bookings.

Want to learn more about MetaDesk? Reach out to one of our hotel metasearch experts for more information.

Click here to schedule a Metadesk demo

The Opportunity Cost of Metasearch


As you read this, you're likely content with your hotel marketing and distribution strategy. But just under the surface, a battle rages for your customer, and many hoteliers are unaware.

They look at their media mix, replete with reasonable allocations to paid search, social media, display, SEO, and metasearch, and feel like they have covered their proverbial bases. Missing in that analysis is the amount of potential business they are ceding to OTA's or, worse yet, their competitors.  

For too long, the hospitality industry has managed marketing with an emphasis on the expense side of the ledger. Marketing's purpose is to capture business that drives new and incremental bookings.

The absence of marketing at key points in a traveler's booking journey due to budget restrictions should be recognized for what it is—opportunity cost.  

Opportunity wasted, revenue squandered. The revenue side of the ledger suffers quietly and without sufficient attention.  

Defining the opportunity for hotel metasearch

Hotel metasearch channels like Google Hotel Ads and Tripadvisor capture customers as they move down the travel booking funnel.

Hotel metasearch becomes particularly relevant when travelers have determined their destination market, have developed a consideration set, and are beginning to develop price expectations. Your marketing and distribution alarms should be firing - this is the most critical time for your property to be present in the booking journey.  

Simply put, hotel metasearch sites offer the most immediate access to customers as they are about to choose between your direct website and your competitor: an OTA.  

It's no wonder that hoteliers report that hotel metasearch advertising produces some of the most impressive returns of any channel. So much so that OTAs have devoted huge chunks of their budgets to these channels.  

Yet, our collective response as an industry is to tragically underfund hotel metasearch. The most common approach is to sign up with a hospitality metasearch provider that offers an inexpensive technology connection fee and then allocate a small amount of dollars (3-figure amounts) to the campaigns. We manage the expense side of the ledger and check the metasearch box.

Calculating the opportunity cost of hotel metasearch

The most common internal justification for an underfunded hotel metasearch marketing campaign goes something like this: 

We spent $500 on our technology connection and $700 on media, which resulted in $13,000 in room revenue. An 11 to 1 return on investment. Success!

Missing from that analysis is the cost of missed opportunity.

By capping media investment at $700, a hotel artificially limits its demand capture. They cap their revenue originating through metasearch at approximately $13,000. 

Imagine a scenario in which there is $100,000 worth of demand available to the hotel in a particular month. With arbitrarily defined budgets, the property is allowing $87,000 worth of business to arbitrage to OTA's or competitors. Under this light and taking into account the revenue side of the ledger, the property is not managing its strategy in a shrewd or calculated way. They are letting 87% of the revenue walk out the door.  

Missing at the point of conversion because of a limited budget is the real opportunity cost in hotel metasearch.

Maximizing revenue by minimizing opportunity costs

Metadesk offers a flexible and innovative hotel metasearch model. The platform places and pays for media on a property's behalf in exchange for a commission that is meaningfully smaller than an OTA. Better yet, as hotel metasearch production improves, the commission rate plummets.  

Metadesk covers the cost of media - and is not constrained by artificial budget limits. Opportunity maximized.

Because Metadesk is incentivized by direct bookings with hotel metasearch management, it is always willing to keep spending. The innovative audience targeting embedded in the platform, coupled with real-time analytics, allows our trained hospitality media pros to identify the full spectrum of demand for a property and ensure that the hotel website is ever-present in the battle to capture customers.  

Take the above example to demonstrate the difference:

Traditional Flat Fee + Media ModelMetadesk Model
Platform Fee: $500Platform Fee: $0
Media Cost: $700Media Cost: $0
Gross Monthly Revenue: $13,000Gross Monthly Revenue: $100,000
Net Monthly Revenue: $11,800Net Monthly Revenue: $92,000

The opportunity cost for the traditional model in this example is a whopping $80,200 per month!  

In many cases, that is the difference between winning and losing, between premium market share and living at the bottom of the STR report rankings. Under this light, we see the power of maximizing the metasearch channel with an ever-present approach.

Hoteliers have always faced limitations when managing the expense side of the ledger. It's a function of our industry and inertia. The promise of metasearch is that it offers us a chance to flip tradition on its head and run a truly revenue-focused approach. 

At this moment in time, few have gravitated towards uncapped metasearch marketing. Metadesk offers the opportunity to stand apart from the competition and generate real gains in market share.

How to Optimize Your Hotel’s Metasearch Campaigns for Mobile Devices


Google Search started prioritizing mobile first back in 2016 as visitation and growth from users on mobile devices started growing. As of 2023, almost 60% of traffic on the web is from mobile devices. Visibility on mobile devices is crucial if your hotel wants to be present during important parts of the consumer journey to purchase. GCommerce’s portfolio of hotel websites sees over 66% of all traffic coming from mobile devices.

Hotel metasearch campaigns have become an increasingly important part of this journey, especially on Google search. It’s powering new SERP features visible down the continuous scroll page, such as this newer hotel listing feature (with rates from hotel ads) under organic listings shown below.

Learn how your hotel can best approach optimizing your hotel ads and metasearch for this device type and ensure you have the right visibility to reach your goals.

How do I optimize my hotel’s metasearch ad campaigns for mobile devices?

Campaign Adjustments

Metadesk recommends optimizing your hotel metasearch campaigns based on performance by segment based on your hotel’s objectives. Some platforms, such as Google Hotel Ads offer the ability to use a bid modification by device type. You can also opt out of certain device types on channels such as Google and TripAdvisor altogether. You can view reporting on how each device type performs in terms of clicks, bookings, impression share, and more within metasearch management platforms to better understand how each device type segment performs before making any specific adjustments. 

Optimize Your Landing Page for Mobile Devices

An important part of your hotel’s metasearch performance is the booking engine landing page where the traffic lands. Although most hotels work with 3rd party providers, making it hard to have control over things like page speed - optimizing this experience can improve performance from mobile traffic in your metasearch campaigns. Make sure your mobile booking page is easy to navigate on a mobile device. You could also test mobile-only offers or last-minute deals to appeal to mobile device users, many of whom tend to be more likely to be last-minute bookers than desktop users.

Optimize For Local Search + Your Google Business Profile Listing

A critical part of your Google Hotel Ads’ visibility in Google search results is how well you’re focused on local SEO ranking signals. This includes how built out and up-to-date your Google Business Profile listing is, how many reviews your hotel has vs the competition, making sure you're responding to reviews, and more.

What device type drives the most bookings for hotel metasearch?

Although mobile devices account for over 60% of site traffic on average, this traffic tends to be higher in the funnel during the consumer path to purchase. On average, mobile devices only account for 30% of a hotel’s total website revenue production. The trend is the same as we look specifically at hotel metasearch campaign production. GCommerce’s portfolio sees 58% of all hotel metasearch clicks come from mobile devices but only 35% of total revenue.

This data can help you optimize your budget allocation.

If you are limited on budget for these typically bottom-of-funnel campaigns and focused on driving higher impression share to the segments that produce more revenue, you might opt to increase bid adjustments for desktop or decrease them for mobile traffic.

Remember, though, even though most bookings come via desktop - it’s important to be visible on mobile since that’s where consumers are spending most of their time (and clicks) interacting with your campaigns while they are shopping and considering which hotel to stay at in a destination - they just tend to book on desktop. If you remove visibility and impressions from mobile, you might end up hurting your overall performance due to lowered visibility.

What Google’s Sunset of Commission Bid Strategies Means for Your Hotel Ads Campaigns


Google recently announced that support for commission-based bid strategies in Google Hotel Ads would be deprecated, and the bid strategy types would be going away in October 2024

Historically, Google Hotel Ads campaign types have had access to a few different bid strategies. Commission-based bid strategies are unique to hotel ads campaigns, and they allow hotels to set their bid optimization to be billed based on either pay-per-stay or pay-per-conversion. 

What does this mean for your Google Hotel Ads campaigns?

For hotels that want to run hotel ads campaigns, the ecosystem requires they use a 3rd party connection to access their rates and inventory feed via Google’s Hotel Center. This hotel center feed is then connected via third-party platforms or directly from a hotel’s CRS provider. 

As long as your hotel ads and metasearch provider isn’t relying upon one of these bid strategies, then no change is needed. 

At Metadesk, we rely on advanced bid algorithms and machine learning technologies coupled with ongoing optimization and targeting methods. Although our most popular billing model happens to be a pay-per-stay model, we don’t utilize Google’s pay-per-stay or pay-per-conversion bid strategy type. So, no change is needed to keep the current visibility and success you’re currently experiencing with our metasearch management services.