How to Adjust Your Metasearch Bids for Maximum Direct Bookings

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Metasearch serves as a powerful tool for hotels, wielding considerable influence within the online travel sphere. Established giants like Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Booking.com 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.

Flywheel News | April 2024 Hotel Digital Marketing News | GCommerce

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  1. Google delays depreciation of 3rd party cookies (again) 

Brands and advertisers now have some extra time to prepare for the demise of 3rd party cookies. Google announced that it’s delaying the phase-out to 2025. Learn more here

  1. Are you winning the battle for direct bookings?

Our founder, Scott van Hartesvelt, discusses the battle against OTAs for direct bookings and one channel that could boost your hotel’s success. Read here.

  1. Bill requiring TikTok sale signed into law 

ByteDance officially has 9 months to sell TikTok, or it will no longer be allowed to be legally distributed in the US. This could mean big moves in the budget towards platforms like YouTube and Meta. Read more here.

  1. What are the most popular hotel offers? 

Our team dove deep into our portfolio’s GA4 data to analyze the most commonly booked hotel offers across our clients. Discover the results here to see if your hotel is currently using these offer types.

  1. E-Book: Promoting DEI In the Workplace 

There is no one-size-fits-all or off-the-shelf playbook regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace. We knew we wanted to improve DEI in our workplace and continue learning, growing, and evolving. We wanted to share our findings, tips, and strategies. Learn more in our e-book.

  1. WordPress vs Webflow: The ultimate showdown 

Wondering what website platform is best for your hotel? Learn about the differences, strengths, and unique features of WordPress and Webflow here.

  1. Meta AI adds Google search results 

Meta’s AI now uses search results from Microsoft and Google within its answers. While the assistant will source and allow users to click to the source on the web, it does keep the users within the Meta app. This could have very interesting implications for its ability to grow relevant ad audiences. Learn more here.

  1. How does hotel metasearch help with first-party data? 

Even with Google delaying the phase-out of third-party cookies, you should still aggressively focus on growing your hotel’s first-party data now. Learn how hotel metasearch can assist.

The Battle for Direct Bookings

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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.

What Are the Most Popular Hotel Offers?

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We frequently get asked what are the most popular hotel offers. While we could have relied on educated guesses from client and team member feedback, we opted to dive into the data for concrete answers.

Our analysis of rate plan categories across our entire portfolio revealed some fascinating insights.

  1. Loyalty is gold

Outside of the standard BAR (best available rate), rates categorized under loyalty were the most commonly booked across our portfolio. We defined loyalty as any rate code booked as part of a loyalty/signup program such as email, SMS, or via member program rates like iPrefer, Stash Rewards, and Guestbook. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 5-star luxury resort or a smaller 2-star boutique hotel; these offer types drive bookings. Make sure you’re nurturing your most loyal customers and members, as well as finding ways to grow those lists - including incentives to sign up.

  1. Resort guests want to Stay & Play

We work with a lot of resort properties that feature amenities such as spas, dining, golf, and more. The 2nd most common rate type booked fell into a category we named “Stay & Play”. These offers included lodging plus credits to use at other outlets around the resorts. If your hotel has multiple entities or amenities on site, craft a package that entices the guests to enjoy them. It also helps advertising campaigns paint an experiential picture of how the potential guest can enjoy their time on the property.

  1. Consumers are swayed by discount deals

While we don’t think this is very surprising news, discount offers also topped the list for most commonly booked across our portfolio of clients. The most commonly booked being 25% off, followed by 35% and then 30% off. Our data shows these types of offers are less common at the 5-star luxury level, but used sparingly they can help drive bookings during need periods for all levels of hotels.

  1. We all want guests to linger longer

Who doesn’t love some great alliteration? Linger Longer, X night free, extend your stay - no matter what it’s called, it’s all centered around the same goal. This common goal that many hotel clients come to us with is trying to increase their average length of stay among guests. This is a big driver behind the widespread popularity of length of stay focused offers. These can include offering a free night when a guest books 3, 4, or more nights or focusing on a % discount when they book a certain number of nights. Play around with both approaches to see what resonates best with your guests.

  1. Seasonal Offers + Flash Sales

Consumers are conditioned to look for seasonal offers during holidays. In response, hotels are frequently offering discounts and other flash sales to capitalize on these periods when consumers are primed to purchase. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 5-star luxury resort or a 2-star hotel - these offer types are used across the board. These types of offers such as summer specials, 72 flash sales and Cyber promotions round out our top list of most commonly used and booked hotel offers.

Honorable mentions and other hotel offer ideas

Outside of the most commonly booked hotel offers from our portfolio. We also wanted to give a nod to some other great hotel offers that can help move the needle and produce stays during hotel need periods.

  1. Resident/Local rates

We see states like Florida lead the charge when it comes to deals for locals, but any hotel can capitalize on this type of offer. We saw staycations spike during the COVID era but they are still wildly popular. These can especially be helpful during off-season months as ways to fill your hotel or resort.

  1. Bed & Breakfast packages

Maybe it’s because consumers are motivated by their stomachs or maybe it’s because they want the ease of waking up and not having to hunt down breakfast options - but whichever the reason, this type of offer seems to be a mainstay in the industry. If you have on-site dining and the ability to package breakfast with a lodging rate, make sure to include this on your website offerings.

  1. AAA/AARP

AAA has a whopping 60 million members, while AARP claims 38 million members. This huge database of consumers is conditioned to seek out hotels that offer them discounts. A deep dive into the data shows that across our entire portfolio, these remain one of the most commonly booked rate types across every type of property, from large resorts to luxury properties and boutique hotels.

These are just a sampling of hotel offers and package types to inspire you as you craft the perfect package and offer strategy for your hotel based on the unique needs and amenities of your hotel. Please reach out if you are interested in diving deeper into your own GA4 data for custom insights and recommendations.

[E-Book]Promoting DEI in the Workplace

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) covers a variety of topics and tactics related to the fair treatment of all people. In the workplace, this means creating a space where all employees feel safe and welcome.

More and more businesses are starting to implement DEI programs, but there’s no real standard, given the broadness of the topic. Some programs are designed to support underrepresented social groups, some to compile employee resources, and others to signify a progressive company culture. Because of this variation, it can be hard to decide which strategies will work best for your business.

Learn our tips and strategy for promoting DEI in the workplace, in our full E-Book, here.

How Does Hotel Metasearch Help With First-Party Data?

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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

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