Google opens the door to more hotels by offering free hotel listings, separate from paid results.
Just like it did with Google Shopping and also with Google Flights, Google announced it is now opening up free listings within Google Hotel search. There is a new section in Google Hotel search for “all options” that is below the paid results, that shows unapid listings from hotels and travel companies.
Free hotel listings. “We’re improving this experience by making it free for hotels and travel companies around the world to appear in hotel booking links, beginning this week on google.com/travel. With full access to a wider range of hotel prices, users will have a more comprehensive set of options as they research their trip and ultimately decide where to book,” Google said.
Google Travel options will expand to offer more free listing opportunities. “Over time, we’ll continue building this open platform, so that all partners will have even more opportunities to highlight their information and help people book a flight, find a place to stay, or explore a new destination,” Google said,
Google Hotel search: What it looks like.
Here is a GIF showing you the interface of the free Google Hotel listings:
The difference between paid and free hotel listings. Google said the free booking links display similar information to the paid booking links. The main difference ix that the “hotel ads are paid links, ranked according to Google’s ad auction, whereas free booking links are unpaid links, ranked according to their utility to users,” Google explained. Google said it may show free booking links alongside hotel ads within the existing booking module. Hotel partners pay no fee for free booking links, and Google doesn’t collect any payment for placement or user engagement with these links.
Ranking for free hotel listings. Google also has a section explaining how to rank in the free hotel listings section. Google said that its free hotel booking links “use a variety of signals to determine which links are best to show users.” The signals include:
- Consumer preference.
- Value offered to the user.
- Landing page experience.
- Historical accuracy of the prices provided to Google.
Google clarifies that “Google’s commercial relationship with the free booking link provider has no effect on ranking, nor can anyone pay for a higher ranking. Participation, or non-participation, in Hotel Ads does not impact ranking of free booking links either.”
Google uses a privacy accuracy policy to determine the historical accuracy of the prices provided to Google. Google computes a score for each partner based on how often prices are compliant with this policy. This Price Accuracy score is meant both to inform partners about whether their prices are considered accurate, and as a basis for potential penalties Google may apply to partners. Your Predicted and Overall Price Accuracy Score can range from Failed to Excellent.
Here is the scale Google uses for this:
You can learn more about the price accuracy policy and how it works in this help document.
How to participate. If you are from a hotel or travel company, you can sign up to participate over here.
Why we care. As Google continues to open up more areas of its vertical search services to free offerings, this can help those companies, maybe smaller companies with less budget, get more exposure for their hotels in Google Search and Google Hotel Search. If you run or work with a hotel, this is something you may want to dig into.
Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.