Friday 19 August 2011

Google Places for Your Hotel

All of Plan B's more recent web clients have benefitted from the set up or auditing of their Google Account which includes the set up usually of a Blog, Analytics, YouTube Channel, Alerts and possibly most importantly Google Places.

First off is if you don't have a Google Account then you need to get one set up immediately. It is free and any business that is not utilising the tools in there is not truly working their online presence properly.

In a blog posting featured on Hotelmarketing, Laurian Clemence, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs with Google UK highlighted the imprtance of Places, “By having an online presence via Google Places, hotels are enabling users to find and interact with their business,” says Clemence. He recommends keeping listings simple, accurate and consistent.

From a tourism perspective Google Places is taking, and is likely to take even more, prominence as Google identify means of improving their social media offering (see Google + and Googe +1 Button articles elsewhere in this blog). But even now have a look at how it impacts on you just now.

Before jumping into the content below why not spend a couple of minutes looking at what's currently happening in your area and how Googel Places is using your (and your competitors) information.

Open a new window and try the following for your own area.
We've typed in Ayr Hotels and the search has come up as follows.

As usual paid listings at the top and right hand column - no change there. But on the left hand column you can now filter your searches - Click on Places and see what happens to your results.

Another addition you may not have seen is the Travel Dates button on the left. Visible on Tuesday but not Friday so a test feature we'd guess but an indicator perhaps of how Google Hotel Finder will come into play very soon.

The hotels are listed by letter via the Google Places information and on the map. Not the new information associated with each entry. By rolling over the listing you get an impresion of the website. In reality this means that the potential guest can get an impression of your website without leaving the search. Is your site ready for that?

You'll also have noticed that in Google Places the online travel agency and third party websites have vanished. This in iteself must offer hotels hope for regaining some of the business lost by the OTAs adveritsing and buying power. As the traveller uses Places more for specific searches the hotels have got a greater chance of relevant visibility.

The price button on the right hand side is linked to the Travel Dates button on the right hand side. Change the dates and the rates displayed will alter. The prices the hotel is offering to each of the OTA's then becomes visible with a click of the drop down button next to the best available price.

Most importantly however is the fact that the hotels are now clickable directly from the link. It is therefore of obvious importance that you have the best available rate on your website and use every tool available to promote it. See below. Also note at this point that if you don't have your Google Place active  you won't see your own booking link.

It also increases ease of competitive price transparency - the easy to click price button means that for any selected dates you and by definition your potential guests can review your competition's pricing (or be reviewed by) before they even need to open a website. Good or bad? Depends on how effectively you promote best available rate in your title tag!

Hotels who are succeeding in converting direct online sales (that is through their own online booking engine on their own website) Best Available Rate is a given. Why offer your direct customer a higher rate than if they book elsewhere? Rhetorical question.

So with the introduction of this on-search page transaparency there is a strong argument for using the Meta Title to promote the fact that your site is offering Best Available Rate as with the example above.

Last thing to note here is that Google have now launched their own reviews and the other review sites have been dropped to below the search.

    So what should you do? Well make sure that your hotel, bar, restaurant, leisure facility has the correct presence in Places. Ensure that no-one else has hijacked your business name and be ready for whatever comes next; for instance did you know that you can already highlight offers through Google Places?
    And most importantly do it NOW!
    • Research your hotel profile in your town, county, region.Type Yourhotel in YourTown, YourHotel in YourCounty and 

    • Take note of what others are doing better or differently. 

    • Look at your rates differences in your own channels and your competitors.

    • Update your Google Places account accordingly - content, images, categories, video, offers, etc

    • Create new Google Place for all definable products - restaurant, bar, leisure. Google are clearly happy that your products are legitimately listed

    • Update your Home Page metatag to promote Best Available Rate even before guest opens the site

    • Ensure you have best available rate on your site at all times

    • Consider encouraging guest reviews via Google Places not just encouraging TripAdvisor

    Quick Links
    An overview of your Google Place
    Look at Google Adwords - who's bidding for your brand or hotel name?
    Look at your metatags and content? Understand what they do.
    Read more about Google Places from Google itself 

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