Hotel Google Advertising – Google Removed Sidebar Ads

This week, we saw a major change in Google PPC advertising: Google removed the sidebar text ads from desktop search results pages.
This will have consequences for hotels advertising on Google.
Firstly, there will be less ads displayed overall. This may secondly result in higher bidding cost.
But let’s start from the beginning.

What exactly has changed?

There are some changes to desktop search results:

  • No text ads will be served on the right side of the search results page (SERP) on desktop anymore
  • Google will serve 4 text ads instead of 3 at the top, above the organic listings
  • 3 text ads will show at the bottom of the SERPs
  • The total number of text ads on a SERP will shrink from 11 to a maximum of 7
  • Product listing ad blocks and Knowledge Panels will show in the right sidebar for relevant queries

So, for example when searching for “hotel berlin”, the new SERP looks like this:

Google removed sidebar PPC-ads

Google removed sidebar PPC-ads

There is now a large empty space on the right-hand side where PPC-ads used to be. Underneath the top page ads Google displays results from Google Hotel Finder. The very last result at the bottom of the page and just above the fold (on a very large screen) is an organic search result.

Why has Google removed sidebar ads?

Google’s “mobile first” approach is enforced, due to mobile searches beginning to overtake desktop searches. This move results in a similar user experience across both.

There is probably also a monetary consideration: When there is fewer positions, advertisers will have to bid more to get on the first page.

Officially, Google says this change will improve overall quality. The lowest position ads (9,10,11) are the ones Google has deemed least likely to appeal to the user. Removing them means that the quality of the remaining ad links is improved.

What are the consequences for hotels advertising on Google?

For independent hotels and brands with more modest advertising budgets, Google’s change will limit the use of more generic keywords. Bidding on short-term keywords will become too costly. Instead, such hotels and brands will have to shift their focus to niche and highly relevant long-tail keywords. Basically, far more thought will have to go into PPC strategies because bidding lower and appearing in position 5 or 6 will not be an option anymore.

Moreover, organic listings are being pushed down even further the SERPs and on some screens even underneath the fold. Therefore, brand campaigns are going to be increasingly necessary. Hotels need to bid on their own brand to fend off competitors’ paid ads.

Even though it’s too early to say whether and how much click costs will increase, it would probably be wise to budget more for Google PPC advertising in order to be still competitive in desktop advertising.

Google Remarketing: New Hotel Advertising Tool

Google Remarketing is a new feature in Google AdWords. It enables hotels to advertise to anyone who has visited their website before.
People often take time researching different options before making a hotel reservation. Up until now, there hasn’t been many opportunities to keep their interest going, unless of course they’ve signed up to the hotel newsletter or agreed to any other form of direct marketing, for example via social media such as Facebook.
With Google Remarketing, hotels can now track their website visitors or audiences and target them with ads on Google’s content network of websites, which reach about 80% of the online audience.
The ability to reach out to these people with a targeted offer while they make their booking decision can be powerful and should be part of hotel online marketing.

Showing ads to people as they move from site to site reminds them of what the hotel has to offer and can also give the impression the hotel is advertising everywhere. Additionally, ads can be targeted precisely depending on the actions a visitor has performed on your site. Perhaps they have visited the hotel’s special offers page, read the blog or visited a section of your website with specific content such as spa or wellness. In which case an ad could be shown addressing exactly their interest and so nudging them towards making a booking.

Watch the Google Ad Remarketing video:

 

Search Marketing or Display Ads? Part 3

With part 1 and 2 of this series we’ve headed into the following direction: display ads, as we know them, are not such an effective hotel online marketing tool anymore. It is more and more about precise targeting and innovative ways of running banner ad campaigns.

How is this for an example?
Travelocity, the popular travel website, is using real-time search data for their display ad campaigns. They use an engine called Teracent which matches the marketing message to their audience on the fly. Messages are based on a host of dynamic parameters such as search intent (e.g. when someone clicks on the star ratings for hotels, this person would only see ads for luxury hotels) and how far people drill down into a certain category.
This strategy has increased Travelocity’s online bookings by 203% !
Chip Hall, senior VP of sales and marketing at Teracent, tells AdAge:
“Display has to change, otherwise it’s headed for failure. If advertisers don’t recognize online is more challenged with the old approaches and needs to be incredibly hyper-targeted, they’re going to fail.”
Source: Econsultancy

Search Marketing or Display Ads?

I’ve just attended a webinar dealing with this question and the main argument for display ads was the time people spend browsing the web, which is much more than the time people spend searching. In percentages: 95% browsing, 5% searching. Therefore, display ads would still be an effective way to drive traffic and reach customers since search marketing only works when people actually – search. Kind of sounds logical.

Of course, search engine marketing should be run alongside because apparently click-through rates increased by 22%, related brand searches increased and conversion rates via search ads increased when search and display were run together.

Now, what’s been said here is that display ads actually push traffic and conversion through search. If your site ranks high in the organic search, you are a winner. Otherwise, it basically means that you are paying advertising money twice.

Also, it has become much easier for people to avoid advertising as this blog entry highlights: Has the internet made it easier to hide from adverts? Which in turn makes for a substantial argument in favour of search ads.

Search ads are delivered at a point when people are actually actively looking for something: a solution, product or service, compared to unwanted and irrelevant display ads they are bombarded with while browsing.

Search marketing results are usually predictable, can be targeted effectively and measured to calculate the ROI (Return on Investment). However, it is true that the search market becomes increasingly competitive and text ads such as Google AdWords only contribute to branding and awareness in a limited way.

In my view, display ads are not dead as part of an online marketing mix, and especially not on the Google AdWords content network or in an affiliate programme. But properly evaluate who else you are running your display campaigns with and whether search ads may not be a more (cost-)effective way of driving customers to your site.

Webinar by AdReady and ClickZ, Oct 2009