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.

Hotel Website Design Insights – Design Brief

This is the 3rd and final part of the Hotel Webdesign Insights series which will be talking about the:

3. Design Brief

Previously, we thought about how to best organise website content and developed a site tree. We also considered which website elements will be necessary and designed a wireframe. Now, you are almost ready to jump into the design stage. However, the designer still doesn’t know your product and who you want to sell it to. Therefore, we need to tell them.

What is a Design Brief?
The design brief is a document which will be filled in by the client, ideally under guidance of your web agency. Think of it as a web-specific marketing plan which in an ideal world each business should have at the ready. In most cases, you would already have collateral like printed brochures or leaflets, business cards, letter-heads etc. in your corporate identity (CI). The website design needs to match your CI. Once complete, the design brief will be sent to the graphic designer and lay the ground work for your new website design.

The design brief contains questions regarding: short and long-term goals, audience profiles, perception and tone, branding guidelines, competitive positioning, targeted messages, customer relationship considerations etc.

Sample questions from a Design Brief Template

What is the purpose of a Design Brief?

The designer needs some information about your hotel and who you are planning to sell your rooms and services to. Each hotel is different and has their own Unique Selling Point (USP) which the designer must know about in order to be able to emphasize this visually.

It is very important to think the questions from the design brief through properly and be as specific as possible. That way, the designer can develop a successful and bespoke design without having to go through many expensive trial and error stages. Therefore, a comprehensive and specific design brief will keep down design costs later on!

For example, audience profiles should be part of the general marketing plan of a hotel already and should only have to be repeated in the design brief. What isn’t helpful is defining a target audience of “adults between the age of 20 and 55” as this is far too general. The designer needs to know whether they are meant to be designing a hip and cool website for a young audience or something rather formal for the business traveller – to pick just two examples on the very ends of the spectrum.

Attach any printed collateral which shows your CI to the design brief or if you have a brand book listing color schemes, fonts, logo options etc., add this. Your logo and preferred photos of the hotel should also be provided at this point as the designer will use them in the mock-ups.

With all this, the designer will now be able to make a start and you are finally entering the design stage. You will soon be provided with mock-ups showing your newly designed website and all this preparation will have paid off!

Hotel Website Design Insights – Site Tree

Here comes part 2 of the Hotel Website Design Insights series:

2. Site Trees

Before you jump into designing your website, take some time to arrange it in an orderly, logical way.

In particular for businesses, in this case hotels, it’s vital that the website visitor finds the information they are looking for. People are very impatient, especially online, and if they want to know where a hotel is located, they should be able to find this information instantly. Otherwise you risk losing them to your competitors. Optimising a website in such a way is called ‘usability’ and means making a website user-friendly.

For a website to be usable, you need to organize your information into different pages and provide links to these pages from the home page. By providing links to the other pages, you let the website visitor choose which information they want to see and when. Your home page should have links to other sections of the website and an introduction describing the USPs of your property.
Normally, the site tree will be created together with your web agency.

What is a site tree?
Think of it like a family tree – a chart showing all descendants of an ancestor, in this case your home page. All children have to be linked from their parents to illustrate their relationships.

Here is a simple example of a site tree for a hotel website:

Example of a hotel website site tree

A site tree includes a short description (or name of the link) for all the information that will be part of a website and shows the logical relationship with other content items. The different levels translate into priority whereby level 1 features the main navigation items, i.e. more general information. The further down the levels you come, the more detailed the information will be.
Very important links need to be put on the top level, so that the website visitor can access it easily. Very specific information, for example menu options for a banquet, will only be needed by a limited number of website visitors and therefore can be linked from further down in the tree, although it should still be easily findable.
There will usually be a footer level, too with either additional links that are only accessed very infrequently (e.g. legal information) or repeating links a website visitor may want to access again after having scrolled down a page.
External links lead the visitor away from the website to a different domain and are highlighted in a different colour.

What’s the purpose of a site tree?
By creating a site tree, website content can be organized logically and relationships between information can be defined. The site tree also helps to make sure no information is forgotten.

The graphic designer will use the site tree and know exactly how many information items a website will contain and how many levels of navigation there should be. They will so be able to create a layout fitting everything in. It should be noted, that the site tree may well be changed/rearranged by your web agency and / or a designer to improve usability.

Hotel Website Design Insights – Wireframes

This series of 3 blog articles will be about hotel website design or redesign or better the initial stages before the design process even starts.
You will learn about:

  1. Wireframes
  2. Site Trees
  3. Design Brief

Here we go:

1. Wireframes 

So, you want to redesign your hotel website.
Before the actual design phase, i.e. before a graphic designer even begins with the layout, the first step should be the development of a wireframe.

What is a wireframe?
Think of it like a floorplan of a flat – a simple drawing showing were the kitchen will be (including sink, fridge, cabinets etc.) A wireframe is a line drawing illustrating how your new webpage will be organized. It usually lacks typographic style, color, or images, since the main focus is on functionality, usability and importance of content. In other words, a wireframe focuses on what a screen does, not what it looks like.

Here is a simple example of a wireframe for a hotel website:

example of a hotel website wireframe
Example of a hotel website wireframe

A wireframe includes all the ‘elements’ that will be a part of a webpage, including navigation systems, website functionality, like a web form linking to the online reservations interface, and how they work together. Wireframes can range from pencil drawings or sketches on a whiteboard to wireframes produced by means of a broad range of software applications.

What’s the purpose of a wireframe?
By using a wireframe for the initial layout, elements can be quickly moved around and re-organized. This is an effective way to quickly make prototypes of pages, while checking the practicality of a design concept. It allows for faster collaboration and vastly improves the graphic design process.
The idea is to arrange the website elements to best accomplish a particular objective. For hotel websites this will usually be to direct website visitors to make a reservation. However, a wireframe is not always necessary especially for simple websites. The downside of giving the designer a wireframe is that this may hinder the creative process. So, if your website isn’t very complex, doesn’t contain very many ‘elements’ and you don’t have a specific layout in mind, you can opt for leaving the this totally to the designer.

The wireframe provides the graphic designer with an organized blueprint to work from.

A day at AGHZ – Deutscher Hotelkongress 2013

As every year, AGHZ (Allgemeine Hotel- und Gaststättenzeitung) invited hoteliers and restaurateurs to attend the German Hotel Congress (Deutscher Hotelkongress) and Hotelexpo. The event took place at Maritim Hotel Berlin at the end of January 2013. Several subjects were covered in presentations and podium discussions throughout the duration of the conference – from Human Resources to future trends in hospitality and gastronomy. We attended the distribution conference at the end of day two and here are some of our impressions.

Three hoteliers spoke about the difficulties in present day hotel distribution and the shift from traditional  to hotel online distribution which finally seems to be taking place in Germany as well.

For example, the Freizeit In Hotel Göttingen – an event and wellness hotel – will spend 35% of their total marketing budget in 2013 online.

Slide reads: “We invest in Online Marketing – now!”
Olaf Feuerstein, CEO, Hotel Freizeit In GmbH

At the same time, online distribution via OTAs was highly unpopular amongst the presenters because of commissions to be paid and the fear to loose control. OTAs constantly change their cooperations and it would be nearly impossible for a hotel to unravel and stay on top of the complexities of online portals.

Jürgen Gangl, Area Manager at Event Hotels Berlin showed that there is a profitability loss of 25% to 45% when hotel rooms are being sold via OTAs.

Profitability Loss of 25 – 45% when selling hotel rooms through OTAs
Jürgen Gangl, Area Manager Event Hotels Berlin, Esplanade Berlin

Direct distribution via the hotel’s own website is much cheaper, even when marketing costs are taken into account since there is no OTA commissions. The share of the room rate staying at the hotel would be more than 75%:

Profitability Loss of less than 25% when selling hotel rooms directly online
Jürgen Gangl, Area Manager Event Hotels Berlin, Esplanade Berlin

Similar stats were displayed by Marco Nussbaum, CEO of prizeotel Bremen with the direct online distribution channel also being the most profitable:

Share of rate staying at the hotel: web direct, retailer, GDS, merchant, wholesaler
Marco Nussbaum, CEO und Mitgründer, prizeotel Bremen GmbH & Co. KG

All presenters were clear that selling rooms via the direct channel, i.e. the hotel’s independent website would be the way to go.

However, difficulties of this approach would be a professional web design, guests finding the hotel website in search engines, i.e. search engine optimization (SEO) and the new Google Travel ads of Google Hotel Finder where ad costs had increased considerably over the past months.

Any hotels wishing advise on these issues, please contact us here.

More information about the event at: www.deutscher-hotelkongress.de

The Hotel and Travel Week

We’ve visited World Travel Market London 2012 last week and here is a quick round-up of impressions:

WTM London 2012 –
destination promoter walking the halls

The most obvious fact compared to previous years was the lack of large OTA exhibitors – the likes of booking.com, HRS etc. Only Expedia showcased with a smallish booth. Are they saving money or don’t they need representation anymore we asked ourselves?

A similar picture with large hotel brands – no corporate IHG, Starwood or Wyndham stands – only smaller groups such as Warwick, Jumeirah and Millienium Copthorne Hotels were present. However, individual hotels exhibited under their given destinations, both branded and independent.

Destination booths there were plenty from all over the world, showing off with costumes, colours and ‘noise’ even though some of their budgets have been cut, too – as Enrique Ruiz de Lera, Head of the Spanish Tourist Office, UK and Ireland told the audience at a social media marketing conference taking place aside the WTM show. During the seminar titled ‘Spain – Marketing in the time of nada’, he offered figures of his marketing budget having shrank from 90 million per year to only 10 at present and how to approach this difficulty.

20.7% of guests who booked on the individual hotel website
found the hotel on an OTA portal.

There was a large technology section, ranging from tech offers like booking interfaces, channel managers, on-site search to mobile and payment solutions. Several seminars and presentations took place on social media marketing (Facebook, Foursquare, Blogging), trends such as the one by PhocusWright on ‘Innovation: Shaking Up the Travel Marketplace’ and general hotel online marketing. During one of the latter, online marketing agency Wihp offered an interesting fact they found doing some market research. OTAs listen up: 20.7% of guests who booked on the individual or brand hotel website found the hotel searching an OTA portal.
Maybe this answers our question above?

QR codes everywhere (stands, posters, hand-outs, business cards) were the big trend at this year’s show. We were slightly surprised that the travel industry took so long to take them on board as we’ve got a QR code on the back of our business cards since 2009!

It also surprised us that only now travel companies are beginning to think about monetising their social media presences and moving on from marketing to social media merchandising. Again, we introduced Hotel FaceBooker 3 years ago – a booking interface enabling users to check availability directly from within Facebook which links to the hotel’s booking engine: www.hotel-facebooker.com

We don’t want to praise ourselves but both facts speak for the accuracy of our company slogan: creative  web solutions for the hotel and travel industry: www.e-conceptory.com

WTM London 2013 we are coming!