Looking for information? Searching for your next holiday ideal destination? Typically, we would go on to “Google” it. This has become the conventional habit that all the generations unintentionally established over the last decade. That is the result of how fast and convenient Google results come back with your initial keyword input. Undeniably, Google has gradually defined itself as a “free, easy and accessible” encyclopedia across the globe.
Recently, Google Travel products have launched the Free Booking Links last March 9, 2021, to allow hotels to receive traffic and bookings via Google hotel search. This feature brings such huge opportunities to hoteliers approaching internationally and domestically. Understanding the importance and competitive advantages hoteliers may gain with Free Booking Links, the CiHMS Hospitality Management Solution – has partnered up with Google to provide a seamless connection with Google for our customers. How does this work actually and what are the benefits you – hoteliers get from this partnership?
Google Free Booking Links
There are millions of travelers constantly searching for hotels and destinations on Google daily. To show up on Google search engine, hoteliers have to do SEO effectively, practicing, and monitoring it. Some even have to dedicate a large portion of their marketing budget to Google Ads, making sure to maintain their ranking and position on the Google search result pages. The broader your target audience is and depending on how high you want your search result position to be, the budget can fluctuate anywhere from 4 to 6 figures easily.
Google is constantly observing and evaluating their user experience along with their interactions within Google’s travel products to best enhance it. Free Booking Links feature was first experimented with in September 2020 aiming to help hoteliers gain direct traffic and reservations through the Google search engine at a free cost. 6 months later, this new product feature was officially introduced globally and has contributed to the change in customer searching habits especially in hotel searches. You might have already experienced this feature without acknowledging it. Free Booking Links appear among the mixture of ads (which are marked with “Ads” to distinguish) whenever you search for hotels.
Free Booking Links allows hoteliers to have their hotels listed with their best room rates available for travelers to choose from. There is no payment or user engagement from Google collected for those links. Free Booking Links may look like Ads but they are not. The placements are ranked based on a variety of signals, including but not limited to: best matched available room rate for a custom search query, up-to-date feed price, price accuracy score, and matching price between your feed price and the landing page. While you can bid to rank higher in the Ads section, better placement cannot be bought for free booking links.
The following information would normally be shown in the Free Booking Links section:
- Hotel’s properties: those are the hotel’s name, address, phone number, websites, and directions to the hotel. There would also be reviews, your hotel’s pictures, average customer rating score, hotel descriptions, and highlights.
- The “Book a room” button drops down all your hotel room listings.
- The booking module with top-ranked booking links and customers can easily adjust check-in, check-out date, number of guests to find the best rate available.
- Filtering option to view by nightly rate, nightly total or stay total.
- Booking link ads which have to be paid for and labeled with an “Ads” badge. These ads are from OTAs, travel agencies, or even your own hotel running Google Ads for the selected hotel shown in this Free Booking Links section.
- Free booking links under “All Options” and can be configured by hoteliers.
The benefits of Free Booking Links
The advantages that come along with Free Booking Links are the followings but not limited to:
- Free traffic: Yup, to show up on Google Free Booking links means you are visible to the world. These are natural traffic sources and are potential leads that are 100% Free.
- In control of your guest experience and data: Google doesn’t charge anything on clicked links and the engagement for Free Booking Links. You can control your guest experience from the Free Booking Links section to your landing pages. Google allows you to track and enable you to generate Reports for your Free Booking Links to further configure to take advantage of it to the max.
- Maximize your revenue with real-time rates and room availability: This benefit is for our CiHMS customers who own our hospitality management solution. CiHMS will automatically update your rate and availability directly with Google without you doing any further work in real-time. While others have to regularly update their feed price and send it to Google, we would do all that work for you. Fast, easy, and effective.
How to be eligible for Free Booking Links
You have to have an active Hotel Center account. If you don’t, you can register for one here. However, the process may take longer and there is no confirmation regarding the detailed timeline for this process yet.
The other fastest way is through a Google integration partner, which is us – your CiHMS hospitality management solution. We are proud and honored to get contacted and become an approved Google integration partner. Make sure you have already set up your Google My Business profile for the property you wish to be listed on Free Booking Links. Please keep in mind that your hotel information on Google My Business should match with the hotel properties you have registered with us, otherwise problems may occur.
If you are a CiHMS family member and not sure whether or not your hotel appears on the Free Booking Links section, contact us for more details. Any changes and modifications may take up to several weeks to apply on Free Booking Links, please be patient.
The Free Booking Links feature has definitely brought out numerous potential to hoteliers at no charge, although this pandemic has not ended. COVID 19 shall pass and this tough period soon ends, it is exciting looking forward to the resume of the travel industry. Take this time to improve your hotel portfolio, physically and virtually, including its infrastructure as well as its online presentation. Make your property “within reach”, searchable, and in its best practice. Free Booking Links is worth trying at zero cost and would allow you to accomplish all the above. Why haven’t you started it yet? Have you tried out this feature yet? If so, share your thoughts in the comment section down below.