How Google Hotel Ads is Penetrating the Hotel Distribution Vertical, and the Opportunity this Presents for Hotels

How Google Hotel Ads is Penetrating the Hotel Distribution Vertical, and the Opportunity this Presents for Hotels by XOTELS

Google is taking the hotel industry by storm to gain market share and grow their advertising revenues. We will take a look at how Google is penetrating the hotel distribution vertical with Google Hotel Ads, and what opportunities this gives in terms of hotel revenue management and marketing.

From Hotel Finder to GHA

Exactly ten years ago, Google launched what Andrew McCarthy, at the time Software Engineer for the Mountain View’s company, described as an “experimental search tool designed to help users locate and book hotels.” We’re talking, obviously, about Hotel Finder

In that distant summer of 2011, however, Google’s metasearch engine looked way different from what it is today. You may remember how, for example, the ads were shown inside a traditional Google’s yellow paid search box, just below the search ads results and above the organic ones. When clicking on the ads, users were taken to a dedicated URL, google.en/hotelfinder, a page providing information, reviews, and photos principally taken from Google My Business property listings. Originally, moreover, published rates were solely coming from third-party advertisers (such as OTAs), while the official websites were only visible thanks to a backlink to brand.com, not unlike TripAdvisor.com ‘s Business Advantage. 

Looking back, the system looked almost clumsy, at least in terms of pure user experience. However, flash-forward to just a decade later, and Google has taken the metasearch world by storm, with a staggering percentage of market share estimated between 64% and 80%. But how did we get here?

Google in Travel: Some History

Going through the history of Google, it is not particularly hard to identify some of the most significant milestones that created this “perfect storm.” Apart from the abovementioned introduction of Hotel Finder in 2011, there are some other crucial dates that helped the growth of Google in our industry over the last 15 years. Amongst them, it’s worth mentioning the acquisition of Where 2 Technologies and the consequent launch of Google Maps in 2004-5; the introduction (dubbed by Search Engine Land as the “most radical change” to SERP) of Universal Search in 2007; the launch of Google Places (later renamed Google My Business) in 2009; the acquisition of ITA Software and the rebranding to Google Flights in 2011, and the release of the, later discontinued, intelligent travel assistant app, Trips, in 2016. All these features opened the way, in 2019, for what may be described, without exaggerating, as “Google’s OTA on steroids:” Google Travel (google.com/travel).