This post is quite blunt. If you have a 3rd party arrangement with one or both Booking.com and LateRooms.com it’s likely that they are skimming your natural search traffic and shadily earning commissions on your brand name. This post shows you how to readdress this imbalance and pay less commission.

So lets start with a proposition; Booking.com and third party online travel agencies are there to bring you more bookings, not to take bookings that you naturally deserve, right? So from this perspective if they were to advertise on Google Adwords on your name say “<specific  Hotel name> Poole” this is taking YOUR natural search traffic, right?

booking agencies skimming-commissions

A lot of hoteliers are oblivious to this practice. In the above example you can see that a web search by someone  specifically looking for this hotel,  is shown an advert for booking.com above the hotels natural listing. Furthermore,  this advert mentions the hotel name specifically and amplifies why you should click with them with the “Best Price Guarantee”.

Lets assume that you get 1,000 natural searches a month on your hotel name (a fair estimate for a medium hotel) for example returning guests, or wedding guests that have been given your hotel name; then seeing this Booking.com advert is likely to siphon off as estimated 20% of your traffic, 200 visitors. If out of those 200 visitors 20% then go on to book via the Booking.com link that’s an 40 bookings a month that you are paying commission to Booking.com on, that you shouldn’t be at say £10 a booking commission, that’s an unnecessary £400 a month to booking.com.

Thank you Booking.com.

It can be argued that it’s completely fair game for third party travel agencies to bid on “<town> hotel” but NOT “<MY hotel name> town” – as this is pure skimming and serves no other purpose than to steal your hotel’s deserved traffic.

So how do you re-address this imbalance? Well, firstly you can talk to your representative at Booking.com/LateRooms.com/whoever and ask them why they are bidding on your brand name and to remove your name from their marketing. This is likely to draw a blank, as they weaseled in some terms in the agency contract you agreed.

The second thing to do is to look at your homepage <meta  name=”description”> and <title>, snippet.  That’s the bit about you that Google displays. You can control this. Ask your web designer to consider adding “Book direct for best price guarantee & upgrades” or some sexy text to make you more clickable than Booking.com. Note: there is a significant belief amongst the public that Booking.com does some magic in getting the best prices. Groan! So you can never completely gain all the clicks.

Of course, you have to balance any edits to your homepage title & description with your search engine optimisation (making sure you rank for “<town> hotel”). You may want to speak to your web person about this.

The third thing is to start a defensive Adwords campaign for your hotel. If you already have an Adwords manager talk to them about this aspect. If you don’t already have an Adwords campaign or have done a campaign previously but found it costly, you can start a very limited campaign with the sole intention to protect your brand name. This shouldn’t cost much, the pounds you spend will save you likely £100’s a month.

If you are in the UK there is a free £50 Adwords voucher in Net magazine (in WHSmiths or King Size Tesco’s). Go to http://adwords.google.co.uk  or http://adwords.google.com worldwide, and set up a campaign, that is SOLELY on your brand related keywords. There are far better tutorials on Adwords than I can do justice here. But, Adwords has got a lot easier to set up than it used to be. You can a) bid exclusively on your hotels keywords “Roberts Hotel Newcastle” and “Roberts Hotel in Newcastle” in quote marks, and b) set a limit to say 60 pence a click, and a max daily spend of £4 (£160 a month).

The end result should be something like this:

hotel-booking-agencies

As you can see this particular hotel has its Adwords listing above Booking.com and its first position in natural search, this means it should be restricting what Booking.com can skim (now reduced to 2nd place and a likely 5-7% of the overall traffic). Also the “sandwich effect” means that you “own” more of the results page, and are likely, due to having more presence, to get more overall clicks.

This is of course not without a downside. Apart from the spend that you’ll incur in defending your venue in regaining clicks you deserve, its likely that you will incur new costs on clicks you’ve bought that you would have got for free anyway. This table expresses the typical costs based on data from an actual campaign:

  • Monthly searches on your specific hotel:  1,000
  • Clicks you received previously on above search term: 60% 600 clicks *
  • Clicks that Booking.com received previously: 20% 200 clicks
  • Clicks that converted: 20% 40 sales
  • Commission to Booking.com via  this source @ apprx £10 a lead: £400
  • Clicks that you receive from YOUR new Adwords Advert: 350 *
  • Cost of clicks @ 50p average: £175 per month
  • Saving: £400 – £175 = £225 a month

Adwords experts note, this is far higher than the usual 20-30% for 1st place in organic results, as this is the specific hotel, not a vague category term.

Finally, you need to track this – don’t ever do any marketing initiative without tracking! If you set up a defensive Adwords campaign you need at the least Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) set up, and to look at the quality of visitors and if they go to your booking page. Ideally you will have conversion tracking too, to track cost per sale, per source; but that’s a post for another day.

Related articles: http://hotelemarketer.com/2012/08/04/the-hotels-vs-ota-paid-search-war-get-your-defensive-strategy-right/

Note: I have no affiliation with the hotels mention in this article.

 

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