There are always new trends cropping up in the world of hotel marketing, and one relatively fresh one is meta search. These websites have been around for a few years now and include Tripadvisor, Trivago and Flight Centre. What is meta search? They basically query content pulled from other sites such as Google, online travel agents (OTAs) and maps and then combine the results to display them to users in one location. People can find hotels that might suit their needs, put in their desired dates and then view all of the different rates available from various websites before they book their stay and get the best price.
The meta search engines work by charging hotels a small fee whenever someone clicks through to their own websites to proceed with a booking.This system is now becoming an important part of guest acquisition for property owners and allows them to get their name out there in the competitive world of hospitality. However – and perhaps most importantly – meta search sites bring customers directly to hotels’ websites for bookings, rather than taking reservations through a third party as OTAs do. Another plus point is that the extra connection with customers means their details are collected and can be analysed for future marketing endeavours.
Importance for consumersFor travellers, meta search websites offer the valuable service of not only displaying prices and comparing them, but also providing location information, customer reviews and real-time pricing and availability.This was a big step forward, as consumers are now moving away from vague price promotions (such as ‘our rates start from £49 a night) and want to actually know how much they are going to be paying on the dates they require. Before, only the OTAs could provide this information and so hotels were losing out on bookings to them as a result. This new way of implementing direct contact changed meta search from being just another method of distribution to an important tool in the marketing arsenal. How to use meta search As a hotel owner or marketer, you might want to view meta search websites as a third way of getting reservations.
The first is the direct model where guests come straight to you; the second uses OTAs for the whole process and involves no contact with the guest and the hotel; and the third sits in between.It means the influence of the OTAs can be reduced a little and, for smaller hotels in particular, may reduce the amount spent on commission taken by them. There is also the benefit of being able to get your name in front of would-be guests at every stage of the decision-making process, including the all-important ‘dream’ stage when they are still looking at trips without any real plans or view to purchase. The onus is still on you However, it is important to remember that a presence on the meta search engines doesn’t come for free – just like the OTAs, the providers that connect you to them site will charge a fee, although it isn’t usually quite as much. As a strategy, it must therefore be viewed as an advertising investment.
Having said that, it’s possible to try meta search for a short time at a relatively low price, perhaps £500 per month for a good presence on Tripadvisor and Google Hotel Finder, perhaps. This means it isn’t prohibitive for even smaller properties to give it a trial run, see how it goes and then decide whether it’s something worth pursuing in the long term.There is also the caveat that hotel owners and marketers can’t just connect themselves with meta search and then rest on their laurels. They need to work on it just the same as with any other marketing strategy in order to ensure good returns, including good room availability, rate parity, package deals and a user-friendly website when people eventually do click through.Don’t fall for the high ROI figures advertised by some providers – you need to see meta search as part of the bigger picture and a way of targeting people at a particular part of the buying funnel.
For the best results, use meta search if you think it will work for you, but utilise it as part of an effort to boost your direct bookings and reduce dependency on OTAs.Part of a wider marketing effortYou can do this by refreshing your website to make it more aesthetically pleasing, implementing SEO, increasing your email marketing efforts, trying out a social media strategy, publishing excellent, shareable content, adding photos, considering pay-per-click and perfecting your hotel booking engine, to name but a few techniques.
After all, if meta search is going to bring visitors to your site, you need to ensure they can use it to make a booking efficiently and enjoy a positive experience to finish things off. If they can’t, then there isn’t much point in outing yourself out there and becoming part of the meta search trend in the first place.