Meta-search is developing into a standalone marketing channel and is having a massive impact on how consumers now purchase travel. Adding a meta-search strategy to your hotel digital marketing mix can help you take advantage of these new tools to funnel traffic away from online travel agencies (OTAs) and cut out the middleman. Let’s look at how meta-search engines differ from OTAs and how your property can benefit.
What is meta-search?
A meta-search engine filters rates and availability from hotels on other websites and shows the aggregated results together in one place. Examples of meta-search engines are Webjet, Tripadvisorand Trivago.
These types of sites offer customers location data, specific hotel information for nearby competitors, customer reviews, and real-time rate comparisons and availability updates. They are able to provide a one-stop researching and shopping experience that your individual hotel site cannot match.
Comparing meta-search with OTAs
Meta-search engines and OTAs may have similar effects on the travel industry by consolidating travel research and improving the customer buying experience. Both offer hotels a chance to reach a wider audience and acquire more bookings. However, they have very different business models.
An OTA promotes bookings by providing customers with the information, photos, availability, and rates for specific hotels. Consumers can book directly through the OTA website. OTAs have a much broader reach than any one hotel’s website due to their massive marketing budget.
In contrast, a meta-search engine collects rates and information for all surrounding hotels that are listed online. The information comes from your hotel’s website and from rates available through OTAs. So in reality you may be competing with an OTA site offering the same room at your property. This benefits your hotel because you can offer lower rates by eliminating OTA commissions.
The main difference between the two models is that meta-search engines don’t have their own inventory to sell. They are strictly information brokers, so meta-search should not be treated as a distribution channel.
How can your property benefit from a meta-search engine?
Statistics show that for all bookings made to independent hotels last year, 76% came from OTAs while only 24% were made through the independent hotel sites. But meta-search marketing should be part of your campaign to acquire more direct bookings by pulling traffic away from OTAs.
Hotels provide a service to customers that OTAs do not by encouraging customers to leave reviews and responding to comments and questions from customers. Meta-search engines give hotels the chance to level the playing field and reach their audience directly, removing the OTAs and their steep fees from the booking equation.
Meta-search sites operate on a pay-per click basis, a model that generally costs less than the booking fees charged by OTAs. This means that the cost per reservation can be reduced by marketing your hotel’s presence on meta-search sites. You may also be able to lure customers in to a direct booking from your website, completely eliminating commission fees.
Meta-search engines also offer another channel for reaching customers. Ratings, reviews, and customer photos contribute to an online community where your hotel can benefit from word of mouth advertising. Millions of customers read through these types of peer reviews when making their travel decisions, so a strong presence on a meta-search site can have a large positive effect on bookings.
Best methods for working with meta-search engines
There is a temptation with meta-search engines to take a hands-off approach. A mind set that once you have your hotel listed, that’s all you need to do and the bookings will keep flowing in. This is a misconception, and it is more accurate to think of meta-search as an online advertising platform.
Meta sites work with real-time data, making dynamic price marketing a powerful tool. It’s possible to adjust your booking rates based on demand without third party involvement, and meta-sites will adjust instantly to reflect your changes. The trick to success is to set daily, weekly, and monthly advertising campaign budgets. Most meta-search sites offer real-time bid management and ROAS tracking so you can easily measure the effects of your marketing dollars.
Although meta-search engines are now changing the hotel marketing game, they do not offer the complete value proposition to potential clients. They help guests research price and availability by selling click-based ads and help hotels by exposing their listings to millions of viewers.
But driving traffic is only part of the equation. Positive reviews and word of mouth are still vital to building trust and overcoming the barrier to purchase. In addition to managing budget spend on meta-search engines, you must encourage customers to comment and review your property on sites like Tripadvisor. Listen to their needs and promptly address any negative feedback you receive. Most importantly, you have to make sure that your hotel is offering true value and service to your customers.
About the author
Brie Moreau is a Digital Marketing Analyst for Hotel Marketing Works. Hotel Marketing Works designs, develops and markets hotel websites across the globe, from unique boutique properties to luxury five star hotels.
See original article at http://ehotelier.com/insights/2015/09/01/how-meta-search-marketing-can-benefit-your-bookings/