Thanks for the Swagga Trip Advisor!

A while ago I spotted a glaring error on Trip Advisor’s Bangkok Hotels page as outlined in a post I did about how Trip Advisor was assuming I could speak Thai. All of my blog posts are promoted on Twitter to my followers and since the title of the blog post contained the phrase “Trip Advisor” they spotted this as they are monitoring social mentions for their brand online. 

All large brands should be monitoring social media mentions for brand terms as an absolute minimum – if you aren’t then shame on you, you are missing an enormous opportunity!

So they thanked me for spotted the error etc. and offered to send me some of their nice Trip Advisor swagga as a bit of a ‘thanks for spotting’ which was a nice gesture. 

Hat’s off to Trip Advisor as they have actually got the error fixed, which is more than can be said with other large companies who would ‘take the feedback on board’. 

Here is a nice picture of what they sent me through which includes a cap, couple of bottle openers, couple of pens (with moving airplanes on the top which circle the globe!) and a document wallet – all branded.



While I doubt I will be wearing the cap any time soon (I like to think I have a little more style than that – no offence Trip Advisor! :-) ) it is a nice gift from them and I can certainly use the beer bottle openers!

Thanks again Trip Advisor! :-) 


Google Hotel Finder Showing In Search Results

Well, it was only a matter of time before this happened. Google have just started to test showing their Hotel Finder product at the very top of the search results, above the organic and above the paid listings – in the exact same way they do with the mortgage comparison tool. 

As you can see in the screenshot above, this is being tested on one of the top searched for phrases in the hotel booking industry which is never a good sign. Google has even included the options to filter by star rating of hotel. 

I spotted the above when searching for “London Hotels” on in Internet Explorer (I was testing something in it, honest, don’t look down on me for using it! :-p ) and I was not signed in to my Google account. 

Below is the exact same thing that Google has done in the mortgage industry, so it is not like this hasn’t been on the cards since they launched Hotel Finder back in late July.


Fortunately, Google hasn’t really fully tested the options yet as the ‘book’ button doesn’t actually do anything. The button currently just takes you through to this page, although I imagine when this gets fully rolled out that the ‘book’ button will take users straight through to their Hotel Finder product. That said, the main link does take a user through to the Hotel Finder product already. 

I posted a while ago about whether Google is turning into a hotel aggregator and about travel dates becoming more prominent within the search results. But more important questions need to be asked about the Google monopoly and what can be done against it.   

Just a quick full screenshot of everything above the fold now for a ‘London Hotels’ search, which is 100% Google products / ads. Shocking

The tests run by Google are usually around 5% of the search queries, although I have no doubt that Google will be ramping this figure up extremely fast. It is certainly a nice Xmas present from Google for the travel industry! But it could be worse I guess, they could have unleashed a Panda update again. 



Is Google Turning Into A Hotel Aggregator?

There has been a lot of developments over the past few years with Google in the travel industry and their actions are ones I have been closely watching. With Google Hotel Finder launching earlier this year it is interesting to see how Google is changing.

When searching for hotels online there are two main categories of searches

  • Destination searches such as London Hotels
  • Hotel name searches such as The Lowry Hotel

So if we have a look at each of these to see how Google is handling these now we may get an idea of what lies in store in the next year or so.


Destination Searches

Looking at the search term Manchester Hotels we can see that there are several important parts to this.

Here we can see several parts to this section which are

  • The link for “Places for hotels near Manchester” and “More results near Manchester”.
  • The travel dates are listed
  • A selection of individual hotel websites are listed
  • Different recommended search terms related to “Manchester Hotels”
  • Nearby locations

Lets take a look at each one of these and see how Google are handling this.


Places for hotels near Manchester

This is where the link goes to. 

As we can see above, there are what you would expect to see on any hotel aggregator website such as

  • Hotel name
  • Brief snippet of information (albeit a very poor snippet)
  • Link to show where the hotel is located on a map
  • Average rating of the hotel
  • Number of reviews of this hotel
  • Price of the hotel for today

When comparing this to some of the hotel aggregators, it seems Google has got a lot of the areas covered already. Hotel aggregators really need to step up in terms of innovation to ensure they are staying ahead of Google which is going to be quite a challenge.


Travel Dates Listed in SERPs

This is a great option for customers since this will automatically update the prices from various different hotel aggregators when the date is chosen.


Individual Hotels Listed

Again great for the user since this allows them to go direct to the hotel who may be able to deal with their queries better.


Related Search Terms and Nearby Locations

These ultimately send the user through the same process as above but with a more refined search.


Hotel Name Searches

Now if we have a look through the same process for hotel name searches to see how Google is handling these.

These listings within the SERPs are a first step towards integrating all of the universal search items into one nice area, which nicely takes up a large part of the results and is positioned prominently above everything else. Now for a user, this again does make sense to have the hotels listing first with other good content pulled together from various sources. My main issue with this though is that Google is notoriously bad at grouping things together like this and there is often a lot of errors with either images or reviews that are listed.

This listing has got all of the items that have been discussed but is just formatted in a nicer way. The interesting point will come when this switch is made from a listing like above to a similar listing like found on Google Hotel Finder as seen below

I have no doubt that this is on the cards for Google, it is just a matter of when they will do this or begin directing users towards their own Hotel Finder product.


How Much Can Google Reviews Be Trusted?

One item that Google has yet to work on though is the quality of the reviews left for hotels. Since there is no way of Google knowing if the person has actually stayed in the hotel and this is there hotel aggregators can stand out as they have the full booking details of the customer and know if they have stayed there. In addition hotel aggregators also have manual checking process in place to keep hotel reviews high quality.

As for how Google may overcome this issue, I am not sure yet. Although I imagine there will be some kind of information linked in with Google Plus in a very similar way of how Page Rank works. I.e. If the person leaving a review has an active Google Plus profile, lots of friends & followers and is also active on other Google products. This would be one way to class a reviewer as trustworthy or not. The same is on Twitter when it is obvious someone who has just began following you is a bot due to their statistics.


Is Google Going To Become a Competitor?

In a recent article from Marketing Week, apparently not.

 “We have no intention of entering the booking space” – Google

Although I am not convinced. There are a lot of options open to Google in this industry and it is an extremely lucrative area for them, so only time will tell exactly what they will do. One thing for certain is that the travel industry needs to step up their game to compete against Google.

Travel Dates Becoming More Prominent in Google SERPs


With the recent announcement of Google Hotel Finder, it is only a matter of time before Google begins to really push this within the paid and organic search results. Below is how Google have prioritised Google Advisor, their financial services comparison tool, straight at the top of the search results before all other listings

When will the same apply for hotels or possibly even destination specific searches such as London Hotels? An interesting step towards this within the travel industry is making travel dates more prominent within the search results as seen below.

My next prediction will be to have travel dates from/to so a user can specifically select the dates they like to travel on, then Google really prioritising the Hotel Finder product which will generate them more CPC revenue.

We will see what their next steps will be over the coming weeks and months, but it is certainly going to be an interesting time!