Impact of PPC on hotel brands

The layout of Google's SERPs have seen rapid change in recent months. PPC Manager Stuart MacLean discusses how this has impacted hotel brand PPC strategies.

Paid Search in its very nature is constantly changing and it is up to us as an agency to ensure that we keep not only ourselves, but also our hotel brand clients, up-to-date with the latest goings on in the fast-paced world of PPC. There have been a number of substantial changes, particularly over the last 12 months, which have changed the paid search industry forever.

Google has consistently tested different versions of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for as long as we can remember. It is not uncommon to view one search layout and then view another, far different layout, only seconds later. Google has even gone as far as to testing the width of the white space between each paid ad and/or organic listing, trying to find the perfect formula for Search Marketing.

Consistently testing SERP variations and further changes to the paid search landscape have changed the way in which we approach our strategy for the hotel sector. There are now key areas of paid search that require the attention of our hotel brand clients, to fully maximise their paid search strategy. In this post we will look at a number of important changes to the paid search landscape, highlighting the impact that these changes have had on creating and managing a paid search strategy for our hotel brand clients

The removal of right-hand-side text ads

By far, the most impactful change to Google’s SERPs layout came in February of 2016, when Google announced that paid search results on desktop would no longer appear on the right-hand-side of the SERPs. Instead, as many as four paid ads would appear at the top of the page, pushing organic listings further down the results pages. Many advertisers panicked, due to there being fewer paid ad spaces above the fold as well as potential increases to their CPCs. We instructed our clients not to panic, and to ride out any fluctuations to CPCs as a result of these changes.

This proved to be the correct decision following initial increases in CPCs. CPCs did then begin to rise over the following months however this is reflective of search seasonality and entering the peak summer months where competition in the SERPs is greater for hotel brands. Furthermore, we have seen improvements in CTR as high as 10 per cent on hotel brands, indicating that the top positions in the SERPs are now more valuable and that users are finding it harder to distinguish between PPC ads and organic listings.

We always advise our clients to ensure that their overall search strategy (PPC & SEO) is an integrated one, with each channel supporting one another, where they could. For example, ensuring that we have an above the fold presence on paid search when organic rankings are struggling.

Hotel Price Ads

Hotel Price Ads (HPAs) are ads that provide real time room prices to the user. This can be of great benefit to our hotel brand clients as it provides their consumers with the most up-to-date hotel room prices possible. Generally, having prices displayed is likely to entice users to click on that ad. Another benefit to hotel brands is that it’s another way to get hotel guests to book direct, bypassing Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as ‘booking.com’. OTAs currently dominate the HPAs, therefore it is crucial for our hotel brand clients to have a presence here, particularly with very few hotel brands actually having a presence in this space.

Furthermore, the real-time rate HPAs provide directly links to our hotel brands booking engine, taking the user exactly where they want to go. Google estimates that hotel price ads perform at a significantly stronger rate than standard paid search listings, generating a conversion rate that is double that of regular mobile traffic. Over the last 12 to 18 months, HPAs presence in the SERPs have increased and they are now more prominent, providing our hotel brand clients with the opportunity to increase their presence in the SERPs.