Thousands in Direct Bookings From a 20 Minute Task

When someone finishes their stay at your hotel, they may want to return in future. If you did a good enough job, they may be a raving fan, telling all their friends about your hotel. So, when they want to book another stay or, their friends want to learn more about your hotel, they will turn to Google/Bing search.

So, what’s the problem here? Well, when they click that search button, Google is first deciding if they can show a paid advertisement and, more often now than ever, the top 3 positions are paid ads. This means that an OTA with a clever ad may fool your potential guest into viewing an OTA page and not your hotels website. Not only does this mean your reputation lies in the hands of an OTA listing but it also means that any bookings will be through these OTA’s, meaning you receive less margin from each booking.

This behaviour by the OTA’s preys on hoteliers not knowing how search marketing works. The more you as the hotelier are working hard to maintain high standards and a great reputation, the more people will search your brand and the more cash that will line the pockets of these OTA’s.

So, how can we stop them?

One simple way is to just speak to your contact point at each of these OTA’s and ask them nicely to stop bidding on your brand terms. This is a bit of a hit and miss with some people reporting this works while other times the OTA’s make no changes.

The second way is to make a simple brand ad on these search engines. Not only will this make the OTA’s clicks far more expensive (and therefore less likely to bid in the first place) but it will also get you a lot of clicks for pennies. For the rest of this blog, we will describe how you can set up brand ads on Google search.

Step 1 – Create an account

Creating an account on Google is very intuitive and can be done here. Make sure to have card details handy!

Once set up, you should see a dashboard similar to the below.

Step 2 – Create a campaign

Next, you will want to click the big blue button under campaigns in order to start setting up your campaign.

Now select ‘without a goals guidance’

Now choose ‘Search’ and click on the blue continue button.

Untick the display network as below and name your campaign. Under additional settings, you can choose to edit the start date as well as some more customisation options. We’d advise leaving everything as default.

Under location, as a rule of thumb, we’d say to make it global only if you are certain you are the only hotel with your name. Otherwise, we’d suggest making it nationwide. If you have a very common name, set the targeting to global and we will later explain what you can do.

Leave languages and audiences as is, unless you know exactly how these work and want to test otherwise.

Now to the most important part; budgets and bids. Set an amount you would be happy to spend everyday and then we’d recommend the settings seen below as a baseline. Note that the absolute top of the page will mean you show up above OTA’s. We’d recommend setting a maximum CPC because this will avoid you paying too much for those all-important clicks. Note that just because you set a budget of say £50 per day, does not mean you will spend this much. If you are getting as many searches as ‘Hilton’ you’ll spend more but if you only get a few a day, you will get much less.

You will see the yellow warning about tracking conversions – while it is true on generic terms you want to pay the least amount for a booking, in this case, our goal isn’t bookings, it’s coverage above the OTA’s.

Next click save and continue!

Step 3 – Create your ad groups

You will now be taken to an ad group page that shows you are on the second of 4 steps to setting up your ads. An ad group is a group of very similar search terms with the same intent. For example ‘Bristol hotel’ & ‘Hotel in Bristol’ would be in the same ad group but ‘Clifton hotel’ may be in a different ad group, as someone searching for Clifton should see an ad saying Clifton and not Bristol.

For your brand ad, we will just have one ad group named ‘Brand terms’. The next section named ‘Keywords’ is where you will enter all the terms that people use to search your brand. See below the example for The Royal High Hotel. Notice how everything is in speech marks or brackets, this is because this tells Google we are using phrase match and exact match. You can learn more about match types here but essentially, this is the best one to use if you would rather not allow Google to go mad with your money.

Now, if you have a very common name, the trick here will be to add your location to each keyword where appropriate. If your location may be defined as multiple words (e.g Bristol Vs Clifton), repeat these keywords for each location term that may be used.

When that’s done, click save and continue!

Step 4 – Create your ads

In this final step, you have the option to add 15 headlines and 4 description lines, all limited by character amount. This is what will actually be showing on Google when someone types in a keyword you’ve chosen. Note that people searching will typically only see 2 or 3 headlines plus 1 or 2 descriptions, what will show will be determined by what Google teams ‘most relevant’.

First, add your final URL and then we recommend adding at least 5 headlines and 2 description lines. This means that when Google is choosing 1 or 2 headlines plus 2 description lines, you are providing it choice which can be used to determine which copy is best (and can therefore receive the lowest CPC’s). See below our example for The Royal High Hotel.

Once finished, click done then save and continue.

And that’s it! Your new campaign is ready to be published. We recommend you check in every few days initially and then once a month from then on. This ad will take you 20 minutes to set up but will save you thousands in OTA commission over the course of time. Good luck!

Bonus Task: Set up a Bing account and repeat the above process. Set up conversion tracking in Google Tag Manager and see how these clicks are leading to bookings on your website.