By Dave Goulden, VP of Product at Sojern
Hotels are always looking for new ways to attract travelers and drive direct bookings. From display ads to social media, video to native, marketers already have a great mix of options at their fingertips. However, a healthy multichannel marketing approach doesn’t stop there. In today’s marketing landscape, hotels must also leverage metasearch, as it has the power to drive big results.
Metasearch has the potential to be one of the most powerful marketing channels available for travel brands. Metasearch helps travelers with one the most important factors when considering travel: price. Travelers use metasearch when they’re ready to book, making it a bottom of funnel tool with a high conversion rate, which is why 60 percent of independent hoteliers rank metasearch as the most effective marketing channel. Here’s a breakdown of metasearch, its benefits, and how travel brands can get started using metasearch strategies–and reap more direct bookings.
What is metasearch?
Metasearch is a marketing or acquisition channel that drives qualified traffic to a brand’s website. Common sites include Trivago, Kayak, Tripadvisor, and Google Hotel Ads. A metasearch engine consolidates rates from multiple booking channels, such as hotel websites, wholesalers, and online travel agencies (OTAs). A marketing partner bids on the brand’s behalf using primarily a CPC model, and the traveler is then directed to the brand site.
For a traveler, metasearch functions as a rate comparison platform, allowing them to search for a room at a specific hotel and view an aggregated list of room rates. Travelers can quickly see room availability and the rates offered on different booking channels all in one place.
The benefits of activating metasearch
Metasearch can benefit brands in a number of ways. Conversion rates are high without requiring the brand to do the creative heavy lifting. At Sojern, we observe that our clients on average experience an eight percent average increase in bookings in the first month following the activation of a metasearch campaign when compared to the previous month.
In addition to high conversion rates, metasearch helps brands prepare for a cookieless world. Third-party cookies are set to become obsolete in 2023. Since metasearch doesn’t rely on third-party cookies, it will prove to be a critical channel both now and in the future.
Unlike when a customer books through an OTA, metasearch ends in a direct booking on the brand website. The brand owns the customer relationship–and the first-party data–which will enable marketers to create the best customer experience in a cookieless world. Partners can help brands use multiple metasearch sites at one time, opening up massive pathways to capture both data and bookings.
Given the benefits, it’s clear that metasearch should be part of any healthy multichannel marketing strategy. Here’s how to get started:
1. Define goals and budget. Before starting a metasearch campaign, it’s important to define goals, including expected volume and performance, as well as budget. For example, a hotel that receives five percent of bookings directly could set a realistic goal of increasing direct bookings to seven percent. The standard benchmark for performance on metasearch is between a 7-9X return on ad spend (ROAS). Once volume and performance numbers are established, brands can estimate monthly website revenue based on average daily rate (ADR) and then estimate a budget to assign to metasearch.
2. Rate parity is a key success factor. Metasearch engines pull rates dynamically from different sources of information. Those rates are then adapted to the user’s location to ensure accurate currency and tax information. This is why rate parity–maintaining a consistent rate across all distribution channels–is crucial for hoteliers. Whatever rates are sent to the OTAs must be updated everywhere.
3. Display the best rate first. Potential travelers don’t want to scroll to find the best pricing information, so brands should display the Best Available Rate (BAR) within the first two results on their webpage. While it’s tempting to drive them to the most expensive room rates, the experience is better when the first-rate they see corresponds with the one advertised on metasearch.
Metasearch is a powerful way for hotels to generate direct bookings. Not only does metasearch allow brands to get in front of travelers when they’re ready to book, they own the traveler relationship and data, which will be critical in a cookieless world. Given the benefits, hoteliers must incorporate metasearch into their direct booking strategies.