Metasearch is a tool that many potential guests use to research their trips and most look at many sites before they book. It’s a way for potential guests to see your hotel compared to others and make an informed choice of where to book. It’s also a great way to attract first-time stays, bringing them into the CRM so you can market to them directly in the future. You can’t afford not to be represented.
For hotels, Metasearch can also be a tool that can “level the playing field,” placing smaller hotels alongside bigger travel companies and OTAs to compete for direct bookings. If you have a good strategy in place, you should be winning on rates when potential guests shop via metasearch and therefore winning direct bookings.
Recently, Toby Berger, Managing Director of Sales for APAC, spoke on a panel put on by TripTease about the future of metasearch for hotels at the Direct Booking Summit in Singapore. The panel discussed how hoteliers can make the most of metasearch in a fragmented OTA landscape. What came through in the panel is that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for metasearch. However, there are some best practices that you should be following.
You need to do the math
Make sure your brand is listed on all metasearch sites—you want your brand out there competing with the OTAs. For other channels, you should first and foremost be thinking about the cost of acquisition. That will impact where you want to source your guests. Direct is obviously the best option when available, it’s the cheapest and enables you to build loyalty by direct marketing to your guests, but you’ll likely need other channels, such as OTAs, to fill out your occupancy, and those could cost you anywhere from 15-25 percent per booking.
You’ll also want to consistently and continuously analyze the channels you’re using to determine if they’re working for you. Know how the ROI of one channel compares to another. You also want to think about when you’re getting bookings from each channel. Are these channels providing guests only during your high season? They might be less valuable. Are they helping to fill rooms in low season? If so, perhaps a higher cost of acquisition is acceptable. If a particular channel is bringing in international travelers that you may not have directly marketed to, or a higher volume of guests, you may want to weigh those factors as well. It’s complex. That’s why there is no single answer for all hotels. You want a mix of channels that meets your needs.
Reputation in three key metrics
Reputation is key to your success as a hotelier: For sites like TripAdvisor, your rating is going to determine how many people see your hotel, and ultimately how many people book your rooms through those sources. And three factors, generally speaking, determine your reputation:
- Volume – How many reviews are you getting?
- Quality – Are the reviews good reviews or bad reviews?
- Recency – Are the reviews from this year, or five years ago?
Keeping your guests reviewing you (and giving you good reviews) is key to your success. In 2018, Revinate survey customers generated about 51% (93k of 182k) of all of their TripAdvisor volume via survey publishing – post-stay surveys sent to guests with the option to publish them as reviews. Getting that large a volume of reviews can really help boost your ranking on metasearch sites. A Cornell Study (April 2016) found that those hotels using Revinate surveys saw an average 10% increase in ranking on TripAdvisor, and 58% increased their ranking by some degree.
There are other things you can do to boost your hotel’s success rate on metasearch sites. For example, according to TripAdvisor, responding to 50% of reviews increases the likelihood of receiving a booking inquiry by 24% when compared to those who did not respond to reviews.
Putting it all together
In general, to succeed you need to focus on the guest and what they want. While that may seem like a truism in the hotel industry, it is the foundation for your success. You have to understand that metasearch provides convenience to the traveler by having all the rates, options and more all in one place. That convenience also levels the playing field a bit for hotels without the marketing budgets of larger brands. But only if you take advantage of the opportunity.
Look at it from the guest perspective and optimize for that experience. Companies like Uber and Amazon are successful because of this customer-centric approach. As a hotel, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re listed on metasearch sites and that you’ve put the right strategies in place, in terms of encouraging guest reviews, maintaining competitive rates, and ensuring that you’re monitoring your cost of acquisition. Getting that right will mean more bookings. Which will mean more positive reviews and recommendations, which means more “meta-juice.” It’s a virtuous circle.