Google Local places renewed focus on ratings
 
Google Local places renewed focus on ratings
28 JUNE 2013 6:24 AM

Google Local now features a carousel of images, which is all part of Google’s plan to maximize the user experience.

Google announced last week that local results will now be displayed differently in Google Search. For example, for queries such as “Miami hotels,” Google will now be displaying a carousel of images that match the query for local results. On these results, it will display hotel name, images, Zagat rating, address and interactive map functionality. The initial results will provide a corresponding Google Map with markers.


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While hovering over a hotel within the carousel, Google will show the property on the map below.


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Clicking on the image will also turn into an automatic Google search of the property name. The results seem to come up randomly but no official word from Google on how these results appear was found.


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Sam Trotter
 

This change is all part of Google's focus on maximizing the user experience and will certainly become a spot for advertising in the near future. This might be a serious issue for online travel agencies who are likely major advertisers. Despite this, Google continues its focus on making search local, and it will be beneficial for early adopters. With the popularity of review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, Google is clearly looking to compete and provide a superior source of information.

What does this mean for your property?
Without much testing since the release, it is hard to understand what the impact will be on your bottom line and which photos will work best. What is definite is the renewed need to focus on your Google/Zagat ratings, which can be a challenge for hoteliers. Another clear point will be the need for the marketing department to test the 100 x 100 pixel photo that will attract visitors to your website and will now be circulated to thousands of potential guests. This will be a massive benefit to your favorite photographer and hopefully, by staying ahead of the pack, more direct business and bookings to your hotel.

How to change the carousel photo?
To change your hotel’s photos, your hotel’s ecommerce department will need to have already verified your business with Google. If that has not been done, businesses can either login to Google Places for Business or create a Google+ listing. Google will authenticate the business by sending a letter to your address with a verification code. Once verified, your hotel will then be able to respond to guest reviews within Google+ and make changes to your appearance within the carousel.

Other factors
While your website now has more opportunity to show up, the competition for your brand’s keywords will also become more competitive. Sites like Booking.com often bid on hotel brand name keywords in the hopes of winning over a booking that was originally destined for brand.com. Booking.com and other OTAs also won’t mind offering other hotel options. An effective brand campaign strategy should be part of your pay-per-click campaign to ensure visitors are booking with you.

The good news? Specific hotel name PPC campaigns are inexpensive. An average cost per click of around 7 cents to 15 cents for most hotels in not unrealistic. Compare this with a minimum PPC of $2 on keywords that you are paying for in your market. At 7 cents, 1,000 visitors will cost just $70. If your conversion rate is 1% and the average booking is a conservative $100, your hotel just made $1,000 on $70. A 14:1 return on investment.

Sam Trotter is portfolio eCommerce Manager at Boutique Hospitality Management. Besides focusing on website revenues, Sam dives into how technology can positively influence a hotel's business. A self-confessed data junky, Sam Trotter provides news and analysis on website design, applications, marketing programs and other digital trends that are or will affect a hotel's business. To continue the dialogue or for the latest technology news that impacts your hotel, follow him on http://twitter.com/sammy_miami or at http://linkedin.com/in/samtrotter.

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