Competing for guests in our tech-centric world typically includes having a strong and engaging presence on OTA websites.
Researching hotels on OTA review sites are often the first step in a traveler’s guest journey, which in turn makes those listings an important aspect of most hotels’ marketing strategy and why the latest change to the Expedia Marketplace is something important for all hoteliers to understand.
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Starting this August, Expedia Group is releasing new Search and Sort Factors in their marketplace that will affect how hotels appear in Expedia’s search results. These new factors will look at both the strength of the listing itself as well as reviews and ratings that place a priority on the ‘guest experience’ at your hotel.
What are Search & Sort Factors?
When a traveler searches for hotels on Expedia, they want to find the property that best suits their needs, whether it’s searching purely by location and price point, or a more refined search for pet-friendly accommodations, hotels with spas, resorts with activities for kids, and so on.
Expedia then uses a variety of factors to create a ‘quality score’ that determines where each relevant hotel listing will appear in the results for that given search. As Expedia looks to expand the relevancy of their marketplace, they are introducing the new Search and Sort Factors that will replace the current ‘quality score’ and create a more transparent ranking methodology for search results.
These new metrics are contained within two main components: Offer Strength and Guest Experience
According to Expedia, Offer Strength is intended to “measure how complete your listing content is and how competitive your rates and availability are.” In all fairness, these factors are already actively considered in Expedia’s search result placements but will take on additional importance and are set to become more ‘traveler centric’ going forward.
The Guest Experience factor is completely new and measures “how frequently your property delivers great experiences to guests who have booked through Expedia’s travel booking websites, taking into account relocation and refund rates, average ratings from cleanliness, amenities, room comfort, staff and service, and the property as a whole.”
Taken together, these two factors will impact your sort order, with the goal of elevating hotels with the most positive traveler feedback to the top of the search result list. As we all know, the higher your hotel appears in the search results, the more visibility you get from prospective customers and the greater chance of that guest moving your hotel into the consideration and booking phase of their journey.
Properties that “consistently deliver poor guest experiences” will not only be moved to the bottom of the list and lose crucial visibility but may be removed entirely from the Expedia marketplace in certain ‘egregious’ cases.
To ensure hotels know where they stand with Expedia and these new metrics, they can log into the Partner Central area of the marketplace to see the latest impacts of the Search and Sort Factors on your listing, including where your hotel is performing well and tips for areas that need improvement.
What does this change mean for hotels?
From Expedia’s perspective, these new ranking factors are intended to reward the properties that consistently deliver great guest experiences. For the evolving Offer Strength component, it’s imperative for hotels to ensure their Expedia listing is as complete and enticing as possible by:
- Accurately depicting your hotel’s amenities, design, location, and services
- Consistently responding to all reviews, both positive and negative, and implementing changes as necessary to deal with significant or recurring issues
- Working with your revenue management team to ensure your pricing is competitive with your comp set
The new Guest Experience factor is a little more complicated as it will largely be determined by the guests that go to Expedia and submit reviews. This in turn puts added pressure on hotels to ensure they are not only delivering excellence at every touchpoint on the guest journey but can convince those guests to leave positive reviews online.
Some tips for getting guests to submit their review on Expedia and other OTA sites include:
- Incorporate a review request as part of the check-out process, whether in-person from a staff member or electronically
- Utilize your social media channels and loyalty program communications to share positive reviews and encourage new reviews from previous guests
- Make the process as easy as possible by including the request with a link to Expedia in your post-stay emails
While these new changes can affect your visibility in Expedia’s search results, the goal hasn’t changed, which is providing the genuine hospitality and memorable travel experiences that keep guests happy and eager to rebook in the future.