Although the concept of metasearch may be new to some hoteliers and hosts, it’s actually been part of the travel industry for over 20 years.
Sometimes called “a search engine for search engines,” a metasearch platform acts as an information aggregator. In the case of hotels, a metasearch engine aggregates hotel information and rates from a variety of online distribution channels and displays them all in one place. This enables trip planners to compare hotel booking options without having to visit every site.
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The most popular metasearch platforms in the hospitality industry include Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor, KAYAK, Trivago, and Skyscanner. Some metasearch sites also aggregate information for flights, car rentals, and activities, allowing travelers to plan an entire trip from one travel site.
Hotel metasearch vs. online travel agencies
So what is the difference between metasearch sites and online travel agencies? The main difference is that OTAs provide room rates and booking capabilities for only one booking channel – their own – whereas metasearch sites display rates for multiple booking channels – sometimes up to twenty or even more.
If the hotel is maintaining rate parity, there shouldn’t be a lot of difference among the room rate offerings across booking sites. In reality, however, there are often significant variances, and the site that offers the lowest rate typically receives the most clicks. To attract bookings, advertisers often try to undercut one another, even by just a dollar or two.
Another key difference between metasearch sites and OTAs is the booking model. OTAs work on a commission model, typically charging hotels a percentage of the total booking value (room rate + taxes and fees). Metasearch engines, on the other hand, work primarily on a cost-per-click business model, although most now offer a commission model too.
What is hotel metasearch marketing?
Metasearch marketing is the use of metasearch engines by hotels as an advertising channel to increase exposure, build awareness, and attract bookings. Metasearch advertising places a hotel or destination in search result listings and includes real-time room rates and a direct link to the hotel’s website. Depending on the site, hotels may also be able to add marketing messaging such as free cancellation or complimentary breakfast.
In addition to room rates, the order in which listings appear on metasearch platforms can also have a significant bearing on click volume. Typically, the higher the link is on the page, the more clicks it generates. So it’s not enough to be listed on a metasearch site; hotels also must compete with other advertisers to appear as high as possible in relevant search results.
When hotels don’t advertise on a metasearch site, a link to their website won’t appear, and the user is likely to book their stay through one of the OTAs or other intermediaries listed. Not only does the hotel miss out on an opportunity to get a direct booking, but it must also pay a commission to the OTA if a booking results. This is a key reason why metasearch campaigns are an essential part of a well-rounded hotel marketing strategy.
How does hotel metasearch advertising work?
Depending on the platform, hotels typically can choose between two metasearch payment models: cost-per-click (CPC) or commission-based. In the cost-per-click model, also called pay-per-click (PPC), the hotel pays a fee to the metasearch engine for every click that leads to its own website. The hotel bids for ad placements to compete with other advertisers for a higher ranking in hotel search results, setting a maximum CPC fee or budget. Generally, the higher the bid, the higher the ranking, but other factors may also be taken into consideration, such as the room rate, ad relevance, and landing page quality.