Google are warning business owners, including hotel and B&B owners, that “fake glowing testimonies” written by reputation management companies on Google+ Local pages will be taken down.
Google+ Local used to just be called Google Places. It’s essentially just normal Google search with a location slant. These local search results appear anytime an online user combines a search item with a geographical modifier, i.e., “B&B York.” The results appear as a listing and as pins on a map. They are sorted by their relevance, which is determined by how close each B&B is to your current location when you search.
As part of its continuing effort to convince people that it really can generate the sort of profits that will justify its huge stock market valuation, Facebook is now trailing its latest wheeze: Graph Search. But what is it and what might it mean for owners of B&Bs, guest houses, cottages and independent hotels?
The fundamental motive behind Graph Search is this: exploiting Facebook’s one billion-plus user base to provide you with results that are appropriate to you, based on what people you are already connected to have liked (or, to be more accurate, “liked”) in the past. So, for instance, if you’re travelling to London and want B&B recommendations, Facebook will serve search results for B&Bs that friends (and friends of friends) have been to.
This may sound at the moment like one of those obscure tech stories only of interest to geeks. But given that so many properties are now reviewed on TripAdvisor, irrespective of size or type, it could have far reaching implications for everyone, from huge chain hotels to tiny B&Bs.
In news that surprised few commentators in the tourism industry, TripAdvisor has finally announced that it’s introducing a test version of “metasearch” for its users. This new service will cover both desktop and mobile versions of the site.
Booking.com’s rise in Europe seems to be unstoppable. Though they may sometimes resent its dominance, it has offered big new opportunities for independent hotels and B&Bs in particular. Smaller properties that can’t rely on the “brand” advertising of a large chain are able to use Booking.com as a platform to massively increase their visibility. They frequently pay a pretty big cut for the privilege, but there’s always the opportunity to convert Booking.com customers into repeat, direct bookers.
There are signs, however, that Booking.com is trying to control hoteliers – and squeeze them financially – more and more. Some of its strategies are outlined by Pedro Colaco (president of GuestCentric) in a recent guest article for travel tech website Tnooz…
Travel marketing gurus have been predicting the demise – or, at any rate, the weakening influence – of Internet search for a long time now. They argue that the trend of customers finding accommodation through social media recommendations is on the rise, while the traditional method of typing a search term like “B&B in …” into Google is declining.
However, as the wonderfully named Max Starkov (of hotel marketing company HeBs Digital) points out, the true picture is mixed at best: “In spite of all the new and trendy digital marketing initiatives and formats that overwhelm hoteliers nowadays, the reliable old search engines generated over 55.6% of website revenue for (our) client portfolio consisting of thousands of hotel properties… Google in particular dominates hotel search; results provide deep and relevant information, the best mapping and directions, extensive customer reviews via Zagat’s acquisition and now provide real-time hotel availability and pricing via Google Hotel Finder. No other meta search or travel site comes even close to match the richness and relevancy of hotel information provided by Google.”
It looks as if 2013 will be another challenging one for owners of B&Bs and other independent properties. With that in mind, we’re offering you the chance to download “Over 50 Tips to Boost Your Online Bookings”, a FREE EBOOK that… well, it does what the title suggests really, providing a whole range of advice for bed and breakfast owners on how to thrive in the modern, Internet-driven world.
It has been produced by our friends over at Freetobook and it is an invaluable, 43-page tutorial that takes you from the basics of creating a website for your bed and breakfast, to marketing yourself online in a cost-effective way and using channel management to bring in extra business from Booking.com, TripAdvisor and others.
Online travel booking got going in the mid-1990s. Fuelled by an unprecedented economic boom and an explosion in cheap consumer credit, it flourished at an incredible rate for the next 10 – 12 years. In recent times, however, the combination of a huge banking crisis, a sovereign debt crisis and economic slowdown in China has resulted in significantly more sluggish growth. None the less, it still accounts for a third of the global travel market.
Online booking isn’t voodoo. There are lots of private companies out there who manage to provide it to B&Bs in an efficient and cost-effective way (indeed, some of them even do it for free). Yet it seems that the moment government lumbers onto the scene, costs rise and efficiency plunges – all covered up by bureaucratic double-speak.
You may remember us mentioning a while back that the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency ordered TripAdvisor to remove the phrase “reviews you can trust” from its homepage. After many frustrating years for hotel and B&B owners, the issue of authenticity does seem to be getting more mainstream attention.
Now, one of the largest hotel companies in the world is taking matters into its own hands, by verifying all (unmediated) reviews on its own sites against a database of actual bookings.
A well thought out, attractive website and a reliable, easy-to-use booking engine are the fundamentals to getting more business for your B&B. But how do you make potential customers aware of your existence? The traditional way is to advertise. This can still be an effective strategy, but it needs to be targeted.
Here are a few suggestions for getting the best out of your advertising…