Google's massive role in growing the travel metasearch industry cannot be overstated, with many travelers today turning to the search engine as their very first stop when planning a trip and booking a hotel. Smart hoteliers that have taken advantage of Google's advertising channel have found a huge opportunity to showcase their properties to customers who are ready to book.

This year, Google is moving forward with a major transition that requires all partners to migrate their Hotel campaigns from the Hotel Ads Center to Google Ads. To continue to build their momentum within the realm of metasearch, hotel marketers need to stay on top of this changeover. Doing so will also enable them to take advantage of some major benefits of Google's Hotel campaigns, which were rolled out in 2018. Here are some best practices for hotel marketers looking to not only navigate the migration but also use it to their advantage.

The March of Progress

Over the years, Google Hotel Ads has seen frequent updates and revisions. In 2018, the introduction of Hotel campaigns marked one of the most significant changes to date by adding a new campaign level to Hotel Ads' structure. This update transitioned Hotel Ads to a product that more closely mirrors the rest of the Google Ads products.

The reason this change is so significant is that the additional campaign level allows advertisers to set multiple bid variations for a unique property, as opposed to the previous structure, which only allowed for one variation. This means more flexibility in bidding and optimization, but it also brings added complexity to building and managing a campaign structure. Hotel campaigns allow advertisers to finely tune their marketing budgets and strategically segment their audiences. Some of the benefits of Hotel campaigns include:

  • Improved bid precision: Hotel campaigns make it possible to specifically target mobile bookings and adjust the advanced booking window and stay-length multipliers, thus strategically targeting same-day mobile bookers without disrupting other strategies.
  • The ability to set specific budgets and bid strategies: Budgets and bid strategies can be set at the campaign level, which can be especially beneficial for advertisers that leverage multi-source funding or incremental budgets targeted at specific goals, such as driving bookings to a specific region or low-demand time periods.
  • Better monitoring and bid changes:  Hotel campaigns enable bidding flexibility at multiple levels, including setting default bids at multiple levels, enabling advertisers to group and optimize properties based on performance.
  • The opportunity to segment by audiences: Hotel campaigns also offer new opportunities to bid by specific customer segments or audiences.

Managing the Migration

At the time of this article's writing, the official deadline for the transition into Google Ads was set for early August, after which advertisers will no longer be able to advertise using the old Hotel Ads Center experience. For current Hotel Ads partners, the first step in migrating is to decide whether to migrate your existing campaigns to Google Ads or to create a new structure.

If you choose to migrate your current structure, there is a Campaign Migration tool in the Hotel Ads Center. This tool can be used to migrate campaigns or your entire account, and it will maintain the budget and bids you've used. It won't, however, migrate past performance data and does not currently support all bidding strategies. We recommend migrating only a couple of campaigns to test the setup and confirm performance before transferring all campaigns.

For hotel marketers who are new to Google Ads, you'll need to create an account before you can set up your first Hotel campaign. It's recommended to start with one global campaign that targets all markets and hotels and then to refine your targeting and strategy as you gain data insights into your performance and opportunities.

Digging into Hotel Campaigns

Following migration, you'll be ready to get started with Hotel campaigns on Google Ads. Just as with paid search, a campaign is a set of ad groups (ads, keywords, and bids) that share a budget, location targeting, and other settings. Now, hotels can also use a campaigns structure to set bids and location targets.

To achieve the best possible results with your campaigns, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Consider your business's needs: Precisely targeting specific segments can be very powerful. Carefully select your campaign structure to increase visibility in certain areas. If you have different budgeting segments, consider separating them, as Google caps budgets at the campaign level.
  • Test different segmentation in top markets: Uncovering what works in your top markets first will enable you to apply this knowledge to smaller markets.
  • Keep campaigns grouped by geographical markets: Your country multiplier will be the same for all ad groups and hotels in that campaign, so you will want to avoid grouping hotels in different countries together.
  • Structure campaigns by device type: There are always major performance shifts among tablet, mobile, and desktop traffic. Optimize accordingly.
  • Leverage Google audiences: Audience targeting in Google Ads allows you to meticulously choose where to increase bid multipliers. There are currently three types of audience segmentation available for Hotel campaigns: marketing lists, customer match, and similar audiences.

Marketers who are familiar with Google's paid search, display, and other offerings will likely feel right at home in migrating their Hotel campaigns from the Hotel Ads Center to Google Ads. However, for marketers who have only worked in Hotel Ads, this shift will feel a little jarring at first. The above guidelines and best practices will ensure you get off on the right foot.

Kyle Kuhnel
Koddi Inc.