Since its launch in March of 2021, the Google Free Booking Links (hereafter FBL), have had a considerable impact on the online hotel industry. Google has added an additional channel in which to develop direct channel strategies in Google Hotel Ads. After 2 months since its official launch, in this article we offer you a summary of the results so far, which have been very positive.
Summary and highlights:
- FBLs achieve a significant weight over total GHA, exceeding initial expectations:
– Bookings: 13%.
– Revenues: 15%.
– Clicks: 16%.
- FBLs complement paid ads very well, as paid ads sometimes fail to maintain 100% visibility ratios, and FBLs help to mitigate that momentary loss of visibility.
- At the moment, the free ad on the hotel’s official website always comes out in first position – above the hotel’s OTAs and paid ads. Google is clear that this is a way of rewarding the hotels, which after all are the owners of the product.
- For paid GHA campaigns we see no significant changes in terms of needing to raise bids or loss of IS (Impression Share). Therefore, FBLs are not negatively impacting the viewability of paid ads.
How did we measure the results?
- We analyzed the last 2 full months (April 21 and May 21) since the launch date, compared to the 2 full months prior to launch (January 21 and February 21).
- We sample hotels that have maintained an Impression Share (IS) of 90% or more. This way we make sure to compare hotels with the same chance of receiving a click in the paid section as in the free section (FBL).
- The sample hotels are located in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific and all had active paid GHA campaigns prior to and after the official launch of the FBL.
- Property Promotion Ads (PPA) data is excluded, which at the moment has too low a weight in bookings and clicks (around 1%).
During January and February, before the official launch, the weight of FBLs in GHA’s total bookings was 2.54%. Roiback participated in the tests prior to the official launch, which is why our hotels had FBL activated and we have concrete data. In April and May we can see that the share of bookings was 13.35%, with peaks of up to 22% on some days. This indicates the positive impact that FBLs are having on total bookings and their importance within the Google Travel ecosystem.
The graph below shows how FBLs are progressively increasing their share following their global activation worldwide in March.
At the revenue level, FBL’s share increased 2.5 points compared to bookings to 16%.
The difference between the share of bookings and revenue is due to the fact that the average booking value is slightly higher for FBL. Although we have sampled hotels with IS equal to or greater than 90%, the visibility comparison is not exact as FBLs appear in 100% of the searches, while paid ads do not appear in all searches.
FBLs have a 15% click share, in line with their revenue share, but 2 points higher than their booking share. This is explained by the booking conversion ratio, which is slightly lower for FBLs.
In terms of conversion rate, FBLs maintain a more than respectable 3.99%, although the conversion rate for paid results is higher (4.56%).
This seems logical as the paid results have much more information, showing images, room types and descriptions, which translates into higher conversion.
- FBLs account for 14% of GHA’s booking share, which shows that they are here to stay and are a fantastic tool to complement paid campaigns and achieve more direct sales and/or decrease the cost of distribution.
- Paid ads still account for the majority of GHA’s sales. It is very important not to turn them off or neglect them even though FBLs can still generate an interesting percentage of bookings.
- For paid GHA campaigns, we have not seen significant changes in terms of the need to raise bids or loss of IS (Impression Share). This tells us that FBLs are not negatively impacting the viewability of paid ads.
- FBLs help GHA ads to be more effective. If we add FBL bookings to paid bookings, GHA’s overall CPA for Roiback hotels with active paid campaigns has gone down. This allows us to raise bids for paid ads, and thus achieve higher visibility and sales.