In the early days of Adwords we used to sit on the fence somewhat as to the benefits, As time has passed and Adwords has become better understood we now believe that no hotel can afford to be without Adwords. If a hotel has more more money than they know what do with, then they probably dont need Adwords, simply allow the OTA's to bid on your name on Adwords and divert your business through their own systems away from your own website. (If you dont believe this is true then try asking asking your OTA to stop bidding on your property name on Adwords and see what their response is).
So what is Adwords?
Thanks to a European Ruling Adwords is now a little clearer. When you do a search for something like 'Hotel in Birmingham', you will see at the top of the page Ads (indicated by the little yellow 'ads' image). Somebody has paid to have their add placed at the top of the page; Maybe FAQ's will help at this point;
How does Google know when to display your ad?
When you set up Adwords you tell the system to display your ad when people search using particular keywords ie 'hotel in birmingham', 'cheap birmingham hotel' etc
What text can be displayed in the ad?
You decide, there are some quite strict rules to follow, but effectively you have about 70 characters to use. We see some hotels getting quite creative and aggressive with their messages to encourage customers to book direct, ie 'Official Website, Free Breakfast when you Book Direct....' etc etc
How do i get my ad to display at the top?
Google of course will display at the top the ads of the company who has agreed to pay the most for that position? However Google have been clever enough to prevent big marketing budget companies from buying up every keyword in the world by factoring in a quality score ie If Ford was to bid on the keyword 'Birmingham Hotel' and divert people to their own website customers are likely to leave the Ford website very quickly not getting what they were looking for. Google Can measure this and penalise such ads.
So what sort of ads should i set up?
Good question, and this is where some knowledge of Adwords is useful. We would argue that the ads that work the best are the ads where the property is bidding on keywords that reflect their own name, ie the Poplars Hotel in Birmingham would set up ads that would display when someone searches on the keyword 'Poplar Hotel Birmingham'. Some of you might now be thinking this is a bit ridiculous given that your website should come to the top of Google automatically when someone searches for your name. You may come top for 'organic searches' but sitting on top will be OTA's Adwords. You would be right in thinking that by setting up Adwords for people who are searching for you by name you are in fact simply competing with the OTA's! But if you dont do that you will see all your direct business bleed to the OTA's.
What other sort of Ads should i set up?
In addition to setting up ads for your own brand name you also need some that target particular features of your hotel or your location. So in the case of Poplar Hotel Birmingham if you had a spa you may set up an ad that displays when people search with the keywords 'spa hotel birmingham'. If the Poplar hotel was close to the airport you may set up an ad targetting people searching with the keywords 'hotel near birmingham airport' etc.
Is Adwords worth the cost?
Good question, but you would have to ask the question if it isnt why are the OTA's investing so much in it? In fact with the help of Google Analytics we are now able to track the cost of adwords versus the amount of rooms sold by adwords. For example Poplar Hotel may have invested 300£ in adwords but we can see that this results in 3450£ of room bookings. We would be disappointed if Adwords is not returning 100£ for every 10£ invested (ie a return of 10 to 1, we do have some campaigns running a return of 20 to 1). All this has to be stacked against a lower return on investment of approx 6.5 to 1 with every room sold on an OTA ie for every 100€ of rooms they sell they charge you 15€ of commission.
Why arent more hotel using Adwords?
We do see a strong growth in hotels investing in Adwords, but still we estimate that less than 20% of our hotels are currently using Adwords, (up from 11% 12 months ago). The problem as ever is the collision between the Travel and Leisure industry (with its emphasis on human skills) and the technical online world. In simple terms many hotels dont understand or have the skills to set up and Maintain Google Adwords, and until this is addressed they will see their business continue to bleed away from their websites towards the OTA's.