Google will now let hotels and travel companies globally appear in hotel booking links on
google.com/travel for free. While the move it being positioned as a way to help the COVID-19-battered travel and hotels industry, it would also mean that users can use online travel services from other companies without leaving the Google ecosystem.
The company said that testing showed that individual hotels and online travel aggregators both saw increased booking traffic and engagement via the free booking links. “With full access to a wider range of hotel prices, users will have a more comprehensive set of options as they research their trip and ultimately decide where to book,” Richard Holden, VP of product management for travel said in a blog.
The change to from paid to free listings is part of a larger effort by Google to move many of its destinations that were previously powered by paid ads to become free listings. In April 2020, Google had changed Shopping results from being determined by paid ad auctions to free listings, positioning it as a move to support retailers through the COVID-19 crises. After the launch of free e-commerce listings, Google saw “significant lift in user engagement from the changes”, with a 70% lift in clicks on the Shopping tab and a 130% lift in impressions.
A few months later, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, Google extended free listings to main Search results. Product listings in the Search knowledge panels (when users searched for particular terms) became organic and free.
In January 2020, it had also made it free for partners to participate in Google Flights, turning all listings for flights to organic. Further, it had eliminated online travel agency ads that appeared without prices at the bottom of Google Flights.
Google said it will “continue building this open platform”, “so that all partners will have even more opportunities to highlight their information and help people book a flight, find a place to stay, or explore a new destination”.
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