Hotels vs. The OTA’s: How to Succeed in a Highly Competitive World

Travel and Hospitality is one of the most competitive verticals in paid search and the struggle between the hotels direct and third-party online travel agencies like Expedia, Orbitz,,, and others has been well documented. In order for hotels to compete with their deep-pocketed competitors they must be willing to embrace new features and techniques. Below are a handful of best practices to follow in some of the most valuable and competitive real estate available on the web.
DO Utilize as many SERP features as possible.
Google has added a plethora of features over the years that advertisers can use to offer additional information and increase their Click Through Rate.

Both Branded and Non-branded terms in the travel vertical are very competitive and by taking advantage of these features the hotel is able to dramatically increase their visibility.

In this example the Wynn Las Vegas is doing a fantastic job of leveraging as many opportunities as are available, including:

  1. Utilizing the Image Extensions
  2. Using a display phone number to direct customers into their call center
  3. Extended sitelinks which add additional text to their existing sitelinks
  4. Google + account information
  5. Well managed Google Places account including hotel information and an events calendar
DON’T Take your branded terms for granted
There is an attitude that bidding on Brand terms is a waste of money and that users searching these terms will be naturally drawn to organic listings. This will unfortunately cause the advertiser to miss out on traffic from motivated and qualified consumers.

By not taking advantage of these opportunities the hotel risks handing the user over to an OTA who will take a percentage of any booking made for that hotel or even direct the user to book another property completely.

In this example Tropicana Las Vegas is missing out on an opportunity to secure a premium spot by:

  1. Not bidding on a very valuable Branded Term which allows third-parties to secure premium position for what is most likely a low CPC.
DO Offer the most relevant landing page for the query
Many hotels do most everything right in choosing keywords, writing relevant ad copy, and utilizing extensions but they may be missing out on a key component – taking users to relevant landing pages.

If a consumer is using search terms that include keywords like ‘rates’, ‘reservations’, or ‘book’ they should be taken as deep into the booking funnel as possible. By forcing a user into additional, unnecessary clicks, hotels run the risk of losing this highly qualified consumer before they have an opportunity to secure the booking.

In this example the Bellagio is doing a great job with their keyword coverage and ad copy but are doing a poor job landing users on a page relevant to their query.

  1. Term being searched is a highly qualified and displays an intent to book
  2. Rather than taking the user directly to a page they can input dates they are taken to the Bellagio home page
  3. User must then select from the drop down menu to initiate booking process
  4. Date form is then populated
  5. The user is still not given rates and must finally hit the ‘Search Availability’ button, 4 clicks into the process rather than one, which could have been avoided if they were taken to the proper landing page
DON’T Ignore extension options
Google offers many extension opportunities and the more the advertiser embraces these the more likely they are to secure the click and booking. Examples of extensions that are useful in the Travel space are:

  • Sitelinks
  • Call Extensions
  • Social Extensions
  • Location Extensions
  • Image Extensions
In this example Palace Station is showing up first for a branded search term and showing a relevant ad but they are not utilizing any extensions which would greatly improve their ads, by not enabling these features they risk losing the click to other competitors in the organic space such as and
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