What Are Hotel Meta Search Engines?

Of the various tools that are available for modern hotel owners, few are as useful as hotel meta search engines. In this article, we will go over what they are and how they work for hotels. We will also compare hotel meta search engines and OTAs. 

What Precisely Are Hotel Meta Search Engines?

Hotel meta search engines (also sometimes written as hotel metasearch engines) are online platforms that send requests to multiple search engines and aggregate the results into a single, comprehensive list.

A hotel meta search engine might target a potential traveler. Such an individual would then be shown a list of aggregated websites. They can use these to compare hotel availability and prices in real-time.

Meta search engines belong to the burgeoning industry known as digital marketing. They have been part of the hotel industry for several years now, but they continually prove their worth to hotel owners. 

Over the past few years, in particular, hotel meta search advertising has only seen more money pumped into it. It now contributes to the overall revenue of a great many accommodation providers and hotels.

It would be accurate to say that in terms of marketing dollars, hotel meta search engines are gaining ground on OTAs, which is shorthand for Online Travel Agents. We will compare these two tools in more detail a little later in this article. 

In part, meta search engines can attribute their rise in popularity to objective positioning. Many frequent travelers and hotel guests like what meta search engines provide and use them regularly. 
It is believed that 73% of travelers regularly use Metasearch during the pre-booking phase, making it an essential marketing channel for maximizing online presence and driving direct bookings.

How Does a Meta Search Engine Work for a Hotel?

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what a meta search engine does. Say that a user gives one a set of dates and a location. The meta search tool instantly goes to work. Within a few moments, it will return a list of hotel options in that particular area and on those specific dates. This output will also include room availability and up-to-the-minute rates. 

A user can get more in depth with this list, though. For instance, let’s say they click on one of the options they find intriguing. They can then see details about that property. They can access reviews, lists of amenities, and photos. 

If they decide they like what they’re seeing and want to pull the trigger on their stay at that hotel, they will then be directed away from the meta search engine. This is where either a hotel’s direct booking website or an OTA will come into play. One of these two places is where the would-be traveler will make the actual reservation.

Hotel meta search engines can collate virtually endless hotel options into one portal. This convenience is part of why they are so popular with vacationers, business travelers, and others who are traveling for other reasons. 

On the hotel’s end, it’s easy to see why they would like to have this sort of tool working for them as well. This kind of framework allows the owner or operator to reach a larger audience. As you might imagine, using a hotel meta search engine is a way for them to potentially increase their direct bookings. 

Now, let’s run through a more detailed breakdown of how a hotel owner can get a meta search engine working for their property.

The First Step

One thing you’ll need to consider is that there are many hotel meta search engines that are competing in a crowded marketplace. As a hotel owner or operator, it makes sense to study them a little to see which one seems best suited for your particular situation. 

You might choose from ones like:

  • Trivago
  • Kayak
  • TripAdvisor
  • Google Hotels

The Second Step

Once you have chosen which hotel meta search engine you would like to use, next, you will ensure that you have the right kind of booking engine. You need one that will merge seamlessly with that meta search engine. Most modern ones should have this capability, but if you have a stripped-down booking engine that can’t do it, you may have to upgrade to a different one to get the integration you’re seeking.

The right booking engine will not just integrate with the hotel meta search engine that you’ve chosen. It will also have the capability of keeping the engine up to date with your rates and availability as they change. This probably happens frequently, and you obviously want the hotel meta search engine that you’ve chosen to have accurate information on it to avoid any customer dissatisfaction.

If you’re interested in getting more direct bookings, you’ll also want a booking engine that will connect the potential customer to your direct booking website instead of to an OTA. 

The Third Step

Next, you will need to create a meta search engine marketing budget. For this, you will probably need to bring in some outside help, unless you are already well-versed in marketing. 

You might hire an agency that can advise you on how much of your marketing budget to dedicate to this endeavour. You may also choose to have an individual or team on staff permanently who can be in charge of this aspect of your business. 

Once you have a budget in place for your hotel meta search engine that you feel makes sense, you can plan every aspect of your campaign and get it up and running. This is often an exciting time. 

The meta search engine you have chosen will get paid either a commission or a CPC (cost-per-click) fee. This applies every time someone makes a booking through this tool.

The Fourth Step

At this point, you should closely monitor the performance of your hotel meta search engine. How many new guests is it bringing in? These tools often have incredibly detailed data that can be broken down and analyzed in various ways. 

Again, if you don’t know very much about marketing, having a marketing agency on hand to talk to you about these results would be in order, or you might leave it up to the individual or team you hired to handle your marketing internally. The data-based insights you gather can be highly beneficial. 

Using those insights, you can adjust your bidding strategy. You might also try to target one particular audience segment if they seem to be responding more favorably to this form of marketing than some others.  

You can always change the amount of money you have allocated to your hotel meta search engine budget. Some adjustments will likely be necessary till you get it exactly right. 

What’s important to remember is that nothing is static when it comes to marketing. You and your team should always be ready to adjust the flow of cash you have allocated toward your marketing budget. You are always trying to get the best return on your investment. 

Now, let’s compare OTAs with hotel meta search engines.

How Do OTAs Compare to Hotel Meta Search Engines?

We mentioned OTAs, or online travel agencies, earlier. Even someone who is relatively uneducated about the hotel industry will have heard of some of the largest and most prominent ones, such as Expedia, Booking.com, Airbnb, and others.

The most vital thing when comparing these two tools is that they have fundamentally different business models. However, that is not to say that they can’t work together. They can, and it is beneficial for all parties involved when they do.

When they work in conjunction, what you get as a hotel owner is greater online exposure. You can also expect an increase in bookings, assuming everything is working as it should be.

OTAs are undeniably pivotal players in the area of online distribution for hotels. They are often the key to online sales as well. They may seem expensive for some hotels, especially smaller ones. However, you should still see them as potentially valuable partners that can help you sell your inventory. And not just through them, but also because being in the OTAs creates the billboard effect for your hotel bringing direct bookings too.

They are able to do this because:

  • They have a massive budget, so they are likely to outrank you on any search engine result page on which you’d like your hotel to appear
  • A potential guest can book their stay through one as easily as they could if they used your hotel’s website directly
  • Each one uses photos, reviews, and additional information to sell your rooms
  • They can help you get into markets to which you don’t normally have direct access

Competing with them is usually futile. Instead, you can create a distribution partnership with one. When you do, they will promote your hotel for you. You might pay a commission, but without OTAs, a large percentage of the population might overlook your hotel when they’re planning their next trip.

How Does This Business Model Compare to What a Hotel Meta Search Engine Does?

When you’re comparing hotel meta search engines and OTAs, what your mind should immediately go to is that a meta search engine collects all of the rates that are available for your hotel anywhere online. It will then comb through those and present them as a list to your potential guests. Your own website’s rates will be on there. This way, guests can find and compare hotel room prices and make a booking decision easier and faster.

While meta search engines display all of this information, they do not sell their hotel inventory in the same way OTAs do. That is the main difference between the two tools.

Tips and Best Practices When Working with Hotel Meta Search Engines

If you have heard enough about hotel meta search engines to give one a try, then you’ll be in good company, as so many hotel owners have chosen to incorporate these tools into their overall marketing strategy. Here are a couple of tips and best practices to keep in mind while you’re getting started in this new venture. 

These Tools Do Not Have a One-Size-Fits-All Strategy

If you are going to use a hotel meta search engine, you shouldn’t use the same strategy for each one. For instance, maybe you’re using TripAdvisor. Many individuals visit it each day, but there might not be as many who are actually looking to book a trip when they do. 

Because of this, you may get lots of clicks, but not many conversions. If you see that this is the case, you might set a lower cost-per-click rate.

By contrast, if you’re using Google Hotel Ads, you might see more people who are willing to convert through it. You might be willing to commit more money to this partnership accordingly.

Fine Tune Your Meta Search Approach

The top spots on meta search sites will naturally be the ones that garner the most clicks. However, getting to the top is far from easy.

You can’t outbid OTAs, but you can attempt to bypass them with a lower rate. If your cost-per-click is still quite low, though, you still won’t present any real competition.

Trying to optimize your conversion rate is a huge part of what you want to do from a marketing standpoint, but it will probably take some time to get the formula just right. Setting budget limits and playing around with your cost-per-click is almost always a part of online hotel marketing.

You’ll want to find out what CPC rate is bringing you the most success. It’s at that point when you can decide whether it is sustainable. 

Hotel meta search engines are tools that you should be aware of if you want another reliable marketing option for your hotel besides OTAs. You ignore them at your peril, since most of your competitors will probably be aware of them and using them. 

Some degree of experimentation with hotel meta search engines is often necessary until you land on one that makes you happy. As long as you have the right marketing team in place around you, though, there’s no reason to think you won’t eventually find one that benefits your business.

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