Within the past months, Google has started to make some significant changes to its Travel search. The most recent update I touched on was the change to the Local 3-Pack Map results in regard to hotels and bed and breakfast listings. However, now there has been additional changes that also include vacation rental properties and even a packages feature. Many of these changes aren’t noticeable to the day-to-day user, specifically if you aren’t planning a vacation since that is really the main use for their Travel search. But, if you manage a hotel or vacation rental company, it is worth taking a look at the new changes that have been made to Google Travel.
Google Travel Review
For those of you who haven’t used Google Travel yet, let’s do a quick review of what it is. Overall, Google Travel is very similar to Expedia or Orbitz. It originally started as a mobile app called Google Trips. However, as of August 5th, the app is no longer available and all the features are now available in Google Search and Google Maps, but you can find virtually everything you need by going to Google’s desktop website: google.com/travel. Here, you can search for flights, hotels, packages and other trip-planning tools. It is basically a one-stop vacation planning service. With that, let’s get into the recent changes and updates that have been made, specifically regarding search engine marketing.
Vacation Rental Property Listings
Back in the spring, Google expanded its travel searches to include vacation rental properties. Originally, travelers could only search for available hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts. Now, with the addition of vacation rental properties, it gives vacation planners an even larger range of lodging options. Google has joined with a variety of travel partners including Expedia, HomeAway, VRBO, and more in order to provide you with these results. Basically, if you have your vacation rental listed on one of these websites, Google will also display it in their search results. What does this mean for companies who aren’t listed on the websites Google has partnered with? Well, from my research, I don’t think your vacation rental can technically show up in Google’s Travel search results. You need to list it with at least one of those travel partners. There is more that goes into this which you can read here. So, then what are the perks of having your rental show up in Google Travel then? Well, it allows for more exposure. Some people don’t necessarily go directly to websites like VRBO to book anymore. Therefore, having your rental property also show up in Google can bring more exposure to your rental properties. Google is basically competing with sites like Airbnb, which also charge a large “guest service fee” on top of the rental amount. Therefore, Google is also working to avoid those fees by displaying comparative pricing and booking directly with the property manager instead.
This new feature also comes with more options to narrow down your search. You can filter the results by the exact number of rooms you need and other amenities such as pet-friendly, pool, patio, etc. Therefore, when filling out your vacation rental amenities, make sure to include as much information about your property as possible so that your rental shows up for what users are searching for.
Google Travel Packages Are Now Available
If you’ve ever planned or searched for a trip on a website like Expedia than you’ve seen them promote the “Bundle and Save” option. Basically, if you book more than one service through them, you can save money. For example, book both your hotel and car rental and save! Or, book your flight, hotel and car rental and save! This is the same idea that Google is offering now with their Packages feature. However, I am currently only seeing a hotel + flight package option.
Let’s Test it Out
I did a search to see if Google’s prices were comparable to Expedia and this is what I found. I did a 4-day trip from Detroit to Charleston, SC. I picked the Francis Marion Hotel with the same exact flight details and room choice. Google Travel’s package was $678 a person, compared to Expedia which was less at $611 a person. The prices were similar until I was officially at booking on Expedia, where it then dropped $80. I’m not sure why that happened, but if it will save me another $80 I’m going with that. Then when I went to book the flight on Google, it said I had to book the hotel and flight separately. And it directed me to Expedia to book the hotel and Delta to book the flight. So, I’m not really sure what is going on with Google’s Travel Package feature yet. From my experience so far, I think it has partnered with Expedia. So, maybe it is just another useful feature that Google has created for users. But from my own experience so far, I’ve found it’s cheaper to go directly to Expedia to book a Bundle + Save vacation.
Overall, it seems that Google is continuously working to make them a one-stop vacation planning experience. From booking your flight, hotel, vacation rental property, and finding things to do while on vacation. While the flight and hotel feature has been around for a few years, it will be interesting to see the progress it continues to make for travel industry businesses in relation to search engine marketing.