What the End of Google’s Carousel Means for Hotel Marketers
As of November 14, Google officially began the process of removing the top-of-page Carousel listings across several categories including hotels, restaurants and entertainment, as well as various random search queries. For hotels, the Carousel has instead been replaced by a “3-Pack” of organic listings that occupy premier real estate below the top AdWords placements, pushing organic listings further down the SERPs and “below the fold.” The new 3-Pack is comprised of top organic listings relevant to the search query. These listings within the 3-Pack will link (green box) to individual hotel pages with Hotel Ads (formally HPA) integration. There will also be a “More Hotels” link (orange box) at the bottom of the 3-Pack driving to a full page of sortable local results with map integration.
Why the changes?
While Google will always point to an improved user experience first, rest assured that any changes to the SERP, such as the 3-Pack, ultimately benefit Google from a revenue standpoint. This is apparent by the fact that the entire above-the-fold screen is now monetized with a combination of paid search ads and ad-supported feeds. The removal of the Carousel immediately moves paid search listings to their accustomed prominent placement at the top of SERPs. Recent eye-tracking studies have suggested that right-hand rail ads were getting less attention because of the Carousel and the right-hand side map. With this new format, paid ad click share will likely increase.
The 3-Pack also improves on the user flow when engaging within the listings, connecting queries and content closer together. The search industry feedback on Carousel was tepid at best, given the confusing user flow (multiple clicks) as well as the prominence on the SERPs, so we do not expect the least bit of outcry from either consumers or marketers. Hotel Ads also benefit with a seamless integration within the hotel pages rather than being one additional click away. Lastly, Google has increasingly taken a mobile-first approach given the ad industry revenue trends that will become even more pronounced in 2015 and beyond. Mobile revenue will soon eclipse that of desktop, and while the overall revenue will also increase, desktop will experience attrition and Google must adapt to protect revenue streams. The 3-Pack concept was first implemented on the smaller screen format of a mobile search experience and this enhancement has now been identically applied to desktop to mimic mobile and, it can be argued, to further monetize desktop.
Google does not implement any changes without a significant amount of testing and analysis, so we fully expect that paid search traffic will not be negatively impacted and, in fact, could experience a bump in volume now that paid listings will no longer compete with the intrusive Carousel placements at the top of the SERPs. It is fair to assume that organic search will be negatively impacted even though the 3-Pack is based on algorithmic listings. This is due to limited inventory and those listings being at least one additional click away from the hotel website. Google continues to make strides to hold on to the searcher longer by driving click traffic to Google content before going directly to brand/hotel sites. Traditional organic listings once again suffer the “below-the-fold” fate with this implementation and continue to add fuel to the Google Pay to Play model taking effect.
Google Hotel Ads
We anticipate that there will be a substantial increase in overall Hotel Ads traffic, primarily from Local Universal Search. This is typically the highest converting placement for hotel advertisers, so the impact should be positive; however, it is unknown if CPCs will be impacted and will increase at a great rates than conversion rates, thus negatively affecting ROI. Hotel marketers should closely monitor the impact for both paid search and Hotel Ads over the next few weeks to ensure performance expectations are met and campaign optimizations are adjusted accordingly.
Still have questions on what this means for your business? Give us a shout.
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