Hotels losing out on search engine advertising

By Melodie Michel contact

- Last updated on GMT

Hotels can turn to contractual agreements with OTAs to control search engine advertising
Hotels can turn to contractual agreements with OTAs to control search engine advertising

Related tags: Advertising, Trademark

Hotels could be missing out on direct bookings as a significant portion of trademark brand advertising on search engines is taken by online travel agencies (OTAs), according to research by BrandVerity.

The firm, which published a study on pay-per-click advertising triggered by hotel brand names and locations last year​, has just produced a follow-up report, this time looking and brand name-only searches.

OTA ads less present on Google

It found that while trademark usage by non-brand advertisers was less common on Google and Google Mobile, it was still high on other search engines, such as Bing, Yahoo and AOL.

“In this study, we weren’t looking at key words like ‘Hilton Chicago’, but just at the brand name itself, as well as variations of that such as misspellings. These are very core search terms that brands should be protective of, so we expected to see a somewhat lower number of OTA ads, and that’s generally what we saw.

“There was a very low incidence of OTAs advertising using the brand’s trademark on Google and Google Mobile, but we still saw quite a bit on other search engines – particularly Bing, Yahoo and AOL. It seems that hotel brands are doing some sort of monitoring on Google, but not necessarily on the others,” said BrandVerity’s Sam Engel.

BrandVerity report SERP hotels OTAs

Search term ratio

He warned that although Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, Bing and Yahoo combined represent a non-negligible portion of all searches (about 8 per cent worldwide in October 2014).

Moreover, even just on Google, the majority of searches include the brand and another word which, based on BrandVerity’s previous study, results in a lot more OTA ads.

“We’re only looking at these core brand names in the study – there are certainly a tonne of other searches where people would include the brand name alongside other words in their search, and with these they would most likely see considerably more OTA ads. Those searches certainly outweigh the brand name-only searches, by far,” Engel explained.

The importance of monitoring

Though it appears hotels are monitoring trademark term advertising on Google and Google Mobile, more can be done to reclaim search engine ad spaces.

First, hotels must be aware of the different legislations governing that type of advertising in different countries.

In some countries, including most of Europe outside the UK and Ireland, trademark owners are afforded more control over search term advertising, allowing hotel brands to register a trademark complaint over OTAs using their trademarks in ad text, and clear those ads.

But in Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK, Canada and Ireland, it is easier for non-brand advertisers to use trademark names in their ad text, meaning hoteliers should aim for contractual agreements.

“In the countries where Google allows OTAs to use trademark terms in their ad copy, we advocate monitoring what your partners are doing and getting a good sense of this. Step one is to know what you’re dealing with.

“Step two is a contractual agreement: be very specific in your agreement with OTAs about what they can and can’t do in terms of search engine advertising. Once you have that agreement in place, if you’re monitoring it you can have a very clear action plan when an OTA violates that,” Engel added. 

Read the full report here​.

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