Understanding Google My Business & Local Search
Bed & Breakfasts Forced to “Suck Hind Teat” at Google
Tim Capper pointed out a few weeks ago How Google Exploits the Hospitality Industry for Profit. Bed and Breakfasts are effectively treated as hotels on Google so they have to put up with all of that and then some.
Growing up my father raised dogs. When there was a new litter, the runt was often forced to the rear and maybe not able to get any “love” at all. My father would say: “They are sucking hind teat“. As Wiktionary points out it is a colloquialism that variously means:
- To feed from an inferior source of food.
- To be the youngest or most neglected child.
- To be last in line.
Bed & Breakfast operations are certainly all of that when it comes to Google and the hotel industry.
What got me thinking about this was a forum post that Joy Hawkins pointed out to me where the owners asks:
My GMB page has a blue Book a Room button that takes viewers to 3rd party booking engines. I want people to go to MY website and book, so I don’t have to pay the 15% commission. My website booking engine doesn’t even show up on the list!
How can I have my booking engine show up as top choice – or even better as the only choice?
The short answer; you can’t. At least not easily and certainly not without consequences. The long answer is even worse.
From Tim Capper:
Firstly you will need to contact all the OTAs ( Online Travel Sites ) and ask them to remove your hotel from their platforms.
Then for your own bookings to appear, you will either need to integrate your own booking system with Google Hotels API or use one of the parner booking sites.
Once integrated, you can then use Google Hotel Ads to Bid on your own rooms >> Yes you still have to pay Google to have your own bookings appear.
The thing you need to consider before removing yourself from all the OTA sites, is can you afford to do this – how visible is your website and GMB listing in organic searches. In other words, will people find you without using an OTA ?
What does Tim mean about visibility? Well it turns out that if you manage to get the booking button removed, your listing will literally sink to the bottom of the heap and show much less as the algo is tuned to show those listings with OTA availability.
Here is what Lisa Kolb of Acorn Internet Services, who specializes in the digital marketing for the B & B space, told me:
Regarding this sentence: “The problem is that if you stop working with OTAs your listing shows a whole bunch less in search as the algo is tuned to show availability.”
When a property chooses to NOT provide their availability to any OTA, their competitors who do provide availability typically show up HIGHER, based on the dates selected by the surfer. Thus the Non-Participating OTA property doesn’t show up less, they just show up lower in the Local Listings (typically below those that do have availability for the search dates).
This is such a complex issue for hotels and B&B’s. Their OTA strategy must be highly refined because that OTA reach isn’t just to Google (which is a biggie), it’s to other products such as some B&B directories, and also Trip Advisor (another biggie). And how you make (or don’t make) your property available ultimately filters down to each of these other systems, and can seriously affect your bookings.
Starting a B & B’s is often an act of love and not a totally rational business decisions. They often are shy of resources and have difficulty navigating the vagaries of the online world. Worse, they can’t very well afford to pay the highway ransoms that OTAs charge (25-50% of the booking fee). And yet they are stuck in this unenvious position by Google.
I think that you would agree that in affect they are forced to suck hind teat.
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Restaurants have similar issues with table reservation (OpenTable) or online delivery (Grubhub Page Place Ads). I found this some time ago: https://developers.google.com/maps-booking/
Would the Google Maps API allow restaurants and hotels develop their own widget that would appear in search, or may be even kick out OpenTable “Find a table” CTA in the KP? It requires a lot of resources and SMBs won’t be able to leverage it but it seems a solve.
Wow, that’s terrible! I wish that Google could distinguish between a hotel and BnB.
I understand wanting to show availability, but even from the searchers perspective, a hotel and BnB are very different experiences.
Love the hind teat analogy Mike!
Another way local results bias hotels is with amenities. If you want those icons for wifi, laundry, air conditioning etc. to display on your listing and increase CTR you can’t specify them in the GMB dashboard. Google scrapes these attributes from OTAs so if you choose not to use booking.com you can’t have them, even if the information is listed on your own website.
Just a quick clarification: Most of our Inns who are using OTAs to sell their rooms are paying between 15%-18% for Expedia and / or Booking.com, depending on their level of program and also the fees paid to their booking engines to manage their inventory on the OTAs.
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