Google SERP Tests Show Which Links Travel Seekers Visit

A few years ago, Google started refreshing the user interface of its hotel search engine results page (SERP) to see how these impacted where users traveled to click. One major change that was made in response to the evolution of brand name hotel searches is that Google now displays AdWords search ads on the top left of the page, followed by organic listings, when a user searches for a specific hotel or resort. The right column of the search page is full of information from the hotel’s Google business listing. Beneath this is a metasearch tool and links, along with reviews and relevant searches. To discover if this was a welcome change, Travel Tripper launched an eye-tracking study with biometric platform Sticky to test this revision on three Google SERPs using various hotel names. TNooz explored the eye-opening results of this eye-tracking hotel study.

Places Where Users Click
According to the study results, 55 percent of users indicated that they would click on the paid link first, while 28 percent would click on an organic listing first. In addition, almost half of users said that they would be less likely to click if the first link was a paid ad, while 32 percent said it wouldn’t matter and 24 percent would actually be more inclined to click if the link were an ad.

Yet, the research showed that 28 percent of users couldn’t tell when the top SERP listings were ads. And many people also didn’t realize that the links in Google’s metasearch tool in the right column were also ads.

Discovering the Value of Search Ads and Ad Position
Two SERP tests revealed that most users implied they would click on the first or second listing on the hotel results page. These both happen to be paid ads. In both tests, slightly more users said they would click on the first position ad. The paid ads in the third and fourth positions, along with organic results, received very few clicks in comparison to the first-position ads.

The results of the these SERP tests should clearly demonstrate to hotels just how vital it is to possess the top spot in Google Ads for a brand name. Letting an OTA claim the top spot can cost a hotel important online traffic from users prepared to make a booking quickly.

Should Hotel Marketers Send SEO Packing?
While the results initially seem to decrease the value of SEO by showing that people were less likely to click on organic results when more ads appeared on a search page, SEO is still important for a couple of reasons.

For one, 44 percent of users don’t trust online ads and are less inclined to click on links that they know are paid ads. Secondly, 28 percent of users said they would click on an organic link first.

Hotel marketers need to remember that PPC and SEO must work together. Location is everything in search, so the more property a hotel owns at the top of the search page, whether in search listings or organic ads, the more potential there is for traffic to be directed to the hotel’s Web site.

Souvenirs from the Study for Hotel Marketers
The study affirmed that Google’s addition of the business listing box and metasearch tool keeps users’ eyes on the paid areas of the SERP much longer than with the previous search page layout. This proves that hotels need to use strategic digital marketing to remain competitive and bring in more direct on-line bookings.

Explore what’s new in hospitality marketing. Contact MDG.

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