Google Hotel Finder is being repositioned this week in your search results. What was once a beta test by Google, Hotel Finder will now be a permanent part of the hotel booking options you see when searching for your next vacation. In order to fully understand how this will impact the hospitality industry, let’s first recap the history of Google Hotel Finder.

At the end of July 2011, Google rolled out the new Hotel Finder. It was titled ¬†“Comparison Ads” within the search engine results page and placed in the yellow Paid Search box directly above the paid search ads and organic results. However, as of April 30, 2012 when you search for “Houston Hotels”, or any other hotel search, you will see the Google Hotel Finder is now titled “Sponsored” and sits below paid results but still above organic results. According to Google, The “Sponsored” title means that “Google may be compensated by some of these providers.”Also notice that it now has a white background, rather than the yellow background of the paid ads. This makes it blend in even more for the untrained eye of the average consumer.

When you click the “Book Now” button, you are taken to the Google Hotel Finder page which allows you to shop many hotels within in Houston and view their Google Places information reformatted into the Hotel Finder interface.

Potential hotel guests can view photos, reviews and location. An important thing to remember here is that this is now one more place where your Google Places reviews can be read. We highly recommend building up your Google Places reviews just as you would encourage guests to post reviews on TripAdvisor. Google Hotel Finder and Google Places are two search results that now take up quite a bit of space on the search results page, so you want to have a beautiful and full Google Places account including many guest reviews.

There are a few more things that are important to notice within the Google Hotel Finder. ¬†Notice that below the prices in the Results list, there is a percentage up or down on the usual pricing. When you rest your mouse pointer over the percentage it says, “The price for your dates is 42% more than this hotel’s typical price over the past year.” Google has taken the current price from the major OTAs and compared it to your prices over the past year. Now depending on the seasonality of your property, this could potentially help or hinder bookings. Plus, this is one more place where we have to compete with the OTAs ranking above us.

Unfortunately, Google is not giving hotels an opportunity to play in this paid game yet, but at least there is a link to the hotel’s own web site.

We encourage you to go check out your city in Google Hotel Finder, and see what you find. As part of your complete SEO strategy, Screen Pilot recommends building out a complete Google Places listing, and now with the Hotel Finder this is more important than ever. Hopefully one day we will get the opportunity to compete on equal ground in Google Hotel Finder but until then just be sure you have a great Google Places listing.

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