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Google Maps adds hotel search and pricing, panic and confusion assured

Posted by TeamITI on March 24, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”itimarketing”]

Google launched an experiment through its mapping division last night to place search and price functionality against hotel listings on Google Maps – implications of which could be far-ranging.

Announced via the Earth and Maps Blog and currently limited to just a few users, Google says the tools will allow people to enter check-in dates for a stay in a city and the number of nights.
Results are plotted on the map but the interesting part comes in the text results on the left-hand side.
Each listed hotel also has a drop-down displaying prices supplied from existing PPC ads for that hotel in the system.

Google, probably expecting all hell to break loose amongst hotels and OTAs who have worked tirelessly to SEO their hotel listings, got in early with this bit of reassurance: “This new feature will not change the way that hotels are ranked in Google Maps. Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, along with geographic distance (where indicated) and other factors, regardless of whether there is an associated price.”

But the organic results aspect of this will not exclusively be what worries hotel chains and OTAs or, indeed, affiliates and content sites – it will be how such new search functionality will change the behaviour of PPC clients.
The experiment is currently only being run with a handful of advertisers (lucky them?), but imagine how this might effect the wider hotel bidding process if and when it is rolled out fully.

Google hints at what it is trying to do, at least from a consumer perspective: “By showing you this relevant hotel rate information directly in the Google Maps results panel we hope to make this aspect of your trip planning more speedy and efficient.”
“Efficiency of trip-planning” is the key phrase here. Faced with very visible options to choose to book direct with the hotel or through an online travel agency, for example, what will have to be the price difference by the OTA to ensure it captures that booking?

Some might suggest OTAs will have to provide quite a compelling reason to add another layer in the minds of the consumer so that they book with them – and will it be solely price-led or is loyalty enough?
Alternatively this move could actually benefit those that have clever bid management software in place to create that level of efficiency and complexity within their own pricing and yield systems.

This article is published by tnooz, read the original article here.

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