Google zero flying start

google free booking feed
Google free feed

Update: Two months into Google zero and we have received thousands of Google bookings across many hundreds of properties. Our data show that there is a significant level of bookings across a wide variety of properties and that the bookings continue to increase.

We are now sure that Google is taking bookings seriously and that any property interested in getting more bookings should be serious about Google.

If you haven’t already done it you can access the Google free feed without having to pay for any Google advertising services. It takes two minutes to set-up on freetobook and we do the rest for you.

Customers of freetobook can click here to signup for Google Zero

“We first came across Googe Zero by reading the informative blog from freetobook. Signing up couldn’t be easier – just a couple of clicks to opt in and we were connected!  We’re on the free trial and have 4 bookings (made in UK) already, so it has essentially paid for itself now.” (Bridge Hotel)

Seven facts about Google free bookings :

  1. Google free feed available on its own (no need to pay Google)
  2. Google free feed is 100% independent of paid advertising
  3. Free Google feed is available world-wide
  4. Free feed bookings are direct bookings
  5. OTAs and review sites are also in the free feed
  6. Google free bookings are only for serviced accommodation (not cottage, villa, or vacation type accommodation – sorry!)
  7. Google free feed is estimated at about 10% of the Google traffic

Freetobook are pioneers in direct booking and one of the first in the world to provide Google free bookings on its own without payment to Google. In the UK we provide a managed option to upgrade and pay for advertising to access 100% of Google traffic (100% optional – you can keep the free only if you wish).

Interested in more detail? See our previous blogs about these exciting new Google free bookings.

How to get to the top of the free feed

What is the Google free feed and why have they done it

Top of Google free feed

The Google free feed is now available world-wide but it is also available for OTAs and big review sites. To maximise Google free bookings you must be at the top of the free feed….

Google free feed ranking
Google free and paid feed ranking

Firstly the free feed ranking is a Google secret (but it’s easy to get to the top of it). What we do know is that Google will order the free feed to satisfy their user, that is the many millions visiting Google to check out accommodation. We also know that the free feed is independent of money paid so every accommodation owner has the same opportunity as a multi-billion dollar OTA. This has never happened before and is brilliant news for direct bookings…

Google users (just like most of us)

  1. Want to see the direct feed “official site” at the top
  2. Want to see the best price at the top
  3. Want the best availability at the top

For the first time ever this gives property owners a distinct advantage (over OTAs) if they connect availability directly with their booking system.

It is most important that you make sure you have the best rates and availability direct. This comes with a warning, if you offer OTAs or review sites a better deal they will most likely go to the top of the Google free feed.

Google free feed tips
Google free feed tips

The top position in the Google free feed is as simple as this …

  1. Have the best rate direct
  2. Have the best availability direct
  3. Do not accept OTAs/Review sites undercutting your direct rate

In this simplicity, there is amongst the suspicious of us, a feeling of fear – can it really be this simple? Clearly Google want to satisfy their customers and make Google the best place to come for accommodation booking AND we know the customer wants the best price and availability. The Google free feed is an elegant solution to provide what the customer wants, but there is an elephant in the room. How much will it cost Google in lost advertising (mostly from OTAs and Review sites)

The question the future will determine is, how much is Google willing to pay in lost advertising revenue to make Google the best place to get the best deal? The answer right now is indirect, there is simply no company better able to make this calculation profitably. Google knows exactly how to do these type of numbers and knows how to provide great search. Great search for Google now includes availability, prices, location, reviews, descriptions, comparison and booking. They also have what only Google has, vast user data and smart suggestions.

If the Google free feed continues it is likely that the future battle over the best price – the “price parity” vs. “rate fixing” argument – is going to be settled by Google de facto rather than in law where it has failed to provide the customer the best deal. Before the free feed the OTAs could pay to get their higher prices at the top of the list, not on the free feed they can’t… Bookings and customers will naturally flow to where they can get the best deal and Google wants it to be them.

One can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of OTAs and other meta review sites. They are starting to feel like second class places to go to book accommodation and that is, and must be, Google’s primary intention.. make it better than the OTAs and they will come…

The Google free feed changes everything in meta because it is genuinely better than anything else and that must put the fear in the rest.

Find out how to get listed on Google free feed – earlier blog..

3 Things You Need to Know About Mobile Bookings

smart_phone_okalkavanEvery day, more and more people are using iPads, iPhones, Androids etc to book hotels and B&Bs.

Pretty soon more people will be booking travel via mobile than on old-fashioned desktop computers. Google – the (current) kings of all things search – regularly produce stats on the growth of mobile. Here are some of the most eye-catching latest figures:

(1)   Almost half (47%) of all travellers now start their travel planning from a mobile device.

(2)   Today, 40% of leisure travellers and 36% of business travellers use mobile search engines to find hotels and book overnight accommodation.

(3)   By the second quarter of 2013, travel-related search queries will increase by 68% from smartphones and 180% from tablets. As you can see here…

google_mobile_2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But perhaps most important of all is the news that far more last-minute bookings are made these days from mobile devices than desktop computers. Properties whose websites are not optimised for mobile are missing out these bookings, since, according to Google, 36% of last-minute travellers said that difficult mobile navigation is the main deterrent from booking…

google_mobile_2012_part3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So don’t put it off any longer. Get a mobile-optimised website and a mobile app today. You know it makes sense!

How To Increase Your Direct Bookings

Get more direct bookings

Always on the lookout for great practice, I spent some time on the website of one of our customers in Thailand. Tom, from the Crystal Bay Beach Resort,

More online bookings with freetobook
Get more direct bookings

had just sent a great testimonial saying how freetobook had increased his website conversion (thanks Tom – see below.) So I wanted to know what it was that he was doing right.

The most obvious thing was the bits of reassurance he was giving his customers, around the direct booking message: letting visitors know that booking direct is a good thing, gently reminding them of the benefits in booking direct. Customers like to know they are doing the right thing, so a little message encouraging them can make the difference between getting the booking or not. Some subtle understated reinforcement strategically placed can reap great dividends. I’m certainly not saying “paste the message everywhere” (don’t!) But putting a little bit of text or a little graphic here and there saying something like “Book direct for the best prices” or “Guaranteed to get the best deal when you book direct” can really help.

I think the Crystal Bay has got it quite right. In three places the customer gets a positive message about booking direct. As you will see from the testimonial at the bottom it works!

1) On the Booking/Rates page – that’s a good place

 

2) On the Contact Us page – another logical place to echo the “book direct” message

 

3) And finally on the freetobook search page – the most important place to have the message, as the customer is just about to book. Where better to whisper, “You are doing the right thing.”

Not everyone takes full advantage of the freetobook search image. You should. It’s a good way to sell yourself at the moment of booking. To upload an image, go to TAB “Home,” SubTAB “Widget,” click edit and upload an image (800px by 200px) into your widget. Then click save.

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Here’s Tom’s Testimonial:

“Free to Book is great, the user interface is the easiest and most intuitive we’ve ever used. After switching to Free to Book we massively increased our website conversion rate for direct bookings which has saved us a fortune in commission. What’s more the support is awesome.”

Tom at Crystal Bay Resort Koh Samui Thailand http://www.crystalbaykohsamui.com/

Share the love

freetobook heartIf you love something, wouldn’t you want to tell everyone about it? Thanks to all the great feedback we receive, we already know that our thousands of Freetobook customers all over the world are amazed by the great stuff our technology empowers them to do. Now you can easily share your enthusiasm for Freetobook.

When you log into your Freetobook profile you’ll see this new button at the top of every page:

share_the_love

 

 

Clicking on it will allow you to:

  • send a message via Twitter
  • post on Facebook
  • send an email

You can either send a pre-written declaration of love for Freetobook (e.g. “We love using freetobook it’s simple free and easy, get yours at www.freetobook.com”) or delete our version and write your own.

New Facebook booking app

facebook_-squarelogo
facebook app

With 845 million active users, Facebook is becoming an ever-more useful way of reaching new customers and generating more revenue. If you already have a Facebook business page, Freetobook can now create a Facebook booking page for you as well. This will allow you to:

  • Display great photos of your property.
  • List all your property information and room descriptions.
  • Display your location on a Google map.

And most importantly of all…

  • Link to your booking engine, providing easy online booking direct from Facebook.

You’ll find this great new functionality by logging into your profile and clicking on a new tab called “Social.”

Learn more by watching this short video: