Google, the mighty search engine, offers accommodation owners the possibility of listing in their free booking feed. Connect your availability and rates to the free feed on its own and get zero commission bookings from Google. Get in early and take advantage of this Google giveaway, it might not last forever, who knows?
The facts ….
Have the free feed on its own (no need to pay Google anything)
Google free feed is 100% independent of paid advertising
Free Google feed is available world-wide
Free feed bookings are direct bookings
OTAs and review sites are also in the free feed
Google free bookings are only for serviced accommodation (not cottage, villa, or vacation type accommodation – sorry!)
Speed is the essence, maximise your direct bookings, take advantage of the free feed quickly and be the one that gets the most free direct bookings. Experience has shown us that these opportunities get diluted over time so early adopters get the most bookings.
always been at the forefront of technology to get you more direct bookings. We
have pioneered availability with Google since 2018 (which is why we can launch
this free feed only service quicky).
We introduce freetobook “Google Zero”, with this service you will be listed ONLY in the free feed. In order for us to provide, map and maintain live rates and availability to Google we will charge a small subscription fee of £49 per year, act quickly forlimited free trial until 10th June 2021.
How can I get Google Zero?
Log in to freetobook and click on Tab “Plus” then select “Google Zero”
Other useful information about Google free bookings…
Who can take part? The free booking link is part of Google’s Hotel Ads system, so you can see right away that Google are looking for “hotel” type accommodation. Hotel type includes guest houses, bed and breakfasts, hostels but it specifically excludes vacation rental type accommodation, cottages, villas, lodges.
YES: for hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfast, hostels and apart hotels (hotel type).
NO: for cottages, chalets, villas, lodges (vacation rental type)
What do you need? You will need a booking system like freetobook that’s connected to Google, that connection (feed) sends your rates and availability with a link directly to your booking process. Freetobook have been providing this feed to Google Hotel Ads since September 2018
The situation NOW: Remember there are two parts to Google Hotel Ads the free bit with, we reckon, about 10% of the traffic and the paid section with roughly 90% of the clicks. (Read the blog for further details)
Google Hotel Ads on freetobook : freetobook are already connected to Google Hotel Ads (since 2018) and we provide a managed advertising service for more than and thousand properties in the UK. This advertising service is active now and we’ll continue managing it.
Good news: All properties using the Google Hotel Ads to advertise automatically get the Google free booking link. You can see how that works on this Google blog…
I want free booking links now: if you are eligible (i.e. Hotel type accommodation) and in the UK you can subscribe for our Google Hotel Ads service in your Plus tab this will give you paid and free feeds.
Only free booking links (Zero): You will need to wait a week or so for us to make this option available for you.
HOW? Google Zero will be available in the Tab “Plus” shortly.
The situation SHORTLY:
We’re already busy creating a Google free ONLY
service that’ll be available worldwide. This will use our existing feed to
provide Google with your rates and availability and the link for bookings at Zero
cost. You will not have to pay Google anything for the bookings.
This will be available shortly to all eligible (Hotel type) accommodation worldwide. We will charge a small annual subscription to provide the feed to Google (from freetobook) and deliver the bookings directly into your freetobook diary with reporting.
Get ready for a tsunami of bookings this summer.#StaycationTsunami Savings levels are at a record high. Through the lockdowns money that would have been spent has been saved. International travel is likely to be difficult/impossible.
Staycations at unprecedented levels are predicted and most likely to happen this summer. Added to this, there’s been far fewer bookings this year so there’s loads of availability to book into when things open up.
Frustrated, locked down bookers are out there waiting for somewhere to go. The instant that lockdown is lifted you’re looking at a situation never seen before.
Lockdowns have devastated accommodation
businesses so here’s a great opportunity to rebalance that, but only if you’re ready
for it by being prepared.
Summer 2021, are you ready for it?
Maximising your profit will help recover such a terrible past year. Minimise commission paid. Demand will likely outstrip supply so don’t pay commission when you can get more direct bookings.
Get your booking technology in order now. If you don’t have it running efficiently you’ll lose out on that record number of bookings coming in. Get your payment system setup and have your messaging fine-tuned. Reduce the risk for double bookings by getting it lined up and ready now.
Think about your prices for summer now, should you increase them? Inflation is likely in your costs and you’ve lost a year of income so use the demand to recoup some losses. Businesses that have increased their prices understand they can reduce them later if it’s necessary.
Get available now for direct bookings, prioritise early direct bookers. Give a preference to getting your early bookers in direct. Use commissionable bookings to fill gaps later. There will be a record number of bookings, you want them to be direct. You can always open to non-direct bookings later if you have to. Check you minimum stays and cancellation policy always entice direct bookings.
Makes sure all the housekeeping, renovation and services are ready for a record summer. Is your accommodation physically ready? Do whatever you can do now so you’re ready for the biggest ever summer.
Your website should be ready to encourage direct bookings. Ensure your COVID cleaning policy is visible and up to date, guests want to feel safe booking. Update your website with any changes/updates you’ve made, you need to look your best and guests will not book on a bad website. free covid ready images
Last year was both terrible and tragic with
losses of every kind, personal, national, social and economic.
It will end at some point so be ready for a reversal of fortune…it’s likely to happen this summer in the accommodation sector!
Our friends over at cobooking.com have shared their recent blog on the danger to direct booking posed by third party review widgets.
Cobooking exposes review widget dangers.
For far too many years we have put up with dodgy review widgets that cheat properties out of direct bookings. Widgets, badges and awards touted by large “reputable” businesses and placed on websites in good faith “trusting” these big corporations that pretend their main function is to “display” reviews, nonsense they are not to be trusted.
Cobooking and many others know that accommodation owners have been cheated because the hidden effect of these widgets is a significant loss of direct bookings. We are dedicated to the promotion of direct bookings so together lets call out the cheats and help remove these bad widgets.
Reviews are good but not all review widgets are good.
The value of having great reviews is undeniable. Almost all guests looking to book are keen to know what others think and reviews do a great job, so naturally you want to display them with widgets, buttons and awards.
However, there is a real danger of losing direct bookings from review widget links on your website and these could cost you a lot more than a bad review!
What do you mean, how do I lose?
The most common loss occurs when a review widget or badge is put on your website. Your guest naturally clicks the widget and is then led off to the review website. Now “your” guest is away on the review website where that website earns money by encouraging “your” guest to make a commissionable booking.
When you feed these review websites “your” guests (via the review widget) you lose direct bookings. In fact, it’s worse than that because they don’t care if “your” guest books your accommodation on their website, they earn commission on any booking “your” guest makes. So most websites offer your guest other accommodation options in order to increase their conversion.
Simply put, you sent your guest there to look at your reviews but they end up booking while there and not on your website. You’ve now lost a direct booking and have to pay commission, or worse still, they book somewhere else and you lose the booking entirely.
What is a direct booking unfriendly widget?
An unfriendly widget has links away from your website to another site where they offer your guest somewhere else to book or encourage them to book with a commissionable agency.
A friendly widget shows your reviews but does not send guests away to book with commission.
How do I know if the widgets, awards and buttons on my website are unfriendly?
Visit your website and follow the links just like a guest. By thinking and acting like a potential guest you’ll see exactly what your guests would see. Ask yourself what you’re being encouraged to do on that site and you’ll see just how direct booking unfriendly the process is.
Review widgets, buttons and awards are free?
Yes, they are free because the review website wants to get your customers onto their website. Is the cost of losing your customers worth the value of displaying reviews on bad widgets ? We are certain it is not.
Trojan horses have much in common with review widgets.
These buttons, awards and widgets are just like Trojan horses. They look like a gift, displaying your fabulous reviews but they contain a link that costs you direct bookings. Your great reviews are a result of your hard work and dedication so please don’t lose out from your hard work.
Review websites play heavily on the temptation to show off your reviews and that’s when they get you to put their Trojan horse on your website and you start leaking direct bookings.
How to fix it …
The simple rule is to never have a widget on your website that takes guests away to book with a commissionable source.
Remove widgets, badges and awards that lose direct bookings.
Replace unfriendly review widgets with friendly ones.
Show your review score or awards in an image with no links away from your website.
If you don’t understand how to fix it you should give your web designer a link to this blog, they will be able to fix it for you and stop you losing direct bookings …
At cobooking we believe that review websites have been abusing the good will of accommodation owners for many years by requesting they put bad acting widgets on their websites without adequately explaining their function.
Let’s campaign to spread the word and encourage companies to create direct booking friendly widgets, good honest widgets. Lets stop this loss of direct bookings.
Cobooking will be looking to create a direct booking friendly widget to help accommodation owners fight back.
Get going, become a partner and join cobooking if you have not already done so – sign up !
With the new Digital Registration form you can make your guests’ lives easier and safer. Guests simply complete their forms remotely before arrival making social distancing at check-in easier whilst also saving you time and paper. It takes seconds for them to complete and when completed it appears neatly in your new diary on their booking.
Digital Registration (d-reg) is part of freetobook’s Messaging suite meaning it’s a fully automated process that’s also integrated into the booking diary.
Key advantages of d-reg are:
1) Contactless – guests complete their registration before arrival.
2) Integrated – the form is automatically updated and stored in your diary.
3) Automatic – set up and schedule your forms once, Messaging does the rest.
4) Value add – collect all guest names/contacts plus real email addresses for OTA bookings.
5) Branding – look professional by using your own logo and colours.
We’re listening too, the second version of d-reg
is due for release shortly and it’s smarter than ever. Using new “logic jumps”
your guests will skip certain questions based on their nationality and answers
e.g. you may not want local guests to be asked for their passport details. This makes it quicker and easier for your
guests, thereby helping to ensure they complete it.
You will also be able to add your own question
tips to the d-reg form e.g. ask for a mobile number rather than a landline,
plus much more….
There’s also an icon/alert in the new freetobook
diary so you can quickly see who’s completed their d-reg forms.
With Messaging so elegantly integrated into your diary you can add images, attachments and set your text in seconds, making your messages a key part of your service offering. Scheduling your Automated Messages means your work flows much easier and you don’t lose hours of your time sending out the same email, again and again. Added to that, your guests get the right information at the right time.
More automation is on its way to help you manage your business in these difficult Covid-19 times. Digital Registration is just one small part of what Messaging offers, based on your feedback we continue to build better ways to solve the challenges facing your businesses.
Freetobook has the technology you can trust….
Messaging is £49 per year…
All paid services are optional and pay-as-you-go so you never have to pay for anything you don’t use. If you are not already with freetobook why not try it today at no cost …
There are three things we need to recognise about hospitality in these new COVID times; automation, automation and automation.
Automation can make processes contact-less, be used to collect vital information and communicate more easily. All these things help build confidence and trust between you and your guests whilst saving hours on boring repetitive tasks.
Let’s take a look at some examples that are live and some
that are on their way.
Messaging your guests
Our fully integrated guest Messaging system (built last year) makes communicating with your guests easy and fun. With scheduled Automated Messages you don’t even have to think about it, just set it up and every guest gets the right information at the right time… automatically.
Guests love it, after booking they get a friendly “thank you” message with loads of helpful key information (links to key sites) and tips. What a great way to start a conversation and build a relationship… that’s what service is all about. You can even brand our guest Messaging with your logo and colours..
Collect key information
Knowing which guests are arriving, and when, helps you manage social distancing and get prepared for arrival. Messaging has a cool little button making it super easy for guests to provide their arrival times.
Improve your cashflow by taking upfront payments from guests that book online or offline. When you take a deposit the card is securely stored so that collecting the balance is a simple click of a button. Stripe receives and stores cards from Bookingcom, Expedia etc… and you can even “Pre-auth” cards one week before stay, making sure the money is available. For your guests, Stripe makes payment so easy, using ApplePay and GooglePay payment is literally at their finger tips!
Messaging and Stripe
For the perfect contact-less automation use both Stripe and Messaging together. Message a guest for payment and they just use their phone to pay – a simple click, no contact, if they have Apple/Google Pay they can pay using their thumb print.
As part of Messaging we will soon add Digital Registration, enabling your guests to register in advance of arrival (set for release in mid-July).
Messaging was built as a way to automate almost all
your digital guest interactions, we’ll continue to roll out more and more for
the usual amazingly low prices.
Our new state of the art online diary has all the
messaging solutions built-in and that’s just the beginning, it’s due for
general release in the coming few weeks.
Here at freetobook we’ve always been about developing new technology, always the first to release new features. Our team of developers are all working flat out to deliver so much more for our growing customer base. As a family business we believe in fairness and due to our many thousands of customers we can deliver amazing services at ridiculously low prices.
Freetobook – great tech solutions – more for less is
so much more.
Messaging is £49 per year
Stripe is £89 per year (plus Stripe card handling
All paid services are optional and pay-as-you-go so you never have to pay for anything you don’t use. If you are not already with freetobook why not try it today at no cost …
Operating in a world with COVID19 is a test for all the accommodation industry and it means having to adapt as things change and new information becomes available. It is initially unsettling for everyone, including guests, but there are basic steps that properties can take that will be the same for the foreseeable future.
The key word of these times is SAFETY. Your customers will expect it and your business needs to show it takes safety seriously. If you have not done so already, conduct a Risk Assessment of your busines using the guidance issued by your government and make sure your customers know what you are doing at your property. This is the starting point for every business anywhere. There are lots of examples and templates out there (see below) also some images that you can make use of.
We all know that communication is the key to reassuring customers and securing bookings (see earlier blog with essential tips here) and that has proved to be the case in those countries that have opened up already.
Chabanettes Hotel & Spa in France shared this feedback with our Facebook group recently
‘I put a Covid 19 statement on my website almost 2 months ago. It remains my most popular sub-page. And it works. It’s a statement, like all the other big chains, which shows that we acknowledge risks, and have put reasonable steps in to place to reduce these risks. Not eliminate, we can never say that. But it portrays a seriousness that is clearly sufficient for our clientele to convince them to book. Our new booking volumes are now on a par with previous years’
There are lots of great examples of webpages that are both clear and reassuring to guests so do have a look around and then ensure yours is relevant to your guests.
Being able to offer flexibility will help you appeal to some of the more nervous customers. Many of you have already displayed huge levels of flexibility in helping guests move bookings. Looking forward there’s the opportunity to introduce more relaxed cancellation policies, changing traditional minimum stays and nimble pricing. Some have also gone as far as reducing the number of rooms on offer/guests on site to phase in the return to business and offering new customised breakfast arrangements. Consider what is appropriate for your business and guests and what’s needed to attract bookings.
With strict quarantine rules in place for overseas visitors in many countries, businesses who have previously relied on inbound customers will need to modify their marketing to focus on the domestic market….a market that may well be only an hour away from your property. These are potential guests that are concerned about travelling long distances from home but are keen to enjoy some hospitality again!
It is at least comforting to know that literally the whole world is in the same situation, and there’s an understanding that we will all need to adapt as things evolve. It is impossible to say for how long things will continue like this and although we hope they continue to improve we must also be prepared for things to tighten up with little notice.
At freetobook we can see the activity levels increasing both in general system readiness and booking levels. We’ll continue to support and advise where we can as we all navigate our way through this. Stay Safe.
A collection of useful Links which may help (there are many more so please share on our facebook group if you are a freetobook customer)
Communication is only the first part of Messaging, there is so much more. Your Messaging is fully integrated with your bookings so you can digitise parts of the guest experience, replacing some of your face-to-face interaction.
We call these “Guest Actions”, they are perfect for automating processes that were manual (saving you time) and/or replacing face-to-face tasks with digital ones.
Message for Payment:
Using Stripe with Messaging you can request payments in any message. Ideal for advance payments, deposits and balances before arrival, as well as for in-house payments at check-out or during stay.
For example, guests can make a Stripe payment on their phone (in the message) so there is no need for a face-to-face terminal – this will update in the booking. Even better, if they have ApplePay or GooglePay then payment is a quick thumb print on their phone.
Guests can pay at anytime from within a message if you are using Stripe alongside our Messaging system. Getting payments by message reduces unnecessary contact and can be initiated in an automated message or a manual one.
Just like the payment action guests can interact with the booking to change their arrival time. You can add a Confirm Arrival Time button to your messages so that when guests change their arrival time it simply updates in their booking, no manual changes required. With this information you can better manage everyone’s arrival times and prepare for their welcome.
We are currently adding registration to guest actions and aim to have it live by the end of June. Guests will be able to complete their registration details in Messaging so there’ll be no need for paper forms on arrival. This contactless registration puts guest safety first and streamlines check-in, avoiding any queues or delays.
As accommodation owners demand more automation we continue to enhance Guest Actions to automate more of your interaction with guests.
In addition, you can also brand Messaging with your logo, colours and customise messages to fit your style of communication by adding images and attachments. Why not take steps to further impress your guests.
You can sign up to Messaging for only £49 per year on a pay as you go basis.
As accommodation businesses start to enter the next phase of managing COVID-19, guests are looking for reassurance that the accommodation they are booking is as safe as possible, and the people operating it will be taking measures to protect them.
It is important that properties start to put measures in place now to deal with the new way their businesses will be operating. Then, most importantly, communicating that to their guests… do not assume that they know what you are doing… you need to tell them.
Here are the three things we think are worth considering now.
Many properties have already done this so there’s lots of great examples out
1. CONDUCTING A COVID RISK ASSESMENT OF YOUR PROPERTY
Take advantage of the time you have now to conduct a thorough risk assessment of your business. A risk assessment will allow you to identify the COVID-19 related risks to you, your staff, and your customers. Once you have identified those risks, you can then set protocols to mitigate that risk.
Guidance that has been issued tends not to be a prescriptive
list as it would be impossible to cover all accommodation types, so common
sense and knowledge of your own situation would seem to be the best route right
Only by conducting a thorough risk assessment of your property will you then be able to clearly communicate this to your staff and your guests. Examples of things to consider are;
What risk do you and your staff pose to the business in bringing COVID-19 into the premises?
What risk do your customers pose to the business in bringing COVID-19 into the premises?
What measures will you take if an infected person has been on your premises?
What additional cleaning measures will be taken in rooms and communal areas over and above the norm?
What cleaning materials will you need to source? (Do you need to update your assessments e.g. COSHH for the UK?)
Where you will position hand sanitisers and the like?
How you will manage check ins and breakfasts?
What you will require customers to do when on site and how will you communicate this?
How will you protect yourselves?
What can you remove from the property that would be an unnecessary source of contamination? i.e. books and board games.
Identify frequently touched areas.
This is not an exhaustive list and you can find guidance all
over the internet that may be more relevant to your specific situation.
N.B There has been talk of various COVID-19 Safety accreditation or certificate schemes – regardless of who may be issuing these, it is clear that a written assessment will form the basis of obtaining these.
All properties should be looking at their website and finding effective ways to communicate to their guests, now, how they will be operating after they reopen. This could be with a pop-up box on entering the site, a page dedicated to COVID-19 related issues and FAQs or a video. Examples of things that you should consider highlighting are;
Cleaning Protocols that you have brought in to ensure the property is safe.
Use of hand sanitiser/masks (Personal Protective Equipment etc.).
Social distancing measures they can expect from you and you will require from them.
Changes to breakfast or eating arrangements where those apply.
Changes to the use of communal areas/equipment.
Contactless/virtual payments where those apply.
Check in times and how these will be handled.
All businesses are different so your list will be specific
to your property, but the main point here is that the customer is informed and
reassured before they even make their booking. People are booking now for the future, so
those businesses who have made this information available on their website are
more likely to get a booking. This could also be the difference between them
booking your property or someone else’s which appears safer.
There are some super videos that properties are posting on
their websites and social media and if you can, we would recommend this
Bookings could have come from anywhere at any time, so it is important that you communicate to all guests how you will be working before they arrive. This is best done with a pre-arrival email outlining what the guest can expect when arriving at your property… and what you will require from them. It may be that you need them to check in at a specific time to avoid everyone arriving at once or that you will not be able to personally greet them at the door. Whatever it is good communication is key.
If you are using Messaging in freetobook you set this up via the automated ‘before arrival’ message to be sent ‘X’ days before arrival, containing all this information… you can also include a request for their arrival time.
If you are not using Messaging, you can use the Email tab in the booking to send an email to the guest (you can build a template for this in the main Email tab).
Consider also adding information about local restrictions
where they apply.
thing to remember here is BE PREPARED. Whilst
dates may change and lockdowns may be lifted in different places/countries at
different times, these are measures you will need to have in place at some
point. So, use the time you have now, to
get everything organised so you are good to go as soon as your bookings are.
All of the above is non-expert opinion we hope you find it helpful BUT you are wholly responsible for your own safety and that of your guests. We are NOT experts, if you follow any actions above you do so entirely at your own risk. Stay safe.
As a guest we all love that time leading up to our holiday, the anticipation and excitement. The wind down from work and daily bind as we get our heads and hearts into holiday mode. Never have we been more ready for a break.
Preparation and planning, brings a hint of anxiety to the excitement. Are we ready to make the most of our stay ?
Messaging can get your guests into that happy zone of prepared and excited. Start by reassuring them that you’re here to help with answers to all their questions.
Scheduled messages send out the right information at the right time – every time, delighting guests with answers to questions they haven’t even had to ask… that’s service at its best.
Automated messages are an ideal way of establishing that first guest contact and letting them know you’re there to help. Add small touches like lovely photos of your property or area, tips on secret nearby local walks or a favourite restaurant. Set it up and let automated messaging do the rest for all your bookings.
Create and save templates so you have good detailed answers at the ready for many of the most common questions. Replying with templates takes literally 3 seconds and that always impresses guests.
Your Messaging Hub in freetobook gives you easy access to all replies, neatly ordered with notifications to say you’ve got a reply. Managing messages is simple with access integrated into your bookings. Each message thread keeps a clear record of the conversation for both you and your guests, so you always know what’s been said and what’s next. Having full control of all messages in the hub saves you jumping from booking to booking.
We’ve integrated Messaging into freetobook so it’s as much part of the booking fabric as anything else so you can build relationships even before the guests’ arrived. Using our own technology also enables us to connect Messaging to other key parts of freetobook (e.g. payments, arrival times, channels etc.) all to make your lives easier.
Messaging massively improves the guest experience, saves hours of repetitive work and makes you stand out from the crowd.
Simple, slick and elegant…. guests love it!
Find out more about Messaging in your freetobook account here