For some time now, the topic of “Generating more online sales via meta-search channels” has been in the spotlight. We have compiled some information for you here.
- Meta Search – definition and a little history
- Meta Search in the hotel industry
- Difference between OTA and meta search
- Metasearch – options for marketing your hotel
Meta Search – definition and a little history
Meta Search is not a new concept. That’s why there is a bit of history at this point. But first the definition:
Meta Search = Meta Search Engine (Meta = superior).
A metasearch engine is technically a platform or a higher level search engine. In other words, it sends your query to many other search engines. Then it collects the results. It even delivers them in a processed form. It does not have its own index. Depending on how it has been customised, the metasearch engine follows certain guidelines in the presentation of the results. For example, the results can be compiled according to the popularity of the requested search engines. A metasearch engine also filters out duplicates so that a search result does not appear more than once in the results list.
Some metasearch engines even allow you to select the search engines that you want for the metasearch. This influences the search results or tailors them to your needs.
The first metasearch engine, MetaCrawler, was developed in 1995 by two American researchers at the University of Washington. The following year, MetaGer was launched, developed by employees of a German computer centre. This meta search engine is still in operation today.
Meta Search in the hotel industry
Metasearch engines in the hotel sector usually function as platforms. There, users see the availability of rooms as well as the prices offered on various web search engines in a single list. Most importantly, they can compare them that way. These prices are extracted from various online travel agencies (OTAs) and other booking sites and thus compiled especially for the user. The most important metasearch sites include Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor, Kayak, Skyscanner and Trivago. Depending on the site, they are also called Travel Search Engines (TSE).
This makes it easier for customers to book a hotel room at the best price. But this also creates another important online distribution channel for hotels. And this is in addition to the OTAs, their own hotel website and other marketing measures. So to speak, another element of the online marketing plan.
Difference between OTA and meta search
Every now and then, there is confusion in the hotel industry about how OTAs and hotel metasearch engines differ.
Therefore, we offer a brief differentiation here.
OTAs sell products/services on behalf of suppliers (hotels, airlines, car rental companies, etc.). In return, they charge a commission fee for completing the sale. In doing so, many hotels use these Online Travel Agencies (OTA) to increase their reach and awareness. The commission paid is the price for the additional demand. Examples are booking.com, hotel.de or expedia.de.
The metasearch engines, on the other hand, combine the search results from various such OTA sites and many other booking websites. Then they deliver them to the user in the form of a list.
Metasearch – options for marketing your hotel
In order for your hotel to appear in the results of metasearch engines, you have several options. You should plan everything within an online marketing concept. One option is to have your hotel linked to the OTAs. It maximises the chances of success to connect with several OTAs. And prioritise those that are in your target market.
On the other hand, metasearch engines also represent their own marketing platforms and thus sales channels.
Marketing on metasearch engines can take different forms: Advertisements are often based on a pay-per-click model. This means that the hotelier only pays if someone clicks on the ad. With the disadvantage, as always with such models, that it involves a certain risk. You pay for the clicks, regardless of whether they ultimately lead to a booking or not. Another model of this marketing channel is pay-per-impression, which is based on charging a pre-determined fee for a certain number of impressions. In addition, many combinations of these models are possible. In most cases, you can control these marketing activities directly in your own meta search engine profile.
Some meta search engines also offer instant bookings. This means that the customer can stay on the same screen to complete his booking. In this context, providers are increasingly relying on commission models per booking. This in turn leads to metasearch sites catching up with OTAs. In doing so, they are innovative and gain popularity among travellers and hotel guests due to their objective positioning.
While both metasearch engines and online travel agencies offer valuable opportunities for hotels to reach a broader customer base, it is important to realise that for every booking here you will have to pay in some form. For example, for the advertising space or a commission for the booking itself.
This contrasts with bookings that guests make via your own hotel website. Therefore, your own homepage should always be and remain one of the most important sales channels.