OTA search results often mystify hotel revenue and channel managers. There’s not always a clear reason why one property ranks higher than another. What is clear is the revenue impact: when talking to hoteliers, Booking.com's market managers would often highlight their estimate that 80-90% of bookings go to hotels on the first two pages.
So how does a property get ranked higher in the results?
Hotel reviews and ratings are more important than ever. OTAs need to meet customer expectation so will promote properties with better reputations. The knock on effect is a direct correlation between reputation and revenue.
Don’t just wait for guests to leave reviews, be active about seeking them. This could be training staff to ask and remind guests to do this at check out, or in any post-stay communications.
Led by the needs of their users, OTAs prioritise hotels with the best rates for a specific search. Rates should make sense for the property, its amenities, and its location while abiding by any contractual agreements. Rate shopping is core to the competitiveness of OTA search results, as OTAs also rate shop, and if it’s determined that a rate isn’t rational for the property type or date range, a property will drop down the rankings. An OTA will rarely reward a rate that doesn’t align with comparable hotels nearby.
Use a rate intelligence tool to ensure pricing is competitive and take a real-time approach to keeping sight of changing rates.
OTAs won’t show incomplete listings to users, or bad pictures. If the content also hasn’t been updated in a while then this can affect your ranking.
These factors also affect your conversion. The better your listing does at converting into a booking, the more likely it is to be shown higher in the results page. According to Expedia, full room and property descriptions (as opposed to partial descriptions) increase conversions by 5% and doubling the number of photos can increase booking rates by 4.5%.
Leverage great photos, and offer at least three photos for each room type on offer. If you’re using a technology vendor to distribute content, set time each month to verify that your content is indeed being successfully distributed.
Many hotels offer loyalty discounts to brand.com bookings. Yet these can backfire if not properly monitored. “Dimming” was an OTA practice that punished such properties by pushing them down the results. While this practice has mostly faded, it’s useful to be aware.
Don’t risk punitive actions from your most important OTA distribution channels. Follow your agreements, and have clear differentiation for any rates offered exclusively on brand.com.
Also, be wary of any subtle bias that creeps into your OTA listings:
Consumers are less likely to notice changes to sort order, withholding of special logos or icons, or reduction (rather than elimination) of hotel photos. Moreover, travel booking intermediaries have a history of designing bias to evade detection, making it particularly plausible that OTAs might invoke similar methods.
When done well, channel management helps hotels push inventory to the most profitable channels. By gaining insight into your cross-channel revenue mix you can prioritise the channels with the most return and deliver competitively priced inventory.
OTA algorithms tend to give better results page placement to listings with a high conversion rate. By allocating more inventory to channels that convert most this increases revenue.