Google has been testing an evolved hotel search layout, leaning more on its mobile layout for hotel search on the original desktop search page.
Instead of a carousel, there are a few ads, and then a small box that separates the top three hotels for that search. The full Hotel Price Ads unit is pushed to a second click, so when a user clicks on a hotel, that hotel's knowledge box and Hotel Price Ads booking window loads.
The new search unit being tested looks like this, effectively pushing all organic listings beneath the fold:
This unit keeps only 3 hotels at the front, creating an even more competitive ad product on Google search.
When users want to see more than the top three results in the hotel search, they must click "More hotels" to load a two-column screen that combines a map and all of the hotels available for the previously selected dates.
What's missing here is the carousel - a quick reminder below of what the previous unit looked like, with the top band of scrollable hotels framing the entire experience.
The user could then scroll across hotel selections, and click on a specific hotel. This hotel would then populate beneath the carousel, including the Hotel Price Ads unit for booking.
Nicholas Ward, from meta-search bid managers Koddi, noticed the change about a week ago, and wrote about it on his blog here. This was also after identifying a precipitous drop in mobile traffic for hotel finder in favor of this new layout, as it was originally tested on mobile to aid users in finding the right hotel in search.
The search experiment cleans up the experience - many thought the carousel was more ugly than useful - while also reducing the upfront amount of information delivered to the user.
It also offers up a few more spots of advertising, as the carousel layout limited the above-the-fold real estate. With this new box in the main search column, Google has also returned the entire right column for advertisers to target the moment of search.
The user is only pushed into the Hotel Finder experience upon clicking through to a hotel via the experimental unit. This is a simplified evolution of the Hotel Finder product, as the company balances delivering the right information at the right time with creating lucrative advertising placements for hotels.
For some previous tips on how to take advantage of Google's Hotel Price Ads, click here.
NB: Five star hotels image courtesy Shutterstock.